Butternut Pear Soup

As if I really needed to dig myself further into the fall spirit, I have officially received my annual cold. This time around it even warped into inflammation going on within my head and inner ear, causing insane tension headaches and vertigo!

Of course being sick on cold fall days require some TLC…usually in the form of comfort food. Obviously the cook in the house is myself, so I needed a recipe that would be both delicious and easy. I didn’t want to spend too much time standing in a hot kitchen when I could have been lounging on the couch watching Sid the Science kid with the four year old.

This unique soup managed to hit the spot just right. The unique flavor worked as both an enjoyable dinner as well as the medicine needed to make me feel better.

It will definitely appear on my table again, hopefully under better circumstances.

Butternut Pear Soup

Ingredients

1 butternut squash – cubed into small pieces
3 Tbsp. olive oil (plus another Tbsp)
3 Tbsp.  rosemary
1 Tsp cinnamon
1 Tsp salt
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup green onions
2 large pears – peeled and chopped
3 Tbsp. maple syrup
mozzarella cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl mix the squash, olive oil, rosemary, cinnamon, and salt. Spread the mixture on a foil lined baking sheet and back for 45 minutes (you want the squash to be tender when poked with a fork).
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add green onions and cook for about 5 minutes. Add pears, chicken stock, and syrup. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. When the squash is done roasting, put both mixtures in a blender or food processor. Blend until the soup is smooth.
  4. Serve with a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese over the top of individual soup bowls and Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Cake with Marshmallow Frosting

I am not ashamed of the fact that I am the most typical American girl when it comes to fall. I obsess over pumpkin spiced things, I’m over eager to pull out my sweaters and boots even if the weather isn’t quite cold enough to warrant such attire, and come September I’m immediately diving into autumn themed recipes.

Even as a child, before social media caught on to the fact that fall is the best season of the year, Autumn was my happy place. I have fond memories of Friday night football games and sitting around the campfire with friends in jean jackets. I remember the feeling I got when I woke up Thanksgiving morning to find my grandmother already working her way around the kitchen as she prepared our meal.

Baby’s first Autumn

It’s something I will never out grow, and I will continue obsessing over fall probably for the rest of my life. Even my son is well aware of how much I love fall. The other day while running errands with my husband, he picked up a pumpkin spiced candle at the drug store and asked to buy it for me.

I do feel a great need to point out, however, that there is more flavor to fall than pumpkin spice. I love pumpkin, and I am creating quite a collection of pumpkin flavored food for myself, but there is a tendency for pumpkins to spend a little too much time in the spotlight while the cider, apple, maple, and zucchini flavors are neglected.

When Thanksgiving comes around, and you’re trying to decide what unique culinary creation you want to contribute, try something a little different. For example: A sweet potato cake.

This recipe is truly delicious, and captures that spicy fall goodness we all love. Ever since I posted a photo on my facebook, people have been asking for the recipe, and those who’ve eaten it so far seemed to enjoy it quite nicely!

The cake itself is sweet potato, however, the frosting is actually homemade marshmallow fluff. Basically this is a creative alternative to the typical sweet potato casserole. The store bought fluff isn’t going to work as well for this frosting, and it does require a decent amount of patience to get right. I also loved the crispiness of torching the surface once the cake was put together, but if you don’t have a kitchen torch than it isn’t too much of a loss.

The end result looked like a giant marshmallow, and it certainly captured a great deal of attention. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Cake With Marshmallow Frosting

Ingredients
For The Cake
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp salt
6 tbs butter, melted
6 tbs vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 sweet potatoes
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

For The Frosting
8 egg whites
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp creme of tartar
2 tsp vanilla
(have powdered sugar on hand)

Directions
For The Cake
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  and prepare 2- 8 inch cake pans. Begin by preparing a sweet potato puree. Boil sweet potatoes in a pot. Every now and then poke them with a fork. When the potatoes are softened, drop them in a food processor to puree them.

2. In a large bowl mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

3. In a separate bowl whisk butter, oil, sugars, eggs, and sweet potato.

4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix until well combined.

