Tag Archives: Recipe

Meat Chili with Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce

10 Jan

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I’ve never used chipotle peppers in adobo Sauce — mainly because I’ve never been able to find a kosher version before. But a while ago I spotted this product on a supplier’s list and ordered a case thinking something like “ah! now I will use these!”. Well . . about six months later, I’ve finally tried them. — and loved them!

If you’ve never used them or had them, they are smoked peppers (often jalapeno) in a delicious sauce made of vinegar, tomato and spices.  On a recent trip to California, I became addicted to a chipotle salsa I had that finally pushed me into trying to cook with them at home.

There are all sorts of things you could do with these, but I started off with a batch of chili. Note that these peppers can be quite spicy and if you don’t love spicy food, go easy on them.  My recipe calls for 2 chipotle peppers (seeds removed), but you can go down to one — or you can even leave them out and just use the adobo sauce.  On the other hand, if you love spicy food, use more of them or forgo removing the seeds.

The chipotle peppers in adobo sauce add  rich, smoky and spicy flavors to this meaty chili.  I tasted it right away and liked it, but not as much as I liked it when I reheated it the next day.  I also like it on it’s own, but it was even better when I squeezed some lime juice into it and dusted the top with some chopped cilantro.   Serve on it’s own, with taco chips for scooping or over a baked potato or pasta.

Chili – serves 8

  • 4 cups cold water
  • 2 lbs. lean ground beef
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 large celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder (Ancho)
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 19 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 x chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (seeds removed and finely chopped)
  • 3 Tbsp. adobo sauce
  • fresh cilantro and limes for garnishing

Combine the cold water and ground beef in a pot, using your hands or a spoon to break up the ground beef as much as possible. Place over high heat and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 20 minutes, skimming off any scum that comes to the surface.  Set aside.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium.  Add the onion, carrots, celery, poblano pepper and salt and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  You just want to sweat the vegetables to soften them, not brown them.

Add the garlic, cumin and chili powder (I like Ancho or other single pepper chili powder) and cook, stirring, for one minute.

Add the tomatoes, black beans, chipotle peppers and adobo sauce and the ground beef and water you’ve set aside.  Bring to a simmer over medium then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for one hour, stirring occasionally. Taste and check for seasoning.  Eat right away or chill or freeze for later.

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(inter)National Soup Month

7 Jan

According to daysoftheyear.com, January is National Soup Month. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why this makes sense — for those of us in the northern part of the northern hemisphere, January can be a bitterly cold month and a warm bowl of soup can warm you from the inside out.

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(c) Pam Reiss

Now, I personally don’t believe you need to have a month out of the year set aside to enjoy soup. I’m an advocate of cooking soup throughout the year — there are so many different types of soups you can make that trying to cram them all into one month is impossible.  Not only that, but different growing seasons mean that some ingredients just aren’t available in January and you need to take advantage in the spring or summer of what’s readily available.

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(c) Pam Reiss

But just because I don’t like to limit soups to one month, it doesn’t mean I can’t get behind supporting and encouraging Soup Month.  I think everybody should make soup all the time.  Meat soups, dairy soups, parve soups, hot soups and cold soups.  Broths, chunky soups, chowders, pureed soups, thin soups and thick soups.  There are so many options.

This weekend I made a big pot of chicken soup.  I admit, it’s the soup I make more than any other.  First, I like to have some in the freezer to use in other recipes or just to pull out when I need a bowl of Jewish Penicillin.  But it’s more than that.  I have a strong connection to chicken soup.  It’s in my bones.  With a pot of chicken soup simmering on the stove top I’m transported to my grandmother’s kitchen. The aromas coming from my pot of soup are the exact aromas that greeted me at the door every Friday night when I arrived at her house for our weekly Shabbat dinner.

