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Rockin’ in the kitchen with Mama Doni
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Rockin’ in the kitchen with Mama Doni

Mama Doni is branching out.

The popular children’s entertainer is about to publish her first book, Get Cooking! A Jewish American Family Cookbook & Rockin’ Mama Doni Celebration, written with Rachel Harkham (Behrman House).

“This is so much more than a cookbook,” Doni Zasloff Thomas told NJ Jewish News in a phone interview. “It’s a guide for ways to spice up family celebrations.”

Zasloff Thomas and her band will host a book launch party on Sunday, Oct. 14, at 1 p.m. at the Leon & Toby Cooperman JCC, West Orange. The event is free and open to the public.

The centerpiece of the festivities will be a concert featuring songs from the 29-track CD that is included with Get Cooking! The program also features a book signing, cooking demo, giveaways, and other surprises.

The book includes recipes, family activities, jokes, cartoons, and holiday stories. “It’s for the Jewish-American family, so I like to say it covers from Sukkot to the Super Bowl. It’s for the family that celebrates Thanksgiving and Hanukka, Shabbat, and the Jewish New Year and the regular New Year,” she said.

Zasloff Thomas admits her hectic recording and touring schedule limits her time in the kitchen. “I cook as much as I can,” she said. “I am busy, but I feel like no matter what’s going on in my life, I can always have Shabbat and that’s a message I want to share with other families.”

As a kid, Zasloff fondly recalls “very eclectic Shabbat dinners” with her parents — both doctors — and their guests. “We had very fun Shabbats with lots of crazy conversations and jokes,” said Zasloff, who resides in Montclair and attends Bnai Keshet with her family.

For the new literary project, Zasloff Thomas said she tried to take “the essence of the big, traditional Shabbats I grew up with and try to find…a new vibe. The goal is to help Jewish families of all different backgrounds — from Reform to Orthodox to everything in between.”

Get Cooking! takes readers through a year of holidays with fun, “menschy” activities for every season and recipes that give American cuisine a Jewish twist, such as “Sweet Potato Knish” for Thanksgiving and “Judah Mac ‘n Cheese Squares,” “Fill-in-the-Blank Latkes,” and “KFC: Kosher Fried Chicken” for Hanukka.

Harkham, a food writer and cooking teacher known as “Recipe Rachel” (reciperachel.com), will also be on hand at the Oct. 14 program and assist Zasloff Thomas in demonstrating how to make chocolate dreidels.

“What’s cool about working with Rachel is that what she does with food, I do with music, which is fusing different flavors together and taking the Jewish-American experience and making it really fun,” Zasloff Thomas said. “Rachel’s food is very sophisticated yet fun. She’s very thoughtful about everything.”

When it comes to the music, Zasloff Thomas said she tries “to write [what] the kids are going to like but also sophisticated enough for parents, and fun.” The Mama Doni sound includes a mish-mash of reggae, rock, disco, Latin, klezmer, and “Jewgrass.” Her band received a 2011 Parents’ Choice Award for their CD Shabbat Shaboom. They were also honored with a Simcha Award at the 2008 International Jewish Music Festival in Amsterdam for “inspiring joy through music.”

The singer/songwriter/author/cook said her favorite recipe in her new book is “Uncle Milton’s Mandlebread.”

“That alone is worth it,” Zasloff Thomas said. “Every time I see my Uncle Milton, he gives me a big Tupperware filled with mandlebread. Since I was little, that just equaled love.”

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