Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Favorite Holiday Recipes

It's that time of year when we are all cleaning and cooking and baking and preparing our holiday meals for friends and family.

I host Hanukkah each year and every other year New Year's. This year is my year for New Year's too, so, I am not out of the woods yet. Since we are all pretty much in the same boat, I thought we could do a Holiday Recipe Game of Open Tag.

Here are my rules:
  1. Please no tagging! Everyone is very busy now, so this is purely optional.
  2. If you WANT to play, leave a comment here on my blog that you intend on joining in and then just post a recipe on your blog by December 31st.
  3. Once you've posted your recipe and the rules for the readers of your blog, then send some linky love, but only to other bloggers who have already posted their favorite recipe. (remember, because it is such a busy time for everyone, no tagging, please. OK?)

Latkes (AKA Potato Pancakes)

Latkes are a traditional food to eat on Hanukkah. Why??? Because they are so darn oily (and yummy) and they remind us of the oil that burned for eight nights. But you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy this tasty treat.


  • six medium russet or Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 medium or large onion
  • 1/2 cup matzo meal (if you can't find matzo meal, you can substitute with flour, but it won't have that je ne sais quoi)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • vegetable oil
  • cheese cloth
  • brown paper bags, ripped open so they can lay flat


  • First, fill a large bowl with cold water.
  • Peel the potatoes and place in bowl of water immediately after peeled. (Potatoes will turn a reddish brown when exposed to the air. Keeping them submerged in cold water, will keep them white.
  • Grate each potato (there is debate about grating by hand or using a food processor. I say if your food processor has a grating setting, use it!)
  • Oh, you'll need another bowl for the grated potatoes. No water this time.
  • Grate or finely chop your onions. (Try this... chop while running the water in your tap, or burn a candle to reduce the tears that onion fumes can bring...)
  • Next, cut your cheese cloth into large sections.
  • Have another large bowl at your ready or re-use the one that once had the cold water in it...
  • Put a handful of the grated potato into the center of one of your cheese cloth pieces. Make sure it is well wrapped and then squeeze all the water from the grated potato. Potatoes naturally contain a large amount of water. This water will get in the way of your mixture, making it too wet when it fries. Squeezing out the natural water with the cheese cloth is the secret to perfect latkes. If you do not have cheese cloth, you can just squeeze it out in your hands. But cheese cloth works best.
  • Once you've squeezed out all the excess water, out the grated potatoes into a bowl, (you use a lot of bowls when making latkes. Sorry...)
  • Add all the other ingredients and mix well. You can use a spoon, or your hands.
  • You want the potato mixture to be able to stick together, like meatballs. So, if it is still too wet, you can add a dash more matzo meal or flour. But you don't want it to be too dry either. So, be careful.
  • In a large, flat pan, heat up the vegetable oil. You want to fry, so you will need a lot of oil.
  • Once the oil is hot, take about about a palmful of potato mixture and place it in the hot oil. Use a spatula to flatten it out.
  • Once the latke is a deep brown on one side, flip it until it is the same deep brown on the other side.
  • Latkes are greasy. One tried and true way to rid some of that unwanted oil, is to take the fried latkes and place them on brown paper. Paper towels work well too, but not as well.

Latkes are eaten with apple sauce or sour cream (think baked potato and sour cream...) This is a another long-lived debate... Is it better with apple sauce or sour cream? I prefer sour cream... but my kids prefer apple sauce. My DH is an equal opportunist, eating some with apple sauce, and some with sour cream. Both are delicious.

Latkes are best eaten right away! But if you have to make them ahead of time then keep them in a warm oven until ready to eat, but they often loose their crispiness when sitting in an oven. Also, if you want to make them well in advance... you can flash freeze them. Let them cool a bit and then lay them on cookie sheets lined with brown paper and cover with tin foil and then freeze them right away. When ready to use, broil them until hot and crispy. The heat will release all the oil, so no need to add more.


Oh, just one more tip... make mini versions of these and serve as an appetizer with a tiny dollop of apple sauce or sour cream. These are perfect when made and frozen ahead of time and then just broiled to heat up. Your guests will love the pop of flavor each little mini morsel will provide!

Teriyak Salmon

This is perfect for any holiday meal or a regular family meal. I am making it
for New Year's this year. Don't like salmon? That's OK. This marinade is terrific on any meat - steak, chicken, pork, shrimp... You name it. Just substitute with your favorite meat and enjoy!


  • a half a pound of salmon per adult, less for children (unless they're my children! They love salmon!)
  • 1/2 cup teriyaki
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 2 tsp brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (optional)


  • If possible, marinade over night. Make sure you coat the top and bottom of the salmon.
  • Cover and put in the fridge over night, or at least for a few hours.
  • In a preheated oven, bake at 350* until center of salmon is no longer translucent. Depending upon the thickness, that's usually about 30 - 40 minutes.
  • I baste about every 15 minutes and then when I think it's done, I cut into the center with a butter knife to separate the meat to check that the color has become opaque.
  • Another way to tell when salmon is done, is if it's flaky to a fork or knife. It should pull apart easily.

This meal is great with rice and fresh veggies. I also love to make a green salad with apples or pears and some kind of nuts... walnuts, almonds, pecans... those flavors compliment the teriyaki perfectly.

