Sunday, April 17, 2011

Digging at my Jewish roots...

Chag Pesach Same'ach! That means Happy Passover in Hebrew. Tomorrow at sunset is the first official day of Passover and at this time of year, I've decided to learn a little more about my Jewish ancestors. These people came from Turkey, of all places. How'd they get there? Don't Jews come from Israel originally? Well, actually...
So picture this... a few years after King Solomon, the once strong country of Israel is split between the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. (this is all in the Bible, kids!) The citizens of the Kingdom of Judah are mostly from the tribe of Judah (hence the name Jew) and a little bit of Benjamin and Simeon. The Kingdom of Israel houses mostly the other tribes, who are more commonly known as the Lost Ten Tribes. Sometime after 600 BC, the Babylonians invaded Israel and Judah and carried off a lot of the people (this is where we get the stories of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo from). At that time, the Babylonian empire covered from half of what is now Saudi Arabia all the way up to the southern coast of Turkey. About 50 years later, the Persians took over this empire (this is Esther's time now) and stretched it out west to Macedonia, East to the Indus river, and south to Egypt. And AFTER THAT comes the Roman Empire, which stretched even farther west to Spain.
Enter my ancestors. They were Sephardic Jews and we're from the tribe of Ephraim, one of the Lost Ten Tribes. They probably were captured or ran for their lives to the edges of the Babylonian empire and then were pushed from place to place (probably scattering all over Europe) until my particular group of ancestors settled in Spain (those who settled elsewhere in Europe are called Ashkenazim). They were treated as second class citizens for about 1000 years, then were chased out by Queen Isabella and the Inquisition. They had two choices offered to them: convert to Christianity or die. They took the third option and headed to the Ottoman Empire where the Sultan promised they would have no persecution there. They lived there until the early 1900's. and that's a whole different story of how they got to America. I'll save for some other time.
Anyway, Passover is the celebration of the liberation of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. You know, the plagues of Egypt came and went and Pharaoh still wouldn't set the Hebrews free. So God commanded the Hebrews to mark their door frames with lambs' blood so his final plague would pass them over (hence the feast of Passover). That night, all the firstborn children of the Egyptians died and the Hebrews were spared. It was then that Pharaoh finally decided to let the Hebrews go.
So, to kind of celebrate it, I decided to make Matzo Ball Soup and Charoset. I found these recipes on Jewish websites. The matzo ball soup was found here and the charoseth was found here . As it says on the website, Matzo Ball soup is also known as Jewish penicillin. It's the equivalent of chicken noodle soup, but I think it tastes better!!

1/2 cup matzah meal
2 eggs
2 tbsp. oil or schmaltz (melted chicken fat)
2 tbsp. water or chicken broth
2 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley (I used Italian seasonings instead)
a little black pepper
2 quarts thin chicken broth or consommé
A handful of baby carrots or regular carrots cut into large chunks (optional)
a few stalks of celery cut into large chunks (optional)
Beat the eggs, oil and water together thoroughly. Add the matzah meal, parsley and black pepper and mix until you achieve an even consistency. Let this sit for a few minutes, so the matzah meal absorbs the other ingredients, and stir again.
Bring the broth to a vigorous boil, then reduce the heat until the broth is just barely boiling. Add the vegetables to the broth (if used). Wet your hands and make balls of about 1-2 tbsp. of the batter. Drop the balls gently into the boiling water. They will be cooked enough to eat in about 15 minutes; however, you may want to leave it simmering longer to absorb more of the chicken broth flavor. They are done when they float on top of the broth and look bloated.
For lighter matzah balls, use a little less oil, a little more water, and cook at a lower temperature for a longer time. For heavier matzah balls, do the reverse. If you are using this to treat a cold, put extra black pepper into the broth (pepper clears the sinuses).

I could not find matzah meal to save my life, so I crushed some saltines as a substitution (it's not kosher, but that's ok for me). Make sure if you do this that you crush it really fine or it won't make balls. Mine ended up being a kind of layer on the top, really tasty, but not exactly what I was hoping for. Still, I give it 2 thumbs up and 5 stars!
Charoseth is traditionally a mixture of apples, raisins, and wine. It symbolizes the mortar that the Hebrews made in slavery and also the sweetness of freedom. Since we're LDS and we con't have alcohol, this recipe was great!