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(c) Pam Reiss

It’s been many years since my grandmother was around to make a pot of chicken soup, but the memories have grown to include my own mother’s pot of simmering soup and the vats and vats of chicken soup we make at work. And having moved into a new home myself in the last year, one of the first things I did was make a huge pot of chicken soup (and meat kreplach), creating the same memory in my own kitchen that I have from my grandmother and mother’s kitchens.

I have recipes for Chicken Soup in both my cookbooks, and they’re great for learning how to make it, but once you’ve been making it for years, you can do it by sight, smell and taste.

No Quantities Chicken Soup Recipe (check cookbooks for quantities)

  • place lots and lots of chicken bones, wings and necks into a large pot, filling your pot 2/3s with chicken parts
  • cover with cold water, and place the pot over high heat
  • bring to a simmer, skimming off any scum that rises to the top
  • as soon as it’s simmering, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, continuing to skim the top until there is no more scum
  • add yellow onions (peeled, but left whole), carrots (peeled and cut into large chunks), parsnips (peeled and cut into large chunks), celery (cut into large chunks) and simmer, skimming until all of the scum is removed
  • simmer another hour
  • add fresh dill, and simmer another 30 minutes
  • taste
  • if it’s too watery, simmer longer, letting the liquid reduce, if it’s rich enough, season with salt to taste
  • use tongs to remove any large pieces of vegetable and chicken and discard (we’re not using chicken with much meat on the bones, just bones, necks and wings, so there isn’t much worth keeping)
  • use a ladle to pour the broth through cheesecloth into clean bowls or pots
  • to chill the soup quickly, the night before I make chicken soup, I fill a few small freezer bags 2/3s with water, expel any extra air, close and freeze – once the soup has been strained, carefully place the frozen bags of ice in the broth and leave for 5-10 minutes  – the soup should be cool and ready for the fridge (remove the bags before refrigerating)
  • leave the soup in the fridge for a couple of hours, then carefully remove any fat from the top of the soup with a spoon
  • reheat when ready to eat or freeze for later use

To purchase the 2nd edition of Soup a Kosher Collection (with new recipes), follow these links:

In the USA: amazon.com

In Canada: amazon.ca

Chicken, Corn and Poblano Stew

31 Jan
Typically, winter brings bitterly cold temperatures to my little corner of the world.  We can go weeks without a break, keeping an eye on the thermostat, waiting for it to rise above the -30C mark. So far this winter has been atypical. Sure, we’ve had some cold days where the wind kept us below -30C, but for the most part, it’s been a beautiful, warm winter here.
Those of you living south of the Canadian border may still shudder when I tell you that we’re happy with the temperatures hovering in the 0 to -10C range.  For those of us up here, it’s been a joy.  Even if we’re not shivering away, it is winter and it does call for some meals that warm you (and your home) up.
I make a soup that I love that has poblano peppers, corn, tomatillos and potatoes — the other night I decided to take those flavours and turn them into a chicken stew. This is a great change from a typical beef stew – while still filling and warming, it feels lighter.  The poblano add a little heat, the potatoes add some bulk, the tomatillos add a tang and the corn a touch of sweetness.  If you’re not a fan of cilantro, leave it out.  If you don’t like any spice at all, substitute a couple of bell peppers for the poblanos.
  • 2 poblano peppers, cut in half, cored and seeded
  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • salt and black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 8 small tomatillos, husks removed, cored and diced
  • 3 cups good, homemade chicken stock
  • 12 new potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro

Preheat your broiler.  Place the poblanos on a baking sheet, cut side down and broil for 5-8 minutes, or until the skins are charred.  Transfer to a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let the peppers cool enough to handle and then peel them, discarding the peel. Dice the peppers and set aside.

Remove any excess fat from the thighs, rinse and pat dry.  Cut into large chunks and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over med-high heat.  Sear the chicken in batches (don’t overcrowd the pan) until it just starts to brown, about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Once all of the chicken is seared, add more oil if the pan is dry, reduce heat to medium and add the onions.  Cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes until they start to brown and soften.  Add the garlic, tomatillo and poblanos and cook another 2-3 minutes.  Add the chicken stock and potatoes and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan, making sure that nothing is sticking.

