Happy Passover Cake

I'm jumping on the bandwagon & singing the praises of Nigella Lawsons clementine cake. I first encountered the recipe on Seven Spoons and noticed it again over at Smitten Kitchen. There were small variations in the recipe with each encounter, and I, in turn, have made a few changes myself.

Tonight is the first night of Passover, and minus the baking powder, this is a perfect Passover dessert... Happy Passover!

Nigella Lawsons Clementine Cake (a la Passover)

4 clementines (the original recipe calls for 1 lb.)
6 eggs
1 cup plus 2 TBL sugar
2 1/2 cups ground almonds
a pinch of salt
2 tsp. vanilla (optional)
(note: I've omitted 1 heaping tsp. baking powder as called for in the original recipe to make this cake kosher for Passover)

Put clementines in a pot of cold water to cover, bring to a boil and simmer for 2 hours. Drain and when cool, cut each clementine in half & remove seeds. Finely chop the skins, pith, and fruit in the processor (or by hand, of course).

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Butter and line an 8 or 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

Beat the eggs. Add the sugar, almonds, and (optional) baking powder. Mix well, adding the chopped clementines.

Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, when a skewer will come out clean; you might have to cover the cake with foil after about 30 minutes to stop the top from over-browning.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pan on a rack. When the cake is cold, you can take it out of the pan. Ta daaaa!


Leaving the Window Open

A few months ago I was walking my Little Mr. to school and he asked in a serious little voice, "Would you leave the window open for me?" Without any context, this was a strange question. To get clarification I reflected the question back, "Leave the window open for you?" and then I understood. "You're thinking of the story of Peter Pan where Peter flies out the window as a baby (because all babies can fly) and then returns home after a few years to find his mother has given up hope for him and closed the window?" (note: this is not in the Disney version but it's in the original J.M. Barrie book.) "Yes, that's right," confirmed Little Mr., "So, would you leave the window open for me?" I told him that, if he flew out the window, I would (just like Mrs. Darling) sit by the open window all day and sleep by the open window all night, until he came home.

When my Little Mr. was a baby I would sit staring at his sleeping face and think to myself, "You, my baby, will someday break my heart." I imagined a hundred ways he could break my heart. The list started with him saying he hated me and ended with him moving to China without leaving a forwarding address. I never, in all those moments of watching his sleeping face, imagined the beautiful and sweet ways he would break my heart. How could I have imagined he would break my heart by asking whether I would leave the window open?



I used to think squirrels were cute until we moved to this house and started our garden. The moment we put plants in the ground the squirrels started digging them up. One morning, in an undignified fit of fury, I flung open the back door, pulled off a slipper and flung it at a digging squirrel. The squirrel did not flinch (I have really bad aim), so I flung my other slipper, then my socks and then a pair of gardening clogs. I swear that squirrel was laughing at me (Mr. Bloom was definitely laughing...)

When I started feeding the birds in my yard last autumn, I bought "squirrel proof" feeders (I was determined to make my garden as inhospitable as possible to them.) Then one day I saw a squirrel eating niger-thistle from the goldfinch feeder. Squirrels do not like niger-thistle. That squirrel must have been really hungry and I felt sorry for it. Off I went to the seed & feed store to buy a squirrel feeder (It's bluejay-proof... I'm still not feeling hospitable towards them.)

Truly, I'm glad my garden is now a welcoming place for all these little creatures. My son and I have sat on my bed for hours looking out the window at the birds and squirrels. Our favorites are the pointy-headed little titmice, but lately, there's a tiny wren who's won our hearts. And I have to say, my heart warms towards those squirrels when my son says, "Today was my lucky day... I got to see three squirrels eat our peanuts!"

We feed the finches, wrens, chickadees, titmice, juncos, doves, robins, towhees, sparrows, hummingbirds and squirrels. If you come to my garden, I will feed you, too...


