Evolution of a Matzo Ball

At my daughter’s suggestion, and for the sake of posterity, I will share how I make matzo balls. It’s only a short while since we celebrated Passover and the family members are still craving my matzo balls.

When I was a young bride I was going to show the world that I could do every thing. In my first attempt at making matzo balls, (knadlach), I used the recipe on the box of Manischewitz matzo meal, which sounded pretty much like my mother’s and Marty’s mother’s.

Then we used chicken fat for shortening, and we’d render the fat with onions, which provided a distinctive taste and a wonderful aroma when cooking, but involved extra work and cleanup. Some years later, chicken fat was among the fats that were considered bad for the heart, and has gone by the wayside. I substitute melted margarine; not so healthy, either, but I don’t miss the extra work and mess. The recipes do call for oil, but I’m not crazy about the taste of oil. Lately I’ve seen articles written by gourmet chefs lauding the forgotten taste of chicken fat, or “schmalz”, claiming that it’s not as bad for your heart as we’ve been led to believe.

My mother mentioned that my Aunt Rae used seltzer in her matzo balls and they were excellent. Although my mother’s matzo balls were certainly good I can’t understand why she didn’t use seltzer, since Aunt Rae’s were so delicious and light.  I didn’t have seltzer on hand and thought that seltzer contained bicarbonate of soda to make it bubbly, so I use baking soda and have fluffy matzo balls.

I decided that matzo balls could use some flavor and color, so I now include chopped parsley and onions. My friend Janie made great matzo balls, seasoned with nutmeg. So I add some of that too. Beating the egg whites separately yields even lighter and softer matzo balls.

Sorry that I don’t have a photo. My family cleaned the pot out.  But then, what’s a picture when compared to the real thing?

“bestofbarbara’s “ BEST MATZO BALLS

2 cups. matzo meal
8 eggs, separated
4 tbl. Shortening (Oil, melted margarine, or fat from the top of the soup)
8 tbl. water,selzer, or soup
1 tbl. Salt
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp nutmeg
Chopped parsley and one medium chopped onion

Beat the egg whites until they stand at a peak. Put aside. Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Fold in beaten egg whites. Chill overnight for a few hours for a firm mixture that’s easier to handle. Bring a half of a large pot of water to a boil. Keep a bowl of cold water near to keep mixture from sticking to your hands. Roll matzo mixture into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Drop in boiling water. Lower heat . Cook for ½ an hour. Makes about 40 matzo balls.

CHICKEN SOUP (AKA known as Jewish penicillin)

1 large chicken
Onion, carrots, parsnip, tomato, celery, (dill and parsley), chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut a large chicken in half. I like a roasting chicken. They’re tender and less fatty, have marvelous flavor and are easy to handle. Clean inside of chicken. Place in pot. Cover chicken with water. Bring water to a boil. Skim off film that collects. Lower heat, cook for two hours or until chicken is tender. Remove chicken. Add vegetables, salt, and pepper. Cook for another hour. Add chopped parsley and dill before serving.

Enjoy!

CHOCOHOLICS’ DELIGHT

I remember the close up in the French film, “CHOCOLAT”, of a bowl full of chocolate being mixed by hand. I still recall my desire to push my finger through the screen and get a lick from the bowl. (Marty said, “That’s you alright.”) MV5BMjA4MDI3NTQwMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjIzNDcyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR1,0,214,317_AL_

My husband and I are chocoholics. Our tastes include chocolate ice cream and cake, but not to the same extent as our love for chocolate candy, and we rarely pass up a chance to watch the manufacture of chocolate.

When our children were young, we visited the Hershey plant and museum, in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The exhibit ended with preparations of mouth- watering pies, using fresh butter and eggs. We had our camper, then, and didn’t hesitate to pick up a pie for dinner.

In Melbourne, Australia, we joined a group on a Chocolate Tour. Can you imagine touring the city on foot, and sampling all kinds of chocolate and other confections along the way? The tour included an ice cream cone. We finished at a lovely restaurant with a great chocolate cake and a beverage.  Although we were exhausted after the walk, we didn’t experience any discomfort from our “lunch.”

It was cold and damp on the day that we witnessed a demonstration of processing chocolate in Bruges, Belgium. What could be better than hot chocolate, to chase away the chills? We were served a soup bowl- sized cup of hot milk and a bar of chocolate, which we added as much as we liked to the milk, to achieve the desired strength of hot chocolate. Marty and I used all of the chocolate for a nice rich beverage, but we had the option of saving all or some of the chocolate to nibble later.

