Passover Days 4-7

April Showers much?

Normally in Israel, Passover symbolizes the end of Winter and the start of Spring. Apparently, the weather gods have their wires crossed because it’s been raining fairly non-stop for the last three days, complete with lightening and thunder.

Taken 2 days ago, or 2 months ago?

Taken 2 days ago, or 2 months ago?

This only somewhat hampered our plans for the last days of Passover, in that it was really freaking cold in Jerusalem and we did not bring appropriate clothing. And then we got wet. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

When we last met, Nooshkin and I were planning to have a very uneventful day at home. Which is exactly what we did.
Except for that one part when I got Nooshkin a balloon and she let go of it while we were outside and because it was full of helium it floated away and she watched it and it resulted in the most horrendously awful tear-induced meltdown that there ever was.

The only reason there are no pictures is because A) I’m not horrible, B) I was busy comforting Nooshkin, C) I was busy telling her “I told you so” and “This is why you should listen to me, D) I was fascinated by how quickly the balloon flew away, E) All of the above, F) Everything except “A”.

In all seriousness, it was pretty bad. Complete with “But I want it!” while tears streamed down her cheeks. *sigh*

On Tuesday, Stinky Face joined us for a trip to Akko to meet up with some family. As Hubby had the car we took the scenic route on the train.

Drawing pictures for the cousins

Drawing pictures for the cousins

And enjoying the view

And enjoying the view

We spent the day walking around the Port and Old City of Akko, and by “day” I mean about three hours because the trip up to Akko took 2.5, and that long again on the way back. But still, fun was had and we got to see the water (Nooshkin was particularly happy about that), and it was hot enough to require sunscreen.

Cousin T, Nooshkin, and Stinky Face

Cousin T, Nooshkin, and Stinky Face

"Look, water!"

“Look, water!”

Hubby met up with us for dinner at a fancy-schmancy meat restaurant that we did not know existed except that it’s been around for a few years. It was very delicious and Nooshkin acted semi-appropriately.

Wednesday was spent at home recuperating, except that Nooshkin insisted on going to the park even though it was 100 degrees outside. Actually, yes – 100 degrees. Needless to say the AC was on when Hubby came home.

She insisted on dressing herself

She insisted on dressing herself

Thursday was spent traveling to and hanging out in Jerusalem with Stinky Face. Due to the previously-mentioned weather we hung out indoors and tried to not get blown away. Nooshkin was kind of amused and bemused by the crazy weather, and reacted fairly appropriately by running around to keep warm.
We then made our way to Efrat, where we spent the remainder of Passover and Shabbat with our fake-family. This involved even more food and additional thunderstorms, and a pretty amusing game of Trivial Pursuit.

Now that the holiday is over, the kitchen has been returned to normal. Nooshkin is back in school and I am back doing the endless piles of laundry that have accumulated. At least there aren’t any dishes.

Happy Passover! Days 1-3

Happy Spring Holidays to all! Don’t you love it when the gods’ schedules are synched? At least Greek Orthodox Easter is next Sunday.

Living in Israel when major holidays overlap is always crazy. That’s why we’re avoiding Jerusalem until the very end when everyone else has already gone and it will be somewhat calmer.

Friday was spent cooking so much food. But we had plenty of guests over for the Seder and so most of the food was eaten. But then I had to go shopping to replenish the food that was eaten, and now I can’t find the shelves in my fridge.

Most of the food was standard fare, but I made special-for-Passover brownies originally posted on Lulu and Lattes that our guests called “Sorcery” – mostly because they didn’t taste like Passover. When you have a holiday where even scrambled eggs taste different, making something that tastes like a regular food item is key.
These brownies are completely gluten-free and took about 2 minutes to put together, so I will probably add them to my regular rotation too. (recipe is below!)

Yesterday I, Hubby, Nooshkin, and Stinky Face went to the Game of Thrones Exhibit in Tel Aviv. It was pretty cool and there were many opportunities for my inner nerd to be very happy.

Stinky Face and the Restless Mama

Stinky Face and the Restless Mama

The Exhibit is here for the rest of the week, but there were a limited number of tickets available. Naturally, this didn’t stop people from trying to get in anyway – so there was a separate entrance for people who didn’t have tickets. But we were smart and ordered the tickets as soon as we found out this was happening, which was three weeks ago – go planning ahead!

Some of the costumes on display

Some of the costumes on display

Dragon Eggs!

Dragon Eggs!

There were some costumes, props, and interactive stations where you pretend to get burned by a dragon or turned into a White Walker. The lines were kind of long, so we didn’t do them.

The only line worth waiting in was for the Throne.

Future Queen of Westeros

Future Queen of Westeros

This line (surprisingly) went pretty fast, but that’s because there was an actual bouncer whose sole job was to kick people off the Throne so everyone else could have their turn.

