How to makeover matzo, a traditional Passover staple

NEW YORK – When Amy Kritzer was growing up in Connecticut, her mother made lasagna from matzo each Passover.

The holiday, which commemorates the end of slavery for the Hebrews in ancient Egypt, calls for Jews to avoid leavened grain in products like regular pasta and bread, so it’s matzo’s biggest moment of the year. But lasagna?

“We almost never ate lasagna the rest of the year,” Kritzer, 31, laughed. “I was sure I could live without it that one week. But it was like a little challenge, what to do with the matzo.”

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RECIPE: Herbed matzo-stuffed roasted chicken

In recent years, matzo has undergone a makeover as the people who churn it out – by hand or machine – and the people who eat it have come up with new recipes and flavours for the large cracker with a big place at the Seder table – but a bad rep in the taste department.

“It turns out it’s a pretty darn good canvas,” said Lucinda Scala Quinn, executive editorial director of food at Martha Stewart Living, where the company’s test kitchen has been coming up with new ways to use matzo. “We live in an age where everybody, it seems, is an inventive cook. Matzo has been this undiscovered ingredient waiting to be used beyond just kind of breaking it at the Seder,” she said.

RECIPE: Spring matzo ball soup

This year, Passover begins the evening of April 14, and at Kritzer’s house in Austin, Texas, where she often hosts Seders, matzo has some new buddies.

“Ironically, all of my non-Jewish friends love matzo,” said Kritzer, who has a recipe blog called Whatjewwannaeat. “I think because they don’t have to eat it, they’re like, ‘Matzo, it’s delicious.’ And all of the Jews are like, ‘What, I don’t want to eat this.”‘

In addition to boxed matzo, from onion-poppy to chocolate-covered, we now have Matzolah, a commercial matzo granola that was 35 years in the making in Wayne Silverman’s kitchen.

This March 3, 2014 photo shows herbed matzo stuffed roasted chicken in Concord, N.H.

AP Photo/Matthew Mead

He put it on the market last year, after selling it in stores briefly over a decade ago, and earned accolades at Kosherfest, an annual showcase for kosher foods. There’s maple nut, whole wheat maple nut and gluten-free cranberry orange.

“When a Jewish person sees matzo they say, ‘Oy, matzo.’ Dry, sticks to the roof of my mouth. And when they see a product for Passover they say, ‘Oy, Passover. Even worse.’ We’ve tried to get people away from that notion,” said Silverman, in Decatur, Ga.

He chose “The Trail Mix of the Exodus” as Matzolah’s slogan.

Doug Freilich of Middletown Springs, Vt., makes small batches of artisanal matzah he calls Vermatzah. He started production about six years ago with help from his wife and two daughters. He makes his matzo in the more traditional round shape using grain he grows and grinds himself, then pops it into his wood-fired oven and wraps it in parchment paper with a delicate tie before gently placing six pieces in metal tins of bright green, red and yellow.

This Mar. 3, 2014 photo shows spring matzo ball soup in Concord, N.H.

AP Photo/Matthew Mead

Freilich sells online and ships around the country, also using simple cardboard boxes. Sisterhoods at synagogues like his matzo, as do customers at food co-ops around the Northeast.

“We want to stay small and sustainable and really hold on to that quality,” he said, noting that his matzo is “eco-kosher” but does not meet the stricter kosher rules for Passover.

The DIYers are in full force on the matzo front. They’re going online to show off chocolate-dribbled matzo s’mores, matzo melted cheese sandwiches, matzo brei cupcakes (named for a matzo-egg dish) and matzo napkin rings made of colour-copied prints of the real thing.

Taking a cue from gingerbread houses, matzo houses incorporate traditional Passover treats as decorations and chocolate as mortar. Other matzo creations include nutty, fruity brittles and barks in chocolate and caramel, matzo-layered ice cream cakes, toasted matzo crumbles on salads and matzo-crusted chicken cutlets. Quinn likes spreading herb, spiced or lemon zest-infused olive oil on matzo, then baking it, or giving the oil as a Passover gift in a fancy bottle. Matzo-themed kitchen timers, aprons and iPhone cases are abundant.

“There’s been quite a bit of movement in the matzo,” observed Menachem Lubinsky, Koshertoday杭州夜网 editor and co-producer of Kosherfest, an event he helped found 25 years ago. “I think the sky’s the limit here. The opportunities are enormous.” Kosherfest is scheduled to take place in November in New Jersey this year. Last year, it featured about 11 flavours of matzo, he said.

