Darth Seder

It’s Passover again!  Time for leaning, drinking wine and eating everything but bread.  My daughter is excited for Passover and went to her once a month religious school yesterday where they talked about the seder meal.  As a result, today as we drove to school she said, “Mumma, lots of people are coming to our house tonight.  That means it’s a vader.”

I love the idea of Darth Seder.

All the old standbys this year, no new and exciting recipes.  It’s been a heck of a few weeks and I’m low on sleep, time and motivation.  Therefore, we’re having matzo ball soup, brisket, chicken, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and green beans.  For dessert we have the ever-present chocolate caramel matzo.  I also bought ice cream and made hot fudge sauce and caramel sauce.  Caramel sauce is my new nemesis- I have made it correctly once or twice but all the other times I either don’t let it darken enough or it seizes when I add the cream.  It is now a new challenge for me– I will conquer it, oh, yes I will.

As the meal hasn’t happened yet, I’ll just give you the photos of the prep work.  And maybe I’ll go back and add some of the final product once we’re all done.My HipstaPrint 995972809_11

My grandmother always served hard boiled eggs to start the meal- something about spring and new beginnings.

My HipstaPrint 995972809Must always have a green vegetable.

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Soup getting started….

My HipstaPrint 995972809_10Matzo ball mixture.

My HipstaPrint 995972809_1Finished soup with yummy matzo balls.

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Brisket…. brisket-ing

My HipstaPrint 995972809_9and more brisket-ing.

My HipstaPrint 995972809_5Charoset, a new non-recipe, thrown together version this year.

My HipstaPrint 995972809_6The ubiquitous roasted chicken.  I forgot lemon this year and had to sub in two small (are there any other kind?) clementines.  Still good.

My HipstaPrint 995972809_2Chocolate caramel crunch, before it is broken into delicious, chewy, sweet, crunch pieces.  Yes, it’s chewy and crunchy at the same time.  Did I mention that it’s over 70 degrees here today?  It’s lovely but not good for this dessert’s integrity.

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Hot fudge sauce made with evaporated milk and chocolate chips.

 

 

My HipstaPrint 995972809_4My nemisis, the caramel sauce.  Too thin but tasty, nonetheless.

Chag Semach to you and yours.  Hold everyone tightly to you and be thankful for what you’ve got.  We are coming to the anniversary of the marathon bombing last year and this morning I woke to news of yet another hate crime/public shooting.  So I am trying to hold tight to the love I am surrounded by and the good that there is, both in my life and all around me.  This evening, as we begin our seder, I will be surrounded by love.  I will be going through a ritual that a number of people on my street, in my town, in my state, in my country and all over the world will be doing at the same time.  It will remind me just how positively connected we all are.

Much love, joy and peace to you all as we enter spring.

xox

 

Several days late

Another not food post.  Time for my birthday letter for my daughter.

Dear Pre-Schooler G.,

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PRE-SCHOOLER?  Are you freakin’ kidding me?  It’s as though you are on fast forward and you’re speeding past me full force.  Recently we were talking about when you were born and you asked me if I remembered it?  Remember it?  I feel like it was a few hours ago and here we are, FOUR YEARS later.

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And oh, what a ride this four years has been.  Every single day you amaze me, my little girl, every. single. day.  The way your mind works, the way you think about things, the connections you make, the opinions you form, and then share.  As loudly as possible.  With anyone who will listen.  Your boundless joy, enthusiasm and love for the world around you and the people within it.  Your endless love for me, your brother and your father.  The pride you display when you’ve learned a new phrase or counted higher than before.  The way you causally stroll into the bedroom saying, “Mumma, it’s 7 o’clock.  The little hand is on the 7, that means it’s bedtime.”  (No lie.  I didn’t teach you that.  How do you know that?!)

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The storms are getting stormier now.  You really do get angry and not the frustrated angry of the toddler years, when you didn’t have the words or ability to get your needs met.  No, now you are feeling real “grown up” emotions- disappointment, anger, frustration, fear, exhaustion, sadness- and they show.  What also shows, for better or worse, is that you’re the child of a therapist.  Once you’ve moved through your emotional roller coaster, you’ll often say, “Mumma, it’s hard to calm down.”

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You have become an excellent storyteller and an even more accurate reporter of the events of the day.  Each night at dinner we talk about the best thing that happened and what we’re thankful for that day.  You’ll often say that the best parts of your day included being with your favorite friends at “school” and you’re often thankful for “seeing you, Mumma.”  Which makes me want to cry every single time because how’d I get so lucky?

