Passover Sangria

If you are going to drink 4 cups of wine, let it be this! Passover wine, be it Manischewitz or Mogen David, is already sweet, and macerating fruit in it seems like a natural choice. This goes down easy, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. Enjoy! And Happy Passover!

Passover Sangria

Serves 1…um, I mean 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Passover wine (I used Blackberry Mogen David)
  • 2 tablespoon triple sec, or other orange flavored liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • ¼ of an orange, sliced
  • ¼ of an apple, sliced
  • 5 grapes, halved
  • ¼ cup lemon-lime soda, sparkling wine, or sparkling water, for topping
  • Ice

Directions:

  1. Put the wine, triple sec, brandy, and fruit in a small pitcher and let sit for one hour, and up to 24 hours.
  2. When ready to serve, pour over ice and top with sparkling beverage of your choice.

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For 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 750 ml bottle Passover wine
  • 3 cups fruit of your choice (apples, oranges, peaches, nectarines, grapes, plums, cherries), sliced or chopped
  • ¼ – ½ cup booze of your choice, or a mix (triple sec, vodka, brandy, rum)
  • 1 ½-2 cups lemon-lime soda, sparkling water or sparkling wine

Directions:

  1. Slice or chop fruit into small pieces and put into a large pitcher.
  2. Cover fruit with Passover wine and the booze of your choice.
  3. Let sit in fridge 1-24 hours.
  4. Immediately before serving, add sparkling beverage of your choice, and serve over ice.

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Passover Lemon Cake Balls

Passover Lemon Cake Balls

The popularity of my Passover Heavenly Chocolate Ganache Cake balls has skyrocketed over the years. The winning combination of convenience and novelty cannot be denied. Plus they are over-the-top delicious. This year, I set out to make an even simpler version for a cooking class I taught a few weeks ago. These Passover Lemon Cake Balls are the happy result. Enjoy!

Passover Lemon Cake Balls

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces Passover Cake
  • 1/2 cup lemon curd
  • 10-12 ounces vanilla candy coating (I like Ghiradelli Vanilla Melting Wafers
  • Sprinkles, poppy seeds, or another embellishments for decorating that you’d like

Directions:

  1. Crumble the cake into a bowl.
  2. Add the lemon curd and mix well to combine.
  3. Roll mixture into balls using a cookie scoop and place on a baking tray.
  4. Freeze for 30 minutes.
  5. Melt the vanilla candy coating according to package directions and let cool slightly.
  6. Dip each ball in the melted candy coating using 2 forks and give each a gentle shake to remove excess coating.
  7. Place on wax paper and let the coating harden at room temperature or stick them in the freezer to speed things up. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before serving.

Notes:

*A small cookie scooper will make 24 1-inch truffle-sized cake balls, and a medium one will make 12-2 ½ inch cake balls. It is quicker to make the balls larger, but it is cuter to make them smaller. It’s your choice, and may it be the toughest decision you’ll make all day.

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Roasted Salmon with Matzah Gremolata

Every Passover I try to come up with a new spin on traditional dishes. Here is one I came up with for a cooking class that I taught a few weeks ago. I wanted an entree that screamed Spring, but whispered Passover, and this was the perfect thing.

Roasted Salmon with Matzah Gremolata

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds salmon (Norwegian, Faroe Island, or Atlantic)*
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons mustard (Dijon, deli-style, or whole grain)**
  • ½ cup matzah meal or 2 finely crumbled matzahs
  • 3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons green onions or chives, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup olive oil, or more if necessary

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425℉***. Line a baking tray with foil. If the salmon doesn’t have skin, spray foil with cooking spray, but if it does, then don’t.
  2. Place salmon on baking tray and sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Add dollops of mustard and spread evenly over the salmon.
  4. On a cutting board, place the herbs, garlic and lemon zest and finely mince.
  5. In a bowl, mix the chopped herbs, garlic, lemon, zest, and matzah crumbs. Add the lemon juice olive oil and stir well. Spread the mixture on top of the salmon and bake for 18-20 minutes.

Notes:

*You can use chicken breast instead of salmon. Bake at 400℉ for 30 minutes.

**You can use Manischewitz Creamy Horseradish Sauce or combo of mustard and mayo.

***If using wild salmon, reduce cooking time.

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Passover Fruit Tart with Macaroon Crust

I love this dessert. This is the dessert that makes me love Passover desserts.

It is cold, and creamy, and fruity, and fresh.

And pretty too.

Did I mention that you can make it ahead? Well, you can. And it is a great ending to a big matzo-filled meal.

Passover Fruit Tart with Macaroon Crust

  • 1-10 ounce can of soft store-bought macaroons, almond or coconut flavor
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 CUP cantaloupe, diced–don’t add more or your filling will be too liquidy!
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-8 oz. bar of cream cheese, at room temp
  • strawberries and kiwis for topping
  1. For the crust, preheat oven to 350°F. Place macaroons in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they turn to crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse again until combined. Press the macaroon mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9″ tart pan. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until the edges of the crust are golden. Let cool on a rack while you make the filling.
  2. For the filling, put the cantaloupe and sugar into the food processor and puree. Add the cream cheese and process until ingredients are well blended. Pour into crust and spread evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight.
  3. For the topping, before serving, peel kiwis and thinly slice. Slice strawberries the long way (I use an egg slicer so they come out evenly sliced). Arrange the fruit on top of the tart in concentric circles. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Passover Fruit Tart with Macaroon Crust

Thai Tom Kha Soup

Quick Thai Tom Kha Soup

Tom Kha Soup

We live near an amazing Thai restaurant, and we go as often as we can (shout out to Addie’s Thai House). But sometimes that isn’t often enough! Since, realistically, we can’t eat there every night, we have to substitute. This quick and easy version of Tom Kha holds us over in between visits.