With only two major mass manufacturers of matzo left in the U.S., Manischewitz in Newark, N.J., and family-owned Streit’s on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, American box matzo has lost ground to imports, primarily from Israel, Lubinsky said. More traditional, round and extra crispy handmade matzo – especially “shmura” made of a carefully guarded grain, is also popular.

Lubinsky and others see increasing interest in matzo among non-Jews, and from Jews year-round. “We do just as much matzo during the year as we do for Passover. It wasn’t always that way. It used to be probably 80 per cent Passover, 20 per cent daily,” said Aaron Gross, in the fifth generation of the Streit family.

The U.S. matzo market is worth about $86 million a year and the Israeli market more than $100 million, Lubinsky estimated.

Even old-school matzo makers like Streit’s offer a variety year-round – including whole wheat and Mediterranean, with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, basil and olive oil. But the company sticks closer to basics for Passover, adhering to special procedures that include thorough cleanings of the nearly century-old factory, a six-story plant in a string of old tenements. Equipment is scrubbed again and again between batches, and the matzo must bake within 18 minutes once the water and wheat are mixed – all under rabbinical supervision.

Streit’s produces 2,000 pounds of kosher-for-Passover matzo an hour between September and two weeks before the holiday begins. “It’s just a very painstaking, long, labour-intensive process, and we’ve been doing it the same way all these years,” said Gross, who runs the plant with two cousins.

“They say the most difficult things to make are with the fewest ingredients,” he added. “You can’t get much fewer than flour and water, right?”

©2014The Associated Press

Quebec election not about a referendum: Marois

MONTREAL – Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois rejected suggestions Friday her referendum position is confusing.

Any independence referendum will be held only when Quebecers are ready, Marois told a news conference.

“There is no confusion,” she said. “The issue of this election is not a referendum. The issue of this election is the choice of a government to lead Quebec.”

READ MORE: A separated Quebec would ditch Canada, keep its currency: Marois

“We will not push Quebecers to take this decision. We will take the time. And when it is time, we will propose something if we are ready and Quebecers are ready.”

That’s exactly what the PQ leader said repeatedly during the televised leaders’ debate Thursday night.

Watch: Catch up on all the debate analysis 

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After the debate, however, Marois left the door open to a plebiscite in the next four years if the PQ wins a majority government April 7 and she considers Quebecers to be referendum-ready.

Meanwhile, the PQ attempted to shift the focus once again away from sovereignty to the party’s proposed secular charter and its economic team.

Marois was accompanied Friday by star candidate Pierre Karl Peladeau and the lead minister on the charter file, Bernard Drainville.

Peladeau, the media mogul whose splashy entrance into the campaign and commitment to create a country for his children caused a stir, refused to discuss sovereignty. He repeated that the Quebec economy was why he took the political plunge.

“If I had directed Quebecor as the Liberals led Quebec, I would have lost my business and I would have been replaced,” said Peladeau.

The owner of media and telecom giant Quebecor also said his political donations over the years were not indicative of his political leanings. Donation records show Peladeau donated extensively to the Liberals over the past decade – and actually gave them more than he did to the PQ.

A screenshot from the website of the Directeur général des élections du Québec, showing Karl Pierre Peladeau’s donations.

Directeur général des élections du Québec

He also contributed financially to the now defunct Action democratique du Quebec.

Peladeau was asked why he gave to the Liberals – a party he now calls unethical.

“I always believe in democracy,” Peladeau replied. “I think this is the strongest thing for this country, and political parties are a part of this democracy so it was no problem for me to donate to all parties in Quebec.”

Peladeau noted he has long supported the PQ and added he voted Yes in the 1980 referendum. He did not say whether he went Yes or No in 1995.

Drainville, meanwhile, made yet another case for the PQ’s secular charter, which would forbid state employees from wearing certain religious garb. The minister has said over and over in recent days that the only way to save the charter is with a majority PQ government.

On Friday, Drainville was asked if any common ground could be found with the Liberals on the issue.

“There’s room for consensus if the Liberals agree with us,” Drainville replied dryly.

©2014The Canadian Press

Gallery: Superheroes scale the walls at Ontario hospital

TORONTO – Superman, Spider-Man and Wolverine lent their powerful hands to clean the windows at an Ontario hospital Friday.

Lakeridge Health in Oshawa welcomed the superheroes as children in the paediatric ward gathered inside to watch the trio do their work.

According to a hospital press release, Superman said he enjoyed seeing the kids and other patients, and was especially grateful for one thing.