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You still adore your brother and can often amuse yourself with him.  I’m still getting asked if you guys are twins and as you are currently wearing the other’s clothes, almost exclusively, I guess I can’t even say that the size should be a giveaway that you’re not.  As M. is getting bigger and more verbal, the two of you are finding more about which to disagree.  Fortunately, you’re also finding more places that you have in common.  I hope that you will keep this close, loving, fun relationship as you grow.  We keep reminding you that brothers and sisters are partners, not competitors.  We’ll see how long that can keep up.

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You are so capable now, of so many things.  I am often astounded at what you can do independently.  From getting dressed to difficult puzzles, you are able to actually help me now by either doing what I ask or keeping yourself busy.  Of course you have figured out how to put in a DVD and how to use my iphone to find games so I’m not always sure this is the best thing.

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You’re even old enough to go to the ballet.  You went a few weeks ago with OGWO and saw Cinderella.  OGWO reported that you were entranced by the story and that you sat up and followed the dancers with your eyes.  You sat quietly and behaved like a girl twice your age.  I’m so grateful that you can have these experiences.

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Sweet, darling, wonderful, headstrong, stubborn, strong, smart, funny, amazing girl, I feel so lucky every day that I got to be your mother.  Even when I’m frustrated.  Even when I’m at my wit’s end.  Even when I’ve been sucked into a power struggle that neither of us can win.  Even then, I feel blessed.

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And when you look up at me and say, out of nowhere, “Mumma, I really love you!”, my heart melts and I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

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I love you, sweetie.  Happy 4th birthday!

xoxoxoxoxox

One Pot Dish

This one is making the rounds on the internet but I had my doubts. I mean, I get the concept- pasta cooks the same way rice does, by absorbing water, so it makes sense that you could cook  it essentially like a risotto, but still.  I wasn’t buying it.

Until tonight.  Is it a perfect dish?  No.  Will it take some tweaking?  Yes.  But it is so easy and somewhat healthy that I think it could be worth it.  So I’m giving it to you, without tweaking and without modifications.  Play with it and let me know what works for you.  I’m open to ideas.

Italian One Pot Wonder (found on Budgetbytes.com)

Ingredients

4 cups vegetable broth (I bet you could use chicken but I’m currently on a vegetarian kick)

1 package (12 oz) of fettuccine- I used a mix of linguine and fettuccine– I think the thicker noodle was better than the thinner

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, sliced thinly

4 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly

8 oz frozen chopped spinach (I used fresh baby spinach, a whole package)

1 can (28oz) diced tomatoes (I’m curious how fresh would be.  Maybe next time.)

dried basil

dried oregano

red pepper flakes (I didn’t use these)

freshly ground black pepper (also skipped this)

cheese for topping- the original recipe called for feta, I used parmesan

Directions

Pour the veggie broth into a large pot.  Break the pasta so that it’s easier to stir later and drop it into the pot.  Add everything else.  Put the cover on and bring to a boil over high heat.

My HipstaPrint 938657249_5So I hoped that the fresh spinach would have enough liquid that when it cooked down it would make up for not being frozen in terms of liquid.  The original instructions say that everything should be submerged in the broth as you boil it but obviously that wasn’t the case here.  I sort of stirred and smushed down the spinach.

My HipstaPrint 938657249_3I let it boil and then turned down the heat.

My HipstaPrint 938657249My HipstaPrint 938657249_6It cooked for about 15 minutes, still boiling but more gently.  I stirred it a few times so that the pasta wouldn’t stick to the bottom. The liquid started to absorb.My HipstaPrint 938657249_4I finally called it done at this point but I’m sure it could’ve gone a bit longer.

My HipstaPrint 938657249_7I dished it up with some parm cheese and I have to say…  it was good!  Sort of supple and smooth and silky.  Pasta was cooked well, not mushy or raw.  I’d like to think other veggies could be added to up the nutritional value and maybe even whole wheat pasta- though I’m not sure how that would impact the liquid amount and cooking time.

My HipstaPrint 938657249_2And it really was just one pot!  How’s that for easy?

 

 

 

Simple Soup

When I was a kid, my parents and grandparents would take me out to eat all the time.  My grandmother’s rule was something along the lines of “there is nothing that can’t be taken off the stove or out of the oven and put in the fridge for tomorrow”.  She was a fan of restaurants.

I can recall going to all kinds of restaurants with them- French, Asian, Spanish…- and I can recall that particular brand of panic when I would look at the menu and not recognize any of the food.  It’s a strange feeling, one that I have had once in a while since, to be worried about what you might eat.  On the other hand, I always ate well with them and I am certain that this exposure to all difference kinds of flavors, spices and tastes made me the adventurous eater I am today.

