Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Tough Cookie

It seems to me there are two kinds of food blogs - the ones like mine which are, to put it kindly, homemade, and the ones where the blog owner has done her/his homework to produce professional quality photographs and scintillating text.

To defend mine a bit, I started the blog with the dual goals of keeping up my writing skills after retirement and of assembling all my favorite recipes online where I could access them from anywhere. My photos take about five seconds to plate, compose, and shoot - and I'm afraid that, with few exceptions, that's how they look. I like my dinner to stay hot.

The professional ones, however, are truly a pleasure to encounter. From the edgy vibe of "Thug Kitchen" to the stylish look of "Orangette" to the gorgeous, deliberate photography of "La Tartine Gourmande," they all have their appeal. I tend to stick with the ones where the writing is the best, but I can be seduced by food porn, too.

I have a new favorite, "The Tough Cookie."  The author, Nila, makes mainly desserts that are so beautiful that I rush right out to purchase the makings. Sadly, mine don't always end up as pretty as hers, but I have a fine time trying. When I made the brown butter cake from the last post, it was such a big hit with us that I shopped again the very next week for the makings and, this time, added the raspberries that Nila recommended in the first place.
Nila was correct - always make it with the raspberries. It's a whole different animal and much, much better. It was so good, it disappeared before I had time to photograph it!

That time, I made extra brown butter, as I had also read on her blog about a sort of cinnamon-brown butter spread for toast that is reminiscent of the cinnamon sugar your Mom probably put on your toast, only taken to a whole different level. Nila added a big pinch of salt to the combination of cinnamon, sugar, and brown butter, so you get that whole sweet-salt thing going in your mouth. Big wow!

For pure nostalgia and laziness, I still love good old cinnamon sugar on my toast - brings back memories of my Mom showing me how to mix them thoroughly before sprinkling - but if you are looking to ramp up your breakfast offerings (or it would be great with toast and tea at teatime), you really should try this stuff. The recipe makes enough for several days' worth of sweet-savory mornings. And check out The Tough Cookie while you're there. It brings food blogging up a notch, too.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Cake Walk

I've been good. I've been very good. Ever since we lost Cora, I have resolved to keep walking in her memory, as she was the one who got me into the habit of walking once or twice daily. She always looked so forward to her forays out of the house, but she was never willing to go it alone. Even on the days when I felt I couldn't face another walk around the neighborhood, she would patiently wait and her very patience was what guilted me out the door. So, when she went to heaven, I decided that I needed to keep going - literally as well as figuratively.

I have several different routes to take, some more challenging and hilly, some easier and flatter, but I get out each day, no matter what. I find that I actually like walking by myself, too. After the first several poignant days when I missed my furry companion greatly, I realized that when I walk without a dog, I can pick up the pace and swing along, rather than stopping every few yards to let her sniff a bush or leave her own pee-mail. My lungs expand and my stride lengthens and my heart pumps - it feels very good!

And, when I get home, I feel that I have earned a treat. Let them eat cake!  Not rich cake with icing, but rather this lovely cake that I actually learned about while listening to a podcast of Spilled Milk as I walked!  How's that for elegant?

The particular episode I was laughing along to was about brown butter - how to make it and possible uses for it. Molly and Matthew referenced their website, which mentioned a blog called The Tough Cookie  where there was posted this recipe for Brown Butter Nectarine and Raspberry cake, which was adapted from yet another source. Do we live in an amazingly connected world, or what?

Anyway, the idea of making a cake with brown butter just sounded so good that I walked on home and began the prep. The trickiest part is making the brown butter as the window between brown and burned is brief and a little fraught, but I managed it with the instructions from the Tough Cookie, and so can you. The rest is, as they say, a piece of cake.

I didn't have raspberries and a visit to both of our little markets in town yielded no raspberries - not even frozen ones! - so I just subbed in more nectarines. I think it would be even better, and a lot more colorful, with the sweet-tart and rich red berries, but it was lovely even as is. The cake part is light and airy and mildly sweet with just a little depth of extra richness from the brown butter. People, it crisps just a tad on the buttery edges; those swoonworthy edges! 

