Search URJ.org and the other Reform websites:

Tu Bishvat

“Happy birthday to trees! Happy birthday to trees!” Yes, that’s Lila from Shaboom! singing and tree-hugging to kick off a short lesson about Tu Bishvat

How much do you know about the Jewish holiday of Tu Bisvhat? Take this quiz, if you are up to the challenge.

You may have heard of a Passover seder, but did you know that many people celebrate Tu Bishvat with seders also? Learn about how to host your own Tu BiSh'vat seder.

Enjoy reading this Tu BiSh’vat story with your children, then download the printable version for them to create their own story booklet. Use the spaces provided to let them make their own illustrations.

On Tu Bishvat, we celebrate the “New Year of the Trees.” This holiday, which falls on the 15th day (tu) of the Hebrew month of Shvat, is also known as the birthday of the trees. We say “Happy birthday” and “Happy new year” to the trees sprouting up after winter and to the flowers beginning to bud in eager anticipation of the spring

Vegetarian Mushroom Barley Soup

By: 
Tina Wasserman

This recipe is featured in Tina Wasserman's newest book, Entrée to Judaism for Families, filled with tools to help children learn to cook with confidence, with clear, step-by-step instructions for every recipe and tips for adults to make the experience safe and rewarding.

How long have Jewish people been eating mushrooms? A long time! Mushrooms were mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud (N’darim 55B), and wild mushrooms were in such abundance in ancient Israel during the rainy season that discussions arose about putting a tax on them. In later generations, mushrooms were especially important to poor Ashkenazic Jews. They were easily found in the forests, and since spices were expensive, their flavor, especially when dried, was a boost to a relatively bland diet.

One favorite dish of the Ashkenazim that survived the move from the shtetl to North America was the hearty mushroom-potato-barley soup called krupnick. In Europe, krupnick was mostly starchy potatoes seasoned with a little meat and mushroom. Today, rich flanken meat is added in large strips, and mushrooms become the major flavoring ingredient. Potatoes are often replaced by lima beans as well.

Moving with the times, I have taken the delicious beef-based mushroom barley soup from my first book and created a vegetarian version that is just as rich and delicious, and probably more like the original krupnick!

The secret to the thickness of this soup is the lima beans. They are peeled and therefore disintegrate into the stock when fully cooked. Don’t panic—they peel very easily when properly soaked and children love to pop them out of their skins.

Ingredients: 
1¼ cups dried large lima beans
1 ounce (¾ cup loosely packed) dried imported mushrooms, preferably porcini
2 quarts water or packaged vegetable or mushroom broth
1 mushroom bouillon cube (optional)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
8 ounces white mushrooms, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 carrot, diced
½ cup medium pearl barley
Directions: 
  1. Cover the lima beans in a 2-quart glass bowl with 1 inch of water. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, and then let them soak for 1 or more hours or until the skins easily slide off.
  2. Place dried mushrooms in a 1-quart glass bowl and cover with water. Microwave for 2 minutes, and let them sit in the water while you peel the lima beans.
  3. Meanwhile, remove the skins from the lima beans by gently squeezing on one end; the bean will just slide out. Place beans in a 4-quart pot.
  4. Carefully lift the mushrooms out of the water, and gently squeeze them over the bowl. Save the juices. Chop the soaked mushrooms and set aside.
  5. Add the water or broth and the chopped, soaked mushrooms to the lima beans in the pot. Strain the mushroom liquid into the pot as well.
  6. Heat a 10-inch frying pan for 20 seconds. Add the oil and heat for 10 seconds. Add the diced onion and sauté for 2 minutes.
  7. Add the celery and fresh mushrooms to the pan and cook until wilted and translucent. Add this mixture to the soup pot along with the diced carrot, and salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Cook, covered, over medium heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally so that the beans do not stick to the pot.
  9. Add the barley and cook for ½ hour to 1 hour longer or until the barley is tender and the lima beans disappear. Check the seasoning. Add more broth if the soup is too thick (it will thicken even more when cool).

Kitchen Conversations

Mushroom barley soup is a good example of making the most of simple, inexpensive ingredients. Such recipes are often our favorite comfort foods.

  • What’s your favorite comfort food?
  • Why?
Tina's Tidbits: 
  • To keep a child’s attention and for safety reasons, do steps 1 and 2 before you start the recipe with a young child. Older children can work a recipe in stages, but younger ones work in the present. This is where “soak overnight” is a good step to take!
  • If you own a pressure cooker, lima beans can be cooked for 15 minutes on low setting, and then they will be ready to peel.
  • Do not make the mistake of buying small lima beans. It will take you forever to peel them!
  • Olive oil mimics the taste of traditional goose fat, and sautéing the vegetables addsdepth to the flavor of this soup.

I’ve always been fascinated and inspired by things that spoon, nestle and stack... from measuring spoons to matrushka dolls, husk tomatoes and garden-fresh peas in a pod.

Watch these Shalom Sesame videos with your children to learn about Tu Bishvat, then try some of the fun discussion ideas and activities recommended by Reform Jewish educators.

Chocolate Chip Mystery Mandelbrot

By: 
Tina Wasserman

This recipe is featured in Tina Wasserman's newest book, Entree to Judaism for Families filled with tools to help children learn to cook with confidence, with clear, step-by-step instructions for every recipe and tips for adults to make the experience safe and rewarding.

Mandelbrot means “almond bread” in Yiddish, but its origins are the biscotti cookies that were created in Italy more than 700 years ago. These biscotti originally contained no fat or sugar and were baked twice so that they would be very hard and dry and last for months on ships at sea. Biscotti recipes traveled north to Germany, where they became very popular with the Jewish community because they could be made in advance of Shabbat and stay fresh for days.

Around the early 1900s, oil or butter was added to the dough along with different nuts, dried fruit, or chocolate chips, and our modern mandelbrot was created. During the Depression and World War II, butter and cooking oil were expensive and hard to come by, so mayonnaise was often used in their place. Mayonnaise is the secret ingredient in these mystery mandelbrot.

Hellmann’s mayonnaise was created by Nina Hellmann in 1905 to use on sandwiches and for sale in her German husband’s deli in New York City. Perhaps the Hellmanns were Jewish? Who knows, but Hellmann’s mayonnaise makes these cookies delicious!

The almond tree is the first tree to bloom in Israel in the early spring, making this recipe perfect for Tu BiSh’vat.

Ingredients: 
1-1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, regular or mini variety
1/2 cup slivered almonds
Directions: 
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon in a 3-quart mixing bowl and stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  4. Divide the dough in half and form into 2 long, narrow loaves on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and cool 5 minutes.
  5. Carefully transfer one loaf to a cutting board. Using a chef ’s knife, slice the loaf on the diagonal into ½-inch slices. Lay the slices cut side down on the cookie sheet, and repeat with the other loaf. Return the cookie sheet to the oven and bake for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven, turn the slices over, and return to the oven to bake for another 5 minutes or until golden. Cool completely before storing in sealed container.

Kitchen Conversations

Look at the label on the jar of mayonnaise and read the list of ingredients. Discuss why it makes the cookies taste so good and light. What other recipes could use mayonnaise instead of oil?

Tina's Tidbits: 
  • This recipe is perfect for children of all ages because no electrical equipment is necessary and the dough is easy to work with.
  • An adult should transfer the hot loaves to a cutting board, but after 5 minutes, supervised children can use a chef’s knife to cut the dough into slices
  • Only children over the age of seven or eight should be allowed to turn the hot slices over, because the cookie sheet is very hot.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Tu Bishvat