Food for the Soul

Quarantine Cooking Recipes


Matzah Brei 101 with Rabbi Steve

Unfortunately, there’s no in-person Matzah Brei night at the Jewish Student Center this year. So here’s a tutorial with Steve on how to make savory and sweet matzah brei. B’tayavone/Enjoy and Chag Pesach Sameach/Happy Passover!

Rabbi Steve’s Challah Recipe

If you scroll down on this page you’ll find a great discussion about the meaning of making challah from Leslie Pearson, the Associate Director of the Center for Gender Equity. Her challah is vegan and it sounds delicious. Here is my recipe, which is definitely not vegan, that I want to share with you. It can be adapted to being vegan as well and I may share that another time. Enjoy!

Steve Nathan’s Challah recipe  makes 3 regular size (appr. 1 lb) loaves


  • 5-7 cups Bread Flour (or 1-3 cups white whole wheat flour and the remainder bread flour) – final amount of flour used can depend on things like temperature, humidity, etc. (see directions)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 c. warm (NOT hot) water (if it’s very humid weather decrease to 3/4 cup)
  • 7 oz. extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 oz. honey
  • 2 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 4.5 tsp. (2 packets) instant dry yeast (NOT rapid rise)
  • Plus 2 eggs plu 1/4 tsp warm water lightly beaten for the egg wash

Steps If you’re using a mixer with a dough hook just follow the directions in terms of speed. If it’s a Kitchenaid mixer you should use #2 speed. Nothing higher.

If you’re doing this by hand, use a large bowl and still follow the steps below. Then after all the ingredients are in and mixed together, turn the dough on to a floured board and knead for about 20 minutes. If you don’t know how to knead, there are a number of youtube videos.

  • 1) Take eggs out of refrig an hour before baking so they’re not as cold. if you forget to do that make sure to let them sit a little while after cracking. Then make the water a little warmer.
  • 2) Add ingredients in this order. eggs, oil, honey, water, salt
  • 3) once the above is mixed together add 3 cups of flour.  Mix until the flour is incorporated with the wet ingredients. 
  • 4) add yeast. If you use regular active dry yeast (not instant), which needs to be proofed first, do that before you start the process. Just subtract how much water you use for proofing from the amount of water used in the dough). If using instant yeast, just add it to the dough mixture directly.
  • 5) mix the dough for another minute or so then add one more cup and mix until incorporated. Then start adding the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time. Incorporate the new flour into the dough before adding the next half cup. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally if necessary.
  • 6) Amount of flour will vary based on humidity, temperature. etc.
  • 7) once the dough is a consistency where it springs back when pressing with your thumb, but it’s still a little sticky, stop adding flour.
  • 8) Then mix for another 5 minutes.Note: It will still be sticking a little to the mixer bowl. That’s OK. Unlike other bread dough, it should still be a little sticky and the bowl will not be totally “clean”.
  • 9) After mixing for 5 minutes put the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover.Let rise until it’s doubled (usually 2 – 2 1/2 hours) in a warm place. If you have A/C running you can let it rise in a cold oven so the cold air isn’t blowing on it.
  • (optional) If you want to you can turn on the oven for 2 or 3 minutes, then turn turn it off and put the covered bowl inside with the door closed. The warm air in the oven can jump start the rising process. But don’t leave the oven on for more than a few minutes and make sure you turn it off before putting the dough inside.
  • 10) Punch down the dough and let it rise until doubled again (usually about 1/2 the amount of time)- or if you want to make the dough the night before just put it in the refrigerator covered for the 2nd rise. It should be in the refrig no more than 12 hours.
  • 11) Divide up the dough and braid (Here’s the video for the technique I used for the 6 braided challah). There are also youtube videos for 3 braid and 4 braid challahs. Place the braided loaves on a large baking sheet covered with parchment (or sprayed with a non- stick spray).
  • 12) Once loaves are braided lightly beat the 2 eggs and 1/4 tsp warm water for egg wash and brush the loaves. This is the time to sprinkle on any seeds (sesame, poppy, everything bagel seasoning, etc.)
  • 13) Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise for 45 minutes (the loaves should increase at least 50% in size so make sure they’re not too close together)
  • 14) While loaves are proofing (rising) Preheat oven to 375 with rack in the middle of the oven.
  • 15) Once the loaves have risen brush again with egg wash 
  • 16) bake on center rack at 375 for 12 minutes. Then turn the oven down to 325. Bake 20 more minutes. Take out the loaves and check them.They should be golden brown.They should sound hollow when you tap on them.
  • If you don’t think they’re ready put them back in the oven for another 7 minutes. Best to turn the tray around before putting it back in.
  • 17) put the tray on a cooling rack. Cool for at least 30 minutes before eating.

