In an effort to make the seder more fun for everyone and not just the kids, we have adopted an on-and-off again minhag of going around the seder table and having everyone present take turns reading a paragraph. But it always get somewhat confusing because if anyone stops to talk or discuss or ask a question during the going-around-the-table, we get confused about who read or who did not or who's turn it is.
Enter the matzah crown. When it's your turn to read, you wear the crown. When you're done, pass it to the next person. So easy.
And super easy to make.
Draw a matzah.
Cut it out.
Glue it to a piece of paper to make a crown.
Remember to throw it in the suitcase when you're packing up for the sedarim.
Go ahead, make one. It took less than five minutes and it makes the seder, an always late-at-night and sometimes long and drawn out affair a little bit more fun.
In less than one week, we will all be sitting down to the first seder. Are you tired just reading that? Cause I yawned just from typing that.
Today was (besides for take the six-year-old with the ear infection to the doctor day) oven cleaning day.
I'll just say it - my oven was gross. I always mean to clean it, but I forget. It has a door that closes so it's not like I see the mess when I walk by, and whenever I am near it and thinking about cleaning it, it's hot. Also, it's a not a self-cleaning oven so it's not so simple. And I really don't like the smell and the chemicals and the yuckiness of something like Easy-Off, so the oven rarely gets done.
Wanna see? It's gross, don't say I didn't warn you.
But take a look now.
I know. Such a difference. And that was only after the initial baking soda wipe-off. I did it again and it's totally clean now.
And I did it without poisoning myself with oven cleaner fumes. I poured baking soda all over the oven, sprayed vinegar over the baking soda, let it all sit for a while - and while I wish I could say poof! the stuff wiped right off
- it didn't. It did take some scrubbing with a wet sponge but it wasn't too bad and my arm isn't that achey now so all in all, totally worth it. (Where did I find this idea? Pinterest. Love that place. And I wish I could tell you where on pinterest I first saw it, but sadly, whoever pinned it didn't also link to it. Pinterest etiquette, people!)
Normally, when we clean the oven before Pesach, we'll wait until the kids are asleep and then open the windows in the kitchen and clean. But this year, I did it while they were having dinner, two feet away. They didn't even flinch from the smell of the vinegar, but that could totally be because they were having Italian dressing and salad with supper.
Anyway, now that you have a clean oven, you can kasher it and start baking, because what's more important than dessert? That's right. Nothing.
Here, some desserts from years past:Brownies that have passed the test
: the husband who is beyond loyal to Dunkin Hines and can't imagine why anyone would ever bake anything else, liked these - or at least Pesach-liked them, which, really, is saying a lot. Blondies worth eating even though it's Pesach.
It's true. Coconut-Chocolate Macaroons.
Are they good? Yes.
Are they healthy? With all that sugar, I can't really say yes, but they're much healthier than anything you'll find in a store.
Go. Bake. Freeze. Because I can't see Pesach desserts being any good after sitting out for a week.
I really hope they wait a while because I'm not ready for Pesach, but I have been informed by my very delicious four-year-old that the chametz police are coming and really, mommy, we have to start cleaning.
This hat, pictured above, came home from kindergarten yesterday and it's been looking at me ever since. Wherever I go, it's there and I'm starting to get a complex.
I tried to tell it that I started and finished the basement for Pesach yesterday, but I don't think it's good enough. I'm not sure what my childrens' beloved teachers have been saying in school, but my children were not at all impressed with my basement announcement - and in fact, (yeah, the oldest used the phrase 'in fact, mommy' (what is that about?)) there are some other mommies who are all finished cleaning and are only sending Pesach-friendly snacks to school.
And to that, I say a big fat whatever. In a nice way, of course.
Pesach. It's coming. You can run and you can hide, although I don't recommend hiding because you will most likely end up in a closet or under a bed and then you will find dust. And Pesach has nothing to do with dust, only crumbs.
Say it with me: Now is not the time to start Spring cleaning!
Pesach is so early this year, it's not even Spring yet, so let it go, let the dust bunnies be and we'll all be much happier.
Too many people (women) make Pesach into a huge deal, and it's really not.
Do you eat on top of your ceiling fans? No? We don't either, and that's what ours will not be cleaned before Pesach.
Do you eat under the bed? I hope not. Although I will be giving my kids' underbeds (is that even a word?) a quick once over with a flashlight, just to make sure. But the eating upstairs ended the after Purim. I know, no one should ever eat upstairs and we really don't - except I recently learned that my children hoard candy they get in school (lovely, right?) in their dresser drawers. The day after Purim, Josh marched them around their bedrooms, they pointed out all the hiding places and all the candy was dumped into a Shoprite bag that now lives in the pantry.
