Meet Jamie Geller, the Queen of Kosher!

Today we have a guest post from Jamie Geller, author of Joy of Kosher, on sale today! 

There are many loves in my life. French onion soup, my Hubby, pie (any pie), my kids, avocados, dark chocolate, rich and fruity olive oil– but not necessarily in that order. After my family, the majority of my passions are for foods. And that’s because I consider food one of the universal joys of life, that thing that bonds families, friends, and communities as nothing else can.

To me, food crosses all lines. It doesn’t matter if you root for the Yankees or the Red Sox; or if your people hail from Italy, Nebraska, Bolivia, or Brooklyn.  One thing I’ve learned: when we sit down to eat together we’re more alike than we are different.

And that’s why I’m a bit mystified when people ask me why I wrote a kosher cookbook  intended for everybody, Jewish or non-Jewish, kosher or not.  My book is about life, family, and friendships, also my challenges, my failures (ok, mostly about my failures), and my successes in the kitchen. And most of them are just like yours. There’s nothing here you won’t recognize.  You don’t have to eat kosher to use a kosher cookbook any more than you have to be a card-carrying member of PETA to eat a salad.

JoyofKosher hcIn fact, there’s a good chance that no matter what your heritage, you’ll find recipes in my book that sound a lot like those in your repertoire.  As a people, Jews have been all over the globe, and we’ve picked up the culture, cuisine, and cooking tips of every host country. So “authentic” kosher food is often a spin on another tradition, region, or national food–mixed in with our holiday customs.  It might even be fun to watch for the Jewish take on a dish that was your grandma’s heirloom recipe. Anybody notice that Irish boxty– those beguiling potato pancakes–are quite similar to Chanukah latkes?  And we’ve got this concoction known as “cholent” that resembles the hearty beef stew that’s a comfort staple in most European countries.  Only we’ve added stuff. And we simmer it for about 20 hours.  ‘Cause that’s how we roll.

The Truth (I’m into confessions): I never wanted to cook in the first place. I was raised to be the first woman Jewish President of the United States (at least that’s what my mom whispered in my ear at bed time), but I actually became a TV producer for HBO, CNN, and Food Network. (Mom settled for that.) TV producers don’t cook; at least this one didn’t.

Then I met Hubby, fell in love, and became the quintessential blushing Jewish bride. Blushing because I was the bride who knew nothing, really nothing, about cooking.  Don’tcha know, Hubby actually expected home-cooked meals. I mean he was sweet about it, but he really, really wanted me to cook.  And that also meant prepping big festive weekly Sabbath meals, not to mention a dozen festivals I had never heard of, where the average number of guests at our table was anywhere from two to twenty-two. Including his mom. And his sister.  Grandma Martha. And Uncle Morse.  And a few cousins.  And some guy we thought was a relative, but nobody knew quite how.

So I learned to cook, out of necessity. My recipes are fast (again out of necessity), fresh (’cause that’s important to me) and insanely delicious (a must). When I started sharing my newfound expertise and terrific recipes through blogs, books, and cooking shows, I became addicted to the applause (turns out I have something in common with Lady Gaga –see? I told you there are similarities among all of us!).  I discovered that there’s real joy in kosher cooking. Who knew?

Since I learned that the joys of food and the joys of life are inseparable, they all have a place in my book.  And there are lots of them, starting with my five children, ages two through 8, my full time, over-the-top job at, and my sensational friends who actually let me peek at their families’ secret recipes.

The concept of this book—recipes that you can dress up for entertaining or dress down for casual family dinners–was born out of necessity, quite like my exploits in the kitchen.  It grew out of my firm belief (okay, humiliating experiences) that experimenting with some new twenty-step recipe is not cool when you’re expecting company.  My way: use the tried-and-true fail-proof recipes that I’ve cooked hundreds of times, always greeted by pom-pom style cheers at the dinner table and “More, Mommy, please.” My go-to recipes are foolproof. I should know, because I’m the fool who worked them over and over till I could do them in my sleep. Sometimes, I actually do cook them in my sleep, but that’s a story for another time.

But those dishes are not fancy, so I thought of ways to “dress them up” for important events, holiday feasts, and for people who must be impressed, for whatever the reason. And that meal better be good. I make it so finger-lickin’ good that even those VIP guests ooooh and ahhhh (and say “more, Jamie, please”.)

Then there are recipes that I devised expressly for special occasions. Silver spoon stuff. But there are ways to make them more family style, so that even the kids will go for them. And Hubby.  And me. I call those recipes “dressed down.”  Like when the family flops down at the dinner table after a long day and chows.

Since we’re just getting acquainted, here are five things you probably didn’t know about me and this book:

  1. I am honest – brutally – and I tell all. I confess that I’ve had so many epic kitchen disasters I had to choose which ones to include in this book. I also slipped in pages from my diary that have nothing to do with my cooking, but they make us better friends. Some are hilarious; some are poignant. I can’t tell which is which.
  2. I don’t trust myself with credit cards or at the cupcake counter. I don’t even trust my own taste buds entirely, so I had three rounds of recipe testing to make sure that every single one of the recipes in this book is as yum as I think it is.
  3. This is my third cookbook, and I have a website,, with about 6,000 recipes, plus cooking videos (once a TV producer, always a TV producer).  So, um, I’ve become kinda expert in recipe collection. Not bad for a girl who didn’t know how (okay, didn’t even want to know how) to turn on an oven a few years ago.
  4. My daughter says I’m the bestest cooker in the world. She’s biased, but one thing I do believe: the recipes in this book are my bestest ever.
  5. I’m a hugger. When I’m happy to see someone I know, my eyes mist over, my arms fling out, my fingers wiggle, and I start squealing in a pitch only dogs can hear. I think of this book as a big fat hug from me to you – and a window into a world of food and family. It’s my world, but you can make it yours, or at least enjoy the visit.

