I have one last Purim idea to share, and this one by far (at least in my opinion) gets you the most bang for your time.
I've read so many articles over the past few weeks promising to share with me the easiest hamentashen recipe ever - and let's face it, those headlines are alluring because hamentashen are a serious pain in the you-know-what to make and bake.
But I'm going to do it anyway. I'm going to say it. These are the EASIEST Hamentashen Ever.
More often than not, recipes start out with the author claiming to be offering the simplest and most time-efficient way to make and bake and cook. And then, funnily enough, that same author will then offer 17 steps, no pictures, and an optional but not really optional trip to the local ethnic market.
My hamentashen though, do not have 127 steps because hamentashen are my #1 holiday-themed-baked-good-nemesis.
Rolling out the dough without it sticking to the counter? Pretty much never happens.
Lifting the dough circles off the counter and not losing their circular shape? Not mine.
Sticky jelly everywhere, from the kitchen counter to the front door? Every single time.
And the worst - I pinch and I crimp and seal the hamentashen triangles with water and a paint brush, I lovingly put them into the oven and wait patiently while they bake. And then, something happens - and the tray will always emerge full of wide-open hamentashen that are oozing scorching hot jelly all over the oven door.
No. Just no.
So here's the secret.
1. Drive to the closest Shoprite.
2. Buy hamentashen.
3. Drive home.
See how easy?
Once the hamentashen are safely inside your house and you've thrown away the evidence, um, I mean packaging, it's time to personalize them.
There are so many ways, where to start?
1. Melt some chocolate in the microwave, let it cool briefly and, using a spoon, gently drizzle melted chocolate over each hamentash. Let the hamentashen dry on a sheet of wax paper.
2. Repeat step #1, and moving quickly before the chocolate hardens, toss a handful of sprinkles over the hamentashen. Bonus points for rainbow sprinkles, but chocolate on chocolate is always nice too. Triple points for edible glitter.
3. Grab a pack of lollipop sticks and dip the top third of each stick into melted chocolate. Use the chocolate to glue the lollipop stick to the back of the hamentash and lay the hamentash face down on a piece of wax paper until the lollipop stick and the hamentashen have dried together.
I'm not going to lie, I used this trick to make hamentashen lollipops for mishloach manot for Josh's work family. And I also might have done the same to some packaged pareve chocolate chip cookies to round things out and to make it okay that the only thing I put into the mini mishloach manots was a real lollipop. I have no idea if any of them follow along here, but seriously, I'm not even a little bit embarrassed. There are so many of them and only one of me and a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do to get through Purim.
Also, packaging? It's everything. Piling dressed-up hamentashen on a paper plate and covering it with plastic wrap is certainly one way to go, but taking some time to play around with ribbon and lollipop bags can be sort of relaxing. Heck, who I am I kidding? Everything is relaxing when the kitchen isn't covered in jelly and I can pretend to be the lady from the old Rice Krispie Treats commercial, reading a book in the kitchen and throwing some flour on my face before the kids come home.
It works, by the way, the whole throwing flour on yourself thing. Don't trust me? Try it yourself. Just don't ruin your perfectly tricked out hamentashen by getting flour all over them by accident. Then just sit back, and read a good book until your family comes home and oohs and ahhs over your very special hamentashen that took all the live long day to make.
How stinkin' cute are these?
And I say that as someone who did not at all come up with this idea.
I found the original idea here, and then we kind of did our own thing because I couldn't get the printable download to print for me. It was just as well, because there was a half day of school on Taanis Esther and we needed an activity.
My girlies made these for their morahs for mishloach manot.
We started with Hershey bars - and it took everything I had to buy the right number of chocolate bars, and not purchase an extra (several) for me.
We used white cardstock and cut out circles for the heads.
While the girls colored the faces, I printed out some clipart that may or may not have been free - I used superhero masks and a superman logo, all in black and white so the girls could choose what colored markers they wanted to use for each teacher. ALSO, why is colored ink SO EXPENSIVE? It's like Office Depot and Staples have teamed up to take ALL THE MONEY. So we print in black and white and use markers. It's all good.
The girls also cut out blank squares and wrote a message on each one to each teacher.
They glued it all together with a glue stick and used regular white glue to add some yarn for hair. A red construction paper cape was glued onto the back of each chocolate bar.