So, what about it? Have any great recipes you'd like to share? Anyone have excellent dessert recipes?

Have a happy holiday everyone! Stay warm. Stay dry. Love and be loved!

See you in 2009!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Is it THAT Time Again... (insert whining if you must...)

Oh, boy, here we go! It's New Year's Resolution Time...

Out with the old, in with the new, but first we must reflect back on our year's progress with our goals. I wasn't even sure if I remembered all of mine, so I had to look back here to remind myself of 2008's goals.

Let's see I said I would...
  1. Make revisions to a particular picture book.
  2. Polish pages 1 - 30 in my WIP (MG low fantasy novel)
  3. FINISH my WIP (the one and the same MG low fantasy novel)
  4. Save, save, save (for the SCBWI Bologna Children's Fair)

So, how did I fare...

I did make those revisions to that particular picture book, showed it to two editors and then pulled it underground, wanting to focus all my attention on my MG novel. This decision came after one editor in particular said, "When I saw your name, I thought this can't be the same Sheri Perl-Oshins (knowing I write novels) and that's when I stopped and asked myself, do I really want to be pulled in two directions, or focus on one? My answer was, focus on one. No matter what led to my decision, the goal was still reached. Check.

Yes, I did polish pages 1 - 30, but this seems like a silly goal to have had since I hadn't even finished writing the darn thing. Looking back, I know why I had that as a goal - an SCBWI conference. So, check to #2.

Finish my WIP. Well, there's still time and with NaNo I did pump out close to 40,000 new words all in one month - more than I've ever done. I've since cut a lot of the dribble and my word count is back down to 34,599, but still, it was a feat that I am proud of and although I have not reached this goal, I know I will. So, let's say half a check.

And what about saving up for Bologna? I can sum that up in one word; Recession. I had to give up that goal - but no hard feeling about it - reality is reality, even if it's not the reality you'd hoped for. So, no check there.

Even though 2008 seems to have come and gone in the blink of an eye, and looking back, I do feel a measure of success, it is time to look ahead to 2009. This year's goals will be easy to define. (Hey, I made a rhyme... must be a poet and I don't even know it!)

  1. Finish my novel!
  2. Polish my novel!
  3. Maybe the later half of the year, if it's ready, begin looking for an agent.

And that's it! Three very good goals. How about you? Did you meet your 2008 goals? What goals will you set for 2009?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Daniel Radcliffe all Grown-Up and the Trickle after NaNo

Well, he might not get the same type of cheers as co-star Robert Pattinson - which is more akin to Beatles hysteria. However, Daniel Radcliffe (AKA Harry Potter) is still my favorite.

Did you get to see his interview on Inside the Actor's Studio? Here's part one (above) and part four (below). You can catch parts 2 and 3 on You Tube..

Are you a real fan of Daniel's? Well, if so, you can catch him on Broadway in Equus, a controversial play, where the young Radcliffe appears nude for a long and dramatic scene. Not the Harry Potter we've come to know and love. But I suppose they all have to grow up... the actors and the fictional characters they portray.

So... Life After NaNoWriMo...

I have been sputtering to a slow start to continue my book since NaNo. I took the first week of December off. 1) I had a stomach virus and 2) I was seriously burnt out. I think I used up all the words in my head and I needed to grow new ones. So today, I wrote, maybe 50 new words... It's amazing how a week off creates such space and distance between you and your story. I needed to re-read the last few chapters, study my outline, and do some quick research to get back into it. It really IS like exercising!

But still, I love my idea and I am still going forward, hopefully now with a bit more of a serious flow than this painful trickle. There is something to be said about a fake deadline. Self imposed deadlines don't seem to have the same affect on me as NaNo did. But I've got to make mine work the same because I do really want to finish and begin revisions.

Anyone else having a slow time after NaNo?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Casting Call

Have you ever done this... pictured well known actors/actresses as the characters in your story? I've noticed the characters I've done this for, have more distinct voices and mannerisms and are more clearly defined.

So, after the harrowing writing month of November, I decided to take a creative break by casting my characters.

It wasn't as easy as I thought. I don't think my main character exists - or at least, I don't think she's been discovered yet. But if I could turn back the hands of time I would cast Jena Malone as my MC. Check out the rest of my cast of characters...

Tom Sturrbridge -- my MC's bff (and not to bad to look at either - again, I would have to rewind the hands of time by about 10 years.)

Kevin McKidd -- my MC's father -- He was on Journeyman last year, but the show was cancelled. Now, he is the new doctor on Grey's Anatomy. He just has my MC's father's mannerisms down to the T that it really helps me to think about him when I write this character.

Patricia Clarkson -- I'm not sure yet, but I just love her and would love her as either my MC's mom (but too much of an age difference between Patricia and Kevin) or maybe as one of my fantasy characters.

Cate Blanchett... Well who wouldn't love Cate Blanchett to be cast in their book? I'd love her as my antagonist. I think she plays great villains, but she's awesome in any roll.

I still don't have some key characters. But that's a search to continue another day...

So, how about you? Who would you cast as your leading lady and leading man? Who would be your antagonist? And how do you go about discovering them? Have any good links for head shots we can all use?
“Personal limitation exists only in our ideas of who we are. Give up all notions of who you are and your limitations will vanish.”

- Anonymous