Last weekend, my husband and I toured the religious school my daughter will be attending in the fall for her Kindergarten year. She currently attends their preschool, so the tour was simply to get questions answered and for my husband to understand what religious school is all about.
My husband isn’t Jewish. He grew up as a non-practicing Catholic and has had a hard time understanding that we don’t pass a plate around, but rather, have to pay to be members of our synagogue. I grew up with membership dues as the norm (as have most of my Jewish friends). A lot of my friends are also in interfaith marriages and have had to explain the same thing to their spouses. It was also difficult for my husband to understand that kids have to go to religious school years in advance to prepare for their Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. For the longest time, he assumed it was just a big celebration, like a Sweet 16 party. Last month, he attended his first Bat Mitzvah and was amazed that she was able to stand up in front of so many people and sing/recite a language that was foreign to her. Of course, attending the reception was another story. Apparently my explanation didn’t do it justice. He didn’t quite realize that these parties were comparable to wedding receptions.
Before kids, being in an interfaith marriage didn’t mean much other than having the privilege of celebrating more holidays and not worrying about our parents fighting over us for Rosh Hashanah, Passover, or Christmas. Once we had kids, that all changed. We decided to raise our children Jewish (with the understanding that “Daddy’s parents celebrate Christmas, so we celebrate with them”). We agreed they would attend a Jewish preschool, religious school, and be Bar & Bat Mitzvah’d. Of course, being the Jewish parent, this all fell on me. Preschool has proven to be a HUGE help in educating my children on our religion. My daughter comes home singing Hebrew songs and is excited about all the holidays. Without any family nearby, teaching Jewish traditions to my family can be tough. And, to be honest, I haven’t been doing a great job. This is why it’s so important to me that my children attend a preschool and now religious school. While they will attend public school for their secular education, I want them to have an identity, and sense of belonging, and make friends with others like them.
A few of my friends have decided not to send their children to religious school for a few years, thinking they can catch up in third or fourth grade. For me, it’s not as much about learning Hebrew as it is learning about our culture, heritage, and beliefs. This is also why I send them to Jewish summer day camp and, when they get older, Jewish overnight camp. I never connected with people the way I did with friends I made at camp and through Judaism.
My childhood rabbi used to come into our religious school class every Sunday to visit and before he’d leave, he would remind us of his motto: “Being Jewish is FUN.” Being Jewish IS fun! Summer camp shows us how we can surround ourselves with fellow Jews and make long-lasting friendships, all while learning more about our Jewish culture. Religious school teaches us about our religion and prepares us for our rite of passage and celebration that is our Bar/Bat Mitzvah. I want my children to understand that; even if it means they have to go to school on Sundays! My husband has decided to start saving his shekels for our kids’ Bar and Bat Mitzvahs in eight and eleven years. So, maybe that part isn’t so fun…
I often wonder if all roads lead us to the place where we are supposed to be. I don’t mean this to sound quite as philosophical as it might come across; I merely mean that there are so many moments in my life that are meant to be. The Chinese have an idea about this: it is called the red thread. This is the notion that when a child is born an invisible red thread connects the child to their past, present and future. As time passes all that is fated to be will happen.
I have a special place in my heart and soul for this thought. It started when I was 14 and a family who was Jewish asked me to babysit their adorable little girl. April had been adopted from Korea two years earlier and she and her parents were in the process of adopting her sister. I was babysitting for their family when little sister Jenna arrived and I continued to babysit for them through high school and well into college. The fact that their children were Asian and Jewish was something I noticed in a celebratory way. I loved the combination of the Korean masks that they had in their house and the menorah that sat right by it. It all made sense to me and seemed perfectly “normal.” I remember the girls going to Korean camp and having their bat-mitzvahs and recently have been blessed enough to watch April stand under the chuppah with her new husband. Asian and Jewish … it just seemed to fit.
