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Simple Recipe for Savory Potato Kugel

Who doesn’t like kugel? Especially a savory kugel with baked potatoes. For those who might not know, kugel can be compared to a baked “pudding” that is usually prepared with noodles or potatoes. This potato kugel recipe from our chefs at the Jewish Community Housing Corporation is so good, that we just can’t keep it to ourselves! If you decide to try it out, leave a comment and let us know how it turns out!   

Potato Kugel Ingredients: 

  • Potatoes (approx. 5 lbs peeled and shredded)
  • Yellow onion (1)
  • Shallots (4)
  • Potato starch (? cup)
  • Vegetable oil (1 cup)
  • Large eggs (5)
  • Egg yolks (2)
  • Olive oil (½ cup)
  • Kosher salt (1 tbsp)
  • Black pepper (½ tsp)
  • Nutmeg (pinch)
  • Boiling water (1 cup)
  • Optional: chives to garnish

Potato Kugel Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. While the oven is heating, pour vegetable oil in a mid sized pan and heat until the oil is shimmering. 
  2. Add your shallots to the pan and cook over high heat until they are golden brown and crisp. Then, transfer the shallots to a plate using a slotted spoon. Save the shallot oil for later.
  3. After peeling and shredding the potatoes, squeeze out as much liquid as possible and transfer the potatoes to a large bowl. Then, add the chopped yellow onion, potato starch, salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir well. 
  4. Next, stir in the whole eggs, egg yolks, olive oil and boiling water, followed by the sauteed shallots from earlier. 
  5. Pour your potato kugel mixture into two 8 by 11 cast-iron baking dishes. Important note: Before pouring the mixture in, heat the two baking dishes and add 2 tablespoons of the shallot oil you saved earlier. 
  6. Let the kugels bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, lower the heat to 375 degrees and bake the kugels for 40 minutes longer. The kugel should appear golden brown and crisp on the sides. 
  7. Preheat the boiler and broil the kugels as close to the heat as possible, until they are golden brown and crisp on top. 
  8. Let the potato kugels cool for 20 minutes before slicing into squares, adding chopped chives on top and enjoying! 

Seniors dine in style in Morris County, NJ  

The culinary trained chefs at Lester Senior Living in NJ love to try out new recipes for our assisted living and independent living residents. Our residents have the option to eat in the dining room for breakfast, lunch and dinner if they’d like. Not to mention, the majority of our chef’s recipes can be modified to adhere to dietary restrictions and kosher needs. For more information about senior dining options in Morris County, NJ, please give us a call today. You could also visit our website to learn more about what independent living looks like at Lester Senior Living: https://jchcorp.org/independent-living-new-jersey/

What are The Three Weeks Leading up to Tisha B’Av?

The Three Weeks is a period of mourning that occurs in the summer every year leading up to Tisha B’Av. We mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple and the exile of the Jews from Israel. Observing and relearning the details of these events helps us to recognize the weaknesses which brought about these tragic happenings. We do this through the process of “teshuva,” which means self-reflection with a commitment to become better. With “teshuva,” everyone has the power to turn tragedy into joy. The Talmud actually states that after the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, these days will be altered as weeks of happiness and celebration. 

History has a tendency to repeat itself, if we don’t learn from it. That’s why it’s so important to shed light and observe even the most tragic times. With that said, here are some observances and more information regarding Tisha B’Av that the team at JCHC has put together.  

What Happened on Tisha B’Av? 

On Tisha B’Av, five major tragedies occurred.  

  1. During the time of Moses (approx. 1312 BCE), the Jews accepted the malicious report of the 10 Spies. Immediately after, a decree was issued forbidding the 10 Spies from entering the Land of Israel. 
  2. The destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. At this time, approximately 100,000 Jews were slaughtered and millions more were exiled. 
  3. The destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. Approximately two million Jews died and another one million were exiled. 
  4. In 135 CE, the city of Betar was conquered by the Romans. This was the Jews’ last stand against the Romans and over 100,000 Jews were killed. 
  5. Jerusalem was rebuilt as a pagan city and named Aelia Capitolina. The Romans declared that access into the city was forbidden to Jews.

Observances During The 3 Weeks and Tisha B’Av

There are many mourning-related customs and observances that are followed for the entire three-week period leading up to Tisha B’Av. Some examples are no haircuts, no new clothing purchases, no listening to music and no Jewish weddings are to be held during this time. 