And then I used my magical cellophane bags (did you see yesterday's post where we discovered a world of premade cellophane bags?) to package the chocolate bars up, folding the cape around the chocolate so it would all fit inside nicely. Some ribbon, a scissor to curl the ribbon and we were done.
Happy Purim dear morahs! We hope you enjoyed these as much as we enjoyed making them for you!
Wanna hear crazy?
Well, first, happy Shushan Purim! My kids came home from school all hopped up on sugar and Yoohoo chocolate milk boxes, covered in glittery tattoos and face paint. No one wants to shower, and they're all laying on the couch in a chocolate and grape juice induced haze, calling for me to bring them the remote that is about three inches away from them. They are too weak to move, these poor children. It's going to be a long night, but it's all good because there is a blizzard coming our way tonight, and school has already cancelled itself for tomorrow. Is it just me, or do you also think that maybe our beloved teachers might be laughing all the way home? Now it's the mommy's job to shuttle the kids through their withdrawal symptoms once the sugar high crashes. It should be fun.
Back to crazy.
We made four different types of mishloach manot this year.
Crazy. It wasn't on purpose, things just seemed to take on a mind of their own.
One kind for the girls to take to school for the classmates.
Another kind was for the girls' teachers.
A third for Josh's work family and the last, our actual themed mishloach manot.
We chose baseball as our theme this year, and I found bags of mini Baby Ruth candy bars for 75% off and these very cute NY Yankees cups in Party City - 50 cups for $8. Wait, let me rephrase that. I found the chocolates and the cups and then I decided that we would be doing a baseball theme this year. An excellent sale always makes picking a theme that much easier.
We made a tag to go with the baseball cup - I don't have a picture of it, but (I hope) it looked like a ticket to a Persian Baseball League game dated 14 Adar 5777 at the Shushan Stadium in Shushan Habirah, Shushan. It took me an entire day to make them, a day that I will never get back again.
Our mishloach manot tagline (courtesy of my friend Jessica): Three strikes and Haman is out!
Initially, I had visions of all of us wearing baseball uniforms, maybe one of us an umpire? A coach? Who knows. But at least we'd all be baseball related. My girls balked, and so in an attempt at a compromise, I ordered them cheerleader costumes - it was only later, after I ordered the non-returnable and very pink dresses and pom poms, did one of my sons point out that there are no cheerleaders in baseball. Huh. Who knew?
Moving along, one son was happy to be a baseball player. No, a hockey player. No, a baseball player. No, a hockey player. I felt dizzy.
Josh didn't want me to spend the money on a baseball shirt (jersey?) for him. He wore his old hockey jersey. The other son dressed as a mad scientist because why not? And I couldn't find my Yankees baseball cap so I wore my superbowl one.
We were not a cohesive group this year, but the mishloach manot was pretty dang cute. Until I ran out of the mini pretzel packs that were the main ingredient that was tying the whole shebang together.
As luck would have it, we were baking hamentaschen at the same time I realized there was no way we'd have enough pretzels. But we did have a lot of hamentaschen dough. A lot of dough. Why? Because when I made the dough, I forgot that the written recipe was already doubled, so I doubled it. I felt vaguely troubled when I cracked eight eggs into the bowl, but who am I to doubt the recipe, so I went along with it. And then all of a sudden, there was a enough dough for a small village to make hamentaschen.
Early on in the hamentaschen making, we ran out of jelly, so that was the end of that. First I was annoyed, but then we regrouped and made baseball shaped cookies (circles really :) to use as filler instead of the pretzels. Done and done.
We also filled the cups with Twizzlers and sour belts because they are long and thin and were my pretend baseball bats. Each cup also got either a cookie or a bag of pretzels, or sometimes both (we made a lot of cookies) and a Baby Ruth chocolate bar. Except the ones that went to school - those got plain old Hershey bars because they are peanut-less.
I had a slight panic attack when I realized that I'd need to wrap cellophane around each one because there is nothing that ruins mishloach manot making like having to play around with cellophane that never does what it's supposed to do. But! But! Did you know cellophane comes pre-made in different sized bags? I knew they came in an x-large size for very big gift baskets but it seems they come in mini too, which were a perfect size, and were available, serendipitously enough, at the exact same Michael's that my friend Goldie happened to be standing in when I called her to cry about the my cellophane problem.