At any rate, one of the dishes I tried as a kid was french onion soup.  Which I detested.  Too dark, too rich, too bitter, too alcohol-y.  It was years before I tried it again.  But when I did, whoa boy!  I loved it for all the same reasons I hated it before.  Tastes change as you age, I suppose.

I’ve made French Onion Soup before and I’ve always used beef broth.  Which is not something I generally have on hand so I have to make a special trip.  So I was intrigued when I read the no-broth soup recipe which is Michael Ruhlman’s but I found on Alexandra Cooks.

When I tell you that this soup is sweet and rich and full despite the use of water instead of stock, I am not lying.  No one who ate it missed the beef broth.  The one downside is that it takes several hours for the onions to cook down but even that is pretty low-maintenance.  Plus, the onions end up so sweet and so supple that I found it hard to stop taking spoonfuls so that there would be enough for soup.  Even the husband, who is not a fan of onions, soup or meat-less fare, liked this soup.  Make it.  You won’t regret it.

Beef-less Onion Soup

Ingredients

6-8 onions

1 tablespoon butter

salt, pepper

crusty bread- baguette or some such

cheese for the top- Gruyère is traditional but really, how can you go wrong with cheese?

Optional- 1/3 cup sherry, a few spoonfuls of balsamic vinegar and red wine

Directions

Peel and chop your onions.  I used my food processes with the slicing (not chopping) blade.  Melt the butter in a large stock pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and sprinkle them with about two teaspoons of salt.

My HipstaPrint 937096673_11Let them cook for a few minutes over medium heat, while they soften and lose some of the water. Cover them and let them cook for about 30 minutes or so.   Then turn the heat down to medium-low or low (you’ll have to play with this.  I left mine at low for several hours but it was a little too low and I had to bump up the heat in the last half hour) and uncover them.  Let the onions cook for several hours.  Stir them occasionally.  They’ll transform from this:

My HipstaPrint 937096673To this:

My HipstaPrint 937096673_5And then this:

My HipstaPrint 937096673_8Basically, you want them to get all melty and sweet and darker but not to burn or overly brown.  You’re caramelizing them and it is so. good.  Once they get to this point, season them with some pepper.  Try not to eat them straight from the pot.

Add about 4-6 cups of water to the pan.  Turn up the heat and allow it to come to a simmer.  Then turn the heat down and add the sherry, wine and vinegar to taste.  I used some sherry but, I have to say, the next time I make it, I may not bother.

My HipstaPrint 937096673_4Cut your bread rounds and toast them.  You can leave them in a 200 degree oven to dry out a bit for a few hours without worrying about them burning.  Grate your cheese.

My HipstaPrint 937096673_10Pour soup into oven-safe bowls (I even have some of the traditional soup bowls, thanks Grandma!).

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Top with a piece of bread and cheese.

My HipstaPrint 937096673_9Slide the soup under the broiler until the cheese is melty and slightly brown.

My HipstaPrint 937096673_2Dig in and enjoy- be careful!  It’s going to be hot, hot, hot- and be amazed at the delicious flavor, from just onions and water.

Happy National School Breakfast Week!

This week, March 3-7, 2014 is National School Breakfast Week.

On a serious note, one in five families in the United States are considered “food insecure”, meaning they struggle to afford food.  For children in these families, school breakfast and lunch is sometimes the only reliable, consistent source of nutrition.  What happens to these kids over the weekends, vacations and summer, when this source of food is gone?  Click here to read about a program that supports these kids.

On a less serious note, it was my department’s turn for faculty meeting snacks this week.  We decided that breakfast would be our theme.  It’s sort of a friendly competition among the departments in terms of providing the snacks and, I have to say, the two departments with whom I affiliate (I’m kind of my own department) tend to win in a big way.

My HipstaPrint 937096673_1I made broccoli and cheese quiche and picked up some lox.  We had bagels, munchkins, coffee, fruit salad, cheese and crackers (some people prefer savory at breakfast), mexibake (a tortilla/egg/cheese/salsa casserole), and amazing crepes filled with bacon, eggs and cheese or mushrooms, spinach and goat cheese. There was yummy coffee cake, yogurt and granola.  There were even clementines and some magic bars.

I think it’s safe to say that we ruled the faculty snacks.

My HipstaPrint 937096673_4My HipstaPrint 937096673_2My HipstaPrint 937096673_3I’m having a vegetarian week so I couldn’t eat the crepes with bacon, as pictured above.  But I did eat the ones with goat cheese, mushrooms and spinach.  So good.