Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Charoset-Inspired Baked Passover Apples

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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.

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The menu:

Broiled lamb chops
Pilaf
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.

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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.

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