halva magic bars

Hello from my first week back to blogging life after seven weeks of filming and three months of maternity leave! Season 4 is officially in the bag (and scheduled to premiere on September 8th!), and after a one-day trip to New York earlier this week to make turkey on the Today Show, I am home and ready to figure out this whole test-noodle-kugel-recipes-while-Bernie-is-singing-Baby-Beluga-with-Grandma-in-the-living-room thing. It’s gonna be great! I’m gonna squish her cheeks anytime I want!

The Season 4 shoot was so much fun. It really was like summer camp: we had movie night under the stars, a wiener-fueled bonfire, bourekas in a wheat field, and a dance party with backstreet boys and a disco ball and everything. On the weekends we sat on the beach and invented new uses for the word gourmet. (“Are you wearing a Juicy velour robe? That is so gourmet!” “Did you just get very extravagant nail art? How gourmet!” Basically: fancy but not trendy, and nothing at all to do with food.) On the last day, I got Iced and that was that. I miss the crew so much already.

One of my faaaaavorite recipes from this season were the Halva magic bars that I made for an episode that’s an ode to Midwestern potlucks. Every potluck around here has to have a bar- a brownie, blondie, lemon square, cookie bar, etc. I grew up calling these desserts by their specific names but here they’re all just lumped into one big geometrically pleasing category that is the centerpiece for my go-to sample of a Midwest accent (“Are you going to bring the bars, Marge?” where the “ar” sounds a little pirate-y… aim for the back of your mouth and you’ll see what I mean.)

Magic bars, or 7-layer bars (tomato/tomahto), are one of the top three bars of all time. They are dangerously delicious and they’re magic because you make them by just piling everything into a pan. You don’t have to mix anything in a bowl or soften butter or commit any real effort, they’re so easy and the return is so great that it honestly feels like you’re cheating the world. 

The classic magic bar has butter, graham cracker crumbs, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, pecans, sweetened condensed milk and shredded coconut, but in a painfully predictable move, I’ve subbed out the butterscotch for crumbled halva and the pecans for pistachios. And of course the condensed milk was just begging for some rosewater (it gets topped with coconut, can you blame me?!). Listen, one day I’ll make something that doesn’t feature the holy combination of coconut + rosewater + pistachio + halvah but, like, today’s not that day. And neither is tomorrow. 

The result is a bar that’s just as chewy and gooey and amazing as the original, but with a little more color: nuttiness and flakiness from the halvah, greenery and saltiness from the pistachios, floral notes from the rosewater, and pretty pops of pink from the optional rose petals on top. It’s a Midwestern/Middle Eastern mashup that was bound to happen at some point because all of these flavors work so darn well together. Proceed with caution because you will want to eat the whole batch immediately. Luckily storing them in the fridge makes them even better because it makes them chewier, so hide them in the back behind the carrots and just eat a carrot every time you go in for a bar. They’ll cancel each other out.


Halva Magic Bars

makes 20

ingredients

1/2 c (113g) unsalted butter

9 graham cracker rectangles (1 package)

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 c (175g) chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips

1 1/2 c (226g) crumbled halva

1 c (120g) roasted pistachios

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk or sweetened condensed coconut milk

1 tsp rosewater

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/3 c (160g) sweetened shredded coconut

2 tb dried rose petals, optional

clues

Preheat oven to 350ºf. Grease a 9 x 13 pan and line the bottom with parchment. Add the butter and stick it in the oven for a few minutes so the butter melts. Meanwhile, crush the graham crackers by putting them in a large ziploc bag and smashing with a rolling pin or blending in a food processor. When the butter’s melted, swirl it around the bottom of the pan and scatter the graham cracker crumbs evenly all over (you’re not actually making a full on graham cracker crust, don’t worry about packing it down or anything).  Sprinkle with salt, then sprinkle the chocolate chips, halva, and pistachios all over. Pour a little of the condensed milk on top and then add the rosewater and vanilla to the remaining condensed milk and mix it in. Pour it evenly all over the pan. Sprinkle the coconut on top and rose petals, if using. Bake until edges are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool fully (ideally overnight or for a few hours in the fridge) before cutting into bars. Enjoy!

