Passover Recipe Ideas: Chocolate Coconut Mousse and Brisket

Food plays such an intensely important role in our lives, and it isn’t just the fuel required to sustain us. Taste is an enjoyable phenomenon that can bring happiness into any moment. Unique ways of preparing food is a cultural foundation for all people. When friends and family come together they usually gather around food in some way, whether it’s a dinner party or chicken wings during a football game.

When we celebrate an event there is food. When a person mourns they are immediately provided with food from their loved ones. It is the most instinctive way we care for those we cherish, and preparing a meal for a guest is a simple way to honor them. Taking the time to choose dishes you know to be someone’s favorite, or putting in the effort to creatively and deliciously meet the dietary needs and/or restrictions of others can be an incredibly touching gesture.

I love everything about hosting. I love having friends that know our door is always open to their company. I love providing a feeling that my home is their home. I love feeding people. I love the sound of children giggling together in the playroom while the parents enjoy some adult time. I love providing a space to worship G-d through conversation and fellowship. After all, doesn’t the Bible say in Matthew 18:20 “For where there are two or three gathered in my name, there am I among them“? My closest friends know that in my mind someone’s home can be their own personal ministry, and most people who spend significant amounts of time in my house know that I enjoy welcoming company, and I especially love feeding people. I don’t let you walk out of my door hungry if I can help it.

This is perhaps one of the reasons why Passover and Sukkot are my two favorite holidays. Both are home based festivals that encourage an open door (or tent flap in the case of Sukkot) for guests. They are an exercise in extreme hospitality, and I feel completely in my element when I prepare for these awesome celebrations.

Naturally, the details I tend to focus most on when it comes to inviting people into my house is food. What would they like? Are there any allergies or other dietary restrictions? What foods pair well with one another? Is this enough or should I throw in another dish? (Side note: I always have enough food). With Passover specifically it can be even trickier. Some guests may have varying levels of observance regarding their regular religious food restrictions. On top of that we have holiday specific dietary needs (no leavened foods), and even within those restrictions there are various levels of observances to consider. So every year I stick with relatively the same menu that I’ve perfected over time.

Matzo ball soup. Salad. Roasted vegetables. Curried fruit. A potato dish. Matzo kugel. Salmon. And a delicious brisket.

This year I finally figured out that a chocolate coconut mousse was the perfect dessert to go along with our Seder meal. It requires only a couple of ingredients, is very easy to whip up, and most importantly it is light, fluffy, and delicious. It will definitely appear on future Seder menus.

So, if you’re looking for a dessert that will feed people with any number of dietary restrictions, this mousse is perfect. If you’re planning a special dinner and want to share something nice and tasty with your guests, this brisket is great choice!

Chocolate Coconut Mousse

Ingredients

2 13.5 oz cans coconut milk
2 tbsp powdered sugar
5 tbsp coco powder

Directions

  1. Scoop the cream at the top of the coconut milk into a bowl, and discard the rest of the liquid. Add sugar and beat together using a hand mixer until creamy and thick.
  2. Fold in the coco and continue beating. The mixture will begin to have a more fluffy texture.
  3. Place in the refrigerator to chill in order to give it a little more form, otherwise it can be served immediately

 

Brisket

*NOTE: I have three necessary rules about cooking a brisket. First: You cook the meat with the fat on it. This is crucial for maintaining flavor. Second: Baste every 30 minutes. It will give you that nice fall apart texture. Third: You should cook the brisket a day ahead, and serve reheated. This gives it time to soak in the juices and takes in as much flavor as possible.

Ingredients

1 4lb beef brisket
6 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary (needles taken off of the stem and chopped)
1/4 cup olive oil
Black pepper
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
3 celery stalked, cut into chunks
4 red onions, chopped
1 bottle of dry red wine (or about 2 cups)
1 16oz can of whole tomatoes (hand crushed)
a handful of fresh parsley
3 bay leaves

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Stir together garlic, salt, and rosemary. Combine with olive oil and set aside.
  2. Season both sides of the brisket with a decent amount of salt and pepper. Place the brisket into a dutch oven or pan over medium-high heat and sear both sides until browned.
  3. Transfer to a roasting pan (or keep it in a dutch oven if there is room). Arrange vegetables around the pan, and pour the garlic rosemary mixture over the entire brisket. Pour in the wine and tomatoes, and add the parsley and bay leaves.
  4. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, or the cover of the roasting pan. Bake for 4 hours, basting every 30 minutes.
  5. Store the brisket in the refrigerator over night (keeping it in the pan with the juices). Reheat in a warm oven before serving (I started on 350 until it heated through, and then left it at 170 for a couple of hours before we were ready to serve).

