Break With Tradition

Purim is technically over, but around these parts you might find fresh hamantaschen at any time of year. Tradition is nice, but cookies are nicer.

hamantaschen

(Art by RowKreamArt. Recipe from my mother-in-law. Both bake a mean cookie.)

Hamantaschen

Preheat oven to 350.

1 cup vegetable oil

1 1/4 cups sugar

4 eggs

1/4 cup orange juice

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 cups flour

pie filling – apricot for me, strawberry if you must

Combine sugar and oil.

Add eggs, juice, and vanilla and mix well.

Add dry ingredients.

Roll into a ball, then divide that ball in four.

On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece fairly thin.

Cut into circles with the rim of a glass.

Place 2/3 teaspoon filling in middle of each. You may be tempted to add extra, but I assure you this will end in heartache. While we’re discussing heartache, I should mention that you also do not want to substitute jam or jelly for the pie filling. Disaster in the making.

Pinch sides to form a triangle.

Bake 15-20 minutes. We prefer them on the 15 minute side. You do you.

A Bit Of Earth

This little swath of bulbs is part of my daughter’s garden, a patch of land she claimed at seven years old and has tended for the sixteen years since. Some years it was meticulously cared for, others overgrown and weedy. These days it’s generally the neatest spot on our property.

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“Might I have a bit of earth?” is the question posed by ten year old Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden, and it sums up an almost universal longing. To have a bit of earth is to have a sense of belonging, of being part of the world. What I’ve learned from my bit is that ownership doesn’t necessarily mean, ‘this is mine’, but rather, ‘I care for this.’

Slow Tech

Time got away from us this year. Word is that sugar season was short with our unseasonable weather, and we missed it.

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But maybe not. I checked the ten day forecast at the beginning of the week and saw what looked like good flow weather. Cold nights, warmer days. Taps went in just in case, rigged with our high-tech system of old milk jugs and wire. We won’t have gallons of syrup, but I’ll be kicking myself a little less than if we got none.

Victory is Sweet

Last year’s experiment with growing stevia left me intrigued by its sweetness but not sold on its aftertaste.

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Happily, cold weather worked its sugar magic last fall and the aftertaste disappeared completely. Results of hanging those cold-snapped leaves to dry are good too, so stevia has now earned a spot in our pantry.

Easy Does It

I like to do things, but only in the simplest, most efficient way.

IMG_9813Essentially I’m lazy. If you are too, here’s your tip for the day: Next time you’re making a recipe that says, ‘on a floured surface’, use a pastry board. Sounds fancy, yes? No. All we’re looking for is something to contain your mess. Something you can pick up and throw in the sink or dishwasher. A cutting board, a tray, whatever you’ve got. No sticky counter, no gross sponge covered in flour paste, no excuse not to get cooking.

Kiss the Cook

Word to the wise: when choosing a life partner, be sure they like garlic as much as you do. You want them to be so distracted by their own garlic breath they don’t notice yours.

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At our house, dinner prep begins with chopping garlic more often than not. That being said, this recipe uses a ton of garlic even for us. Other than that bit of work, though, it’s quick to throw together, and it makes enough to keep us in leftovers for a good while.

You’ll notice I don’t give amounts for the spices. Don’t panic! I’m not cooking dinner, you are, and you’re going to make this your way. If you end up over-spicing, just serve it with some extra rice or wrap it in a tortilla; under-spicing, sprinkle on some more curry powder. Once you’ve made it a couple of times you’ll have found your perfect balance.

Curried Peas

1/2 cup chopped garlic

Olive oil

Curry powder

Ground black pepper

Red pepper flakes (optional)

3 Tablespoons butter

2 bags frozen baby peas

3 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Fill half of a one cup measure with chopped garlic.

Sprinkle a layer of ground black pepper over it.

Add a few red pepper flakes if you like.

Pour olive oil over the garlic to fill the cup measure.

Melt the butter in a very large frying pan on medium high heat.

Sprinkle curry powder over the surface of the butter. Don’t be shy.

Add the olive oil and garlic.

When the oil and garlic are dancing, add the peas.

Before stirring, add another layer of curry powder, along with a bit of black pepper.

Continue to cook at medium high for 5 or 10 minutes, until the peas are warmed through, stirring occasionally.

Add the chickpeas, topping with curry powder as you did with the peas, then stirring and cooking til everything is hot.

Serve with jasmine rice.

No Muss, No Fuss

Little did I know, as a teenager eating soup at my boyfriend’s house, that 30 years later that same soup would be a long-loved staple for our kids.

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Every family develops its own food culture. We construct it without intention, for the most part, picking up bits and pieces along the way, but it becomes infused with meaning. What this soup means to me is this: Welcome. No need for fuss. We’re family.

Vegetable Soup

6 or 8 or 10 carrots – whatever you’ve got – peeled and sliced

Celery, optional (My mother-in-law says yes. Everyone has their shortcomings.)

1 onion, peeled, quartered, and sliced thin

lb can crushed tomatoes

8 oz tomato sauce (whatever you use for spaghetti is fine)

1/4 cup barley

6 vegetable bullion cubes

4 cups water

Bring everything to a boil in a large pot, then turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for about 40 minutes, until the carrots are soft.