The nectarines cooked down into the batter a bit, and grew soft and syrupy with just a little resistance from the skin to keep it real. The recipe said to serve with vanilla ice cream (didn't have) so we settled for a puddle of creme fraiche to dip our forks into, and the slight tartness of the creme was the perfect foil for the lightly sweet cake. 

It made a lovely dessert served warm out of the oven and, the next morning after our walk, it was a lovely mid-morning snack.  

Before we put on our walking shoes, My Beloved set up the coffee while I put our slices and coffee mugs into the warming drawer; the cake was just warm when we returned. He touched off the button on the coffee maker and in minutes we were sitting down to hot, creamy coffee and light, fresh cake. Have I mentioned that I love, love, love the warming drawer?

You can find the recipe by following the link above to The Tough Cookie and using the recipe roster to find the cake. The only thing I would add to it is that it took fully 30 minutes longer to bake than the recipe said. If you make it, check at the time stated in the recipe but don't be surprised if it takes longer for your cake tester to come out clean.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Briny Brother

When my Hawaii brother was here to celebrate My Beloved's birthday last fall, we rode the ferry over to the Ferry Building in San Francisco where we purchased a couple of killer brined pork chops. They were simply amazing, moist and flavorful and wonderfully porky, but with undertones of salt and sweet and herb.

Apparently, that bro has been thinking about them ever since because, last week, he sent me his recipe for brine to try. I followed his recipe to the letter; after two days of brining, I seared the chops in a pan and finished them in a 350 degree F oven.

Maybe it's because this brother lives in Hawaii, but both My Beloved and I thought the chops had a sort of mild teriyaki vibe, not as sticky and sweet, nor as gingery and garlicky, but just suggesting palm trees and soft, warm breezes with every bite. Ono!

I'd happily make these again, and next time I'd add an herbal note adding to the brine a bay leaf, or perhaps some thyme. They were delicious as is, but I'm a tinkerer by nature.

So, while the clouds hang heavy over the bay, brine up some chops and send a mental "Aloha!" to my briny brother as you dream of sandy beaches.

Whiting's Brined Pork Chops

6 boneless loin pork chops (I used bone-in, as I think they have even better flavor)
2 cups water
1 cup apple cider or apple juice
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/8 cup rock salt (I used kosher)

About 2 teaspoons butter

Mix water, cider, syrup, and salt in an airtight container or plastic bag, making sure the salt has dissolved. Add the pork chops and brine in the fridge for 2 days, turning them occasionally to redistribute the brine.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt butter in a hot pan and sear the chops on one side until nicely browned. Flip them and put the pan directly into the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, until they are done but still  lightly pink inside. Serve with pan juices poured over the chops.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Spur-Of-The-Moment Scones

One of the best things about scones, aside from their adaptability to a wide variety of ingredients, is that you can think of scones one minute and be eating them less than twenty minutes later, hot and fresh from the oven. 

That's exactly what happened to me the other morning. We awoke to a blue sky - yes, people! Blue! - and that set the mood for the whole day. We tumbled out of bed and into the kitchen to make coffee, to sit and admire the blue sky and even bluer bay water out the windows. 

And I thought, "This would be perfect with scones."

So, while My Beloved made the coffee and put mugs and plates into the warming drawer, I pulled out Molly Wizenberg's wonderful book,"A Homemade Life," and turned to page 174 in the hardcover edition for her scone recipe. I had some sadly flavorless nectarines that needed eating, so I decided to use them in place of the ginger, and to enhance their lacklusterocity with some allspice and brown sugar.

I made the scones by Molly's recipe, but before adding the chunks of nectarine, I tossed them in a combination of brown sugar mixed with allspice so the sugar and spice coated the fruit. The tactic was a success - my sadly flat fruit was jazzed up and, in the oven, it made little pockets of juicy, sweet, spiced goodness.

Molly's recipe makes medium-sized scones, just right for a mid-morning snack, rather than the huge, heavy ones you get in most coffee shops. Next time you awake to a blue, blue sky, consider making some spur-of-the-moment scones.

