Holocaust Remembrance Day

Sunday night supper: leftover chicken soup. “I just have a quarter of a zucchini peel in my bowl!” my son complains about his second bowl.

“That’s what there is,” my husband replies. “It’s Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Do you know what kind of soup the Jews ate in the Holocaust? The Nazis fed Jews soup made from a giant pot of water and one potato peel.”

“One potato peel for the whole pot of soup?” The kids don’t really understand the point my husband is trying to make about appreciating what we have and not complaining so much. “So who got the potato peel?” my daughter asks.

“Whoever got the potato peel was very lucky,” my husband answers.

Apparently the kids are still in question-mode since seder night. Who made the soup? Who were the Nazis? What country were they from? Why did they feed the Jews so little? They wanted them to die? If they wanted them to die, why not just kill them? Oh, they did that, too? So, why feed them first and not just kill them right away? Slaves–like the slaves to Pharoah in Egypt? Oh, ok.

Cringing at the directness of these questions, I try to juggle them all, keeping in mind that a five-year-old and seven-year-old don’t need nightmare-inducing details at bedtime, while remaining truthful and open. I want them to know that our nation has suffered terribly, that individuals suffered terribly and lost their lives. Yet, they are still young and vulnerable. I don’t want to traumatize them, to paralyze them with fear. I have my own questions. How do we know when is the right time to tell them, and how much? Will they tell their friends at school? Do they associate themselves, as Jews, with Jews of previous generations?

They are too young to hear many details. Each answer widens their eyes and brings more questions. I feed them answers slowly, one spoon at a time.

Posted in Food for Thought | Leave a comment

The Key to Perfect Challah

This post is dedicated to a fast and complete recovery for Michal bat Esther Miriam and Michal Leah bat Baila Hadas.

For the Shabbat after Pesach (Passover), many people have the custom of baking challah in the shape of a key or with a key baked into the dough. Called shlissel challah, these loaves symbolize the fact that G-d “holds the key” to our sustenance, and they are supposed to be a good omen for a successful livelihood. The sources for how and when this custom started are unclear, but its popularity has been growing in recent years. I have baked challah in the shape of a key a few times, not because I believe in omens, but because I find food-related traditions fun.

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6-strand challah loaves, left with sesame, right with zaatar

What I do believe in is prayer. I believe in a direct connection to G-d, Who is always available to listen. I also believe in mitzvot, following the commandments in the Torah. An older, more common challah tradition than shlissel challah is praying for others right before performing the mitzvah of separating challah from the dough. The merit of the mitzvah adds strength to our prayers. Think of it like a kid asking a parent for a treat after sharing his toys with his brother or after getting in a fight with his brother. As a mother, I can tell you when I’m more likely to say yes.

Usually, I bake challah about once a month. I use two kilograms (about 14 cups) of flour in order to have enough dough to separate challah with a blessing. (See the link above or here for more details about the mitzvah of separating challah.) This much dough makes at least seven loaves, so I freeze whatever we are not eating right away. I like to pray for others when I separate challah, but sometimes I am rushed, forget, or I have too many little fingers in the bowl with mine to concentrate on anything. What I have seen from my personal experience is that the times I pray for others, the challah tastes better.

The mitzvah of separating challah has become more special to me since I have been living in Israel. This is partly for a technical reason–I’ve been baking a lot more challah since I moved to Israel than when I lived in the US. Even before I was married, however, the mitzvah of separating challah intrigued me. I wrote a term paper about challah when I was nineteen and hadn’t even met my husband. Challah is one of the mitzvot that is dependent on the Land  of Israel. Unlike certain other agricultural mitzvot, it is also performed outside of Israel. However, in Israel, the mitzvah of separating challah is a Torah obligation, while outside Israel, it is a rabbinic obligation. For now. This is true while the majority of world Jewry lives outside of Israel, as the case is now. With the high assimilation rate in America and the relatively high birth rate in Israel, in addition to continued aliyah of Jews from around the world to Israel, the balance may soon be tipped, and the majority of the Jews in the world will live in Israel. This could have a practical effect on the mitzvah of taking challah worldwide!