5. Divide the batter into the two pans. Place them in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.

6. Cool on a rack for at least ten minutes, or until cakes are completely cool.

For The Frosting
1. While the cake bakes in the oven, prepare the frosting. Begin by placing egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in a heat proof bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water. Whisk the until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is warm (about 5 minutes).
2. Remove from heat and beat with an electric mixer. Begin on low and slowly increase speed. White peaks will begin to form.  Add vanilla and continue to beat the mixture for about 7-10 minutes. If the mix is too runny, add powdered sugar (about 1/2 cup at a time) until you’ve reached the desired consistency. The frosting will be slightly softer than store bought fluff.
3. Place frosting in the fridge until ready for use. To assemble, spread frosting in between the two cake layers. Spread frosting over the top of the cake as well as the sides. For the roasted look at taste, run a kitchen torch over the surface of the cake, being careful not to burn the frosting.

Back To School and Bannock Recipe

Last year, when my son was two (almost three) years old, I decided to start our adventure into homeschooling. Beginning at this young of an age has given me the practice of routine, scheduling, and also getting to know my son’s learning style all before we enter into the school aged years that will eventually require more depth, focus, and discipline.  We learned how to read an write our alphabet, counting and writing numbers, basic shape and color recognition, and we explored more abstract concepts through various books we read. It was an incredibly enjoyable experience to see my son absorb knowledge, and I was excited when he started to express interest in reading and math toward the end of the year.

After a summer break (which included an amazing vacation), I have been so excited to get into our homeschooling routine again. This year, however, I decided to include a lot more material to meet his interests and abilities. I receive a ton of questions regarding how I’m homeschooling him. Do I use a curriculum? What is my routine? How do I plan? It’s always a little awkward trying to answer those, because truth be told I’m just trying to go with the flow. I’m still sorting through what works best for my son and me, and it takes a lot of trial and error before getting it right.  So far I think we are starting this year off with a good rhythm, and as we get better at the routine of having a designated “school time”, I’m feeling significantly more confident in my abilities for the future.

With regards to curriculum, there are a variety of resources we are using this year:

Five In A Row – Five In A Row is a literature based curriculum that covers a little bit of everything. Each week we have a book that we read together, and various themes and lessons are pulled from the story. The curriculum provides weekly ideas on math, science, literature, geography, and art to create a well rounded curriculum that is very much appropriate for young children. The expectation of Five In A Row is simply to read and converse with your children. It’s nothing fancy and tedious, and it’s effective (at least it has been with my son). There are ideas for extra activities to go along with each book, however, most of the learning is intended to take place via reading and discussion. We use Five In A Row for geography (each book takes place in a different place), science, art, and any other abstract subject presented in the curriculum. For other subjects, particularly reading and math, my son needed/wanted something a little more concrete.

Math U See – As someone who had significant struggles in math, I have come to adore Math U See. It’s manipulative based in that the curriculum uses block pieces (think legos) to physically demonstrate the concepts being taught. I also love how the lessons build on one another. The sequence of learning follows a logical path – introduce, review, practice, master – and the order in which students progress helps solidify their understanding of concepts. At the moment we are using the primer, which has been amazing. We’ve gotten through basic number identification and counting, identifying shapes, and at the moment we are introducing place value. We picked up Math U See toward the end of last year, and this year we are continuing his lessons at the pace he naturally sets for himself. The good thing about the primer is that, unlike the rest of Math U See, it is not meant to provide mastery. It’s simply an easy way to introduce math in preparation for future lessons, so it’s great for younger ages. It’s a significant relief for me to see that my son is forming a love for math, because that was a major stumbling block all through my personal school experience.

Spelling-You-See – Since Math U See has worked so well, I decided to pick up Spelling-You-See to help with reading and writing. It’s a very simple workbook that teaches basic phonics. So far the progress I’ve seen has been absolutely wonderful, and my son learned very quickly how to sound out small words.