Nectarine and Allspice Scones, thanks to Molly Wizenberg

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons (2 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup half-and-half, plus more for glazing
1 large egg

2 nectarines, pitted and cut into 1/2" chunks
2 Tablespoons brown sugar (less if your nectarines are sweet)
1 teaspoon allspice

Mix the allspice and brown sugar together in a small bowl with a whisk until well combined. Toss the fruit chunks in the mixture and set aside while you make the scone dough.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Using your hands, rub the butter into the flour mixture, squeezing and pinching with your fingertips until the mixture resembles a coarse meal and there are no butter lumps larger than a pea. Add the sugar and whisk to incorporate. Add the nectarine chunks and toss with your hands to distribute more or less evenly.

Pour 1/2 cup half-and-half into a small bowl or measuring cup and add the egg. Beat with a fork to mix well. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture, and stir gently to just combine. The dough will look dry and shaggy, and there may be some unincorporated flour at the bottom of the bowl. Don't worry about that. Using your hands, squeeze and press the dough into a rough mass. 

Turn the dough, and any excess flour, out onto a board or countertop, and press and gather and knead it until it just comes together. You don't want to overwork the dough; ideally, do not knead more than 12 times. Pat into a rough circle about 1" thick. Cut the circle into 8 wedges and plates them on your parchment-lined baking sheet. 

Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the scones with a thin coat of half-and-half to glaze. Bake for 10-14 minutes, or until pale golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly, but serve warm, with butter, if you like.

They can be wrapped airtight for a day or two but for longer storage, freeze. Before serving, bring them to room temperature, then reheat briefly in a 300 degree F oven. Best served warm.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Food To Mourn By

My cooking for the past several weeks has gone to pot. I have done quick and easy, not long and careful, ever since we lost Cora. So, there wasn't much to show you or to talk about for a while there. But, it helped to babysit our neighbor's dog, Sandy, for a few days while she took her mother away for a long weekend of girlie fun and, slowly, we are starting to expect a quiet house with no ecstatic greeting when we return home. It's a cliché, but life does go on.

We have been having a series of cool, windy, overcast days when the fog clears only briefly in the early afternoon. I'd normally bitch about that but it suited our mood, so what the heck. It gave me an excuse to dive back into comfort foods when we really needed comfort. One of the best I made was Jacques Pépin's White Bean and Ham Stew. Called "garbure," it's a hearty dish from Southwestern France. The link above will take you to the real recipe - I made some changes since I didn't have all the ingredients nor the energy to go out and get them. I think M. Pépin's original recipe, which I used as an outline for how to proceed, would probably be better than mine, but even my bastardized version is tasty and deeply satisfying.

I started with dried beans and, seeking to dispel some of the inevitable gas, soaked them in two changes of water over two days before composing the stew in my crockpot. I had a ham hock in the freezer, so I thawed that and used only the one in a large pot of stew; happily, it flavored the entire pot with smoky goodness. 

I wouldn't have thought of adding potatoes or root veggies to a bean dish, but we liked all the bland flavors and varying textures. Tasty, but not challenging, it is good food to mourn by.

White Bean and Ham Stew with Cheesy Toasts

1.5 cups small white beans, such as Navy beans, sorted and rinsed, and soaked for two days (If you don't have two days, just cook the beans longer in more water)
1 smoked ham hock
1 large carrot, cut into 1/2" chunks
1 large onion, cut into wedges through the stem end
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2" chunks
8-10 radishes, large ones halved
6-8 small round potatoes, large ones halved or quartered
Salt, pepper

Rustic bread, toasted
1 clove garlic, cut in half sideways
Swiss or gruyere cheese

After soaking the beans for a day or two, pour off the soaking water and add the beans, the ham hock, and water to barely cover to your crock pot. Cook on high until the beans begin to be tender - mine took four hours - then remove the ham hock to a cutting board, peel off the skin and discard, and chop the meat into small, pieces, discarding bones and gristly bits. Return the meat to the bean pot with the vegetables and continue cooking until the beans and veggies are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Toast slices of a rustic bread such as Pain au Levain, rub with cut side of the garlic, and top with cheese. Place them on a baking sheet and run them briefly under the broiler to melt the cheese. 