Turn the heat back up to medium-high and bring the stock to a simmer.  Cook for 15 minutes — if it’s boiling too hard, reduce the temperature again.  Return the chicken to the pot and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the corn and simmer another 2 minutes.  Add the cilantro and stir through.  Taste, checking the seasoning.  Add salt if necessary and serve!

Beet & Goat Cheese Salad with Almonds and Citrus Vinaigrette

12 Jun

I love salads.  Leafy greens tossed with a light vinaigrette as a starter, whole-meal salads with chicken or steak and chunky vegetables or something in-between.   If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with great farmers markets, now’s the time to take a stroll and see what’s available for your salad bowl.

For lunch today I made one of my favorites.

Romaine lettuce, toasted almonds, roasted/steamed beets, sweet white onion, cranberry/pecan goat cheese and a mandarin/lemon dressing.

First, the beets need to be cooked.  My favorite way to do them is to cut the leaves off (use them in a soup or saute them for dinner), wash well and wrap in a couple of layers of aluminum foil.   Then they go into a 400 F oven for 45 minutes  to 1 1/4 hours — timing will depend on the size of the beets.  They’re done when a skewer or a thin knife can be inserted with little to no resistance.  Take them out of the oven and leave them, wrapped in the foil for about 15 minutes, or until they’ve cooled enough to handle.  If you’ve got them, put on some gloves and rub the beets — the skins should slip right off.  If not, use a paring knife to help them along.  Slice the beets, put them into a bowl and into the fridge to chill.  You can cook these and keep them in the fridge, covered, for a few days.

I used romaine lettuce because that’s what I had in the fridge but you can use anything you like.  Just wash and dry well, tear it into bite size pieces (using a knife to cut the lettuce will make it rust faster than tearing).  Top the lettuce with some thinly sliced white (or red) onion, toasted almond slivers, chilled beets and cheese.  More often than not, I have a package of my favourite Israeli sheep feta in my fridge and the tangy, creamy cheese is perfect for this type of salad.  Today I had a delicious log of pecan/cranberry goat cheese in the fridge, so that’s what I used.

Finally, drizzle the salad with citrus vinaigrette and serve.

Citrus Vinaigrette — Makes enough for 4-6 servings

3 Tbsp. mandarin (or orange) juice

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/4 tsp. salt

pinch black pepper

1 Tbsp. honey

1 Tbsp. Dijon (or grainy) mustart

1/4 cup canola or other light oil

Whisk all ingredients together and taste, adjusting salt and pepper if necessary.

Passover Mushroom And Onion Kugel

16 Apr

According to my blog statistics, a lot of people are getting here because they are looking for a recipe for Mushroom and Onion Kugel.  I do have a recipe for said kugel on this blog, but it’s for a kugel I make for Rosh Hashana.  That one is made with egg noodles.

Since people are looking for it, I thought it would be a good idea to share my recipe for my Passover Mushroom & Onion Kugel.  It’s very similar — simple and tasty, but uses farfel (broken up matzo) rather than noodles.    Can be made ahead and freezes well.

Passover Mushroom and Onion Farfel Kugel (from Passover – A Kosher Collection)

If I had to choose (and it would be hard to decide)  I think this might be my favourite kugel.  Button and crimini mushrooms often get the short end of the stick, but I love them and this kugel shows them off.

4 Tbsp. | 60 mL olive oil

1 lb. | 454 g yellow onions, peeled and diced small (2 medium)

2 tsp. | 10 mL salt

1/2 tsp. | 2 mL black pepper

1 1/2 lbs. | 680 g button or crimini mushrooms, sliced

1 1/2 cups | 355 mL water

8 oz. | 225 g farfel (4 cups | 950 mL)

6 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 375 F | 190 C.