By now you are surely asking yourself what my point is.
Way more important than cleaning things that don't need to be cleaned right now and organizing things that can be organized after Pesach - or never - is deciding what you will be eating on Pesach, desserts obviously being the most important. And the most Pesach-y dessert I could think of? Macaroons.
I'm reading an awesome book now called A Homemade Life
by Molly Wizenberg. I have been very into food memoirs lately and hers in the latest in a string and possibly the best I have read so far.
One of the recipes she shares is for Chocolate Covered Coconut Macaroons
and I tried them last night - with some changes. I did not have vanilla so I left that out and I also did not make the chocolate ganache as she did because I was not sure that there was any heavy cream with a kosher for pesach certification - and even though my kitchen is far from being ready for Pesach, I did want to try out the recipe as if it was already Pesach. I only used ingredients that I had on hand that are also sold with a KP.
This recipe made 24 nice sized macaroons. Molly's recipe indicated 14-18 macaroons so I can only imagine how large and yummy hers are.
Start by pouring 3 cups of unsweetened* shredded coconut
into a pan.
Add 3/4 cup sugar
Add 5 egg whites
Mix all very well and heat over a low heat for 10 minutes, mixing almost the entire time. I stopped mixing here and there but I did wind up with some brown coconut and I think that was not supposed to happen, so just keep mixing. Your sculpted arms will thank you later.
After mixing for ten minutes, pour the coconut mixture into a 9x13 pan and spread it out over the bottom of the whole pan. It doesn't need to be pretty, it just needs to cool off, so stick that pan in the fridge and let it do it's thing - mine took about twenty minutes, the perfect amount of time to do homework with a first grader.
Once the coconut has cooled, preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (not wax paper - bad things happen when you bake wax paper) or foil. Roll the coconut mixture into small balls and place them on the baking sheet. My coconut balls were probably about an inch big, maybe the size of a walnut.
I was able to squeeze all 24 onto one baking sheet but had I known that I was going to get 24 coconut balls out of the recipe, I probably would have sucked it up, let them breathe a little and just used another piece of parchment paper on a second pan.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until they are a golden brown color. Mine did not take a full 25 minutes, but my oven runs hot. Keep checking them, you'll know when they're ready.
Let the coconut balls - we can now call them macaroons - cool.
I melted a handful of chocolate chips, dipped the macaroons halfway into the chocolate and then let them set up on a cooling rack.
I found the best part of this recipe to be the simplicity - no preservatives, no unhealthy fat from bad Pesach oils, like cottonseed and the like. I may not love the amount of sugar in these little guys, but at least I know what's in them.
Josh (and the kids who like coconut) found them to be quite tasty, straight from the oven last night and were equally pleased with them this morning. The other kids and me? Not so much. But it's a coconut thing in general, not a commentary on this recipe.
But here is a commentary on these macaroons: If you look carefully at the chocolate covered ones above, it kind of looks like they are wearing chocolate toupees on their heads.
Do you see it? I had to hold myself back from using the rest of the chocolate and a toothpick to create faces on each one, like a bunch of old guys on a bench.
*The original recipe called for sweetened but that, combined with the sugar seemed over the top to me.
And we're back.
Another Pesach is over and done with. Pesach was, all at the same time, long and beautiful and fattening. The kitchen has been returned to its rightful chametz disposition. The haggadahs and school projects have been packed away and we have all had a piece of birthday cake for good measure. Yup, this time it was my brithday and no, this time I did not bake myself a cake. My parents were kind enough to bring one - although I think they might have miscounted the number of people eating when deciding on the size of the cake because this cake could easily feed thirty. Really. Look.
But I appreciated this huge cake from Costco. It was delicious. And I even more appreciated the fact that 3/4 of it went home to my cousins.The last thing I need is a yummy birthday cake lurking around my kitchen. The post-Pesach food plan is back in full swing. After all, summer is coming - or maybe it's already here. 90 degree weather in mid-April is just a little concerning. But not from a global warming perspective, more from an "oh-no-it-cannot-be-time-to-switch-the-clothes-in-the-kids'-dressers-again" kind of perspective. But oh-yes it is! Fun for all and project for an entire day.
Doesn't everything seem like a saga these days?