Time To Read Hebrew: A very simple workbook series that teaches Hebrew. You are given a few letters at a time, and immediately you begin seeing them used in words (for example, the first letters you learn are shin, bet, and tav…which spell “Shabbat”).  We use the workbook as a guide for progress, but mostly we are working with various games we play with flashcards.

The Bible Story Series by Arthur S. Maxwell – Chances are you’ve seen these books while sitting in a doctor’s office. They are everywhere, and yet most people don’t pay too much attention to them. Yes, they are a little outdated in artistry (think 1950’s or 60’s), however, I am finding these books to be fantastic reads for my son. The main focus I have at the moment with regards to teaching my son the Bible is simply familiarizing the stories. What has worked the absolute best for us has been to follow the model Five In A Row intends – we simply read through the story and discuss. These books are associated with Seventh Day Adventists, though there are very few grand theological pushes within the stories. The thing I absolutely love about this series is the fact that it covers Biblical stories your typical storybook Bibles leave out (for example – we just the other day read a chapter specifically about Enoch, and later on they cover various prophets that are seldom mentioned in storybook bibles).  While I do have to switch up some of the language while I’m reading (again, a few decades outdated), I do find these books to be a great way to introduce my son to the Bible (on top of the children’s Bibles we’ve already been reading).

Our first couple of weeks started out smoothly! Week number one was a lot of short, sweet, and simple activities that got us back in the swing of having a “school” time in the morning. I introduced the theme of Geography, and we spent a lot of time studying the map we now have hanging on our wall. Together we read Flat Stanley, and he even created his own Flat Stanley for The Flat Stanley Project! (Now, I just have to send those out…)

Week number two was a little closer to what I’m aiming for a far as goals and routine. We started Five In A Row with the book The Very Last First Time by Jan Andrews, which introduced us to Canada! More specifically we focused on Inuit culture. We placed our story disk on Ungava Bay, learned about how the Inuit fish beneath large blocks of ice , we studied igloos, and we also listened to Inuit throat singing (it was hilarious watching my son give that a try). We also learned about aurora borealis (northern lights). This provided an awesome opportunity to introduce my son to water colors while we painted pictures of the northern lights!

I also have a goal of bringing the various cultures we learn about into our home through food. I’m hoping that with each location we “visit” in his schoolwork, we try at least one culinary dish from that culture.

Since we were learning about Inuit culture, our food this week was bannock!

Bannock is a type of bread that can be found in a variety of cultures, but is pretty popular among the Inuit. Essentially it is flour that’s been fried in lard or shortening, and can be eaten in a variety of ways. We made ours for breakfast, and included some jam to go along with it. To make it extra delicious, you can sprinkle some powdered sugar on top for a tasty treat (it’s similar to an elephant ear you would find at a fair).

My son loved the stuff, and gobbled down the entire batch before noon. It’s super easy to make, and I will definitely be making it again as a special treat!

Bannock 

Ingredients

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
water
2 cups shortening

Directions

In a frying pan on medium heat, heat the shortening.

While you are waiting for the shortening to completely melt, mix together in a separate bowl the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Gradually add water, mixing it well, until you have the consistency of batter.

Drop spoonfuls of the batter into the hot shortening. Once the bottom is golden brown, flip it over once to brown the other side.

There are a variety of ways to serve bannock. As I said, eating it with jam is a tasty breakfast and sprinkling them with powdered sugar makes them a delicious treat. However, you can also eat them with soups and stews!

Parmesan Cream Zoodles

I am not especially crunchy. Maybe a little crispy around the edges, but certainly not crunchy. Vaccines. Formula. Gluten. These are things I have proudly taken advantage of. Essential oils and salt lamps…not so much. On the other hand I make my own baby food, I think kale is delicious, and we are planning to raise our own chickens soon. On a scale of marshmallow to granola, I’m about fried pickle percent crunchy on a good day.