(makes 4 cups)
1 pound chopped apples
1 pound dried raisins
8 ounces pitted dates
2 cups water (or as needed)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Place the apples, raisins, and dates in a bowl with enough water to cover. Let stand for 1 hour.
Add the sugar and whirl the mixture in a blender, a few spoonfuls at a time. Or divide the mixture in thirds and place in a food processor.
Transfer the chopped fruits to a heavy saucepan and let simmer over low
heat until the fruits are cooked and the liquid absorbed. It should take about 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat and place in a jar. When cool, sprinkle with chopped nuts.
YIELD: 16 Servings

Mine's currently cooling right now, but it smells amazing! I substituted golden raisins for dates because I don't like them very much. I also added cinnamon and ground cloves because I've noticed most charoseth recipes have spices in it. Anyway, that's all for today, enjoy!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Awesome breakfast shake or healthy dessert... you choose!

One of the things that Josh raves about when he talks about his mission to the Dominican Republic is called a batida. It literally means "whipped" in Spanish, but it's the equivalent of a milkshake. It's really healthy, especially if you substitute Splenda for sugar. Here's the recipe:
~1 cup crushed ice
1 1/3 cup milk (fat-free for the healthy version)
2 tbsp sugar (or Splenda)
~1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 cups fresh or frozen fruit
Throw all ingredients into a blender and blend until thick. The more ice, the thicker it will be. If you want to use frozen fruit, you don't necessarily need ice, unless you want it super thick.
Here's the "tour" that I would recommend. Try putting 2 bananas in for your first batida. ¡Es muy rico! Banana tends to make batidas more fluffy. Some other things I've tried are Banana-pineapple, berry banana, berry-grape, chocolate berry (instead of milk, I used a chocolate slim fast shake), Strawberry-pineapple-mango and today's is a Strawberry-peach-banana. In the near future, I'll be trying frozen cherries in my shake. It'll be good, I'm sure!

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I'm making homemade brownies tonight because I felt like it. I was in a cooking mood today after I made dinner for us and our friends who just had a baby (Congrats Stefan and Tycy!). Seems like everyone is having babies! Makes me want to jump on the bandwagon! (Can you tell how baby hungry I am?)
Anyway, my nonsense title means Peanut Butter Brownies with Cream Cheese frosting... and you will need to x-amine your zipper after eating these!! They smell so good right now!
I had leftover cream cheese frosting from making cinnamon rolls last week, so i wanted to use it in the brownies, but Josh didn't want cream cheese in all his brownies (picky, PICKY!), so I switched to peanut butter. I'm rediscovering how good peanut butter is, especially with chocolate. After ODing on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in grade school, I took a few years' break from peanut butter. Then last Christmas, my then-soon-to-be Mom-in-law introduced me to Peanut Butter Balls, and my interest was again piqued. I've even started taking peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school for lunch again!
Anyway, the cream cheese frosting is delicious, so here's the recipe, courtesy of Janni at

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners' sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use.
Nutritional Information

24 Servings. Amount Per Serving Calories: 140 | Total Fat: 10.4g | Cholesterol: 31mg

You gotta know it's good already with that many calories... time I started walking to school just to burn off all the yummy stuff I'm eating again! (my diet was a no-go)
I made a conglomerate of 2 different recipes I found online to make these... The brownies themselves were from Jolinda Hackett at and the peanut butter filling was from busymom#4 at Here are the ingredients:

1 1/4 cups margarine
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup cocoa

Peanut Butter filling
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup margarine or 1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 eggs

(Read more:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt butter and add cocoa; mix. Stir in sugar and blend in the eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla. Stir in flour and nuts; mix well.
in small bowl, combine peanut butter and margarine; beat until smooth. add sugar and flour;mix well. add 2 eggs, blend well.
Dump the brownie batter into a 9x13 pan. Spoon the peanut butter filling over the top and spread. Marble, if desired. Cook for 30 minutes and let cool for 20-30 minutes...(The cooling part is going to kill me... THEY SMELL SO GOOOOOOOD!!!)
Here's a picture hot out of the oven!

Once they cool, put cream cheese on your slice, if you want. Enjoy!