Our best friends had a dinner party for us and some of our friends over the weekend at their beautiful home. In June they will have been in this home for just two years.
Prior to this they had lived down the street from us. We were 8410 and they were 8401…we had a connection from the very beginning.
They moved here almost 25 years ago just like us..we came from Chicago, and they came from Cleveland, and like a fish takes to water we became individually and as a couple almost inseparable.
The shared memories of all the times we have spent together over the years are many…at their home or ours, their deck overlooking the pond, or our patio looking out to the woods, celebrating their Christmas or Easter or our Hanukkah or Passover, hospital visits from us or house calls from nurse Donna, supporting each other in good times and bad, celebrating the accomplishments of each others’ kids as they grew into adulthood…
…and of course there’s the endless meals we have shared, as well as our love for cooking, eating and entertaining (okay, the guys weren’t that keen on the cooking and entertaining part…however, they did share a similar annoyance about the many last minute trips to the store for just one more thing …)
There were the countless walks down the street to each others’ homes carrying a dish we had just prepared and wanted to share, and the meals we would leave for each other, complete with a floral bouquet when one or the other was returning home from a vacation or a family visit out of town.
And the countless cards we’ve exchanged…sometimes 2 and 3 for a single occasion…
…marking the birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings and births of grandchildren we’ve celebrated together through the years. We’re still waiting for those last two. ( Hope my boys are reading this! )
And there were just the times when she and I would sit on her porch with an iced tea or in my kitchen with a cup of coffee and talk about nothing…those were some of the best times.
We shared our love of gardening and for years my friend and I would make it an annual event to drive to my sister’s in PA for a spring plant shopping field trip, driving back home with the car so overflowing with flowers, that we could barely see out the rear view mirror.
And on our arrival as we pulled into her garage and then mine to unload, our husbands shared that same look of disbelief as they witnessed the amount of flowers we had purchased. Through the years they came to expect it, but the look was there just the same.
And now, although they are a half hour away, of course it can’t be the same as walking down the street to see each other, but with a friendship as strong as ours it will take a lot more than that to break the bond formed over all these years.
And now two years after they have tested our relationship by moving, we are putting it to a harsher test by moving cross country in less than 2 months. As difficult as it will be we all know we will pass the test. We are already talking about the coastal visits we have to look forward to, and all the new things we will have to share with each other.
So it is no surprise that they wanted to entertain us one more time with some friends. I insisted that she let me bring something, and after much persuading (I can wear someone down when I want to), she allowed me to bring the salad.
I decided on the spinach salad above which is a recipe from Emeril to which I added some pitted Calamata olives, and some orange muscat champagne vinegar as well as the white vinegar called for.
(I’m in the process of emptying my pantry so I take any opportunity I can to use something up in there).
The evening was wonderful, the table was lovely, the food was terrific as always, and beautifully presented.
After nibbling on shrimp, cheeses, olives, and an edamame hummus along with cocktails we dined on…
Grilled Chicken Kebabs
Orzo with tomatoes, cucumbers, lemon, and herbs
and a melange of grilled vegetables…
My Spinach, Orange, and Almond Salad completed this fantastic menu.
Dessert was homemade strawberry shortcake, and we all dug in so quickly I forgot to get a photo. Rest assured, it was delicious!
Before I give you the recipe for the spinach salad I just want to say one last thing…
…while I love posting recipes on this blog, I love telling the story of how the things I post came to be, and why they came to be, so to our dear friends, the Murphys…this one’s for you with love!
Emeril’s Spinach, Orange and Candied Almond Salad
(serves 6, but can be adjusted for more)
1/4 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons sugar (Use a bit less if you want)
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup almonds, sliced
4 small oranges
1/4 cup champagne or 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
(I used half orange muscat champagne vinegar and half white wine vinegar)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon orange zest (I used a bit more)
1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste (I use kosher)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 cups fresh baby spinach, washed and dried
(I used half baby spinach and half mixed greens and herbs)
1 cup celery, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced and cut into crescents
freshly ground cracked black pepper
(I also added pitted Calamata olives)
1. Lightly grease a 10” square of parchment paper with butter or vegetable oil and set aside.
2. Use a salad spinner to rinse the baby spinach thoroughly. Remove as much moisture as possible from the spinach or your salad will be soggy. Set aside to drain.
