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When Life Gives You Lemons, Passover Style

By Tobye S. Stein / Detroit

The author in Passover cooking mode, moving from soup to charoses to macaroons.

On Wednesday (April 5), the Jewish holiday Passover begins at sundown. As in most years, I am busy cooking and baking. The majority of our guests are not Jewish, so when someone kindly offers to make something, I do my best to ask for items that won’t require special Passover ingredients , which include matzo meal, matzo cake meal, or matzo farfel. And yes, that is a lot of matzo.

I’ve already prepared my brisket, chicken, stuffing, tzimmes (sweet potatoes, carrots, raisins, and honey) as well as brownies. My meringues are baking as I write this, and so far everything has come out extremely well if I say so myself. The challenge I sometimes have is working with some uniquely special ingredients.

I have a wheat allergy, and I’m thrilled that there are so many gluten-free (wheat free) items. The only problem is some of the items don’t quite work exactly like the regular items. As a result, it seems every other year, I have an epic baking fail. This is one of those years.

Since I have the brownies and I make the meringues with chocolate chips, I wanted to prepare a non-chocolate dessert. I’m very fond of lemony desserts so when a friend posted a recipe on Facebook for Passover Lemon Bars, I decided to try the recipe. I finely chopped the almonds in my food processor, I carefully measured out the gluten-free matzo cake meal, I melted the butter, and I followed the directions to the letter to make the crust.

As the crust cooled, I prepared the filling zesting and squeezing lemons and adding the other ingredients. I added the filling to the pan with the crust and put the pan in oven. YIKES! Something went terribly wrong. The filling leaked through the previously baked crust. This was definitely bad news.

Rather than pitching the whole thing in the trash, I left this mess to cool and headed to our appointment to get our taxes done. Our visit to our tax preparer is part catching up with John, my friend of 50-plus years, and part getting our taxes done. On the way to and from John’s office I began mulling options for dealing with my little culinary crisis.

When we arrived home, I dumped the entire pan of what was supposed to be lemon bars into a large mixing bowl. I mixed everything thoroughly and decided to get out one of my portion or cookie scoops and make some sort of individual items. I baked them for a while and took them out to cool.

Once cooled, I decided it was time for a taste test. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that I had created the most delicious Lemon Almond Macaroons. They were very similar to those created by a well-known chef who made wonderful macaroons, but never shared her proprietary recipe.

I doubt I could recreate this masterpiece, but I’ve learned that when life gives you lemons, you can cry, you can laugh, or you can create something delicious.

To all who celebrate Passover, may yours be joyous. To all who celebrate Easter or a different spring holiday, I wish you the same. Due to Covid, our group of 12 will be reduced to six, but I’ll be taking desserts to those afflicted with that damn virus that doesn’t spare holiday celebrants..


Tobye S. Stein retired as Chief Human Resources Officer from a California-based financial services organization. She once landed a job by replying to the age old question, “Why should I hire you instead of the other two candidates” by simply stating “I’m funnier than most people.” It worked.

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