Category Archives: Our Family

Chocolate, Apple, Walnut Torte (Nana’s Passover Cake)

This chocolate, apple and walnut torte is the Passover cake my mother and grandmother have made for decades. I have been asked to share the recipe several times — and here it is! Like my great-grandmother’s recipe for Matzo Ball Soup, it is published in an old synagogue cookbook that I still use for traditional Jewish recipes, including many from my family. (By the way, Mower’s matzo ball soup is still surprisingly popular on Pinterest.)

chocolate, apple, walnut passover torte

My grandmother “Nana” had a serious stroke 12 years ago. She doesn’t remember much that has happened since her childhood, and pretty much thinks of herself as a girl. She doesn’t remember me when I visit her memory-focused assisted living, but gets that I am there for her and is as sweet and as pleasant as ever. She even forgets what she said a minute before, and when she finds a good joke, she repeats it. We were only recently a family of four on our last visit to New York and she kept asking how many kids we planned. She would then advise, “Two or three is okay, but more than four is too many.” So of course my husband would tell her we wanted fourteen and she would crack up. This happened about twenty times in the space of an hour.

But memory is a funny thing. She can identify the names of every single plant on the grounds. And she remembers recipes! On my last trip, my uncle gave me her recipe box to bring to the visit. Nana remembered them all and shared stories. I recognized the Passover cake recipe as identical to the one I had made a month before (and every Passover before it since I was a teenager.) I am calling it “Nana’s Passover Cake” but as she reminded me, it was originally the recipe of her friend Bea Glück. “Well, since it was Bea’s recipe, naturally it’s a winner. Natch!”

Nana's Passover Cake

As you may see in the index card, there isn’t a ton of detail to the technique, nor in the version my mom wrote for the cookbook. But I’ve added some tips and my own system for sailing through the prep. You could make it all by hand, but a food processor and mixer will help. Tip: no need to wash the processor between ingredients. I even go ahead and make charoset right afterwards.

A friend in the midst of a Whole 30 challenge, gave me a Paleo-friendly apple and nut muffin that had such a similar taste and texture. Although this a “torte” in the sense that it uses no flour, rather ground nuts and a handful of matzo meal (similar in baking to breadcrumbs), I bet it could be adapted to gluten-free pretty easily. Try using almond meal in place of the matzo and/or more apple. There is no added fat, other than the eggs and nuts, and this Passover torte is not too sweet. My grandmother noted “Red Delicious” apples, but I have often used Fujis with good results.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chocolate, Apple, Walnut Torte (Nana's Passover Cake)
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Jewish (Passover)
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Passed down from my grandmother, this traditional passover cake could easily be confused with a contemporary paleo-ish torte, featuring chocolate, chopped walnuts and apple in a light sponge. It's not too sweet, and everyone loves it!
Ingredients
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, grated
  • 2 apples, cored and grated
  • 1 cup of walnuts, chopped
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • ½ cup matzo meal
Instructions
  1. Preheat over to 350*F. Grease a 9 inch springform pan.
  2. Using a grater, or grating attachment on a food processor, grate the chocolate. Place the chocolate in a medium sized mixing bowl. Without washing or rinsing the food processor, grate the apples. (The apples should be cored but don't peel them.) Add to the mixing bowl. Without washing, take out the grating plate and put the chopping blade into the food processor. Chop the walnuts and then add to the mixing bowl.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick (at least 2 minutes on high/fast.) Gently stir into the chocolate, apples, and walnuts and add the matzo meal. In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold into the batter.
  4. Bake in the greased springform pan for 1 hour. Cool in pan.
Notes
The instructions include equipment (such as a food processor and stand mixer or hand mixer) that make the cake a snap. But the cake can also be made by grating, chopping, and beating by hand.

Serving options: I like the cake with whipped cream (or non-dairy whip for Kosher friends) and strawberries. (Strawberries are usually in season for Passover/Spring Equinox/Easter.) My mom's transcription from the 80's suggests sprinkling with powdered sugar just before serving.

The cake is best the first day, but can be baked the morning of a big dinner.

If you like this recipe, please like the Baby Birds Farm page on Facebook, or follow my Jewish Recipes board on Pinterest.

Getting My Color Back (Amazing Lash Feature)

The last time I went to the zoo, I overheard a tour guide talk about the flamingos. Everyone knows they are pink because of their food and has heard, “You may notice the babies aren’t bright pink yet because they haven’t had the time to develop their color.” drained flamingo
But this time I heard something new. She said that the mothers of young birds lose their bright color, too. They give so much of their energy to raising their babies they literally fade to pale pink or white. Raise your hand if you can relate!