Caprese Chicken Lasagna

With Passover coming up it is once again time for me to go through my kitchen and find ways to use the breads and pastas hanging out in the back shelves of my pantry before the big chametz clean. “Kashering”, which is what we call the process, is basically a major spring cleaning right before the beginning of Passover where we rid our home of any food and ingredients that contain leavening (crumbs and all). At the end of the prep there are a few moments where I can sit back and sigh in relief as I enjoy the house being the cleanest it has been all year. It’s one of the more taxing parts of my job as matriarch of this house, but I love the end result.

Leading up to the big sweep I try to salvage what I can in terms of food. This time around we had a ton of lasagna noodles, so of course this meant Shabbat dinner was going to be more on the Italian side this week.

Usually I stick with one particular recipe I’m familiar with. A basic vegetarian lasagna my grandmother gave me. This time around I wanted to try something a little different to add to my collection of recipes. Caprese is an Italian salad I absolutely love. It’s simple to throw together, it warms my heart and waters my mouth whenever someone provides it at a pot luck, and it’s sure to win people over whenever I introduce it to those who have never tried it. For those who are not familiar, caprese is a piece of tomato, basil leaf, and fresh mozzarella cheese put together with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Sometimes it is tossed together in a salad. Sometimes the basil and mozzarella are laid on top of a piece of sliced tomato. Sometimes they are made into a cute bite sized appetizer by using baby tomatoes and toothpicks.

This time around I decided to turn caprese into a lasagna, and the result was incredibly delicious.

For those of you needing to use up that box of lasagna noodles before Passover, here’s your answer. For those who are simply looking for new dinner ideas or something to provide at a pot luck, this will put smiles on the faces you serve.

 

Caprese Chicken Lasagna 

Ingredients
1 box of lasagna noodles
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast
1 tbsp oregno
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
5 cloves of garlic (divided)
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1 yellow onion (chopped)
2 1/2 cups milk
5 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 – 15 oz container of ricotta cheese
1 egg
4 tomatoes
1 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
extra balsamic vinegar for a glaze

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and cook noodles according to package instructions

2) In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Cut up the chicken and mix with oregano, parsley, thyme, and salt and pepper. Cook until golden. Stir in balsamic vinegar and 2 cloves of garlic until well combined. Set aside.

3) In a sauce pan melt the butter. Saute chopped onion and the remaining garlic for about two minutes. Add flour and cook until a golden color. Stir in milk and simmer until the texture is creamy. Add one cup of mozzarella and the Parmesan cheese.

4) In separate bowl stir together ricotta cheese and egg.

5) Assemble the lasagna in a large baking dish. Spread a thin layer of sauce. Add a layer of cooked noodles. On top of the noodles spread a third of the ricotta cheese mixture, followed by a third of tomato slices, and a third of mozzarella. Repeat layers.

6) Bake for about 35 minutes. Once the lasagna is bubbly, drizzle a balsamic glaze over the top and serve!

The Snowy Day

I struck homeschooling gold this week! While planning through the Before Five In A Row curriculum I’m currently using with Hudi, I had scheduled to read The Snowy Day this week. I wanted so badly to be able to have a hands on experience, but there was no way  I could coordinate his curriculum schedule with the weather way back in June (when I was doing the planning). To add on to the struggle, it doesn’t snow here. Not really. We get maybe one or two ice storms a year, and every few years we might get one decent snow (decent being about  1-2 inches of powder). So I took a chance and picked a random week in January, since that was the most likely month (other than February) we’d see snow.

It honestly feels like G-d has blessed our homeschool endeavors, because this was the week we had snow! Not just ice like we normally expect, but about an inch or two of fluffy powder to play in! I had hoped all year (well, since June) for the off chance of this happening, and to my extreme delight it did!

Around here, everything shuts down at just the mildest snow/ice “storm”. It’s not that southerner’s can’t handle the weather (as much as us yankees like to joke about that). It’s the fact that we see so little of winter weather, there’s no point in maintaining the supplies and equipment necessary to keep roads safe.

