Category Archives: Parenting

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

Picking Perfect Potatoes

Hanukkah started last Sunday. We had everything we needed for latkes, except for potatoes. In years past, we used Japanese sweet potatoes from our backyard for latkes, but this year’s potato harvest was slim. We could’ve run to any grocery store, but I thought it might be more fun to explore the Specialty Produce warehouse with the Little Birds. I figured we would find more potato varieties there, or at least something fresh and local.

hunting for potatoes at Specialty Produce

Specialty Produce is known for supplying the majority of the good restaurants in San Diego with fruits and vegetables. They also let the general public shop, seven days a week. That day it was just us, the most recent winner of MasterChef Claudia Sandoval (not to celebrity name drop or anything), and restaurant buyers in the warehouse. I had picked up Farmers’ Market Boxes there before, but this was our first time shopping the warehouse. After signing a liability release, the Little Birds and I were asked to put on gloves before touching any of the produce. The girls thought this was great. They were already dressed like princesses, so gloves only complemented their outfits.

We explored the organic section and the three large walk-in coolers, including the Farmers Market cooler, which is filled with finds from local farms. Tip: wear layers! It was a warm San Diego December day, and I froze in the cooler with just a sun dress on.

hunting for potatoes at Specialty Produce

Great success! We quickly found organic Russet and sweet potatoes. Diving into the Farmers Market walk-in, we discovered little purple potatoes from the Weiser Family Farms, and “Masquerade” potatoes. I had to look up the Masquerade potatoes on the Specialty Produce App – they are a yellow-fleshed potato, with purple skin, and a lighter gold coloring around the eyes. We also found these pretty potatoes with violet pink lipstick “kisses.” I tried to Google “kiss potatoes,” as the staff called them, but only found a Gene Simmons Mr. Potato Head… My best guess is that they are Klondike Royales.

We also stocked up on fruit, including super sweet, pink-fleshed Cara Cara oranges and crisp Shinko asian pears from Ken’s Top Notch Produce, Fuji apples from Fair Hills Apple Farm, and Pomegranate from Koral’s Tropical Fruit Farm. I kept checking our receipt for a mistake. The medium-sized bag of potatoes (above) and a large bag of fruit was only $12. Try spending only $12 for this quality of produce at a farmer’s market or Whole Foods!

purple potato latkes

We love our latkes! I fried them in avocado oil and served them with homemade applesauce, alongside Tri Tip from Seaside Market (aka Cardiff Crack), donuts and gelt.

For latke-making tips, see last year’s latkes and lox with home-smoked salmon. And for a yummy twist, our Brussels sprouts and sweet potato latkes from two years ago included cumin seeds. Yum!


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?

Free Summer Fun in San Diego

I’m excited to spend extra time off work this summer with my “little birds.” We’ve been enjoying museums and parks, but they can start to add up. So I thought I’d share some of the free activities and fun I’ve found to do in San Diego this summer (2015.)

Free Summer Fun in San Diego.

Photo by Sarah Burvenich, via unsplash

1. Hullabaloo at the Waterfront Park

We caught the first of this series and loved it. If you have a little one and live in San Diego, odds are you have heard Hullabaloo play their fun, infectious “kid-folk.” Little Bird is in groupie status, having seen nearly 20 shows. I love the small intimate shows (see number 2), but nothing beats a summer evening outside in San Diego. Skip the hot midday concerts, and bring a picnic dinner and a blanket. I won’t tell anyone if you have an adult beverage in your thermos.

Remaining dates are July 19, August 30 and September 27. Activities by Kid Ventures start at 5:30 pm, music by Hullabaloo starts at 6:00 pm, and the park is open all day. Go early to let the kids play in the fountains, on the playground equipment and friction hill we call the “North Mountain” at the Waterfront Park.

Hullabaloo at Waterfront by Chiles Photography

Photo by Natalie Chiles Photography, via Hullabaloo

Other free outdoor shows are planned for Solana Beach, Belmont Park and Mission Hills. Check the Hullabaloo calendar for dates and info.

2. Free Music at San Diego Libraries

If you enjoy smaller music shows for kids, nothing is better than catching Hullabaloo at your neighborhood library. Steve, Hullabaloo’s lead vocalist and guitarist, played our library last week. Little Bird told me she most wanted to hear the songs “Little Bird” (no relation) and “Run Bunny Run.”

Watch this video to see my Little Bird flapping her wings to Hullabaloo:

During the smaller shows, shy kids, like mine, have room to bounce between dancing up front and returning back to “home base” (their parents.) Check your local library for their lineup. To catch Hullabaloo, subscribe to their emails, or check their calendar.

3. Summer Reading Prizes from the San Diego Library

Speaking of the library, while we were there we signed up for their summer reading program. The incentives are awesome! As long as your little (or you and your little) read 10 books or for 10 hours, you are guaranteed a full list of free passes and meals. Here is the list for children aged 3-11:

  • Flute/Recorder or Inflatable Guitar
  • San Diego Zoo Pass
  • San Diego Air & Space Museum Pass
  • San Diego Natural History Museum Pass
  • Ruben H. Fleet Science Center Pass
  • Free Kid’s Meal at Chipotle
  • Free Kid’s Meal at Daphne’s
  • Free Kid’s Meal at Wendy’s
  • Free Kid’s Meal at Rubio’s
  • Free Round Table Personal Pizza

Seeing as how it can take 10 books to get to sleep any given night, we are looking forward to returning to some of the museums I didn’t think we could afford. You can sign up online here. The Summer Reading program runs June 15th – August 15th and is completely free. There are also programs for infants/toddlers, teens and adults.

Go enjoy your summer!

What are your favorite free fun things to do during summer in San Diego with kids?