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Rosh Hashanah Recipes and Finding Faith

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This morning, Will, 4, asks for paper so he can make a book about "Evan the Horse." He knows no one named Evan nor do we have a horse. The paper comes from my office and the book involves wobbly letters written in no particular order and lots of tape.

Julia has a fever and spends her time moping on the couch, sighing the drama of the ill and bored, and then smiling because she's relieved she doesn't have to go to Sunday school. [Disclaimer: Whatever your vision of Sunday school is, it probably doesn't match ours. I'm fully Jewish as is my husband. However, our version of a temple is a hike in the woods discussing nature and asking the kids how they feel. Also, our Judaism involves a lot of food.]

Daniel helps cut celery stalks and questions me in his lawyerly way about why the U.S. has troops in various countries, what we would do if this country were invaded, if we have troops on any borders. Did I mention he's been playing the board game Risk?

Jamie sulks about Hebrew school and preps for the birthday party he's working this afternoon during which he and a friend will wrangle 18 6-year-olds in a baseball game and try to avoid concussions.

So I am on book-making, fever-reducing, war-answering, birthday party tip giving duty -- while prepping for the 20 person dinner on Wednesday night.

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and a time for reflecting on the past year while opening wide for the sweetness of the year to come.

Our last year, as you might know by now, was anything but sweet. We had death and loss and tragedy.

And yet we're still here.

That is the sweetness of life, that tangy bite of the apples dipped in honey Jews consume on this holiday. True sweetness on the outside paired with the knowledge that underneath are myriad flavors.

We tell the kids that religion is a personal thing, however one chooses to find faith doesn't matter but having faith matters greatly. This doesn't necessarily mean faith in God or even in something you can name. But knowing how to keep going when the worst is happening and knowing that this suffering doesn't have to be done alone is faith. Faith in humanity and faith in family. Faith that after loss comes life again, and even sweetness.

I'll be cooking for the Jewish holidays bit by bit and offering the recipes to you. A couple with which to start off...

Honey Cake

Makes 1 10-inch cake

This cake, traditional fare at Rosh Hashanah, is moist and breadlike. Less sugary than many cakes, it still makes a good dessert and a wonderful snack. The coffee brings out the honey's sweetness. I like to make mine in a Bundt pan and dust it with confectionary sugar right before serving.

3½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 eggs, separated

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup warm black coffee

1 cup honey

Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cream of tartar. Make a well in the center and add sugar, cinnamon, egg yolks, oi, and lemon juice. Add coffee and stir to combine. Add honey and stir to combine again.

In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into the flour mixture. Pour batter into a greased 10-inch tube pan and bake for one hour. Serve warm or at room temperature. Dust with powdered sugar if you like.

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Roasted Buttercup Squash and Apple Soup (Vegan)

This soup can be made a few days in advance and kept in the fridge. I suggest garnishing with a bit of diced apple. This year I'll serve the soup in mismatching tea cups handed down from my husband's Nana who escaped Nazi Germany. She passed away this spring and would really have enjoyed this soup because it is served not too hot, not too cold (she was big on everything being just so).

2 sweeter squash -- buttercup or butternut or acorn

2 red onions, peeled and chopped

2 tbsp. olive oil

3 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

2-3 cups vegetable stock

2 tbsp. mustard

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1/4 cup brown sugar

Salt to taste

Extra apples for garnish

Oven to 400 degrees. Split the squash and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash, cut-side down, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about an hour until squash is very soft. Meanwhile, saute onions in olive oil. Just before they begin to brown, add the apples, cinnamon and nutmeg, and stir. Scoop squash into pot with onions and apple and add 2 cups stock. Stir. With hand blender, begin to blend. The soup should be quite thick. If you'd like it thinner, add more stock. Add mustard, lemon juice and sugar. Blend very well. Salt to taste. Serve room temperature or hot or cold.

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