3. Simple Syrup: In a small saucepan combine 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of water over medium-high heat. Swirl the mixture occasionally until the sugar turns a golden amber color. this should take about 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the almonds and stir to coat. continue cooking until the almonds are fragrant and golden brown, about 1 minute. Be careful not to burn the sugar/nut mixture or yourself! Transfer the nuts to parchment paper, using a spatula to spread into a thin layer, and set aside to cool completely.
5. With a sharp knife, peel the orange, remove the bitter white pith, and cut the fruit into segments. (Use a small bowl to catch the orange juice that drips.) Reserve the segments in a separate bowl. Reserve the orange juice.
6. Salad Dressing: Combine 1/4 cup of the reserved fresh orange juice, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, the Champagne or white vinegar, olive oil, orange zest, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the cayenne in a mixing bowl and whisk to blend. Transfer the dressing to a non-reactive container with a lid and refrigerate until ready to eat.
7. Put the fresh spinach in a large serving bowl, then top with the orange segments, celery, red onions, and Calamata olives, if using. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
8. When ready to serve, break the caramelized almonds (at this point the almonds have turned to “brittle”) into bite-size pieces and scatter over the top of the salad. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Toss to coat and serve immediately.
I mentioned on a recent post that my sister, cousins from St. Louis and I visited Chanticleer Gardens in Wayne, PA several weeks ago.
This estate began as the country retreat of Adolph Rosengarten, Sr. and his wife Christine, and dates back to the early 1900’s.
The photo above gives you a glimpse of what the 48 acres of Chanticleer has to offer.
An excerpt from the brochure says it best…
Chanticleer has been called the most romantic, imaginative, and exciting public garden in America. The garden is a study of textures and forms, where foliage trumps flowers, the gardeners lead the design, and even the drinking fountains are sculptural, It is a garden of pleasure and learning, relaxing yet filled with ideas to take home.
Here is just a sampling of some of the photos from our wonderful day spent at this miraculous garden retreat.
If you get the opportunity you must visit this enchanting place. What makes it stand out among so many public gardens is the fact that they have made an extraordinary effort to keep it from being commercialized in any way, and have succeeded.
As you walk the paths of the various gardens you feel as if you are visiting a friend’s home and gardens. If you have questions about the many plants there are numerous gardeners available to answer them.
This pretty much sums up the experience they hope it will be…
…Sit and enjoy the views. Relax, read, converse, meditate. Feel the sun on your back and the grass beneath your feet as you listen to the birds and enjoy the scents of the garden.
I hate when this happens! I haven’t posted on my blog for almost 3 weeks. We are approaching the home stretch of our upcoming move, and
life cooking as I know it is no more.
In the last few weeks my husband and I have made a trip to San Luis Obispo to check on the status of our future home.
We were there for the required framing walk-through, which turned out to be a 3 hour procedure since it is very detail oriented, not to mention the time it takes to cover the endless lists my husband produces at such meetings.
Seriously, I kid him about it, but when we had moved into our current home almost 25 years ago had he not been so on top of things our four bedroom house might have been a three bedroom house.
The boys and I were still in Chicago and my husband had driven out a month earlier to begin his new job. He was living in an apartment (where we would be joining him for 3 months until the house was ready).
He would come by the construction site regularly to check on the status. One day he discovered that instead of the fourth bedroom they had framed a sitting room off the master bedroom.
Fortunately for us, the mistake was caught in time, and corrected!
On this trip to SLO we found ourselves busy every day, but were able to see both of our sons and their girlfriends, which was the real bonus.
Although it was exciting to finally have something to see, walking through rooms framed in wood without walls, ceilings, or a roof overhead is, for me, tough to envision as the place I’ll be calling home in just a few months.
(this is especially difficult since there are no models, and we have only had plans and computer generated videos to go by) BOLD, aren’t we???
I may have mentioned this before but this move will represent a huge lifestyle change for us.