The loaves pictured above were baked a few years ago, but it is the same recipe I always use and the one I’m sharing with you today. I actually haven’t even bought flour yet since Pesach ended. It is on my list of things to do in the next 24 hours. I’ll probably decide on the spot what shape to form my challah loaves tomorrow because the shape is not the true key to perfect challah.

Half-and-Half Challah
makes 5 large, 7 medium, or 9 small loaves

4 cups warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons dry yeast
1 kilogram whole wheat flour
1 kilogram sifted white flour
OR 2 kilograms 70% whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oil
4 eggs (3 for dough, plus 1 for brushing on top)
1/2-1 cup sugar
scant 2 tablespoons salt
sesame seeds, poppy seeds, zaatar, oats, flax seeds, or other toppings of choice.

Directions:

  1. Put 4 cups warm water in a medium bowl. I find the best way to get the perfect temperature is 1 cup boiling water and 3 cups cold water. Dissolve a spoonful of sugar in the water. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of yeast over the surface of the water. Set aside to proof.
  2. Put flours into a large bowl and mix gently until basically combined.
  3. Make a well in the middle of the flour. Pour in oil, 3 eggs, sugar, and salt. The sugar measurement listed is not exact because sometimes I’m in a sweeter mood than  others. Use as much as you like.
  4. When the yeast mixture looks big and bubbly, pour it into the well. Mix. I start with a wooden spoon and move on to use my hands when a thick dough begins to form.
  5. Knead until all of the flour is in the dough, about 10 minutes. This is great upper body exercise. If you use 2 kilo whole wheat flour and the dough feels too hard and dry to knead, add a little water, just a spoonful at a time, until the dough softens and the flour disappears.
  6. Spray the sides of the bowl and top of the dough with cooking spray or brush with oil. Cover with a clean kitchen towel until the dough doubles in size. (This is the point when I shoo my little helpers away because the dough needs to take a nap.) Time will vary significantly depending on the temperature of your kitchen. Usually, in my Israeli kitchen, it sits about 45 minutes in the summer and up to an hour and a half on a cold Jerusalem winter day.
  7. Punch the dough down. Pray for someone sick, childless, looking to get married, etc. Recite the blessing and separate a small handful of dough to be discarded by burning on the stove or double-wrapped and thrown out. Do not toss unwrapped dough into the bottom of your oven without consulting your rabbi.
  8. Form the dough into desired shape–braided loaves, round loaves, pull-apart loaves, or even key shapes. Place on baking pan. Cover with a towel again. Allow to rise for another half-hour to hour, depending on weather.
  9. Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Beat an egg with a pinch of salt and a spoonful of water. Brush on loaves with pastry brush. Sprinkle with seeds or other topping, if desired.
  10. Bake time will vary between 25 minutes and 40 minutes, depending on size of loaves. Remove from oven when they are golden-brown on top, like the loaves in the picture.
  11. Cool on a wire rack. Store in the freezer, tightly wrapped, for up to a month.
  12. Enjoy plain or with your favorite spreads.
    My favorite things to spread on challah: Poor Man’s Pesto and Avocado Salad
Posted in Baked Goods, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Pesach 2017 Round-Up

Pesach, Passover, is the holiday of freedom. Our ancestors were released from bondage in Egypt, and ever since, we slave away cleaning for a month before the holiday. 🙂 When applied to the kitchen, freedom could me explained in more than one way. One the one hand, I could use a break and kind of feel like just throwing some pre-made, processed food on the table and taking a nap. On the other hand, Pesach is a great time to get back to the basics. Mostly gluten-free, except for mstzah, it’s a week that lends itself well to whole foods, clean eating. Free from additives we can’t pronounce. Here’s a summary of all my simple, Pesach-friendly recipes, so you won’t spend the week slaving away in the kitchen. All of these recipes are kitniyot-free.
!חג פסח כשר ושמח Happy Passover!

To spread on matzah:

Poor Man’s Pesto

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Pesto spread on cracker

Sunny Avocado Salad

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Sunny Avocado Salad

Salads:

Half-Roasted Ratatouille Salad

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Classic Israeli Salad

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Classic Israeli Salad

Soups:

“Accidental” Turkey Neck Soup without noodles, or sub matzah balls

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Creamy, Comforting (Curried) Orange Soup (Pre-made curry mix may be difficult to find with kosher for Pesach supervision. Try seasoning with turmeric, paprika, pepper, and a pinch of cinnamon.)

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Light Meals or Snacks:

Charoset-Stuffed Matzah Brei

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Fruity Power Breakfast Bowl (Pumpkin seeds and Chia seeds are not kitniyot, but may be difficult to find with Pesach supervision.)

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Fruity Power Breakfast Bowl

Desserts:

Easy Coconut Macaroons (GF, Passover) (You may use vanilla sugar in place of the vanilla extract.)

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Lite Chocolate Ganache (Parve, Vegan)

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Winter Fruit Salad with Lemon Coconut Mousse (My favorite brand of coconut cream is certified as kosher for Pesach only for kitniyot-eaters, but other brands may be certified differently.)

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Gluten-Free No-Bake Brownie Bites

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Gluten-Free No-Bake Brownie Bites

Posted in Fast Food, Salad, Sides, Snacks, Soup, Stovetop, sweets | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Charoset-Stuffed Matzah Brei

Matzah brei (matzah fried with eggs) is a standard hol hamoed Pesach (Passover) staple for many families. How it is served, though, comes in countless varieties. The matzah brei I grew up with, for example, was scrambled. In my husband’s family, matzah brei is a very thick pan-cake, served in wedges like a cake. Others follow the French toast method and fry whole sheets of matzah dipped in egg. People get even more creative when it comes to toppings. Anything goes from the sweet cinnamon and sugar, jam, or chocolate syrup toppings to the savory sour cream or soft cheese and herbs or ketchup for kids. I know one person who likes to eat matzah brei with ketchup and cream cheese and jelly. Minimalists, on the other hand, will eat matzah brei plain or just add a small sprinkle of salt.

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This year, I decided to try something new: charoset-stuffed matzah brei. This treat puts a new spin on two traditional foods. The fruity, nutty charoset served at the seder often gets pushed to the back of the fridge after its debut night. Delicious spread on matzah, adding it to matzah brei creates a soft, easily-portable matzah sandwich that needs no extra toppings.

This is a French toast-style matzah brei. Simply moisten two sheets of matzah, spread charoset on one, close the sandwich, dip the whole thing in beaten eggs, and fry.

I can’t wait to try this out other spreads, like cheese, roasted eggplant, or pesto.

Charoset-Stuffed Matzah Brei Recipe
serves 4

Ingredients:

8 square sheets of matzah
2 large eggs
1/4 cup water or milk
pinch of salt
1/2 cup of your favorite charoset (You might want to try one of these Charoset recipes from around the world.)
Oil or cooking spray for frying

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in frying pan.
  2. Beat eggs, liquid, and salt with a fork in a wide, shallow bowl.
  3. Run two sheets of matzah under water to moisten. You want them moist, not crunchy and not soggy.
  4. Spread 2 tablespoons charoset on one sheet of matzah. Close the sandwich with the other moistened matzah.
  5. Dip the matzah sandwich in the egg mixture. Soak for a few seconds. Flip it carefully, and soak the other side.
  6. Fry for about a minute on each side.

 

 

Posted in Fast Food, Snacks, Stovetop | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Easy Coconut Macaroons (GF, Passover)

Pesach (Passover) can be hard for US ex-pats in Israel. Simply put, the kosher supervision industries in America and Israel work differently and are run by different people and different rules. The bottom-line result is that there are fewer kosher-for-Pesach products available to Ashkenazi Jews (of European descent) in Israel than in America. Holidays are nostalgic times, and people like to follow family traditions every year, eating the same foods they remember from their grandmother’s kitchen or store-bought treats. In my mind, Pesach food is means more than matzah, but fruit-shaped jelly candies, chocolate-covered almonds, matzah ball soup, and Manischewitz macaroons.

