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November 22, 2014 / 29 Heshvan, 5775
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Pesach


Eller-032114-Book

Just the single word is enough to make even the most capable among us feel overwhelmed, and deep down inside, who doesn’t dream of having an army of assistants waiting in the wings, ready to help us out as the cooking marathon begins?

Well, in the good news department, if you have kids, your dreams are about to come true.  As veteran cookbook author Tamar Ansh so capably illustrates in her 96-page, kid-friendly volume titled Let My Children Cook!, your progeny can be a valuable asset when Pesach rolls around when time is at a minimum and the cooking demands are sky high.

First and foremost, Let My Children Cook! is aimed at readers ages 8 through 108, with dishes that will please both kids and adults. What makes this volume truly amazing is that each of the over 80 recipes, complemented by lots of adorably whimsical illustrations, is simple and uncomplicated, with crystal clear step-by-step instructions for the both the novice cook and those who are culinarily challenged.

Eller-032114-CookingThe idea for the cookbook came to Ansh in the form of an e-mail from a friend.

“I read it quickly and the idea just took off nearly immediately in my head,” Ansh told The Jewish Press.  “I sat there all that day and part of the next and by just thinking about it without interruptions, so many ideas got put down in my first outline.  The best part about it was the title, which came to me almost instantaneously. Every time I see it again, it makes me chuckle inside.  The title was so perfect that I just had to see this book become a reality; and now, Baruch Hashem, it is.”

It’s hard to turn the pages of Let My Children Cook! and not smile.  Recipes are designated meat, pareve or dairy with cheerful, colorful icons:  a grinning hunk of beef with a drumstick for meat recipes, an amiable red pepper and a cucumber with their “heads” tilted conspiratorially together for pareve and a smiling hunk of Swiss cheese denoting dairy fare.  Each recipe is also clearly marked with the number of servings, giving even the youngest cooks the ability to see those important facts at a glance.  Cheerful illustrations by Evgeniy Ognarov are sprinkled throughout the book, reminding budding chefs to wash their hands before cooking, to make sure there are no small children underfoot when opening the oven door and, my personal favorite – that cleaning up the kitchen is part of the job when you decide to cook something.

While this may be obvious, it is worth repeating that having small children in the kitchen helping you cook is not going to save you any time. In fact, Ansh is the first to admit that having little ones in the kitchen will only make the job take longer.  So, like me, you might be asking yourself if it is really worth having the younger set in the kitchen at Pesach time, when you are already so pressed for time. According to Ansh, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

“I always included my kids whenever I could in the kitchen,” said Ansh.  “Of course, that doesn’t mean that they were there for every single thing I made.  Most young kids love to roll cookies (read:  eat the raw cookie dough when they think you aren’t looking) but by including them when I could, they really did learn a lot.”

Those lessons your kids learn as they spend time cooking with you will pay off with interest one day, explains Ansh, who says that kids learn the tricks of the trade and as they get older and are able to start cooking on their own, your Pesach prep will suddenly become a whole lot easier.

“Eventually it does become a help,” promises Ansh.

Ansh also noted that even an hour or two spent cooking with your children is a wonderful bonding experience that creates wonderful shared memories and instills children with a tremendous sense of pride when food they created is enjoyed at the table.Eller-032114-Pepper

Not to detract from the amazing assortment of recipes in Let My Children Cook!, but the two pages of kitchen safety tips may well be my favorite part of the book.  Somehow when we mothers talk and offer advice, our kids have a tendency to either roll their eyes or nod their heads attentively while they are thinking to themselves “Is she almost done talking?”, but these clear and concise instructions are well worded, easy to understand and the lighthearted illustrations (including a head of salad greens carefully washing its hands and two pots balanced precariously at the edge of the counter looking down nervously as a chubby cheeked infant crawls by) make them seem more fun and less dictatorial.  Among the instructions are asking permission before cooking, turning pot handles towards the back of the stovetop and never using food processors or sharp knives without adult supervision.

The recipes themselves?  They range from the basics including charoses, matza brei, kneidlach and gefilte fish to the intriguing, including beet salad with peaches, pears and raisins and Fro-Yo ice pops.  Even the traditional recipes have some interesting twists – Ansh includes three variations on her regular kneidlach, including crushed matzah kneidlach, square kneidlach and stuffed kneidlach.  Having found that kids tend to gravitate towards finger foods, Ansh offers six kinds of shish kebabs which pop up as main dishes (chicken and turkey kabobs), side dishes (potato and veggie kabobs) and dessert (dried fruit and candy-stick kabobs).

Coming up with recipes that kids actually want to eat is a key component of getting your little ones interested in cooking.

“Most kids don’t want to hear about chicken cacciatore or meat braised in wine and prune sauce,” explained Ansh. “But give them barbeque sauce chicken or little chicken nuggets and some veggies on kabobs and just watch it disappear.”