Place a large frying pan or a pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil.  Add the onions, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 8-10 minutes or until soft and golden brown.

Add the mushrooms and cook another 6-8 minutes, or until they’ve all cooked and have shrunk by about half.  We’re not trying to brown the mushrooms at all, just cook them.

Add the water and bring to a simmer.  Cook for 1 minute.

Put the farfel in a large mixing bowl.  Pour the mushroom/onion mixture over the farfel and stir to mix.  Let rest for about half an hour or until cooled completely. and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Once cooled, add the eggs and stir to combine.  Pour the batter into a greased 8 x 11-inch | 20 x 27.5-cm pan.

Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and firm.

A Fresh Passover

10 Apr

I often hear people complain about heavy foods at Passover.  It’s true – with menus that include chopped liver, brisket and kugels it can weigh you down.  And while I like to serve traditional foods during the holidays, there are a lot more options that people don’t associate with Passover menus.

For meals that include these heavier dishes, I always make sure to include a fresh, crisp salad and fresh fruit for desserts.  I also make sure that the week has plenty of lighter meals – a fritatta with salad or maybe my favorite Mediterranean Black Cod served with steamed vegetables.

For a lighter, fresh Passover, here are a couple of my favorite salad recipes (from my cookbook Passover – A Kosher Collection).

Watermelon & Feta Salad

This is one of my favorite salads.  For a different version, replace the mint with basil and the lime juice with balsamic vinegar.

2 Tbsp. | 30 mL fresh lime juice

2 Tbsp. | 30 mL olive oil

1/4 tsp. | 1 mL black pepper

6 cups | 1.4 L watermelon, seedless, cit into 1-inch | 2.5-cm cubes

4 oz. | 115 g feta cheese, cubed or crumbled

3 Tbsp. | 45 mL fresh mint, finely sliced

3 oz. | 85 g red onion, peeled and thinly sliced (1/2 small)

Mix the lime juice, olive oil and black pepper together in a large mixing bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients and gently mix together.

Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Can be made several hours in advance.  If you do make it ahead. pour off any excess liquid and taste, checking for seasoning before serving.

Jicima Slaw

This is a great alternative to classic coleslaw.  It’s crisp, light and flavourful.

1 1/2 lbs. | 680 g jicima, peeled and julienned (1 medium)

3 oz. | 85 g carrots, peeled and shredded (2 small)

3 oz. | 85 g yellow pepper, cored, seeded and cut into a thin julienne (1/2 medium)

3 oz. | 85 g orange pepper, cored, seeded and cut into a thin julienne (1/2 medium)

1 oz. | 28 g green onions, thinly sliced (2 large)

3 oz. | 85 g white onion, peeled and sliced paper thin (1/2 small)

3 Tbsp. | 45 mL fresh lime juice

3 Tbsp. | 45 mL fresh lemon juice

2 Tbsp. | 30 mL grapeseed oil (or light olive oil)

1 tsp. | 5 mL salt

2 Tbsp. | 30 mL honey

2 Tbsp. | 30 mL chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 tsp. | 1 mL black pepper

Put all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and toss together.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavours to blend together.

Can be made 4-6 hours before serving.

It’s all about the Charoset

5 Apr

With Passover less than two weeks away, it’s time to make some serious decisions.  The most important decision, in my opinion, is what kind of charoset to make.  I love charoset.  I like that charoset being passed around the table means dinner is about to start.  I love that charoset is symbolic — it’s there to remind us of the mortar used by the Jewish slaves in Egypt to build cities.  And I really love charoset because it’s delicious.

When I was growing up, charoset was always a mixture of shredded apples, cinnamon, honey, chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans) and some sweet red wine.  Nobody in my family used a precise recipe — we just added what looked right and kept tasting and adjusting until it was perfect.

