Flowering Har Sinai Fruit Mountains for Shavuot

Sometimes, seeds of ideas are planted years before they come into fruition.

I first became interested in fruit art when I was twelve years old. A new mother carved a baby carriage out of a watermelon for her daughter’s baby-naming celebration. I was fascinated with how a few knife strokes could transform a simple object into an elaborate sculpture. We don’t know the powers hidden within the ordinary. It takes work to reveal the true potential.

The whole world has been having a rough few months. While in some places, people are getting back to a “new normal,” in others, lockdown still looks endless. Each individual has their own challenges and their own strengths. For some, this crisis has completely destroyed their lives. Others have fortunately gotten off with some stress and inconvenience. We’ve all had to adapt to changes, restrictions, challenges. We’ve all had to look into ourselves to find the energy to cope and move forward.

Last week, I went back to work out of the house for the first time in over two months. While, I would be more comfortable seeing everyone in the streets, stores, and public places fully masked, it was still nice to get out. On the first day back at work, I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer to lead a food workshop for teenage girls before Shavuot. I chose to make fruit mountains as centerpieces for the Shavuot holiday table.

Here are some of the results:

Har Sinai Flowering Fruit Mountains


Assorted small fruit


  1. Cut a melon in half width-wise. Empty the seeds and peel it. This is the base, the “mountain.”
  2. Lay an apple on its side. Cut in thin circles, width-wise, completely through the apple, to make circles. Poke a toothpick through all of the apple slice on one side, off-center. Fan out the slices one at a time to look like a flower. Attach the flower to the top of the mountain with toothpicks or a wooden skewer.
  3. Take a fresh, juicy orange. Cut 2-3 mm strips on the peel in 8 lines, meeting at the flower and stem. Peel off the thin strips. The orange will now have white lines. Lay the orange on its side with the lines parallel to the cutting surface. Slice thin circles of orange, completely through. You have just created orange flowers with which you can decorate the base of your mountain.
  4. Use smaller fruit or your choice to decorate. Kiwis make beautiful flowers or leaves. Cherries, berries, or grapes are the perfect center for each flower.
  5. Most importantly, be creative and have fun!

Happy Shavuot!

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It’s About Time, Part 2, with Rebekah Saltzman

I am sleeping, but my heart is awake. Because someone decided that a good time for a mother-daughter event for elementary school children is from 10:30 PM until 1 AM. We all would have been more awake for the evening of spiritual awakening if it had taken place in the morning. Maybe the schedulers need a little help with time management.

There’s nothing like the High Holidays to remind us that out time is limited. What we did in the past year is done, and we can only look ahead now. We will never get back the year that has gone by. Planning ahead to the New Year, we can imagine what we want to do with another 354 (on the Hebrew calendar) days. In her time management course, Rebekah Saltzman urges clients to do just this, decide what we would like to do if we only had more time. We can’t buy more time, but we can learn to manage the limited time we each receive every day, week, and year. We can learn to prioritize so that we do what is important to us. Set goals. In Hebrew, we would say סוף מעשה במחשבה תחילה. Sean Covey, in the 7 Habits of Highly Successful Teens, calls this “beginning with the end in mind.” Getting focused is the first step to success. 

Over the last week of the year, I did an experiment, suggested in Rebekah’s course. I kept track of what I was actually doing with my time. It was no surprise that reality didn’t match my “dream schedule.” Some changes I knew were coming: a parent teacher conference one night, a kid finishing school early one day before a night program with school that ended at 3 am… Others came from out of the blue: I spent one afternoon playing phone tag with the electric company because my parents’ electricity was shut off (long story) and another with an unexpected work obligation. One evening I spent cleaning lice out of my children’s hair (back to school bonus :-)) and another visiting a mourner. My week seemed to be divided up like a hot pizza and snatched away just as fast. At least, since I was keeping track, I was aware, and it felt like even just the heightened awareness boosted productivity. Man plans and G-d laughs. But we need to plan anyways. 

Next on my plan: SLEEP.

But first, I will leave you with a tip. It’s my gift to you and one of my blog’s biggest secrets. If you’re short on time, cut back on kitchen time by keep the food simple. If you need any dish, from appetizers to chicken to dessert, to look fancy, just throw on a handful of pomegranate seeds. It’s magic. Check it out:
Winter Fruit Salad Fruity Power Breakfast Bowl Mediterranean Grain Bowl

Glazed carrots and beets garnished with pomegranate seeds
Red lentil mujadra garnished with pomegranate seeds

Have a sweet, organized, beautiful year!