Eller-032114-GoatNo matter what food group your kids like, there is a recipe here that is bound to entice them.  Are they into lighter, dairy fare?  Let them experiment with Scribbled Eggs, Cheesy Matzah Pie, Blueberry Pancakes, Matzah Pizza, Blueberry Muffins or Matzah Meal Rolls.  Soup lovers might want to try their hand at the vegetable based Pastel-Colored Soup or Thick ‘n’ Creamy Chicken Soup.  Meat and potato lovers will delight in Crunchy Chicken Crisps, Surprise Matzah Meatballs in Sauce, Pizza Potatoes and, everyone’s favorite, Potato Kugel.  But let’s face it, kids will be kids and those with a sweet tooth will be in seventh heaven as they prepare (and eat) Coated Banana Freeze Pops, Marshmallow Dream Ice Cream and Incredible Milkshakes.  And maybe, just maybe, you can convince your kids to whip you up an Israeli style Homemade Ice Coffee.

“The Chocolate Chip Cookies are a yearly hit and the Rocky Road Brownies, which we just made last week, were gone quite quickly,” reported Ansh.

More than just a cookbook, Let My Children Cook! has a fun arts and crafts section, in case your kids want to express their creativity in additional ways.  From start to finish, it’s an incredible book that will be loved not just by mothers and their kids, but also by the entire family, who will reap the benefits of all that time spent in the kitchen.

Let My Children Cook! is published by Judaica Press and retails for $9.95.  Go out and buy it. You’ll be happy you did.

* * * * *

Marshmallow Dream Ice Cream

Let’s get to it!

8 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup oil
4 teaspoons vanilla sugar
1½ cups mini marshmallows
Chocolate or colored sprinkles, optional

 

And here’s how you do it!

Separate the eggs. Put the whites into a large mixing bowl. Beat on high speed until they begin to turn white and stiff. Turn down the mixer speed and add the sugar, oil, yolks and vanilla sugar.

Pour half of the ice cream batter into a large plastic container. Sprinkle half of the mini marshmallows on top.

Pour the rest of the ice cream batter into the container and layer the top with the rest of the marshmallows. You can also add the sprinkles to the top of the ice cream now.

Freeze overnight. Serve in scoops in pretty glass bowls.

 

 

 

Rocky Road Brownies

“INCREDIBLE” doesn’t even come close to describing this! And it freezes well, too!

Let’s get to it!

4 oz. (115 grams) semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup (200 grams or 2 American sticks) margarine or 1 cup oil
1½ cups sugar
4 eggs

1 cup matzah cake meal
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup walnuts, chopped

 

Topping:

1 cup mini marshmallows
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup walnuts, coarsely ground

 

And here’s how you do it!

Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Prepare a 9×13-inch pan by lining it with parchment paper or spraying it well with cooking oil spray.

Melt the chopped chocolate and margarine in a double boiler and stir well. Stir in the sugar. Cool slightly.

Whisk in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the cake meal and salt, and remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the chocolate chips, marshmallows and walnuts.

Pour this batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 30 minutes or until set. Remove the pan from the oven, and sprinkle the brownies with the additional cup of marshmallows.

Slide the tray back into the oven and bake 3–4 minutes more, until the marshmallows are puffed. Remove the pan from the oven and melt the second set of chocolate chips.

Drizzle the melted chips all over the brownies and then sprinkle them, while the chocolate is still wet, with the last bit of ground nuts.

Cut into squares and serve.

 

 

Traditional Fluffy Matzah Balls

a.k.a. “Knaidelach”

Makes about 15 – 20 matzah balls

Let’s get to it!

4 eggs, beaten
1 cup matzah meal
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, optional
A pinch of salt and pepper

 

And here’s how you do it!

The key to really fluffy, light and delicious matzah balls is not in the matzah – it’s in the eggs.

Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl with a hand beater for a few minutes. Turn off the mixer; add everything else to the beaten eggs and stir with a fork. The mixture will fall a bit; this is fine.

Cover the mixture and refrigerate for an hour or overnight.

 

To prepare the matzah balls:

Use a large, wide pot, as these matzah balls will grow a lot in size.

Fill the pot 3/4 full with water; boil the water with half a teaspoon of

salt until it is bubbling.

Wet your hands with a bit of water and shape small balls out of the batter. Drop them gently (the hot liquid can splash!) into the boiling water.

Cook for 30–40 minutes. Remove the matzah balls from the pot with a slotted spoon. Place them on a flat plate and let them cool.

Freeze your fluffy matzah balls in plastic bags or a container. When you are ready to use them, drop them into your family’s boiling chicken soup while they are still frozen. Half an hour later they will be fluffy, soft and ready to eat!

Another idea is to use a mini ice-cream scooper or a mini cookie-baller to shape the matzah balls, so that every matzah ball will be the same size.

 

 

Cheesy Matzah Pie

Let’s get to it!

6–7 square matzahs
5 eggs
1 cup milk
2 cups cottage cheese
1/3 cup sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon cinnamon

 

And here’s how you do it!

Beat the eggs and milk together in a bowl.

Add the cottage cheese, sugar, salt and melted butter. Mix again.

Grease a 2-quart casserole or baking dish. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Break the matzahs into medium-sized pieces. Arrange part of them in one flat layer on the bottom of the baking dish.

Pour some of the cottage cheese mixture over the matzah. Place the rest of the matzah pieces on top and then pour the rest of the cottage cheese mix over the matzah. Depending on the size of your baking dish, you may have enough matzah pieces and cheese mix for either two or three layers. The top layer should be the cheese mixture.

Sprinkle cinnamon all over the top of the “pie.”

Slide your matzah pie into the hot oven and let it bake for 35-40 minutes, until it is set.

Serve as is, or topped with sliced peaches or your favorite jam.

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