It was obviously a Purim miracle.
Next up: Superhero chocolate bars for our teachers.
Have you heard of this game? I hadn't either, until my brother brought it into our lives.
It's called Pie Face!
(Exclamation mark theirs, not mine.)
It's a crazy game, and it's fun - once you figure out how to put it together.
In case you get one, here's a tip: Attach the hand the opposite way a normal, non-drunk person would attach it. It took three highly educated adults and thirty minutes of staring at the game until we figured it out. Not one of us had had a drink, and I think that may have been the problem.
My brother bought this game for my kids, and also helpfully purchased two bottles of whipped cream to go along with it.
Notice, if you will, the towels spread out over the table. Obviously, this is my mom's very neat house because whipped cream flying through my house would only call for a couple of paper towels when the game was over.
This is one story that can better be told in pictures.
I do. I really do love organizing. I am especially excellent at organizing things in other people's houses. But sometimes, like when I am trying to find an important paper or maybe just my kitchen countertop, I stop and think about organizing my own stuff and how lovely it would be live someplace tidy. But it generally doesn't go further than that.
My mother-in-law was kind enough to pick up a few things for me at Staples (Office Depot? I don't know) a (long) while back. And now I have all these file folders and this big box and I spent hours, weeks, maybe even what felt like a year, going through forty million papers and putting them in piles so those piles can then be put into folders. And now, seventy years later, all the files are in that beautiful box, all where they should be.
The trick now though it to keep the filing up when more papers enter this house, which is every single day.
I have been following along with this 30 day organizing blog and even though the blog is on like day 22, I'm still on day three. But I'm okay with that. So far, I have learned that I must look at the mail as soon as it comes into the house, throwing away anything I don't need that minute and stacking the rest of the papers in a box on my tiny little desk until filing day. It's unclear to me when filing day actually is, but I am assuming it'll be announced at some point. Meanwhile, my poor kids are left standing there wondering why I grab the mail out of their hands when they bring it inside, and run straight to the garbage can as if they brought me actual garbage. I tried explaining my new organizational habits, but they're still looking at me funny.
One day. One day they will understand. And when they do, I will buy them a file box with pretty file folders and show them the way.
I know Purim is coming and I should be talking about that, but in truth, I got nothing Purim-related to share except half-baked ideas and a weird feeling in my stomach that's telling me I should really be more on top of this. Sigh. But you can't always listen to your stomach, especially when you're standing in a bakery at 8:45am and the cheese danishes are talking to you.
Wait, I'll back up.
Our youngest turns 7 today. If that's not enough to turn a mom into a (happy) weepy mess, I don't know what is.
Each first grader is invited to have their parent(s) come to school on their birthday to celebrate, read a book to the class and bring a treat. My 7-year-old wanted cupcakes. Full size cupcakes, not the mini ones with sprinkles that come in a a 12 pack and are easy to find. Full size cupcakes are on the pricey side but we obliged her wishes; you only turn seven once.
On the way home from work last night, Josh stopped at a bakery in Brooklyn and picked up 2 dozen cupcakes in assorted colors for the whole first grade class. But before he picked them up, he must have called the bakery three times from his office to confirm that they were nut-free. They are, insisted the guy who answered the phone in his questionable English. This bakery was the best option we had at the time - for one, they actually answered their phone. Prior to yesterday, we have no idea how many bakeries do not hear their phone ring. And ring. And ring again.
Josh arrived home and presented me with four boxes of cupcakes and a smile. I peeked inside the bag. The cupcakes looked perfect but they also lacked an essential ingredient when bringing cupcakes to school - the sticker on the box with the bakery's name, kosher certification and nut-free status. What to do? Panic, that's what. How wrong is it to print some labels and stick them on the boxes? VERY. So very wrong. Like, God would really not appreciate that kind of wrong. Oh, WWJD?! My brother asked that very question, as we what's app brainstormed about out extremely first world problem.
The *J* in his question was Joanna. We watch a lot of Fixer Upper on HGTV and I wanna be Joanna when I grow up. Don't we all? JoJo even opened her own bakery in Waco, TX last night on her show. She has a cupcake bakery, I need cupcakes. Our kids are the same age, she and I are the same age and so are Chip and Josh. Obviously we're meant to best friends. But Waco is far away, and it was late at night, and also who knows if her cupcakes are nut-free?!
