Passover over

Well last night was the official end of Passover. By far the hardest part of Passover for me is having to forgo beer (it’s fermented from grains after all!) for 8 days. So my tradition for the last few years is to break Passover with a slice of pizza and a beer so last night that’s just what I did. Yum.



I must say, it definitely hit the spot.

There is one thing in the world that I will fully admit I am a total New York snob about and that thing is pizza. One day I’ll have to write an entire post about how what the majority of the country eats is not actually pizza, but rather some bread, sauce and cheese concoction which, while sometimes delicious, is not actually pizza. Alas that’s a post (a real one- I promise) for another time.

I hope you had a lovely holiday whether it was Passover or Easter.

Cheesecake mousse with orange curd and raspberry sauce

Last Monday night was the start of Passover and the first of the two Seders  the festive meals and retelling of the Passover story. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but Passover is my favorite holiday for 3 major reasons, it involves lots of food, storytelling/singing and has a heavy emphasis on social justice. Yea, pretty much all of my favorite things rolled in to one holiday.

I celebrated the first Seder at the home of my friends Ruth and Adam with several other adults and one very cute 2.5 year old who happens to belong to Ruth and Adam. I volunteered to provide the desserts, since I’d already planned on bringing a chocolate covered matzah cake. For the second dessert I considered making a crust-less cheesecake because it’s Ruth’s favorite dessert, but I didn’t know if I could pull it off in my NYC apartment sized mini oven.

Since all traditional cakes and cookies would violate the dietary restrictions of Passover I was struggling and so I revisited the cheesecake idea, but somehow got it in my head to Google, “cheesecake mousse,” and bam! Victory! Such a thing actually does exist.


I used a recipe from Oprah Magazine which was said to serve 6. Since there were to be 8 of us I one-and-a-halved (is that English?) the recipe. That was my only mistake. It literally made enough for like 12 people! Luckily Ruth and Adam were happy to keep the leftovers.

Rather than make the gelee that the recipe suggests I decided to serve the mousse topped with Cara Cara orange curd because OMG I love curd and a raspberry sauce for add a bit of tartness to balance the dessert.

Cheesecake Mousse

Recipe adapted from Oprah magazine

  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 24 oz whipped cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt

Place a metal bowl and the beater attachments from your handheld mixer in the freezer until very cold. I like to put them in the night before.

Remove from freezer, pour in cream and beat  until stiff peaks form, then cover and refrigerate.

Meanwhile, clean off the beaters and in a separate bowl beat the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar until combined. Add the lemon juice, vanilla, and salt and continue to beat until light and fluffy.

Using a rubber spatula, mix in 1/3 of the whipped cream. Fold in the remaining whipped cream, making sure to keep the mixture light and fluffy.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours.

When ready to serve spoon in to individual ramekins and top with orange curd (I doubled this recipe) and then a dollop of raspberry sauce.

Yields enough to feed an army.


This Is the Cake of Our Affliction (and it’s awesome)

For being the “Bread of Our Affliction,” matzah sure is delicious! Here in the northeast (and probably in other areas with a large Jewish population), matzah is beloved by Jews and Gentile’s alike. Really.

Matzah, or ulevened bread is basically a giant delicious cracker that’s good on its own, but it also a great vehicle for almost anything else. I love matzah pizza, for dinner the other night I had matzah brei which is like a matzah and egg scramble and one of my favorite guilty pleasure snacks is honey drizzled on lightly buttered matzah.

This week, like almost every Passover of my life, I’m enjoying a different and unusual matzah treat; Chocolate Covered Matzah Cake.

My good friend Hans actually has a “favorite cakes” list. It’s one of the many things I love about him, but I’m not nearly as dedicated to cake as Hans so I possess no such list. If I had a favorite cakes list though, this would be on it (and probably that Brazilian carrot cake I made a few weeks ago too).

A dear friend of my mother’s, who sadly passed away, was an avid baker who came up with this recipe and it’s been a staple in my family ever since. The original recipe calls for margarine to keep this pareve for those who keep kosher so if that’s a concern for you feel free to substitute the butter. Also, the egg in this recipe doesn’t really get cooked so make sure you’re using fresh, organic, free range eggs.

Chocolate Covered Matzah Cake

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 7 to 8 oz chocolate chips
  • 1 stick of butter softened
  • 1 egg (or 1/4 cup egg beaters)
  • 6 sheets of matzah
  • Manichewitz wine (or grape juice) for dipping

    Using a shallow baking dish is the easiest way to dip the matzah in wine.