So… funny thing: you may not know this about me, but there was a time I was on exhibit at the San Diego Zoo.livingfountain I was actually right across from the flamingos, near the entrance, and heard the speech of the tour guides several times a day. I downplay it, but as a classical statue that came to life as a living water fountain, there was a beauty and glamour I now miss. I got to travel internationally as a performer, but perfected the show at the zoo.

And now, if I’m at the zoo, I’m just another mom in running shoes, juggling two small kids. No more red velvet curtain and dramatic music to mark my entrance.

But guess what? I’m starting to get my color back! The good news for flamingo parents is that they gain this color back eventually as the chicks become independent and eat on their own.* And a friend and I were invited to try out lash extensions at Amazing Lash in Carmel Valley. To be honest, she never made it as her son ended up sick, and well, priorities…

Lash extensions are semi-permanent lashes that are individually glued to your natural lashes. They last a few weeks and fall off as your lashes naturally fall out. I have stick straight lashes that point down and had always wondered about extensions.

before

I think they came out pretty. What do you think? In the photo below I am not wearing any eye makeup at all. “I woke up like this,” the ads boast.

after lash extensions

I also wanted to show a comparison of lash extensions to what I look like with eye makeup. I thought that would be a more telling comparison. So in the next image, I’m wearing two-coats of mascara and eyeliner, and mechanically curled my lashes.

before with makeup

Below, again, I didn’t put on any eye makeup. That’s how they look! (And that’s a crappy selfie with a cell phone. I wish I had a real photographer and real camera to show them off.)

Abby - Baby Birds Farm

The studio in Carmel Valley is new, and is very clean and upscale. I learned that all of the lash artists are either licensed estheticians or licensed cosmetologist, but that they have to be licensed. They have four different styles to choose from. I went with the “natural” and they get more dramatic from there. I’m really happy with them because they look better than any applied eye makeup, yet it’s not too much to wear to work with no makeup. They feel light and nothing like fake eyelashes.

Amazing Lash Carmel Valley

The staff was friendly and my stylist was a sweetheart. I actually had an issue with one of my natural lashes falling into my eye under the weight of the extension. It was curling into my eye, poking me, and I couldn’t remove it without ripping out some adhesive. I called the shop the next morning when I realized what was going on, and they got me in instantly. The stylist fixed me up, and there was no charge. Disclaimer: I received the initial lash application free as part of a blogger outreach program. However, the experience I’m sharing, and the before and after photos are all mine.

About Amazing Lash

Amazing Lash Studios are retail salons that apply semi-permanent eyelash extensions with a proprietary, patented process to your own lashes, replicating the curve and size of natural lashes. It is patented application process that enables our highly trained staff of licensed estheticians to complete the service in a fraction of the time required at traditional outlets. Currently there are two locations in San Diego, Carmel Valley and Mission Valley.

*Flamingo reference and flamingo image credit

Creative Mom and Kid Halloween Costumes

So, Little Bird and I did something super fun… We joined our friends in a photo shoot for Pottery Barn Kids! They sent us cute Halloween costumes for the kids and challenged us to pair them with creative costumes for the moms. You can see their feature here.

Creative mom and daughter Halloween costumes - Bee and Flowers

Photographer Chrissy Powers wore her 3-week-old newborn in a wrap and captured the fun. Update: You can see more of the fun on the Small Fry Blog.

Creative Costumes for Moms and Kids

I met Cassidy June in a breastfeeding support group when Little Bird (now 4!) and Cassidy’s daughter were brand new. If your child gravitates towards fairies, like this Gold Snow Fairy, an easy costume for mom is “Pixie Dust.” Grab any metallic dress out of your closet, sprinkle a little glitter, and have fun!

Creative Mom and Daughter Halloween Costumes - Fairy and Pixie Dust

Isobel of Bel & Beau reined with both her sons wearing the adorable dragon costumes from PBK. She wore a “Mother of Dragons” T-shirt from A Little Bundle (they also make the cute “Mama Bird” and “Baby Bird” shirts) and a long skirt. If you don’t “get it,” it’s a reference to the female lead in a Game of Thrones. My Little Bird was quite taken with her older son. They played together the whole day and were holding hands in the group shot above.

Creative Mom and Kid Halloween Costumes - Mother of Dragons and Baby Dragons

Here at Baby Birds Farm, we have been all about planting milkweed, Cleveland sage, and other pollinator-friendly plants in our backyard. Both of my girls love playing a game where we take turns playing a butterfly or bee. The other pretends to be a girl trying to entice the pollinator with flowers.