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It’s About Time-Management with Rebekah Saltzman

It’s 9:41 AM. I’ve nursed a baby, changed three diapers, dressed two children, tied another’s ponytail, asked two kids to make sandwiches, got two different kids out of bed, helped my husband find his phone, asked two kids why they didn’t make sandwiches when asked—not sure if they’re actually the same two I asked to make sandwiches, listened to instructions from one child about what I must leave on her desk at the parent teacher conference tonight, waved goodbye to four children and one husband as they left the house, fed two teaspoons worth of tiny banana pieces to the baby, ignored two tantrums by one child, had one discussion about why toilets are a nice thing and not scary, answered two family WhatsApp messages, pumped one bottle of milk, got my morning exercise while walking one child to preschool and the baby to daycare, read two work WhatsApp messages, arranged transportation home from school for one child, said my morning prayers, checked my work email, called my mother, ate one nectarine, and sent a half dozen WhatsApp messages for a volunteer organization. This is a slow, quiet morning. I didn’t need to pack lunches because school finishes early. I will have four hungry children looking to me for sustenance in approximately three and a half hours. That’s gives me 210 minutes to start reviewing a time management course, do a load of laundry, organize last year’s textbooks and finish wrapping this year’s books in plastic (Did I mention that we’re well into the second week of school?), clean out enough space in my storage room for the boxes of my childhood that recently arrived with my parents’ shipment from the old country, WhatsApp my parents’ landlord, contact the contractor for my apartment about a leak, prepare a media mailing for work, clean up from breakfast and make lunch. Maybe I’ll squeeze in a coffee and bathroom break at one point.

I’ve got a lot on my plate. Who doesn’t? Most working parents I know, if they could magically be granted one wish, would ask for either sleep or more hours in the day (which would give them time to sleep and do everything else). With six kids, two part-time jobs, aging parents who don’t speak the local language, volunteer commitments, and no household help outside the family, I am constantly juggling. Things pile up, both physically—like last year’s school books—and tasks left undone because they get pushed to the bottom of the priority list—like that dentist appointment I still haven’t made… Yet, I know there are families with even more kids and parents who work longer hours, mothers who wash their floor twice a day every day. How do they manage? The key, I believe, is organization.

About a half a year ago, I turned to Rebekah Saltzman, a professional organizer based in Haifa, for help. I met Rebekah through her Facebook group called Organizing in Israel and signed up to receive emails about her weekly Journey to Organization podcast. While these freebies were helpful and inspiring, I decided to take advantage of my “free time” on maternity leave to give my home a deep organizing treatment, and hopefully gain the skills to keep it running smoothly. Rebekah’s remote Balagan Be Gone course was packed with useful information and tips, many of which I implemented. Half a year later, my closet is emptier, my papers are more organized, my kids can find toys and school supplies more easily, and we’ve added lower hooks near the door for little sweatshirts and hats. Rebekah was not just a great teacher and cheerleader, but supportive and realistic about my organizing goals. The biggest hurdle I faced was, and is, a lack of time. I asked Rebekah for help with time management because I thought if I was just more organized, I would have the hours I needed to get the house in order. But I had a baby with me who needed to nurse every two hours, took half hour naps, and wanted to be held all day. Rebekah helped me understand that nearly all my time belonged to the baby, and it’s impossible to manage time that you don’t have. Just over a week ago, my baby started day care, and I suddenly have time again. To make the most of it, I’m turning once again to Rebekah and trying out her new course–It’s About Time-Management. I can’t wait to share the results with you!

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Surprise Box Challenge 1: Beets and Coconut

It’s here! Two weeks of phone calls and a WhatsApp group since my first post about the Surprise Box, the first delivery of Tachlit produce boxes was sitting behind the doors of dozens of families in the neighborhood. What I love about the Surprise Boxes, other than the delivery to the door, great price, and knowing that each paid delivery sponsors a free box for a poor family, is the balance of dependable staples (potatoes, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers) and the surprise!

