How to do Kapparot With Money


It’s easy to do the ancient Kapparot ritual in the comfort of your own home. The ritual is performed between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. All you need is some cash and the ritual worksheet below which is adapted from the Machzor.

Before Yom Kippur, gather those who want to do the ritual — your children, your self, your spouse, and anyone else who is interested — and have enough cash per person to make it a significant donation. I recommend that you use the same amount that is spent on a chicken, usually $18 or more. After performing Kapparot, the money is given to tzedakah, ideally to help feed people in need in your community.

Below is a sheet you can print out and use at home.

Wishing you a sweet and healthy New Year!

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Is your house ready for El Niño?


The rain is coming. Rain — you remember what that is, right? After one of the longest stretches of drought in California’s recorded history, meteorologists are predicting a strong El Niño weather system this fall and winter, which, if it materializes, will batter us with storms. While we certainly need the rain, we Southern Californians don’t really cope well when it’s not 72 and sunny. And we also may not realize that our homes may need some major weatherproofing. The time to start looking around the house for problem areas is now, because prevention is a lot more cost-effective than repairs. Here are some ways to get ready for the wet months ahead.

Check the roof

The obvious place to start is the roof. Southern California’s perpetual sunshine and heat can actually do a number on our roofs. The sun’s UV rays damage and break down roofing material, making it dry and brittle. The high temperatures further weaken the roof by drying up essential oils in the tiles, making them lose their weatherproofing properties. Then there’s a little thing called thermal shock. You know how in Los Angeles it gets so hot during the day, then turns so chilly at night? The daytime heat causes the roof to expand, and when it cools off, the roof contracts. This daily stress, or thermal shock, on the roof can cause tiles, as well as the flashing that prevents water from entering the home, to loosen. 

So what can you do? Get up on a ladder and do a visual inspection of your roof. Stay on the ladder — don’t get off it and climb onto the roof, however. It’s dangerous for you, and not good for the roof. Check for tiles that are deteriorating, warped or discolored. Also, make sure there’s no debris piled up, which can cause water to puddle. If you see problems, consult a professional roofing contractor. The key is to find a roofer now, not when the rains are already here. Many roofers are already booked up through the end of the year, so this call should be your first priority.

Get your mind in the gutter

The gutters attached to your roof have not gotten much use during the drought, so they probably have collected leaves and dirt that are just sitting there. Clear the gutters of all debris so that when the rains come, water can be diverted away from the roof. After you’ve cleared the gutters, test them by running water through them to make sure they drain properly.

Redirect downspouts

From the gutters, downspouts direct water down to the ground, but you do not want the water to go in the direction of your home’s foundation. Add downspout extensions that will direct water to your yard or street. Or better yet, get a downspout diverter that will channel water into a rain barrel.

Clear floor drains

If you have drains in your patio or driveway, make sure they, too, are clear of debris. The screen on top of the drain, which prevents leaves from falling in, can quickly become covered, causing flooding. In fact, even if they are clear now, after the rain starts, debris naturally flows in the direction of those drains, so be diligent in keeping the area clear. 

Install or replace weather stripping

With rain and wind pelting your house, you’ll want to seal the gaps around your doors and windows. Weather stripping not only keeps out the elements, it can lower your energy bill. Again, the Southern California heat continually deteriorates the weather stripping you already have, so it’s a good idea to check it regularly. Installing new or replacement weather stripping is an easy DIY task that does not require special tools. Visit your local home improvement warehouse or hardware store, and they’ll make an expert out of you.

Repair door frames and thresholds

When it rains, water can get into your home through the tiniest cracks. Among the places people don’t think about are the wood frames and moldings on exterior doors. Seal all cracks with wood putty, and give the wood a fresh coat of paint. The wooden thresholds underneath doors also take a pounding from the elements, so have them refinished regularly. This piece of advice is from personal experience. The condominium complex where I live has west-facing patio doors and thresholds that were cracked by constant sun exposure. You could see leakage inside just by spraying water onto the doors with a hose. Repairing them stopped any further water intrusion.

Prepare for power outages

Inevitably, rain and wind will result in power outages across the Southland, leaving people without heat, electrical power and, maybe worst of all, Wi-Fi. Consider investing in a portable generator that will kick in when your power goes out. Generators are typically gasoline-powered, and they’re available in a range of sizes and prices at big-box stores. 

Protect your landscaping

Many of us have had to forsake our lawns and change our landscaping to rocks, wood chips and drought-tolerant plants. As a result, rainwater may not react the same as it did with the old landscaping. While water used to be soaked up by the lawn, it may now puddle or run in the direction of your house. To help water stay on your landscaping, add leaves to rock beds so they can help absorb the runoff. And loosen compacted soil to let it absorb more water. Protect your plants by covering them with burlap. It insulates them during cold snaps while assisting with water absorption. 

Inspect your trees

Trees are wonderful for collecting rainwater, but during storms, branches can break and fall, causing damage to your property. Check your trees for weak branches and cut them off now with a saw. If you have larger trees with branches that hang threateningly over your home or driveway, consult with a tree specialist about the health of your tree and the risk of those branches falling.