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for a good few days.


Rainbow Cake with Strawberry Buttercream + My Blog is Ten!

10 years ago this week, this blog was born! I feel like I should make a speech?? I’m terrible at speeches (see: the time I officiated Stoop’s wedding and made the speech about farts), but I’ll give it a try anyway because I’ve been getting a little emotional reflecting on these past 10 years and thinking about how much fun and fulfilling it’s been to keep this blog. She’s been with me through so much! My bangs and eyeliner phase, my schnitzel eating phase, my lunch packing bike riding phase! The first layer cake I ever made is buried in these archives, as is the first recipe I ever wrote. I blogged about my first date with Eggboy, our move to the farm, our wedding, our Bernie... I’ve made so many of my closest friends through my blog and documented adventure after adventure after weeeeeeird adventure. And seriously now that I think of it, I really would have no friends here if I didn’t meet them through my blog haha. 

This blog has led to my book and my show and helped me cobble together a job that I wake up every day excited to go to and I couldn’t be more grateful for that. I am also so extremely grateful for the connections I’ve made to you. I feel like I have pen pals all over the world! The internet and social media world has changed so much in the past 10 years (can you believe that this constituted a blog post back in the day?!) and it’ll continue to change but this blog is like a roach, it’ll never die because it’s my diary and since I was 7, I haven’t been able to *not* keep a diary. I just have always had this wild urge to document, no matter how normal my week was.

Thank you for being here and reading and following along and sending over your sweet comments. You really do make the world feel like a smaller warmer cozier place. 

Ok that’s the end of my speech, I’m done being mushy, let’s celebrate with cake!!!

This is my first layer cake postpartum! Making it was a journey. it took like three days! I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to, with all of my time now spent singing Baby Beluga and changing diapers, but finally I put Bernie in the sling and committed. We walked around the house collecting ingredients and remembering where I put the measuring spoons, and the stand mixer white noise sound was like music to her ears. I stuck some cake scraps under her nose so she could smell them and I think she liked it! I also tried to make the colors good and bright so that she could appreciate them. 

I am so happy with the end result, both aesthetically and texturally. I was admittedly nervous about the texture since adding food coloring to batter requires so much extra stirring (and an over-stirred batter can lead to a gummy weird cake) but I ended up basically saving the last stir until I divided the batter between the six bowls and added the food coloring, and that kept the texture just how I like it: fluffy, dense, and moist! This cake is sooo rich, delicious, buttery, and sweet. I like adding coconut oil in addition to butter to up the richness. I typically use refined coconut oil, which doesn’t have any coconutty flavor, but this time I went with unrefined and the tiny hint of coconut flavor was so good, almost almondy. The frosting is flavored with a plop of strawberry preserves which adds a hint of sourness that balances the sweetness quite nicely. I loved eating this cake! I would have eaten way too much of it if I didn’t have the Girl Meets Farm crew here to share it with. 

The colors that I used were all Americolor and in ROYGBV order, they are: chili pepper, pumpkin, dijon, moss, wedgewood, and eggplant. In another world I would have maybe tried to go the all-natural coloring route with matcha and freeze dried berries and turmeric but there was only so much Baby Beluga singing time that I was able to give up so I figured this was an OK compromise!

Obvi you can forego the food coloring all together and just make a hella good vanilla cake with strawberry frosting and maybe even add a layer of strawberry preserves between the cake layers, ooh that’d be good. 

Happy baking!


Rainbow Cake with Strawberry Buttercream

makes one 6-layer 6” cake

ingredients

3 1/2 c (450g) all-purpose flour

1 tb baking powder

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 1/4 c (300g) heavy cream, room temperature

1/2 c (120g) sour cream, room temperature

1 c (225g) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 c (100g) refined or unrefined coconut oil, soft but not melted

2 1/4 c (450g) sugar

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 tb vanilla bean paste or extract

1/2 tsp almond extract, optional

food coloring (see notes above for specific colors that I used)

 

strawberry buttercream:

1 c (225g) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 c (80g) strawberry preserves

5 c (600g) powdered sugar

1/8 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract

6 tb (90g) heavy cream

a drop of pink food coloring, optional

clues

to make the cake:

preheat the oven to 350ºf. grease and line the bottoms of six 6” cake pans with parchment and set aside (if you don’t have six pans, you can bake in batches).

in a large bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder, and then lightly stir in the salt and set aside. in a large measuring cup, whisk together the heavy cream and sour cream and set aside. 

in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter, coconut oil, and sugar on medium high for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. add the vanilla and almond extract, if using. reduce the mixer to medium low and add the dry mixture and cream mixture in 3 alternating additions, stopping right after you add the last of the dry mixture and cream mixture- don’t mix them in completely because when you mix in the food coloring you’ll continue to mix and that’s when everything will get combined. (the reason for this is that you want to prevent over-mixing at all costs!) divide the batter between 6 medium bowls (using a scale is the most efficient way to do this) and stir in good big plops of food coloring until the batter is bright. distribute the batter evenly between the cake pans and spread it out evenly.

bake until the tops of the cakes are set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs on it; begin checking for doneness at 22 minutes and try your darnedest not to let it overbake. let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

to make the buttercream: 

in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and preserves until creamy. gradually add the powdered sugar, and then mix in the salt, vanilla, and heavy cream. mix until creamy.

to frost the cake, level the tops of the layers and then stack them up with a thin layer of frosting in between. frost all over and decorate as desired! enjoy!


Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins

One of the number one things that I was told to prep before Bernie’s arrival was oatmeal muffins! Oatmeal to help with lactation and muffins because they’re quick and easy to thaw from frozen and you can eat them with one hand. I do love oatmeal in the morning, and I usually have it with peanut butter or almond butter, cinnamon, berries, a little dark chocolate, and Trader Joe’s crunchy super seed mix for some Omega-3s, so I made a muffin version of this! They’re super good and filling, they’ve got pockets of melty chocolate, and they’re topped with just a few sprinkles that I thought would add a little humor to times that were destined to be insane, filled with Bernie wails, and true muffin emergencies. This is a pretty versatile recipe— you can add different spices, use butter or coconut oil, and change up the nut butters and mix-ins (don’t skimp on the chocolate though!). I would definitely recommend topping them with something, whether it’s sprinkles or turbinado sugar and/or seed mix, the added crunch on top is the loveliest.

Side note: I can’t really eat these muffins without thinking about the Bojack muffin episode when Neal McBeal the Navy Seal calls dibs on muffins at the store and Bojack eats them all. I wonder how Bojack is doing these days. I’m afraid to watch it with Bernie in ear shot and all. 


Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins

Makes 8 Jumbo Muffins

Ingredients

1 1/2 c (120g) rolled oats

1 c (240g) milk (2%, whole, or almond)

1/2 c (65g) all-purpose flour

1/2 c (65g) whole wheat flour or more all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon 

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 c (113g) unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled

1/2 c (128g) creamy unsweetened peanut butter (almond butter works too!)

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1/2 c (150g) maple syrup

3/4 c (90g) dried cherries, blueberries, or raisins

3/4 c (4 oz) chopped dark chocolate

3/4 c (45g) unsweetened coconut flakes

Super seed mix, optional, for topping

Coarse sanding sugar or sprinkles, for topping

Clues

Preheat the oven to 400ºf. Line 8 jumbo muffin tins with liners and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the oats and milk and let soak for 20 minutes.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together the butter or coconut oil, peanut butter, vanilla, eggs, and maple syrup until smooth. Add the oats and flour mixture and stir to combine and then fold in the dried fruit, chocolate, and coconut. Scoop into muffin tins and sprinkle with seeds, if using, and sanding sugar or sprinkles. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean; begin checking for doneness at 22 minutes. Let cool in the pans for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely or enjoy warm! 