15.5 kilograms of fresh produce: onions, potatoes, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, apples, pears, bananas, clementines, beets, and a coconut

This week’s quirkier items are a bag of beets and a fresh coconut. Beets are naturally sweet, low in calories, and high in fiber and folate. I do like the occasional beet salad, but what would I do with a whole kilogram of them? It’s cold and rainy in Israel this week, and cold and snowy for most of my readers. In short, soup season. As a kid, a summer staple was Gold’s beet borscht, which came in a jar and my parents served chilled with diced potatoes, cucumbers, hard-boiled eggs, and sour cream. I made my first homemade borscht for my parents on Passover, and it was surprisingly easy!

The heartier beet borscht recipes I found include cabbage. This would have been perfect a few hours before finding beets on my doorstep, when I made a hearty lentil-cabbage soup. Since I’m the only one in my family who will eat beets or lentil-cabbage soup, I just cooked up the beets and made a lentil-cabbage beet borscht. The flavors pair well naturally. The beets add natural sweetness to the lentil cabbage soup. With the protein from the lentils, I can add this to my list of one pot meals. [Tip: I peeled the beets in the sink for less mess.] Hooray for less time in the kitchen and more time with the kids!

Lentil Cabbage Beet Borscht
Hearty Lentil Cabbage Soup, sans beets

If borscht isn’t your thing, try this delicious Beet Bulgar Salad or sweet Honey-Glazed Roasted Carrots and Beets. Some of my favorite coconut recipes are these super-easy macaroons, coconut-almond granola bars, chocolate chip coconut squares, and this healthy chocolate cake. (My husband is coconut fan, and apparently I’ve become one, too!) I also like to put coconut milk in pumpkin soup and vegan ice cream. I think I’ll still save cracking open the whole coconut for a family activity.

Hearty Lentil Cabbage Beet Soup Recipe

Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: 45 minutes


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 cup dry green lentils
1 can tomato paste (580 g)
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
3-4 cups shredded white cabbage
2 liters water or soup stock
1/2 kilo (1-2 large) beets, chopped


  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot. Saute onion.
  2. Add carrots, lentils, spices, tomato paste, and beets. Stir.
  3. Add water and cook covered for a half hour.
  4. Add cabbage, stir, and simmer for another 15 minutes.
  5. Remove bay leaf before serving.
  6. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt.

*For lentil cabbage soup, follow the same recipe, leaving out the beets.

Stay warm!

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Surprise Box

Do you ever peek ahead to the end of a good book? Check the weather forecast on your smartphone constantly? Follow polls predicting the results of elections long before they happen? Use ultra-sounds to find out everything about your unborn baby?

In this age of technology, there are few surprises in life. Knowing what to expect can be helpful for reducing stress, but sometimes it’s nice to get a surprise every once in a while. Not surprises like rocket sirens or a snake in your bathroom. Just something little and unexpected. Were you one of those kids whose parents stuck notes in their lunchboxes? I was the one who sat across the table in the lunchroom trying to read upside down, “Good luck on your math, quiz, sweetheart. Have a wonderful day! Love, Mom.” (To be honest, I very rarely put notes in my kids’ lunches either. Maybe I should start.)

This "surprise box" from Tachlit included potatoes, onions,carrots, garlic, cucumbers, plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, pears, grapes, mangoes, and a butternut squash, all for only 40 shekels (under 11 dollars)!
A typical “surprise box,” which included the biggest carrots I have ever seen, as well as potatoes, onion, grapes, mangoes, plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, pears, cucumbers, garlic, and a butternut squash

For a few months, in the summer of 2017, my family received a surprise box of produce every Wednesday evening. While I pre-ordered the box and knew to expect it, I didn’t know exactly what time the doorbell would ring or what would be included in the 12-18 kilograms of fresh produce. There were always potatoes, onions, and cucumbers. The surprise was what other vegetables and fruit would be there: squash, pumpkin, tomatoes, giant carrots, peppers, grapes, mangoes, apples, parsley, beets, etc. My kids loved seeing what we would get every week, and I didn’t mind the variety or challenge to try different ingredients in the weekly menu.

Where did this box come from? I ordered from an organization called Tachlit. A weekly box of produce, delivered straight to my doorstep, cost only 40 shekels, just over ten dollars, for over 25 pounds of fresh produce! The best part is that for every box ordered at this price, they deliver a similar box to a family in need for half the price! Surprises all around!