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“I’m always nervous about kryptonite build-up, but this hospital is spic and span clean,” he said.

Lisa Shiozaki, executive vice president and chief nursing executive at Lakeridge Health, noted patients can find it jarring when a window washer appears in their window, no matter how much notice is given, and that anxiety can be exacerbated for children.

“In our hospital we have real-life superheroes walking the halls every day. But these guys can fly, so that makes them pretty cool,” said Shiozaki.

This isn’t the first time superheroes have descended on hospitals in order to bring some cheer to patients. Last October, Superman and Captain America did the same in Brazil to commemorate Children’s Day.

A bird? A plane? Curious onlookers look up as superheroes wash windows at Lakeridge Health on Friday March 21, 2014.

Lakeridge Health/Facebook

A young patient in the Paediatric Ward watches from his room as a window washer in a Spiderman costume washes the windows at Lakeridge Health in Oshawa, Ontario, on Friday, March 21, 2014.


Superman appears on the roof with his friends Spiderman and Wolverine.

Lakeridge Health/Facebook

Window washers in superhero costumes wash the windows at Lakeridge Health in Oshawa, Ontario, on Friday, March 21, 2014.


Window washers in superhero costumes wash the windows at Lakeridge Health in Oshawa, Ontario, on Friday, March 21, 2014.


©2014Shaw Media

Clear the clutter: how to organize all of your excess stuff

VICTORIA – Disorganized and cluttered homes are often the result of busy lives, but tackling the stuff in a home is an important step in freeing a space of disorder while relieving stress for its owner.

Maggie Megenbir, Victoria professional organizer, says clutter is unnecessary weight in a space.

“They are things that weigh people down,” says Megenbir. “Clutter is stuff that doesn’t contribute to the life that we want for ourselves.”

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The stuff that accumulates in a home can contribute to both physical and mental clutter, says Megenbir.

“I hear from my clients over and over, when they clear physical clutter they feel much more clear in their mind,” she says. “It clears up the mental clutter and has an internal impact for them.”

According to Megenbir, homeowners lead such busy lives that they often become overwhelmed and just don’t have the time to stay on top of the contents of their homes.

Developing effective organization systems for a home is key to keeping a handle on clutter.

“They need to work well for the person who is using them,” says Megenbir. “The systems also need to be easy to use, and just make sense in general.”

Storing items near where they are most often used is an important way to battle clutter. Megenbir says if a homeowner is using a blender, but has to go down the hall to put it away in a closet or pantry, it is more likely to stay on the counter.

“If the blender is stored in a cupboard right near where it is most often used, then it is easy to just put it away,” she says.

A Calgary professional organizer says homeowners come up with many reasons to avoid the task of organizing and purging excess items.

“People get stuck,” says Paula Blundell. “People get overwhelmed and can’t make a decision about getting rid of something. They come up with all sorts of reasons for keeping items.”

Blundell says homeowners should keep an item if it is something they absolutely love, and if it fits the vision they have for their life and home.

“If you walk into your master bedroom the first question to ask yourself is what vision do you have for the space? How do I want it to feel?” she says. “If the answer is I want this space to be sacred and calm, then your kids’ toys and your laptop probably shouldn’t be in that space.”

While Blundell has heard many good reasons for keeping items, she has also heard several bad ones, the most common being “I paid so much for that.”

“That is not a good reason because it is just a cost. You’ve already spent the money and you’re not getting it back,” she says.

Many people also keep unwanted items out of obligation or guilt, and Blundell says the person who gave the gift would be happier knowing it’s not a burden in their life.

Once the decision has been made to start organizing and purging clutter, the most important step is to be prepared.

Blundell says a homeowner should schedule it in their week, and start small. Dealing with a cupboard, drawer or half a closet will give a homeowner a sense of accomplishment rather than feeling discouraged.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

“Everything you own has some sort of story or meaning in your life,” says Blundell. “When you bring in an outside third party like a friend to help you clean up, they are able to see stuff as just stuff and can make decisions of what to get rid of much easier.”

©2014The Canadian Press

Scientists searching for meteorites in southern Ontario – Toronto

LONDON – Astronomers from a southwestern Ontario university are seeking the public’s help to find meteorites that may have crashed near St. Thomas, Ont.

Researchers from Western University say a basketball-sized meteor that was almost as bright as the full moon lit up the skies of southwestern Ontario this week.

Western astronomers are now hoping for help from local residents in recovering one or more possible meteorites that may have crashed just north of St. Thomas.

