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Cherry Lime Macaroons

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labeled macaroons

Passover is on Monday and if there’s one thing I always have trouble with when planning the menu, it’s what to make for dessert. See, you’re not supposed to have any wheat, oats, rye or barley. That means most flours are off the table. You also shouldn’t eat corn, rice, millet or legumes. So, you can see why it’s so hard to come up with a dessert since most cookies, cakes or pies have some sort of grain in them.

In the past we’ve made our chocolate or lemon mousse pie because unlike most pies, the crust for these is made of meringue. While delicious, the pie takes several hours to make and chill. So, if you don’t have that kind of time, a dessert that’s a little more common, and much easier to throw together are those cute little coconut cookies known as macaroons. Not only are they a cinch to make, there isn’t one ingredient that’s bad for Passover.

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Now, you could make your basic macaroon which is pretty much just coconut, sweetened condensed milk and eggs, but I’ve never been a big fan of basic. I prefer to shake things up and try something new. A couple years ago I made Cinnamon Macaroons dipped in Chocolate and they were the bomb. So this year I found another recipe, thanks to Fine Cooking, that swapped out the chocolate and cinnamon for lime zest and dried cherries.

They were completely different from the other batch. They weren’t sweet, spicy and decadent like the cinnamon ones. Instead, they were light, sweet and tart thanks to the cherries and limes. It’s those fruity flavors that make these cookies taste like a cocktail on a tropical island. You not only have the tang from the lime zest, but there are chunks of sweet dried cherries throughout each cookie. Add to that a kick of Cherry Heering (a cherry liqueur) and these cookies are a delicious way to end your Passover seder. They make even make you feel like you really are in Jerusalem… or if not Jerusalem, at least Tel Aviv. They go perfectly with coffee or tea and are a sweet tidbit that should last you through all eight days of Passover… that is if there are any left when the seder ends.

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Cherry Lime Macaroons

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon Cherry Heering
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped and divided
  • 4-1/2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Place the condensed milk, cherry heering, lime zest and 1/4 cup dried cherries in a blender and blend on high until smooth.
  3. While the milk mixture blends, beat the egg whites and salt in a mixer on high until stiff peaks form, 4-5 minutes.
  4. Transfer the milk mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the coconut and remaining cherries. Then using a spatula, fold the whites into the coconut mixture and bring together.
  5. With wet hands form small round balls of the batter about 1-inch in diameter. Place on the prepared baking sheet about 2-inches apart. Bake for 25 minutes, rotating and swapping the positions of the pans halfway through. When ready, the macaroons should be golden brown in spots and tan on the bottom. Cool briefly on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks and let cool completely. These macaroons will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Roy Rogers

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Last year for April Fool’s Day I made my first mocktail, the Shirley Temple. Since April Fool’s is tomorrow I thought I’d repeat the tradition and bring you another classic mocktail: the Roy Rogers.

In case you don’t know, a mocktail is a cocktail lacking a certain important ingredient: alcohol. Instead of liquor, the drink usually consists of a mixture of soda (club, Coke or Sprite) and juice. It’s usually served over ice with a piece of fruit as garnish. That garnish makes it fancy enough for the kids, who usually enjoy these drinks, to feel like one of the grownups. I know it’s why I always ordered a Shirley Temple when I went out with my parents.

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Although there isn’t any alcohol, these drinks are pretty tasty. As a matter of fact they’re so good that oft times these mocktails are what people will order when they’re the designated driver. I know because that’s what I’ve done. As a matter of fact I did it the whole time I was pregnant. Actually both times I was pregnant. Yes, I missed the taste of alcohol, but I was never disappointed with the drink. I really enjoyed them. Similar to the Shirley Temple, the Roy Rogers has only three ingredients: soda, Grenadine and a maraschino cherry. The only difference between the Shirley Temple and the Roy Rogers is the soda that’s used. See, it’s Sprite in the Temple, but Coca-cola in the Rogers.

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While no one’s sure when the Rogers was created everyone’s pretty sure they know why. See, the Shirley Temple came first which is great for any little girl out there. But I don’t know many boys who would be thrilled ordering a soft drink named after a girl. I know my boys wouldn’t, hence the Roy Rogers was created. Of course you couldn’t just rename the Shirley Temple otherwise people would get confused. No, if you were going to change the name you had to change the drink. So, if you can’t use Sprite or 7-Up, the next best thing is Coke. Roy Rogers was picked for the drink’s moniker because he was a famous cowboy and country music singer alive the same time as Shirley Temple. With his trusty horse, Trigger, by his side, Rogers conquered movies, music and television. He was someone all young boys looked up to at the time, so naming a drink after him made perfect sense. And now… any time a little boy wants to feel special while he’s out to dinner with his parents, there’s a drink just for him.

But you don’t need to be under the age of 12 to enjoy this classic mocktail. You could be an adult or the designated driver too. Sure, I prefer a Rum and Coke to a Roy Rogers, but every so often even I can’t turn down the flavor of the classic Rogers.

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Roy Rogers

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces Coke
  • 1-2 teaspoons Grenadine
  • 1-2 Maraschino cherries

Directions:

  1. Fill a high ball glass with ice. Add the Coke and Grenadine. Garnish with the cherries and serve with a straw.

Marbella Chicken

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Every year Passover comes around I’m always struggling to figure out what to make for the seder. I mean, we can’t have pork. No, I don’t keep kosher, but I always try to follow the rules during the holidays; no pork means no ham. Beef is is a possibility but that usually takes more time than I have. So, all I’m really left with is chicken or lamb. The only issue with either of those is you usually need to make a lot because if your seders are anything like mine, there are usually tons of people at the dinner table.

For years my mom and I would always tear through her cookbooks looking for something that would feed the army coming through the door in a few hours.  Every year we made something different and survived. But one year my mother was at a brunch and tasted what she said was one of the best chicken dishes she’d ever had.  When she asked the host for the recipe, she directed my mother to the Chicken Marbella from the Silver Palate Cookbook. It’s a cookbook that she’d been using forever and one of the first cookbooks I bought when I moved out on my own.

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There are plenty of great dessert recipes in this book, and several main course dishes we’ve made over the years as well. But my mother always avoided the Chicken Marbella because of its ingredients. It calls for prunes and olives and brown sugar. Does that combination sound good to you? It didn’t to my mother or me either. But this recipe showed me you can’t always trust an ingredients list. I mean, just because the ingredients sound awful, doesn’t mean that when mixed together they won’t be amazing. And that’s exactly what this recipe is: amazing. The fact that it tastes delicious and feeds a ton of people makes it ideal for either Passover or Easter.

While the recipe does take a little extra time because it should be marinated overnight, it’s totally worth it. See, the longer it marinates in the garlic, salt, vinegar, oil and other ingredients, the more flavorful this recipe becomes. It’s also that marinade that makes the chicken moist and even improves the longer it’s in the refrigerator; and there’s absolutely nothing better than flavorful moist chicken. The best thing about this recipe though, is the fact that you’ll probably have leftovers. You’ll be thrilled when you do because those leftovers are just as flavorful as the original no matter whether they’re hot or cold. Between you and me, I actually like the leftovers better than the original. But I’ll let you be the judge. The fact that it’s been a favorite at the Silver Palate stores for decades practically guarantees it’ll be a favorite at your house. It’s a favorite at mine and is now the go-to entreé for big holiday dinners, especially Passover. Maybe it’ll be your go-to, as well.

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Marbella Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 2 chickens, 3 pounds each, quartered
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/8 cup dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pitted prunes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Spanish Green Olives, pitted and halved
  • 1/4 cup capers with the juice
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Combine the first 10 ingredients (through the bay leaves) in a large bowl and toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  3. Arrange the chicken in a single layer on one or two large baking pans. Spoon the marinade over the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken with the brown sugar and pour the white wine around the poultry. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, basting frequently with the pan juices.
  4. Transfer the chicken, prunes and olives to a large serving platter with a slotted spoon. Drizzle the chicken with a few spoonfuls of the pan juices. Sprinkle with parsley and serve, passing the remaining juices in a gravy boat.

Vieux Carre

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I love New Orleans. I’ve only been there twice, but I can’t wait to go again. It’s not just the laid back attitude, it’s the food, the art, the music and especially the cocktails. They’re delicious and believe it or not, a lot of the classics we love today have come from this city: the Hurricane, the Ramos Gin Fizz and my husband’s personal favorite, the Sazerac. While I’ve made and tasted most, until now I’d never tried the Vieux Carré.

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It’s delicious and may very well be my go to for winter whiskey cocktails from now on. See, I’ve always liked the Sazerac and this cocktail is very similar in that it also uses rye whiskey (one of my favorite liquors) and Peychaud’s bitters. But that’s where the similarities end. From there, the Vieux Carré goes slightly sweeter thanks to some sweet vermouth, cognac and a teaspoon of benedictine. Poured over a large ice cube, it’s definitely tasty and absolutely perfect for winter and early spring.

While the Sazerac was created in the early 1800’s, the Vieux Carré was created a whole century later at the Monteleone Hotel.  That’s right, a hotel. Although this hotel still exists today, the bar where the cocktail was created does not. Yes, there’s still a bar in the Monteleone, but it’s the Carousel Bar now, and it’s definitely worth a visit. Not just for the fact that the bar continuously spins, but because the Carré is one of their most popular cocktails. It’s even on their bar menu as a tribute to the old Swan Bar and head bartender, Walter Bergeron. It’s a fitting tribute since Bergeron supposedly created the cocktail as his own tribute to the different ethnic groups of New Orleans: the Benedictine and cognac were for the French, the rye was for the Americans, the sweet vermouth for the Italians, and the bitters was for the Caribbean influence. All those traits could be found in the French Quarter which back then was often referred to as the Old Square or the Vieux Carré.

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You can still find all those French Quarter influences today in the food and the people. If you can’t make it out to New Orleans though, you can still taste those influences by simply stirring up a Vieux Carré. And if you’re a rye whiskey fan, trust me when I tell you this is one cocktail that will have you draining your rye bottle again and again.

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Vieux Carré

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 ounce rye whiskey
  • 3/4 onuce cognac
  • 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon Benedictine
  • 1-2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1-2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Directions:

  1. Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until chilled. Strain into an old fashioned glass filled with ice and serve.

Meyer Lemon Blueberry Muffins

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When I was growing up one of my favorite things to bake with my mother were blueberry muffins. I always knew it was spring when we made these muffins because that’s when the blueberries started to show up in stores. We always used the same recipe. It was the recipe my mom used when she was growing up. The recipe was from her aunt (my great aunt) Judy, but it actually came from the famous Boston department store, Jordan Marsh.

Growing up in Swampscott, Massachusetts, there were two department stores my mother went to: Filene’s and Jordan Marsh. Jordan Marsh was a fancy department store in Boston from the 1860’s up until the 1990’s when they were absorbed by Macy’s. As with a lot of fancy department stores of the time, there was a restaurant on the top floor where shoppers could sit and pour over their wares while sipping coffee and enjoying a variety of baked goods. While there were plenty of items to choose from, their most popular treat were the blueberry muffins. What made these muffins so special? Unlike most blueberry muffins out there, these muffins used two-and-a-half cups of fresh blueberries, a half cup of which were mashed. It’s those mashed blueberries that make these muffins so darned moist any why I love them so.

muffins in the pan

Over the years my mother and I made a few changes to the classic Jordan Marsh recipe. As with all our recipes, we cut the sugar in half, and never, ever sprinkled sugar on top. See, the blueberries were always so sweet on their own, two-and-a-half cups of sugar made them sicky sweet, and I hate sicky sweet. That’s not the only change I’ve made, though. Now that I’m on my own, I’ve added lemon juice and zest to these delectable baked goodies. I’ve always believed lemons and blueberries go together because lemons not only temper the sweetness of the berry, they add a nice, tangy zing to an already delicious muffin. The juice adds even more moisture, making these muffins all but melt in your mouth with each bite.

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These muffins always used to be a spring treat, but now that blueberries are pretty much available year round, I can make them any time I want: spring, summer, winter or fall. I usually pick winter and spring though because that’s when Meyer lemons are in season. Sure, you could use any lemon you want to get that nice tart pop of flavor, but I prefer the Meyers because they’re just a little sweeter and combine so well with those sweet little blue spheres.

While these muffins are a delicious breakfast option, they’re also perfect for a mid day snack. You can have them like the shoppers at Jordan’s used to: warm with a cup of tea or coffee, or you can munch on them at room temperature for a midnight snack. But for me, I always eat them straight out of the oven or toasted with a pad of butter spread across each half. They’re by far and away my favorite breakfast treat. So, whenever blueberries and lemons are in season, I grab my muffin tin and get to baking. Mom and I may have changed the classic recipe over the years, but those muffins still remind me of baking with her, and always bring a smile to my face.

sliced muffin

Meyer Lemon Blueberry Muffins (adapted from Jordan Marsh)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • zest of 1 large lemon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and either grease a muffin tin or line with paper cups and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.
  3. Using a high speed mixer, cream together the sugar and butter until well combined.
  4. Add the eggs one a time and beat until combined.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the batter alternately with the milk until both are combined. Stir in the lemon zest and juice.
  6. Using a fork, crush a half cup of blueberries on a plate and fold into the batter. Fold in the remaining blueberries.
  7. Fill each cup of the muffin tin to the top with the batter.
  8. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  9. Cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes (if you can wait that long) and serve.