Fast forward 20 years and my husband and I are talking about the choices we have in child getting. I have to be honest, for me the decision to adopt was very easy. I had this great example and well, it seemed to me that all the work in trying to have a child biologically was not really worth it if there were children who needed a home and we needed to be parents…. So adoption was the route we took… For my husband and me, this meant going to China in the winter of 2005 and adopting our Madeline Rose Hai Yan Chaya Shifra Nowack.
Fast forward seven years. I consciously chose a place to work that had a good deal of racial diversity for the Jewish community. And let’s be honest, racial diversity and American Jewry do not always go hand in hand. So, I chose to work at Camp JRF because there were other kids who looked like my daughter. There are kids of many races, and many different family styles at Camp JRF so I knew our daughter would fit in at this camp as much as she could in any place where most of the people look nothing like you. I was not prepared for Amy though.
Amy is a stunning 15 year old girl who was adopted from China in the 90s. She is part of the chalutzim, the early families who went to China when things were not as open as they are now. Amy is a smart, easy going girl who never really seemed phased by much at camp. A kid from the Midwest who never got caught up in the drama. So when she walked into my office and closed the door and started to cry I was shocked. She told me how I was the only one who could understand: someone had said something rude about Asians in her presence, not even connecting that she was Asian since, as this person said, “Well I mean you are Jewish…” And she was upset. Not even because her feelings were hurt but because she did not know how to feel. I looked at her and thought: “Oh …. This is that moment… When the red thread brought you to my office…”
We spoke for a while and we tried to solve all the racial issues of the Jewish community. We came up with the idea that nothing was going to be solved for a while. We spoke about how stupid people can be and how confusing things are and how even in the safest of places, like camp, reality is always there.
When Amy went back to her bunk she was better. Nothing was solved, but she knew she had a place to come to when she felt a bit weird about all of the stuff.
I, however, shut the door to my office and cried. I cried for all the kids who look different in one way or another and we as a Jewish community don’t remember that they are part of us. I cried for the moments when someone says something in front of me about others and assumes because I am Jewish I am going to agree with them. I cried because, truth be told, this was exactly what I had feared, that my decision to adopt our daughter and raise her Jewish would somehow leave her on the outside. Then I composed myself and celebrated. How great is it that my daughter can look to older campers and see someone who looks like her. That in her Hebrew school class there are three Asian Jewish girls – not all adopted. That the world gets smaller every day and that there are places all over where she can feel comfortable.
Mostly, I celebrated that the red thread had lead Amy to my office and Maddie to our home and that somehow this puzzle of race and culture and religion was going to be okay.
After my son, Jonah, was born, our family – Jonah, my wife, Cynthia, and I – became a self-sufficient little island. We were busy; we were also besotted with each other. Our motto, if we’d had one, could have been lifted straight from the classic swashbuckling novel, The Three Musketeers. That’s right: “One for all and all for one.” And while we were lucky enough to have lots of support and help in Jonah’s first few years from immediate family – Cynthia’s parents and my sisters, in particular – we were, for the most part, on our own and liked it that way. Then, just before Jonah turned four, he was diagnosed with autism and our little island was transformed, practically overnight, into a complicated and crowded place, a place we would soon realize we could no longer manage on our own.
Any parent of a child with autism knows the feeling: suddenly, you’re at the mercy of a growing list of so-called experts – psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, educators, speech therapists, occupational therapists, you name it. There are also books to read, organizations to join, bloggers to follow. All of this to say that the notion that it takes a village to raise a child isn’t always as reassuring as it sounds. Eventually, though, you grow used to it. You are now a part of the autism village. Eventually, you also come to appreciate, often treasure, those individuals in your child’s life who are making things easier for him and, by extension, you. Mike Picciuto is such a person. We met him last year when he became the assistant teacher in the class Jonah attended at Summit, a special needs school in Montreal. Actually, before we met him, we’d already heard a lot about him, from Jonah, who talked about this “Mike-fellow” practically non-stop. Parents of children with special needs learn to be pretty good judges of those rare people who can connect with their kids and it was obvious, from the start, that Mike and Jonah were a good fit. We also got lucky since Mike had just the kind of skill-set we were looking for, in addition to patience, kindness and firmness, he’s a pretty good musician and, with him, we found the guitar teacher for Jonah we had been having some trouble finding. The two play together one hour a week, but Jonah is constantly calling Mike on the phone for his practice instructions. In fact, the calls are probably a little too constant, but Mike has yet to complain.
