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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Out with the old: the first night of Hanukah and squash casserole

I spent a couple hours this morning getting rid of clothes that didn't make me happy. Since most of my clothes come from the Goodwill in the first place, I didn't feel bad sending them back there. Some were skirts too short for a woman my age to wear, some were in colors I never exactly liked, some didn't fit any more, some were experiments gone wrong... some were worn out... there was a red sweater I thought of as still pretty new until I saw a photo recently of me wearing it a quarter of a century ago...

It was the first night of Hanukkah of course and my friend Paul came over to light candles. I cooked borscht and a zucchini casserole.

The casserole was part of a long-term project: to actually COOK the recipes I've torn out of newspapers or wherever over the last decades and stuffed into a box. If these long-preserved never-prepared dishes turn out lousy, I'm throwing out those recipes. Duh, right?

This one turned out well. It's a keeper.

Zucchini casserole
2-1/2 pounds of zucchini sliced into thin rounds in the food processor
1-1/2 cup shredded cheddar (or other cheese, I am never particular)
3/4 cup ricotta
6 eggs
chopped parsley to taste
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
3/4 cup breadcrumbs (I used Italian seasoning breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella

The original recipe said to put the rounds of zucchini in overlapping rows in a buttered lasagna pan. I actually did this and it looked beautiful but it took a long time and, as you put a topping on the casserole, nobody is ever going to see your nice design. Sprinkle each layer of zucchini with shredded cheddar.

Whip together the ricotta, eggs, parsley, salt, and pepper and pour over the zucchini.

Combine the last four ingredients and sprinkle over the top. Cook at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes. The recipe said to cover it with a tent of aluminum foil for the first 25 minutes of cooking but I forgot to do that and it turned out well anyway.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

One of our new Hanukkah songs: "Ain't Nobody's Business What I Do"

From the concert I gave with Aviva Enoch last night, The song is on our Mrs Maccabee's Kitchen cd:

Jane Peppler and Aviva Enoch of Cabaret Warsaw play Hanukkah music in North Carolina

Here are the words I wrote to this old blues tune:

There ain't nothin I can do
There's nothin I can say
That folks won't criticize me
So I'm gonna do just as I want to anyway
I don't care if they all despise me

If instead of ham and biscuit I fix bialys, borsht & brisket
Ain't nobody's business what I do
If instead of caroling I prefer to fry bimuelos and sing Maoz-tsur
Ain't no body's business what I do

If I prefer to spin the dreydl 'stead of singin 'bout that cradle
If I refuse to worship Zeus or bow to any golden goose

If instead of singing 'Deck the Halls' I stay home and eat matzah balls
Ain't nobody's business what I do
If you don't like my benediction don't give me any friction
Ain't nobody's business what I do

If I light candles every night it shouldn't provoke a fight
If I don't care for pickled prawn, if I stay up till dawn playing s'vivon

If I'd rather be studying Mishnah than chanting Hare Krishna
If I'd rather go to bed than stay up and wait for the Man in Red

If I choose New York pastrami over your artisan salami
Ain't nobody's business what I do
If I fire up my menorah sing 'Ner Li' and dance the horah
Ain't nobody's business
Ain't nobody's business
Ain't nobody's business what I do

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Chocolate pretzel toffee bark with toasted almonds on top.

Chocolate pretzel almond toffeeI published this recipe last year but I'm updating it after having made it quite a few times. Also, I wanted to make enough so the entire jelly roll pan of pretzels would be covered with toffee.

It's ridiculously compulsive and time consuming to line all the pretzels up into a grid, but it is equally ridiculously satisfying to be able to snap the toffee into perfect rectangular pieces.

Here is what you have to do before you start heating the mixture:
  1. Run very hot water into your sink (to drop the bowl and utensils into immediately after the project)
  2. Have something to do (so you don't poke the toffee before it cools, which takes HOURS)
  3. Toast the almonds - I do it in the toaster oven, 350 degrees for 5 or 6 minutes
  4. Get out your 11x17 cookie sheet and cover it with pretzels (see below). Some people put the chocolate chips right on top of the pretzels and then pour the hot goo over the top of the chips. I didn't do it that way but it might be better.

