Matzo Meal

It’s been over a week since our Passover Seder. A box of unopened matzo is still staring at me from the kitchen counter where it sits patiently waiting to be eaten. Matzo in our house has almost become a holiday decoration like a tree ornament at Christmas. Something to be pulled out for the season and then packed away for the next year.

Before I went to put this matzo away I realized that the expiration date simply read PASSOVER 2015. In other words, the manufacturers want to guarantee I am going to buy another box next year. I am skeptical that matzo ever actually expires though. It would be impossible to get any staler than it already is!

At our Seder one of our guests was raving about making lasagna with matzo. I was sure a dish with cheese, a breadish product and some sauce could work at our house, so instead of dumping the box in the trash I opened it and gave it a go.

*Afikomen Lasagna

Ingredients

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 lb. chopped beef or turkey

1 cup shredded carrots

1 garlic clove, minced

28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 Tbsp. basil

1 Tbsp. oregano

Salt & Pepper

1 container ricotta cheese, 16 oz

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 Tbsp. parsley

2 cups shredded mozzarella, ½ cup reserved

¼ cup parmesan cheese

5-6 full size matzo crackers

Method

In a large saucepan heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chopped meat, carrots and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is cooked through and carrots are softened and starting to brown, about 10-12 minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes, basil and oregano to the meat mixture. Bring tomato mixture to a simmer, season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 20 minutes, remove from heat and set aside.

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Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine the ricotta cheese, egg, parsley, and mozzarella cheese.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To assemble the lasagna, ladle about ½ cup of the meat sauce onto the bottom of a 13X9 inch baking dish. Arrange the matzo crackers in a single layer to cover the bottom. Each layer uses about 1 ½ sheets of matzo.

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Next spread about a cup of the meat over the matzo “noodles”. Then add a cup of the ricotta cheese over that.

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Add another layer of matzo. Repeat twice. Top the lasagna with the remaining sauce, reserved mozzarella and sprinkle on the parmesan cheese.

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Cover with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes. If making ahead you can cover and refrigerate or freeze unbaked lasagna. Use a layer of plastic wrap before you cover with foil. Remove the plastic wrap before baking!

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “There are matzo balls in this?”

Liam (age 6): “Pretty good”

Dylan (age 6): “I taste the afikomen but don’t see it”

*During Passover it is customary to play hide and seek with a piece of Matzo called the Afikomen. Children are rewarded with a small prize when they find the hidden piece of matzo and return it to the table. I decided to name our lasagna recipe after this tradition to see if my kids could “find” the matzo.

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The Leftovers

After weeks of planning, days of shopping, and hours of prepping, pureeing, chopping, sautéing, roasting, boiling, basting, mashing, stirring, whisking, and swearing, the big day has come and gone. I’m happy to report Thanksgiving 2014 was a success!

A few things I learned for next time:

  1. Don’t stress about the turkey- It was sooooooooooooooo easy. For the most part you put it in the oven and it takes care of itself. Just make sure to have someone on your guest list who is a master carver and can handle that part for you. Thanks Keith!
  2. Make half the amount of food -Since it was our first time hosting we got a little ambitious. Next time I will go for smaller quantities and have more vegetables instead of so much mashed stuff. Sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes, completely redundant.
  3. Use paper plates – For more than eight people paper plates is the way to go. And those fancy plastic forks, they practically look real so I’m definitely buying those next time.
  4. Try not to flood the basement at the end of the night – And if you do make sure to have a WetVac so your husband can swiftly take care of it while everyone is happily eating their apple pie à la mode.

Remember those sweet potatoes we made last week. Well, they became pancakes for breakfast. The extra mashed potatoes are going to morph into gnocchi. And the plan for leftover turkey is a green curry salad that can be used for lunch tomorrow. And maybe the day after that too…

SWEET POTATO PANCAKES

Ingredients

1 cup leftover sweet potato (with crumb topping)

1 ½ – 1 ¾ cups whole milk (or 2%)

2 eggs, beaten

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

3 Tbsp baking powder

2 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

Butter for pan

Directions

Combine sweet potatoes, milk, and eggs in a mixing bowl. Stir until well combined. In a separate large bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir just enough to combine. If the batter is too thick add a little more milk.

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Heat a lightly buttered griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Scoop a heaping tablespoon onto griddle or pan. Wait until bubbles appear on surface of pancake and then flip to brown opposite side.