We also found, in Mike, a shadow who could attend sleep-away camp with Jonah. Cynthia and I were understandably nervous when we took Jonah to the bus last summer to send him off for what would be his first real, extended time away from home and I doubt we could have done it if it weren’t for the fact that Mike was going too. It’s probably important to add, here, that sending a shadow to a sleep-away camp with your child can be prohibitively expensive. You have to pay his salary as well as the camp tuition.* Indeed, it is one of those areas where help from “the autism village” might also come in handy. Cost notwithstanding, though, Mike made it possible for Jonah to have a great time at the Camp B’nai Brith near our home in Montreal. And when Cynthia and I picked Mike and Jonah up after the week was over, it was also clear Mike had a great time, too. He was quickly accepted into the camp’s structure and activities and, to hear him tell it, he learned an awful lot – especially about being Jewish.
A Canadian-Italian and a Catholic, Mike admitted to me he wasn’t sure what to expect from a Jewish summer camp, but, in the end, he added, it turned out to be “one of the most pleasurable experiences I’ve ever had outside my comfort zone.” He had a crash course in Jewish traditions and rituals, everything from the Wailing Wall – “I’d never even heard of it before” – to Shabbat dinner. “There was a rabbi at CBB who I asked an awful lot of questions. He never hesitated to answer me. I learned something new every day,” Mike told me. “And that one Friday night, the Shabbat dinner, I spent at CBB with Jonah was a real education for me. It was a reminder of how important it is to hold onto your heritage. And not just by saying you have to do this or that, but by explaining all the rituals and all the reasons for doing them. I also liked how much Jonah enjoyed that evening. We sang a lot on that night and I was glad I could be there to help him be a really important part of the Jewish camp experience.”
*Please note, each camp has their own policies and this may not be true for every camp.
“Men never philosophize or tinker more freely than when they know that their speculation or tinkering leads to no weighty results. We are more ready to try the untried when what we do is inconsequential. Hence the remarkable fact that many inventions had their birth as toys. In the Occident the first machines were mechanical toys, and such crucial instruments as the telescope and microscope were first conceived as playthings. Almost all civilizations display a singular ingenuity in toy making…
On the whole it seems to be true that the creative periods in history were buoyant and even frivolous. One thinks of the lightheartedness of Perclean Athens, the Renaissance, the Elizabethan Age, and the age of the Enlightenment. Mr. Nehru tells us that in India ‘during every period when her civilization bloomed, we find an intense joy in life and nature and a
pleasure in the art of living….’ ”
Hi. Lenore here again: It’s cool to think about play leading to “real” results, including joy and telescopes. So, as I suggest in my book, if you think your kids might be slightly over-scheduled, consider letting them drop an activity. And then, when the days grow warm and long and delicious, consider letting them go to camp, rather than summer school. Be prepared for lightheartedness (and maybe even breakthroughs) all around.
One of the most life-changing lessons a child can learn at camp is how to overcome fears. Whether your camper is afraid of the lake, is worried about making friends, or can’t stand the thought of being near bugs, a nonthreatening camp environment allows kids to independently push the boundaries of their comfort levels in order to have new and exciting experiences. As a parent, you may revel in your child’s growth over the summer, yet you may simultaneously wonder why he refuses to partake in any new experiences at home for the other 10 months of the year. This is sometimes most true at the dinner table. For example, perhaps last summer your 5th grader came home loving salad with carrots, but now you can’t seem to get her to even taste cooked carrots. The reason for this may be relatively simple – over the summer your camper is in a foreign environment, is highly impressionable and is eager to please both counselors and bunkmates. At home, your child may be more focused on being adversarial and may not be as willing to explore areas outside of his/her comfort zone.