Abby of Baby Birds Farm and Little "Bee"

Little Bird had fun dressing up in the Bumblebee Tutu. (This idea would also work for butterflies and lady bugs.) I wore a flower crown and a dress Nikki of Je’Adore decorated with a hot glue gun. Wish I was crafty! It is not one of my strengths.

Creative Mom and Daughter Halloween Costumes - Bee and Field of Flowers

Little Bird decided herself to style her outfit with her tap shoes after I showed her the “Bee Girl” in the Blind Melon No Rain video.


Speaking of Nikki being crafty, I love the rain cloud she made out of an umbrella to shower her little rainbow. How cute are they?! Colorful rain boots and a rain jacket completed the fun.

Creative Mom and Kid Halloween Costumes - Rainbow and Cloud

Playing dress up was my favorite game as a kid. And back in the day I used to organize photo shoots when I was building my modeling portfolio. It was so fun to laugh and love my daughter, sharing one of my favorite activities.

Little Bee

She has had fun in the past on photo shoots for “Uncle Steve.” I want it to always be fun. I don’t see the need in pushing her to do more work for pay – not unless it is something she is asking for and is 100% enjoying.

field of flowers and a bee

I’m grateful to Emily who gave us all glamorous hair and makeup on behalf of 1011MakeUp. As mentioned above, all photos in this post are by Chrissy Powers and creative direction by Cassidy June.

playing with my little bee

For an idea on how to do Goldilocks and the Three Bears as an easy and inexpensive family costume, click here. Happy Halloween!

pixie dust

Pin the below image or your favorite above to Pinterest!

Four Mom and Kid Halloween Costume Ideas

Share in the comments: which is your favorite mom and kiddo costume combo?

7 Ways to Celebrate Strawberry Season

To celebrate Papa Bird’s birthday this year, the four of us went strawberry picking again. Strawberries are in peak season and are super sweet. We picked a flat of strawberries and enjoyed them every which way in the week that followed. Here is a round-up of ways to celebrate strawberry season.

organic u-pick strawberries from suisie's farm

First: Go strawberry picking!

strawberry picking at suzie's farm

Susie’s Farm is still our favorite place to pick. The berries are organic and a super sweet variety (Albion.) The above flat was $36. We also met up with some of Little Bird’s friends since she was a little baby. My mama tribe has such a close place in my heart. We are all so busy these days, so it was nice to reconnect with a few.

My heart just about melted seeing Little Bird running with two of her friends… and “Littler Bird” chasing after them.

2. Strawberry, Dark Chocolate and Brie Grilled Cheese

strawberry, dark chocolate and brie grilled cheese

Melt a little butter on a griddle or pan, add bread layered with thick slices of brie cheese, sliced strawberries, and shaved dark chocolate. Top with another piece of bread, flip and enjoy the messy, gooey, tangy warmth.

 

3. Strawberry Balsamic Pizza

strawberry balsamic pizza

The farm stand at Suzie’s had par-baked flatbread from Sadie Rose, which made me think semi-homemade pizza would be an easy dinner. I didn’t yet have the strawberry jam made, but inspired by the recipe in the link, I cooked down a cup of ripe strawberries, balsamic vinegar and sriracha for the sauce. Yum!

4. Top and fill a cake with strawberries

chocolate cake with strawberries

Little Bird loves baking as much as me. For Papa Bird’s birthday we made a chocolate sponge cake with chocolate orange buttercream frosting. Can you guess how old he turned? The filling was strawberry jam and whipped cream. Other cakes just begging for strawberries: Baby Bird’s Healthy Smash Cake, and Tres Leches.

5. Strawberry Shortcake and (healthier) Chia Strawberry Shortcake Parfait

Chia Strawberry Shortcake Parfait with Very Vanilla Pudding

We took slightly sugared, sliced strawberries up to my sister’s along with shortcakes and cream. It was easy to assemble traditional strawberry shortcakes and a sweet way to celebrate my niece’s birthday.

For a slightly healthier take, try this parfait version which features vanilla chia pudding. If you are mindful of the sugar you add, it easily doubles as both breakfast and dessert.

 

 

6. low-sugar strawberry jam

canning strawberry jamSugar helps fruit break down and get softer, but is not necessary for preserving. If you cook the fruit long enough, it will still get soft. You can also use honey, or another sweetener. Pectin isn’t needed, either! Using super sweet berries, all you need is a little lemon juice. This year I overcame my fear of my steam canner, and canned for the first time.

7. green strawberry pickles

green strawberry picklesIf you love the idea of adding home-fermented foods to your diet, green strawberry pickles are an easy way to start. My kids like them, too.

Here’s a bonus way to try them: Strawberry Salmon Salad with Green Strawberry Pickles.