Our home is being built in SLO’s charming downtown (no more suburbs!) and (lots more walking) and we are truly downsizing to about half the size of our present beloved home without the magnificent gardens we created (novices, though we were…fortunately we had plenty of years to learn).
I will have a large deck, a small patio, and a tiny balcony that I intend to put all my energy into as soon as we are unpacked.
It is a totally different type of architecture than we are used to here on the east coast called contemporary craftsman with lots of windows and a 10 foot ceiling.
We even think we will have some beautiful mountain views from a few windows. That’s one of the things we discovered at the walk through!
We will not be visiting again until we move so that is when we will see our completed home for the first time.
The day after I got home two of my cousins arrived from St. Louis for a weekend at my sister’s home in PA (all planned previous to my knowing the exact timing of our trip to SLO…oops!)
We crammed a lot into a few days. I had dinner for them upon their arrival…appetizers on the patio until it got too chilly, and a meal of grilled Chicken Teryaki (I do the marinating, my husband does the grilling)
and Vermont Potato Salad.
For dessert…Chocolate Cake
The next morning we drove to my sister’s, went out to a great restaurant for dinner, and the next day we took a trip to the Chanticleer Gardens in Wayne, PA, a half hour outside of Philadelphia.
I hope to post photos I took there on a future post. It was the most beautiful day, and the 48 acres were lush with all the spring flowering plants and trees. Thanks to our cousin from the midwest for suggesting it.
Back at home I have been busy with packing, etc and have had little time to cook or shop. In fact I have been trying to use up my overloaded pantry. It seems I can’t resist a sale and whenever my favorite pasta was featured I would stock up.
With several boxes of orzo on the shelf I decided to make a quick dinner of Pan Fried Chicken Breasts with Orzo.
I usually reserve the boneless breasts in the freezer for chicken parmigiana or chicken stir fries, but with very few veggies for a stir fry and very little time for a parmigiana I decided to quickly marinate the chicken breasts Greek style with salt, pepper, lemon juice , minced fresh garlic and some oregano.
While that was marinating I made the orzo, risotto style like I love to do.
After sauteeing some chopped onion and garlic in olive oil for 5 minutes I add the dried orzo (about 1 to 1 and 1/2 cups ) to the saucepan until it begins to brown.
To that slowly add some warmed chicken stock slowly as if you were making risotto, and stir continually on medium to medium high heat. As the liquid evaporates, keep adding more and stirring so it doesn’t stick.
Repeat this until you have added about 3 cups liquid. When most of the liquid is absorbed, season with kosher salt and pepper, and some dried or fresh thyme. At this point reduce it to low, and cover with a lid for another 10 minutes, checking to make sure it is not sticking. When done, turn the heat off and keep warm til ready to serve.
To finish the chicken breasts, heat a large skillet with a bit of olive oil and butter to medium high. When hot, add the chicken breasts and allow to cook on one side til browned. Turn and cook until browned on the other side.
Add a small amount of chicken stock to the pan and the juice of half a lemon. when done, cover pan and let sit for a few minutes.
Serve the chicken breast over a bed of orzo.
Garnish with fresh lemon and oregano.
Strawberries and Cream Spectacular! This recipe comes from the Time Life Series of Books called The Good Cook/Techniques and Recipes published in 1981. I had the entire collection in those days, and through the years I have donated many and sold some at yard sales, but this particular one simply called Cakes remains on my shelf.
It is a great resource for anyone who loves baking cakes as I do. This particular cake is one that I love and continue to make today. I have made it for many special occasions, including a bridal shower for my best friend’s daughter a few years after we had moved here.
It is a great springtime cake and I served it at the brunch we had a week ago.
Now I’ll confess I use a pastry bag and tip to decorate occasionally, but my skills are from from that of a professional.
Somehow with this cake even if you stray as I do from using 3 different tips as the recipe suggests, this cake always ends up looking yummy and tasting yummier.
And, if you don’t run out of whipped cream as I did this time, you can also pipe rosettes around the bottom edge of the cake for a more finished look.
But you know what, nobody said, “Hey, where are the rosettes?”
The cake itself is light as a feather with just enough lemon flavoring that complements the ripe strawberries and vanilla flavored whipped cream.
May is around the corner and with it strawberry season, so find an occasion and do make this delicious spectacular cake.
Strawberries and Cream Spectacular
(The Good Cook, Cakes from the Time Life series, Elise W. Manning, Farm Journal’s complete home Baking Book)
To make one 9-inch cake
2 and 1/2 cups cake flour
1 and 2/3 cups sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 and 1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 egg yolks
4 cups strawberries
2 cups heavy cream, whipped with 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup red currant jelly
Sift together the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Add the shortening and half of the milk. Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed for two minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.
Add the remaining milk, the lemon extract, the vanilla extract and the egg yolks. Beat with the electric mixer for another two minutes.
Pour the batter into two buttered layer-cake pans that have been lined with parchment paper.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the centers of the layers comes out clean.
Cool the layers in their pan for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto wire racks.
While the cake is cooling, wash and hull the strawberries. Chop enough strawberries to make one cup; reserve the remaining berries. Fold the chopped strawberries into one cup of the whipped cream.
Place one cake layer, top side down, on a serving plate. Spread it with the strawberry-cream filling.
Top with the second cake layer, top side up.
Slice the reserved strawberries lengthwise. Arrange the sliced strawberries on top of the cake, starting at the outer edge and placing the slices with their pointed ends toward the edge of the cake.
After the first circle of berries is completed, continue placing the strawberries in this manner until the top is covered.
Refrigerate the cake for 10 minutes.
Melt the red currant jelly in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Carefully spoon or brush the hot jelly over the strawberries
Spread some of the remaining whipped cream around the sides of the cake.
Spoon the rest of the whipped cream into a pastry bag fitted with a No. 190 drop flower tube. Pipe rosettes between the strawberry points around the rim of the cake. then change to a No.24 star tube and fill in the spaces. Finally, change to a No. 71 leaf tube, and piupe a border around the bottom edge of the cake.
If you do not wish to decorate the cake with decorating tips, spoon the remaining cream in small puffs on the top of the cake between the strawberries.
Refrigerate the cake until time to serve it.
For our brunch last Sunday I made Smoked Whitefish Salad.
I use very little mayo relative to the amount of fish so the rich flavor of the smoked fish really shines through. You could even omit the mayonnaise altogether and simply add a little olive oil to the lemon juice.
The only thing challenging about this dish is deboning the smoked fish.
In the past I usually did it in a trial and error fashion, and usually found myself picking out a lot of bones that I had missed making this a pretty time consuming process.
This time I went online and found this video which made things a lot easier. I may need to practice a bit more, but I think I did a pretty good job.
I’m not telling how many times I had to replay the video, though! Your reward for all your hard work is getting to nibble all the bits and pieces that you are not using.
I see he agrees with me…check it out!
Smoked Whitefish Salad (makes about 8 cups)
2 smoked whole whitefish ( 2-3 # each), skin and bones removed
3-4 stalks celery, finely diced
1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped
juice of 3 lemons
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise (I use Hellman’s canola oil mayo)
Debone the whitefish and place in a large bowl.
Add the diced celery, fresh chopped dill, mayonnaise, lemon juice and black pepper to the whitefish. Mix gently with very clean hands to maintain good size pieces of fish and toss til thoroughly combined.
Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Serve with bagels,rye bread or pumpernickel. Garnish with chopped fresh chives or fresh dill.
As we are approaching our move to San Luis Obispo at the end of June we added another last to our long list of memories of our home that we will take with us.
My kitchen island (and before the remodel, penninsula) has been home to too many Sunday Brunches to count over these past years.
This past Sunday with cousins visiting from New England we hosted what will most likely be the last of many large family gatherings for Sunday Brunch here.
It was a wonderful day filled with food and family, a combination hard to beat.
At one point I stood at my kitchen sink just listening to all the chatter and laughter which occurs when many conversations are going on simultaneously.
While some may describe the scene as deafening noise it is music to my ears…the sounds of family, poring over old photographs of loved ones no longer with us accompanied by all the stories which bring them back to life.
…and all the sounds of everyone catching up on each other’s current lives.
Of course food always plays a central role in any family get together, and it is always a labor of love for me.
Sunday’s menu included… Bloody Mary’s, (made the mix myself), a tuna tapenade served on crostini (sorry, didn”t catch a photo of that), a platter of deviled eggs and a wedge of Manchego cheese served with some grapes and crackers for starters.
The buffet consisted of a smoked salmon platter with capers and dill, a platter of smoked roasted salmon, plain and peppered, and my own smoked whitefish salad which I will soon post.
There were veggie and fruit platters, and our aunt’s famous jello molds (that we almost forgot to take out of the fridge, which explains why they are not in the photos).
An assortment of bagels with cream cheese and fresh chives, as well as fig, strawberry, and my sister’s home made peach preserves.
Later with coffee we had The Best Coffee Cake. Ever.
and a favorite of mine which I will put on the blog soon…
Strawberries and Cream Spectacular
A fine ending for a spectacular day filled with wonderful memories of brunches at Saint Regis Way!
Here’s a recipe from Ina Garten aka The Barefoot Contessa that never disappoints. It is one I have made numerous times. It is quick and delicious, and you will likely have most of the ingredients on hand, except the shrimp.
It’s a good idea to keep a bag of shrimp in your freezer for use in shrimp stir fries and other recipes that cook up quickly.
To make it even quicker Ina says you can use peeled and deveined shrimp, which I do.
Costco, for example, sells a 2 pound bag of raw large shrimp already peeled and deveined, so all you need to do is remember to defrost the amount you need overnight in the fridge. They will be ready for you the next day. (Do not use cooked shrimp).
Add a salad and some good bread and you have yourself a delicious dinner.
Ina’s Linguine with Shrimp Scampi (serve 6)
(Barefoot Contessa Family Style, Ina Garten)
Vegetable Oil (I used canola)
1 and 1/2 pounds linguine
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
5 tablespoons good olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic (9 cloves)
2 pounds (raw) large shrimp (about 32 shrimp). peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
Drizzle some oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the linguine, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.
Meanwhile, in another large (12-inch). heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute. Be careful, the garlic burns easily!
Add the shrimp, 1 tablespoon of salt, and the pepper and saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often.
Remove from the heat, add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices, and red pepper flakes. Toss to combine.
When the pasta is done, drain the cooked linguine, and then put it back in the pot. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and serve.
In addition to the Passover Lemon Cheesecake which I made this year I also took this Chocolate Sponge Cake Roll with Raspberries and Cream to the seder at our aunt’s home.
I am not a chocoholic by any means ( I usually prefer desserts without chocolate with a few exceptions), but i know that for many people it is not dessert if it’s not chocolate. So I always like to include something with chocolate when there are several desserts at a holiday meal.
This recipe is an adaptation of a lemon sponge cake roll I have made numerous times at Passover. (See the post from April 2011) .
Instead of the lemon juice and zest I added cocoa powder and vanilla extract, filled it with some fresh raspberries and whipped cream, and covered it in with a chocolate frosting.
Passover Chocolate Sponge Cake Roll with Raspberries and Cream
(serves 8 to 10)
For the cake roll
1/2 cup sifted Passover cake meal
1/2 cup potato starch
6 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Line a 10”x 15” rimmed baking sheet with buttered parchment paper.
Sift together cake meal, potato starch, and cocoa powder and set aside.
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and lemon colored.
Gradually add the dry ingredients, stirring to make a thick batter.
Add the vanilla extract and mix well.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff but not dry. Fold very gently into the batter.
Turn into the prepared pan and bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Test with cake tester, or press gently with finger to see if cake bounces back.
Remove from then oven and turn onto a lightly sugared towel. Gently remove parchment paper.
Roll up with the towel while warm and let cool completely on a rack.
When cool, carefully unroll and spread the whipped cream, dot with the raspberries. Reroll and place onto serving plate.
Cover with the chocolate frosting. Garnish with extra raspberries.
Whipped cream filling
1/2 cup heavy cream for whipping
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar
Whip cream and sugar with whisk attachment in an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
3/4 cup fresh raspberries, (sweetened with 1 tablespoon sugar, optional)
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 to 4 Tablespoons hot water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
Blend sugar with melted butter, vanilla, and chocolate. Stir in hot water 1 tablespoon at a time until proper consistency.