 

Sure, there are more authentic versions, but if your local grocery store doesn’t stock fresh lemongrass, galangal, or lime leaves (mine doesn’t), then this is as close as one can get without trekking out to the Asian market. And this is pretty darn close!

 

This recipe has all of the mouthwatering flavors of the hot and sour soup you know and love, a hint of creaminess to tame the heat, plus, it is healthy to boot! You can improvise by adding chicken, shrimp, or tofu, and even Jasmine rice or those clear delicate noodles, if you wish to bulk it up a bit. You can also add julienned carrots, bean sprouts, extra chili paste, or more exotic mushrooms. But I won’t. I like it just the way it is.

 

Quick Thai Tom Kha Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2-14 ounce cans coconut milk
  • 28 ounces chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoon lemongrass from a tube (sold in the produce section of the supermarket) 
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger (ditto)
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoon Thai chili paste (I used Huey Fong Chili Garlic Sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup very thinly sliced white mushrooms
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped, to sprinkle on each serving (if you don’t like cilantro, use basil)
  1. In a medium sized soup pot, add the coconut milk, broth, lemongrass, ginger, and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Lower the heat and add the chili paste, fish sauce, lime juice, and mushrooms. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Ladle into bowl and top each serving with cilantro. Enjoy!

 

White Chocolate Caramel Apples

Sweetheart Caramel Apples for Valentine’s Day

Sweetheart Envy Apple

Share these with someone you love!

Speaking of love, I LOVED making these on Great Day St. Louis on KMOV here in St. Louis:

Envy Apples and Great Day St. Louis

I can’t help it, but I get a little nostalgic–Great Day St. Louis was the site of my very first live television cooking demo back in 2008– I made my world famous Perfect Potato Pancakes for Hanukkah with Kent. The energy on the set is super fun, everyone who works there is upbeat, and the hosts are down-to-earth. There is also this casual feel that makes guests feel right at home. What a rush, both then and now! And they loved, loved, loved the apples. My host this time, Matt, got a little giddy over giving the apple a bath in the vanilla candy coating, and frankly, I did too. You can watch it here:

Making Sweetheart Caramel Envy Apples Live on Great Day St. Louis

I made a few extra Sweetheart Caramel Envy Apples to share with my sweethearts at home. Not only are these caramel apples are pretty, but by the time you are done dipping them in all of the yummy layers, they have grown big enough to share (although you could just eat one on your own). So like I said before, share these with someone you love, even if that someone is YOU!

Sweetheart Caramel Apples for Valentine’s Day

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Wash and dry the apples. Press a stick into the stem end, deep into each apple.
  2. Place the caramels and sweetened condensed milk into a bowl and microwave for 90 seconds. Stir well, and if necessary, microwave again in 30 second intervals until the mixture starts to melt. Stir until smooth. If it is hot and bubbling, let it cool a bit, but it make sure it is still warm and melted enough to be able to coat the apple.
  3. Dip the apple into the caramel until completely coated and let the excess drip off (you can decide if you want some of the apple to show near the end with the stick or if you want it completely covered). Place coated apples onto a plate lined with parchment paper and let harden.
  4. When the caramel coating has hardened, melt the candy coating in a bowl in the microwave according to package directions. Stir until smooth.
  5. Dip the caramel apples into the warm vanilla candy coating until coated and let the excess drip off (again, you can decide if you want some of the apple to show near the end with the stick or if you want it completely covered). Place the apple onto the parchment paper and immediate sprinkle the top generously with the sprinkles. Repeat with the other apples and allow to set. Once the chocolate has hardened, serve or wrap in cellophane to give as gifts.

Note: If you have any caramel mixture left over, add a little more sweetened condensed milk until you get the consistency you like, warm in microwave, and stir to use as a dip for sliced apples!

How I Hosted Thanksgiving Without Losing My Mind in 19 Steps

Cranberry Curd Tart from the New York Times Cooking Section

It’s over. But hindsight is 20/20. I’m posting this with the hopes that I can learn from a little self-reflection. More holidays right around the corner, after all.

Step One. Shop three times in three days and still forget 5 things. Buy half the amount of onions I meant to. Store is open on Thanksgiving, right? Oh, it’s not? Buy 4 pounds of cranberries instead of 2. They freeze, right?

Step Two. Make cranberry sauce. Put in fridge. Whew. My work is done and all of my labor and careful planning has already paid off.

Step Three. Have 2 kids make 2 pies, one from the back of the Libby’s pumpkin can, the other from the back of the Karo syrup bottle. I am officially not a snob and my kids are now very accomplished. Third kid is currently negotiating to help tomorrow instead of today. #studyingnotstudying

Step Four. Run down to basement with husband in tow. He’s there to carry assorted cooking gadgets–electric turkey roaster, bread machine, ice cream maker, instant pot, soup pot, tart pan, and serving platter–but he is also there because I shouldn’t have watched the first episode of The Haunting of Hill House and now I can never ever safely go to the basement alone again without thinking of “The Bent Neck Lady.” #shudder

Step Five. Make King Arthur Flour Cookbook recipe for stuffing bread. It calls for 13 ingredients and I planned on leaving out the sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and the bread dough enhancer. Realize that I am out of sage, cornmeal, potato starch. 7 out of 13 ingredients down. I momentarily wonder if it will taste as good? Is it even stuffing bread anymore??? Pause to have existential crisis. Decide to wing it and hope for the best since I refuse to buy a loaf of fancy bread to shred for stuffing. Spending pennies instead of dollars even if the stress costs me my health. 

Step Six. Spontaneously decide I will make the Cranberry Curd Tart from the New York Times Cooking website because I really am a snob. My supermarket doesn’t carry hazelnuts or rice flour. Improvise with almond flour from Costco leftover from Passover and some unbleached white flour, but decide to otherwise follow the directions meticulously.

Step Seven. Realize that I didn’t follow the directions at all and have made 2 substitutions and 1 big fat mistake. Proceed anyway. Doesn’t quite look like the picture, but I am sure it will taste good.

Step Eight. Open bottle of wine that was meant for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a white blend from Pop Crush and was on clearance at the grocery store for $5. The joke is on them because it’s so good they could have charged three times the price. It would be GREAT paired with food. Turkey especially. Oh. the joke’s on me. It’s gone and now I am too drunk to follow directions meticulously. I think I will call it a day.

Step Nine. Thanksgiving morning. Wake up and hit the ground running. Well, actually, sleep in, go to Jazzercise, do some online shopping, make some phone calls, and oh shoot, better start cooking. Set the table instead. See procrastination blog post

Step Ten. Cut stuffing bread into cubes and toast in oven. Saute leeks, celery, apples, thyme. Chop chestnuts and parsley. Stuffing looks picture perfect. Makes a lot but should have doubled this anyway–it’s everyone’s favorite! 

Step Eleven. Vaguely notice family as they lounge nearby while I wrestle 18 pound Trader Joe’s turkey out of wrapper and hoist into roaster. Watch family recoil in fear of salmonella. Husband stands on guard with bleach bottle in hand. Meanwhile, I dump random spices from the cabinet on top of the turkey, stuff a bunch of random things from the crisper to the cavity, drizzle with olive oil, and add onions and broth to the pan. Close lid. Pray. Should have had more of a plan, but turkey always tastes like turkey, no matter what fancy things I do to it. I stare into space and have flashbacks to Thanksgiving 2008 when I lovingly massaged the turkey with homemade herb butter and left the skin to crisp for 3 days in the fridge, all for nothing. It tasted good but just like every other turkey. Feeling better about my decision, or lack of decision.

Step Twelve. Ask husband and kids to help peel potatoes. Watch husband pretend sweet potatoes are manatees swimming off the coast in Florida and act out entire watery scenario. Wonder if he is losing his mind. Decide he is just very hungry and his blood sugar is low.

Step Thirteen. Sheesh, step thirteen?!?! What kind of crazy holiday is this? Thank god I only have to do this once a year. Pry sweet potato from husband’s hands for cooking. Does he look a little tearful? Did he just quietly say, “Goodnight sweet prince. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest?” Make mashed potatoes. Bake stuffing. Chop kale for our favorite salad.

Step Fourteen. Turkey is done. Husband lifts cooked turkey out of roaster with wooden spoons. The wooden spoons snap. We don’t speak for a full minute as we stare thoughtfully at the turkey. What have we done in the past…think…complete amnesia sets in as we both stare off into the distance trying to conjure memories of Thanksgivings past. None of our 23 Thanksgivings together are coming to mind. Two pairs of metal tongs do the trick. It looks lovely on the platter tented with foil. It is picture perfect, but no one will get to see it because carving is imminent as my husband clutches the carving knife.

Step Fifteen. Make gravy. THIS IS THE MOST STRESSFUL PART. Pouring a giant vat of hot greasy liquid into 4 cup fat separator as wide-eyed starving children look on is a little unnerving. Separator does its magic. Kids don’t care about watching turkey being carved, but they appear mesmerized by the fat separating from the stock, the way one might stare at a lava lamp. I make a swimming pool’s worth of gravy. It is perfect and no seasoning is necessary.

Step Sixteen. Kids and husband carry food for 50 people into dining room set for 5. I’m in the bedroom frantically printing out Thanksgiving trivia and games as I just thought of it right now.

Step Seventeen. We eat. We play. It’s perfect. All of the stress and hard work was worth it.

Step Eighteen. Kids clear table. Kids do dishes. So many dishes. Kids do dishes on repeat for two days. Best kids ever. I am truly thankful all around.

Step Nineteen. We eat Thanksgiving dinner three times a day for three days. When it is gone, we are both relieved and sad.

Step Nineteen. Start planning for Chanukah. I think I’ll get a head start. I learned a lot from Thanksgiving this time. 🙂

 

 

Amazon Affiliate Links:

King Arthur Flour Cookbook

Instant Pot  Oster Turkey Roaster

Apple Pumpkin Pie and Mulled Cider Cocktail

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Envy Apple​ ​Pumpkin​ ​Pie

For the pie filling:

  • 15 oz pumpkin puree
  • 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs yolks + 1 whole egg
  • small pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 frozen pie crust

For the apple topping:

  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 2 apples, thinly sliced on a mandolin

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425℉.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together all ingredients for pie filling until well combined.
  3. Place the frozen pie crust on a baking sheet and then fill the crust with the pumpkin pie filling.
  4. Combine the melted butter, cinnamon, and sugar. VERY gently toss the apple slices in the butter mixture to coat.
  5. Begin with the larger slices and shingle in a circle just inside the crust. Repeat with smaller slices until they come together in the middle.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven to 350℉ and cook for 40-50 minutes more until set. Allow to cool completely. Slice and serve!

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Mulled Envy Apple Cider and Bourbon Cocktail

Ingredients:

  • Bourbon, 1 shot or 1 ½ ounces per serving
  • Spiced Rum, 1 shot or 1 ½ ounces per serving
  • 1 thinly sliced Envy apple
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Apple Cider, as little or as much as you want to serve, approx. 1 cup per serving
  • Rosemary, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Combine the sliced apple, star anise and cinnamon sticks to the apple cider and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Add shot of bourbon and spiced rum to each glass.
  3. Top with the warm apple cider mixture and a sprig of rosemary.

 

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1. Quick Pickled Apples, 2. Quinoa Salad with Hazelnuts, Apples, & Dried Cranberries, 3. Butternut Squash, Brussel Sprout, Apple, & Cranberry Stuffing, and 4. Apple Rye Punch

 

You probably think of apples as harbingers of autumn. But when you think about it, they are there in the grocery store all year round. Loyal friends that they are, they wait in heaps and piles, queued to go home with you anytime. Sweet!

 

Envy Apple Display

 

Speaking of sweet, this weekend I attended a cooking class featuring Envy apples taught by Chef Kim at the Schnucks Cooking School in Des Peres. What fun!

 

As each person entered the room they were offered an apple-themed cocktail–a glass of Apple Rye Punch. If that doesn’t set the tone for a good time, I don’t know what does. 

Envy Beverage

Apple Rye Punch

I was lucky enough to be able to join a group of super fun ladies who were longtime friends, good cooks, and quite photogenic to boot. Plus, they did most of the work while I took pictures.

 

Envy Cooks

 

Chef Kim started class by teaching us what makes Envy apples so special. It turns out that the more flecks you see on the outside, the sweeter they will be on the inside. The flecks are called lenticels and they help the fruit “breathe.” Carbon dioxide goes in and oxygen goes out. This increases the production of the enzyme that slows browning, which means that you can cut them ahead of time, and their flesh will retain its white color. This is great news for putting sliced apples in lunches, on cheese platters, and in salads.

 

Raw, they are crisp and juicy, but cooked, they are delicious as well. And cook them we did. You won’t believe this, but the first thing we did was pickle them! I have to admit, I had my doubts. My first thought was, Why would anyone do that to an already perfect apple? But I stand corrected. The first bite of the Quick Pickle Apples humbled me to my core.

 

Quick Pickled Apples

 

The apples were still sweet and crisp but mixed with exotic flavors, and if you can believe this… juicier! A bite of a pickled apple with a bite of cheddar cheese almost brought me to my knees. I could have eaten that and that alone for the entire night and gone home happy.

 

Envy Apple and Cheese

 

But wait, there’s more…

 

The class made a Quinoa Salad with Hazelnuts, Apples, & Dried Cranberries that had such fantastic flavors. The fresh parsley, the green onions, and the crisp apples were the perfect foil for the main course.

 

Envy Cutting Board

 

A thick pork chop stuffed with Butternut Squash, Brussel Sprouts, Apples, and Cranberry Stuffing. The chop was just a vessel for what lie within. I would make this stuffing again, perhaps serving it stuffed into or even alongside chicken or turkey. Cornbread cubes, brussel sprouts, hunks of apple, and fresh sage conjured up flavors of Thanksgiving.

 

Envy Cooked Chop

 

And of course there was pie. Truly Scrumptious Apple Pie. No, really, that was its name.  The crust, made from scratch, draped over a perfect mixture of apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, and fresh squeezed lemon juice, and dotted with butter. The pie was then brushed with cream, sprinkled with sugar, and baked to browned perfection.

 

Everyone left happy with an Envy apple apron, fantastic recipes, a full tummy, and new friends. You can’t get that just anywhere, but you can get Envy apples at your local grocery store. They are just waiting for you to bring them home, and that is pretty sweet!

 

Envy Arial Plate

Perfect plating!

 

Quick Pickled Apples

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white or champagne vinegar
  • ½ cup Grade B maple syrup
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pickling spice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large Envy apples
  • 2 star anise pods
  1. Combine water, vinegar, maple syrup, pickling spice, and salt in a saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, wash and core your apples (no need to peel). Cut apples in half from top to bottom, then cut each half into ⅛ inch slices.
  4. Put the apples slices into a glass bowl and add the star anise. Through a strainer, pour the brine over the apples and star anise. Cover and allow to come to room temp.
  5. Store them in the fridge in a glass jar with just enough of the the brine to cover the apple slices. They will keep for a week.

Quinoa Salad with Hazelnuts, Apples, & Dried Cranberries

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup hazelnuts
  • 1 bunch or 5-6 green onions, chopped
  • ½ cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 Envy apple, cored and diced
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Toast hazelnuts: preheat oven to 350℉ and spread the nuts out on a baking sheet. Bake for 7-10 minutes and let cool completely. You should hear the skins crackle while cooling. When cool, remove the skins and chop the nuts.
  2. Meanwhile, put the water for the quinoa up to boil. Rinse the quinoa well, and add it to the boiling water with a pinch of salt. Cook on medium-low for 15 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and let cool in fridge.
  3. Heat a skillet with the olive oil, and saute the onion and celery until soft. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.
  4. When cool, add the parsley, cranberries, green onion, apple, quinoa, and hazelnuts.
  5. Drizzle with additional olive oil and lemon juice if desired, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Mix well and allow the flavors to blend for 20 minutes before serving.

Butternut Squash, Brussel Sprouts, Apples, and Cranberry Stuffing

  • 1 pound butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 pound brussel sprouts, julienned
  • 1 Envy apple, diced
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 10 slices of bread (cornbread, sourdough, or whole grain), toasted and cubed
  • 1 ½ cups stock
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage, chopped
  • ⅓ cup dried cranberries
  • ⅓ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400℉. Toss the squash, brussel sprouts, apples, onions, celery, shallots, and 2 tablespoons of the oil together. Season very well with salt and pepper and roast until the veggies are tender and a bit singed. Remove from oven and let cool. You can serve it as is or you can now use it for stuffing.
  2. Reduce oven temp to 375℉. Cut a pocket in your chops and season with salt and pepper. On a baking sheet, lay out the chops, put stuffing into the pocket, and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Truly Scrumptious Apple Pie

For crust:

  • 5 cups flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 11 tablespoons very cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 6 ounces very cold shortening, cut into chunks
  • ½ cup ice water
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, put flour and salt and blend on low speed. Add butter and mix until flour looks crumbly. Add chunks of shortening and continue to mix. When clumps begin to form and the dough holds together when you press some between your fingers, slowly pour in the water and mix just until incorporated. Divide into two pieces of dough.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll the first piece of dough into an 11 inch circle. Put into a 9 inch pie plate, letting it hang over the edge of the dish. Roll the second piece of dough into a 10 inch circle and set aside.

For the pie filling:

  • 2 Envy apples, peeled, cored, sliced thin
  • 2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, sliced thin
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced thin
  • ¼ flour
  • ¾ sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on crust if desired
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons cream or milk
  1. Preheat oven to 425℉. Mix the apples, flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and lemon juice in a large bowl.
  2. Pour into the prepared pie crust and dot with the butter.
  3. Cover with the top crust and tuck the overhang under the bottom crust. Flute edges with fingers or a fork and vent the top.
  4. Brush the top with the cream or milk and sprinkle with extra sugar.
  5. Place pie on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 40-50 minutes until the juices bubble through the vent. If the edges are browning too quickly cover them by wrapping two strips of foil around them loosely. Let cool on a rack for half an hour before cutting.

Apple Rye Punch

  • 6 cups apple cider
  • 750 ml rye or whiskey
  • 25 dashes bitters
  • 20 ounces hard cider
  • 6 cups ice
  • Envy apple slices for garnish
  1. In a pitcher, mix together cider, rye or whiskey, bitters. Right before serving add hard cider and ice. Garnish with Envy apple slices and serve.

Envy Pouring Apple Filling

 

Golden Saffron Chicken with Onions

Cooking Up a New Plan

(Recipe and more photos for Saffron Chicken follow!)

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In cinematic fashion, I am running down a corridor at a downtown convention center to get to my first session of the conference. It feels more like an airplane hangar, and I am overwhelmed with making my connection on time. Although I do not know it then, I am also taxiing down the corridor of my life, which is about to take an unexpected detour.

 

Lois Lowry is supposed to speak, and I will not miss it for all the free books in the world. I promised my students I will report back; we have just finished reading two of her novels. I slip into a seat at the front of the room, the podium an arm’s length away–I’m all too eager for her wisdom.

 

Then I hear the announcement: Lois Lowry has fallen and she can’t get up, but she will be okay. Instead, we will hear from Laurie Halse Anderson. I’m crestfallen, but only momentarily. Laurie glides onto the stage in a flowery dress, her strong arms grasp the microphone, and the white streak in her hair falls over her eyes. She begins to speak, her words the song that will become my soundtrack, the motif that will play in the background of my scenes for the next few weeks. I am hovering above the room watching a movie of my life.

 

She asks the audience, a small army of English teachers, “How many of you are working on a book?” Everyone raises their hand. Everyone.

 

I am with my people, I think, I am one of them. In my mind, I freeze the frame of this moment.

 

Then, she asks: “How many of you wish you had time to finish that book?” All hands go up again, including my own.

 

I no longer want to be one of them. I vow to make more time to write.

 

She compliments teachers. She tells us that teachers birth readers and writers. That we will never know the total effect we have had on our students because years go by, and the work we have done is cumulative.

 

I picture us, no longer a small army of teachers, now marching in our red robes and bonnets to perform our duties, to populate the world with readers and writers, being farmed out like handmaids to make other people’s dreams come true.

 

She also tells us that books save lives. I’m saving lives! I imagine myself kneeling with defibrillator paddles in hand, positioned over a student’s heart, yelling: CLEAR! Except when I look down, they’re not paddles, they are books, and when I look closer, the face is my own: the person I am reviving is me. The soundtrack skids to halt as the needle scratches the record.

 

The next three days of the conference are tinged with sadness. The vibrant colors of the film take on a sepia tone, and my life plans seem out of date. Sadness turns to anger: Why can’t I make more time to write? Anger turns to motivation: I will make more time to write!

 

And I do. I write and write and write.

 

For me, writing and cooking are connected. Both are process oriented and take patience if one wants to improve. Aside from this food blog, the characters in my stories often have a scene or two where they, warrior-like, wield Santoku knives when they feel powerless, and disrobe beets of their dingy exterior to reveal a jewel-like interior.

 

I’ve been writing a lot. I’ve been cooking a lot. And saving up recipes to share with you.

 

Here is one of my new favorites. This makes a great dinner for company, and it is just as good for a weeknight meal. Did I mention you can prep it ahead? Well, you can. And that makes all the difference when you need time to pursue other passions. You can let it marinate in the fridge for maximum flavor for a day or two. Or you can cook it right away.

 

Saffron Chicken with Onions

(serves 4-6)

  • 2 to 2 ½  pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (I use this brand and it often goes on sale. It comes in 20 ounce packages and I use two: Just BARE Chicken.)
  • 1 or 2 sweet Vidalia onions, thinly sliced (Use 2 if you love onions and 1 if you only like them. You can use any kind of onion you have on hand.)
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (It doesn’t make it spicy, just gives it flavor, but you can omit it if you want. Or double it if you want a little kick.)
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (It seems like a lot, but I promise it is just right. It has a lot of work to do.)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon  saffron (leave it fluffy and don’t pack it into the spoon), or one big pinch if you find it hard to measure (I get mine at Trader Joe’s)
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (One or two juicy lemons should do it)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  1. Combine all ingredients on a large baking sheet and arrange in a single layer with onions around and on top of the chicken. (If you are making it ahead, just cover it with foil. Or you can marinate it in a large Ziploc bag and just dump it out onto the baking sheet and arrange it in a single layer when you are ready to cook it).
  2. Bake at 400℉ for 35 to 40 minutes until the edges of onions and chicken just begin to brown. Serve over rice.*You can halve this recipe. You can also double or triple it.

    ** You can use boneless skinless chicken breast, if you prefer. But reduce the cooking time to 30-35 minutes.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

 

Grilled Flatbread with Goat Cheese, Apples, Pecans, and Honey

IMG_1296

Although I refrained from channeling my inner Matt Damon from Good Will Hunting on live TV, I did briefly consider slipping his famous line in, when, last week, I did TWO cooking segments on the local news for Envy Apples. Afterward, I did get asked, How do you like them apples? quite a few times from like-minded people. Well, I liked them very much! To find out why, watch these:

http://fox2now.com/2018/03/02/envy-apples-are-perfect-for-baking-cooking-and-snacking/

http://kplr11.com/2018/03/02/envy-apples-are-perfect-for-baking-cooking-and-snacking/

I made Grilled Flatbread with Herbed Goat Cheese, Honey, Pecans, and Mixed Greens, and then Sweet Crepes with Shaved Apples on the 11AM news. And on the 12 0’clock news, I made Grilled Cheese with Bacon and Apples and Blooming Apples for dessert.

It has been a long time, four years, since I appeared on live television, but as soon as I arrived at the studio I felt at home. I am in front of people doing spontaneous things every day, and some are pretty tough crowds at that (I teach middle school so will say no more). Teaching literature instead of cooking requires fewer trips to the grocery store and way less clean up, although it depends on the day.

With both, I love the rush. Sharing things I am most passionate about gives me a high. So last week, in the morning, I cooked beautiful food with a newscaster, and in the afternoon, discussed Fahrenheit 451 with some of my favorite teenagers. Some days life doesn’t get any better. I felt happy through and through.

One inspires the other. Planning my lesson for school, I could count on Ray Bradbury to paint the perfect picture, a “bloom of fire, a single wondrous blossom,” when Guy Montag uses his flamethrower to destroy the mechanical hound. Great idea–Blooming Apples for the 12 o’clock news it is! Three of the four recipes are based on recipes found on the website for Envy, and I have included links below. The fourth follows, and it is my own.

Try Envy and see for yourself. And let me know, how do you like them apples?

IMG_1295

Grilled Flatbread with Goat Cheese, Apples, Pecans, and Honey

  • 1 flatbread, pita, or naan
  • 2-4 ounces herbed goat cheese
  • 1 Envy apple
  • 1-2 tablespoon chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon honey, for drizzling
  • ¼ cup mixed field greens

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Lay flatbread across the grates of the grill pan. Warm the flatbread for a minute or two, turn with tongs, and warm other side.