Western’s faculty of science has a network of all-sky cameras in southern Ontario that scan the atmosphere monitoring for meteors.

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Peter Brown, who specializes in the study of meteors and meteorites, says that on the evening of March 18 a long-lasting fireball was detected by seven all-sky cameras.

Read More: Explaining meteors and meteorites

The brilliant fireball started near Port Dover, Ont., at a height of 75 kilometres and moved westward before ending at an altitude of 32 kilometres between Aylmer, Ont., and St. Thomas. One or more meteorites were produced by the slow fireball based on the video records from the cameras.

Researchers are interested in hearing from anyone approximately five kilometres north or northwest of St. Thomas, who may have witnessed or recorded the event, or who may have found possible fragments of the freshly fallen meteorite.

In Canada, meteorites belong to the owner of the land upon which they are discovered.

Meteorites may best be recognized by their dark and scalloped exterior, and are usually denser than normal rock and will often attract a fridge magnet due to their metal content.

©2014The Canadian Press

Sears Canada offers refunds after SHS closes

WATCH (above): After intense media pressure, Sears Canada has agreed to help those who were left out to dry by Sears Home Services. Rumina Daya has more.

Sears Canada is offering to refund customers, or ensure renovations are completed, after its partner SHS Services Management Inc. went into receivership.

The independent installation company, which provided services licensed under the Sears banner, has been liquidating its assets since the filing late last year.

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That has left some customers with unfinished renovations like roofing replacement and repairs.

Customers are still owed more than $1.8 million in services, according to the receiver’s report, Sears said on Thursday.

“Customers who paid using third-party credit cards have been able to obtain a refund for services not rendered,” the company said in a release.

“For those customers who weren’t able to obtain such refunds and for the remaining customers who paid by cash or other means, Sears will ensure that they receive the work for which they contracted or repayment.”

SHS, or Sears Home Services, owes more than $8.9 million to creditors, according to Pricewaterhouse Coopers Inc. who is acting as the receiver.

Sears said it is aware of some customers who are trying to sell their homes, but can’t because creditors have put a lien on their properties related to the unfinished work.

The company said it would work with these customers to remove the liens.

Alberta, feds announce skills training deal

EDMONTON – The Alberta government struck a deal with Ottawa on Friday that gives the province money and flexibility to train more people for specific jobs.

Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney says under a renewed labour market agreement, $23 million will go toward employer-driven training under the direction of the provincial government.

“We want provinces to deliver this because they’re closer to the ground,” Kenney said in a legislature news conference alongside his provincial counterpart Thomas Lukaszuk.

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“They know who the players are. They understand the local and regional job market subtleties much better than we do.

“This agreement will be good for Albertans, good for the Alberta economy (and) good for taxpayers because they will be getting better bang for the buck from the training dollars we spend.”

The $23 million is part of the current $33 million Canada Job Grant.

Under the employer-driven program, the federal government would provide up to $10,000 per person for training costs, including tuition for short-duration training at community colleges, career colleges, trade union centres, and private trainers.

Employers would be responsible for the final third for a maximum per person contribution of $15,000.

The training can be done in classrooms, at the worksite or online.

Lukaszuk said the money is crucial given the acute shortages in his province’s roaring petro-based economy.

“This province right now is attracting approximately 130,000 people every year,” said Lukaszuk.

“And yet we estimate that we will be short some 100,000 workers within the next 10 years.

“That’s a problem that we must first solve domestically before we reach out to immigration as a primary supplement of workers.”

There are about 220,000 job openings in Canada, a quarter of which are in Alberta.

The job vacancy rate in Alberta has doubled in the last five years to six per cent.

Rudsak channels ‘cool rebel’ at 20th anniversary show

TORONTO – Rudsak had some high-profile company on hand to mark a major milestone for the homegrown brand, as its fall-winter showcase doubled as a celebration of the label’s 20th anniversary.

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier and Toronto Raptors point guard Julyan Stone took in the action from the front row on Thursday at Toronto’s World MasterCard Fashion Week.

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While some brands are inclined to merely mimic of-the-moment trends, Rudsak doesn’t typically deviate from much from the styles that have helped the label endure.

“When you see a perfecto (a leather motorcycle jacket), you really can’t reinvent that in multiple ways. You can make it fitted, looser… But it has to be timeless,” said founder and creative leader Evik Asatoorian backstage prior to the show.

Asatoorian described the “cool rebel” look as central to the label’s DNA. Rudsak did its part to offer a slight twist on its rock ‘n’ roll-inspired styles, with pointed hems and floral patterns on leather jackets and the bold pops of green, navy and bordeaux hues peppered throughout the line.