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Extras can be frozen and popped into toaster to reheat. Cool completely before freezing.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “These are the best”

Liam (age 5): “I’ll take ten of these”

Dylan (age 5): “Just terrific”

***

SIMPLE GNOCCHI

Ingredients

2 cups leftover mashed potatoes

About 1 ½ cups of flour

1 egg

Pinch of salt

¼ cup of olive oil

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 Tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped

Directions

Place mashed potatoes in a large mixing bowl and mash with a fork. Sprinkle one cup of the flour onto the potatoes and mix together with your hands until the flour is incorporated. Make a well in the center and add the egg. Combine the egg with the potato mixture until a smooth dough forms. Keep adding flour and gently kneading until the dough is no longer sticky.

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Break the dough into about six pieces and roll out into snakes the width of your finger. Cut the dough into 1” pieces. Place on a large baking sheet and score the gnocchi with a fork.

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Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add gnocchi to the boiling water. Remove with a slotted spoon a minute or two after they rise to the surface. Drain well and toss with olive oil, sprinkle with grated cheese and garnish with the fresh sage.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “I really like this”

Dylan (age 5): “I love it”

Liam (age 5): “There’s a wild flavor in here”

***

GREEN CURRY TURKEY SALAD Mini Sandwich

Ingredients

¼ cup mayonnaise

1 ½ tsp green curry paste

1 ½ cups leftover turkey, chopped

Cranberry sauce, leftover

3-4 small rolls or croissants

Directions

In a medium mixing bowl combine the mayonnaise and green curry paste. Add chopped turkey and mix until combined. Spread a small amount of cranberry sauce on the bottom side of croissant or roll. Add a heap of the turkey mixture. Enjoy!

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “A little too sweet with the cranberries”

Liam (age 5): “Uh, no”

Dylan (age 5): “Don’t like that red stuff”

What did you make with your leftovers???

My Little Foragers

A few weeks ago I did a story on Foraging With Kids. As with all educational things I do with my children I never know if it has any impact. So I was taken by surprise when out on a nature hike the boys suddenly screamed “ONIONS!” They had actually spotted wild garlic, which look and smell similar to small onions. All three vigorously began yanking and tugging to break some bulbs loose from the soil. We harvested a few sizable pieces and Dylan insisted he would keep them safe in his pocket, dirt and all, until we got home.

After a lively discussion we unanimously decided a pizza sauce would be the perfect thing to make with our wild edibles. Nothing hard about this recipe and a much better alternative to jarred sauce. With some simple ingredients, tomatoes, garlic, and some spices (plus, I snuck in a zucchini), we had a delicious sauce in no time. And the boys were thrilled that they had eaten off the land. I can almost guarantee they would not have eaten this zucchini sauce had they not had a part in harvesting one of the ingredients. I will confess, I supplemented with garlic cloves purchased at the supermarket.

Now if you live in the suburbs you might be familiar with this plant (or weed as most people would refer to it) as it tends to invade lawns in clumps and take over quickly. This is how I first became acquainted with it, although I would strongly advise against eating anything from a lawn that has fertilizer on it.

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Zucchini Sausage Pizza

Ingredients

1 zucchini, peeled, cut in large chunks

1 can diced tomatoes, drained

2 Tbsp olive oil, divided

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp oregano

½ tsp basil

½ tsp pepper

1 lb. sausage meat, removed from casings

1 package pizza dough

All-purpose flour, for dusting

2 cups, shredded mozzarella cheese

Method

Puree zucchini and diced tomatoes until smooth. Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Then add garlic and cook for about 1 minute until fragrant. Do not brown.

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To the garlic, add pureed vegetables, salt, sugar, oregano, basil, and pepper and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then turn heat down to a simmer. Let sauce reduce by at least half, this will take about 45 minutes. The sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated for 3-4 days.

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Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a skillet and brown the sausage, breaking it up, until cooked thoroughly. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by lightly coating it with olive oil. Roll out pizza dough on a floured surface and transfer to baking sheet.

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Next add the zucchini sauce in an even layer onto the dough.

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Then top with sausage.

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And lastly, sprinkle liberally with cheese.

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Bake in oven until underside of the pizza is crispy, approximately 12-15 minutes.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “That’s some good stuff”

Liam (age 5): “Only put a little on mine”

Dylan (age 5): “I love our onion sauce!”

Can you guess who made these?

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A Day on the Lake

Ever wonder what it would be like to live on a lake? Awaking each morning to a picturesque view out your bedroom window would probably feel like being on a perpetual vacation. To celebrate the end of summer we spent the day at our friends’ lake house and it definitely felt like a mini holiday.

The first thing the boys did when they saw the canoe was run full speed ahead with their fishing gear and jump in. With Brian as captain they headed out, their little heads peaking up from oversized life jackets. From afar it looked like a Norman Rockwell painting. But I knew better. I strongly suspected Brian was dodging fishing hooks, swatting mosquitoes, and screaming at them not to rock the boat.