Cooled muffins can be stored in a ziploc bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. Reheat in the microwave for about a minute.


-yeh!

Rhubarb and Pistachio Rugelach

Rhubarb season, la dee da! [Insert Disney princess humming and singing with the birds!] Everything in the yard is green and happy, the chickens are laying, the cats are hunting, and the rhubarb is very bright pink!!! Let’s get down to business. With dreams of last year’s sea salt chocolate rugelach, I realized it was time for a springtime jam version! And what makes the best springtime jam? Rhubarb from the backyard, of course! And you know I love rhubarb with rosewater and pistachios, so those naturally wiggled their way in too. The result is a buttery, not-too-sweet, nutty cookie that has a hint of sourness from both cream cheese and rhubarb. It’s rustic yet a little fancy, and it’s an ode to both my Jewishness and the farm because without the rhubarb patch on the farm, I probably would have never made these. And they certainly couldn’t have been done without my mom’s perfect rugelach in my cookie genes.

That’s all! 

(And hey, if you want to switch up the jams and/or nuts, do it!!)


Rhubarb and Pistachio Rugelach

Makes 24 cookies

Ingredients

Dough

2 1/2 c (325g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1/3 c (66g) sugar

1/2 tsp kosher salt

zest of 1/2 orange or lemon

1 c (226g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed

8 oz (226g) cream cheese, straight from the fridge

2 large egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract


Filling

3/4 c (245g) rhubarb jam, homemade or store-bought

1 tb orange or lemon juice

optional: 1 tsp rosewater, or to taste

1/2 c (64g) finely chopped toasted pistachios

Egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with a splash of water

Topping

a few pinches flaky salt

2 tb sugar or coarse sanding sugar

1/4 c (32g) ground toasted pistachios

Clues

To make the dough, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and zest in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle. Add the cubed butter, distributing it all over the top of the dry ingredients, and dollop in the cream cheese (1” dollops should do it, but it doesn’t need to be perfect). Turn the mixer on low and stir until the mixture is mostly mealy and there are still some larger clumps of butter and cream cheese in tact. Continue mixing and add the yolks and vanilla and then continue mixing until the dough comes together. Divide the dough in half and shape into discs. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

To form the rugelach, first make the filling by combining the jam with the orange or lemon juice and rosewater, if using, and set it aside. Working with one dough disc at a time, roll it out on a lightly floured surface, dusting with flour as needed to prevent it from sticking, until it is a wide rectangle, 18” by 9”. Use an offset spatula to spread on half of the jam in a thin even layer, leaving a 1” border along the long edge that’s furthest from you. Sprinkle with half of the finely chopped pistachios. Brush the 1” border with a thin layer of egg wash and then start on the end closest to you and roll the dough into a long tight log, placing it seam side down. transfer to a cutting board or baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days (depending on fridge space, you might want to cut the log in half so you’re dealing with four shorter logs as opposed to two really long ones). 

If you’re only refrigerating for a couple of hours, no need to cover the logs. If longer than that, cover with plastic wrap. 

To bake, preheat the oven to 375ºf and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. brush the logs with a thin layer of egg wash, sprinkle with a few pinches of flaky salt, a lot of pinches of sanding sugar, and a good pile of ground pistachios. Cut into 1 1/2” slices and transfer to the baking sheets, 1” apart. Bake until golden brown on top; begin checking for doneness at 24 minutes. (You might notice that the cookies seem to sweat and leak out some fat and jam while in the oven, this is completely normal.) Let cool on the pans for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Or enjoy them warm! Leftovers can be stored at room temp for several days.