Doughnuts – the OTHER Comfort Food!


So, my daughter and I made corn dogs at home. Yep! from scratch! (not the hot dogs, though… there’s a limit – even for me!) Perhaps I’ll write about that in another post. Then why do I mention them, you might ask? Well, I had this pot of oil sitting on my stove top – and my mother did raise me well – I just could not toss all that barely used oil out. So then… What else can I fry??


Top Pot Cookbook


A quick shuffle through my newly arrived package from Amazon, uncovered “Hand Forged Doughnuts” from Top Pot Doughnut shop in Seattle. (Since my oldest daughter has moved there, I confess that I have developed a soft spot for the city.) So, my youngest daughter, who’s not so little anymore (high school senior -ughhh!) rolled up her sleeves and along with a friend (and under my supervision) measured ingredients, mixed up the fragrant dough and we set it to rise.




The recipe calls for ground mace, which is the webbing that grows over nutmeg. Since we did not have it on hand, I figured that nutmeg was a close enough substitute. The process was surprisingly quick and the results pretty delicious!





However, just like Russian Babushka nesting dolls, I used the left over oil from the corn dogs, but now I had 3 egg whites with no recipe to call home. Quick Pintrest search to the rescue! Voila! Nutella Meringue cookies!




See? Miracle of miracles! 2 recipes in one post!!


Top Pot Raised Glazed Doughnuts

Adapted from

  • 3 Tbs (4 1/4oz packets) active dry yeast
  • 1 cup very warm water (about 105)
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 Tbsp
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground mace (or nutmeg)
  • 2 tsp iodized salt
  • 4 – 4.5 cups bread flour
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • canola oil, for frying
Vanilla Glaze (Prep during the 2nd rise):
  • 3.5 cups confectioners sugar, sifted (measure first, then sift)
  • 1.5 tsp light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp iodized salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup hot water, plus more if needed
Doughnut Directions:
  1. Whisk yeast, water, and 1 tbsp of sugar in work bowl of stand mixer and set aside for 5 minutes
  2. In large bowl, whisk remaining 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, mace, salt and 4 cups of bread flour
  3. Add shortening, egg yolks and vanilla to the foaming yeast mixture. Mix with paddle attachment on low for 1 minute to break up shortening. Add about 1/3rd of dry ingredients and mix until blended on low speed, then repeat with second 1/3rd of the dry ingredients
  4. Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining dry ingredients, mixing on low speed until no white spots remain each time, adding additional flour as necessary until the dough is dry enough to clan the bottom of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and knead for 2 more minutes. (It should be smooth like bread dough, but still a bit tacky)
  5. Transfer dough to a baking sheet sprinkled with 1 tbsp flour. Shape into a flat disk 6 inches in diameter and dust lightly with flour and cover with a dish towel and set aside.
  6. Create a proofing box in your oven. Bring 8 cups of water to a boil, pour water into a 9×13 dish set on the floor of your oven. Place sheet tray with covered dough in the middle rack. Close the door and let rise until doubled – about an hour.
  7. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and roll into a roughly 12 inch circle, about 1/2 inch thick with lightly floured rolling pin. Cut into 12 doughnuts and transfer doughnuts to baking sheets arranging them 2 inches apart and let rise in the oven (with new boiling water) uncovered for another 30 to 45 minutes until doubled in size.
  8. Using a candy thermometer to measure the temperature, heat oil in a deep fryer or large pot over medium heat to 350 degrees. When the doughnuts have doubled, carefully place a few in the oil, taking care not to overcrowd them, and fry for a bout 30 seconds. (Note that the doughnuts will look more brown when they’re done than they do in the oil). Carefully turn the doughnuts and fry for another 20 to 30 seconds until golden. Transfer to a cooling rack set over a layer of paper towels to cool.
  9. While doughnuts are very warm, dip the rounded side of each into the glaze. Let dry on cooling racks for 10-15 minutes.
Vanilla Glaze directions:
  1. Place confectioners sugar, corn syrup salt, vanilla and hot water in a large mixing bowl. Using a whisk, blend until mixture is smooth and all of the sugar is incorporated. If glaze is too thick, add more hot water a teaspoon at a time.