Eventually I started experimenting and came up with some different flavour combinations that I really liked.  Now I have a few charoset recipes that I love.  Here’s my recipe for date charoset.  I like it so much I make a double batch to use it on matzo throughout the week (great for breakfast!).

Date Charoset

2 oz. | 55 g walnuts (1/2 cup | 120 mL)

8 oz. | 225 g pitted dates (1 cup | 235 mL)

3 oz. | 85 g golden raisins (1/2 cup | 120 mL)

1/2 tsp. | 2 mL dried ginger

1/2 tsp. | 2 mL cinnamon

pinch of ground cloves

3 Tbsp. | 45 mL sweet red wine

2 Tbsp. | 30 mL fresh orange juice

1/4 tsp. | 1 mL orange zest

Toast the nuts. Preheat the oven to 350 F | 175 C.  Spread the nuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast for 8-9 minuets, or until golden brown.  Cool.

Put all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the charoset reaches a texture you like.  I like to pulse it until it is mostly paste, with some small chunks remaining.  If you like it chunkier, stop pulsing before it gets too smooth.

Use immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Makes 1 1/2 cups | 355 mL

* Adapted from my book, Passover – A Kosher Collection

Yom Kippur – Breaking the Fast Soup

13 Sep

When I grew up and well into my twenties, my paternal grandparents lived across the street from the synagogue most of my family attended. We’d have most of our holiday meals at their house, everything prepared by my baba (grandmother) and served up by my mother and aunts.

For most holiday and Shabbat meals at Baba’s, meat was on the menu.  But to break the fast of Yom Kippur, we always went with a lighter, dairy meal. When services ended at the synagogue, my family would file out the back door and stroll the half-block to the house.  Every single year, we’d be welcomed by the aromas of coffee brewing and freshly baked cinnamon rolls and blueberry or Saskatoon berry buns wafting from the kitchen in the back of the house to the entrance and living room.
Dinner would be any combination of kugels, knishes, blintzes, fish, salads and other dairy dishes.  But the one thing I remember the most was Baba’s Yom Kippur Soup. Once we were all gathered around the table, challah and the milky vegetable soup was always the first course.  Now, though we ate this soup every year, it wasn’t always the same.  It was always close, but the vegetables in the soup were determined by whatever was plentiful in the garden that took up her back yard.
This recipe, Baba’s Break-the-Fast Soup, was first printed in my cookbook Soup – A Kosher Collection (2004 – Whitecap).
Feel free to add or remove vegetables depending on your likes and dislikes or on whatever is fresh from your garden.
1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
3 Tbsp. | 45 mL olive oil
1 small carrot, peeled and diced small
1 stalk celery, diced small
1/2 small parsnip, peeled and diced
6 cups | 1.5 L vegetable stock
1 medium red potato, peeled and diced
1 1/2 cups | 375 mL green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch | 2.5 cm pieces
1/4 lb. | 125 g button mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch | 5 mm thick
3 Tbsp. | 45 mL all-purpose flour
3 cups | 750 mL 2% milk
2 oz. | 50 g thin soup noodles
1 Tbsp. | 15 mL  fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tsp. | 5 mL salt
1/4 tsp. | 1 mL black pepper
Over medium-low heat, sauté the onion in olive oil for 2-3 minutes, stirring as it cooks.  Add the carrot, celery and parsnip and continue cooking another 2-3 minutes.
Add the stock and potato, cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Add the beans and mushrooms, reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer gently for 15 minutes.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and milk.  Make sure the mixture is well blended and there are no lumps.  Whisk the mixture into the soup and add the noodles. Bring the soup back to a simmer.
Cook until the noodles are tender and add the dill, salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Mushroom & Onion Kugel

25 Aug

Though traditionally we eat sweet foods for Rosh Hashana, it wouldn’t make sense to make every dish sweet.  You may be preparing a sweet sauce for your chicken (we often serve Apricot Honey Chicken), tzimmes, a simple honey-glazed carrot dish or many other sweet dishes.  If that’s the case, let me suggest serving a Mushroom & Onion Kugel as a side.