Scoop the bean stew into shallow bowls and serve with warm toasts.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Love And Loss

This is how I will remember her, alert and beautiful and eager for a walk, with her absurdly large paws planted on the broken pavement of our alley, ready to race away as soon as she sees that both members of her small flock are coming. 

We explored the avenues of palliative care but found none that would restore even a modicum of the energy you can see in the picture. All the options amounted only to a few more weeks, and sad, tired, painful weeks they would have been. 

Better to let her go. 

Whenever I lose one of my pets, I like to think I am sending them to my Mom in heaven, and she will take care of them until I get there. There are a lot of assumptions in those ideas, but I take comfort in them anyway. Yes, Mom is there. Yes, she will love caring for my pets. And, yes, one day I can join them.

We spent the last few days feeding her all kinds of things to perk up her failing appetite, stinky French cheese, bacon, hamburger. She was delighted with all the treats and the visits from neighbors who stopped in to give her a last pat. I brushed her beautiful coat twice, just for the pleasure of feeling her warm fur.

A very caring vet came to the house and was greeted, as so many have been before her, with that lazy wag of the tail and a nose in the crotch. Cora liked to get to know people intimately right away and, since most crotches were conveniently nose-height, she took full advantage. 

We fed her hot dogs while they gave her the shot to make her sleepy, and My Beloved and I were both on the floor with her when she slipped away, our tears splashing down on her white muzzle. We shared some tears and some stories with the vet and her helper before we cut some hydrangeas from the garden to send her off to heaven. We are ridiculously sentimental about this dog and always have been; she was just that kind of dog.

Her ashes will come back in a few weeks to be put in the garden along with those of my two cats who shared this house when we first moved in. On the advice of a close friend, I have printed her picture to keep in the corner where I have a changing display of family photos. None of that fills the gap left by a cold nose and those soft, bendy ears, but it serves as a reminder of how much we have to learn about friendship from a good dog.

She and I met a man out walking his dog in the last week and, as he stopped to pat her and remark upon her beauty, I told him about our troubles in that odd way we can share with total strangers over the backs of dogs who are busy sniffing each others' butts. He said something very true that evening, "They teach us about love and they teach us about loss."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Dogs and Weddings

Wow, it has been some little while since I visited here and wrote about our doings, mainly because we've been so very busy. It has been all about dogs and weddings for months now. First, we kept our neighbor, Doreen's, dog so she could have a carefree week with her best buddies. Sandy is a scrappy little terrier mix whom we call The Sheriff - she keeps everyone in line on our little street. That's her in the photo below, on the right, with her two besties, our Cora and Riva from next door on the other side.  She wasn't happy to be left with us and it took her a few days to settle in, but eventually she decided we were better than nothing. Now, she comes right in and lies down whenever the front door is left open.

Next, we went to Delaware to the wedding of my Fairy Goddaughter - we are hugging in the photo up top. She has been special to me all of her young life, so when she found Mr. Exactly Right, we just had to be there to celebrate. I love this photo with all my wrinkles juxtaposed with her smooth, young skin - taken by their very talented wedding photographer. That time, our Cora stayed with Doreen - what goes around comes around in our world. 

While we were at that wedding, we were invited to another wedding in the same family, a sort of spur-of-the-moment wedding of two youngsters who have been together for about five years and decided to make it official on Maui. 

The following week.

Well, we never miss a chance to celebrate beautiful youngsters or to go Hawaii, so we got home, repacked our bags with bright Hawaiian attire, dropped Cora off again with Doreen, and headed west for another lovely ceremony and five days of visiting and touring on Maui.

When we got home, we noted that the very slight limp Cora had when we left had not responded to the meds and rest that the vet prescribed, so we took her back for X-rays to see if they could diagnose the problem more exactly. 

Our world was rocked when the X-rays showed a large mass in her chest and lots of fluid accumulated that was making her breathing shallow. So, we are now between the rock of wanting to keep her as long as we can and the hard place of not wanting her to suffer. 

We are grateful that we had all that joy before all this sorrow, as a buffer from the difficult choices facing us today. I'll let you know what happens. In the meantime, give your pets an extra hug from me.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hot Spring Dinner

One of the quirks of weather in northern California is that our hottest days come in the spring and the fall, rather than in the summer. In summer, the fog rolls in from the ocean, cooling and cleaning the air so we have overcast mornings that give way to bright afternoons, but the temperature doesn't have time to climb.

In the spring and fall, however, the fog retreats out to sea and we have sunshine from morning until night, raising the temperatures to the point where those who have lived here a long time start to complain of the heat. We like to call them "Dangerous UV Ray Days" to hide the fact that we love all that light. Of course, people from Hawaii or the East coast would not call this hot - 75-80 degrees F doesn't qualify as hot to most folks. But we Bay area wimps are used to very even temperatures winter to summer, so we suffer when the thermometer goes above 75.

As it did last week. The pasta dinner I had in mind was jettisoned in favor of something cooler, namely shrimp tacos. This is my new favorite dinner.

I warmed the tortillas (we use a half corn/half flour tortilla that has good flavor), chopped cherry tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, and green onion and put them on a pretty Mexican pottery platter that I got in Arizona when visiting my pals Annie and Jim. All that was left to do was take the frozen shrimp from the freezer (I used peeled and deveined), sauté it in a little butter and Mexican blend seasoning until the water from the shrimp evaporated and the butter caused the spices to stick to the shrimp, pile all that onto the tortillas and pass the Cholula hot sauce. Oh, and I put some creme fraiche on mine but My Beloved doesn't care for crema or creme fraiche or sour cream on his.

You can see the beautiful evening light slanting across those colorful tacos. Just the perfect thing for a hot spring dinner.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Harvey The Hero Dog

When I was growing up, Pheasant Under Glass was considered the highest of elegant dining. I have no idea what Pheasant Under Glass was, but whenever anyone spoke of the highest cuisine, it was mentioned. So, on my latest trip to visit my dear friends in Michigan, you can imagine I was pretty impressed to be offered some pheasant to take home. "It's a lot like chicken," our hosts assured me, "just be careful when you chew it, as there may be bird shot in the meat."


Undaunted, when I got home, I opened one of the packages and went looking on the interwebs for recipes I might be able to make. The first night, I made a risotto with mushrooms, roast asparagus, and pheasant. It was good but not great - that one needs some work and I'd rather wait and tell you about it when it's wonderful than now when it's just sort of "meh." What went wrong?  Well, it wasn't the pheasant, which was tender, moist, and mild - it was the rest of the recipe. First, I'd use bacon fat in lieu of the butter next time, and lemon juice instead of wine for the astringent part - both would have offered more flavor and enhanced the delicate meat. I'd also use brown rather than button mushrooms for a more woodsy flavor. Stand by for that recipe one of these days.

The next day, I used the rest of the package to make a salad for lunch, slicing the cold, sautéed breasts as the protein in a kitchen-sink salad. Delish! And, by the way, there was no bird shot in this particular package, although I reminded My Beloved before each meal to chew with caution.

And what was the source of all this elegant poultry?  It was Harvey, the Wonder Dog. Harvey is our friends' shiny black lab, a complete couch potato (that's him in his favorite chair) until the guns come out. When Ray puts on his hunting clothes and pulls out the shotguns, Harvey becomes a whole other dog, eager and excited and rarin' to go.  The day the guys went out to hunt, Harvey flushed up at least 60 pheasants for the men to shoot (they came home with about 40 - not bad!). Harvey caught four or five of them himself! The pheasant who thinks it will avoid the guns by running along the ground doesn't understand that Harvey will simply chase it down, give it a quick shake to kill it instantly, and bring it back to place it gently in Ray's hand. Harvey was the hero of the day.

Pip, the rat terrier, stayed home snuggled in his blanket. 

Meanwhile, the ladies had a lovely wedding shower for my Fairy Goddaughter that was planned jointly by her mother and her sister. We had lunch and oohed and aahed over her shower gifts, played a few silly games, and had a fine time catching up with her Michigan friends. 

On my last day in Michigan, I was blessed with a late spring snow, the kind of quiet snow that falls with no wind whatsoever, so it sticks beautifully to every tree and surface in a silent blanket of white. The maple tree outside the window has raised red buds, ready at any moment to open with maple flowers, so the snow made a lovely contrast against the swelling buds. While I can't say I miss winter in the midwest, I was thrilled by the beauty of the snowfall.

