Category: traditional with a twist

Chocolate toffee sea salt matzoh treats.

Getting bored of eating unleavened bread? Are you certain that you’re going to wind up with leftover Matzoh? Lemme upgrade ya.

Chocolate toffee sea salt matzoh.

You most definitely read that correctly; this is chocolate toffee sea salt matzoh. It’s like matzoh candy. Matzoh bark. I know I’ve left you guys hanging without any posts since April 1st. I hope this makes up for it, ’cause it’s pretty awesome.

Chocolate toffee matzoh with sea salt.

Matzoh, for those of you who don’t know (where do you live, under a rock?!) is an unleavened bread usually-not but not always- made for and eaten at Passover.

There are numerous explanations behind the symbolism of matzo. One is historical: Passover is a commemoration of the exodus from Egypt. The biblical narrative relates that the Israelites left Egypt in such haste they could not wait for their bread dough to rise; the bread, when baked, was matzo. (Exodus 12:39). The other reason for eating matzo is symbolic: On the one hand, matzo symbolizes redemption and freedom, but it is also lechem oni, “poor man’s bread”. Thus it serves as a reminder to be humble, and to not forget what life was like in servitude. Also, leaven symbolizes corruption and pride as leaven “puffs up”. Eating the “bread of affliction” is both a lesson in humility and an act that enhances the appreciation of freedom.

Another explanation is that matzo has been used to replace the pesach, or the traditional Passover offering that was made before the destruction of the Temple. During the Seder the third time the matzo is eaten it is preceded with the Sephardic rite, “zekher l’korban pesach hane’ekhal al hasova”. This means “remembrance of the Passover offering, eaten while full”. This last piece of the matzo eaten is called afikoman and many explain it as a symbol of salvation in the future.

The Passover Seder meal is full of symbols of salvation, including the opening of the door for Elijah and the closing line, “Next year in Jerusalem,” but the use of matzo is the oldest symbol of salvation in the Seder.

Passover this year started on April 22 and is ending on May 1. There’s still a few days to enjoy this during the holiday, but you can even enjoy it long after. Who says you can’t have chocolate covered matzoh after Passover ends? No one. And if someone says that, don’t talk to them anymore. You don’t need that negativity.

Chocolate toffee matzoh with sea salt.

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Milano cookie Easter bunnies!

(This was originally written for a contributor post on eighteen25, go take a look and see! And look for more posts by me over there soon.)

Hey guys and gals. I’m sorry for the lack of blog posts. I went almost an entire month without posting ANYTHING. I really am sorry. I know I’m lame- life is busy and it’s getting warmer. No excuse, I know, but today’s post is a super duper adorable one that I think you’re really going to LOVE.

BUNNIES!

Easter bunny Milano cookies!

I’m insane, I know. You’re thinking, “Really?!” But yes. You’re probably also thinking “Why didn’t I think of that!?”

I had this idea a while ago, and I never actually implemented it. But I wanted to for so long that this year I finally had to. I really didn’t know what to use, how to do it, etc. But it all came together and I had everything I needed in my house.

Easter bunny cookies!

What you need:

  • Milano cookies
  • White chocolate or white Candy Melts (I used Baker’s white chocolate)
  • sprinkles for eyes/nose
  • black food coloring (optional)
  • paper for ears

Originally, I planned on using Oreos covered in white chocolate, and just make bunny faces. But I bought a package of Milano cookies for the first time in forever and I realized… they’re BUNNY SHAPED. Well, not really. But kinda.

Easter bunny cookies.

I also used the new banana Milanos, which I think are really good. You can use any kind you want, obviously. Mint. Raspberry. Plain. Whatever.

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Authentic Irish soda bread with not-so-authentic whiskey butter.

Dutch oven irish soda bread.

I LOVE Irish soda bread. Love it. Actually, let me rephrase that: I love homemade Irish soda bread. The kind my mother and I make. I hate to break it to you: the raisins and caraway seeds in “Irish soda bread” are an American addition. I don’t find them too offensive; corned beef and cabbage is an American-Irish tradition as well, and my family has eaten it every St. Patricks Day since we’ve been in this country. However, that said, when I make my own bread I do not include them. I have occasionally, for fun, but on the regular I skip them. Probably because I don’t like raisins.

Most people make their soda bread on a baking sheet or sometimes in a cake pan. Traditionally, Irish soda bread was baked in a bastible, which is essentially a cast iron Dutch oven. It was made over hot coals or a fire, hanging in this bastible. So today, the recipe I’m sharing with you is made in just that: a Dutch oven. My Dutch oven is quite large- 7.25 qt. If you have a smaller one it will do just fine. I probably wouldn’t recommend going under 3.5/4 quarts, however.

Dutch oven irish soda bread.

Dutch oven irish soda bread.

And yes- if you don’t have a Dutch oven, you can use a cake pan, a pie plate or a baking dish and skip alla dis.

Irish soda bread is the EASIEST bread to make. It usually has super minimal ingredients, can be “kneaded” without much more than just a wooden spoon, it has no “rise” and it really is supposed to be rustic and rough looking. So it makes a perfect bread for beginners. If you’ve never made bread, this might be a really easy intro for you.

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Red currant cupcakes.

