Mexican Hot Chocolate

My youngest son is moving to New York City today so at 6 a.m. this morning I got up and prepared a special breakfast to send him off.  The winds have been howling for the past two days here in Los Angeles, almost as if they too are sad to see him go. When he wakes up he will find a plate of sautéed tomatoes, mushrooms, and onions, all scrambled together with eggs, served with a side of veggie sausages and fresh guacamole.  Of course I wanted to make something special to warm his insides before he deals with the realities of life in New York City and so I prepared a pot of hot chocolate, added some cinnamon, a little vanilla, and a touch of chili powder. Bittersweet.  Bon Voyage and B’hatzlachah!

Mexican Hot Chocolate

4 Cups milk

1/2 Cup U-Bet Chocolate Syrup

1 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla

1/2 tsp ground chili powder

Simmer all the ingredients together and adjust sweetness to your taste.  I would top it with fresh whipped cream and sprinkle with cinnamon.  Serves two because it is always nicer to share a cup of cocoa with someone else.




Wisniak (Cherry Cordial)

As labor day approaches, you are suddenly reminded that summer is nearing it’s end.  Even in Southern California, there are subtle changes.  The summer fruits and vegetables will start to disappear from the farmer’s markets, replaced with apples and pears, hard winter squashes and root vegetables.  Inevitably, I end up thinking that I didn’t enjoy enough of the stone fruits that are my personal favorites, peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines and cherries.  The plum galettes, peach cobblers and cherry pies will be replaced with apple cake and pumpkin bread.

My mother used to bake blueberry cakes and buns during the summer, but she also used summer fruits to make her own cordials, something her family did in Poland.  The dark sweet syrup was always a reminder of summer, especially when she spooned it into my hot tea in the middle of a New York winter.  Summer will slip away no matter what, but here is a way to capture just a little bit of it and put in a jar.

Happy Labor Day!


1 pound cherries
2 cups sugar
3 cups vodka

Rinse the cherries, towel dry,  and place in sterilized 1 quart jar.  Cover with sugar.  Add vodka (make sure fruit is covered with vodka) and cover tightly.

Store on a dark shelf for about 4 weeks before using.  Then strain out cherries, (don’t throw them away) and pour syrup back into jar.




Fresh Watermelon Granita

Aside from the end of the school year, there were several other changes that took place at the beginning of each summer.  There was the annual re-appearance of the Italian ice man wheeling his cart down the street, offering lemon, cherry, or chocolate ices in a white paper cup.  We had no idea why it was called Italian ices.  Then, at the market you would suddenly find, prominently displayed, a table of large, oval-shaped fruit.  Watermelon, thick-skinned and hardy, a fruit with a statement.  Everything about it was unusual and fun.  The size, the pale green shade of the skin, and the darker green stripes that swept across it.  The fruit itself, surprisingly pink and dotted with small glistening black seeds, was always cut in thick slices and served ice-cold, a perfect summer treat.



Children no longer get excited about the appearance of watermelons since they are now available all year.  On top of which, there is apparently an entire generation of children who don’t even know that watermelons originally had black seeds in them, having only been served the seedless varieties.  Farmers have engineered our fruit so that we can eat it more efficiently.  Personally I am never in that much of a rush and how sad that we don’t  think our kids should take the time to spit out seeds!   Not to mention, that they will never have that oh-oh experience of swallowing a seed only to worry whether a watermelon will start to grow in their stomachs.

I can only think of one good reason to buy a seedless watermelon and that is to make Granita. Something between an Italian ice and a slush.

Watermelon Granita

1 small seedless watermelon, peeled and cut into chunks

4 Tbs sugar

2 limes juiced ( use your imagination, lemons, orange juice, cranberry, or even vodka)

1/3 cup of sugar.

Puree watermelon in food processor and pour into a 9  x 13  Pyrex.   Add sugar and any flavoring you like and stir.   Cover with Saran and freeze for several hours.  Remove and scrape surface with a fork and return to freezer.  Repeat this every few hours until the mixture is “slushy.”   Serves 10-12




Egg Cream

I have been away for ten days visiting family and friends on the East Coast.  As always, my trips to New York City bring back memories that surface with the simple turn of a street corner.  This particular trip had a purpose, to hear my older son present his senior sermon to his peers and professors.  As I sat there listening, surrounded by my husband, children and family, my future daughter-in-law and my future machatunim, as well as our oldest friends, it felt as if our past, present, and future had all come together for this special moment and I could not have been prouder.  We celebrated the occasion over food and wine, enjoying each other’s company, sharing stories, laughing and crying.

Of course the entire week was filled with food: thin pizza with the crispest of crusts, frankfurters, smothered in warm sauerkraut,  with a skin that burst with your first bite, bagels with a perfect balance of exterior and interior, silky thin slivers of smoked fish, tender artichoke leaves sautéed in olive oil, warm soft knishes that look like billowing pillows, fresh cannoli, black and white cookies and delicious sticky nougat bought from a street vendor in Little Italy.  We dined at Maialino, Darna, Va Bene, Eataly, Fine and Shapiro, Barney Greengrass, Lombardi’s Pizza and Clinton Street Bakery, just to name a few.

I spent one morning walking through the Lower East Side with my youngest son, pointing out some of the places that I remembered going to with my mother.  After taking a wonderful tour of The Tenement Museum we strolled down Houston Street stopping at Yonah Schimmel for a potato knish, and then went on to Russ and Daughters to pick up lunch. We were walking out of the store when I suddenly decided that I had to have an egg cream, my favorite childhood drink.  As I stood there reaching for the soda, I remembered how thrilled I was as a young girl from The Bronx when I had an egg cream, and honestly after a memorable morning on the Lower East Side, it was still just as thrilling.

Mario Battali's Eataly

Inside the Streit's Matzoh Factory

Egg Cream

1/2 cup cold milk

1 cup plain seltzer

3  Tbsp Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup

Pour syrup into a tall glass. Add milk and seltzer to top of glass and stir vigorously with a long spoon. Drink up immediately and enjoy!