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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

img_1872

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.

img_1869

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

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

Pizza Hamantaschen

Folks are doing amazing things with hamantaschen nowadays and are creative as can be. Lately I’ve seen rainbow hamantaschen as well as challah hamantaschen and even cupcake hamantaschen, which are all in good fun. If you are looking for a traditional hamantaschen recipe (this one has a feminist spin), then there is no shortage of those as well.

But while you are branching out, why not make pizza hamantaschen, since the only thing that kids like as much as cookies is pizza? And you want to make them happy. After all, it’s Purim!

Pizza Hamantaschen--Be Happy!

Pizza Hamantaschen–Be Happy!

Pizza Hamantaschen  (Pictures follow)

  • ·         1 package biscuit dough, such as Pillsbury or Trader Joe’s,  preferably one that has flaky layers
  • ·         1-14 ounce can pizza sauce (you will use about 6 ounces)
  • ·         Shredded mozzarella cheese (about a cup)

 

1.       Preheat oven to 350° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.      Open biscuit package and separate the dough into 8 rounds.

3.      Peel each biscuit in half horizontally so you have 2 rounds of dough.

4.      Lay them out on a work surface, and top with a dollop of pizza sauce. Do not spread the sauce, and be careful not to put too much or you won’t be able to seal your hamantaschen.

5.      Top with a pinch of cheese.

6.      Fold into the traditional hamantaschen shape by folding up one side and pinching the dough closed, and then lifting up the other side and pinching the other two corners closed. You should be able to see a little bit of the filling peeking through.

7.      Place on the baking sheet and cook for about 9 minutes until the edges of the dough are golden brown and the pizza hamantaschen is puffed. Eat while hot, and don’t forget to be happy!

Biscuit dough

Biscuit dough

Peel apart horizontally

Peel apart horizontally

Lay flat on work surface

Lay flat on work surface

Put a dollop of sauce on each

Put a dollop of sauce on each

Top with a sprinkle of cheese

Top with a sprinkle of cheese

Fold one side up and pinch to seal

Fold one side up and pinch to seal

It will look like this

It will look like this

Then do the second side

Then do the second side

And the third side

And the third side

Voila

Voila

Repeat

Repeat

Ready to bake

Ready to bake

Bake at 350 F for about 9 minutes or until golden

Bake at 350 F for about 9 minutes or until golden

Pizza Hamantashen 16 Pizza Hamantashen 17 Pizza Hamantashen 18

Pizza Hamantaschen--Be Happy!

Pizza Hamantaschen–Be Happy!

Heart-Shaped Meatloaf

The Things We Do For Love: A Valentine’s Day Blog Post

It started back in 1995 when I first met Jesse—being in love suddenly made me want to cook. Although I loved to cook, there was no real point to it since I lived in NYC and considered all of the restaurants in town my own personal pantry. Instead of opening the door to the fridge, I would open the front door to my apartment, and there were a multitude of cheap great eats to choose from.

But on Valentine’s Day 1996 something in my universe shifted. I had an idea, and as goofy as I knew it was, I knew I had to do it. I made my super- cool, crazy-handsome, rocker husband-to-be a heart shaped meatloaf.

Heart Shaped Meatloaf Circa 1996

If this isn’t love, what is?

When I pulled it from the oven I channeled my best June Cleaver, my inner Marion Cunningham, and even my own wonderful mom. Meatloaf to me means more than just that you love someone, it means that you are a family.

Some other V-Day fun:

Salad with Red Pepper Hearts

Salad with Red Pepper Hearts

Heart Shaped Corn Bread Muffins

Heart Shaped Corn Bread Muffins

Guess what these are? Beets cut into hearts...wait for it...Heart Beets

Beets cut into hearts…wait for it…Heart Beets

Well, all these year later, I will be keeping with the tradition that I started way back when, and will make my 19th heart shaped meatloaf for my love. But now I must make it bigger because there are five of us. You know the childhood taunt, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.” Well three babies and 19 Valentine’s Days later, we look forward to it as our family V-Day tradition!

Valentine’s Day Meatloaf

  • 2 pounds ground meat (I use half ground chicken and half ground beef, 85/15)
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup dry oatmeal, ground in a food processor
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • For the glaze mix together: ¼ cup ketchup, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard and set aside.
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the dry mustard powder and the water. Add the egg and stir again. Add all of the remaining ingredients: ground meat, ground oats, garlic, ketchup, salt, and thyme and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.
  3. Transfer the meat mixture onto the prepared baking pan and using your hands, shape into a big, wide heart, smoothing the top.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, top with the glaze, and return to the oven and bake for another 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
  5. Serve to someone, or a few someones, that you love.
Smile

Smile

Mexican Chocolate Sauce

It is Cinco de Mayo weekend and time for a fiesta!  For me, Cinco started last week when I was on two morning news shows promoting Mrs. Wages salsa, guacamole, and queso dip. What fun!

See the clips here:

This one is my favorite! Tim Ezell and April were a hoot!

http://fox2now.com/2013/05/02/easy-salsa-guacamole/

Elliot politely refused my sombrero but it didn’t stop me from having a blast!

http://fox2now.com/2013/05/03/three-amigos-of-cinco-de-mayo-snacks/

For my own Cinco celebration at home with friends, I wanted to do something special after the tortilla chip crumbs were brushed away—so, for dessert, I served  Ibarra Mexican Chocolate Sauce over vanilla bean ice cream!

Ibarraaaaaah!

Ibarraaaaaah!

Ten years ago I went with my husband to a conference in San Diego. We stayed at a hotel that overlooked the bay and had a view of Coronado Island.

At the time, my boys were little, 2 and 5, and my girl was not yet on the horizon. It was the first time I was getting on a plane to go somewhere without my kids. It was just two years after 9/11 and getting on a plane was still a little anxiety provoking, to say the least.

The third Lord of the Rings movie had just come out in theaters, and I was almost done reading Return of the King, rushing to finish before seeing it in the theater, which we planned to do on New Year’s Eve on our trip.

We lived in a small town at the time, Winona, Minnesota, and the New Yorker in me was desperate to go to a city, any city, and eat great food and be around hoards of people. So off we went.

It was an icy December, and getting on a tiny propeller plane from La Crosse, Wisconsin, to the Twin Cities was no comfort as it shook and shivered to get off of the ground. I watched the blinding whiteness of snowy Minnesota disappear as we headed to what I hoped was a lush, green California.

When we got to San Diego we were told they were having the coldest winter in recent history. I pulled my coat tightly around me and braced myself for the chilly California weather and an exciting week without my two loves I had left far behind at home.

Return of the King weighed heavily on my mind—I fretted as I read.  Frodo had risked everything to travel far and away and save Middle Earth. Surely I could make it through the week without going to pieces over missing my boys. Frodo and I, we were in this together.

On December 31 we took the bright red trolley to Old Town. A couple of stops further and we would have been in Tijuana. I wouldn’t have dared to travel over any borders with my kids so far behind, so Old Town was as far as we went.

We spent a very enjoyable day browsing ceramic lizards and other hand painted pottery in the Mexican art galleries. We ate delicious Mexican food and drank wide and wobbly glassfulls of margaritas rimmed in salt with clinking cubes of ice. We sat outside under a chilly sky with brightly colored restaurant décor and lively music playing all around us.

That night we would ring in the New Year by sitting through a late showing of Return of the King, too excited to do anything else. But first we would shop at a the Mexican stores—our Minnesota house was too tiny for more art, but the grocery store was pure delight. One of the things I purchased that day was a large box of Ibarra chocolate with plans to make hot cocoa as soon as we returned home from our trip. It was something I could share with my boys from our trip that would warm us up together from the harsh Minnesota cold.

Ibarra

Ibarra

I kept the bag of Ibarra on my lap during the movie that night, and clutched it tightly as I watched Frodo destroy the ring and restore balance to his world. We would go home the next day.

Home was filled with hugs and kisses and joy and cups of hot Mexican cocoa.

All of these years later I rediscovered the yellow box of Ibarra, 5 more paper-wrapped discs waiting patiently to be transformed into more cocoa. But instead I made something much, much better: Mexican Chocolate Sauce.

Ibarra disc

Ibarra disc

On our table I put out the sombreros from my TV cooking demo from earlier in the day. I hung the paper Mexican flags from our window and made bowls of queso, salsa, and guacamole. We had our Cinco de Mayo dinner with friends, and for dessert, little white bowls of vanilla ice cream topped with warm Ibarra chocolate sauce: the flavor rich and spicy; the texture enhanced by the slight sugary crunch and the subtle hint of cinnamon; the chocolate flavor deepened by a splash of Kahlua and silky cream.

Ooooo

Ooooo

We were transported to magical places…

Ibarra Mexican Chocolate Sauce

  • 5 large disks or a scant pound of Ibarra chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons Kahlua
  1. Place the chocolate and the cream in a microwave safe glass bowl. Microwave it for 1 minute, stir, and microwave it for another minute. Continue to heat in 20 second increments, stirring each time until the cream is very warm and the chocolate begins to melt. Let stand for a few minutes and stir until smooth.
  2. Let cool to room temp and serve over vanilla ice cream.
Yum!

Yum!

Almond Macaroon Cookies, Two Ways

Chocolate Almond Macaroon Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup ground almonds (I use Trader Joe’s Almond Meal but you can grind your own using blanched almonds)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 egg whites

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325° F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Mix together the almonds and the sugar, then mix in the egg whites.  Next, gradually add the cooled chocolate, stirring until mixture is smooth.
  3. Make twelve 1-inch balls of batter and place them on the baking sheet. Or you can use a medium cookie scoop and drop them onto the baking sheet if you prefer.  Flatten them slightly, so they have a smooth round shape.
  4. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Remove macaroons from the oven and cool on a rack. When completely cool gently peel them from the parchment paper and enjoy!

Simple Almond Macaroon Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups ground almonds (Trader Joe’s Almond Meal works great or you can grind your own using blanched almonds)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 egg whites

Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 425°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
    2. Mix the almonds with the sugar and extract.
    3. Add the egg white and and work the mixture very well holds together in a stiff paste.
    4. Make twelve 1 1/2-inch balls of dough and flatten them slightly, or you can use a medium cookie scoop and drop the batter onto the parchment paper.
    5. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until very lightly colored.  They will be soft, but they will harden as they cool.  Leave on tray until firm before removing from parchment paper.

 

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Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart with Almond Macaroon Crust

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart with Almond Macaroon Crust

For the crust:

  • 2 cups almond meal ( I get it at Trader Joe’s but you can grind your own)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg white

For the caramel:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For the chocolate:

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Flaky sea salt for sprinkling on top 

To make the crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Generously butter a 9-inch tart pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the almond meal, sugar, vanilla, and egg white.
  3. Spoon it into the prepared pan and gently press it into the bottom and up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool on a rack. While crust is cooling, make the caramel.

To make the caramel:

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the sugar on medium-high heat. Stir constantly with a heat-proof rubber spatula until the sugar melts. Caution: melted sugar is very hot! Once you have started to melt the sugar do not stick your finger in or lick the spoon to taste—you will get burned!
  2. Heat the sugar until it turns a golden caramel color. If you have an insta-read or candy thermometer it will be ready at 350F. If you don’t have one, just go by the color. But be careful—the caramel will go past that point very quickly and burn fast. Remove it from the heat as soon as it turns to caramel—it will continue to cook even after removed from the heat.
  3. Add the butter and whisk until butter is fully incorporated. The caramel may bubble up as you to do this.
  4. Add the cream and whisk until the caramel becomes smooth. Add the vanilla and salt and whisk again.
  5. Let cool slightly and pour into the macaroon crust to completely coat the bottom. Now you are ready to make the chocolate glaze.

To make the chocolate glaze:

  1. Put all chocolate glaze ingredients into a bowl and microwave for one minute. Let stand for a minute or two and then stir until smooth.
  2. Pour the chocolate glaze over the caramel filling and lightly sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Let chill in the fridge until firm about two hours, but take out and leave at room temperature after that.

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Lemon Tart with Coconut Macaroon Crust

This one speaks for itself!

Lemon Tart with Coconut Macaroon Crust

For the crust:

  • 3 ½ cups sweetened coconut
  • 3 large egg whites
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1-14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large lemons, juiced (1/2 cup) and zested

To make the crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter a 9-inch tart pan. In a medium bowl mix together the coconut, egg whites, and vanilla extract. Lightly press mixture against the bottom and sides of the tart pan to form the walls of the crust.
  2. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust is lightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack while you make the filling. Lower oven temp to 325°F.

To make the filling:

  1. In a medium bowl whisk together the egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Pour the filling into the cooled shell and bake until just set 15-20 minutes. Set on a rack to cool, then refrigerate until chilled.

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Matzah Ball Soup with Herbes de Provence Mini-Matzah Balls

“Of soup and love, the first is best.” ~Old Spanish proverb

I have to confess, I don’t have a family recipe for chicken soup. Nothing has been handed down from generation to generation. No one carried a recipe over to Ellis Island sown into the lining of their coat.

Not my actual family

Not my actual family

There wasn’t a magic formula with my name on it either. Until now.

Matzah ball soup with the works

Matzah ball soup with the works

I did have my grandma Esther’s knedelaich recipe, in her handwriting too! But one day I was reading the recipe and measuring the matzah meal from the box, and noticed that her recipe was THE SAME EXACT ONE AS ON THE BOX!!! Well, either she was a trendsetter, or she got it from there as well. So much for my family recipe!

Grandma's recipe on the back

Grandma’s recipe on the back

There are many different permutations for matzah balls, light and fluffy, egg white only, ginger and almond, baking soda and seltzer. Well my friends, you could use ol’reliable on the side of the box of matzah meal, or you can use this recipe for matzah balls seasoned with Herbes de Provence which I make for special occasions. If you aren’t keen on something so adventurous (it is pretty subtle, really), then just leave out the herbs and you will have a light yolk-free matzah ball.

Herbs de Provence

Herbs de Provence

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Keen on Quinoa

Before quinoa became popular, my mother had it in her pantry when I was growing up. Back in the ‘70’s, it was hippie dippy health food and had a picture of a Native American on the box to show how natural it was. I am sure my mother made it once, and it was either tolerated at one weeknight dinner, or rejected entirely, and then left for dead on the shelf, in memory of mom’s attempt to try something new.

But now it has made a re-appearance in grocery stores, and healthful minded people are turning to it for a low-carb, gluten-free substitute for other grains. Understanding what it is and how to cook it can keep its popularity stats up at your dinner table.

First thing you should know is that it is not a grain, although it looks a lot like couscous.

Uncooked quinoa

Uncooked quinoa

My husband thinks it looks a lot like bird seed and jokes that we are sharing dinner with our pet parakeet.

Bird seed

Bird seed

Our parakeet, Happy Love

Our parakeet, Happy Love

Quinoa is related to beets and spinach and is high in protein and iron. It is the seed of its plant, and, if you look closely at it after it is cooked, has a lot of personality—it is curly, just like me!

Curly when cooked!

Curly when cooked!

It is also accepted as kosher for Passover—just think, it is the only kosher food that has a curly tail!

Curly close-up

Curly close-up

During Passover I leave a big bowl of it in the fridge, and it will save me from sobbing into my matzah on day 3 of the holiday because I can’t go one more day without my beloved couscous, rice, or pasta (carboholic in the house, yo).

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Hard-Boiled Eggs: You’re Doing it Wrong

I like to help (queue theme from Superman). And I’m here to save you. 🙂

I’m guessing that 9 out of 10 of you have never had a properly hard -boiled egg. I know this is true because until recently, neither had I.

I thought I had, but then as I was watching Food Network, I noticed that Nigella’s eggs did not look like mine. Her yolks were gloriously golden. Mine were yellow. And I thought that was what they were supposed to be.

Wrong.

With Passover and Easter right around the corner, now is the time to set things straight this Spring, as they are officially the “hard-boiled holidays.”

If you find yourself choking down chalky green-tinged egg yolks and rubbery whites, or cursing out loud in front of the kids as you struggle to peel a hard-boiled egg and gouge out chunks of it as you go, or you are just unsure of when your eggs are done, then keep reading folks!

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