Canning the pickles and jam is a classic way to extend strawberry season. Having produce preserved is a great way to enjoy produce at its peak all year round.

How do you like to enjoy strawberry season?

Please share your ideas and link your recipes in the comments!

 

Baby Birds’ Pumpkin Smash Cake with Cinnamon Frosting – Gluten Free and Low Sugar

I’m very excited to share the recipe I developed for a healthy and delicious pumpkin smash cake! Baby Bird’s Banana Smash Cake is one of my most popular posts on Pinterest and in search engines. It is a healthy cake with no refined sugar or artificial coloring. This year we went pumpkin picking to celebrate both our youngest Baby Bird turning 1 and Little Bird turning 3. So of course we had to have a PUMPKIN smash cake and pumpkin cup cakes. I kept the sugar low by using just half a cup of maple sugar. Although we are not gluten-free, so many of our friends are. To be perfectly honest: these came out BETTER than the traditional cup cakes I made for the guests.

Pumpkin Smash Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting - gluten free and low in sugar

The cinnamon frosting is mostly cream cheese with a little grass-fed butter. I wanted to use maple syrup to sweeten it, but we were out. I ended up using a little organic powdered sugar, but less than a quarter of what most recipes call for. Our pumpkin picking party fell on an unseasonably hot 100° day… the candy pumpkins on top of the smash cakes started melting. But the cake was delicious and I can’t wait to make it again! Maybe as a full-sized layer cake.

Healthy Pumpkin Smash Cake

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Smash Cake Recipe

Prep: Let all ingredients for the pumpkin smash cake sit out at room temperature. Cut a circle of parchment paper to line the bottom of 1 or 2 ramekins. Grease well with butter. Line a muffin tin with a dozen cupcake liners for the rest of the batter. Preheat oven to 350° F.

In the bowl of a good mixer, add:

  • 12 tablespoons of softened butter
  • ½ cup of maple sugar (brown sugar would also be nice)

Beat on high until light and fluffy. Add

  • 3 eggs, ideally at room temperature

Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each until well combined. Add

  • ½ cup of milk
  • ½ cup of yogurt

Mix well. Add

Mix on slowest speed until just incorporated, then add

  • 2 cups of pureed, cooked pumpkin OR 1 (15 oz) can of pumpkin (follow the instructions here if you want to cook the pumpkin from scratch – but I won’t tell anyone if you use the can…)

Mix until incorporated, then add

Scoop into the ramekins and any remaining batter into the muffin tin. Bake the muffin/cupcakes for about 15-20 minutes and the ramekins for about 40 minutes. Cool completely or even overnight before frosting with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting.

Notes:

If you follow this blog, you will know that I am all about making things from scratch. They only time I have mentioned using a mix for anything was when I made my own pancake mix to take camping! But I have to say, I loved using this gluten-free mix! I have had so many not so great gluten free baked goods, and tend to avoid them.  This mix is a household staple as Papa Bird uses it at least weekly for his special pancakes. It was nearly a year before I realized it was gluten-free! I am not affiliated with Pamela’s, although maybe I should be! I am an Amazon Affiliate, though, and do receive advertising fees for qualifying purchases made through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

4.5 from 2 reviews
Baby Birds' Pumpkin Smash Cake with Cinnamon Frosting - Gluten Free and Low Sugar
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Gluten-Free
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
A low-sugar, gluten-free pumpkin cake or cup cake recipe, perfect for a healthy 1st birthday party "smash cake."
Ingredients
  • 12 tablespoons of softened butter
  • ½ cup of maple sugar (brown sugar would also be nice)
  • 3 eggs, ideally at room temperature
  • ½ cup of milk
  • ½ cup of yogurt
  • 2 cups of Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix
  • 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice blend
  • 2 cups of pureed, cooked pumpkin OR 1 (15 oz) can of pumpkin
Instructions
  1. Let all ingredients for the pumpkin smash cake sit out at room temperature. Cut a circle of parchment paper to line the bottom of 1 or 2 ramekins. Grease well with butter. Line a muffin tin with a dozen cupcake liners for the rest of the batter. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. In the bowl of a good mixer, add butter and maple sugar. Beat on high until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each until well combined. Add milk and yogurt and mix well.
  3. Add 1 cup of Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix and the pumpkin pie spice blend. Mix on slowest speed until just incorporated, then add the pureed, cooked pumpkin. Mix until incorporated, then add 1 more cup of Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix.
  4. Scoop into the ramekins and any remaining batter into the muffin tin. Bake the muffin/cupcakes for about 15-20 minutes and the ramekins for about 40 minutes. Cool completely or even overnight before frosting with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting.