Purim hasn't even started yet and already there is way too much junk food in this house.
And it's only my fault.
Once I start making triangle shaped food, I can't seem to stop.
I need help.
These were from our second attempt at hamentashen this year. If you've been following along, you'll know that our go-to recipe failed us this year. It must be all this beautiful weather here. (Isn't that what people always say when a recipe goes wrong? Oh, must be the weather.) Anyway, we used my friend Sarah's recipe and yahoo, they're so pretty. Sprinkle hamentashen - a little tip: If you sprinkle the sprinkles onto the dough as your are rolling it out, the rolling pin will push the sprinkles into the dough and it'll be much easier. Just flip the sprinkled dough over before you cut the circles so the sprinkles are on the underside of the dough. That way the sprinkles will be on the outside of the hamentashen as they bake. How many times can you say sprinkles in one sentence? Go ahead, try it.
Five, count 'em, five different kinds of hamentashen. All wrapped up for the teachers that we won't be seeing on Purim. (Okay, I'm lying, it's not really five different kinds. There are only two fillings - chocolate brownies and apricot. We dressed them up in five different ways with sprinkles and some chocolate dipping and things like that. Does that still count as five?)
It's Friday afternoon. I gotta go.
Wishing you a super fun Purim!
It's a week later and I can almost say that the smell of fried foods has left the house. Slowly.
It was a long, wonderful and hot Chanukah here in Florida. We had sleepover company, dinner company, Shabbos company, a bbq with new and old friends and more than our fair share of visits from the FedEx guy, carrying huge boxes. And now a stomach virus.
I can't say for sure, but I don't think I've ever gone almost a month without sharing here since I first started blogging. It felt weird - on many levels. I have so much to say and yet no time to say it. I kind of feel that way with my kids too - so many lessons to impart, so many ideas I want to share but between their hours in school, my hours in the classroom or planning for the classroom and then the few hours between school and bedtime, crammed with homework and baths and stories and playing outside, there's not too much time left to talk.
Which is why I really liked Chanukah this year. The kids are a little older and for the most part, were not passing out by the time we lit candles. And then there was all this time while the candles were burning to sit around and read with them or play board games; it was kind of like Friday night, but for eight straight days. We even sat around one night eating latkes, debating the merits of applesauce vs sour cream - even though not one of my children, and most likely Josh, have ever, in their lives, even tasted sour cream.
I know it's a little late, but here's a glimpse at Chanukah 2013, in no particular order:
1. Some of my classes made these menorah dripmats in art, right before Chanukah. I was not at all sure how they would come out - or rather how'd long they would last under a drippy menorah with lots of melty wax, but they survived. After eight nights, they were beyond covered in wax so I just chucked the ones my kids made (I know, I'm horrible) but it was throw them out or scrape the wax off with a knife. I hope you would choose the same.
We made them with 18" square floor tiles I found sitting in our garage when we moved in, some paper, scissors and Modge Podge glue. That's it. We let them dry for a couple of hours and then hand-delivered them to the waiting cars on the pick-up line. You want to drop your very-breakable-floor-tile project? Do it on your own time. I'm sending home intact projects.
2. Chanukah in Florida? It's weird. Lovely, but weird - it kind of feels like I should have been decorating the sukkah in 80 degree weather, not putting out menorahs. On the flip side, our tangelo tree is doing wonderfully. As is our palm tree. I'm just saying.
3. Remember the Chanukah raffle I was working on for the school? All I can say is - thank goodness it's over! It was super successful and I am super-relieved because can you imagine the whole thing falling apart on my watch? I can. I imagined it over and over and over. I stayed up at night thinking about it and my general anxiety level was definitely at code orange if not at code red. But as I've learned - mostly from having newborns - every day ends and another dawns and the "day after" always comes. The day after the raffle came and I breathed again. Breathing is really great.
These are the cupcakes I made with a friend for the dessert portion of the raffle:
A special thank you to whoever posted these cupcake toppers on Pinterest. They saved me.
4. I only have one thing to say about the jelly donuts this year:
They ain't from Brooklyn. And they ain't Dunkin Donuts either. But they'll do.
5. If you've been following along for a while, you might remember these Judah Maccabee cookies we made last year. If not, we made them again this year - and if I would have looked at last year's post before baking them, I would have remembered just how much of a pain they were to make. Oh well.
Packed them up and gifted them to a few individuals who've been beyond helpful to Josh since we moved here.
6. And finally, I just have to say again, even though it's not Chanukah weather, you really can't beat sitting in a hammock in December, even if you might need a little sweatshirt late in the day.
Winter break is coming quickly, here and in NY. The bed and breakfast is open, the guest room has clean sheets and slots are filling quickly. We'd love to see you if you're making like a bird and heading south at any point this winter. I'll even clean the bathroom before you come.
Succos came, succos went. So did my parents. And now school has started again. How's that for a three week update?
Oh, and we took the kids off wheat.
And sugar, but sugar is really hard.
Its more like added sugar garbage that we're abstaining from.
Its going to cost me a cool $120 to conduct this experiment; I promised each of them a dollar a day for 30 days. Kind of like the kid version of the Whole30 except the only reward for the grown up Whole30 is feeling better. That's a good thing, but thirty dollars is pretty nice too.
The kids have been doing surprisingly well without wheat. They ask for cookies or bread or crackers here and there but I've been able to divert their attention for the most part. Breakfast is hard though, they are sick of scrambled eggs which is why I took a special trip to Whole Foods to pick up some almond flour and coconut flour - and now I have some chocolate-almond-coconut muffins baking in the oven. I really hope the kids like them and eat them for breakfast. I also really hope I find someplace else to buy almond and coconut flour because man alive, Whole Foods is expensive.
Needless to say, I've been spending way more time in the kitchen than I'd like to. But it's been worth it. My two kids who cough and just generally hack away all night long have been silent sleepers for the past five nights. And my five year old, who generally visits us three times a night has been sleeping through the night - not any later than she normally does - about 4:30am - but you know, baby steps.
My big coup this week was pizza night. The kids really wanted pizza and I really didn't know what to do. I saw a few recipes for cauliflower pizza crust but they all sounded like so much work. And then I thought an egg might do the trick. This took way longer than I thought it would but I made these pizza crusts. Each crust is one egg, fried into a very thin omelet. One egg per frying pan, cook it on both sides and wala (how do you spell that?!) a round something to put sauce and cheese on. I was able to bake six at a time in the oven, but I couldn't make them fast enough. So funny really, because it's really just pizza eggs, something we've been eating for years but I guess it looked enough like pizza that everyone was happy.
I didn't think of then, but you could also put mushrooms or onions or peppers or whatever on your pizza and get a few vegetables into the kids at the same time.
Week two of the wheat-free experiment starts now.
I love my blog. I find that it both entertains me and relaxes me, which is why I have been perturbed by the fact that I have not been blogging all too often lately. But I think I've finally figured it out.
See, Josh and I have recently joined the 21st century and got ourselves a couple of smartphones. Josh has been lusting after one for a quite a while now and I have been dragging my feet for many reasons, including the cost factor (these new phones add another 50% to our bill each month) and the connection factor (I don't like being accessible to everyone, all the time. I like to know that Josh can reach me and the kids' school can reach me, but other than that, eh. I don't need the constant checking of email and facebook and um, what else is there?)
But lo and behold, my old faithful cell phone died on me. The battery would not hold a charge any longer and I had the phone plugged in more often than I had it in my bag, which kind of makes it worse than a cordless phone and super-pointless.
Anyway, to make a very long story only slightly long, we had no choice but to get new phones and to upgrade. So we did and now we're here and now that we have these new phones, I find that I no longer sit down at the computer that often - and there ya go, the reason I have not been blogging. No computer, no bloggy. Simple.
I see that I have to make an effort to sit down and write, which is okay because nothing good comes without effort and I really do enjoy the fact that this blog will be something for my kids to look back on to jog their memories of a (hopefully) fun childhood.
So where am I going with this?
Shavuot begins tomorrow night and contrary to what Josh likes to make believe*, there really is a custom to eat dairy on Shavuot. Since I got totally lucky and got invited out for both Shavuot lunches, I kind of felt like I wasn't going to cook or bake that much for the two night meals - except my eldest came home from school, having learned about cheesecake. As far as I can tell, that was the big theme of the day - not the giving of the Torah, not the culmination of counting 49 days of the omer, just cheesecake. Not that I'm saying that the teacher is not doing a wonderful job, because she is and I am sure she hit on the all salient points of Shavuot, but all my kid heard was CHEESECAKE.