We also walked around the Tel Aviv Port a little, but it was getting dark and cold (and we got caught in some spray) so we didn’t stay too long.

Nooshkin and I are hanging out today and we will probably wreck havoc around the neighborhood after wrecking havoc around the apartment.

Miracle Bar – courtesy of Amy Selling from Lulu and Lattes

INGREDIENTS
2 cups ground almonds
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 375; Grease a 9×13 pan. Mix ingredients together and spread in pan with spatula. Batter will be thick but do not add water. Just mix it well. Bake for 23 minutes. — OR — Shape into cookies and bake 12–15 minutes. Do not undercook.

How I Spend Every Spring Break

Well, it’s that time of year again…

*sigh*

*sigh*

Exactly one month after Purim, hamentaschen, and baked goods, the house needs to be scrubbed spotless for Passover. Because Judaism is full of hilarity.

In keeping with the theme of Jewish holidays, Passover celebrates the liberation of the Biblical Hebrews from generations of slavery in Ancient Egypt. The Hebrews were in Egypt primarily because of a pretty serious drought during the time of Joseph, and he was the Royal Vizier to the Pharaoh at the time (which meant he had connections) so he convinced his entire family to move to save themselves.
And things were pretty good, until along came another Pharaoh who “didn’t remember Joseph” (Biblical quote, too). He also seemed pretty unsettled by the sheer number of Hebrews that were currently taking up residence in his hometown, and decided to make them work for a living. And then work for no living.

Fast forward a couple of generations, and we meet Moses. Moses is alive because his mother put him in a basket down by the (Nile) river, and Pharaoh’s daughter happened to be playing in the reeds; she finds him and decides to adopt him, knowing exactly what he is. For the next few decades Moses is raised by the very people who make his peoples’ lives miserable, and he kind of loses it.

Moses runs away and finds himself; he also finds god in a burning bush that was not consumed. He comes back to Egypt a miracle worker and broken record. Essentially, this happens:

Moses: “Let my people go”
Pharaoh: “Nope”
God smites Egypt with a plague
Pharaoh: “Okay!”
God takes the plague away
Pharaoh: “Just kidding!”

Repeat 8x

On the tenth time:

God smites Egypt with the worst plague ever – Death of the Firstborn
Pharaoh: “GTFO and don’t come back!”
Moses and Hebrews: “We’re going, we’re going!”
God: Wow, I smoted them good.

About three days later Pharaoh comes to his senses (what?!) and gives chase to the Hebrews. Moses, having now gotten over his fear of public speaking, intervenes and asks for god’s help. The Red Sea splits and the Hebrews are saved; the Egyptians can’t do the backstroke very well and drown.

I don’t remember what specific event this date commemorates (thanks, Bestamama and Pa, for that super expensive Jewish education!). But I think it’s the date the Hebrews left Egypt.

In their haste to leave Egypt, the Hebrews didn’t have enough time to let their bread rise (which I find hard to believe. They weren’t working at all, and there were 10 plagues of increasing creepiness that they were immune to. Really, they had no idea what was coming?). So that’s why we eat matza.
Generations of rabbis added stringency upon stringency, to the point where Jews today cannot have anything from any kind of grain product – no bread, crackers, cheerios, pasta, cookies, whiskey, bourbon; anything fun, really.
But – not only can we not eat any of these items, we can’t own any of them either.

Hence, the cleaning. I’m completely sure that this is how the concept of Spring Cleaning originated.

Passover starts on Friday night, so this week is being devoted to cleaning, shopping, and cooking. Nooshkin is naturally very excited for all the things, especially the cleaning and shopping.

Putting nooshkin to work.

Putting nooshkin to work.

Stinky Face is coming for the entire holiday and will be sleeping on the couch, which everyone is super excited about (no, really). We have lots of fun stuff planned, most of which does not involve cleaning out the fridge and oven.

Which I really should get back to…

Happy Purim!

So it’s been a while since my last post, but I have a good excuse!

I’ve been busy (gasp). But hey, that’s part of my blog description.

Last week was the annual Jewish holiday of Purim, which is kind of like Halloween but more religious and based on historical events.
This holiday celebrates the fact that Queen Esther (a Jewess) convinced King Xerses of Ancient Persia to pass a decree allowing all Jews in the Kingdom of Persia to defend themselves against armies of Anti-Semites, who were allowed to hunt down and kill all Jews in said Kingdom by a previous decree passed by said King.

The initial decree to kill all Jews was suggested to King Xerxes by his adviser Haman, who didn’t like Jews because we didn’t bow down to him and worship the ground he walked on (literally). Apparently that was something that was expected back in the day.

But – Haman didn’t know that Queen Esther was a Jewess because she kept it secret. This was common practice in ancient times, because general sentiment towards the Jewish people were, and continue to be, mixed.