Oh, kosher nut-free baked goods, why are you SO HARD TO FIND?!
Also, should I start a nut-free baked good business? The cottage industry laws are rather strict in NJ, I don't know.
And oh my, but this story has veered so off course. My apologies.
The truth is, at this point, I wasn't sure which was worse - that I couldn't prove that these were bought from a bakery in the heart of Flatbush-Ir-HaKodesh, with the word "Heimishe" in the name or that they were nut-free.
At this point, it was almost 9pm.
Thankfully our school has a wonderfully responsive assistant principal who answers his emails at night super quickly, although, it is possible that the subject line TIME SENSITIVE EMAIL!!!!! might have had something to do with it. We'll just never know, really.
After a few back and forth emails, we determined that it would not be okay to serve the cupcakes, not because of a kashrus doubt, but because of the maybe they are nut-free but maybe they're not dilemma. Hmmm.
I would never really take a chance that a kid has a nut allergy.
So now we have 24 of these cupcakes sitting on the dining room table.
I really wanted to eat one. Or six.
But I didn't. I couldn't. I have recently paid for a year of beachbody on demand, I joined the secret accountability group on facebook and I am now someone who makes good food choices and drinks lots of water, and oh my, this story is veering off into the abyss AGAIN. I'm so sorry. It is so hard to focus while sitting next to a large pile of cupcakes.
My friends, if by chance you find yourself needing ALL THE CUPCAKES today, reach out. I'm pretty sure all the food dye will keep these cupcakes fresh for a good week.
Seriously, I can help with your very specific orange baked good needs.
I also had to help myself. It's not so easy to find a place to buy 2 dozen cupcakes at 9pm.
Facebook: enter stage left.
It's not generally my favorite place to hang out but in this case, FB really came through for me, and in less than a minute I had the name and address of the bakery near school that is nut-free.
You know, you really can learn something new every single day.
Not only did I not know this bakery existed (even though it turns out I have been there before and just didn't know where I was, and that happens to me way more often than you'd think) but a mom who I do not know knocked on my car window this morning at drop-off to tell me about the bakery and how it doesn't open until 9am. How she knew I was looking for cupcakes, I do not want to really think about. Sometimes Facebook scares me.
In case you're sitting on the edge of your seats, hoping for a cupcake win, I hear you. I made it to the bakery, I have the cupcakes and we can all let out the collective breath that we have been holding together and I thank you for your support.
Also, this morning, I was a marine. A real honest to goodness American Marine. I mean, not an honest to goodness marine because marines don't go cupcake shopping early in the morning (I don't think) but they do get some serious stuff done early in the morning. My friends, by 9:30am, not only had I exercised, and started a chicken soup for shabbos, but I had woken everyone up, ushered them through a morning routine that still seems like a complete and total surprise to them every single day, found a missing boot, made breakfast, dropped everyone at school, filled the van with gas, did a week's worth of food shopping at Shoprite and visited my new favorite bakery, but, but (!) I was also, by that time, on my way home, on a highway that scares the living (as my 8 year will say) PATOOTIES out of me.
West Orange friends. Seriously. People. Governor Chris Christie. I do not understand Rt 280. Who can we talk to about this?! It just goes around and around and around in tight circles, down a huge hill, with the trucks going 80 miles an hour in the RIGHT lane, and just when you think your exit is next, it's not, because exit 11 all of a sudden has an exit 11A and I have to hang on tight to the steering wheel until exit 12. My ears get clogged on that highway, my eyes are blinded by the sun that appears and reappears after every sharp turn and I am never ever sure that I will make it off that highway with all the pieces of my van. AND, the cupcakes fell over, almost making my heart skip a full beat. The only upside to Rt. 280 that I can see is that it always reaffirms my relationship with the One Above; we speak often on that highway, sometimes with tears. Really, am I the only one who feels this way?
If I am, don't tell me. That would be embarrassing.
Don't worry, the cupcakes were fine, even though they flew across the back seat.
They're still smiling.
I feel so tired.
I'm off to first grade now.
I'll report back on the little party later.
Wish me luck. I am not a fan of reading out loud to little children that don't belong to me.
Are you a Mom?
Of course you are,
your shirt is dirty :)