Posts Tagged ‘Leigh Bullard Weisblat’

More Blessed to Give

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

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I LOVE December. I know there are many who think that our streets and homes are too full of lights during this season and that materialism has taken over Christmas (and to a lesser extent Hanukkah). I am not one of those people.

The lights perform a vital function, reminding us that the world is full of illumination at the darkest time of the year.

As for the materialism, well, materialism is just stuff. And STUFF is what I love to give at this time of year.

To the very young Tinky, Christmas and Hanukkah (we celebrated both in our home) were primarily about what I would receive.

I still remember the thrill I experienced when I was seven and Santa brought a Petite Princess furniture collection for the dollhouse my mother had passed on to me from her own youth.

The house and the furniture eventually collapsed, but thinking about them still makes me smile.

A few years later, however, I began to realize that there’s something even more fulfilling than receiving gifts.

Giving them.

According to the bible, Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive. It’s also more fun.

I love the way the holidays remind us to give to charities. Last Tuesday was Valley Gives Day in western Massachusetts, a time to donate online to some of my favorite causes.

A few days ago I made a special trip to stores to stock up on food items and toys to donate to local organizations. And as the year’s end approaches I’m working on donations to other nonprofit groups I support. I like to give a little something to some of my mother’s favorite groups as well. As I donate, I remember her.

With my mother in 2008.

With my mother in 2008.

Of course, we should give funds and labor to charity all year round. And I try to. But at this time of year, as we sing songs about hope and birth and love, giving becomes even more joyful.

Charity begins at home, of course, and I enjoy giving to my friends and relatives as much as I enjoy giving to charity. Planning what each person will get seems to take a certain portion of my brain that I don’t use for anything else.

Certain people are VERY difficult to shop for. In my experience many of those people are male. If men want something, they generally just go out and buy it. This habit can be very frustrating to gift givers.

As a result of this tendency, many of the men and boys on my Christmas list get food. It’s the perfect gift. They like it—and they can get the same gift year after year without complaint.

Among my favorite food gifts for men and for neighbors are my mother’s fruitcake, my brother’s favorite Indian cashews, fudge, and mustard.

On my last TV appearance of 2014 Ashley Kohl and I whipped up two other edible gifts I like to pass along to friends and relatives, my Aunt Lura’s Cranberry Chutney and my sister-in-law Leigh’s Lemon Pound Cake.

The chutney recipe is in my Pudding Hollow Cookbook (which it’s not too late to order as a Christmas present, by the way!). It’s detailed in the video here, although I think I forgot to add the chopped orange pieces on camera.

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Below is the recipe for Leigh’s pound cake. As I mention on camera in the video at the bottom of this post, it’s a very odd recipe. Its ingredients are added in an unusual order, and it starts baking in a cold oven.

As I FORGOT to mention on camera, it’s delicious—very dense and intensely orange-y.

Happy shopping and baking to you all. If you have to take on extra work at this time of year in order to afford all the gifts you want to give (I do!), work with a song in your heart.

And cook with a song in your heart.

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Leigh’s Orange Pound Cake

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) sweet butter at room temperature
3 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1 cup milk
4 eggs
the juice and zest of 1 large orange

Instructions:

Grease and flour two standard loaf pans (or five to six smaller pans) or spray them with a grease-plus-flour spray like Baker’s Joy.

Cream together the butter and the sugar. Stir in half of the flour and half of the milk. Mix well; then add the remaining flour and milk. Beat in the eggs, and then stir in the juice and zest. Pour the batter into the loaf pans; they will be reasonably full.

Place the loaves in a cold oven. Turn the oven to 325 degrees and cook for 40 minutes, then raise oven to 350 and cook for about15 minutes. The loaves are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

The cakes may split a bit down the middle, but they will taste lovely. Cool the loaves in their pans for 10 minutes; then release them and let them finish cooling on a cooling rack.

Makes 2 large loaves or 5 small ones.

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Community Easter Bread

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009
Leigh watches Michael and Benjamin place their eggs in the bread.

Leigh watches Michael and Benjamin place their eggs in the bread.

 

Easter just wouldn’t be Easter without the Easter egg.

 

This symbol of spring represents fertility, youth, and new beginnings—all the hopes that suddenly arise in our breasts when the sun rises higher and earlier again in the spring.

 

This braided loaf is made more festive (and more seasonal) by the inclusion of eggs in its folds. Plain eggs work just fine, but I always welcome an excuse to get kids coloring things so I asked my nephew Michael and his friends Benjamin and Carson to dye some eggs for my loaf. 

Carson rolls an egg in his dye.

Carson rolls an egg in his dye.

I got extra help from my sister-in-law Leigh, who is MUCH better at braiding bread than I am.


So my Easter bread is a community event. I hope yours will be, too!

Leigh braids the rolls of bread.

Leigh braids the rolls of bread.