Bread Mice

We have many favorite baking projects in my house, but the most beloved is bread mice. The first time we made them we laughed and laughed at how fat our little mice grew when they were set out to rise before baking. That night, as I put Little Mr. B. to bed, he whispered to me that he had had the best day of his life. When I asked him why, he answered, "Because those fat bread mice were just so funny!"

This is the recipe we use, but frankly, any bread recipe would probably be fine (I think whole wheat bread dough would make lovely, light brown & speckled mice!)

1 cup warm-to-the wrist water
2 TBL room temp. butter
1 egg
3 1/4 cups flour (plus maybe a little extra for kneading)
1/4 cup sugar or honey
1 tsp salt
1 packet (or 1 TBL) yeast
1/8 tsp turmeric for color
currents (or small pile of raisins, cut in half)

Pour warm water into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle yeast over it. Allow to sit until yeast starts to "bloom" (about 10 minutes.) Meanwhile, gather and measure all other ingredients. Whisk turmeric and salt in with the flour (the turmeric makes the mice a pretty yellow color -- you can omit the turmeric if you wish.) As soon as the yeast starts to really get blooming, mix in the butter, egg, and sugar (or honey), then add the flour one cup at a time. When the dough seems to form a ball and is starting to look dry enough to knead, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes (or if your little one has been at your side all along, pouring and mixing the ingredients, then it's time for your little one to knead!)

After kneading, place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a dishcloth, place in a warm spot and allow to rise approx. 1 hour (or until double in size.) Punch down, invite your child to knead for another few minutes and then form dough into 1 1/2 inch balls. Stretch the front of the ball to create a tear-drop shape. With a clean scissors, make a tiny snip at the tip of the drop and pinch a current inside the cut (making a small cut in the dough exposes a sticky interior -- your currents will stick better.) Then, just above and slightly to the sides of the little nose make 2 more snips and pinch in your mouse's eyes. Finally, take your scissor and make 2 very deep cuts behind the eyes.
Place mice 2" apart on a greased pan and allow to rise approx. 45 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and bake 10-12 minutes.



The Chickadees are Nesting! The Chickadees are Nesting!

Oh, how I love my garden this time of year... First there are the little, yellow jonquils, then the birds start nesting and there is a second wave of blooming bulbs. Some of my favorite bulbs are the ones with wide, white petals and flat, round, orange centers (daffodil tazetta geranium.) To me, they look like fried eggs and so I always think of them as "fried egg" flowers. Finally, to cap off the joys of spring, the bearded irises bloom around our finial (you can see their hardy leaves in the photo above...)

But, back to those nesting birds... a few days ago, from my bedroom window, I spotted a chickadee pulling fiber from a wool ball I had hung in a tree near our feeders. I dashed across the hall to my son's room where, out the window, we have a view of one of our bird houses hanging from a large oak tree. I arrived at the window just in time to see the chickadee, a beak full of fuzz, flit into the bird house opening. I went calling for Sweet Child and Sweet Husband, and we all sat on the bed watching the industrious little bird zip back and forth, building a nest. I'm so happy to know there will be a little bird family growing inside that nesting box...

Above is another of our bird houses -- last year a family of titmice nested here. I hope they're planning to return...



It was a busy weekend around here. My parents drove up from Los Angeles to take care of Little Mr. so Mr. Bloom & I could go to the Ballet in SF (and eat at Arlequin Cafe) on Saturday night. They came up for a visit between my father being diagnosed with lymphoma last week and starting chemotherapy tomorrow. Coming to visit was a good thing for my parents. They've been trying to stay busy.

While they were here we went to the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park and Samuel played with the penguins. If you slide your fingers around on the plexiglass, sometimes the penguins will follow your movement!

My father also brought us some home-made kumquat jam (like I said, he's been trying to stay busy.)

If you're reading this and so inclined, I hope you'll keep my father in your thoughts tomorrow and in the months ahead...