Unfortunately, we had to stop ordering these produce boxes because not enough people in my town ordered, and the organization could not afford the delivery costs. If you are interested in ordering these weekly produce boxes, feel free to contact me, as I am trying to get together a local core group. If you would be interested in having a weekly surprise box challenge using the variety of ingredients in the box, please comment below.

Tachlit runs a number of other programs for the needy, and I encourage you to check out their web site.

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Camp Mommy 2018, Week 1 Highlights

Week one highlights. Yes, it’s already been two weeks, but we’ve been so busy living it all that I haven’t had time to write it all up.

Let’s start with a riddle. What is in this picture? Read to the end to find out what it has to do with Kaytanat Ima (Camp Mommy).
plata with holes

Week one included 13 letters, 4 cooking classes, 2 art projects, 1 exercise class, 1 evening of real work, and one hastily-scheduled job interview. Some days, there was only time for either cooking class or a letter craft because life happens, even when the kids are on vacation. See Camp Mommy 2018, Day 1  for the first recipe and letter craft.

    One of the most successful, kid-friendly, summer-friendly activities of the week was Mango Ice pops on the day we learned the letters I and M. These frozen treats are 100% fruit, blended in a food processor or blender, poured into popsicle molds and frozen. That’s it. They’re made from sweet, ripe fruit, so they are as healthy as they are delicious, and the kids didn’t complain for a second that there was no sugar added. Some of them did complain, however, that they don’t like mango. So, we did the same thing with super-ripe bananas. (Side point: If anyone knows how to get banana stains out of countertops, please share in the comments below.) We actually blended the bananas with a little mango left in the food processor to make sweet, yummy banana-mango ice pops.

    The anti-mango movement lobbied for lemon. So, we made lemon ice pops, even though they don’t match the letters of the day, and they’re full of sugar. The kids took turns juicing the lemons, and surprisingly, the youngest got out the most juice. I mixed the fresh juice of two lemons with equal parts sugar and boiling water to dissolve it. Some of the kids thought the lemon flavor was too sour, but the rest of us thought it was a perfect balance.

100% Fruit Ice Pops/Frozen Fruit Pops Recipe

sweet, ripe fruit of choice

1. Peel and cut fruit.
2. Puree fruit in blender or food processor.
3. Pour into popsicle molds or small cups with popsicle sticks. Freeze for at least 3 hours.
4. When removing ice pops from the mold, if they are stuck, hold the mold under running water for a minute to loosen.

Lemon Ice Pops Recipe

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup hot water

1. Stir all ingredients together until sugar is completely dissolved.
2.  Pour into popsicle molds or small cups with popsicle sticks. Freeze for at least 3 hours.
3. When removing ice pops from the mold, if they are stuck, hold the mold under running water for a minute to loosen.

P/E day was just like it sounds. Physical Education. English class got cut short in order to squeeze in an exercise class, during which my little tag-along charmed the receptionist with how nicely he can color in the lines in a coloring book. In any case, we still all needed to eat.

One of my favorite quick meals as a kid was an egg-in-a-hole. Living in a vegetarian household, we ate a lot of eggs, usually hard-boiled or in an omelette. An egg-in-a-hole was much more fun. Basically a slice of bread with a hole cut out of the middle and sunny-side-up egg fried in the hole, it was fun to dip the toasty bread into the runny egg yolk. But there were only two of us. In order to feed five hungry kids, some of whom want seconds or thirds, I would be standing over the stove all afternoon, not something I want to do in July. We did a shortcut version, baked eggs in holes, which also got the kids more involved because I didn’t have to worry about them burning themselves on a hot frying pan. Cookie cutters would be ideal for cutting out the circles. We used a flower shaped cutter that came with a fruit decorating set I once received as a gift. The kids took turns cutting out holes, and I added the eggs and put the pan in the oven. The yolks came out more solid than the typical fried variety, but this could probably be remedied with a shorter bake time. Eggs-in-holes were served with pepper sticks and peas and pear-peach-plum fruit salad for dessert. Afternoon snack was pretzels.

C/K Day’s recipes will have to wait for another night.