Anyway, I have been making these brownies for Pesach every year since I got married,
so if I make roughly 3,4 or 5 trays of brownies each Pesach, and if I am doing my math correctly,
that would mean that I have made this brownie recipe between 30 and 40 times. And
each time, I faithfully follow the recipe and they come out great. Except for
this year, when I ran into some ingredient and kitchen issues, which is not entirely crazy when cooking in someone else's kitchen. Like me, today, in my mom's second kitchen. Well, you'll see.
Here is the Classic Brownie Recipe that has been in use for almost a decade:
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup margarine
2 and 2/3 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups cake meal
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt the chocolate chips and margarine in the microwave, stirring every thirty seconds until melted. Using a mixer, cream the melted chocolate and margarine and sugar until it's well mixed. Add the eggs and mix again. Add in the cake meal, mixing until fully mixed in. Pour into a 9x13
inch greased pan and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until set in the center.
I was all set to make four batches of these guys this morning. Little T and I went to my parents' house, lugging a 5lb bag of sugar and 3 dozen eggs. I was going to dig into my mom's Pesach stash for the rest. We deposited everything in the downstairs and kosher for Pesach kitchen and got started. We measured out the 2 cups of chocolate chips and looked around. And then looked around some more before it dawned on me that there was no microwave here. Hmmm. I also didn't have a pot to melt the chocolate in on the stovetop. Oh, and there was no margarine. Once again, I was as prepared as a tipsy Girl Scout.
What to do? Before I could decide to just not bake the brownies and make something else instead, Improvisational Jen came to visit. A few minutes later, the brownie recipe was reworked using what we had on hand. It was gamble because messing with a Pesach recipe usually results in disaster, but happily, these came out so well that I made three more trays.
Now here is the new take on the old classic brownie recipe. Let's just call it the New-Old Brownie Recipe.
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups cake meal
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix the sugar, oil and eggs until totally mixed together.
Then mix it some more because it took a nice long while for it to get itself
together. Add the cocoa powder, salt and cake meal and mix for a good three
minutes. Be prepared for the "dust" from the cake meal to fly everywhere. Add a
few handfuls of chocolate chips into the bowl and mix. Use your good judgement;
you can't really go wrong with extra chocolate chips.
Pour the batter into a greased 9x13 inch pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or
until the center is set.
I admit to tasting this; how could I not when it was a total unknown? I tasted, I liked. But more important, Little T, my chocoholic, tasted it and asked for seconds. Phew.
In a bid to at least pretend that I have started cleaning for Pesach, I
decided to tackle the fridge today. An ambitious project that perhaps should not
have been left for an hour before pick-up time at school, but hey, you live and
I pulled out the bottom shelf and the two attached drawers. Now I'm going to
say "oh my gosh, something spilled down there just a few days ago" and you're going to
nod your head like you believe me and we'll both pretend that it's true.
Anyway, here's the gross spill. I share this in the belief and hope that we
are not here to judge each other but to cheer each other on. Right? Of course,
Now here's the thing with me and cleaning or me and recipes or me and
projects in general. I'm a jumper-inner. I decide to do something and do it -
and generally don't take the time to check that I have everything that I need
(be it a bottle of my fake-healthy cleaner called Green Works or all the
ingredients for a recipes) to finish the job, and that's why I spend a lot of
time improvising. In this case, I forgot to buy more cleaner this morning when I
the supermarket and in
the cleaning stuff aisle, but whatever. What to do?
What to do? Of course we know what to do! Like my mom says - to the Internet!
I googled "cleaning caked on dirt with vinegar" and got here
. A whole website devoted
to cleaning things with vinegar.
Who knew? Well, I kind of did, having some nutty crunchy friends. Yeah, you know
who you are. But I, myself, have never been down this road before. I learned that
if I mix together baking soda and dish soap and vinegar, you will wind up with
something that will clean your fridge. I have to say, I had my doubts, but it worked. Shocking.
Here's what I did.
Gather these things together.
Take 1/4 cup of baking soda.
Add one tablespoon dish soap
Add in vinegar and mix until it forms a paste. I wound up using
three tablespoons of vinegar. And in a 4th grade science class fun sort
of way, when you add the vinegar in to the baking soda mixture, it bubbles
up into a foam, kind of like a super-cleaning-volcano.
Using a paper towel, I covered the spill in the fridge with the mixture. I let
it sit for 5 minutes, scrubbed and hooray! It worked.
This is what the bottom half of my fridge looked like ten minutes later. If that's not a
clean bottom half of a fridge, then I don't know what is.