While you can’t replicate the adventuresome camp atmosphere at home, there are definitely things that you can do to get your camper to try new and interesting foods that will support her health. Check out some of the following tips and try the AMAZING roasted vegetable recipe below (it will turn any veggie-hater into a veggie LOVER). By the time your child is packing his bags for camp, he may have even overcome his fear of broccoli!
1. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and TRY again
A child could hate something today but LOVE it a year from today. This is because children’s taste buds are constantly developing and changing, so keep trying! Also, keep in mind that there could be a lot of reasons that your child may not like the new food she just tried. Maybe she’s not in the mood for it, maybe she doesn’t like the way it was cooked, maybe the sauce is too spicy, or maybe she would like brown basmati rice but doesn’t like brown jasmine rice.
2. Don’t battle over food
The more you fight with your kids about food, the more they will fight back. Try not to battle with them about eating just two more string beans or another bite of chicken. If you’re more laid back, you will create an environment in which your children can explore on their own terms.
3. Don’t hide vegetables
If all you’re doing is hiding some spinach in a brownie, you’re not teaching your children to love vegetables for what they are; rather, you’re teaching them that vegetables are disgusting and need to be hidden!
4. Lead by example
If you don’t try new foods and new ways of cooking old foods, your children will never try new things either. You may surprise yourself by what you like!
5. Highlight the food you are trying to get your kids to like
If you want your child to start liking spinach, don’t just steam some frozen spinach. Buy fresh spinach from the farmer’s market and sauté it with olive oil and garlic and top it with a bit of your child’s favorite cheese.
For amazing roasted vegetables:
Toss any combination of cut up broccoli, asparagus, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, string beans, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, or beets with a small amount of olive oil, coarse salt and black pepper. Place on a large metal cookie sheet (not glass or foil!) and roast in a 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until veggies are browned, caramelized and delicious!
Rabbi Avi Katz Orlow is the Director of Jewish Education at the Foundation for Jewish Camp.
Unlike many parents who send their children to overnight camp, I have seen many camps. As the Director of Jewish Education at the Foundation for Jewish Camp I spend my summers on the road visiting various types of Jewish camps across North America. This summer my wife and I are sending our eldest child on his first overnight camping experience. Despite all of my experience, I have anxiety about sending our child away. Just like every other parent, there is no doubt that part of this anxiety is the irrational fear of sending our baby away. But, there is another part of this anxiety which is realizing that while he will always be our baby, when he returns he will have grown up so much. At camp he will experience being included in a community of his own. There he will make deep friendships of his own design. There he will make his own connections to his heritage. There he will have a new sense of independence. And all of this will happen because we will not be there. We have chosen a camp that has role models who manifest our family’s highest values, but in the end he will need to buy into these values for himself. The trick seems to be in the fact that these role models are not telling him who to be, but rather inspiring him to make choices based on their profound example.
It is interesting to reflect on the fact that many of the camps that we all send our children to are not so new. Actually, many of them got their start in the late 1940’s or 1950’s. This was a profound period of growth for institutions in the North American Jewish community as it was in the newly founded State of Israel. This is not coincidental. After the cataclysm of the Holocaust we needed a place to call our own. Both Israel and camps speak to a renaissance of Jewish life. In so much of history we found ourselves defined by those around us. In a land or a camp of our own we found, and continue to find, a unique opportunity to define ourselves on our own terms.
This week we will celebrate the 65th anniversary of Israel’s Independence. Israel is an amazing place and I am excited to introduce my children to our homeland. It represents the hope of two thousand years. But for now I am excited for our 9-year-old getting his first taste of independence at camp.