Did you figure out the picture at the beginning of the post?
Sunday morning. It’s the first day of vacation. I am eager to start with the camp schedule I created to make the summer both fun and productive. In order to do this, I need to get three kids out to their day camps before focusing on my other two. Five heads, however, are hanging out the front window for twenty minutes, eyes glued to the street, which is closed to traffic. There are real live police cars and even a police robot! Obviously, someone has discovered a “suspicious object,” something out of place that is probably a harmless bag that someone left behind at the bus stop in their early morning rush to work. But, this is Israel, where anything could be a bomb, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. So, the children on the block got prime seats at a free show of a police sapper robot shooting four times into some piece of metal next to a bus stop. It is a food warming tray, normally used with a timer set ahead of time to heat up food on Shabbat, viewed from its underside in the picture. Apparently, someone just didn’t bother walking the extra few meters to the dumpster. As a result, some people were late to work, and the rest of us got a reminder that even though we’re living in a relatively quiet town, not regularly threatened by rockets, mortars, or firebomb kites, the threat of terrorism is always part of the Israeli reality.

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Camp Mommy 2018, Day 1

I’m back and ready for a fun summer of Kaytanat Ima (Camp Mommy). The blog dropped off last summer when I was super-busy with Kaytanat Ima 2017, and it was hard to get back into it this year when I had a real (i.e. paying) job. When I was studying to be an English teacher, we were told that it’s a very mom-friendly profession. I don’t agree with many of the reasons given for this argument, but one big advantage of being a teacher is spending the summer bonding with my own kids.

For the first week of camp, I only have my two big boys home; the girls still have a few more days of school or camp. While free time and relaxing are built into the schedule, the highlights of camp this week are English hour and cooking classes. My son going into first grade is reading well enough in Hebrew that I decided he is ready to learn English. Since he has some exposure to the letters from when I taught his older siblings, this week is an intensive crash course of a few letters each day, with the goal of recognizing most of the alphabet by the end of the week.

During our first English hour (which is really about an hour and a half), we learned the letters A, D, N, H, S, and T. In addition to personalized flashcards, we used the day’s arts and crafts activity to reinforce the letters. Here is our hide-and-seek letter house:

The house is made in the style of a pop-up book. I used a plain piece of copy paper, but construction paper or poster-board would work well, too. The paper is folded in half, like a greeting card, with the same house drawn on the inner and outer flaps, paralleling each other. I then cut out the pictures, leaving them partly attached as flaps, and wrote the first letter of each word on the paper beneath. We had the letter T hiding under the tree, S hiding under the sun, D hiding under the door, N hiding under a neck, and A hiding behind an ant. This versatile craft can be adapted to include pictures of any letters you are learning.

At my son’s request, we carried the letters over to our daily cooking class. For lunch, we had drinks, hot noodles, and tomato sauce. The cooking lesson included basics like how to boil a pot of water, how to use a colander to strain pasta, the difference between potholders and oven mitts, and how to use a sharp knife to cut vegetables safely. Usually I made hidden veggie tomato sauce, but I wanted to keep it simple for the kids. I also wanted them to eat lunch and not turn up their noses because they knew there was some form of zucchini on their plates. The base of the tomato sauce was a large can of tomato paste. We added an equal amount of water, plus salt and spices, stirred until smooth, and then heated the sauce until it was bubbling. I let the kids help choose the spices, and we ended up with garlic powder, black pepper, oregano, and basil. Everyone enjoyed lunch, and it tasted even better because they were proud (like me) that they helped cook the delicious meal!

Easy, Kid-Friendly Tomato Sauce

1 large can tomato paste
1 tsp salt
1 teaspoon sugar, to cut acidity of tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon each of spices of choice (pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, dried basil, etc.)

  1. Empty tomato paste into a small pot. Add an equal amount of water and stir until smooth.
  2. Add sugar, salt and spices. Stir until evenly distributed.
  3. Heat until gently boiling, making sure the sauce doesn’t boil over. Serve hot.

Stay posted for more fun letter crafts and easy, kid-friendly recipes from Camp Mommy 2018!

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Happy Birthday, Trees!

Giveret David is shaking a little blue and white box with the letters JNF on the side. “Tzedakah!” We hear stories from her many years spent in Israel, about kibbutz life, halutzim draining the swamps, planting trees, and singing “zoom gali gali,” and dancing the hora wearing triangular sun hats and short shorts. When the stories are done, a small paper bag is dropped onto each desk. It’s the same every year. I already know what to expect inside. Tu B’Shvat means carob. Really dry carob. Really hard and dry carob. But it’s carob from Israel, so they give it to us every Tu B’shvat. And usually carob chips. Even though they’re not as good as real chocolate, I can eat those. The hard, dry carob in a pod—forget it. It’s a good thing my father likes it. Do Israelis all have teeth of steel? I wonder. Well, happy Tu B’Shvat, Israel. Next year, keep the carob to yourself. 

