My brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life.


Apricot-Coconut Macaroons (with sugar or not) 1

Posted on April 21, 2011 by crankycheryl


I don’t seem to have landed any seder invitations this year, but I still want a taste of Passover.  When she was alive, my grandma Ruth would buy boxes of matzo that we’d eat with margarine, along with little almond macaroons out of the can and jars of Manischewitz gefilte fish.

For better or worse, that’s what Passover tastes like to me.  We weren’t religious at all so there was never a seder – just a trip to my grandmother’s pantry and companionable snack at her kitchen table.

But now I don’t want processed foods so much, and I’m not having flour and sugar.   Still, I wanted something Passover-ish, and these occurred to me.  They just couldn’t be easier (just make sure to soak those apricots ahead) and they’re really good.  If, like me, you’re off sugar, make them with the unsweetened coconut for a treat that’s fruity but barely sweet.  And if you’re a normal sort of eater, go ahead and use the sweetened coconut.  Yum.

Apricot-Coconut Macaroons
Makes about 20

1.  For at least 2 hours or overnight, soak in just enough warm water to cover:

  • 1 c. dried apricots

When very soft, puree with just enough of the soaking liquid to allow it to process into a smooth paste.

2.  Preheat oven to 325.  Oil a baking sheet or cover with parchment and set aside.

3.  Beat until stiff and dry in a medium bowl:

  • 2 egg whites

4.  Add to the egg whites and combine well:

  • 2 1/2 c. unsweetened (or sweetened) shredded coconut
  • 1 c. of the apricot puree
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • (pinch of cardamom, ginger, cinnamon or dried orange peel: optional)

The mix will be thick and fairly chunky.  Just make sure the ingredients are well incorporated.

5.  Form into small balls and then flatten one side.  Place on the baking sheet a couple of inches apart (they don’t need room to spread, but you do want good air flow between them so they can cook evenly and brown well).  Bake for about 25 minutes, or until fragrant and golden.  Let cool and eat.

They’ll keep for 3 or 4 days at room temperature, and freeze well too.

Spring Fever Weekend 0

Posted on April 01, 2010 by crankycheryl

This is the time of year when I always reflect on having a non-existent religious upbringing.

Spring celebrations in my family meant a new Easter dress (I have no idea why since we weren’t going anywhere but am sure I insisted on it), matzo, gefilte fish (I liked the Manichewitz stuff from the jar – what can I tell you?), and an Easter basket with marzipan fruit and a chocolate rabbit in it.

But no matter what we believe, doesn’t this time of year just demand a celebration?  The mud and the returning birds, the fuzzy buds just starting to emerge on the trees, and the tulips’ leaves reaching for the light.  Every day a bit more sunlight and some other animal or plant awakens.  The garden is calling and already the days of snowsuits are passing.  Every year, these spring days are their own renewing miracle.

Z. and I were driving around last week, and he asked me what Easter was.  I started talking about spring and how people have celebrated the Earth’s waking up from winter for thousands of years, and I talked about how half of our family is Jewish and how the Jewish people celebrate surviving a really hard time during Passover and I mentioned the seders we’ve been to, and then I talked about how Christian people believe that this is when Jesus Christ came back to life and that that’s a very important holiday for them.  I was pretty sure that I had talked entirely too much, when Z. said:

“Mommy – I know the true meaning of Easter.  The true meaning of Easter is an ogre in a bunny suit and he gives candy to kids.  He loves kids!”

“Loves like to eat, or to play with?,” I wanted to know.

“That’s silly!  Who would he have to play with and give candy to if he ate the kids.”  [disbelieving giggle]

I’m pretty sure he didn’t get this in his pre-school class at our Unitarian Church, but who knows?

And we’re gearing up for the weekend.  Today I’m shopping for ingredients for a flock of assorted macaroons:

I can’t promise that they’ll all be free of crazy flavors.  I’m having a minor obsession with the idea of orange and star anise in the maple, though I’m sure I should restrain myself.

And then there will be colored eggs and deviled eggs and a potluck brunch and an egg hunt and Easter baskets that contain marzipan though neither boy likes it.

And then there’s the matter of finding the ogre and a bunny suit that will fit him so he can join us as we cavort in the mud.

Favorite French Toast 0

Posted on April 14, 2009 by crankycheryl

french-toastWhen I was a little girl I insisted on a new Easter dress every year.  I don’t know why my mother indulged me.  We were not Christian and did not go to church.  I particularly remember one Easter morning, wandering around and around and around our block, clutching my brightly colored basket in one hand in my lavender gingham with not another child in sight in our Italian Catholic neighborhood.

Of course, neither were we observant Jews, with my father having left behind his family’s religion long before.   The closest I ever got to Passover was matzo and canned macaroons.

I’m still the same.  I’m not overrun with ham or with brisket like many of my friends.  But what I’ve got running amok in my kitchen is scads of rapidly aging bread that showed up at our Easter potluck.  Well, leftover bread is not such a bad thing.  Plus I’m not morosely wandering the neighborhood in gingham.

And it gives me a reason to share my favorite French toast recipes, one traditional-ish, and one savory.  I’ve got the first one in the fridge ready for tomorrow morning.

Bev’s Overnight Oven French Toast
Serves 6 – 8

This is my former mother-in-law’s recipe, which she makes on Christmas alongside fried Spam (mmmm).  She used to make it with a warm winter fruit compote that I’ve never seen anyone eat, so now it’s just maple syrup.  It’s really nice and fluffy and souffle-ish.

  • 1 long loaf (10 oz.) French bread [or your leftover whatever, of course], cut into 1″ slices
  • 8 large eggs
  • 3 C. milk
  • 4 t. sugar
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 T. vanilla
  • 2 T. butter

Arrange bread in greased 9″ x 13″ dish.  Mix together eggs, milk, sugar, salt and vanilla and beat well.  Pour over bread.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  The next morning, dot with butter and place in cold oven set at 350.  Bake 45 – 50 minutes, then let stand 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Chive French Toast with Lime Cream and Smoked Salmon
Reprinted from Food & Wine, August 2000

4 servings

  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 C. skim milk
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 3 T. snipped chives
  • four 1/2″-thick slices challah, semolina, or other firm-textured white or whole grain bread
  • 1/4 C. light sour cream
  • 1 t. freshly grated lime zest
  • 4 t. unsalted butter
  • 6 oz. thinly sliced smoked salmon

In a shallow bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the milk and salt.  Stir in the chives and let stand for 10 minutes.  Add the bread and let soak until saturated.

In a small bowl, mix the sour cream with the lime zest.

In a large non-stick skillet, melt half the butter.  [I never use non-stick skillets.  I don’t trust Teflon, and try to avoid cooking in it.]  When it sizzles, add 2 slices of the soaked bread and cook over moderately high heat until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes.  Turn the slices and cook until browned on the other side, about 2 minutes longer.  Transfer to plates.  Repeat with the remaining butter and bread.  Top with salmon and pass the cream on the side.

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