This luscious lemon cheesecake is one of the desserts I took to the Seder at our aunt’s home last night.
The crust is made from ground almonds and matzo cake meal making it perfect for Passover when flour is prohibited. Its sweet crunchiness complements the smooth lemony light filling.
Passover Lemon Cheesecake (Epicurious, Gourmet/ April 2008)
(8 to 10 servings)
3/4 cup sliced blanched almonds, toasted and cooled
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup matzo cake meal
14 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 (8 -ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
a 9-inch springform pan
To Make Crust
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the middle.
Pulse almonds, sugar, matzo cake meal, and salt in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and stir in butter until combined well.
Press onto bottom and 1 inch up the side of springform pan. Bake until crust is firm and a shade darker, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool crust completely in pan on a rack.
To Make Filling and Bake Cheesecake
Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.
Beat together cream cheese and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add eggs 1 at a time, mixing until incorporated. Mix in zest and vanilla.
Put springform pan in a shallow baking pan and pour filling into cooled crust. Bake until filling is set 1 and 1/2 inches from the edge but center is wobbly, 45 to 50 minutes (filling will set as it cools).
Transfer cake in pan to a rack and immediately run a knife around edge, then remove side of pan. Cool completely, 2 to 3 hours.
Garnish with blackberries and lemon slices (optional)
Note: Cheesecake can be made 2 days ahead and chilled, loosely covered.
Passover began last night with the ceremonial seder meal.
We were invited to the home of my husband’s aunt whom he has been especially close to since he was old enough to walk, and whom I became close with since I first began dating my husband in high school.
At that time his aunt and uncle and cousins lived in the same town in which we grew up.
In the late 70’s, years after we had married and moved to Chicago they moved to Virginia where our aunt still lives today.
The amazing thing is we never know what lies ahead.
In 1988 we found ourselves moving east after living in Chicago for 15 years.
We never could have predicted that one day we we would be living in Maryland, and even more amazing that we would be living just 35 minutes (barring traffic /accidents/ construction on the beltway) from our wonderful aunt.
And now as our life takes another turn we find ourselves celebrating the last of many Passovers and other holidays and events we have shared with her and her family over these past 25 years.
Through all these years we have had a special relationship with our aunt who is now the matriarch of my husband’s family.
She is a special lady who wrote the book on how to age well.
She is young at heart with an optimistic outlook, seemingly able to roll with any punches that life doles out.
Her schedule of activities and social life would be challenging for many half her age. Her sense of humor and lust for life are evident whenever you speak with her.
And did I mention that she is quite a looker, to boot?
She refers to herself and her significant other as the “oldest teenagers in their town”!
We have shared so much of our lives with her over these past years, and it will be difficult to say good bye.
Once we are settled in our new home we know she will be one of our first visitors from the east coast and we will insist that she add a regular trip to San Luis Obispo to her yearly travel schedule.
We look forward to sharing many more good times with her in San Luis Obispo, and of course, we will be back east to see her regularly as well.
Preparing a seder is no small fete. Although I love hosting the holidays, even I realized that with our upcoming move it was not to be. We have begun packing, selling some furniture, and my house is slowly but surely deconstructing, a necessary, but very sad evil for me.
Anyway, I am far from being done cooking here so I enticed my aunt to allow me to bring several contributions to the meal, one of which was the traditional dish of apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine known as Charoset, Charoseth, or Haroset.
The Charoseth is symbolic of the bricks and mortar used by the Jewish slaves to build cities for the Pharaoh.
It is one of the ceremonial foods on the Seder Plate. During the service we partake of it on a piece of matzoh along with a little horseradish, representing the sweetness of freedom and the bitterness of slavery.
Although we usually eat Charoseth once a year at Passover it is so delicious there’s no reason why we don’t eat it year round. Here’s the simple recipe:
Charoseth (serves 8)
1 cup chopped or diced apples
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, or almonds)
2 tablespoons honey or sugar
1/4 cup sweet red wine or grape juice
1/4 teaspoon (or more to taste) cinnamon
Mix chopped apples and chopped nuts. Add remaining ingredients, and mix thoroughly. Serve with traditional Passover dinner.