Tie down your property

It’s going to get windy, folks. If you have canopies or outdoor umbrellas in your yard, take them down. Tie down any trees in pots so they don’t tip over. Place heavy objects on your outdoor furniture so that cushions don’t blow away. Even if you have protective covering on them, make sure to weigh them down so the covers don’t blow off. 

Think of your pets

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How to make the switch to solar power


A few years ago, the only people in my neighborhood with solar power systems were serious environmentalists on the cutting edge of technology. Fast-forward to today, and my neighbors on both sides of my home have equipped their homes with solar power. And they’re not techies — they’re senior citizens. Solar power is going mainstream.

According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the first three months of 2015 was the best quarter for residential solar installations ever, growing the industry by more than 76 percent over the same period last year. But while solar use is booming, the business is still relatively nascent. In California, the state with the largest number of solar households, less than 3 percent of households have tapped into the sun for their energy needs. 

One reason more people haven’t made the jump to solar is the lack of education about the subject. “A lot of people aren’t aware that there’s an alternative to the utility company,” said Jonathan Bass, spokesman for SolarCity, the largest residential solar provider in the United States. “They don’t realize that solar is more affordable and easier to use than even four or five years ago.”

It’s understandable if the process can seem intimidating. If you’re considering solar power, you are more than likely a first-time buyer. You have a lot of questions, but don’t know where to go for answers. How do you start? How long does it take? How much is it going to cost? Is it worth it?

To help you understand solar power systems a little better, here is a basic primer that should help you make a decision and arm you with some knowledge before you contact a solar provider.

The right home for solar

The first thing to consider is whether your house is even right for solar. An ideal home for solar power should have an unshaded roof that faces south, west or east. Fortunately, we get plenty of sunshine in Los Angeles, so many homes are good candidates for solar.

How solar works

With residential solar systems, solar panels are installed on your roof. These panels absorb sunlight and generate an electrical current. An inverter converts that direct current into the alternating current that powers your lights and appliances. When your solar power system produces more power than you need, it feeds the power back into the electricity grid.

The timeline

When you contact a solar provider, someone will come to your home for a formal site survey, taking a look at your roof and making sure there are no trees blocking sunlight. After a decision is made about your solar system, building permits must be obtained from the city. The solar panels are then installed, and the work must be inspected by both the city’s building department as well as your utility company. The entire process takes around three months to complete from the time you sign up, depending on where you live.

The price tag

Let’s talk turkey. How much is this going to cost you? Depending upon the size of your system, which is dictated by the size of your roof and your energy needs, the average cost is anywhere from $8,000 to $40,000. Although that might seem a big upfront cost, in actuality most people do not end up paying the full amount because they lease their systems. In the past year, three out of four solar systems were financed with lease- or power-purchase agreements. (The terms are used interchangeably, however, there are subtle differences.)

Buy or lease

If more people are leasing their solar systems, is that the right choice for you? Those who buy their systems pay all the costs upfront, and as a result are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit that reduces the cost. After several years of saving on the electric portion of their utility bills, they can recoup their initial investment. So in the long run, owning can be the most cost-effective way to go. However, with a lease, homeowners pay nothing up front and their monthly bill is usually less than the old utility bill. This way, the solar panel provider receives the government subsidies, which are factored into the lease payments to make them more affordable. With no upfront costs and immediately reduced monthly energy bills, it is no wonder leasing has become so popular. 

Selling your home

What happens to your solar system if you sell your home? If you bought the system, then the new buyer owns it. If you’re leasing the system, you can transfer the lease to the new homeowner. The bottom line is that having solar makes your home more desirable to buyers. A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that homes with solar systems sold for 17 percent more and 20 percent faster.

Getting started

The best way to know whether solar can work for you is to contact some suppliers. Ask for recommendations from friends and neighbors who have installed solar, or visit seia.org for listings and reviews of suppliers in your area. You will be amazed how easy it is to get a comprehensive estimate over the phone or online. For example, if you contact SolarCity, all you need to provide is your address and a current utility bill. With that information, they will look online at a satellite image of your roof so they can evaluate the square footage available to accommodate solar panels. Your utility bill gives them an idea of what your energy usage is and how large a system you will need. From there, they can estimate what your energy costs — and savings — would be.


Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at

Turn your floral bouquet into homemade potpourri


Who doesn’t love receiving a bouquet of fresh flowers, whether it’s for a birthday, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or just because? The sweet smells always brighten your day and add a burst of joyful color to your home. It’s too bad, then, that arrangements typically wilt in about a week. But here’s good news: You can preserve the flowers so they last forever. Just dry them and turn them into potpourri. As someone who once thought that potpourri was just a category on “Jeopardy!” I was surprised how easy it is to make.

Step 1: Dry the flowers


Dry whole rose buds by hanging roses upside down for several weeks. 

I like the idea of preserving some of the flowers in their entirety as well as taking some apart to dry the individual petals. The combination of whole flower buds and flaky petals provides a gorgeous texture to the finished potpourri. It’s easiest to dry larger petals, like those on roses and peonies. For flowers with small petals, like carnations and chrysanthemums, I recommend drying the entire flower bud rather than just the petals.

