Miracle Bars: easiest cookies ever

21 Apr

passover miracle barsWhen we make sweets for Passover, the ultimate accolade is, “This is good enough for regular!”

Well, these easy-t0-make bars really are, probably because they contain no matzoh meal or matzoh flour — not even potato starch!

I got the recipe from a collection of Passover recipes that came into my email in-box; I apologize that I can’t credit the source.

It’s one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made, and it would be a great one to make with young children, who can dump the ingredients into a bowl and stir. And they’re gluten-free!

The recipe says you can shape them into cookies instead of bars; I haven’t tried this. My own suggestion is to consider replacing the chocolate chips with Craisins or dried cherries — or add those in addition to the chocolate chips.

The original recipe also called for a 9 x 13-inch pan. I used an 8-inch-square pan and it worked well; I think in a 9 x 13 pan the squares would be too short. I also changed the baking time and temperature slightly.

Another bit of advice: the first few bars tended to stick to the pan, even when I greased it well — after the first few came out crumbled I was able to pry out the others intact. The second time I made this recipe I put a piece of parchment paper in the pan before adding the batter — and had no broken bars!

Ingredients:

1 cups ground almonds
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs (extra-large work best)
1 cup chocolate chips
Optional: 1 cup Craisins or dried cherries in place of or in addition to chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. The batter will be thick; do not add water or other liquid.

Grease an 8 x 8-inch square baking pan and put parchment paper on the bottom. Or lightly grease a cookie sheet if you plan to make cookies. Spread the batter evenly in the pan or shape into cookies and place on the greased cookie sheet.

Bake square pan for 30 minutes (cookies will take less time) until the top is nicely browned and the center of the pan looks dry; do not undercook.

Cool completely in the pan, then turn out and cut into 16 squares. (If making cookies, cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.)

Pasta with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce

14 Apr

mushroom pastaI think I told you awhile ago that I was part of a BzzAgent campaign on behalf of HemisFares brand pasta, available at the Kroger family of stores. They sent me a free sample of pasta so I could tell people how wonderful it is. I promised another recipe using the pasta and here it is.

I love the HemisFares fusilli bucati lunghi — it’s long strands of spiral pasta with a nice al dente texture even when cooked a little longer than the directions call for. I wanted to pair it with a fairly substantial sauce. This is a very tasty and fairly easy recipe.

The original sauce recipe said it made enough for a pound of pasta, but I used a half-pound, and there wasn’t a lot of extra! The original also called for heavy cream, but I used half & half. I also didn’t have shallots, so I substituted the white end of scallions.

Ingredients:

½ lb. uncooked pasta (the fusilli is a good choice; farfalle – bow ties – is another)
1 Tbs. butter
12 oz. presliced exotic mushroom blend
½ cup chopped onion
⅓ cup finely chopped shallots
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1½ tsp. salt, divided
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ cup dry white wine
⅔ cup half & half
½ cup grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

Melt the butter in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, onion, shallots, garlic, 1 tsp. salt and peppr and cook for about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until liquid evaporates and mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat.

Add the cooked pasta, half & half, cheese and parsley, tossing gently to coat. Stir in the remaining ½ tsp. salt.

Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Passover fruit compote

31 Mar

Passover compoteThe biggest complaint about all the matzoh we eat at Passover is that is turns into a brick in your innards, a cause of digestive distress for many of us. Of course you can mitigate this by eating less matzoh and more fresh fruit and vegetables, but we know how much you love those matzoh breis, matzoh kugels, cakes and other treats.

One thing I always make at Passover to balance out the matzoh is fruit compote. It’s really easy, and it tastes great plain or mixed with a little yogurt. I eat it often for breakfast during the holiday.

Compote is more a method than a recipe, so feel free to improvise and add other dried fruits if you like.

Happy Passover and Easter to all who celebrate, and happy spring to all. I’m taking a break next week — see you in a few.

Ingredients:

2 cups pitted prunes
1 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup raisins, Craisins or dried cherries
1 lemon, sliced
2 Tbs. honey
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

Put all ingredients in a medium saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down so the water is barely simmering and cook for at least a half-hour until the prunes and apricots are really soft, adding a little more water if necessary. Discard the lemon slices and cool. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

 

Easy Passover Brownies

24 Mar

Passover browniesGroan! If you’re like me, you’re up to your elbows in Passover cleaning and starting to think about the cooking. For everyone in the midst of this craziness, I wish you energy to complete the task and joy when everything is done!

I make these brownies every year because they’re easy and they’re good. In fact the recipe is almost exactly the same as the non-Passover brownies-from-scratch recipe I use year-round except it leaves out the baking powder (even though you can find kosher-for-Passover baking powder) and it uses a little less cake flour than all-purpose flour. If you wrap them well, they’ll keep for a few days.

Ingredients:

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
⅓ cup matzo cake meal
¼ tsp. salt
6 Tbs. cocoa
1 stick butter or margarine, melted (tip: if you melt it in the baking pan, the pan will be nicely greased!)
½ cup chopped nuts or chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat eggs. Add sugar gradually and beat until light and fluffy. Add the salt, matzo cake meal and cocoa powder and mix well. Add the melted margarine and mix well.

Stir in the nuts or chocolate chips.

Bake in a greased 8-inch square pan for 30 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into squares. Wrap leftovers carefully so they don’t dry out.

Makes 16 brownies

Pasta Puttanesca

17 Mar

pasta puttanesca

Full disclosure: I occasionally participate in something called a Bzz campaign. I get a free sample of a product with the understanding that I’ll create “buzz” about it by telling my friends.

A week or so ago I got a free sample of a new brand of pasta called HemisFares, available at the Kroger family of stores. There are many varieties; I got fusilli bucati lunghi, which is great, because my pantry had spaghetti, fettucini, rotini, rigatoni, jumbo shells, lasagne and elbow mac — but no fusilli!

The HemisFares pastas are imported from specific regions of Italy.

I did like the HemisFares sample. The long strands of corkscrew pasta had a homemade look. When cooked, it had a nice, firm texture, and the corkscrew shape held the sauce well. Of course, as my husband said, “It tastes like pasta.”

But if you shop at Kroger, give it a try!

I made it with two sauces, puttanesca and wild mushroom; I’ll give you the recipe for the second one another time.

This flavorful and somewhat spicy puttanesca sauce recipe is slightly altered from one by Annabel Cohen that appeared in the Detroit Jewish News. The olives, capers and red pepper flakes give it a nice kick.

The name of the dish can be translated as “pasta in the style of a whore.” No one is sure why. Maybe ladies of the evening in Italy cooked it to entice people into their establishments. Maybe they cooked it for themselves because it’s fast and easy to make. In any event, it’s delicious!

Ingredients:

¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1½ cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic
3 14-oz. cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 14-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 2-oz. can anchovy fillets with oil
3 Tbs. capers
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped green or Kalamata olives (or a mixture)
1 cup chopped parsley

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute.

Add the onions and garlic and saute for 2 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

If you like, you can blend slightly with an immersion blender, but the sauce should still be chunky.

You can add grated Parmesan cheese before serving if you like.chee

Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Serves 12

Spiced Pecan Waffles

10 Mar

Hi everyone, I will give you a recipe eventually but first I want to use this blog as a bully pulpit to alert you to a fairly common problem in newborns that is easily diagnosed and easily fixed — but for whatever reason in our crazy medical system often isn’t.

Many babies are born tongue-tied, which means something way different than awkward with words. Others have a related problem, lip tie. These ties are thin cords of tissue connecting the bottom of the tongue to the palate or the upper or lower lip to the gum. If they are short or in the wrong place they can interfere with feeding. Later in life they can cause eating and speech problems.

I feel like a minor expert now because my nearly four-month-old granddaughter was born with a tongue and a lip tie. The tongue tie was noticed in the hospital but no one felt the need to do anything about it because the baby seemed to be nursing,

Well, she wasn’t nursing properly. She wasn’t getting enough milk. Because her anatomy forced her to work extra hard and mis-use some of her facial muscles, she would get fatigued easily and fall asleep halfway through a feed. With the baby demanding less, my daughter wasn’t producing as much milk as she should have been.

The first solution, as usual, was to suggest bottle-feeding. In my granddaughter’s case, this wasn’t suggested until the baby was three months old, by which time she had no interest in a bottle. She wouldn’t swallow anything that didn’t come directly from mama. And she started losing weight.

My daughter found the solution almost by accident. She had gone to a lactation consultant, who recommended using a “supplemental nursing system.” Pumped breast milk or formula is put into a small bottle, and a very thin tube leading from the bottle is taped next to the mother’s nipple, so that the baby takes in extra while she’s nursing.

The only place to get the supplemental nursing system was from another lactation consultant. This one, upon hearing my daughter’s story, immediately suspected a tie, and when she looked at my granddaughter, she could immediately see a tongue tie and a lip tie. Because she couldn’t move her tongue and lip properly, my granddaughter wasn’t able to get a good grasp on the breast and wasn’t able to get as much food as she needed.

The lactation consultant referred my daughter to a dentist who uses a water laser to cut the ties, and three days later we were in the dentist’s office. The procedure was fast and painless — they know because they also do it on adults. Within a few days, my granddaughter was able to get a better “latch” on her mom and started eating better. She quickly started to gain weight again. (We’re talking ounces here, but when you weigh only 9 pounds, every ounce counts.)

Why a dentist? The lactation consultant told us dentists are at the forefront of developing effective ways to treat oral ties because they see the ongoing problems ties can cause in older children and adults. Speech pathologists are also strong advocates for better treatment because they also see the adverse results.

Most doctors pooh-pooh the idea of correcting ties in infancy, even though it’s such a simple procedure. A friend of my daughter’s, whose child has a lip tie, was actually told by the pediatrician not to worry, that the child would one day fall down and rip the tie. This is a solution?

I’m moving so far from food today just to alert you — anyone who is pregnant, or has a baby, or knows someone who does — that this problem exists and that it’s very easy to fix. But don’t rely on hospital nurses or pediatricians to point the way.

And now on to food — a nice recipe for a lazy Sunday morning or even a weekday supper.

I got the recipe from Annabel Cohen, who used it in her column in the Detroit Jewish News.

spiced pecan wafflesIngredients:

2 cups flour
4 tsp. baking power
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup chopped pecans
2 eggs
1¾ cup milk or orange juice
½ cup melted butter
1 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

Heat a waffle iron.

Combine dry ingredients – flour through pecans – in a large bowl bowl and whisk well. Set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk well. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir till combined.

Spoon the batter into the waffle iron and bake until brown.

Serve with real maple syrup.

Serves 6

Four-Grain Pilaf

24 Feb

Four-Grain Pilaf

Here’s a nice, hearty side dish that combines a lot of different grains for great taste, lots of fiber and an interesting texture.

Ingredients:

1½ Tbs. olive oil
1½ Tbs. margarine
¾ cup chopped onions
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms
½ cup medium barley
¼ cup wild rice
¼ cup bulgur
¼ cup basmati rice
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock (plus more if needed)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put half the margarine and olive oil in a medium skillet and saute the onions over medium-high heat until wilted, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and mushrooms and saute 5 minutes longer, tossing, until the mushrooms begin to brown. Scrape the mixture into a small casserole with a lid.

Melt the remaining margarine and the oil in the skillet and add the grains. Saute until the grains begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil.

Pour the stock and grains into the casserole and mix. Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Check after 30 minutes to make sure the mixture is not drying out. If it is, add a little more stock or water.

Let the casserole sit out of the oven, covered, about 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 6

 

 

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