Apparently, it is not only those of us who grew up with Manischewitz macaroons who love this Pesach treat. My favorite Israeli comedy group, אנדדוס (Underdos), put out a music video about macaroons yesterday.

My Israeli husband is also a big macaroon fan, but it’s hard to find good-quality macaroons in Israel with the type of supervision we need on Pesach food. They exist, but I don’t think they’re very good. So I made my own.

Move over, Manischewitz. These are way better and soooooo easy. Really. 4 ingredients. No mixer. No gebrochts. No kitniyot. 15 minutes, including bake time.

Why did I never make these before?

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Easy Coconut Macaroons
yield: 20 cookies

Ingredients:
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup coconut
1/2 tsp vanilla

Directions:

  1. Beat eggs lightly with fork.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix into a dough.
  3. Drop in forkfuls, or spoonfuls, onto lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake 10 minutes at 190C/350F.

Looking for another Pesach dessert? Try one of these:
Gluten-Free No-Bake Brownie Bites

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Lite Chocolate Ganache (Parve, Vegan) (pastry cups pictured not kosher for Pesach)

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Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Half-Roasted Ratatouille Salad

“Half-roasted” sounds kind of like “half-baked,” as in “Where did you come up with that crazy idea?” This half-roasted ratatouille, however, is not crazy at all. It’s just a combination of roasted and fresh vegetables, the best of both worlds, dressed with a tomato vinaigrette. You should really try it. Not only because it is not chametz, gluten-free, and it does not make crumbs, but because it is really yummy.

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I started making ratatouille a few years ago because the main ingredients are popular and inexpensive in this Mediterranean country. Eggplant (aubergines in the Queen’s English), bell peppers, zucchini (courgettes), tomatoes, onion, garlic, and fresh herbs are staples here. You’ll find them in many of my recipes, such as my home-made tomato sauce and ratatoille-inspired Mediterranean grain bowl. In a classic ratatouille, these vegetables would be cooked into a stew. The flavors meld together and are subdued. Roasting, in contrast, helps the vegetables retain their maximum flavor, both individually and when they’re together in a salad. No vegetable identity crises here.

Why half-roasted? In a salad, I prefer the texture and flavor of fresh tomatoes over cooked. Ditto for the fresh herbs. Now that spring is in the air, we’re leaning towards more salads than stews. Cooked–or roasted–vegetables, are likely to leave you feeling fuller than raw. Raw and roasted veggies dressed with a tomato vinaigrette. I love the balance.

This is a perfect side dish for Passover, or all year long! And it’s nearly fat-free!

To make it a meal, add some chickpeas and serve over couscous or quinoa.

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Half-Roasted Ratatouille Recipe

Ingredients:
1 medium eggplant
2-3 zucchinis
2-3 yellow, red, or orange bell peppers (or 1 of each color)
1 head garlic
1 onion
2-3 tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped parsley or cilantro
1/2 cup chopped scallions
cooking spray
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 T tomato paste
salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Cut eggplant, peppers, onion, and zucchini into bite-size pieces and spread on a cookie sheet lined with baking paper. Spray with cooking spray or drizzle olive oil on the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Wrap a whole head of garlic in foil and place on the cookie sheet with the vegetables. Bake for about a half hour, until the edges of the veggies are brown. Let cool.

  3. Put roasted vegetables, chopped tomatoes, and chopped herbs into a bowl. Toss with dressing:
  4. To make the dressing, mix balsamic vinegar and tomato paste. Cut off the base of the head of garlic and squeeze the roasted garlic out of the peel. Mash and mix it into the dressing. Add salt and pepper if desired. Pour over salad and mix gently.