To dry whole flower buds, hang the flowers by their stems upside down, tying them to a clothesline with string or twist ties. Allow them to air-dry indoors for two to three weeks. When  they’re completely dry, the buds will snap off the stems, and you will be left with beautiful flowers that have the look and feel of vintage paper.


Dry rose petals in a conventional or microwave oven.

Drying petals is much faster. Place the petals in a single layer on a parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet, and heat in an oven at its lowest temperature, about 180 F. Crack open the oven door to allow moisture to escape. After 30 minutes, turn the petals over, and heat for an additional 30 minutes. When oven-baked, the petals turn crispy, and their color actually intensifies. (Oven times vary, so if your petals aren’t completely dried after an hour, keep checking their “doneness” in 10-minute increments.)

If you’re in a hurry and can’t wait an hour for them to dry in the oven, you can also microwave your petals. Place the petals between two paper towels and microwave them at full power for one minute. Remove the petals from the microwave, turn them over, and zap them for another minute. Instant dried petals!

Step 2: Add botanicals and other elements


Dried herbs and botanicals complement the flowers in your potpourri.

Once your flowers are dried, it’s time to add other elements to create the potpourri. What you include in your mixture is completely up to your taste and imagination.

Start by looking in your own backyard for botanicals that are available to you for free. Think leaves, tree bark, pinecones and twigs. Rinse them well to remove dirt and bugs, and dry them in the oven for an hour.

Next, consider adding fragrant herbs like lavender or rosemary. I know when I’m walking my dogs, Fosse and Gershwin, around the neighborhood, I can never go by a rosemary plant without running my fingers through the stalks. I just love how it smells. Best of all, lavender and rosemary retain their shape and fragrance when dried, so they work really well in potpourri.

You can also raid your pantry for aromatic spices. Cinnamon sticks, star anise and cloves lend delightful fragrance notes to your potpourri while adding interesting shapes and textures.

When making potpourri, I also like to add nonbotanical filler elements. Costume jewelry, wooden thread spools, seashells, and even vintage keys help to personalize the potpourri and make it unique. Choosing modern and unexpected fillers (Legos, anyone?) can also help keep the potpourri from becoming too froufrou.

Step 3: Mix it all together

Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, place them in a large bowl and stir everything together with a wooden spoon. The proportion of florals to botanicals is up to you, but I like about three-quarters of my mixture to be flowers. The ingredients you choose probably already have some scent, but if you want to enhance their natural fragrance, select an essential oil that will tie all your elements together. Essential oils — with scents such as lavender, almond, orange and jasmine — are available in most health food stores. Just add several drops of the oil to the mix. Then display your potpourri in dishes and bowls throughout your home.

Making homemade potpourri is a great way to preserve your beautiful flowers, as well as the memories associated with receiving them. So the next time you receive a lovely bouquet, save the petals. Love may not always last forever, but the flowers certainly can.


Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” ”Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects on jonathanfongstyle.com.

Celebrate Israel Independence Day festival map


Click image to enlarge map.

1. Main Stage — Performance by legendary Israeli rock band Mishina, The Spazmatics and the official Independence Day Ceremony. 

2. SpaceIL — Photo opportunity with Israel's first space shuttle which will be sent to the moon.

3. Cafe Tel Aviv — Live performances throughout the day at the festival's “chill out spot.”

4. Beer Garden — Beer, wine, spirits and good eats.

5. Vendor Village — Learn about your local community organizations and businesses. 

6. Israeli Artist Pavilion — 21 artists from Tel Aviv's artist colony will showcase art, jewelry and judaica. 

7. The Time Travel Tunnel — An authentic journey through the history of Israel.

8. Community Oil Painting of Tel Aviv — Take part in the enormous painting of the Tel Aviv coastline.

9. Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People — Stop by the museum of the the Jewish people and find your family roots.

10. The Israeli Scouts — Participate in the challenging activities for kids and teens.

11. Kids Stages — Non-stop performances throughout the day for kids of all ages.

12. KidZone — Kidspace Museum, CreateLAB arts and crafts, puppy petting zoo and reptiles, drum circle, stilt walkers, face painters, balloon artists, a giant amusement park and more.

13. Israeli Folk Dancing — Join Israel Yaakovi for authentic Israeli dancing.

How sweet it is


Apples, honey and a freshly baked round challah are traditionally served at the beginning of our Rosh Hashanah dinner. The shape of the challah represents unending happiness, and foods sweetened with honey symbolize a sweet and happy new year ahead.

Just before Rosh Hashanah, I start thinking of recipes featuring apples and honey, and what better way to combine them but in an assortment of desserts?

Apples come in so many colors, shapes and sizes, and their flavor can range from crisp and tart to soft and sweet. You can use most apples for baking, but the different varieties produce different results. And when it comes to honey, you will find the best selection of honey at the local farmers markets. Even hard-to-find varieties such as chestnut or buckwheat honey, which are dark in color and have a pungent malt flavor, are available.

Over the years, I have prepared many different apple-honey desserts, but this year I have asked chefs, family and friends to share their favorites.

Amy Tidus Zeidler, my daughter-in-law, shared her grandmother’s recipe for their family’s Apple Cake.

“It’s very simple and easy to make,” she said. “Grandma was a great baker and often didn’t use a recipe, but this is what my mom and I have come up with to replicate it.”

Growing up in Los Angeles, she said it was special when her grandparents, who lived on the East Coast, would come to visit several times a year.

“Some of my fondest memories of my grandmother were when she baked for us. My brothers and I loved her cookies and cakes, but the apple cake was our favorite,” she added.

Apple Rosemary Tart is a new find from chef Bruce Marder’s new bakery, Red Rooster, in Santa Monica. A delicious pie crust is filled with sliced apples and rosemary, then topped with crisscrossing strips of pie dough resembling latticework, creating a dramatic effect. As intimidating as it might look, making a lattice pie crust top is actually quite easy to do.

Josiah Citrin, chef/owner of Melisse restaurant in Santa Monica, shares a recipe for Apple Tart “Classique,” from his new cookbook, “Pursuit of Excellence.”” The recipe makes four individual tarts and can be doubled. I have also included his recipe for Crème Fraîche Ice Cream, or it can be garnished with whipped cream.

Our family standby, baked apple, is a perfect Rosh Hashanah dessert and is simple to make. Serve it with a scoop of ice cream on the side, or, for an Italian touch, top it with sabayon sauce accented with honey. 


GRANDMA MARTHA’S APPLE CAKE

Grandma Martha’s Apple Cake. Photo by Dan Kacvinski

Topping:
1/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Batter:
1/2 pound unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced thinly
4 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Brush an 8-by-8-inch pan with butter and flour and set aside.

For topping, in a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon and nuts; set aside.

For batter, in the large bowl of an electric mixer, blend the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and mix well. Combine flour and baking powder and add to batter alternately with the milk; mix well. Pour into prepared pan. Arrange sliced apples over the top, sprinkle with prepared topping and drizzle with honey.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.


APPLE ROSEMARY TART

Apple Rosemary Tart. Photo by Judy Zeidler

For a flakier crust, it is important to mix the ingredients just until they begin to form a ball (do not overmix).

Pie crust:
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
8 ounces unsalted butter
1/2 cup ice water

Filling:
2 ounces unsalted butter
10 Fuji apples, peeled, cored, diced in 1-inch squares
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch sea salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water
Granulated sugar to sprinkle on crust

Preheat oven to 325 F.

For pie crust, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar; pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse 6 to 8 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal with pea-size pieces of butter. Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together. Remove dough from machine and divide in half. Knead each half into a flat disc.

Roll out 1 disc to fit a 9-inch pie dish. Lightly press it into the pie dish, leaving enough dough to hang over the edge. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Roll out the other disc of dough, cut into 1/2-inch strips, and form strips into a lattice top. Arrange on wax paper, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Place a sheet of wax paper on top of crust in prepared pie dish and fill with pie weights, rice or beans. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove weights and wax paper; bake 10 minutes longer or until golden brown. Let cool.

For filling, melt butter in a large sauté pan. Add apples, lemon juice, honey, sugar, rosemary, cinnamon and salt; sauté for 20 minutes until soft. Mix cornstarch with water, stirring until all lumps disappear, and add to apple mixture; simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool.

Spoon the apple filling into partially baked piecrust. Brush edge of crust with egg yolk/water mixture. Invert unbaked lattice top onto baked crust. Press edges together and trim to fit pie dish. Brush lattice top with egg yolk/water mixture and sprinkle with sugar.

Place tart on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


APPLE TART CLASSIQUE

Crème Fraîche Ice Cream:
4 cups whole milk
11 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
Pinch ground cinnamon
1 2/3 cups crème fraîche

Apple Tart:
1 sheet puff pastry (12 by 12 inches)
4 large pink lady apples, peeled
1/2 cup clarified butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Caramel Sauce:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 pound unsalted butter, cut into medium dice
2 teaspoons fleur de sel

For ice cream, bring the milk to a boil in a medium pot over high heat. In a medium bowl, lightly whisk together the yolks, sugar and cinnamon. Slowly whisk the boiled milk into the yolk mixture. Strain the mixture through a chinois and into a stainless steel bowl; set that bowl over a bowl of ice. Stir to chill. Whisk in the crème fraîche. Churn the mix in an ice cream maker and reserve in the freezer.

For apple tart, lay the puff pastry on a flat surface. Cut out four circles using a 4 1/2-inch cookie cutter. Place the pastry circles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing them at least 1 inch apart. Put the tray into the freezer until the pastry is hard.

Using an apple corer, remove the cores from the apples. Cut the apples in half down the core. Slice the apples on a mandolin slicer into 1/8-inch-thick half-rings.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Arrange the apple slices by fanning them out on the frozen puff pastry. Brush each apple tart with some of the clarified butter, and dust with some of the powdered sugar. Bake the tarts for 15 minutes. Brush the tarts again with clarified butter, dust with powdered sugar and bake for another 15 minutes. Repeat this process two more times for a total of four coatings and dustings and 60 minutes of baking time.