I do, however, have plenty of friends who have their own versions of crunchiness, and I believe that when I host them I need to try and meet their preferences. Having religious observances that dictate certain food restrictions, I know the deep appreciation I feel when someone goes out of their way to make sure my dietary needs are met. It makes me feel cared for and honored, and I like knowing that perhaps I’ve made someone feel the same way when it comes to their concerns regarding food.

That is why I love finding delicious recipes that can meet various dietary needs. I love when I can serve a friend something that isn’t thrown together in a mediocre attempt to feed them within their barriers, but a dish that is enjoyable and tasty. Something that I would whip up for myself simply because it tasted good, regardless of whether or not I follow a particular diet.

While this dish isn’t for the vegans or dairy-free crowd, I did manage to throw together something the gluten free eaters would appreciate. As an added bonus I got to play with some kitchen toys (the spiralizer), which I love finding excuses to use.

Most importantly, however, I found a delicious meal.

Parmesan Cream Zoodles

Ingredients

5 zucchinis
1TBS butter
*3 cloves minced garlic
5TBS milk
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese
Cherry tomatoes (sliced)

  •  my general rule for cooking is to take the amount of garlic in a recipe, double it, and then pour Eeven more in. If you’re not as crazy about garlic as I am, the 3 cloves are a good start. If you love garlic, toss in what you like.

Directions

  1. Spiralize 5 zucchinis and set the bowl aside. Heat butter in a skillet, and saute garlic until well browned.
  2.  Once the garlic is cooked, add milk and cream cheese to the skillet. As the cream cheese melts, stir the mixture to create a creamed sauce.
  3. Fold in the zucchin noodles until it is well covered with the sauce.
  4. Add tomatoes, and stir in the Parmesan cheese until it is well melted, and the noodles are sufficiently cooked.

Homemade Blueberry Pie Ice Cream

Living in an agricultural state, we have this trend of finding entertainment in paying other people to let us preform the work of picking produce. I know some of my Yankee friends like to poke fun of the concept, but there’s an odd satisfaction in enjoying fresh fruits I’ve picked myself. It’s also a wonderful educational experience for kids, and helps build an appreciation for where our food comes from. I enjoy the tranquility, and kids somehow find it fun and exciting. It’s totally worth it to me.

Since reading Blueberries for Sal as part of our Before Five In A Row curriculum last year, blueberry picking has been a tradition we’ve recently started to pursue every summer. We go to a small family owned farm in our area and fill a bucket with as many blueberries as we can possibly gather. Once we bring our fresh fruit home we immediately can them and add to our ever-growing-never-ending collection of homemade jam.

This year I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had a lot of blueberries left over after the canning process. Considering that I’ve been in love with making homemade ice cream lately, the next idea I had for the blueberries was, of course, blueberry ice cream!

When I got around to actually making the ice cream, I decided to play around with texture and taste a little more than I intended. The result was incredibly delicious, and now a new favorite of mine. It’s rich in flavor, has a great texture, and I cannot stop eating it!

Also, if the blueberries are replaced with bananas this would make an excellent “banana pudding” ice cream!

Blueberry Pie Ice Cream

Ingredients

1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
2 tbs vanilla
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 11oz box of Nilla Waffers

Directions

Combine milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk for about two minutes, until the sugar is well dissolved.

Mix in blueberries.

Fill a zip lock bag with Nilla Waffers (I used about 3/4 of the box). Using a meat cleaver or hammer (or whatever tool you have on hand), smash the cookies to a powdery consistency.

Mix the cookie powder in with the ice cream mix.

Prepare ice cream according to the manufacturing instructions of your ice cream maker. I have a niffty Cuisinart ice cream maker that has a freezable bowl I prepared a head of time. Your ice cream maker might require ice to be added. Read up on the instructions and become familiar with your maker.

Once the ice cream is finished, pour the rest of the Nilla Waffers into the zip lock bag. Once again crush the cookies, however, this time keep them a little more chunky and textured.

Pour the rest of the Nilla Waffers into the ice cream and mix well. Put the ice cream in a storage container and pop in the freezer to continue forming.

 

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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