Today, I am not only living in Israel and still avoiding dried carob, I’m also happy to have learned that there are a lot of fruity things to eat on Tu B’Shvat that taste much better. Here are a few of my favorites:

Coconut Almond Granola Bars


Granola-Crust Cheesecake Fruit Tart


Fruity Power Breakfast Bowl


Fruity Power Breakfast Bowl

No-Bake Fresh Cherry Pie

cherry pie horizontal

Species of Israel Salad


Winter Fruit Salad with Lemon Coconut Mousse


Happy Tu B’Shavat!

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Apples to Apples(auce)


Some days, my brain feels like applesauce. Not that I know how applesauce feels. I don’t think I’ve ever asked it. If I did–and got an answer–then I’d really be in trouble. We’re not at that point. Whew. Anyways……It’s day 15 of our 30 Day Heart Health Challenge! Today, we’re focusing on heart-healthy, fiber-rich, vitamin-packed apples. Or not focusing, as the case seems to be. Have you ever played “Apples to Apples”? Players need to match noun cards to an adjective card, and the judge chooses the best fit. (This nerdy English teacher likes parts of speech games almost as much as spelling games.) It’s free association to the extreme. We’re all green cards, associated with many roles, trying to juggle a lot of apples without dropping them. Dropping the balls may result in applesauce. I’ve still got all my apples for now, but after reading this paragraph, you probably agree with my aforementioned self-diagnosis of applesauce brain.

Sometimes we choose what foods to make, and sometimes they choose us. Today, the apples were calling me. It’s not their fault. They didn’t mean to make trouble. As usual, we’ll blame it on the baby. He graduated from the shape sorter and made his own fruit sorter. The bag of apples in the standing baskets in the kitchen got divided between the next basket down, an empty cracker box, and the floor. Pinball, anyone?

apples on floor.jpg

This applesauce recipe may be a little different than what you expect. I use the whole apple, including the peel and core. Why? They contain a high concentration of pectin, a gelling agent used in jams. I wanted to keep the pectin in order to thicken my applesauce. To this end, some homemade applesauce recipes are made from chopped apples with the peel left on. I don’t mind chunky applesauce, but I don’t like the texture of apple peels in applesauce, even if they’re chopped or blended. So, I washed and peeled the apples and added everything to the pot. I made sure to leave the peels in big pieces so they would be easy to fish out. I wanted to keep the recipe low sugar, but sugar not only tastes good, it also helps the pectin work its gel magic. If you like a sweeter taste, feel free to add a little more sugar. I added one of my favorite spices, cinnamon, but it is totally optional.

After only twenty minutes of hands-on prep time, a half hour of simmering, and patience for the applesauce to cool, the result is a parve, vegan, gluten-free, allergy-friendly dessert or condiment. This homemade applesauce is so good, I am freezing half to save for eating on latkes. The other half hasn’t disappeared by the time the kids get home, it will probably appear on the supper table tonight with French Toast Casserole and cottage cheese.

What’s your favorite way to serve applesauce?

Homemade Applesauce Recipe
Yield: 6 cups
Prep time: 20 minutes, divided
Cook time: 30 minutes


5 cups peeled, chopped apples, skins and cores saved
3 cups water
1 slice lemon, with rind
2 tablespoons raw sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon


  1. Wash apples well, especially if they were rolling on the floor like mine, or if they are waxed. Peel apples carefully, leaving the peel in large pieces that will be easy to remove from the pot.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot.
  3. Simmer for 30 minutes, until the apple chunks are soft.
  4. Turn off the heat and let cool for at least a half hour.
  5. Remove apple peels and cores.
  6. If you like your applesauce chunky, it’s done. If you prefer smooth applesauce, mash with a fork. For super-smooth applesauce, puree with an immersion blender.
  7. Chill. (The applesauce. Well, you, too.)
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Heart Health Challenge, Day 4: Fresh Pumpkin Soup