Growing up in Chicago we had an entire season to space out all of winter’s homey charm. Here we have to jam pack it into the one day a year we see snow. Being stuck at home means you don’t have anywhere to be, which frees you up to spend the day on all the comfy and fun things that make this season special.

Our snow day fun actually started yesterday while we were still keeping an eye on weather reports, and crossing our fingers for a good snowfall. As part of Hudi’s school we did “snow painting”, which was an incredibly easy activity using staple ingredients.

2878756When the snow finally did come the next day (today) we woke up to eat breakfast (french toast), and bundled ourselves up to go play outside. Hudi immediately made the connection between playing in the snow and his book. Just like Peter in The Snowy Day, he made tracks with a stick, attempted to build a snowman, and enjoyed snow ball fights (which was his favorite activity). I also got a little artsy and took his paints outside. There was nothing special about it…I just let him paint the snow! Why this isn’t a more common activity, I don’t know, but we had a whole yard of natural white canvas, so why not?

When we came inside we warmed ourselves up with an incredibly delicious cup of hot chocolate. Candy Land was played over a bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup (I keep that recipe to myself…sorry!). We then collected up the bowls we had set out earlier and made snow cream (3 different varieties!).

After spending some time inside, we eventually bundled ourselves up once more and headed back out. More snowballs were tossed at each other, and we took an evening stroll around the block. Our day began to settle down in front of the gas logs, where we had an indoor picnic dinner (once again…homemade chicken noodle soup).

It was exactly what you dream of when you envision a snow day. I’m hoping tomorrow (since this is a rare occasion when the snow isn’t melting within 24 hours apparently) we can make homemade pretzels.

So…the instructions for snow painting, the hot chocolate, and the snow cream we had today…

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Snow Painting
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
Dark construction paper
Paint brushes

Mix the flour, salt, and water together until it’s well combined and forms a sort of paste. This activity is as simple as painting the mixture onto paper. Dark construction paper works best! The final product looks like snow!

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Chocolate Hazelnut Hot Chocolate

Ingredients
8 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
8 TBS nutella
4 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups brown sugar

Directions
In a large saucepan, mix all of the ingredients until well combined. This can also be mixed in a crock pot and left to heat for as long as it takes to warm up enough to be enjoyed.

We definitely used the crock pot so that it could be ready when we came in from the snow!

Garnished with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and sprinkles!

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Snow Cream – Basic Recipe

Ingredients 
8 cups of snow
1 – 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1-3 tsp vanilla

Instructions
Place a bowl outside during a snowfall. To get even more snow, place multiple bowls outside. After a few hours, bring your bowls inside. If you had a few inches of snow, you can also collect the top layer of snow directly from the ground…assuming it’s clean. Have your ingredients ready to go before you bring in the snow, since you’re going to want to work rather quickly before it melts.

For a basic snow cream, add in one can of sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla. You can also add some sugar (white or brown!).

Be gentle with stirring (more like a churn), since you don’t want the snow to melt too quickly.

You can also get creative with your flavors. Simply use the basic recipe as a base, and add any variety of other ingredients. The two other flavors we tried today were…

Chocolate peanut butter: We mixed in a few tablespoons of chocolate syrup, and about three large spoonfuls of peanut butter.

We also created a “bourbon Italian sweet cream” flavor. I poured a little bit (maybe half a cup) of Italian sweet cream coffee cream into the mix, as well as torani bourbon caramel flavoring. I’d suggest maybe 1-2 tablespoons. This one was probably my favorite of the three!

Lavender Maple Vanilla Sufanyot

I love Hanukkah. A celebration of miracles. The warm glow of candles for 8 nights in a row. Oh, and fried food. Let’s be honest, the fried food is a major highlight. After kicking off the first night my house now has a delicious leftover smell that reminds me of the state fair. For dinner we had latke grilled cheese sandwiches, which I’ve established as a family tradition since I discovered the idea last year. That scrumptiousness was then followed by sufganiyot (Israeli donuts). We also may have slipped in a few pieces of  cheap gelt after some dreidle playing. No one ever claimed Hanukkah was about health, and I’m perfectly okay with that.

It had taken me a couple years to figure out all of the tips and tricks to frying, but once I got the hang of it I immediately began playing around with various flavor combinations and recipes (hence the latke grilled cheese sandwiches). This year I continued my interest in experimenting with lavender, and decided to try out a jelly concoction in my first round of sufganiyot.

I’m happy to say that it turned out to be quite enjoyable, and the flavor paired excellently with the donuts. I used one full jar of the jelly for  donuts, and the rest is going to be given away as gifts. Pretty soon I’m definitely going to make another batch!

So…how to make these things…

For The Jelly

Ingredients
3 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup lavender buds
1 tsp cardamom
1 lemon
1 envelope of pectin
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 vanilla bean
4 cups sugar

Directions
Bring water to boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Once the water reaches a boil, take the pan off of the heat and add lavender. Cover pot, and let it steep for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, strain the mixture through a cheesecloth or other fine mesh cloth into a deep pot. Discard the lavender buds.

Stir in the juice of the lemon and pectin until the pectin is completely dissolved.  Add the maple syrup and vanilla bean.

Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, and add sugar. Return the mixture to a rolling boil. Stirring occasionally, allow it to boil for about 3 minutes.

To determine the consistency of the jelly, and whether or not it has cooked enough, use “the spoon test”. Keep a metal spoon in cold water nearby. Dip the spoon into the boiling mixture. If the jelly runs off of the spoon, keep cooking it for a little longer. If it turns to a “jelly” consistency when the spoon is lifted out of the pot, it’s done.

For The Sufganiyot

Ingredients 
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 packet of yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 salt
2 large egg yolks
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbs butter
6 cups canola oil (plus more for coating a bowl)
Jam or jelly
powdered sugar

Directions
Combine flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in a bowl. Add yolks and milk, and mix until dough is shaggy. Add butter and continue to mix until dough is smooth.

Coat a large bowl with oil. Form dough into a ball, and roll in the bowl until it is covered in oil. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or plastic wrap, and allow dough to rise for 1 1/2 hours.

When dough is done rising, coat a baking sheet or cutting board with flour. Roll out the dough until it’s about 1/4 inch thickness. Using a round cookie cutter (about 2 inches around) or the rim of a cup, cut out as many rounds as possible. Take the leftover dough and roll it out again to redo the process until all of the dough is used.

Lay out the cut out rounds on a baking sheet. Loosely cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 30 minutes.

While the dough is rising, heat the 6 cups of oil in a dutch oven or heavy bottom pot. The temperature of the oil should reach about 350 degrees.

When the dough is done rising, pick up a round with a spatula (not your fingers, as this can deflate the donut). Drop them into the oil to cook. Once the bottom of the donuts are browned, flip them over using a fork. Once completely cooked, lift them out of the oil and place them on a baking sheet lined with a paper towel.

Once the donuts are finished cooling, pour jelly into a piping bag. Puncture the side of the donuts, and squeeze about a teaspoon of jelly into the donuts.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar, and enjoy!

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Rose Jelly

I have been working with some unique flavors lately.  First it was the lavender cupcakes with honey frosting, and then it was the lavender cookies with rosewater icing. Both recipes gave me an opportunity to work with interesting ingredients, and they turned out to be quite delicious.

Since my husband and I conducted a few experiments with pectin in the kitchen one night, I have been wanting to try my hand at making my own jams. There was one jelly in particular I was looking to try, but I was missing one of the core ingredients.

Today, however, as I stepped outside on my way to the store I noticed that my rose bush was starting to bloom. How is that related to our jelly experiments in the kitchen? Well, it’s the ingredient I have been missing for this new recipe I wanted to try.

I love adventures, and that includes the kind I experience standing over a stove, so the idea of using flower petals in cooking was something I was more than willing to try.

And the great thing is that it turned out to be pretty delicious! My toddler and I shared some on a piece of toast, and he declared it to be “so yummy” and his “favorite” (along with the millions of other things that are currently his “favorite”, but hey, he’s still learning what that word means).

Ingredients
2 cups rose petals (fresh, and not treated with chemicals)
2 cups water
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
6 oz liquid pectin (2 pouches)
2 tbs rosewater

Directions

Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Tale pan off heat, and pour in petals. Cover and let steep for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, strain the water into a medium sized sauce pan. Discard the petals. Add sugar and lemon juice to the water. This is a good time to put a spoon in the freezer, which will be explained later.

Bring the water to a boil, and let boil for two minutes. Add in the pectin.

This is where the spoon will come in handy. Let the water boil for about 5 minutes. Take the spoon out of the freezer for the “chilled spoon test”. Give the pan a quick stir with the spoon. If the mixture runs off of the spoon, it isn’t done. If some of the mixture sticks to the spoon, but is still runny, it needs a little more time. If it completely sticks to the spoon like jelly, it’s done.

Give the mix as long as it needs on the stove, conducting the spoon test every 2 minutes or so.

When the jelly is finally done, take the pan off of the heat and stir in the rosewater. Pour jelly into prepared mason jars and allow the mixture time to harden into jelly.

Enjoy!

Lavender Cookies With Rosewater Icing

Someday I’m going to have a Jane Austen themed ladies night where my friends and I will dress elegantly, giggle over tea and crumpets, and watch Pride and Prejudice. It is going to be splendid.

I’m also going to make this brand new recipe I’ve tried out today. It is so deliciously appropriate for a tea party like gathering, and it reminds me of something I would eat while chilling with the Bennet sisters.  Until then, however, our friends who join us for a monthly Bible study will be enjoying these uniquely flavored cookies over our discussions.

I’ve been experimenting a lot with lavender lately since I have such a huge bag of it sitting in my cabinet (no matter how much I use, that bag seems to remain constantly full!) . A couple months ago I made lavender cupcakes with honey frosting, and this past week I created lavender hamentashen with rosewater jelly for Purim. It’s a very unique flavor that isn’t widely used, but once I started working with it regularly I realized that it really brings a wonderful touch to baked goods. Not only that, but it smells so incredibly fresh and scrumptious it becomes rather comforting to work with.

What You Need:
(For The cookies)
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tbs lavender (chopped finely)
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

(For The Icing)
3cups powdered sugar (possibly more)
6 tsp water
6 tsp rose water

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine melted butter, sugar, and eggs into a bowl. Gently stir in lavender. Add flour, baking powder and salt.

Spoon cookie dough onto well oiled cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes.

While cookies are baking, prepare the icing by combining powder sugar, water, and rosewater. If the consistency is too runny, add more powder sugar.

Once cookies are out of the oven and cooled, spread icing over cookies. A little goes a long way since the icing is going to be rather strong (you can adjust the strength of the flavor by adding more or less rosewater to the icing recipe).

Lavender Cupcakes With Honey Frosting

I love food adventures. New flavors and unique ingredients are part of the fun in being kitchen savvy. It’s an even better experience when you’re sharing new and delicious creations with people you love. It’s simple math in my book: Food = love.

The social circles I run in tend to be rather clever and creative with their food, and I love having a high bar to challenge me. Whenever I’m tasked with feeding these people it provides me with the opportunity to try new things that I otherwise wouldn’t attempt, and more often than not that attitude is reciprocated. It’s a very beautiful relationship.

While preparing for a recent young adults fellowship in our home, I was greatly inspired to use the bag of lavender buds I have sitting in my pantry. I originally purchased the bag to make lavender infused milk, which I hoped at the time would assist in our toddler’s bedtime routine (since lavender has a calming effect). The awesome thing about this purchase is the fact that 1) the bag is rather large and 2) It’s very strong, and therefor a little goes a long way. Ergo, I have a lot left over.

So I decided I would try using it in baking, and decided that our gathering would be the perfect excuse to give it a go. The cupcakes I settled on making turned out to be delicious, and I had no leftovers after everyone left.

Now, I just need to discover what else I could incorporate lavender in.

 

For the cupcakes you will need:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tbs lavender buds (finally chopped)
2/3 cup cold milk

For the frosting you will need:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs honey (plus more to drizzle if you wish)

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. Soften the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla. If you want to make the cupcakes a purple color for appearance, this would be a good time to add half and half of blue and red food coloring.

2) In a separate bowl stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir lavender buds into mix (make sure they are as finely chopped as possible, otherwise you will have chunks of lavender in the cupcakes).

3) Combine the two mixtures, and add milk.

4) Pour batter into the prepared muffin tin, and bake for 20 minutes.

For the Frosting:
Beat the butter and cream cheese together until well mixed. Adding 1 cup at a time, beat in the powdered sugar. Once the frosting is smooth and creamy, add in the vanilla and honey.

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