In small sauce pan on medium high heat or microwave melt together sugar, water and chocolate chips. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Add butter and egg and stir until smooth.

Dip one sheet of matzah in the wine for about 10 seconds, place on plate or cake platter and pour some of the chocolate mixture to coat.

Repeat with all remaining matzah until cake is completely covered with chocolate.

Refrigerate over night.

The next day the matzah will have softened and the chocolate should have a frosting like consistency.

Slice of Chocolate Covered Matzah Cake. Yum!


My One and Only Family Recipe

I do not come from a long line of cooks. My mom is an awesome cook. My grandmother is a pretty good cook  which is amazing considering that both her mother and grandmother were terrible cooks with no love of the culinary arts which means we don’t really have family recipes except for our matzah balls. It is the only recipe that generations of Juettner/Bendit/Buchanan/Lander women share and it’s one of my all time favorite foods.

Traditionally matzah balls are made by using only matzah meal, matzah ground fine to mimic flour, but my family recipe is uniques because it also uses actual matzah. This recipe has been handed down by word of mouth so no actual recipe exists and few ingredients are actually measured. As I watch my mom making them, something I haven’t been brave enough to do myself yet, I’ll say things like, “So you add a tablespoon of sugar?” To which she responds, “Um I don’t know, that sounds like it’s probably right.”

I took pictures of my mom making them this year and I’m going to do my best to put an actual recipe together. It’s really hard to get an accurate measurement of the salt and sugar since my mom won’t be in your kitchen saying, “Yea that looks about right,” but start conservatively and give the mixture a taste as you go. The mixture should taste like a slightly sweeter version of the matzah itself.

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Buchanan* Family Matzah Balls

  • 6 sheets of matzah broken in to pieces
  • Water to cover matzah pieces
  • 3 eggs separated
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar (give or take)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (give or take)
  • 2/3 cup matzah meal (we think)

Break up matzah sheets in a bowl and cover pieces with warm water for about 20 second.

Drain matzah and mush together softened pieces with your hands to break up.

Beat egg yolks with fork. Mix egg yolks, salt and sugar in to mushed up matzah.

With electric beater, beat egg whites to soft peaks.

Gently fold egg whites in to matzah mixture.

Stir in matzah meal until mix begins to bind together. Do not overmix.

Form in to balls (larger than golf, smaller than tennis) with wet hands.

Refrigerate for a few hours.

Boil for 20 minutes in salted water.

Serve in chicken soup.

Yield 12-14 matzah balls

*In case you’re wondering how the most Scottish name of all time “Buchanan” got in to a Jewish family’s history, after my grandfather got out of Germany he made his way to England and joined the army there where his name was changed from Buchbinder to Buchanan

Ancient Holidays, New Traditions

Tonight is the start of Passover which just happens to be my favorite holiday. How could I not love a holiday that combines singing, food and emphasizes social justice.

I’m a big believer that rules are meant to be broken while traditions are meant to be kept. If this blog was about life and not food, I’d explain that further, but for now just go with it, k?

One of the coolest thing about Passover is that it steeped heavily in age-old traditions and still leaves room to begin new traditions. On the first two nights of Passover we have a Seder where we retell the story of our enslavement and coming out of Egypt, sing songs and eat a big delicious meal. In the center of the table is a Seder plate and on the Seder plate are certain foods that have symbolic meanings behind them. These foods have appeared on our Seder plates for centuries, but in modern times families often add new foods as symbols.

A few years ago my family started adding an orange to our Seder plates. There are a few interpretations of what the orange symbolizes, but I’ll tell you what it means to us. To my family the orange represents the inclusion of ALL people in our traditions and most especially the inclusion of Gays and Lesbians. See the orange isn’t something that’s been a traditional part of the Seder, but that’s no reason not to welcome it.

This year will be adding another symbol too, a tomato. No, the tomato doesn’t represent that we’re from New Jersey and are very proud of our tomatoes (though that is true), instead the tomato is there to remind us that, while we celebrate our own freedom from slavery , slavery still exists. Unfortunately much of this slavery exists in the supply chain of our food system and some of the most egregious examples are from the tomato growers in Florida.

The tomato on our Seder plate serves as a reminder that we may be free, but our fight is far from over. Our fight will not be over until all slaves are free, until all workers are guaranteed fair wages and safe conditions.

I hope you have a wonderful Passover, Easter or just a great weekend! Enjoy time with your family and friends, but please try to fill your table with only good quality, fair trade, sustainable food. And if this holiday weekend involves prayer for you, take a minute to pray that we will one day live in a world where all people are free.