Ratatouille-Inspired Mediterranean Grain Bowl

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Hidden Veggie Tomato Sauce

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Posted in Salad, Sides | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Poor Man’s Pesto

And the seven years of famine began…and there was great hunger in the land…

Over here, we’ve had a few weeks of plenty, also known as carb overload. We’re trying to be done eating chametz in the house by the middle of the week so we know that what we clean stays crumb-free. As my sister’s friend said last year, cleaning for Pesach (Passover) with kids at home is like brushing your teeth while eating an Oreo. So, we’ve been eating lots of macaroni and cheese, lasagna, French toast casserolechallah kugel, birthday cakes, cookies, zucchini muffins, and banana muffins. On Friday afternoon, I used up the very end of the flour to make peanut butter swirl double chocolate fudge brownies, and they came out so good that I would love to share the recipe, but I can’t because there is no recipe. I know, real bakers out there, I committed a baking sin. I didn’t spoon and level the flour or sift the dry ingredients together or cream butter and sugar. I bake like your bubby. I just threw some oil, sugar, cocoa, etc into a plastic bowl and mixed with a wooden spoon. I didn’t measure anything. I’ll let you in on my secret–my Pyrex measuring cup broke months ago, and I haven’t replaced it yet. But you’re not here for a brownie recipe anyways. This is supposed to be a healthy food blog, right? Until Pesach, this blog is going gluten-free.

Pesto. It’s popular for a good reason. The main ingredient, basil, is worth buying just to make my refrigerator smell good. Garlic is also a starring flavor and healthy to boot. The problem with traditional pesto, other than that basil is not readily available all year, is the extra ingredients:

  • Pine nuts, I discovered when I was first married and gifted a bag along with the apartment where we were living, are a great salad topper. They’re nutty, but mild. In pesto, they add a richness to the flavor. When that first bag was empty and I went to buy more, I learned how expensive they are.
  • Parmesan cheese is out because it’s dairy. I like my pesto parve so I can spread it on challah on Shabbos. It’s also almost as expensive as pine nuts.

So, what’s left to put in poor man’s pesto? I know people who replace the pine nuts with walnuts, but I find this unnecessary. This pesto is not as rich-tasting as one made with pine nuts and Parmesan cheese, so it’s not as tasty to eat straight with a spoon, but for adding to salads or using as a spread, it’s great. I like to use it to dress tomato salad. My pesto has just four ingredients: basil, garlic, olive oil, and salt. Process, and presto! You’ve got pesto.

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Pesto spread on cracker

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spaghettini with flaked salmon and pesto

Poor Man’s Pesto Recipe
Yield: about 1 cup

Ingredients:
1 large bunch basil (about 4 cups loosely packed leaves)
5-6 cloves garlic
1/3-1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Wash and dry basil leaves and remove from stems.
  2. Place basil, garlic, and salt in food processor.
  3. While the food processor is running, add olive oil until the pesto has reached the desired consistency.
  4. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides a few times.
  5. Serve as a spread on matzah, crackers, or bread, or as a salad dressing.

 

 

Posted in Salad, Sauces | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Banana Muffins with the Works

I am typing with a baby on my lap. In fact, most of the 38 posts I have written since I started this blog three months ago I wrote with a baby on my lap. He eats or climbs up my shoulder and pulls my hair or my sleeve or tries to jump off my lap, and I type. Win-win, right?

I recently read an article published about a year ago in Huffingpost Post entitled “Having It All Kinda Sucks.” The author describes an extreme situation in which she takes off exactly one day of work to have a baby. Since she works remotely from home, not of her clients saw her bulging belly, not did they know if she was on a conference call while nursing her newborn, and she is her family’s main breadwinner. She also has a 3.5-year-old out of the house until 5 o’clock and a husband who expects her to keep up with the cooking, cleaning, and laundry the same way she did before she had a baby. Her point is that American society, which influences Western society in general, creates unrealistic expectations for all women to be working mothers. “Stop telling women they can have everything without sacrificing anything. Here’s the truth: You want to have a career and kids? You totally can, but both will suffer.” Women, she claims, should not be ashamed to choose either of the alternatives–being a stay-at-home-mom or not having children.

I think everyone would agree that work-life balance is difficult, and many women second-guess their decisions related to career and family. However, this article discusses extremes. I would like to suggest a middle ground that is sometimes, depending on the field of work and family dynamics, an option. How about working part-time? If that’s not possible, why not hire a babysitter and/or a cleaning lady? I know many career-minded mothers–one who cut her maternity leave short in order not to lose a whole semester of lecturing, some who have nannies put their kids to bed almost every night, some who bring sick kids to work with them. I myself finished my Bachelor’s degree on my second maternity leave and my Master’s degree on my fifth maternity leave. Still, I don’t know anyone who went back to work full-time the day after giving birth.

I have never worked full-time. My first year working, I was pregnant and commuting 1.5-2 hours each direction, four days a week. I stayed home with my first baby for a year. After the next three, I went back to work part-time (anywhere from 16 to 30 hours a week) as soon as the legally-mandated 14-week maternity leave was up. (Good news for working mothers in Israel: Maternity leave has been lengthened to 15 weeks.) After my current baby was born, two days after moving to a new city, I decided to leave my desk job and work from home. I could have it all, to be with the baby, not miss any cute “firsts,” not need to take off for sick kids or birthday parties, and be able to keep my brain cells stimulated and make a little money at the same time. This worked for a while, until the wee one stopped taking long naps and started crawling. Forget about getting work or Pesach cleaning done, I can barely keep up with the laundry. Now, though I protested for a long time that the whole point of working from home is to be with the baby, I’m ready to send him to a babysitter for a few hours a day. Maybe I’ll even be able to start eating lunch again.

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Every year, as Pesach (Passover) approaches, I clean out my freezer and closets from opened packages, especially baking supplies that may have gotten flour in them. Usually, what results is an “everything cake.” I throw things into a bowl, mix, and pray for the best. The problem is that since I’m not using a recipe, I can never recreate the same cake again. Lucky for my family, I wrote down what I put in the banana muffins I made this week to post on the blog, so they can have them again! I made muffins instead of cake because:
a) We’re out of cornflakes, and these are almost healthy enough to eat for breakfast, though not as healthy as the zucchini muffins the kids ate this morning
b) Cutting a cake makes crumbs, something I am trying to avoid now. I can stick muffins into sandwich bags and send the kids down to the park.
These are basic banana muffins with the addition of almond flavoring, instant oatmeal, chocolate chips, walnuts, and dried cranberries. A little of everything. What more could you ask for in a banana muffin? Now, I think there are just enough odds and ends in my kitchen for a big batch of kitchen sink cookies.

With these banana muffins, you really can have your cake and eat it, too.

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Banana Muffins with the Works Recipe
Yield: 24 muffins

Ingredients:

5-6 ripe bananas, at least partially defrosted and mashed (about 4 cups)
2/3 cup oil
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup date syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup quick oats
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

  1. Defrost and mash banana. I find a potato masher works well for such a large amount, but you could manage with a fork. You don’t want the bananas frozen when they come in contact with the eggs so they won’t freeze the eggs.
  2. Add oil, sugar, vanilla, and almond flavoring. Mix well. (You can use a mixer if you want. I use a bowl and wooden spoon.)
  3. Add eggs. Mix well.
  4. Add flour, oats, baking powder, and salt. Mix well.
  5. Add chocolate chips, nuts, and dried cranberries. Mix a little, until evenly distributed.
  6. Bake at 180C/350F for about 20 minutes.
  7. These freeze well.

 

Posted in Snacks, sweets | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Savory Challah Kugel

“You’re not allowed to eat the ends of bread loaves!” I hear from the other room.
“You’re not allowed to throw out good food. It’s baal tashchit!” another voice responds.
“The ends of bread don’t count as food,” the first voice replies.
“That’s ridiculous! It is food!”
“It makes you forget everything you learned!” The first voice is now shrill. “You’ll fail out of college!”
I recall a conversation from twelve years ago. My college flatmates are arguing again. The fight ends in a truce. “Fine, you throw out the ends of your bread, and I’ll keep mine.”

Bread-eaters all seem to be divided into two camps: those who eat the ends of loaves and those who don’t. In my family, the bread heels get wrapped up  and tossed into the freezer until I make stuffing, french toast, or challah kugel.

My mother says when she was a child she always had to eat whatever she was served. “You don’t like Lima beans? Eat them anyways. There are starving children in Africa.” Unfortunately, we don’t have to go as far as Africa to find starving children.