Back when I lived in a dormitory, a common piece of advice floating around was, “Don’t become roommates with your best friend. If you’re best friends now, living together will change that.” Fortunately, after dorming with good friends and now being married for ten years, I can say that this is not always true. However, living with others does allow us to see the best and worst of them, and ourselves. Friendships can be easier to maintain when we wave goodbye after meeting for coffee and only have our own dirty socks or snoring or alarm clocks to deal with. The whole world living in studio apartments, however, would not only be economically inefficient and inconducive to raising families, it would also be very lonely. Siblings may kick us under the table and take the cornflakes when we ask for them to be passed, but who else would we play with at 6:30 am when we are young? Who else would be reminisce with about family traditions when we grow up? Learning to live together peacefully can be both our greatest source of frustration and our greatest joy.

I first read the book “Pumpkin Soup” in a Hebrew translation, and I liked it so much that I bought the original English version. Cat, Squirrel, and Duck are best friends, living together in an old white cabin in a pumpkin patch. They make pumpkin soup together and each performs his assigned task in cooking the daily soup. The harmony is disrupted when one decides to try out his friend’s job, causing a major spoon-grabbing, head-bopping, domestic rumpus to ensue, which causes the offender to pack up and leave. The two friends back home wait and worry, and their anger turns to sadness.

Sometimes I feel like a child is trying to do my job. Likewise, sometimes my response is childish. Siblings will interrupt each other and take over each others’ games, accidentally, just “trying to help.” As annoying as it is to have our toes stepped on, literally or figuratively, at the end of the day, we’re all eating the same soup for supper. (Well…those of us who agree to eat pumpkin.) No matter who sets the table, who puts in too much salt, and who sits on the couch reading and waiting to be served, family is family.

pumpkin soup book.jpg

The first time I ate pumpkin soup, I was about twelve or thirteen years old. I knew pumpkin in two forms: Mrs. Smiths’ frozen pumpkin pies and a pumpkin stew my parents made every winter from a can of Libby’s pumpkin puree. I was now sitting in a Japanese restaurant, and the idea of pumpkin soup sounded exotic. It was delicious. I had no idea at the time how easy it would be to make pumpkin soup of my own.

Continuing with our heart health challenge, pumpkin is the perfect addition. You can join the 30 day heart health challenge and get healthy tips every day by following Israeli Salad on Facebook. Pumpkin is high in potassium, which may help regulate blood pressure. It is also full of the anti-oxidant beta-carotene, and high in fiber and vitamins A, B , and C. While the most common form of pumpkin in America is canned, here in Israel, fresh pumpkin is sold in chunks. If you’re lucky, it is pre-wrapped in plastic. In some stores, there is simply a giant pumpkin sitting in the refrigerator with a knife stuck in it for self-hacking. If you encounter an open pumpkin without a knife, ask a store worker for assistance. Knives are sometimes kept separate for safety reasons.

An interesting property of pumpkin is its mild flavor. That’s a nice way of saying it’s bland and, well, lonely-tasting on its own. Pumpkin is versatile and mixes well with other vegetables and both sweet and savory spices. Perhaps this is how “pumpkin” became a term of endearment, along with “dear,” “sweetheart,” etc. Maybe calling someone pumpkin is like saying, “We complete each other.”  Pumpkin pie is one of my favorite foods, and I often add pumpkin to chicken soup or orange soup. Today’s soup is mostly pumpkin, but it needs the sweet potato to maximize its potential. The warm mix of spices includes some you’ll find in a classic pumpkin pie spice mix, plus an added Middle Eastern twist. This pumpkin soup can be made into a complete meal by serving with couscous and low-fat yogurt and garnished with pumpkin seeds.

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Enjoy a bowl of this heart-friendly pumpkin soup with your loved ones!

Fresh Pumpkin Soup Recipe
Serves 4-6


1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions
3-4 cloves garlic
1 small potato
1 medium sweet potato
1 kilogram (about 2 pounds) fresh pumpkin
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
plain yogurt (optional)
raw pumpkin seeds (optional)
6-8 cups waters


  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot. Cut onion into large chunks. Saute onions and garlic for 3-5 minutes.
  2. Cut potato, sweet potato, and pumpkin into large chunks. Add to the pot. Add seasonings. Saute another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Cover with water and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Puree with an immersion blender.
  5. Garnish with plain yogurt and pumpkin seeds. Add couscous to make it into a filling meal.
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