But sitting on the deck, drink in hand, enjoying the incredible view, it was a very sweet scene. Just as the boys made a b-line to the canoe, I made a b-line to the food. What can I say? We all have our priorities. My friend’s mother had made her delicious meatballs that were ready and waiting for the boys the minute their boat was docked. Legend has it the first time Matthew tried these meatballs he ate 7 in 7 minutes.

Six fish were caught that day and Brian only got one hook in his hand!

Asian Meatballs w/Carrot Noodles (recipe inspired by Lyn’s Mom)

Ingredients

For the meatballs:

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Tbsp ginger, grated

¼ cup scallions, finely chopped

2 Tbsp soy sauce, low sodium

2 Tbsp brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp sesame oil

¼ tsp salt

½ cup Panko breadcrumbs

1 lb. ground turkey (or chicken, or beef)

Teriyaki sauce, for drizzling

Sesame seeds, optional

For the carrots:

4 large carrots, peeled

2 tsp sesame oil

Salt & pepper

1 Tbsp teriyaki sauce

Method:

For the meatballs:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean-up, or lightly brush the baking sheet with cooking oil.

In a large mixing bowl combine the first eight ingredients.

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Add in the breadcrumbs and mix well. Then add the turkey to the breadcrumb mixture and mix until just combined. Using your hands is the best method for this step. Be careful not to over mix the meat.

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Form into small meatballs, about 1” diameter. Place on baking sheet and bake for approximately 20 minutes until cooked through.

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For the carrots:

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the carrots into long ribbons. Place on a baking sheet and toss with the sesame oil. Lightly season with salt and pepper.

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Place in oven for approximately 15 minutes until carrots lose some of their moisture. Remove from oven and toss with the teriyaki sauce.

Top the carrot noodles with meatballs. Drizzle with teriyaki sauce, sprinkle with sesame seeds and break out the chop sticks.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “Not the same, but it’s super good”

Liam (age 5): “It’s a little medium. At least I tried a carrot”

Dylan (age 5): “Eh, the flavor doesn’t taste good but I tried a carrot too”

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For more glimpses of life on the lake read my friend Lyn’s blog, PinotbyLyn

Home On The Range

Another season of The Next Food Network Star wrapped up this week and Lenny McNab scored the win. I was rooting for Chef Lenny, aka The Gourmet Cowboy, from the beginning. He was one of the few contestants with a unique POV. For those non-fans out there, POV stands for “point of view”. It’s a phrase thrown around ad nauseam on the show. The contestants come up with one at the start of the season and work on perfecting it each episode. If their POV makes no sense they usually get the boot.

Although I love watching the car wrecks each week, as the contestants struggle through silly challenges to impress the judges (Bobby, Giada, and Alton), I would prefer to see them do more cooking. But becoming a Food Network star seems to be more about the ability to make a fool of yourself in front of millions of people than about having culinary skills.

Chef Lenny was a favorite from the start since he was willing to go to any length to impress the fans, from duct taping candy bars on his bare chest to a fully-clothed belly flop into a pool in Vegas. How these stunts tie into cooking I’m not sure, but it certainly made for amusing television.

Chef Lenny’s signature dish that won him the title was a Coffee-Crusted Rib Eye. The recipe calls for grilling and flipping steak, throwing handfuls of spice mixture all over the kitchen (some even on the steak too) all while shouting “make it rain!” in a cowboy twang. I knew a dish that involved making such a mess would appeal to the boys. Instead of coffee and refined sugar, I’m putting my own twist on it with cocoa powder and brown sugar. Let’s make it rain! Yeehaw!

Cocoa Crusted Bedlam Steak (inspired by Chef Lenny McNab)

Ingredients

2lbs strip steak, about four 8oz pieces
Salt & pepper
Olive oil, for brushing

Spice rub (save extra in airtight container)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder, unsweetened
1/4 cup seasoned salt*

* If you don’t have seasoned salt, it’s easy to make, combine:
2 Tbsp Kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp parsley
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder (save any extra in airtight container)

Method
Heat grill to high heat. If you don’t have a grill this can also be cooked in a cast iron skillet. Bring steak to room temperature. Season both sides with salt and pepper. IMG_9667 Brush with olive oil. Place on grill and “make it rain” with the spice rub. IMG_9677 Cook about 2-3 minutes until you get some grill marks, flip it and, you guessed it, “make it rain!” all over the steak.

IMG_9702Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Flip and repeat until steak is cooked to medium rare. About 6 minutes per side. Add additional flips if you like your steak well done. IMG_9740 Remove steak from grill ( with tongs – do not use fork) and let rest 5-10 minutes before slicing. IMG_9738 And the VERDICT is:
Matthew (age 7): “It has a special sauce- really good”
Liam (age 5): “I should have guessed it had cocoa!”
Dylan (age 5): “Love it”

Not bad for a city slicker!