I know! I was impressed too. And I have to say, I was a little worried
about the house smelling like vinegar, but it doesn't. Maybe a little like
Italian dressing, but that's okay. Maybe the slight smell will get the kids to
eat some salad for dinner.
The other day, this adorable sign came home from school with my five year old. It's meant to be hung on a door or a cabinet that has already been cleaned for Pesach. My five year old walked around the house, searching for somewhere, anywhere, to hang it.
Sadly, there was no where for him to put it. We haven't started cleaning anything at all. There just seems to be no point in cleaning until right before Pesach. I see it like this - I can clean and then spend the next two weeks yelling at people when they so much as sneeze outside the kitchen or I can wait till the last minute and then clean quickly and hopefully, efficiently and most importantly, alone. I go through this internal debate every year and every year I choose the quick and last minute route. I don't like all the yelling.
Back to my son's little sign. Eventually he just hung it on the snack cabinet in the kitchen. Now the sign just sits there all day, mocking me every time I go into the kitchen.
It's okay though, I can take the pressure.
No really, don't laugh, they are yum.
My aunt, who is more like my big sister, makes these every year and every year we just happen to be in her house after she makes them and we just happen to finish them off/slip them into the diaper bag and steal them. Either way, I think she usually makes more after we leave.
My plan is to do my Pesach baking at some point this week, and these guys are first on the list. I am thinking I will quadruple the recipe and if we ration them, four trays should get us through the eight days.
Here's how to make them (but fair warning, they're not good for you, so don't faint when see how much sugar is involved in this experiment):
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 cup oil
3 teaspoons of vanilla sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup potato starch*
4 ounces of chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 inch pan. Mix the first three ingredients together and then add in the other ingredients, mixing until everything is incorporated. Pour into the pan and bake for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Let the blondies cool completely and then double wrap in aluminum foil. I'd stick the pan into a freezer bag too, just as an extra precaution and freeze 'till Pesach.
*This blondie recipe - or really any recipe made with potato starch, makes a perfect snack for erev Pesach because it does not contain any matzah or cake meal - both items that many have a custom to avoid on the day before Pesach. Hmmm, maybe I should make five trays.
Matzah brei is a huge staple in our house over Pesach. Every year we make
it on day one of Pesach and every year the kids run away screaming.
But by day two, they're pretty hungry and are all happy to
have some. And they even like it - they just never remember that they like it.
This is not something that you can make and freeze, so
I don't have any pictures yet but it's a good recipe that can help you plan
ahead for the many many meals you will need to make over the course of eight
days. We eat matzah brei often, and it works for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I am sure there are many ways to make matzah brei;
this is how we make ours.
1 box of matzah
1 tsp salt (optional)
Really. That's it. Okay, some water too, but that's it. Start by breaking up the matzahs
into medium sized pieces and pile them in a big bowl. Add cold water to the bowl -
just enough to cover the matzah. Let the matzah peices soak in the water for a few minutes,
until they are soft but not totally mushy. Using your hand to keep the matzah in
the bowl, tilt the bowl and drain it of all the water, pressing on the matzah to
get as much liquid out as possible. Don't worry if some matzah escaped into the
sink, it happens to the best of us.
While the matzah is soaking, beat the eggs in a small
bowl and add salt if you like. Heat your (large) frying pan with cooking spray
or butter (relax, it's Pesach, you're supposed to gain 5 pounds in 8 days -
you'll go walking after pesach) and let it heat up. While it is heating, add the
eggs into the matzah pieces, mixing well. Pour the whole thing into the hot
frying pan and let it cook, turning the whole thing with a spatula every one in
a while - kind of how you might make scrambled eggs.
When the egg is done, so is the matzah brei. Serve warm; we like it with ketchup.
Version #2: Cheese Matzah Brei
Do the same thing as above, but add a cup (or more) of
shredded cheese. Continuing with the scrambled egg analogy, it will now be like
a cheese omelet. But not. You know what I mean.
Version #3: Pizza Matzah Brei
Do the same thing as in version #2, but add some marinara sauce. You now have
pizza matzah brei. Of course you can just add sauce and cheese to a piece
of matzah and make matzah pizza in the toaster but this is just a little different.
If you're like me and have several kids who like their matzah brei in all
different ways, don't worry. It's all good.
See here's the thing - you can make all three versions in one pan and make everyone
happy. Start with version #1 and take off some for the kid who likes it plain.
Add in the cheese and then take off some for the kid who just wants cheese and
then add in sauce for whoever wants it with sauce. Three different meals, one
pan. Really, can you ask for anything more? I didn't think so. You're welcome.