So, Queen Esther invites Haman and King Xerxes to back-to-back private parties. I’m assuming she gets everybody loaded at the first one because nothing worth noting happens. At the second party she informs the King of the plot, and that Haman is behind it.
To nobody’s surprise, King Xerxes gets pretty mad and sentences Haman to death by hanging, his 10 sons are thrown in for good measure, and then the Jews are granted permission to defend themselves against anyone who tries to harm them.

The holiday is celebrated each year on the anniversary of the day that the Jewish people were meant to be killed. The name Purim comes from the Hebrew word “Lotteries”, as that was how the date of the massacre was chosen.

As with many historical Jewish events, the moral of this one is: They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat.

Food plays a big roll in Judaism, and not just because of the Kosher thing. Many of the holidays involve a food item that is central to the holiday; for example, matzah (unleavened bread) on Passover. For the holiday of Purim, many of the events central to the story occurred at parties and/or feasts, involving copious amounts of food and drink. Additionally, before Queen Esther went to King Xerxes to plead for her peoples’ lives, she did not eat for three days, as a form of prayer to god to assist her.

Naturally, this means that we eat a ton of food on this holiday. We also give gift baskets filled with food, drink, and home-made baked goodies to friends and poor people, because the core of this holiday is to be filled with joy. Joy that we are alive, and joy that such a miracle occurred.

So, I present the most traditional of Jewish baked goods – Hamentaschen.

Hamentaschen; (Yiddish) – Haman’s pockets, Haman’s ears.
I don’t know why. Just because.

The finished product, with blueberry filling.

The finished product, with blueberry filling.


These doughy goodies are traditionally filled with jelly of any flavor, poppyseed filling, or a spread like peanut butter or date.
There are a few lists on BuzzFeed with fancy-shmancy hamentaschen too (linking isn’t working right now; sorry!)

Alas, this year I went the traditional route even though I didn’t have an excuse. The hubby kind of put his foot down, but next year I’m gonna go crazy.
As with previous years’ batches, I used strawberry, blueberry, and apricot jelly. I sprinkled a few with chocolate chips so the nooshkin would eat some, but for the most part we stuck to boring old jelly.

I made the dough the night before and put in the freezer to help the ingredients solidify. The next morning, I removed the dough and left it on the counter for a few hours to thaw while I did (fill-in-the-blank; probably eat breakfast).

After getting all my tools (rolling pin, cup, spoons, spatula, baking pans, parchment paper, flour, jelly, and chocolate chips) I was ready to go. I put on a Miyazaki movie and got to work.

Dough rolled out.

Dough rolled out.

A few notes about my hamentaschen:

I tend to end up with enough dough for two trays of each flavor, which is enough for the gift baskets and a few extras to have around the house.

Because the dough is pretty sticky, I used a lot of flour on the surfaces. All that extra flour gets into the dough, which is okay – the recipe only calls for 4 cups to compensate.

The cup is used to make perfect circles in the dough, so the larger the mouth of the cup the larger the hamentaschen will be (and the less you end up with overall).

The spoons help with getting the jelly in the center of each circle of dough. I usually put in a full teaspoon, but again – the amount of filling/jelly will depend on the size of the cup you use (I use a cup that’s 3.5 inches/8.89 centimeters in diameter).

After the jelly has been put in the center of the circle, the edges are gently folded up onto themselves to form a triangle. The tips are pinched together so no jelly escapes (but this happens anyway, especially in the first few batches while I find my groove).

The spatula gets the prepared hamentaschen onto the baking sheet without breaking them. You can use a metal or silicon one; I have used both and there was no difference.

Ready to bake!

Ready to bake!

This year, for the first time, I was actually able to use up all the dough – I usually have a tiny amount left over that I can’t do anything with, but not this time!

The second-to-last one, with strawberry filling.

The second-to-last one, with strawberry filling.

The whole process including the baking took about two hours; and then I made another half-batch because why not?
And, there is nothing more ego-boosting than tasting the raw dough after a whole year, and knowing it tastes just right.

Ingredients:
2 sticks margarine (16 tablespoons or 200 grams)
2 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 tablespoons orange juice
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
salt, pinch

1. Mix together margarine, egg, sugar, vanilla, and orange juice.
2. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well, until everything is incorporated.
— If you are preparing the dough ahead of time, you can cover the mixing bowl and put it in the freezer (for overnight) or in the fridge (for a few hours). Regardless, make sure to give yourself enough time for the dough to get back to room temperature before you start preparing the hamentaschen.
3. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/4-inch (0.63 centimeters) thickness.
4. Cut into circles, using the cup.
5. Fill the circles with the jelly or filling, and pinch the dough into triangles around the filling.
6. Place on cookie sheets or jelly roll pan.
7. Bake in the oven on 375 F (190 C) for 15 to 20 minutes until the edges are lightly browned.

Recommended to eat ASAP 🙂