Nutella Meringues

Makes : 15 to 20 meringues (depends on how big you make them)


  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • a pinch of cream of tartar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon, granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup Nutella


  • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Make sure you have one oven rack in the bottom third of your oven and one in the upper third of your oven.
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Set up a double boiler (a pot with another pot on top or a heat-proof bowl on top) and put the Nutella in the top of the double boiler. Warm the Nutella through and then set aside while you make the meringue. (You could warm the Nutella in a microwave but I don’t own one so you’re on your own if you do use one.) Let the Nutella cool as you make the meringue.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, place the egg whites. Beat on medium-high speed until they are completely foamy.
  • Add the cream of tartar and the salt and continue whipping at medium-high speed until when you lift the whisk attachment, soft peaks form. This should take a few minutes.
  • Once you have reached the soft peak stage, increase the speed to high and begin adding the sugar a few spoonfuls at a time (this should take a few minutes).
  • Once all the sugar is in, the meringue should be very thick (almost stiff) and when you left the whisk firm peaks should remain.
  • Remove the bowl from the mixer and drop in all the Nutella. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the Nutella into the meringue three or four times. You’re aiming for a swirled effect so don’t overmix. This will also help avoid deflating the meringue.
  • Using two spoons, drop the meringue onto the parchment-lined baking sheets in large dollops.
  • Place in the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, immediately lower the heat to 200 degrees F. and rotate the trays. Bake for an hour.
  • After an hour, check the meringues. If they are completely dried out then turn the oven off and leave the meringues in the oven for a few hours to cool with the oven. If the meringues still look a bit “wet”, then continue baking for another 20 minutes or so. Either way, once fully baked, turn off the oven and leave the meringues in there for a few hours.
  • When you remove the meringues from the oven they should be completely dry and cool and will sound hollow when you tap the bottoms.
  • The meringues will keep in an airtight container for a week.

Fall’s Comfort Food – One Pot Mac & Cheese


The trees in my yard are completely naked, shivering in the chilly wind, despite the sunny day. The inevitable is around the corner… Minnesota’s winter is approaching and we are all getting ready.

Wood for the fireplace – check!

Coats, hats and mitts brought up – check!

Knitting basket reloaded – check!

Gym membership renewed – check!

Comfort food list compiled – double check!




Mac & cheese tops many people’s list of comfort food, but so many recipes require making a roux, using 2 pots… and I want my macaroni – NOW!

So here’s a recipe I developed, inspired by 2 blogs: and

This is a one pot dish that comes together pretty quickly thanks to one fantastic trick – wait for it…

You cook the pasta in the milk!

How about that??

This will become your go to mac & cheese – promise!

Even my mother in law, who HATES asking anything from anybody, requested I make this for her as she was recovering from surgery…

Like I said – MAJOR comfort food!

Oh and my guy (for the past 27 years!!)  – he couldn’t even wait for a plate – I have evidence!!




One Pot Mac & Cheese   

6 servings

Adapted from and


1 pound elbow pasta
5 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons sriracha
6 ounces shredded sharp cheddar
6 ounces shredded monterey jack, or gruyere
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1. Cook the pasta: In a large pot, combine pasta, milk and butter.



Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until path is al-dente and milk has reduced and thickened.





2. Flavoring: Add dry mustard and Sriracha and mix well. Add cheeses and stir gently to combine, until all cheese is melted and sauce is smooth and creamy.




Taste and season with salt and pepper to personal taste.
3. Storage: Keep in fridge in an airtight container, reheats well in microwave or on stove top on LOW HEAT.




Yum! Dig right in!!


Fall Update!


Thanks to all of you who have continued to show interest and support as I explore what’s next for Zecooks and Mideast to Midwest!

So here is a quick update:

  1. So far, I have had 3 trial runs with a Kosher production kitchen in St. Paul and we are tweaking the recipes, flavors and quantities. On the menu we have the Hummus, Hatzilim (Middle Eastern eggplant), 3 types of soup and a dinner menu for 4 that will include three choices each of: a chicken dish, a vegetable and a grain/starch. My hope is to have a soft opening mid-November. Wish me good luck and a smooth road!!
  2. Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, the season and more with an in home private cooking class: menu planning tailored to your needs, minimum of 3 hours, $100 per hour.
  3. Cooking classes with a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern focus as well as other cuisines are coming up in the next weeks:




Cooks of Crocus Hill: Thursday, Nov. 12 – Spiced Up Thanksgiving: Menu: Roasted Eggplant Dip       with Pita Wedges; Honey and Ras el Hanut Turkey; Cranberry, Saffron Rice; Cumin-Braised Green Beans and Tomatoes; and Honeyed Orange Blossom Dried Figs over Ice Cream. To sign up:

Nordic Ware Kitchen: Tuesday, Dec. 1- Holiday Cooking: Menu: White Bean, Sundried Tomato and Fresh Herbs Bruschetta,  Spiced Honey Roasted Lamb Chops, Cranberry and Currant Herbed Basmati Rice, Butter Lettuce Salad with Roasted Beats and Hazelnuts in a Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette, Individual Vanilla-Chocolate Berry Trifle

Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments!