So here we are, needing a cheesecake.
And here I am, with one in the oven. And I have to tell you, (and I know this because I have made this cheesecake countless times), this is best dang cheesecake out there. No, really, it is. And if I ate dairy, I would keep it all for myself. But I don't, so I will let my kids have it. I know, I'm such a good mommy.
Here's my version of a Chocolate Chip Cheesecake - adapted from the very excellent baking cookbook called The Whimsical Bakehouse.
Grease the bottom of an 8" round pan. The pan should be fairly deep, so try for an 8"x3" round pan. Once the pan is greased, cut out a circle of parchment paper and lay it on the bottom of the pan.
2 cups of chocolate graham cracker crumbs (just fill a ziploc with graham crackers and have at it).
3/4 stick of melted butter
Mix the two together and press the mixture into the bottom of the pan, using any extra to build the crust up the sides of the pan.
Right about now would be a good time to preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
3 bars of cream cheese - use the full fat kind, Shavuot only comes around once a year.
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream or Rich's Whip
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg white
1 cup mini chocolate chips
Mix the first four ingredients together in a standing mixer, until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, until they are fully mixed in. Pour the batter into the crust and sprinkle the chocolate chips on top.
Now here comes the tricky part. I mean, not that tricky, but man, I hate a water bath. I usually use an aluminum disposable roasting pan for this part because it's big enough and because I can throw it out afterwards. If you're using a real roasting pan, please make sure it's not one that you have used for meat because you know, that would be bad. Dairy or pareve pans only please!
Put the cheesecake pan inside the roasting pan and fill the roasting pan halfway with hot water (not boiling, just hot). Be sure to pour the water into the pan with a cup, it's not a good idea to hold the cheesecake filled roasting pan under the faucet; there's absolutely nothing good that can come from that.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the center of the cake appears firm. Some say that there's nothing worse than an undercooked cheesecake, but keeping in mind that I would eat the raw batter, happily, I'd say to err on the side of caution and take the cake out too soon rather than too late.
Now here's the annoying part - let the cheesecake cool on the counter for two hours. Two hours?! I know. So don't do what I just did and put it in the oven at 9pm because really, we're going to be sitting here all night. I feel like I might as well make challah now - except for the fact that there's a cheescake in the oven. Darn.
Oh well, maybe I'll just catch up on the many many weeks of missed The Good Wife episodes.
Oh, and once the cake is cool, run a knife around the edges and using a parchment covered plate, place it over the cheesecake, invert the cheesecake so its upside down and let the cheesecake come out of the pan onto the plate. Peel off the parchment paper that was inside the cake pan and is now stuck to the bottom of the cheesecake and immediately place another plate, preferably the serving plate over the bottom of the cheesecake and flip in again so that it is now right side up. Make sense? Good.
Look at your cheesecake and be proud, but don't eat it yet. Not cause it's not Shavuot but because by the time this process is done, it'll be one o'clock in the morning and there's that whole eating-in-the-middle-of-the-night-heartburn-thing. You can have some for breakfast instead.
*All fleishigs, all the time. It's a like a motto.
We have been having breakfast issues lately, specifically with the what to have part of breakfast.
My kids are partial to cream cheese and saltines, an unfortunate combination that has become the go-to breakfast in the house for a while now. I have been trying to counter that by offering scrambled eggs, but really, who wants to get up early to scramble eggs every morning? I know. Me either.
So I made these muffins (from 100daysofrealfood.com) last night, in the hopes that they'd eat these for breakfast - and three out of four kids ate them happily, and in my book, that's a win.
The 100daysofrealfood mom says to put whatever you like into the muffin batter so I tripled the recipe and then added three different kinds of add-ins: chocolate chips, walnuts and coconuts. But now I think about it, I'm pretty sure she meant nice things like fruit, not questionable breakfast items like chocolate chips. What can I say? Baby steps.
The muffins are delicious and a triple recipe yielded 36 muffins, so enough for many many breakfasts and a few lunchbox treats. Like I said to Josh - one recipe makes 12 muffins. That's so cute. What would I do with 12? After everyone tastes, I'll be left with almost none. Nope, in our house, we triple a recipe or we go home. Or however that saying goes.
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.
Are you a Mom?
Of course you are,
your shirt is dirty :)