For caramel sauce, in a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, honey and water. Put the pan over high heat and let the sugar boil until it turns brown (about 12 minutes). Once the sugar has reached a caramel stage, remove the pan from the heat and, in a gentle stream, carefully whisk in the cream. Whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time. Add the fleur de sel, mix well and strain through a chinois. Keep warm. (If making a few days in advance, refrigerate, then reheat in the microwave when ready to serve.)

To serve, heat the apple tarts in a preheated 350 F oven for 7 minutes. Heat the caramel sauce in a small saucepan. Place a tart on the center of each plate and spoon the caramel sauce around the edge of the tart. Place a quenelle of the Crème Fraîche Ice Cream on top of the tarts and dust with powdered sugar.

Makes 4 servings.


OLD-FASHIONED HONEY BAKED APPLES

Old-Fashioned Honey Baked Apple. Photo by Dan Kacvinski

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
6 Granny Smith or Rome Beauty apples, equal size
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 teaspoon-size pieces
1/4 cup honey
1 cup apple juice
6 sprigs fresh mint, optional

Preheat oven to 325 F.

In a small bowl, combine cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar; set aside.

Core the apples, making sure not to puncture the bottom of the apples so the juices will remain. Remove skin from 1/2 inch around top of each apple at the opening. Fill each cavity with an equal amount of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Top each apple with a drizzle of honey and a teaspoon of butter. 

Place apples in casserole dish and pour apple juice and any remaining honey around them. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 45 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven, garnish with fresh mint, drizzle with additional honey, and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Judy Zeidler is the author of “Italy Cooks,” based on 35 years of travel to Italy, “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (Morrow, 1988) and “The International Deli Cookbook” (Chronicle, 1994). She teaches cooking classes through American Jewish University’s Whizin Center for Continuing Education. Her Web site is judyzeidler.com.

Break the fast with a buffet


As the sound of the shofar officially closes the long day of Yom Kippur prayer, people head home a little weary but spiritually uplifted. It has been a tradition for our family to gather upon returning from synagogue for a break-the-fast meal. It began when our children were growing up, and we prepared a light brunch-style dairy supper.

In many Jewish homes, a favorite way to break the Yom Kippur fast is with a buffet table filled with easy-to-serve appetizers that guests can nibble when they return after a long day of prayer and fasting. Most of the food can be prepared in advance and put on the table quickly. No one wants to spend time in the kitchen while suffering from acute hunger pangs. The transition from fast to feast should be a gradual one. Begin with tea flavored with lemon and honey, or a glass of wine served with challah (egg bread) and honey cake.

Last year, we served mini Russian blini (blintzes) with smoked salmon and salmon caviar topped with sour cream. The recipe for the blini is not difficult and can be prepared in advance. I use a pan with seven shallow wells that is made just for this, but a nonstick frying pan will do as well. Cured or smoked salmon and salmon caviar helps replenish some of the salt lost after fasting for 24 hours.

I still remember what I was told by my parents: “After the Yom Kippur fast, our bodies need salt.” So our break-the-fast dinners always included smoked salmon and pickled herring. I’m not sure whether modern science agrees, but to be safe I’ve included Grandma Gene’s special recipe for Chopped Herring. It contains onion, apple, chopped hard-cooked egg and lots of love.

I can’t resist adding a few new ideas to the break-the-fast menu. This year I will serve a Vegetable Frittata that was inspired by a dish that is served at Cora’s, a small coffee shop in Santa Monica. The frittata is made in advance and heated when ordered. Filled with red peppers, onions and zucchini, it adds color to the buffet table. Prepare the frittata ahead of time, refrigerate, and serve at room temperature or heat in the oven just before serving.

Traditional Honey Cake is a holiday staple, symbolizing a sweet new year, but I continue to develop new recipes to make it better. This is one of the most delicious I have ever tasted, and even if you are not a big fan of honey cake, I think you will enjoy this one. 

The children always enjoy crisp cookies at the end of the meal, and these crunchy Sesame-Honey Thins are perfect. I suggest orange blossom honey or any light honey for the recipe, as a strong flavor tends to overpower these delicate, paper-thin cookies. Make the dough mixture in advance, and store them in the refrigerator until baking.

CORN BLINIS WITH SMOKED SALMON OR SALMON CAVIAR

1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (boiled) or frozen corn, defrosted
3 eggs
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 pound smoked salmon or salmon caviar
1/4 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Place the corn in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the eggs, flour, salt and pepper, and process until smooth.

Brush a large nonstick skillet with olive oil (or use a heavy cast-iron skillet with seven pancake wells), and heat over medium heat until hot. Working in batches, drop the batter in by tablespoon and cook until golden brown, about 20 seconds a side.

Top each pancake with smoked salmon or salmon caviar and sour cream. Sprinkle with chives and serve immediately.

Makes about 24 servings.


GRANDMA’S CHOPPED HERRING

For almost every holiday gathering, Grandma Gene would arrive at the front door bearing a large glass bowl filled with chopped herring, along with her corn rye bread. She always finished garnishing the herring when she arrived, and then would serve it with pride. It took many years to convince her to part with the recipe. Finally, I sat there one day when she made it, measuring and taking notes as she prepared the dish.

1 pound schmaltz herring fillets or 1 jar (1 pound) pickled herring fillets in wine sauce
2 slices challah or egg bread
1 medium onion, cut into quarters
1 green apple, peeled, cored and sliced
2 hard-boiled eggs
4 teaspoons vinegar
2 or 3 tablespoons safflower or vegetable oil

Soak the herring in cold water overnight. Drain well. Bone and skin the herring and cut it into pieces. Soak the challah in cold water for a few minutes and squeeze out the water.

Place the herring, challah, onion and apple in a food grinder and grind. Chop the hard-boiled egg whites and combine with 3 teaspoons of the vinegar. Mix the whites into the herring mixture. Spread the chopped herring on a platter. Mash the egg yolks with the remaining 1 teaspoon vinegar and spread over the top of the chopped herring. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Just before serving, drizzle the oil over the top. Serve with thinly sliced corn rye bread.

Makes about 8 to 10 servings.  


VEGETABLE FRITTATA

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 medium zucchini, cut into small cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 large eggs
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet, brushing sides of skillet, over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper and zucchini; sauté until soft. Add salt and pepper, to taste. 

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, blending well. Pour egg mixture over hot vegetables in the skillet; stir gently to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, without stirring, until eggs are set on bottom, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle half of the cheese over frittata. Place under broiler and broil until cheese melts, about 2 minutes.

Sprinkle remaining cheese on top, cut frittata into wedges, and serve.

Makes 6 servings.


NEW CLASSIC HONEY CAKE

Olive oil for loaf pans
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
1 3/4 cups honey
1 cup strong brewed coffee
1/2 cup currants
3 tablespoons brandy
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
4 eggs
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 tablespoon grated orange zest 
 
Brush two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with olive oil.

In a saucepan, combine the honey and coffee; bring to a boil and cool. Soak the currants in the brandy.

Preheat the oven to 300 F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend the ¼ cup olive oil, brown sugar and eggs. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the honey/coffee mixture to the egg mixture, stirring after each addition. Fold in the currants, almonds and orange zest.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans and bake for 1 hour; the top will be sticky, but a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

Makes 2 loaves, 8 to 10 servings each.


SESAME-HONEY THINS

3/4 cup unsalted butter or margarine, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup orange-flavored honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
 
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar, honey and vanilla until light and fluffy. Blend in the egg and sesame seeds. Add the flour and salt; beat until smooth. (You may cover the dough with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator or freezer for later use.)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Spoon small marble-size mounds of dough 2 inches apart onto a lightly oiled, foil-lined or silicone baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, until the cookies begin to brown around the edges. Cool on the baking sheet. When the cookies harden, carefully peel them off.

Store in an airtight container with foil between the layers.

Makes about 8 dozen.

So you want to be a DJ . . .


You’ve danced your last on the bar or bat mitzvah circuit and moved on to high school. But that doesn’t mean the party has to end.

For those who have dreamed of going from an infinite iPod playlist to playing live on the ones and twos, the bar and bat mitzvah party scene is a great place to get your start. Setting up a DJ business takes practice, planning and professionalism, but it beats baby-sitting and burgers.

The Journal turned to two local experts to help you get started: DJ Elan Feldman of Elan Entertainment, a 21-year-old economics major at Claremont McKenna College, and DJ Chris Dalton of C.D. Players Entertainment, a 36-year-old entrepreneur who began his career as a teen talk show host in Detroit.

Starting Out

It might seem like a daunting task to turn a hobby you like into a lucrative business, but both DJs say it isn’t that hard.

“There are some formalities, like creating business cards, buying insurance and buying equipment,” Feldman said. “But the hardest part of starting a DJ company is finding a market. DJing is one of those businesses that a hobby can be a real business, too.”

Start by asking your parents to help you buy a DJ system as an investment. Spin every opportunity you get, even if it’s just to perform for friends at their events for no cost. Practice makes perfect, and if you do a good job, word of mouth goes a long way for these events.

Getting Hired

Referrals do wonders. If you have already worked one bar or bat mitzvah party, chances are the parents know other parents from the Hebrew school who need to hire someone to DJ their child’s event.

“All of my business involves referrals,” Dalton said. “I don’t spend anything on advertising. One time, I put an ad in the Yellow Pages, and it almost put me under.”

Having your own Web site or establishing a presence on Facebook or MySpace doesn’t hurt, especially if the student is doing the research. But parents don’t necessarily turn to a Web site for information about hiring a DJ for their child’s special day.

More important is a professional-looking business card. You can expect to spend about $65 for a box of 1,000 cards if you order them through a designer or retailer. But it’s also possible to get print-it-yourself packages from office supply stores for about $15.

Be sure you bring cards and any other marketing materials to the event. If the adults like what you do, there’s a chance they will pass your card on to someone else and get your name out.

Equipment

Feldman prefers Apple products, saying that he’s found them to be the best and easiest to use.

“I have several DJ programs; the most popular right now is Traktor,” he said. “I like to use an iPod, because I feel more involved with the party when I’m not hiding behind a DJ booth.”

Dalton brings a DJ rig with him that uses dual CD players, much like a vinyl turntable. He uses a tracker scratch with a laptop and will even break out an iPod as a backup to make sure those special moments go without a hitch.

For speakers, Dalton swears by Mackies and JBLs, which he considers to be the most dependable available. He also prefers American Audio mixers, which he says last up to three years.

Cost

Some DJs say shelling out a few hundred dollars a year for insurance purposes is worth the expense, while others say it isn’t necessary. Those who do carry insurance say it provides venues and clients alike with peace of mind.

Most of your expenses will come from investing in new equipment.

“I upgrade my equipment annually,” Dalton said. “It can cost a minimum of $10,000.”

Labor is another a big cost. It’s possible that you will have to pay dancers and assistants based on the size of the party.

And then there’s transportation. You may have to start shelling out for travel expenses, depending on your level of success. Given fluctuating gas prices, consider your transportation costs as part of your price quote.

Rates

Check to see how others in your area structure the rates they charge.

Dalton charges a flat fee of $925 for four hours. But Feldman, on the other hand, doesn’t have a set rate.

“I consider the type of event, its length and the financial situation of the customer before I set my price,” Feldman said.

Generally, if a party lasts longer than four hours, the customer will be paying more for that luxury.

Setup

If there are issues with the synagogue or hall where you need to set up — for example, there isn’t enough room for dancing — go with the flow.

“I teach everyone to give yourself an hour of prep time to make sure everything is OK,” Dalton said. “I work very well with everyone and make sure that everyone working for me understands that we are a team and that there is no ‘I’ in the word ‘team.'”

When dealing with pushy or demanding parents, it is imperative to figure out what they want well before the party starts so you aren’t hit with any last-minute issues. Micromanaging takes the fun out of the event for all parties involved, so before the day of the event, it’s important to come to an agreement on party details (for example, what time the cake comes out, what time dancing starts, if anyone is going to light the candles or give speeches and when, etc.).

Remember to handle parents in a professional manner, because you need their referral.

Playlist

A good DJ must be confident, engage the crowd and never forget that the event is to celebrate someone else’s personal moment, not to showcase his or her ability to entertain.

“Before any party, I meet with the client to discuss and plan the event. All my parties are fully customized. So these meetings serve as an opportunity for the family to tell me exactly what they are looking for and what type of music to play, as well as how the order of events should play out,” Feldman said.

A good DJ should understand his/her audience and keep current with popular music trends. Clean radio edits for certain hip-hop songs don’t hurt, especially because b’nai mitzvah kids often have little brothers and sisters at the party.

A great DJ must be able to guide the party in the right direction based on what the parents and bar or bat mitzvah student want. But then a little musical spontaneity never hurt anyone, and the variety will probably keep partygoers out on the dance floor clamoring for more.

How-Tos by Jews


There’s something very American about a book that claims to be a “guide to life.” There’s also something very Jewish about it. From Ben Franklin to Henry David Thoreau, the goal of self-improvement has enjoyed a distinguished history in our country — and currently enjoys extensive floor space in your local Barnes & Noble. But in a culture that values the scholar above all, Judaism clearly trumps American culture in esteeming the know-it-all. Consider the title of kabbalist Michael Berg’s latest book: “Becoming Like God.” Lucky for us, two other Jewish writers set the bar a little lower this month — and also inflect their self-help books with a little fun.

Jane Buckingham’s “The Modern Girl’s Guide to Life” (Regan, $25.95) offers survival tips for the things your parents neglected to teach you, from throwing a killer dinner party, to dealing with impossible bosses, to changing a tire, to getting good credit. Undoubtedly, there are tricks every “modern girl” has mastered, but some, too, that she has not.

“It’s all the tips that I wish I had had when I was younger, when I was single and that I wish I didn’t have to go discover by myself,” said Buckingham, who cites her own incompetence as the inspiration for writing the book.

“I feel like so much of the lifestyle stuff that’s out there is sort of above our heads … or a little beyond our means. If I had three hours I could make a meal like Martha Stewart,” she said.

Stewart is one celebrity who did not contribute to Samantha Ettus’ “The Expert’s Guide to 100 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do” (Clarkson Potter, $19.95). But 100 others do. Rather than researching and writing the book in her own voice, like Buckingham did, Ettus gathered essays from experts on the subjects they know about. Larry King writes about “How to Listen,” Donald Trump discusses “How to Negotiate” and Bobbie Brown explains “How to Apply Lipstick.”

From Buckingham’s general overview of the big stuff we can’t manage, to Ettus’ guide to doing specific everyday things expertly — like sleep, or read the newspaper — the true Jewish overachiever will find room for both on her bookshelf.

Buckingham will sign her book on Nov. 18 at Barnes & Noble at The Grove.

Awaken Your Inner J.K. Rowling


Scratch away at any Jew and you’ll find a storyteller. The people of the book dream of spinning out personal memories and Old Country stories to a rapt circle of children. That’s why the first-ever Jewish Children’s Literature Conference, held in the fall at Sinai Temple through the auspices of Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries and the Association of Jewish Libraries, attracted 125 eager attendees. Many were there specifically to grapple with the question: So you want to be a writer of children’s books?

Among those offering advice were top-ranked authors who mine their own Jewish backgrounds for material. Eric Kimmel, whose best-known book is "Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins" (Holiday House, 1989), said that the writer’s job is to tell a story and make it exciting.

"Make your readers care enough to keep on going till they get to the end," he said. "It’s as simple as that and as difficult as that."

Susan Goldman Rubin, author of "Search for Anne Frank: Letters From Amsterdam to Iowa," released last month, and other nonfiction for young people, advised would-be writers to look for the untold story.

"See which one gives you shivers, and pursue it," she said. "Don’t give up."

Sonia Levitin, whose new young-adult Holocaust novel is "Room in the Heart," didn’t start out aiming to be a Jewish writer.

"When I began to succeed is when I began to write my own stories from my own experience," Levitin said. "The more I wrote from my Judaism, the more universally noticed my books became."

Of course, it’s a big leap from writing for pleasure to writing for publication. Many professionals swear by the how-to courses in children’s literature offered through UCLA Extension. In a long-ago UCLA course, Joanne Rocklin found both a mentor and the will to make it as a writer. Now she’s published 20 children’s books, including the award-winning "Strudel Stories" (Yearling Books, 2000). Rocklin also recommends the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), an organization that welcomes wannabes as well as pros.

Joining SCBWI was the turning point for Ann Redisch Stampler. Stampler had been writing since childhood, but grew up to practice criminal law, then earned a Ph.D. in psychology. It wasn’t until 1993, while recuperating from a serious illness, that Stampler decided she "wanted to do something lasting and creative to give to my children and other children."

The following year, she attended her first SCBWI conference at the Century Plaza Hotel. Returning home to her own youngsters, she found her mother entertaining them with the same wry Yiddish folktale she herself had learned at her grandmother’s knee. Suddenly she realized how the time-worn story "connected me to my family, and to our history as immigrants."

Helped along by fellow SCBWI members, she gradually transformed the pogrom fable into a yarn about how a clever dog outwits three cats who’ve been terrorizing him. "Something for Nothing" was published in May 2003, and Stampler has several more books in the pipeline.

By way of encouraging very young writers to follow their dreams, the Jewish Children’s Bookfest recently sponsored a storywriting contest. Overall winners included Nathan Black, Chelsey Sobel, and Leah Carnow.

In the prize-winning "David," 13-year-old Carnow imaginatively probed the feelings of a girl who flies to Israel for the funeral of a cousin killed by terrorists. Like much older writers, Carnow testifies to the value of mentors: She is still in contact with the first-grade teacher who discovered her storytelling skills.

The Almanac: What is Purim?


What it is:

As told in the biblical Book of Esther, the Purim story recounts how Haman, the chief minister to King Ahasuerus, plotted to destroy the Jews of Persia. In Shushan, capital of Persia, Haman cast lots (purim) that fixed the date of the Jews’ doom to 13 Adar. Esther, the king’s Jewish wife, was spurred on by her cousin Mordechai to intercede on the Jews’ behalf. The Jews were saved, Haman hanged and Purim became a festival for rejoicing.

Reality Check:

Ahasuerus has been identified with Xerxes I, who ruled Persia from 486 to 465. The first observance of Purim dates from the Hasmonean period, but scholars have long debated the historical basis for the Purim story.

What to do:

Attend synagogue services on Purim eve (March 8) for the raucous reading of the Book of Esther from a handwritten scroll, or megillah.

Enjoy one of the numerous Purim carnivals around town. Eat a festive meal.

Give mishloach manot. According to Jewish law, we give a gift consisting of food items to at least one friend, and at least two gifts of charity to the poor.

Tools:

Groggers: Noisemakers used to drown out the name of Haman during the reading of the megillah.

Costumes: Children from 2 to 92 traditionally dress up as characters from the Purim spiel or in other outlandish get-ups.

Groggers, masks and costumes are available at Jewish gift stores.

Food:

Hamantaschen: Triangular fruit-filled pastries, called “Haman’s Ears” in Hebrew. Make your own (see recipes on page 50) or stop by any Jewish bakery.

Liquor: It’s customary for Jews to drink on Purim until we can’t tell the difference between evil Haman and good Mordechai. Enjoy in moderation, and don’t even think of driving afterward.

What it’s all about:

Purim celebrates Jewish survival. Its plot and characters can be seen as archetypes for the persecuted and persecutors of all ages.

Fascinating:

Nowhere in the Book of Esther is God mentioned. Some scholars believe the book itself is a kind of Purim joke.

Learn More:

“The Harlot by the Side of the Road” by Jonathan Kirsch is an exploration of Esther’s racier side.

“The Jewish Way” by Irving Greenberg.

“Purim: Its Observance and Significance” by Avie Gold.

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