Meanwhile, thinly slice Envy apples.

In a small bowl stir goat cheese to soften until creamy.

Spread each flatbread with the goat cheese.

Top with apple slices, pecans, honey, and scatter the greens. Serve immediately.

I also made: https://envyapples.com/en/enjoying-envy/grilled-cheese-apple-and-bacon

And this, without the caramel because sometimes enough is enough: https://envyapples.com/en/enjoying-envy/bloomin-envy

And also this, but with a filling of 4 ounces cream cheese, ¼ brown sugar, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract: https://envyapples.com/en/enjoying-envy/sweet-crepe-shaved-envy%E2%84%A2-apples-chocolate-ganache

IMG_1294

Procrastination Soup aka Instant Pot Chicken Soup

It starts with a montage:

A blurry flurry of papers.

The camera pans out.

A writer is crouched over the pile, frantically scrawling away.

The camera zooms in.

A pencil scratches the surface of the paper, the sound like skates cutting into clean ice.

A fist crumples a ball of paper and drops it down off of the side of the bed.

The pile is growing; one ball bounces off of another.

Classical music plays in the background. Or maybe classic rock. Or even something bluesy, ‘cause writers often have the blues. In fact, they regularly mope around, brooding as a form of procrastination.

The camera pulls back.

They suffer publicly. Their friends wonder why they don’t just get a real job. They grow moodier. They start fights with loved ones to avoid fulfilling their destiny, whatever that means. They must believe their chosen line of work is some sort of unavoidable fate, however unpleasant, and that they are the chosen one.

Only they can do this task: drop the ring into the fiery pits of Mordor, conquer Voldemort, destroy Darth Vader, enter the Upside Down and blow the smoke monster to smithereens using nothing but their mind.

Even when they succeed, trauma will ensue. It is inevitable. They will never fully recover. They will never be the same. While childhood friends continue life as they knew it, they, the chosen one, will never be the same. Everything will have a slightly more sinister twist. Forever.

The calendar pages flutter as the deadline approaches. The clock ticks noisily on the wall. Blood rushes to their head and a heartbeat is ominously heard loudly in their ears. There is no body under the floorboards, so it must be stress.

Suddenly, cleaning the toilet seems very appealing.

Rituals form. Every day, coffee will be made at this time and this way. Two sugars, two splashes of creamer, filled to the little crack near the top of the rim. Same mug. Every day. The work will begin when the coffee cup is empty.

When the bottom of the mug is revealed, two words are visible: Start now. This was cleverly painted on the bottom of the mug by the writer at a paint-your-own-pottery store. So far, it is all the writer has written, which doesn’t bode well for destiny.

As the two words appear, the music stops short, cut off uncomfortably in the middle of a refrain. Unresolved dissonance hangs in the air. It is as if oxygen has been cut off. All blood flow to the brain is gone. Nothing is left except despair echoing in the pit of the stomach.

The writer looks at the pile of crumpled papers and says: Fuck it. And also: Time to begin.

Except they are launched into a daydream.

It is more like a grand mal seizure.

They have disappeared from the earth, even as their body sits on the edge of the bed, laptop in hand.

They stare straight ahead, the eyes two pits of sadness as they see nothing but terror ahead. They are a prophet. An oracle. They can see the future, and they are afraid.

They clutch the manuscript tightly in their hands. They run for the subway entrance. They barrel down the stairs, pushing past crowds of people who are all wearing gray suits, and dash toward the open train doors. The doors begin to shut in slow motion. The manuscript that is clutched by hands is now also crushed by hands as a leap of faith is taken.

They make it through the jawlike doors in the nick of time, Indiana Jones style, reaching out at the last minute for the hat.

 

Procrastination Soup

Place the following ingredients into the Instant Pot: a small chicken, a few peeled and sliced carrots, a chopped onion, a bay leaf, a tablespoon of kosher salt, and whatever else you’d like to add to your soup. Fill to the max fill line with water.

Set Instant Pot to the soup setting on high pressure for 2 hours. Release pressure manually, although if you don’t, that is fine too.

When done, strain, add the carrots and some of the chicken, shredded, back into the soup. Make some noodles. Eat.

Okay, now. Enough procrastinating. Get back to work.

Julia Child’s Potato Leek Soup

Julia Child–I had the thrill of meeting her once. I walked beside her down a long corridor when I at worked at Macy’s Herald Square back in the early 90’s. Julia was delightful, even for those few moments. She waved and chortled her hellos to everyone she passed. She was tall and happy.

Now, when I make this soup, I think of those few moments when I was in the presence of  greatness. Aside from her height, her happiness was the most noticeable thing about her. When I make this soup, I try to channel my inner joy, in honor of Julia of course.

The thing that I like best about it is that it is simple. This is not what people think of when they think of Julia Child or of French cooking.

There are only 5 ingredients. Six if you count the garnish.

Aside from a little bit of chopping and peeling, there is minimal work to do here. This soup, Julia’s Potage Parmentier, just simmers away for under an hour, then you take an immersion blender to it, and you are just about done. It can be devoured hot, or you can serve it cold, and then you have vichyssoise.

So channel your inner Julia and serve some happiness tonight.

Julia's Potato Leek Soup

Julia’s Potato Leek Soup

Julia Child’s Potato Leek Soup or Potage Parmentier

  • 4 to 5 cups of peeled and sliced potatoes
  • 3 to 4 cups of washed and sliced leeks
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • snipped chives for garnish

1. Place the potatoes, leeks, water, and salt into a soup pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 45 minutes.

2. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth.

3. Add cream and a little more salt, to taste.

4. Serve hot or cold with snipped chives to garnish and give a pop of flavor.

leeks

leeks

and potatoes

and potatoes

add water and salt

add water and salt

simmer, puree, add cream, and voila!

simmer, puree, add cream, and voila!

Julia's Potato Leek Soup

Julia’s Potato Leek Soup

Red Curry Cravings

I really love Thai curry.

Luckily, we have three great Thai restaurants within minutes from our house and we go as often as we can. But unfortunately we can’t spend every night in a restaurant. There are times when one has to take matters into their own hands and make Thai curry at home.

On a busy night it comes together quickly. Shortcuts are okay with me and my family agrees.

I start with the rice. My foolproof way of making rice is this: I take 2 cups of Jasmine rice, 3 cups water, and two teaspoons kosher salt and place them in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave it for 15 minutes with the cover off and 5 more minutes with the cover on. Out of sight and out of mind while I focus on the curry.

15 minutes like this

15 minutes like this

5 minutes like this

5 minutes like this

holes

holes

ready and waiting

ready and waiting

fluff

fluff before serving

Next comes the curry. This is a little different then restaurant curry but it is how we do it at home. And we are out to make ourselves happy after all.

First, saute a cup of chopped onions.

smile

smile

Add 1 tablespoon ginger paste and 1 teaspoon chopped garlic.

add ginger and garlic

add ginger and garlic

Add 2 tablespoons of red curry paste.

add curry paste

add curry paste

Add 2 tablespoons of fish sauce and 2 to 3 tablespoons of  brown sugar.

brown sugar and fish sauce

brown sugar and fish sauce

Add  a can of coconut milk.

add coconut milk

add coconut milk

This time I added a pound of pre-cooked shrimp and about 12 ounces of pre-cooked green beans. But you can add anything you like… chicken, tofu, beef, peppers, broccoli, etc.

add green beans and shrimp

add green beans and shrimp

Simmer for about 10 minutes.

simmer

simmer

Serve with the rice.

yum!

yum!

Craving satisfied!

Chocolate Chip Hamantaschen Dough with Chocolate Truffle Filling

Have you tried to use chocolate chips to fill hamantaschen? Of course you have! And did it turn into a chalky dry disappointing mess? Of course it did! And since any kind of negative feelings on Purim are just plain and simple against the rules, I am here to help.

What you want to do is think outside the box, or bag, in this case, and add the chocolate chips to the dough. Then, not only do you get speckled, freckled happiness, but these pied beauties will bring joy to any chocolate lover you choose to bestow them upon.

side view

freckled speckled hapiness

You will need to finely chop the chocolate and add some fresh orange zest as a nod to the land of Israel and Golda Meir’s famous chocolate chip cookie recipe. But the rest is pretty straightforward and mostly foolproof. The wow factor here is the orange zest so be sure not to skip it.

finely chopped

finely chopped chocolate

You can make the dough and truffle filling up to 3 days ahead and then assemble when you are ready.

Chocolate Chip Hamantaschen Dough

  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 sticks butter at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest from one large orange
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, finely chopped
  1. Put the sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and whip for 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides as needed.
  2. Add the vanilla extract and orange zest and stir.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring after each.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Add flour mixture to the batter and mix well.
  6. Add the finely chopped chocolate chips and mix until well combined.
sugar

sugar

and butter

and butter

mix it up

mix it up

for 3 minutes

for 3 minutes

until fluffy

until fluffy

whisk together dry ingredients

whisk together dry ingredients

add dry to wet

add dry to wet

mix

mix

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup chocolate chips

finely chopped

finely chopped

add to batter and mix

add to batter and mix

chocolate chip dough

chocolate chip dough

Truffle Filling

  • 8 ounces of chocolate
  • 6 ounces of heavy cream
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  1. Put the chocolate chips, heavy cream, and pinch of salt into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for one minute and stir. Then heat in 20 second increments and stir until melted and smooth.
  2. Place in fridge until firm.

To assemble:

  1. Rip off a hunk of dough and form into a ball. Roll out with a rolling pin until about ¼ of an inch thick. Cut out a circle using a 3” cookie cutter or cup. Repeat.
  2. Put a dollop of the truffle filling in the center of each round (you can use Nutella if you don’t want to make the filling).
  3. Lift sides of dough toward center to form a triangle and pinch seams together to seal. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  4. Bake at 350° F for 12 minutes. Let cool before eating to give the filling a chance to firm up.
grab a handful and make a ball

grab a handful and make a ball

roll it out

roll it out

cut

cut

fill

fill

fold

fold

like this

like this

and this

and this

perfection

perfection