People in California are always a little surprised that I love Michigan so much. Little do they know that the landscape is like home to me, one of the few places in my ever-changing Navy life that was constant, and the friends there are lifelong friends, literally met in the playpen and kept all these years later. One reads a good deal about how tough times are in Michigan right now - and they are - but the midwestern ethic will pull them through and there will always be peaceful snows to gladden the heart and big, goofy black dogs to bring pheasants to the table.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Cultural Exchange

I spent the Easter weekend thinking about family traditions, my own and others. Growing up, our Easters began Mass first to celebrate the Resurrection after the long season of Lent, followed by what seemed to me (small heathen that I was) to be the real celebration, my father's Easter basket hunt with rhyming clues and much hilarity. He wrote the most awful doggerel into his clues ("Roses are red, violets are blue, go and look, in Daddy's left shoe") and we loved reading them and running to each new place around the house and garden to find the next folded paper with his distinctive handwriting and whimsical poetry on it. Until, finally, we would find our Easter baskets (when young) at the end or a big box of Whitman's candy for the whole family once we were older. I don't know if our tradition was followed in my Dad's family, or if it was his invention, but I have kept it alive with my Fairy Godchildren and plan to do it for our grandchildren, too.

This year, My Beloved and I were invited to experience our first Passover Seder dinner, complete with traditional foods and prayers. Our hosts provided everything for the dinner so, after consulting with my other best Jewish pal, Janie, about an appropriate gift, we brought flowers for the party.

And what a party it was!  Our hosts explained all the items on the Seder plate, each with its story and meaning, carefully prepared and placed in the center of the table. We opened the Haggadahs that Jeff's mother had brought along with her perky little dog who spent the dinner tucked behind her in the dining chair. The little dog may not have been part of the tradition, but she was a welcome addition. We recited traditional prayers and responses, beautiful words that called for peace, for sympathy with the currently enslaved, and for action to help whenever possible.

During the recitation of the story of the Jews' release from slavery and their wandering in the desert for forty years before finding their promised land, I was struck by the analogy to our two hosts, who each spent the early years of their lives alone before finding a sort of "land of milk and honey" in each other.

We tasted all the different flavors, new to us - the sweet wine, the bitter herbs, the salt water to dip the parsley in, the gefilte fish, the matzo ball soup, the chopped liver, the Charoset made with apples and nuts, the roasted brisket, all the flavors I had heard about but never experienced. Our favorites were the matzo ball soup that Sari made (the matzo balls were light and lovely and the broth rich with chicken flavor), the Charoset of apples and nuts that Mrs. Heyman made, and the brisket that Jeff made, but perhaps the true highlight of the meal were the macaroons Jeff baked from scratch for the dessert. Made with almonds, walnuts, sugar, and eggs, they were a sweet ending to a lovely tradition. We even got to bring some home. Shalom, and thank you, Heyman family!

The next day, Easter Sunday, we were invited to join My Beloved's family for a non-traditional Easter, but very Californian, dinner of ribs lovingly smoked by our s-i-l, André, and the very traditional Easter egg hunt for the children in the back yard. We were pleasantly surprised by a quick visit before dinner from the girls' cousin, Brandon and his daughter June and his Dad, down from Seattle and out from New York city. While the children played, we enjoyed catching up with their doings. So fitting to have far-flung family around on Easter!

I had made hot cross buns for the dinner and granddaughter Mia helped me to decorate them with icing. We got a little creative with the "crosses," so we dubbed them "star buns" or "octopus buns" instead. They were lovely, a Martha Stewart recipe to which I added some allspice, richly spiced, dotted generously with currants, and only lightly sweet. That's a tradition I think we will keep, year after year.

My own Easter tradition is to tell the following riddle in honor of my father who art in heaven. He loved corny jokes, and so do I. This one always rolls out on Easter in my house.

Q. What do you get when you pour steaming water down a rabbit hole?

A. Hot, cross, bunnies! (I know - groan!)

What are your Easter/Passover traditions? Whatever they are, be sure to keep them going - they are the stuff of family joy.