I love writing about food, though not as much as I love eating it. And I think this book reflects my joy in knowing how to cook and present really good food. It happens to be kosher. And it happens to be scrumptious. What’s important to me is that it’s a book about real food for real life.

It’s filled with love for all of those things, so instead of comfort food you could call it a comfort cookbook. Hubby says I talk too much and maybe I do; but I love sharing my life and my fabulous recipes with you because, like every good cook across the globe, I know that joining hands around the dinner table brings us all that much closer.


A Twist on Tradition: Not Your Bubbe’s Turkey and Stuffing

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holiday meals. Hubby’s too. In fact, he always requests it for his October birthday. First time out, I had no idea how long it would take that big bird to thaw. You shoulda seen me splashing water on that turkey in our bathtub, tearfully promising Hubby that we’ll have the meal tomorrow. Now that I’m a “pro” (at least I’ve got defrosting down pat), I sometimes make Thanksgiving dinner for our weekly Friday night Sabbath meals. That’s love.

I’m going to share two of my fave Thanksgiving recipes with you, but I have a whole menu if you want to pick up the Geller tradition. So Ch-Check It Out in my new book.

Oh, and BTW, in one of those rare calendar overlaps, Chanukah falls on Thanksgiving this year–first time that’s happened in 113 years. And it won’t happen again until 2070, so this is definitely the year to try these terrific dishes, unless you’re a very, very patient person. Happy Thanksgivikah!


Sour Mash Whiskey-Glazed Whole Roast Turkey

Kosher Status: Meat • Prep: 5 minutes • Cook: 2 to 21⁄2 hours • Rest: 15 to 20 minutes • Total: 2 hours, 20 minutes to 2 hours, 55 minutes • Yield: 13 to 16 servings

1 cup Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey

1⁄2 cup soy sauce

1⁄2 cup red wine vinegar

1⁄2 cup dijon mustard

1⁄2 cup packed light brown sugar one 15-pound whole turkey, rinsed and patted dry

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1⁄2 cup (8 tablespoons/1 stick) margarine, softened

4 cups chicken broth, such as Manischewitz all natural Chicken Broth

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour


1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. Make the glaze: Whisk together the Jack Daniel’s, soy sauce, vinegar, mustard, and brown sugar in a medium bowl; set aside.

3. Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a large roasting pan. Season all over with salt and pepper. Tuck the wings underneath the body and tie the legs together. Spread a thick layer of margarine all over the turkey. Pour the chicken broth into the bottom of the roasting pan.

4. Roast the turkey for 30 minutes. Pour and brush about half the glaze all over the turkey and return it to the oven. Roast for 30 minutes more. Pour and brush the remaining glaze over the turkey and return it to the oven. Roast for another 60 minutes. Check the temperature with a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh. Continue roasting until the temperature registers 165°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the turkey from the roasting pan, and let it rest on a cutting board, loosely tented with foil, for 15 to 20 minutes before carving.

5. While the turkey is resting, prepare the gravy: Pour the accumulated pan juices into a bowl or a fat separator. Let sit for a minute or two to allow the fat to separate and rise to the top. If you are using a bowl, carefully tilt it and skim off the fat from the pan juices with a large spoon, reserving 2 tablespoons and discarding the rest, or use a fat separator. Set aside the pan juices. Return the 2 tablespoons fat to the roasting pan. Whisk in the flour slowly to prevent lumps from forming. Cook on top of the stove over medium heat, stirring up any browned bits, until the flour is incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Gradually add 2 to 3 cups of the pan juices to the pan, stirring continually. Cook until the gravy is thickened, about 5 minutes. If you’d like it a little thinner, add up to 1 additional cup of the pan juices. Season with additional pepper, if desired. Strain the gravy through a fine-mesh sieve.


Pour this glaze on a brisket—go low and slow and braise it at 300°F, 1 hour per pound.


Cranberry-Chestnut Challah Stuffing

Kosher Status: Meat • Prep: 10 minutes • Cook: 50 minutes • Total: 1 hour • Yield: 8 to 10 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

4 celery stalks, coarsely chopped

1 cup roasted and peeled chestnuts, quartered

1 cup dried cranberries

1⁄4 cup finely chopped fresh sage or 1 tablespoon dried

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley or 2 teaspoons dried

8 cups 1⁄2-inch cubes white or whole wheat challah

2 cups chicken broth, such as Manischewitz all natural Chicken Broth

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion and celery until softened and the onion is translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the chestnuts, cranberries, sage, and parsley and cook 2 minutes more. Stir in the challah, chicken broth, salt, and pepper. Remove from the heat. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until lightly browned, 10 minutes more.

Quick Tips

You can find bags of roasted and peeled chestnuts in the snack aisle at the supermarket. This recipe doesn’t require day-old or stale bread, although it’s a great use for any leftovers on hand. Challah, hot dog and hamburger buns, even sandwich bread—use it all, mix ’n’ match it, cube it, and make stuffing or Spiced Apple Challah Kugel (page 94).

For more from Jamie, follow her on FacebookTwitter, and

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: