You ever wonder how it is you got somewhere? Not like, “I’m at home and now I’m at Target. How did that happen?” Because, really, we all know how that happens. The more appropriate question for Target is, “I went in for toilet paper. How did I end up walking out with $150 worth of goods?” Damn you, Target!!!

But no, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about looking back at your life and wondering how it ‘landed’ you where you are today. Case in point: This passed week I found myself how it was that I was managing a camping trip of roughly 110 9th graders and, like, I was in charge (of that camp — thank Gd, not of the whole trip). I was, however, put in charge of all medical issues—assessing, treating (with what little equipment I had), making calls on who needs off the island NOW and who can wait. I think back to who I was a decade ago or even 20 years ago as a fresh graduate of high school and I think, “There’s no way in hell I saw myself doing what I’m doing now”. Of course I had always wanted to be rock star—singing is the ONE thing I can confidentally say that I do well. I charted my course for that as well. I took lessons forever. I immersed myself in musical theater. I even went to college of a theater scholarship. But alas, I took a different direction when I was 19. When I was 19 I spent the summer working for a rehabilitation camp for Kosovo refugee children and that was it. I went to college the next year, changed my major from theater to political science (which is just theater for unattractive people) and starting working on my career as an advocate. I didn’t know that that’s what it was I wanted to be at that time but, in looking back at what I wanted, that was definitely ‘it’.

I guess you could say my dreams of becoming an advocate have come true. I advocate for my students CONSTANTLY and sometimes? Sometimes people actually listen . . . but not as much as I’d like. That said, I think I might possibly be living my dream. It’s not the dream of accepting a TONY award (I’ve had that speech prepared since I was 12) or of running a nationally recognized nonprofit (I love my family too much to give my whole life to running a nonprofit. Also? I don’t know how to run a nonprofit. Details.). But it is the dream of advocacy. Albeit, a different kind but I love it all the same.

So what does this have to do with fruit bowls and mermaids? Well, the other thing I NEVER thought I’d be doing is running the little food blog. Or any food blog, for that matter. Heck, even cooking! My first roommate and I used to add frozen vegetables to pots of Rice a-Roni and call it gourmet. I did not know how to cook for a very long time. That said, I still loved entertaining and would go out of my way to make sure the table setting looked great . . . most likely because I knew the food was going to be terrible but hey! At least it looked pretty. This post is an extension of that old Whitney. It doesn’t take a lot of culinary ‘know-how’ and it really doesn’t take a lot of talent. It does, however, take a few coconuts, some fruit and tiny little cookie cutters. Tiny cookie cutters came into my life last year when I was reading a Pinterest post on fun kid lunch ideas for school. Someone showed tiny cheese sandwiches in the shapes of various animals and I was like, “Can adults also eat that cause that’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Show me the Amazon link IMMEDIATELY”. A batch of animals, hearts, stars and Mickey Mouse ears later and I’m cutting everything I see into fun, tiny shapes. So if you’ve got friends and family coming over for a Shavuot or Memorial Day meal and you need a fun dessert recipe, STAT or you just really enjoy cutting foods into tiny shapes, this is the recipe for you. I hope you enjoy! Chag Sameach!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mermaid Dessert Bowls

Ingredients:

1 whole coconut, cut in half
1/2 mango, sliced long and thick
1 pint strawberries
1 pint blueberries
1  package pineapple, sliced long and thick
1 pint ice cream

Directions:

First, drain the coconut. Seeing as that I am not, in fact a mermaid and that we definitely didn’t have coconuts falling from the trees where I grew up in Marietta, GA, my husband and I totally searched “WikiHow” to figure out the best way to cut a coconut in half as precisely as possible. We found that #3 works best from the site: 3 Ways to Open a Coconut.

Once you drained and rinsed out your coconut, set it aside. Next, using your favorite tiny cookie cutters, cut out as many tiny figures as possible. I used a tiny heart, dolphin and star cookie cutter to create a more ‘under the sea’ vibe.

Next, scoop out as much ice cream as you want and top with fruit. No one’s pretending this is a difficult ‘recipe’, but it is a fun one at that. Enjoy after Instagramming so that all your friends know you’re having a deliciously fun mermaid time!

P.S. Use all the leftover fruit scraps to make one delicious fruit smoothie! Waste not; want not!

 

I’m currently sitting in bed. I’m sitting in bed and I’m trying to take care of myself. It hasn’t been easy lately. Every since having our second baby, I feel like I’m in a constant game of catch-up. I know this sounds crazy, but I’m not sure why having the second kiddo destroyed me as much as it did. OK, “destroyed me” is a little dramatic, but I can’t seem to stay awake past 9pm, which means I average a decent night sleep. And, thank Gd, my kids are pretty decent sleepers. So why am I so tired?

I’ve decided there are tons of answers to this question. Maybe it’s the fact that I over-schedule my day, just like most every other person I know. It also probably has to do with not exercising as much as I should but mostly I think it has to do with the amount of stuff I have reeling around in my head. I appreciate the feminist movement and I consider myself a feminist but I’m not sure the feminist movement of the 70s knew what it was getting into when it rallied for fair and equal employment opportunities for women. But, I am grateful. I used to work in a school whose administration over-valued stress and exhaustion. People were heralded for working long hours; the bags under their eyes their little red badges of courage. Now I work for a school where taking a ‘mental health day’ is understood. I have a boss who openly talks about why she doesn’t want us answering texts and phone calls after working hours — the boundary of work and life firmly in tact and celebrated. But still, I get home after picking up the girls and I still struggle with balancing all my responsibilities. When beloved friend and co-author, Sarah at The Patchke Princess started her Sheet-Pan Dinners Instagram handle, I started following immediately. She’s a lot braver than me when it comes with experimenting with sheet-pan dinners, but nevertheless, she has inspired the recipe in this post. We eat meat at least once a week, aside from Shabbat, and being able to throw it on a sheet pan, combine it with roasted vegetables and the perfect seasoning without having to clean anything else makes me so happy. I mean seriously, it is the little things and no additional cleaning is to be celebrated as a big ‘little thing’. Consider this sheet pan chicken a blank slate for which to experiment for further dinners. I hope you enjoy.

 


 

 

Sheet Pan Chicken

Ingredients:

2 chicken leg quarters, cut at bone and separated

3 carrots, skinned and cut into 1/4-inch rounds

5-6 Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered

1 medium onion, quartered

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes

3 garlic cloves, diced

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tbsp parve Ranch dressing mix powder

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tbsp kosher salt

1/2 tbsp black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Place a large 9 x 13″ rimmed baking sheet in the oven while the oven is heating. While that’s heating, combine Ranch dressing mix, mayonnaise, kosher salt and black pepper into a medium-sized bowl. Stir to combine. Set aside.

Clean chicken and dry well. Using a spatula or spoon, coat the chicken in the Ranch mayonnaise mixture. Place the chicken skin-side down on the pre-heated baking sheet. Let that cook for about 10 minutes.

While the chicken cooks, combine all the vegetables into a large bowl. Add olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper to the bowl and stir until well-combined. Once the chicken has cooked for 10 minutes, add the vegetable mixture to the sheet-pan, making sure that none of the vegetables overlap, and cook for another 20 – 25 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

So if you read my Valentine’s Day post, you’ll know already that I recently attended an amazing conference centered on the topic of how to help adolescents thrive as they transition into adulthood. You’ll also know that the headliner of this conference was Jane Fonda. What you might not know is that this conference was one of the best professional/personal development experiences of my career as a school counselor. Not only for the sheer fact that I was in a room of committed individuals who were also passionately engaged in trying to be an ally for youth in an increasingly difficult world, but also because I left with actual, tangible resources that I can implement in my every day life.

 

One of the best directly relates to the images you have previously seen on this blog and my various social media handles — that of images of my kiddos. When I first started out in the blogging game, I filled my posts with images of my family. I wanted a blog that was not only delicious to look at but that also gave readers a glimpse into my personal life. Here’s the thing though: My girls are growing up and, please Gd, they will continue to grow up. They’re going to grow up and become adolescents themselves and could quite possibly Google themselves, as Dr. Devorah Heitner so lovingly pointed out at this conference. I want to make sure that when that times comes, they don’t feel like their journey to adulthood was chronicled at every turn without their permission. In addition, and this is what really struck me, I don’t want my kids feeling like they always have to be ‘on’ because you never know when mom might be recording this for her blog/Instagram/Facebook. So, in an effort to give them more anonymity and to create a culture of consent in our family, I will now be ASKING their permission to take and subsequently publish their image (the baby is a bit too young for this so instead, I’ll just be more mindful of how much of her life I’m putting in front of strangers).

 

 

So what does this have to do with Purim and hamantaschen? Mostly nothing but I wanted to make mention of a change in what you’ll be seeing on this here blog for the future. Instead of the delicious faces of my kiddos, I’ll be sharing more delicious pictures of food. How ’bout them apples?!

And about these hamantaschen? Welcome to your new fancy ‘taschen. I have ALWAYS wanted to work with blood orange and black sesame. The flavors of each are delicious on their own but once combined with the yumminess of Joan Nathan’s hamantaschen dough recipe as featured in her book, Jewish Cooking in America, well, magic happens. And, I mean, come on, anytime I can make something naturally pink, I’m on it. While there are many steps to this hamantaschen recipe, most of them can be done days in advance. In fact, all of it can be done days in advance. Also, note that the black sesame does look and taste like poppy seeds so if you can’t find black sesame seeds (I found mine in Whole Foods), you could easily sub in poppy seeds.

 

 

 

 

 

Black Sesame Hamantaschen with Blood Orange Glaze

Dough Ingredients:

2/3 cup butter or margarine (room temperature)

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg (+ 1 egg for glaze)

1 tablespoon blood orange zest

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp of salt

Black Sesame Filling

1/2 cup roasted black sesame seeds

1/4 cup almond milk (or regular)

1/4 cup honey

1 tbsp zest of blood orange

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tbsp butter

Blood Orange Glaze

1/4 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup powdered sugar

Dough Instructions:

Using a stand mixer or hand-held mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla, and blood orange zest and continue creaming until smooth.

Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt to a separate medium-sized bowl. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until a ball of dough is formed (if not using a stand mixer, do this step not with the hand-held mixer but with a wood spoon). Shape dough into a disk, wrap in saran wrap and chill for AT LEAST 3 hours (I chill mine overnight).

Filling Instructions:

Lightly grind the black sesame seeds in a food processor using the “pulse” function for roughly 30 seconds.

In a small saucepan, combine the milk and honey over low heat, stirring until the honey dissolves into the milk. Then add the ground sesame seeds and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently. While it’s simmering, add the blood orange zest and vanilla.

Once the mixture has thickened considerably — or as desired, stir in the butter until it melts, cooking it for another minute or so. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. You can make this a day ahead, when you first make the dough, and cover and store in the fridge.

Putting it all Together:

Once chilled, preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in the center. On a floured work surface, roll out dough to a scant 1/4-inch thickness. With a 2 3/4-inch round cutter, or wide-rimmed drinking class, cut out circles; place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Gather scraps, chill while previous cookies are baking, and repeat with your roll-out and cutting until all dough is used.

Whisk together remaining egg and 1 teaspoon water in a bowl. Brush circle edges with egg wash; pinch seams together. Bake cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet, 1 sheet at a time, about 10 – 12 minutes. Allow to cool completely before adding filling.

For Blood Orange Glaze:

Whisk together the ingredients until combined and smooth. Once cookies have cooled completely, drizzle on top until it’s perfectly covered in pink.

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