Making Vegan Challah with Leslie Pearson, Assoc. Director of the Center for Gender Equity

Watch these two videos as Leslie shares the process, as well as her thought, theology, etc. around making vegan challah!


Mac and Cheese Monday at Hillel Feb. 2020

I know that this is not the healthiest recipe in the world, but at least for some of us, it is perhaps the ultimate comfort food.

I started making Mac & Cheese at Hillel during finals week my first year as Director. That was 2 1/2 years ago. I’ve been making it during finals week every semester since. I even made it ahead of time when I realized I would be at a conference this past December for finals week!

This semester we decided to have Mac and Cheese Mondays every month. Unfortunately, we only had one when the pandemic shut us down.

I can’t wait until we’re back on campus so I can make this for everyone. Usually I make 4x the recipe, but last time we ran out. So when we get back I need to buy some bigger pots for the kitchen, since I’ll need to make 8x the recipe. But making and serving this to our students (and some staff) is a comfort to me as well. It truly brings me joy. So I look forward to doing it soon.

This recipe takes a little extra time and patience if you want to do it right. But it’s worth it. The bread crumb topping is optional, but for me it’s one of the best parts.

Before you start. Here are three important reminder:

  1. DO NOT OVERCOOK your macaroni. Make sure you boil it for one minute LESS than the minimum amount of time listed on your package. Then drain immediately.
  2. DON’T STOP STIRRING. This is mostly true at the beginning when you’re making the roux (see below) and when you’re adding the milk. Once the cheese is in and you’re letting it melt you need to stir frequently, but not constantly.
  3. If at all possible DO NOT use packaged shredded cheese. Hand shredding is always best, as the packaged cheese has a coating on it to prevent it from sticking together.

That being said, when I make a huge batch (4x this recipe) I’ve used pre-shredded cheese and it’s worked fine. It just takes a little longer to melt and might not be quite as creamy.

B’tayavon – enjoy your meal (and let me know how it turns out),

Rabbi Steve


  • 16 oz elbow macaroni (or other tubular pasta)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 tbsp (½ cup)unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 cups cold whole milk
  • 1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
  • 4 cups sharp cheddar cheese shredded
  • 1 cup Gruyere cheese shredded
  • 1 cup Colby or Monterey Jack cheese shredded
  • ½ cup parmesan and/or romano shredded (do NOT use the kind from a shaker)
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¾ teaspoon dry mustard powder (you can use one teaspoon if you want a little more of a kick)
  • salt and pepper to taste (I recommend 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp ground pepper)

Topping (optional)

  • 1 1/2 cups panko crumbs
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter melted (salted is OK)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan and/or Romano cheese shredded
  • ½ tsp regular or smoked paprika (it depends if you like a slightly smoky flavor)


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 4 qt (15x10x2) baking/lasagna dish and set aside. Combine shredded cheeses in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Cook the pasta one minute shy of al dente (the shortest amount of time recommended) according to the package instructions. Remove from heat, drain, and place in a large bowl.
  3. Drizzle pasta with olive oil and stir to coat pasta. Set aside to cool while preparing cheese sauce.
  4. Melt butter in a deep saucepan, dutch oven, or stock pot. To give you more room for stirring, I recommend an 8 quart pot. But a 6 quart pot will do.
  1. Whisk in flour over medium heat and continue whisking constantly for about 1-2 minutes until bubbly and golden. Don’t let this roux stick to the bottom of the pot. 
  2. Keep whisking the roux. Slowly add in and whisk the milk and then the heavy cream until nice and smooth. Continue whisking until you see bubbles on the surface and then continue cooking and whisking for another 2 minutes. Whisk in salt, pepper, nutmeg, and mustard powder.
  3. Gradually add three cups of the shredded cheddar cheese. Whisk until smooth. Then gradually add Gruyere, Colby or Jack, and Romano (or Parmesan) and continue whisking until creamy and smooth. Sauce should be nice and thick.

         Note:  If it starts sticking inside the whisk you can change to a large mixing spoon. The main point is not to let the mixture stick to the bottom of the pot and to blend all the ingredients.

