Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Charoset-Inspired Baked Passover Apples


It's a feature of my personality, not to want to miss out on anything. I struggle with decisions, because I know that choosing to do one thing means choosing not to do a host of other things. This is especially difficult for me around holiday times, because with little kids around, doing everything is totally impossible. And what's more important? That they have a well-planned craft for each day of Holy Week, or that I remember to take time to sit down and just read the Story with them? To make sure their little minds are absorbing just a little more of the mystery we celebrate this week?

Amid the chaos of extra church services, cleaning, shopping, and redecorating, I'm trying to cultivate calm. I'm reminding myself that family traditions aren't built in one year, but over a lifetime.

One spring, when I was in seventh or eighth grade, our church hosted a Passover seder. It was the first time I had been exposed to beautiful rituals of this ancient Jewish feast, and I was blown away. As we read the questions, ate the symbolic foods, and drank sips of wine, I saw in a totally new way what Jesus had done. How he had fulfilled centuries' worth of prophecy. I was moved and changed.

Every year, I feel a tug to celebrate the Passover like that again, with matzah, bitter herbs, four cups of wine, and the Haggadah to guide us through it. This year, with a 5-month-old and a 3-year-old, though, I decided that all the careful work and planning I would have to complete to make this meal happen would just end up in my frustration over their inability to appreciate it. I'm going to wait. Maybe next year. (Ann Voskamp has a wonderful post about her family's Seder here.)

But instead of giving up on the idea entirely, I made a seder-inspired meal for Palm Sunday dinner. I would have loved to have it on Holy Thursday, in memory of the seder Jesus celebrated with His disciples before He died, but again - elaborate dinner on a weeknight ups my chances of ending up in tears, so I did what I could to keep both this feast and my sanity.


The menu:

Broiled lamb chops
Greek salad (with lots of parsley)
Baked apples and vanilla ice cream

Charoset is a paste made from apples, nuts, honey or sugar, and red wine, and it's a traditional part of the seder plate; its texture represents the mortar the Israelites used when they were enslaved in Egypt. Here's a traditional recipe.


Charoset-Inspired Baked Passover Apples

5 Fuji apples, cored
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the apples in a baking dish with a lid. Combine the wine, water, sugar, and cinnamon stick in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, walnuts, and cinnamon, and spoon the mixture into the center of the apples. Top each apple with a small piece of butter, right on top of the filling. Pour the wine around the apples, cover, and bake for about 45 minutes, until soft.

Friday, March 11, 2016

What's In Our Easter Baskets {Shining Light Dolls + Book GIVEAWAY!}


Lent seems to go in three phases around here:

1) Overzealous: "I'm going to give up bread and coffee and sugar and Facebook and TV and laughing and chocolate and alcohol. And gossiping and complaining. It's going to be my BEST LENT EVER!"

2) Despondent: "Why am I alive? Why am I so desperately weak? Jesus went 40 days without food or shelter in the desert, and then died on the Cross, and I can't even make it through an entire day at home with my kids without tearfully contemplating cocktail hour. I'm a miserable human being."

3) EASTER BASKET SHOPPING. Also coincides (at least this year) with tolerably warm weather and actual living things popping out of the ground.

We're deep into phase three, I'm happy to report, having barely survived phase two. And I wanted to share the contents of our baskets with you! I also have an opportunity for three (3) lucky winners to receive the three latest Shining Light Dolls (Our Lady of Kibeho, Our Lady of China, and Our Lady of Aparecida), and a copy of "The Virgin Mary Around the World," a board book created by the creative genius behind Shining Light Dolls, my sweet and talented friend Chantal Baros.

Inside our baskets:

Anne (3):
Eleanor (almost 6 months):
We're also going to give them the three new Shining Light Dolls. Faith formation for little kids seems to be most successful if it's just mixed in with everything else, like it's not a big deal. An undetectable part of their family life. Among my girls' toys, you will find the usual suspects (Anna and Elsa, Cinderella, Snow White, Ariel), along with Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Patrick, and St. Nicholas. Our religious books are mixed in with all the other picture books. Conversations about faith happen naturally that way. I like it!


Shining Light Dolls are beautiful, sturdy, and safe and fun for all ages to play with! Baby Eleanor loves them as a teething toy and Anne loves to use them to play pretend games. We love love love them! The designer, Chantal, releases a few more designs a couple times a year. She is doing such a great job, filling a gap for beautiful, cool toys that teach kids (and adults) about our faith. While I'm teaching my daughters, I'm also learning! I had never even heard of the majority of the apparitions of Mary featured in the book. There's always more to explore, and the book and dolls are just a jumping off point.

I'll also say, with all the hubbub lately about Barbies and other dolls in different shapes, sizes, and colors, these dolls are a breath of fresh air for my impressionable girls. Body shape? Irrelevant (hooray!). Cultural diversity? NAILED IT. 

Enough talking. You NEED to see them!!

Our Lady of Kibeho:



Our Lady of Aparecida:



Our Lady of China:



You want them, right? OF COURSE YOU DO. Jump in the Rafflecopter to win - make sure to get your entries completed by midnight on Tuesday! Three lucky winners will be chosen on Wednesday, so they'll get to you in plenty of time for Easter. Good luck!

{UPDATE} The giveaway is closed! Congratulations to Heather, Maryann, and Trish! Check your email for details on how to claim your prize! :)

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