The afternoon before Tisha B’Av, we are to eat a full meal to prepare for the fast. When the afternoon concludes, the Seudah Hamaf-seket is eaten. This is a meal that contains bread, water, and a hard-boiled egg only. The hard-boiled egg represents two major elements. The roundness of the egg reminds us of the precious circle of life. The second element is that the egg is the only food that becomes harder the more it is cooked – i.e. a true  symbol of the Jews’ ability to rise over the ashes, no matter what life throws our way. 

Jewish Learning at JCHC in Morris County, NJ

If you’d like to know more about Jewish culture, or about how we are observing the Three Weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av, please contact the team at JCHC today. At our Lester Senior Living community, we read the Torah, hold Maariv Services and even offer university level classes about Jewish history and culture. 

To learn more about the Jewish teachings offered at our assisted living community in Morris County, NJ, please visit our website at: https://jchcorp.org/assisted-living-morris-county-nj/


Bake Your Own Bagels With This Recipe

Did you ever take the time to bake your own bagels at home? It may not be the quickest recipe, but it can be a great bonding experience to have with your kids and senior parents. Not to mention, there’s a good chance you already have all the ingredients already at home! The only two ingredients or supplies that you may not have on hand are a Dutch oven and active dry yeast. Luckily, yeast can be purchased at your local supermarket and a good-quality Dutch oven can be purchased pretty inexpensively from Amazon. So, what are you waiting for? Bake some bagels, fill them with lox and you’re ready to roll! Get it? Bagels… rolls… 

Without further ado, here is the JCHC’s signature bagel recipe. 

Ingredients for Bagels:

  • Active dry yeast (1 teaspoon)
  • Egg yolk (1)
  • Warm milk (1¼ cups)
  • Softened butter (½ cup)
  • All purpose flour (3 ¾ – 4 ¼ cups)
  • Sugar (2 tablespoons)
  • Salt (1 teaspoon)
  • Olive oil for greasing 
  • Everything bagel seasoning (optional)

Directions for Baking Bagels:

  1. First, get a large bowl and dissolve the active dry yeast with the warm milk. The temperature of the milk should be approximately 110 degrees. 
  2. Next, add the egg yolk, butter, sugar and salt to the bowl and mix well. 
  3. Stir in flour until a soft dough forms. 
  4. Knead the dough on a floured counter top until it starts to feel “elastic.” This will usually take 6-8 minutes. 
  5. Once you’re done kneading, grease a bowl with olive oil and place the dough in it. Then cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for about an 1 hour or until the dough doubles in size. 
  6. Flatten or “punch” dough down and then shape into 12 balls. Push your finger through the middle of each ball to create a 1 ½ in. hole. Then, stretch and shape the dough into an even ring. After you’re done shaping all 12, cover them on your floured counter top and let rest for 10 minutes. 
  7. Grab your Dutch oven and fill it with water. The oven should be about ? filled with water and then bring it to a boil. Once boiling, drop bagels in 2 at a time. Cook for about 45 seconds on each side and then remove with a slotted spoon. 
  8. Drain bagels well on paper towels and then sprinkle with everything bagel seasoning.
  9. Place each bagel 2 in. apart from one another on a greased baking pan and bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. 
  10. Remove bagels from the pan, let them cool on a wire rack and then enjoy! 

Culinary trained chefs at Lester Senior Living in NJ  

The chefs at Lester Senior Living are always whipping up something new. Whether it’s a crowd favorite like bagels or a seasonal Jewish dish, our cooks are happy to serve our residents day in and day out. For more information about senior dining options in Morris County, NJ, please contact us today: (973) 929-2725.

You could also visit our website to learn more about what senior community life is really like in Morris County, NJ: https://jchcorp.org/assisted-living-morris-county-nj/

What Happens During Shavuot?

We know that Shavuot commemorates spring harvest and the giving of the Torah, but it helps to go over the finer details to get a better understanding of this Jewish holiday. Especially, since there are specific traditions that tie into the commemoration of Shavuot. The senior care team at the JCHC has compiled information about Shavuot that addresses what the holiday represents, when it occurs typically, and most importantly, how to celebrate! 

What is Shavuot? 

Shavuot, also known as the Festival of Weeks, is the second of the three major Jewish festivals that has major significance  both historically and agriculturally. (The other two festivals are Passover and Sukkot.) In the agricultural sense, Shavuot commemorates the time when the first fruits of spring were harvested and brought to the Temple, also known as Hag ha-Bikkurim (the Festival of the First Fruits). Historically, it celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, also referred to as Hag Matan Torateinu (the Festival of the Giving of Our Torah). Another name for this holiday is Pentecost, because it falls on the 50th day of the year. However, it’s important to note that Shavuot has no particular relation to the Christian holiday of Pentecost, which occurs 50 days afterwards.