Pretzel Toffee Bark
1/2 of a 12-ounce bag of square pretzels (I used Snyder Butter Snaps)
1-3/8 cups salted butter (2-3/4 sticks)
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1-3/8 cups white sugar
2-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1-3/4 cup sliced toasted almonds

Melt the butter and add the sugar and corn syrup. Boil to 280 degrees (not quite hard crack), stirring CONSTANTLY. Don't guess, get one of those cheap candy thermometers at the grocery store.

Immediately pour over pretzels spreading as evenly as possible while you pour because you won't have long to spread it. If you insist on spreading the goo absolutely all the way to the wall of the pan it will be hard to get the toffee out. Drop the empty saucepan into the hot water in your sink along with the wooden spoon.

Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips and then the sliced almonds over the pan.

Put in the pre-heated oven for 5 minutes and then mash down on it with a potato ricer or any other flat thing to get the almonds and chocolate to mix together. There will be a lot of melted chocolate with almonds stuck to it on the ricer when you're done. You know what to do.

Cool completely at room temperature. Go off and do the thing you planned to do so you wouldn't poke your toffee. It takes a long time for the chocolate to harden again.

If you put it in the fridge or freezer to get the chocolate to firm up you will RUIN it, as I did last year. In the freezer it rehydrates or something and loses its charm. But people will still eat it.

AFTER the chocolate is solid again, break the toffee into pieces.

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The Triangle Jewish Chorale Hanukah Songbook - now available as a pdf digital download

sheet music for Chanukah songsAnd here is the reprinted TJC Hanukkah songbook, 2 to 4-part arrangements with chords for piano or guitar. Click the picture to buy a paperback version. For a digital download (only $5!), click here:

Al Hanisim
Banu Chosech
Cuando el Rey Nimrod
Drey dreydele
Drive Cold Winter Away
Hanerot Halalu (Chasidic version)
Hanerot halalu (Classic)
Hayo, haya
Hinei Ba
Imi nahtna leviva-li
Hanukah (Sephardic)
Khanike iz freylekh
Let Memory Keep Us All
Ma-oz Tsur (Italian version)
Ma-oz Tsur (Classic)
Mizmor xir (Sephardic)
Nerot dolkim
Oy khanukah
Oy ir kleyne likhtelekh!
Simu shemen
Shnirele perele
Svivon sov sov sov
Time to Remember the Poor
Yom Zeh l’Yisroel

Return of the New Three Log Night Songbook! Plus, new inexpensive pdf version for download.

I discovered yesterday that CreateSpace (Amazon's print-on-demand arm) had somehow unpublished my Three Log Night Songbook: Uncommon Music for Christmas and Hannukah in arrangements for mixed voices. I got it back online. You can buy a paperback copy for $9.50 from them (click the picture) or you can get a $5 pdf version from me via email by clicking here:

Angelus ad virginem
Babe of Bethlehem
Blessed Be
Boar's Head Carol
Carol of the Bagpipers
Cherry Tree Carol
Cuando el Rey Nimrod
Drey Dreydele
Drive Cold Winter Away
Gedeonis Area
Gloucester Wassail
Hanerot Halalu
Hayo Haya
Here We Come A'Wassailing
Holly and the Ivy
Holly Bears a Berry
Imi Notna Leviva-li
In a Cavern Oxen Trod
In the Bleak Midwinter
In the Dark Streets
Khanuke iz freylekh
The King
Let Memory Keep Us All
The Lord at First Did Adam Make
Ma-oz Tsur
Now Is Come Our Joyful Feast
Oy Ir Kleyne Likhtelekh
Pastime With Good Company
Quem pastores
Resonet in Laudibus
Sainte Nicholaes
Shepherds Arise
Shnirele Perele
Simu Shemen
Solis in Praevia
Sussex Mummers Carol
S'vivon Sov Sov Sov
Tappster Dryngker
Time to Remember the Poor
The Very First Blessing
A Virgin Most Pure
Wassail Song
Wexford Carol
When the Wise Men Came from Far
The Woodcutters Song