Another food that is often overlooked, which I included in this kugel, is celery leaves. I used to throw them out. On one shopping trip a few years ago, I was standing in front of the refrigerated produce when a lady started rummaging through all the celery, which had all the leaves removed. “What happened to the leaves?” she asked me. “Did they retire?” At that point, I didn’t understand why she wanted celery leaves since I would just throw them out, but recently my celery has had big, beautiful, bright green leaves, and I don’t want to waste them. One bunch went into turkey neck soup, another into this kugel. When cooked, celery leaves taste very similar to spinach, and they are much cheaper.

The following challah kugel recipe can be used to stuff a whole chicken, as well, if the eggs are reduced to two.

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Savory Challah Kugel Recipe
Makes 1 small pan (12 servings)

Ingredients:
4 cups bite-size bread pieces
1  tsp oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 cups celery leaves, chopped
1 cup parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon thyme, rosemary, or other herb of choice
3 eggs
Grated cheese (optional)

Directions:

  1. Tear bread into bite-size pieces. Place in large bowl.
  2. Pour enough boiling water over bread to soak it.
  3. Saute chopped onion and carrot in oil until the onion is translucent and the carrot soft, about five minutes.
  4. Add celery leaves, parsley, salt, pepper, and herbs of choice. Saute another minute.
  5. Add vegetables to bread and mix it all into a mush.
  6. Add eggs, mixing after each one. You don’t want the eggs to sit on the hot mixture very long so they won’t start cooking.
  7. If making this dish dairy, you could sprinkle grated cheese on top before baking.
  8. Bake at 180C/350F for about 45 minutes.
Posted in Sides | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Jerusalem Marathon

I am a runner.
I am not a distance runner. I didn’t run in the Jerusalem Marathon today. I have never run in a marathon.
I sprint.
Friends will attest to spotting me running on a regular basis. 200 meter dash to preschool pick-up. 700 meter dash to school pickup. 100 meter dash to a bus. Somehow, I always seem to be running late. I’m always trying to squeeze more into my day, so getting from one place of action to another is a rushed afterthought. At work, it may be putting a few more books away, answering one more email, photocopying one more worksheet, or speaking to one more student. At home, I just need to fold two more shirts or wash a few more dishes. Technically, I should have time to do it all. Inevitably, though, the photocopier will jam, the phone will ring, the computer will want to update something, the student will be especially chatty, or the baby’s diaper will leak just as I want to walk out the door. So I am left running out the door. One busy day this winter, I managed to clock over 6km with local errands–dropping kids off at preschool, taking one to the doctor, dropping forgotten homework off at first grade, taking kids to an activity at the local community center, stopping at the pharmacy. This is not uncommon, but I only added up all my walking that one day.

Jerusalem is a difficult place to run a marathon because it is very hilly. For the same reason, it’s fun place to sprint. I used to practically roll down the hill in mornings to the bus or light rail. 7 minutes walking, 5 running. For many years and at various stages of pregnancy, I ran uphill to catch buses in Bayit Vegan. This was a good meter for judging the level of compassion and patience of Egged bus drivers. When they didn’t wait, I faced tests of my own to remain calm and patient, which I didn’t always pass.

I charted my favorite Jerusalem sprint route in the year I worked in the Old City. Two mornings a week, I ran from the light rail station near the municipality building, through the Jaffa Gate, and through the Arab shuk (market) to the school where I taught in the Jewish Quarter. At nine in the morning, this route was not yet jammed with tourists. Most shops were still closed, and some were just opening. I passed under the cold, stone arches, over dirty puddles, past brightly-colored scarves, t-shirts, bowls of beads, and tables of trinkets. The cool, morning air carried the scents of spices, freshly-baked bread, yesterday’s garbage, and tarnished metal. I kept my eyes of the ground ahead of me so I wouldn’t slip and thought to myself, “Am I really here? Am I really living in Jerusalem and working in the Old City?” At the same time, a smaller voice whispered, “Please don’t stab me. Please don’t stab me. Please don’t stab me.”

I still run, but I miss running in Jerusalem.

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