The collection contrasted the slick, skin-tight leather minis with more voluminous accents on outerwear, notably the clusters of textured fur trimming coat collars, jacket fronts, hoods and hems.

The unification of contrasting fabrics was a distinctive design element in outerwear in particular, like shiny leather sleeves on matte coats and leather patches affixed to puffer jackets.

The pro athletes in attendance gave the new line their stamps of approval.

“I’m big into leather. I liked the tie with the leather – it was nice,” said Stone, who attended his first-ever fashion show.

A leather-clad Bernier already had his eye on several pieces to potentially add to his own collection.

“I thought it was great. They had a few nice jackets that I’ll be anxious to wear next fall.”

Asatoorian credits his passion for the work as one of the key’s to the brand’s enduring success after two decades.

“For me personally, after this many years to still have the drive to look for something new, constantly for something exciting, it is a hard industry. You have to really have the love for it.

“I was fortunate to be able to consistently build our brand with product that I’m always passionate about, which is leather. About 20 years down the line, I’ve learned so much, and every year I look back, I go: ‘Wow. There’s so much more I can learn.”‘

Rudsak has a showroom in New York and sells wholesale to major retailers like Nordstrom and Saks. But Asatoorian said they have their sights set on potential expansion, ideally first in the Big Apple – then hopefully beyond.

“For me, it would be amazing to see if I could bring this brand one day to Europe, to Asia, to the international level.”

©2014The Canadian Press

Tamil women want information about family missing since Sri Lanka’s civil war – National

MANNAR, Sri Lanka – Hundreds of ethnic Tamil women demanded information on Friday about relatives who have been missing since Sri Lanka’s civil war, defying widespread military surveillance, threats and the possibility of arrest.

The protesters held a peaceful rally in the northern town of Mannar and issued a 10-point memorandum to the United Nations high commissioner for human rights.

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The letter asked the commissioner to help obtain information about their relatives and determine who was responsible if they are dead. It also called for an independent international inquiry into allegations of war crimes during the civil war between government troops and defeated Tamil Tiger rebels, and the release of private land and homes occupied by the military.

The women say they have received no information about sons and husbands who surrendered to the military at the end of the fighting in 2009.

READ MORE: Inquiry accuses Sri Lankan forces of wartime abuses

The protest came days after police arrested a mother and daughter who campaigned for the release of their kin.

Balendran Jeyakumari and her 13-year-old daughter were prominent in protests by relatives of the missing. Jeyakumari has a strong case against the government because of a photograph of her missing son in government custody. The photo appeared in a government publication, but authorities have refused to give her details about him or release him.

Jeyakumari was detained under the country’s tough anti-terrorism law on charges that she harboured a former Tamil Tiger rebel. Her daughter has been handed over to probation officials.

Days later, two prominent human rights activists including a Catholic priest who tried to investigate what happened to Jeyakumari were arrested, sparking international criticism. They were released without charges but have been banned from travelling.

READ MORE: Sri Lanka criticizes Harper’s decision to boycott Commonwealth summit

Rights defenders say the arrests are part of the government’s efforts to intimidate its critics into silence. People who appeared to be secret police were seen photographing the protesters and writing down vehicle numbers on Friday.

Sri Lanka is facing a U.S.-sponsored resolution at the current session of the U.N. Human Rights Council over its failure to conduct an inquiry into alleged war abuses and human rights violations after the war.

©2014The Canadian Press

Bolland, Bernier return to Leafs practice – Toronto

TORONTO – Dave Bolland took part in line rushes at Toronto Maple Leafs practice, a positive sign that the centre who hasn’t played since November could be nearing a return.

Bolland has been working to get back following surgery to repair a severed tendon in the back of his right ankle. He was cut by Vancouver Canucks forward Zack Kassian’s skate blade Nov. 2.

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At Friday’s practice, Bolland skated on the Leafs’ third line between Mason Raymond and David Clarkson. The 27-year-old has been practising with teammates for some time, but this represented another sign of progress.

It was not immediately clear if Bolland was going to play Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens. The Leafs would have to send players down to the minors to remove him from long-term injured reserve.

Bolland had recently taken line rushes but had a setback that delayed his return.

Goaltender Jonathan Bernier also participated in his first full practice since suffering a groin injury March 13 in Los Angeles. Drew MacIntyre remained with the team, but Bernier and James Reimer spent the vast majority of the time in the two nets.

©2014The Canadian Press