Looking forward to seeing you in upcoming classes, enjoy this golden Fall and…. Happy Cooking!!



Beyond Baklava


Baklava may still be considered exotic, but it has become a household name – you know, those layers of delicate phyllo sandwiching crunchy walnuts or pistachios dripping with rose water-honey syrup. The smell, the crunch, that sweetness – need I say more? But… what other Middle Eastern sweets crossed over? Have you ever heard of Basboosa? S’finge? Sohan? Those are respectively, from Egypt, Morocco and Iran.

Most of these mouth watering sweets have a few things in common, mainly they do not require a mixer and they do not need to be refrigerated. Mixers were non existent in the not so far past of the Middle East and refrigeration was hard to come by… They utilize what was familiar or easily accessible: lemons, nuts and rose water to create such deliciousness!




My friend Sima is from Shiraz in Iran and her cooking is legendary. In the Minnesota land of hot dish we bonded over saffron and cardamom, elaborate meals and cultural exchanges. She followed the sun to establish her family and catering business in San Diego, but left her mark on the Minneapolis culinary landscape. One of the easiest and most delicious sweets she taught me how to make is the Iranian candy Sohan.

Think of delicately crunchy caramel almond brittle, flavorful with rose water and saffron. Unique, fast and stores well – Perfect for a quick company fix! The ingredients can now be found at most grocery stores, even the rose water and saffron. So live dangerously (and sweetly) – try your hand at making Sohan!


32 small pieces

1.5-cup sugar
4 tablespoons honey
6 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups unsalted slivered blanched almonds
½ teaspoon ground saffron
4 tablespoons rose water
5 tablespoons unsalted, roasted, finely chopped pistachios


Prepare a cooling surface by spreading a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. In a heavy saucepan combine the sugar, honey and oil together over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring often. To the pot add the slivered almonds, and continue stirring for additional 2 to 3 minutes, the mixture should turn golden and become smoothly incorporated.

Combine the ground saffron and the rose water in a small bowl. Add the mixture to the syrup and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon until the mixture reaches a deeper golden brown color (about2 to 4 minutes more). A candy thermometer takes the guesswork out of this process: mixture should be between “soft crack” stage, at 285° F, and “hard crack” stage, at 302° F.

Mixture will be very hot! So carefully place one teaspoonful of the mixture on the parchment paper at 1-inch intervals. Top immediately with the finely chopped pistachios.

Allow the candies to cool thoroughly, and then remove them from the paper and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Adapted from The Gilded Fork & Sima Ross

One more Passover dish…


Sick of Matzah yet? Hang in there – just a couple more days left! At this time of the holiday I always pull out a special recipe, which was shared by my dear friend EllenSue. This cheesy, spinachy, dish for a crowd is filling and hearty enough to be the main dish in a meal. EllenSue got this recipe from her 89-year-old mother, Esther, who is a famed cook and baker in our community.

So, you can see, this recipe comes with credentials…

Hints for success:

  1. The cheesy goodness of this dish is achieved by using 4 different cheeses: cottage, mozzarella, feta and Munster. So don’t skimp!
  2. Make sure to squeeze out as much moisture from the spinach as you can: wrap the thawed spinach in a towel and wring out the liquid. Crumble the spinach over the mixing bowl to ensure even distribution.
  3. Cover the dish after 30 minutes with a piece of greased tin foil – or you will have a sticky mess on your hands when you try to unwrap the pan.
  4. Cook the dish for the full length of time and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting – or else – again, you will have a gooey mess on your hands…
  5. Wrap any leftovers – they heat beautifully!
  6. Let me know how it turned out and enjoy!



For Passover and all year round

  • 1 c. farfel softened in hot water (start with this and add everything else afterward)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 8 oz. feta cheese, grated
  • 16 oz. cottage cheese
  • 4 oz. grated mozzarella cheese
  • 3 T. melted butter or olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder

12-14 Slices of Muenster cheese

2 tomatoes sliced into thin circles

Mix all cheeses, farfel, eggs, spinach and seasoning in a large bowl until well combined.



Pour the mixture into a greased 9” x 13” pan.


Top with slices of Muenster cheese and top that decoratively with slices of tomato.


Bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 45 minutes. When the top is turning golden

brown, cover with greased foil and bake for an additional 15-30 minutes

(Bake for 1-hour minimum).

Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, slice into squares and serve immediately.

Ma Nishtana: How different is this night?


Passover, like many Jewish holidays commemorates a historical event as well as a divine commandment. Its main focus is the Exodus – the Israelites departing Egypt, leaving behind slavery and moving towards nationhood. For years, our family has celebrated this holiday and observed it. We clean our home of any leavened bread and abstain from eating it. We hold a Seder dinner, a ritualized dinner, full of symbolic foods and acts, joined by friends and family. Every year, one of the great highlights of the evening is the singing of the four questions. This song asks: “How does this night differ from all other nights?” outlining that we eat and act differently to remind ourselves that we were once slaves in Egypt.


This year, however, this question has additional meaning. This Seder night will not only be different than all other regular nights but also different than all Seder nights. With our kids spread out pursuing their lives, their academic careers and traveling on a school trip overseas, we decided to embrace change. Change IS good. We will be spending the holiday in Naples, Florida with my mother in law and probably have a most unorthodox Passover. We will be attending a Seder meal at a synagogue on Marco Island, whose name I don’t even know and whose affiliation I am not familiar with. To all that I say: “Life, surprise me!”

And yet… Some things remain the same. Yes, I do have a nostalgic heart. Passover will not be complete with out chocolate Matza and Matza ball soup; ingredients for which will be included in packages for my kids. I will still make my Yemenite Haroset and ship it as well. I am enclosing some links and recipes for you to explore. Please share: What is your favorite Passover food and why?


Yemenite Haroset ready to be sent to my girls


Pretty packaging makes it extra special



A box full of goodies


Though this holiday is pretty labor intensive, I love how it brings the family together; love its unique foods, rituals and stories. May your Passover be full of joyful family moments! Chag Sameach!

!חג שמח



  1. Yemenite Haroset:
  2. Matzo Ball Soup:
  1. Quick and easy Chocolate Matzo Dessert

Serves 4


4 regular matzos, dampened with warm water and wrapped in kitchen towel

1/2 cup Nutella, (or other chocolate spread)

Add on:

1/2 cup Minced dried apricots

1/2-cup cranberries

1/2 cup toasted pecans

1/2-cup currants

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

Powdered sugar

Chocolate drizzle.


Unwrap the matzos and make sure they are soft and pliable, but not wet. Spread 2-3 tablespoons chocolate spread on one whole matzo.


Cranberries and chocolate spread on Matza


At this point, add any selection of toppings you like and fold the matzo in half, or roll it end to end and then slice into bite size pieces. Sprinkle powdered sugar, or drizzle with melted chocolate for garnish.


Rolled Matza




Chocolate cranberry matza with powdered sugar

Consume immediately. Who can wait?



Testing… one, two, three…


One of the things I love about what I do is playing the part of the mad scientist/researcher/chef. Experimenting in the kitchen is a creative process of combining flavors, smelling and tasting, fishing around on the Internet and of course, documenting, documenting….

Over the last few weeks I have been asked by the friendly folks at Nordic Ware® to develop recipes for their Waffle Dipper™ pan.

What is a Waffle Dipper™, you may ask? Think of a stovetop waffle maker, with wells in the shape of wide sticks meant for dipping.

The obvious recipe of choice is, well, waffles, right? But that’s a little boring, isn’t it?

So, out came the cookbooks, the laptop and my camera. (Documenting – remember?)





First, since I am a sucker for bold flavors, I thought: how about a spicy waffle? Combine a little golden corn, some crunchy-spicy jalapeno and can’t forget some melting cheese! Plenty of recipes online to experiment with and the one I settled on was a variation on 3 recipes that I liked the best. This version brings out the sweetness and crunch of corn, with some pleasant heat and a sunny yellow color. Try it with black bean or tortilla soups, chili, or breakfast with maple syrup and eggs. (See recipe below)