Ingredients:

 

2/3 cup milk

2 tablespoons sweet butter

1/4 cup sugar

1 packet yeast

2-1/2 cups flour (approximately)

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs for the batter
4 to 5 eggs in their shells for the braiding (dyed if you like)

 

 

Instructions:

   

In a small saucepan heat the milk and butter just to lukewarm; the butter will be soft but not melted.

In a medium bowl combine 1 teaspoon of the sugar and the yeast. Pour the milk/butter mixture over them, and leave the yeast to proof for 5 to 10 minutes.

 

Beat in 1/2 cup flour, the remaining sugar, the salt, and the 2 eggs; mix well. Add 1-1/2 cups more flour, and stir.

 

Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Knead it for 1 to 2 minutes, adding a bit more flour as needed.  Allow the dough to rest for 5 to 10 minutes; then continue kneading, adding more flour as needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

 

Grease a medium bowl, and place the dough in it. Cover with a damp towel, and allow the dough to rise until it doubles in bulk, about 1 hour.

 

Uncover the dough, punch it down, and divide it into 2 mounds. Let them rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Stretch each mound into a roll at least 24 inches long.

 

Form a rounded braid with the two rolls, sealing them at the ends. Place the bread on a greased (or parchment-covered) baking sheet. Insert the eggs in their shells into spots in the braid. (If you wait to do this until the bread has risen again, the eggs will pop out of the bread; this happened to us!)

 

Cover the braid with a damp dish towel, and let it rise until it doubles, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees about 15 minutes before you want to bake the bread.  

Bake the braided bread until it is a golden brown, between 35 and 55 minutes depending on your oven. Makes 1 loaf.

 

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The Festival of Lights (and Latkes!)

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008
Chic Cousin Jane Shows Off the Latkes

Chic Cousin Jane Shows Off the Latkes

Sunday evening my family celebrated the first night of Hanukkah. Our cousins Jane and Alan joined us for a laughter-filled evening, and we made latkes, something we do only once a year. (They’re too fattening and too special to make more often.)

Because we make them so rarely I have to recalibrate my potato pancakes each time I make them. The recipe that appears below is therefore a little vague. Adjust your latkes as you need to; I always do!

It’s traditional to use vegetable oil in these cakes, but I love the flavor that good olive oil imparts. The oil should, after all, star since Hanukkah celebrates oil that burned for eight days and eight nights more than 2000 years ago.

You may ask why I’m mentioning both Christmas cookies and Hanukkah pancakes on this blog. I was brought up doing a little bit of everything by my Jewish father and Unitarian mother. Even if I weren’t a religious mutt, I think I’d probably want to make foods for many different holidays. I love learning about different culinary traditions–and I embrace any excuse for food, fun, family, and friends.

Once a Year Latkes

Ingredients:
2 large baking potatoes

1 large onion, more or less finely chopped

1 egg, beaten (you may use another if you really need it)

2 to 4 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

freshly ground pepper to taste (we like lots)

extra-virgin olive oil as needed for frying

Instructions:

          Wash the potatoes well and peel them if you want to (the skins are nutritious so don’t feel you have to). Grate them. This takes a really long time with a box grater so we prefer to use the grater attachment of our food processor. We only get it out for latkes, and we never quite remember how it works, but luckily my sister-in-law Leigh kept the instruction book. Even more luckily, Sunday night Cousin Alan remembered how it works!

          Do not use the main blade of the food processor as it will make the potato pieces small and wet.

          Wrap the potato shreds in a clean dishtowel. Carry it to the sink, and wring out as much liquid as you can. Leave the wrapped shreds in the sink to drain while you prepare the rest of the ingredients (and maybe have a cocktail or two).

          In a medium bowl, combine the potato pieces, onion, egg, 2 tablespoons flour, salt, and pepper. In a large frying pan, heat a few tablespoons of oil until the oil begins to shimmer. Scoop some of the potato mixture out of the bowl with a soup spoon, and flatten it with your hand. Pop the flattened potato into the hot oil. It should hiss and bubble a bit; if not, wait before you put more pancakes into the oil.

          It’s just fine if your latkes are a little ragged around the edges; the potatoes are the main event, after all, and you don’t want them too homogenized. If they don’t hold together and are hard to turn, however, you may want to add a little more flour and even another egg to your batter.

         Fry the potato cakes a few at a time, turning each when the first side gets golden. Drain the cooked latkes on paper towels; then pop them into a 250-degree oven to stay warm until their cousins are finished cooking. When you run out of batter (or feel you have enough for your family!), light the menorah and serve the latkes. Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish.

Michael and Cousin Alan Light the Menorah

Michael and Cousin Alan Light the Menorah

 Here are a few more photos of our evening:

At the Food Processor

At the Food Processor

Sister Leigh at the Stove

Sister Leigh at the Stove

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Happy Hanukkah!

Happy Hanukkah!