This is probably the first and last time you’ll see red currants on this blog.

Red currants.

Enjoy it.

See… they don’t grow locally. And they’re usually imported, and they’re usually pricey. Like $5.99 for 6 ounces pricey. Mmm hmm. And they’re not for everybody. They’re not like apples or oranges that everyone loves. They’re kind of a niche product. Most Americans don’t even know what a red currant tastes like, let alone have they seen one.

I’m telling you. My whole life and I’ve seen fresh currants TWICE in a market. TWICE.

Red currant cupcakes.

But that’s why they’re perfect for Valentine’s Day. Because they’re hard to find, they cost a pretty penny, and they’re just pretty. They have these perfectly round, translucent little orbs on the cutest little vines. They’re very delicate, too, and you realize when working with them just how hard it must be to pick them without crushing them. Which I’m sure only adds to the price.

I stretched out 12 ounces of red currants to make two 8-oz. jars of red currant jelly and then I used a bit of that jelly to fill some cupcakes. And I had to top them with fresh red currants too. I mean… if we’re gonna be decadent and floss a little bit… *pops collar*

Red currant jelly.

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Christmas jam, Amish style.

We’re getting so close to Christmas! Have you gotten all of your shopping done yet? Do you know what you’re giving every single person? If not, I have a suggestion- Amish Christmas jam.

Amish Christmas jam!

Before I say anything else, let me say this: this jam, when cooking, smells like the realistic, better, fresher version of a Christmas candle. You know, those candles that are called, like, “Home for the Holidays” or “Christmas berry wreath.” The scent of sweetness, cranberry, orange, and cinnamon… mixed with something else. Something sweet, juicy and berry-like. You know what that is?

Strawberry.

Yep. Strawberry. Wait, what’s that? Everyone’s favorite spring berry, making an appearance in this Christmas jam? Yes! And you wouldn’t believe how good it smells!

There are a lot of variations of Amish Christmas jam. Some have raspberries and blackberries with cranberries. Some have strawberries, like this one. Some even have pineapple or regular apples. I don’t know the origins of it, or if it’s really an Amish thing (I mean, beyond the fact it’s always being sold at Amish country gift shops), but it certainly is delicious.

Amish Christmas jam.

This particular recipe is low-sugar. The entire thing only requires 2 cups of it! Most Amish Christmas jam recipes require twice as much (or more). In this recipe, the fruit itself takes center stage. However, because it’s low-sugar, it uses Pomona’s Pectin, which is a two-step pectin specifically used in low/no-sugar canning recipes that can be intimidating to some people. Don’t be intimidated! It’s very, very easy.

And I would even venture to say a canning newbie could make this recipe very easily.

Amish Christmas jam.

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Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with brandy icing and sugared cranberries.

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with sugared cranberries.

So, hey guys… I made some mini-bundt gingerbread cakes. Cutest little things. And add to them some cute little sparkly sugared cranberries. Ugh. Forget it. Are visions of sugarplums- or sugared cranberries- dancing in your head? It’s Christmastime, folks! I know! So exciting. It’s such a busy time of year, I know, but I hope you all take some time to spend with your families and friends. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and forget that not only are we all human- but what’s important.

Beautiful things don’t always have to be complicated. Simple is beautiful too. And I promise you that these little mini gingerbread bundts are simple. Don’t be scared by the sugared cranberries!

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with sugared cranberries.

Gingerbread is so Christmas, it’s practically mandatory. If you let a holiday season go by without making gingerbread, it’s almost sacrilegious. I decided to up the ante and add another holiday favorite: cranberries. And let’s not forget brandy, another holiday staple.

So yeah. Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes. They’re so beautiful… and also just plain adorable. But SIMPLE. Just a few ingredients, a little bit of mixing and tossing and whisking and voila. Gorgeous little cakes to serve after a holiday meal. And they’ll make you feel all Martha Stewart-y.

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with sugared cranberries.

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Cranberry walnut corn muffins.

It’s December already. Can you believe it? Time really flew by this year, it seems. Every year seems to go by faster and faster, actually, the older I get. It really seems just like yesterday I was gardeningcanning peaches. And now Thanksgiving is over and we’re sprinting toward a new year. I can’t believe my Christmas tree will be up by the end of next week!

Cranberry walnut corn muffins.

The day I first made these was the day after the horrific Paris restaurant & nightclub attacks, back in November. I felt like I needed to bake something, as I usually do when bad things happen. As someone whose husband has been in Paris (and all over Europe), performing in nightclubs and bars similar to Bataclan many times… it’s even harder. I can put myself in that situation very easily. I know what it’s like to know someone you love is many miles away and you’re waiting for the call when the show is over. For some, that call didn’t come.  These bad things seemingly happen a lot in today’s world- and for me, when they do, it’s comforting to come into my little kitchen and make something warm and delicious.

And you know how it is- you have like, three random ingredients you need to use, and you want to moosh ’em all together and make something. So that’s how these were born. I found a recipe I liked, and added walnuts to it. These are basically a one-bowl wonder.

They’re also kind of a go-between of sweet and savory, tart and sweet. Great warm with butter and just as great as a side to a meal. They do make a wonderful breakfast, too, though.

Cranberry walnut corn muffins.

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