When is Shavuot?

There is no set calendar date for Shavuot. The date changes each year since it is a counting from Passover. This is also due to the fact that the length of the months used to be variable, determined by observation. There are two new moons between Passover and Shavuot. Shavuot could occur on the 5th or 6th of Sivan. However, now that we have a mathematically determined calendar, and the months between Passover and Shavuot do not change length, Shavuot is always on the 6th of Sivan. 

How to Celebrate Shavuot

Known as a time of great anticipation, we count each of the days leading up to Shavuot. From the second day of Passover to the day before Shavuot, 49 days or 7 full weeks, hence the name of the festival. The counting honors the important connection between Passover and Shavuot: Passover freed us physically from bondage, but the giving of the Torah on Shavuot redeemed us spiritually from our bondage. It is noteworthy that the holiday is called the time of the giving of the Torah, rather than receiving of the Torah. The sages point out that we are constantly in the process of receiving the Torah, that we receive it every day, but it was first given during the time of Shavuot.

Another customary way to celebrate is to gather and eat a dairy meal at least once during Shavuot. Why we do this is a little bit divided. Some feel it refers to the promise regarding the land of Israel, a land flowing with “milk and honey.” Others feel that dairy is only eaten due to Torah dietary laws. Either way, we enjoy getting together with family and friends to eat delicious food. We also celebrate Shavuot by going to synagogue and staying up all night to read the Book of Ruth.

Jewish Traditions at JCHC in New Jersey

If you’d like to know more about how we are commemorating Shavuot at the JCHC, or if you have any other questions regarding our assisted living services in NJ, please contact us today. We’d love to hear from you.  

How is Passover Celebrated Today?

One of the most exciting events of Spring, especially for JCHC, has to be Passover! For those who may not be familiar, Passover commemorates the liberation of Jews from the Egyptian pharaoh as told in the Book of Exodus. Passover usually lasts between seven and eight days and begins with Seder. During Seder, families gather to retell the heroic story of how the Israelites escaped from Egypt, while enjoying symbolic food and drink like Charoset, matzah, and wine. But how did these symbolic traditions emerge and are they celebrated any differently today? 

The Origin Story of Passover  

In order to understand how the Passover traditions came to be, we have to go back to the beginning. As told in the Book of Exodus, the Pharaoh fears that the Jews living in Egypt will overpower the Egyptian people. With this in mind, he decides the best way to preven this is to enforce slavery and demand that male Jewish babies be killed in order to prevent further reproduction of Jewish people. The mother of Baby Moses refuses to accept this fate, and secretly floats him in a basket down the Nile river. Baby Moses is later found and adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter coincidentally. When he grows older, Moses flees into the desert after killing an Egyptian slave master and encounters a burning bush of God. He urges Moses to go back to the Pharaoh and lead the Jewish people out of slavery.

Moses asks the Pharaoh to let the Jews go free from Egypt. Each time the Pharaoh says “no,” to Moses, God sends a different consequence (or plague) for Egypt. The final consequence is the most drastic: the slaying of the firstborn Egyptian child. In order to protect their first-born children from the angel of death, the Jews marked their doors with lamb’s blood, so that the angel of death would pass over them. The name “Passover” originated from the fact that God actually “passed over” the houses of the Jews when slaying the firstborn of the Egyptians. Passover is also known as “Pesach” in Hebrew, which is based on the root meaning “to pass over.” When the Jews were fleeing Egypt, the bread they had prepared for their journey did not have enough time to rise, thus Matzah was created and is now an integral part of this Jewish holiday.

How Passover is Celebrated Today

One of the most significant ways to commemorate Passover, that still reigns true today involves the removal of chametz from your home. This pays tribute to the creation of matzah and the Jews not having enough time for their bread to rise. It is also symbolic to the way Jews sacrificed their arrogance and pride in order to be free. Chametz refers to any food that has not been completely cooked within 18 minutes after coming into contact with water and contains the five major grains: wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats. 

Another major way to celebrate Passover, that is perhaps the most fun, is seder. Most Jewish families have at least one Passover seder, some choose to have two. Each food that is served during the Passover seder is symbolic to the origin story. For example, bitter herbs represent the bitterness of slavery and charoset (link to published blog when ready) represents the mortar used by the Jews to build structures under Egyptian rule. 

Jewish Traditions at Lester Senior Living in New Jersey

If you’d like to know more about how we are commemorating Passover at Lester Senior Living, or if you have any other questions regarding our assisted living services, please contact us today. We’d love to hear from you.