Some people look down on the humble button mushroom, but I love them.  Paired with onions, salt, pepper and egg noodles they make a delicious savoury kugel.  You don’t have to stick to the button — I often use crimini or a combination of the two.  I’ve also been known to throw in portabello when the mood strikes.  Use any combination of mushrooms you like to make this easy recipe.  And for me, the crispier the golden brown noodles on top of the kugel the better!
By the way, cooled completely and wraped well, this freezes beautifully.


Mushroom and Onion Kugel
Serves: 8

This simple recipe was passed down from my grandmother, to my mother and then to me (with just a couple of small tweaks).  It’s still one of my favorite items on the holiday table.

12        oz.  egg noodles — wide
1          large  yellow onion — peeled and roughly chopped
  3          Tbsp.  olive oil
1 1/2    lbs.  mushrooms — assorted, sliced
1/4″ thick
1          tsp. salt — plus more to taste
1/4       tsp.  black pepper
3          Tbsp. all-purpose flour
3          large  eggs

Cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Drain well and pour the noodles back into the pot or into a large mixing bowl.

In a large skillet over medium-high, sauté the onions in olive oil for 8-10 minutes, or until they are soft and starting to brown. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and continue to cook until all of the mushrooms are cooked through and have released some of their juices.  This should take another 8-10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and their juices to the noodles and mix thoroughly.

Taste the noodle/mushroom mixture to check for seasoning. Add more salt or pepper if necessary.  When you’re happy with the flavour, allow it to cool for a few minutes.  Then add the flour and eggs, mixing well.

Pour the mixture into a greased 9″x13″ baking pan and bake at 375 for 55-60 minutes, until the top has turned a dark, golden brown and the kugel has firmed up.  Serve!

Crumble-Topped Apple Kugel

17 Aug

To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember eating apple kugel (or other sweet kugels) for Rosh Hashana when I was growing up. (We did, however, always have a sweet kugel during passover made with matzo meal, dried fruit and an apricot glaze.)  Perhaps because our family often had chicken with a sweet, fruity glaze, we avoided sweet sides.  But for many people, sweet sides are traditional.

The custom is to eat sweet foods for the New Year to symbolize our hopes of a sweet year. Many of us will dip pieces of challah or apple slices into honey, prepare sweet main or side dishes and end the meal with honey cake.

Apples:  I prefer a crisp, tart apple like a Pink Lady, Fuji or Macintosh, but use any apple you like.


Crumble-Topped Apple Kugel
SERVES: 12

3/4     lb. broad egg noodles

1/2     cup  raisins, seedless
1/2     cup  orange juice
4        large  eggs
1/4     cup  sugar
2        Tbsp. flour
1 1/2  tsp. salt
1 1/2  tsp. cinnamon
1        tsp. allspice — *optional
1        tsp. vanilla
1/4     cup  butter or margarine — melted
4 to 6 medium  apples — peeled, cored and diced (4 cups diced)

Topping
3       Tbsp. butter or margarine
1/4    cup  flour
1/4    cup  brown sugar
1/2    tsp. cinnamon
1/4    cup  quick cooking oats
1/8    tsp. salt

Prepare the noodles following package directions.  Drain well and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, combine the raisins and the orange juice.  Microwave for 30 seconds and set aside to cool. This helps the raisins absorb some of the juice and plumps them up.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, flour, salt, cinammon, allspice, vanilla and melted butter or margarine.   Add the cooled noodles, raisins, orange juice and apples.  Mix everything together and pour into a well greased 9″x13″ baking dish.

In another small mixing bowl, combine all of the topping ingredients.  Use your fingers to incorporate the fat into the dry ingredients, forming a crumbly mixture.  Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the noodles and bake at 375 for 50-60 minutes, until golden brown and firm to the touch.