Joel Yanofsky is the author of Bad Animals: A Father’s Accidental Education in Autism.
We figured we were all set. The fellow at the music store near our house assured my wife Cynthia that someone on staff could give my then 12-year-old son, Jonah, guitar lessons. But when she added that Jonah has special needs, he quickly retracted the offer. “We don’t do that,” he said. There was nothing particularly new about this response. Jonah has been disinvited to more than his fair share of parties and had play dates cancelled at the last minute with lame excuses. It doesn’t take long, as the parent of a child with special needs, autism in Jonah’s case, to internalize the word “no.” You’re continually coming to terms with the things your child will probably miss out on. Things other parents take for granted: like finding your child a guitar teacher.Meanwhile, that “no” inside you thickens like a callus. Still, when the rejection comes from outside, especially from someone who doesn’t know your child, the hurt is mixed with an element of surprise. The sting feels fresh all over again.
Of course, the word “yes,” when you do hear it, also comes as a surprise and is all the more gratifying for it. We’d thought about sending Jonah to summer sleep-away camp for a few years, but with no real success. Then, last year, we met Josh Pepin, the director of the Montreal chapter of Camp B’nai Brith and that all changed. Jonah spent a week at the CBB sleep-away camp, an hour’s drive north of Montreal, and the experience was so good, he intends to return this summer for two weeks.
To hear Pepin tell it, his accepting attitude is just part of the camp’s longstanding tradition of diversity, of integrating all kinds of kids. “If you look at the mission of CBB, our special needs program fits it perfectly,” says Pepin, a big, gregarious man in his thirties, who you can’t imagine saying no to anyone, “Our idea is that kids, no matter their background, or where they come from, what language they speak, what socioeconomic background they come from or how they function, deserve a summer camping experience. I’m no professional in the special needs milieu, but I know we have to keep integrating special needs kids. Not just for them but for all our campers and our staff. Kids like Jonah are such a beautiful part of our camp.”
Pepin never went to sleep away camp himself, not as a camper – “I’m a mama’s boy,” he confesses – but when he was 18, he lost a bet with a friend and ended up as a counselor at CBB. He continued to work there summers for a decade, met his best friends, and also his wife there. After taking on a few other jobs in Montreal’s Jewish community, he came back to CBB as director in 2010. Along with the emphasis on diversity at CBB, Jewish identity is paramount for Pepin. “That’s why we exist,” Pepin says, “to offer kids opportunities that they may not otherwise have if they don’t go to Jewish day schools or belong to a synagogue. As camp director, I consider myself an informal educator. And I have an opportunity, here, to shape young Jewish minds and identities.”
He also gets the chance to say “yes” a lot more than “no.” For which my family is grateful.
Incidentally, we found a guitar teacher for Jonah. He also turned out to be Jonah’s shadow at CBB last summer. I’ll be writing more about him and about the importance of shadows in an upcoming blog.
Readers — This is such a fantastic example of the way our society is going: Better not to experience ANYTHING than to be exposed to a single ounce of RISK. That’s something that camp parents realize just doesn’t make sense. Apparently, some cat parents realize it, too. This note comes to us from Julie Saxon, a university lecturer turned stay-at-mom of two in San Jose, CA. - L.
Dear Free-Range Kids: Just wanted to share this story that happened yesterday. My family has decided it’s time to adopt a pet, and we’d like a cat or kitten. My husband and I both grew up with cats in the household and we both had indoor/outdoor cats. I know there’s a lot of controversy about what’s best, but we both believe that it is better for the cat’s well-being to allowed outside sometimes. (Plus no litter box is awesome!)