  1. Once the cheese sauce is smooth, stir in the cooled pasta until combined and pasta is fully coated with the cheese sauce. 
  2. Pour half of the mac and cheese into the prepared baking dish. Top with remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese (you can add a little more if you like it extra gooey) and then pour in the remaining mac and cheese.
  3. In a small bowl, combine panko crumbs, Parmesan cheese, melted butter and paprika. Sprinkle over the top and bake on the center rack of the oven until bubbly and golden brown, about 30-45 minutes. If you like an extra brown crust you can do it closer to 1 hour. Just don’t let it burn! Serve immediately.

One more note: if you are going to make this to refrigerate and use another time, then add an extra cup of milk to the recipe. 

To reheat: text Steve macaroni and cheese out of the refrigerator an hour before you are going to reheat it. Preheat oven to 300. Keep the mac and cheese covered losely with aluminum foil so it doesn’t dry out. Heat for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the mac and cheese in the oven for another 15 minutes.

Beet Parsley Hummus


-2 Beets

-1 Carton Chickpeas

-1/2 Cup Pine Nuts

-1 Cup Basil

-3 Cloves Garlic

-1 Lemon

-1/2 Cup Olive Oil

-Oregano (optional)

-Salt & Pepper to Taste


1: Preheat oven to 400 degrees

2: Place beets on a lined baking tray

3: Drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper and oregano onto beets.

4: Place into oven and roast for 45 to 50 minutes.

5: When beets have finished roasting, place all ingredients into a food processor or high speed blender and blend!

Chloe’s Homemade Vegan Chocolate Chip Banana Bread


  • 2 cups (250g) All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup (100g) White Sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100g) Brown Sugar
  • 3 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • 3 Medium Ripe Bananas (10.5oz /300g peeled weight)
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) Soy Milk*
  • 3 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • Flax Egg (1 Tbsp Ground Flaxseed Meal + 3 Tbsp Hot Water)
  • 1 cup (175g) Vegan Dark Chocolate Chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Sift the flour and add to a mixing bowl. Add the white sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix together.
  3. Add the bananas to a blender jug with the soy milk and coconut oil. Blend until just blended.
  4. Prepare your flax egg by mixing 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed meal with 3 Tbsp Hot Water and allowing to sit for a minute until it becomes gloopy.
  5. Pour the blended banana mix over the dry ingredients and then add the flax egg and mix in until combined. The batter will be fairly thick.
  6. Add about 3/4 of the vegan dark chocolate chips and fold in. Keep roughly a 1/4 of them aside to place on top.
  7. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan and cut out parchment paper to line the bottom.
  8. Pour the batter into the pan and spread out evenly. Place the remaining chocolate chips on top.
  9. Place into the oven and bake for around 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (if you hit some melted chocolate, just try a different spot!).

Rabbi Steve’s Creamy Curried Lentil Soup

Creamy Curried Lentil Soup

This lentil soup is a little different than a traditional lentil soup. It’s a non-dairy creamy soup that makes you feel warm inside. It’s a great comfort food in times like now, when we need it!


  • 2 tbsps. olive oil
  • 1 lb lentils
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 5-6 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1⁄2 tbsp garam masala (or curry powder)
  • 1⁄2 tsp turmeric
  • 1⁄2 tsp cumin
  • 1⁄4 tsp cardamom
  • 1⁄4 tsp coriander
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 can regular coconut milk (shake up first) 

  • garnishes:
  • 1⁄4 cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
  • chopped cilantro
  • lime wedges 
  • serves 6-8 people


  • Rinse red or green lentils in colander and place in a crock pot. Pick out any dark brown lentils,
  • Chop onions and carrots
  • mix lime juice, tomato paste, salt, all spices, and one quart veggie stock together in a small dish
  • Put oil and garlic in a saute pan on low-med heat
  • As soon as the garlic starts to sizzle, place the chopped onion, carrots, celery, and ginger into the pan. Stir and saute until onions are translucent
  • Add the sauteed ingredients, tomato paste mixture and remaining veggie stock to the lentils in crock pot and stir all ingredients together.
  • Add coconut milk to the mixture and then stir again
  • Cover crockpot and cook on low for 5 hrs.
  • Add coconut and pomegranate seeds to the soup and stir. Cover and cook another hour.
  • (If you are cooking on top of the stop start on medium-high heat. When soup starts to boil, stir the pot and turn heat to low. Cover the pot and cook until lentils are soft. Approximately 45 minutes. Then stir the soup and turn heat to simmer. Cook for another 30 minutes)
  • After 5 hours in the crockpot add coconut and pomegranate seeds to the pot. 
  • Serve each bowl with chopped cilantro and lime wedge

Rabbi Steve’s Chicken Soup for the Soul

Chicken Soup. that’s it!


  • 1 5 lb. chicken (preferably a kosher pullet. Or use 2 smaller chickens). Cut in quarters, but whole is also OK
  • 4-5 carrots, peeled and sliced (on the thicker side. Not too thin! Feel free to use more carrots if you’d like. As my mom said, carrots are the secret to great soup!)
  • 2 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 3 stalks of celery (sliced not too thin)
  • 2-3 parsnips, peeled and sliced (If very thick cut in half lengthwise first)
  • 1 medium-large bunch of flat-leaf (Italian) parsley (DO NOT use curly parsley!!!!)
  • 1 medium bunch of fresh dill
  • 10-12 cloves of garlic, peeled, but kept whole!
  • 1-2 tsp. kosher salt, to taste (kosher chicken is salted as part of the kashering process. So if you’re not using kosher chicken, use a little more)
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp Hungarian paprika
  • 1 quart box of low-salt Manischewitz Chicken Brother (or one 10 oz. can of regular broth)
  • 1 package of cheese cloth (most supermarkets carry it in the kitchen section)


First thing I must say is that this is not truly a recipe. My mother, as with most of her generation, cooked using what she called the schit-a-bissel (other say schit-a-rein) method. That is yiddish for “throw in a bit”. In other words, she would eyeball how much to use of each ingredient. The number of carrots, onions, or celery depends on the size. Salt, pepper, and garlic are according to taste. So you may need to make this a couple times before you get it the way you want it to be. Have fun with it and don’t sweat too much.

  • First: DO NOT rinse off the chicken. My mother insisted that was necessary, but we now know that rinsing chicken in the sink can spread bacteria because of the splashing.
  • If the chicken is whole, make sure to check inside. Remove neck, gizzards, livers or anything that’s inside. Also clean out any gunk that’s in the cavity (sorry, I don’t know what else to call it). That’s why cut up chickens are easier.
  • open up the cheese cloth. Cut a piece big enough for you to be able to put all the chicken inside the cheese cloth and then tie it up well so that it’s easier to take the chicken out at the end. I suggest tying it both horizontally and vertically so the chicken doesn’t fall out.
  • put chicken in a 6 or 8 quart heavy bottom pot (stainless steel, etc.)
  • put the sliced carrots, parsnips, and celery in the pot
  • tie up the bunches of dill and parsley with twine and put them in the pot. You can use a twist-tie in a pinch. This also just makes it easier to take them out of the pot at the end.
  • throw onion halves and whole garlic cloves in the pot.
  • put enough water in the pot to cover all ingredients
  • Add salt, pepper, and paprika
  • Cover pot and put on the stove on medium-high heat
  • Check after 20 minutes or so to see if the water is boiling. If not, check every 10 minutes or so. Once water is boiling, turn heat down to low and cover pot.
  • After 30 minutes, remove the lid and , using a large cooking spoon, skim off any cloudy foam you see building up on top of the soup. Then cover pot again and continue to cook on low heat for another 45 minutes.
  • Check for foam again and skim off any that might have formed
  • cover pot again and turn heat down to simmer. Cook for another 30 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and uncover the pot. let pot remain on stove.
  • Let the soup cool for 1-2 hours. No more than 2 hours!
  • Get a large bowl and put it next to the pot.
  • Using tongs remove the chicken in the cheese cloth from the pot. Let soup liquid drip off the chicken into the pot as much as you can and then put chicken in the bowl
  • Do the same with the onion, parsley and dill
  • Cover the pot and put it in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 4 hours.
  • Throw out the onions, parsley, and dill, cover the bowl of chicken and put it in the refrigerator to cool
  • After soup has cooled overnight (preferably) take it out and skim off any congealed far that’s on top of the soup.
  • Take out the bowl with chicken. Take the chicken out and put it on a cutting board. If there is soup or juices at the bottom of the bowl, pour that into the soup.
  • Heat up the soup covered on medium heat until it starts to boil, then turn to simmer.
  • As I mentioned in my article, my mother never put the chicken back in the soup. If you’d like to, you can do that or after taking the skin off of the chicken and taking it off the bones. Then you can shred or cut into small pieces about half of the white breast meat and the dark thigh meat and put it into the soup. You’ll still have the remainder for chicken salad. It’s really up to you.

And those are the basics for making soul-healing Jewish penicillin, aka chicken soup!

If you want to add matzah balls I suggest using the manischewitz matzah ball mix and just follow the directions.

If you want to add rice or noodles instead, just remember to cook them first before putting them in the soup. Otherwise they’ll absorb too much of the soup.

Ess gezundt! (yiddish for “eat in good health”) physically and spiritually.

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