We narrowly escaped getting a speeding ticket on our way to Lubec, Maine, not far from Campobello Island. It was unchartered territory and we were anxious to reach Lubec before dark. Monica, the proprietor of Monica’s Chocolates,  creates wonderful European -style bonbons: two inch round delicacies of chocolate, filled with caramel and nuts or fruits, and wrapped in brightly colored foil and contrasting ribbon. Definitely worth a trip to Lubec, but don’t speed to get there! bonbons-grouping

We’ve been anxious to visit the renowned Cowboy Chocolatier in Meeteetse, Wyoming, but the owner, Tim Kellogg  travels in January and we’ve always missed him. This year we left later than usual, and spend most of February in Thermopolis, enjoying the outdoor hot springs. So we were able to visit.

Meeteetse is a quaint western town, on route 20, about halfway between Thermopolis and Cody with a population of around 300. The sidewalks are wood. The town has a beautiful high school, a few nice restaurants, a post office, a fine museum of the locality, and the Cowboy Chocolatier. Tim doesn’t put on cowboy boots for effect; he does make a living by roping steers. But he is also recognized for his candy making. He competes internationally, and has received awards for his quality chocolate.

We were not allowed to take pictures of the candy production. We were informed that the sweets only have a shelf life for about five or six days and were advised to keep the chocolate away from heat, strong light, and not refrigerate or freeze. The candy is organic and gluten free. Naturally we’ve kept the candy for more than six days and it was very fine and smooth. We sampled chocolate made with cocoa beans from Venezuela, Honduras, and Morocco. The truffles were without nuts but were flavored with spices and liquors.

On the way back from Meeteetse, I  felt like having some chocolate cream pie, which was not on the menu where we stopped. But the apple pie hit the spot.

Attractions on the Interstate

Our usual trip to Thermopolis, Wyoming was delayed this year from December to late January. It is a long journey and each year we check out the possibilities of flying, and each year we opt to drive. The logistics of flying are horrible; the connections from one flight to another, disastrous. So we pack up our car and prepare for three and one half days on the road. We have our routine and manage to visit friends and relatives along the way and enjoy the ride.

Honestly, I look forward to stopping at the incredible rest areas on the Interstate Highways, funded by federal and state governments. The familiarity of these sites is “comforting.” These facilities have no concessions. Fresh food and fuel aren’t sold, but the areas around the buildings are landscaped and have shaded spots for picnicking. There are placards disseminating local history and geology, and travel information is available. I’ve heard it said that the most attractive room in your house should be the bathroom, where we spend more time studying detail. This applies to pubic restrooms as well.

Nebraska was one of the first states to modernize the rest areas on Interstate Highway 80. The lavatories include attractive blue and white tiles; the stalls are corrugated stainless steel, and there are built -in changing tables. unnamed-5

The windy hills on Route 26, in Wyoming are dotted with creatively designed rustic facilities. The stalls are covered with mosaics constructed from local stone and the painted trim on the stalls compliments the hues in the stonework. unnamed-6

Back on Interstate 80, in Iowa, the comfort stations are architectural achievements, more like museums, known as New Generation Rest Stops. The motorist needn’t wonder where he/she is; each unit is unique. Glass and steel are used extensively in construction. The floors inside the structures are mosaic tile maps of the locale. My favorite is a tribute to prominent writers from the state. The pillars at the entrance are designed to look like writing pens. On our recent trip, we didn’t stop at the facility with the pens. However, I did take a picture of a granite sculpture in front of the highway rest area in Council Bluffs, Iowa.P1000024-2

On the Ohio Turnpike, most of the rest sites have concessions with access to all services. Some of the facilities are large circular buildings and the concessions offer better quality food. It was at one of the stops on the Ohio Turnpike, that we discovered “The Panera Bread Company,” a chain we’ve come to like and look for in our travels. There’s comfort sometimes in knowing what we can eat.

The stop on the Garden State Parkway, near Oradell, New Jersey, and close to where the Garden State and Route 287 intersect is always bustling. Yet, I appreciate the fresh plants on display in the lavatory year round.

It’s hard to miss the palatial edifices designed like hunting lodges, invoking those of Teddy Roosevelt’s era, on the New York Thruway and on the strip of I-90 that runs through the state of New York. There are several styles of “lodges,” so the traveler has an idea which town he/she’s near on the highway.

Are you tired of the hassle of flying? My guess is that you haven’t visited such beautiful bathrooms in any of the airports like the ones on the nation’s highways.  So get the family chariot in good condition and see the U.S.A!

 

 

 

Whither I Go, My Knitting Goes

I can’t forget the photo of Eleanor Roosevelt knitting while listening to election returns on the radio. I can’t think of any activity that works as well as knitting to calm the nerves; reading requires too much concentration. Even music may not be heard. But needlework beats nibbling, smoking or nail biting, to conquer stress. I remember my sister-in- law crocheting while her husband was undergoing surgery. 6a00d83452615669e201b7c6e47bcc970b-800wi

I can bury my nose in a book while flying or traveling on a train, although I usually have my needlework on hand when I’m chatting while waiting for the plane or train. A young man I met at Gatwick Airport in the U.K., admired the baby hat that I was making for the grandson to be, and was impressed that I “always had something on the go”.

When I am a passenger in a car I find it difficult concentrating on reading but I can always take a break from knitting to look at the scenery. My husband has complained that we drove 100 miles out of the way because I wasn’t watching the road or the map. I do put my knitting down when we are at a busy intersection or if we are in unfamiliar territory. Now, I often let Samantha, our GPS guide bring us to our destinations, but even she makes mistakes, bringing us recently to the Atlantic Ocean when we requested a route from Maine to Lake Winnipesaukee, in New Hampshire.

It was never a problem getting a seat on a crowded subway train on my daily commute to school or work years ago. All I had to do was pull out my knitting needles. I found that knitting helped pass the time while waiting on line to register for college courses and during those boring orientation sessions.

I was about nine years old when I learned to knit with the help of my Aunt Rose, and family friends, but I probably was thirteen when I finished a checkered, patterned scarf for myself. It wasn’t until I was in college that I became a serious knitter and tried my hand at a sleeveless, v-necked slipover for my father. Although the v-neck was far from perfect, Dad appreciated my efforts and wore the sweater.

Argyle socks were the rage in the 1950’s and the women at Hunter College were making socks for the men in their lives. I asked a classmate what she would do if the romance ended before the socks were finished. She replied that the socks were intended for Joe and Joe would get the socks regardless. Not my style! When Marty and I were engaged, I knitted argyle socks for him. Marty has been the recipient of other knitted gifts, but his favorites are woolen mittens, for warmth. We were away from home and he needed mittens. I decided to see what I had on hand and found some nice grey yarn in my bag. Since I didn’t think there would be enough grey, I striped the cuffs and tips of the mittens with purple, green and yellow. The compliments keep coming. IMG_0060

No project was too large or too small, too intricate or too simple. In fact I prefer more challenging designs and didn’t shy away from cables, laces, entrelacs or fair isles. A friend remembers that I said that I couldn’t see any purpose in doing something that was sold in the store. Now of course you can buy all sorts of ready made knitted items. I have adjusted directions for size, weight of yarn and size of needles without compromising the fit of the garment. Wool, the yarn that I favor, has many attributes, including being warmer than cottons or synthetics and holding its shape better. It is a more giving and forgiving material to work with. I also like the feel of the yarn sliding through my fingers as I work.

My fingers cramp when I work on a section of the project with few stitches on the needle. The proprietor of the yarn shop suggested to my daughter Lisa, that she keep switching back and forth from one project to another, with different size needles, if her hands ache, to keep the fingers from being in a bind and exercise them.

Back in the 1960’s when mini -skirts were popular, I made a tweed suit for myself of wine heather and coral, worked together, with a Mandarin collar and hand -knitted frog closings. I outgrew the suit when mini-skirts gave way to the cowgirl look of the 1970’s of mid -calf flared skirts and boots. I gave the suit to my mother. The sleeves and skirt were too short for her and a friend added knitted borders to the sleeves and the hem of the skirt. The alterations weren’t exactly in keeping with the style of the suit but it looked nice and Mom wore the suit for quite a while. When Mom could no longer wear the suit and mini skirts were back in vogue, I restored the suit to its original style for Lisa.

My mother had a beautiful Italian mohair sweater with hand -embroidered flowers. Here again the sleeves were too short for her. My daughter Madeline was given a box of different colored mohair, which she passed on to me. I picked up the stitches on the bottom of the sleeves, and extended the cuffs, adding a few stripes of the colors that were used in the sweater. Mom loved the sweater.

My grandson, Jacob, told my daughter, Lisa, that she was going to be a grandmother, by asking her how long it would take her to knit a carriage blanket. She remarked that it would take her no time at all because she still had the blanket that I made for him; a beautiful bulky entrelac cover, in two shades of light green, with a hand -crocheted corded edge.

Knitting isn’t just for women. A good friend made himself a black sweater because he didn’t want charcoal grey that was available in the stores. Kaffe Fassett is an artist who paints with needlecraft. I have adapted many of his designs.unnamed-1

After 9/11, our handbags were searched scrupulously at airports for potential weapons. Embroidery scissors were amongst the contraband. Lisa learned that the cutting edge on the dental floss pack is good for cutting yarn. NOBODY is going to stop us from knitting.

 

unnamed-3

 

The Road to Recovery

Two months out of surgery and I’m reflecting on my achievements during recuperation.

First of all, I’ve contributed to the economy by providing employment for an army of health care professionals.

Since I was semi -house bound for three weeks, and didn’t do the grocery shopping, I managed to clean out the refrigerator. Marty remarked that he could actually see the back wall of the fridge.

As for personal accomplishments: I read two books. I knitted two animal hats for two of my great -grandsons, a hippopotamus for Uri and a Koala bear for Nakshone. I even wrote two blogs. IMG_2847IMG_2846

With the help and encouragement of my loving family, I am walking straighter than I did before surgery, and with little pain. I have to confess that I was beginning to enjoy being pampered and catered to. However, too much of a good thing is too much. Now I‘m happy to drive and do my own shopping and some cooking.

I’ve resumed participation in the water exercise program at the Y. It’s much better than “4 in 1 Motor Oil” for lubricating joints and strengthening muscles.

About two weeks ago I even traveled to New Jersey, as a passenger, for a holiday dinner with my great- grandchildren.

I can’t ask for much better than that, can I? As my father would say, “Every day is a bonus.”

 

 

 

 

Pets: What They do for Love

“Bear” Taylor, my daughter Madeline, and her family’s Golden Retriever puppy resembled a baby polar bear when he joined the family about two years ago.

Bear

Bear

Although Bear is the darling of the Taylor household, he’s most attached to my granddaughter Ruby, now a freshman at the University of Miami. Madeline thought it would be fun to have them visit on Skype. At first Bear was confused, but when he saw Ruby and recognized her voice he went wild. His tail wagged and his bark was ecstatic. He brought her a toy, but was frustrated when she didn’t pick up the toy or give him a hug. He tried so hard to shove the toy down the phone, with no luck.
.
I’m amazed at what our animals do for our respect and love.

Of course retrievers are known for bringing wonderful presents to their families. I still have some lovely things that our old Labrador retriever, Bess, brought from the neighbors’ yards, which I had not returned because I didn’t know who the original owners were. One neighbor was distraught because he was missing his expensive hiking boots, left outside to dry. You can imagine how pleased he was when I produced the boots, given to me by Bess.

Lollipop, our gorgeous tri-color collie, was named by my oldest daughter, Lisa, then five. I can still see his bushy white tail wagging, as he boarded the school bus, in hope of attending kindergarten with Lisa. I can still hear her friends yelling “Yay, Lollipop!”

Naomi & Lisa with Lollipop

Naomi & Lisa with Lollipop

We later moved to a neighboring town, about seven miles from our old home on the chicken farm. If we were taking a trip we would bring Lollipop to the farm for our employees to look after. It was uncanny how he sensed when we were to return, and would greet us when we arrived at home, walking the entire way.

My son David’s family ‘s beautiful short -haired collie, Cody was the living plaything of his younger daughter, Darya. When she was at the magic age of two she would push Cody down the basement stairs, declaring that it was time for him to take a nap. In less than five minutes, she would open the cellar door screaming, “Come up stairs Cody, your nap time is over.”  Of course Cody would come bounding up the stairs smiling, ready for the next punishment that she would mete out to him.

Cody

Cody

Who ever had the notion that cats were interested only in themselves? Charlotte, one of our many cats, would share her dinner with us: a half of a snake or rabbit left on the door step. Do you know of any other animal that is so generous?

Yes, our pets show their affection for us in many ways.