Next came a sweet version: since I love pumpkin, I figured why not take my pumpkin muffin recipe and see how it fares in the Waffle Dipper™? Not one of my great ideas… The batter was way too soggy: by the time the inside cooked the outside was a messy burnt crust. So, back to the drawing board I went. After some more experimentation, I finally settled on Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Waffles. Delish! A little spice, a little sweetness and mini chocolate chips – great flavors together! Serve with whipped cream, maple syrup, chocolate syrup, or berries. If you are in a decadent mood – you can opt for all the above… perhaps a birthday treat? (See recipe below)




Finally, a note about the pan itself (back to documentation): The Waffle Dipper™ is really well made – right here in Minneapolis! It heats up quickly, requires minimum greasing, is light and easy to handle and cleans up beautifully with just warm water and soap (dishwasher not recommended). A recipe for sweet waffles is provided on the sleeve, which worked really well too. Since I can’t help myself, I also tried alternating that recipe (I know, what can I say? I just can’t help it…) I omitted the sugar, added minced smoked salmon, minced chives and dill, and Voila! I had a Northwestern waffle. (Homage to my daughter who lives in Seattle…) Add a dip of Greek yogurt and sour cream with the same herbs and you’ve got a playful and tasty appetizer!

Try these yourself and let me know how you did, or better yet EXPERIMENT and share those results with me!

Print Recipe
Jalapeno Corn Waffle Dippers: Makes 12-141-cup fine yellow/or blue corn meal
1/2-cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2-cup corn kernels (fresh, frozen or canned-drained)
1 large jalapeno, minced fine, stem and seeds removed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4-cup cheddar cheese
1 Tbs. brown sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1-cup whole milk
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 egg

Preheat your waffle dipper according to directions.

Combine the corn meal, flour, baking powder, corn, jalapeno, salt, cheese, and brown sugar in a medium bowl and stir to mix. Whisk together the melted butter, milk, oil and the egg in a separate bowl until well combined. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir gently until just barely combined. Spray waffle dipper with cooking spray and then cook in waffle iron according to Nordic Ware’s specifications.

Serve with chili, black beans, Tortilla soup or even as an appetizer with guacamole.


Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Waffle Dippers

Makes 20-22 dippers

2 large eggs
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½-tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground allspice
¼ tsp. nutmeg
3 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ cup mini chocolate chips


Optional Toppings: whipped cream, powdered sugar, choice of nuts, berries, Chocolate and/or maple syrup.

Combine the eggs, buttermilk, unsalted butter, vanilla extract, and pumpkin puree in a large bowl and whisk until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, spices, sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, folding gently. Add chocolate chips and mix them in.

Preheat Waffle Dipper according to directions. Spray the Waffle Dipper with cooking spray, place 3 tbsp. batter into the wells, close with top and flip pan over.  Cook for 2 minutes on first side, flip over and cook for 1 ½ more minutes.

Serve with your choice of optional toppings suggested above.


Chocolate chip – pumpkin spice pudding cookies


PS last

Crazy times at home: kids back from college, holiday meals, shopping, cleaning… I need a glass of nice chardonnay, just thinking of it. So, when things are hectic I look for a quick and foolproof cookie recipe that will be easy to make and stay moist and soft for a few days. Ahem, allow me to introduce: Chocolate chip – pumpkin spice pudding cookies.

The addition of pudding makes for a softer crumb that stays tender and moist a lot longer than your everyday cookie dough. Many variations on cookie recipes with pudding float around on the Internet. Some of my favorites are Vanilla pudding Snickerdoodles, Double chocolate chip cookies and these pumpkin spice cookies. The pumpkin-spice pudding is sometimes hard to find. My sister in law, Lee, found them for me at the Wal-Mart by her house: it tends to be a fall seasonal item. I just stock up when I find them!

This recipe is based on the blog, with the addition of chopped pecans. Here we go…

Chocolate Chip – Pumpkin Spice Pudding Cookies
Adapted from Chef in Training
Makes about 3 doz cookies

PS Ingred

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Sweet and Tangy – Not Your Everyday Caramel


Caramels: Golden, soft, chewy concoction that believe it or not, leave me personally completely unmoved. Too sweet, too single dimensional for me. Now, if you introduce an additional flavor, say cayenne, bourbon or such – then my interest is piqued…


Two Red Bowls is a beautifully photographed blog that introduced me to Apple Cider- Crème Fraiche Caramels. ( Apple cider reduced down to syrup. Tangy crème fraiche and golden caramel – I had to try them!

The ingredients can mostly be found in your pantry and your local grocery store: brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, granulated sugar, butter, apple cider and crème fraiche (French style sour cream: thick and tangy).


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