So we set out to a local pet store yesterday that was holding an adoption fair. It was being put on by a local cat rescue that had very specific requirements of the homes in which the cats are to be placed, and one — written into a contract — is that the kitten will be kept indoors only. So, obviously, this wasn’t the rescue for us. But what was really interesting was the rhetoric the volunteer used in trying to convince us that cats are better as indoor only. It mirrored almost exactly what the media is telling us about children! Some of the things she told me:
* We all used to have outdoor cats when we were kids. Everyone did. But “things are different now.”
* The cats’ biggest problem is PREDATORS. We think it’s cars, but it’s not. It’s predators. She then began to speak about COYOTES, despite the fact that I live in the suburbs of a fairly big city and have never–NOT ONCE in the 16 years I’ve lived here–seen a coyote. Off-leash dogs, yes. Raccoons and possums, yes. Coyotes, not so much.
* Kittens should never be outside, and these in particular because they’ve never been outside. They don’t know how to be outside. (As if I’m going to toss the kitten in the front yard and let it fend for itself.)
* Indoor only cats live longer.
* Besides, they don’t know what they’re missing.
Whether you believe the same way as this volunteer regarding cats and kittens isn’t my point. But I was shocked at how closely animal rescue folks mimic helicopter parents or possibly vice versa. Have we reduced our children to the state of 4-month-old bottle-fed baby kittens? We have to keep them inside because they’ve never been outside and they would instantly become prey to wild predators? Training them isn’t even considered? Besides, depriving them of what comes naturally is fine because they will live longer and they don’t know any different anyway? Wow! – Julie
Rachel Saks has an M.S. in Education and is a Registered Dietitian. She developed and ran Healthy Living, a Camp Ramah program that combines nutrition education, mindful eating, cooking instruction and physical activity. Rachel is also the co-author of “Jewish American Food Culture.”
Even though the Purim costumes have barely been packed away and there are still one or two lonely poppy seed hamentaschen sitting on your counter, it’s time to think about Passover. Will you be having guests for seder or going to celebrate with friends and family? Who will be invited? What kind of haroset will you make this year? What kind of medication will you stock in the medicine cabinet for the inevitable mid-week tummy troubles? All of these are important questions to answer, but it’s also important to stop for a moment to think about another, slightly bigger question: How will you engage your children in preparations for the holiday this year in a way that will bring your whole family a deeper, more spiritual understanding of Passover?
Sure, you can ask your children to help clean the house of chametz, but doing so won’t give them a context for understanding the holiday, primarily because it involves simply doing something rather than immersion in an experience. Jewish camps excel at experiential learning by creating a context for activities rather than going through the actions by rote. Camps deeply engage campers with Judaism at a young age, leading them to develop a desire for connectivity to the Jewish community and to the formation of a strong Jewish identity.
One of the greatest and most exciting ways for kids to experience Judaism and Passover is in the kitchen. With their hands in kugel and their minds on the laws of kashrut for Passover, kids have the opportunity to learn through doing on this holiday. Teach them about what it means to be kosher-for-Passover and engage them in helping to prepare your kitchen for the holiday. Work with your children to find interesting recipes and to plan, shop, and cook with them. Notice the pride they exhibit when mastering a task in the kitchen (just like the pride they had last summer when they perfected their 3-point shot or got up on water skis!) and revel in the fact that they are experiencing and understanding Passover on a whole new level.
Here are some tips to involve your children in the kitchen on Passover and the rest of the year, as well as a fun recipe to try together. Planning, shopping and cooking can teach you and your family how to effectively connect to each other, to Judaism and to God on a deeper and more meaningful level. Here’s how:
1. Plan it up!
Cooking with kids works better if they are involved in the planning and if they are given a specific job to do under light supervision.
2. Chop it up
Kids 3 years old and up can cut, as long as you give them a safe knife. Give them a plastic disposable knife, plastic knives from a kids set, or a butter or dinner knife with a dulled edge. Give them things that are easy to cut, like herbs, peeled fruit, zucchini, tomatoes and cucumbers.
3. Mix it up!
Kids love stirring and mixing things, but that doesn’t have to be limited to baking! Have them help toss a salad, mix sauce into quinoa, or even mix spices together for an herb rub.
4. Mess it up!
Cooking with kids will be messy, but that’s okay! Food will be spilled and clothes like likely get stained- so gets some aprons and let the fun begin!
5. Chat it up!
Try to use your time in the kitchen together to talk about food traditions, the spirituality of food, where food comes from, good nutrition and more. The opportunity for these precious family moments should not be missed!
Kosher for Passover Zucchini Potato Kugel Muffins
5 medium baking potatoes
2 small zucchini
2 medium carrots, peeled
1 large yellow onion
5 cloves garlic
1 large spring fresh rosemary
4 whole eggs
4 egg whites
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup matzah cake meal
3 tablespoons potato starch
2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Using the shredding blade of a food processor, shred the potatoes (with the skin), zucchini, carrots, onions and rosemary leaves.
- Place all of the vegetables in a large bowl and squeeze out the excess liquid (don’t worry about getting all of it out- there will always be more!)
- In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and then stir in the remaining ingredients.
- Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and mix well.
- Spray muffin tins with cooking spray and heap the vegetables into the tins. Pat down firmly.
- Bake for 30 minutes, or until the kugel seems to be firm and set and the top is browned and crispy.
- Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving, or allow to cool and refrigerate up to 5 days (or freeze up to 3 months!)
Have a happy, delicious and meaningful Passover!
Lauri Exley lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband, four-year-old daughter and 18-month-old son.
Charoset, fried matzo, wine, matzo meal bagels, matzo pizza, marshmallows and family. All of these things, and more, are why Passover is and has always been my favorite holiday. Sure, people moan and groan about the dry, tasteless food, but I love it! My favorite memories are of my mother and me using matzo meal to make virtually everything and I have always enjoyed finding new ways to use it (even if bagels and donuts end up having the same taste). In recent years, it has become much easier to keep Kosher for Passover, with more variety and flavor in the food, but I am always searching for something new.
My mother-in-law loves to cook and bake. She has a treasure trove of recipes; each one tops the next. I discovered a recipe she had for something called “Saltine Chocolate Pieces” and after we made them together, and of course ate them, I knew this was a recipe I had to have. The end result is something similar to toffee brittle using saltine crackers. Having spent so many years suffering through store-bought Passover treats, I immediately thought about how great this would taste if I replaced the saltines with matzo.
Chocolate-covered matzo is one of the first items to fly off grocery shelves during the Passover season. So, using my mother-in-law’s recipe, I decided to make a variation of my own. (Upon writing this blog entry, I have discovered that other people have discovered this wonderful creation as well, so I cannot claim it as my own original idea).
Sure, I will continue to make matzo meal bagels and fried matzo every year (can’t forget the classics), but it’s nice to be able to add new, tastier foods to the mix – creating new memories and traditions with my kids.
Matzo Chocolate Pieces (aka Matzo Crunch)
- 4-6 unsalted matzo
- 1 c brown sugar
- 1 c butter
- 12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 3/4 c chopped nuts
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a 10×15-inch cookie sheet with foil; place a sheet of parchment paper on top of the foil (very important).
- Cover the cookie sheet with a layer of matzo.
- Boil sugar and butter in saucepan for 4 minutes.
- Pour mixture over matzo and spread evenly.
- Bake at 400°F for 5 minutes.
- Remove from oven.
- Sprinkle with chocolate chips.
- Let set and cool for 1 minute, then spread the melted chips over the matzo with a spatula.
- Sprinkle the chopped nuts on top, then press down lightly.
- Cool until firm and cut into diagonal pieces. Pieces can be frozen.
Yields approximately 30 pieces.
Looking for a camp-y Passover dessert to serve alongside this delicious treat? Try these yummy Matzo S’mores from ingredientsinc.com!