Friday, December 30, 2011

Libyan Meatballs - Simplified "Mafrum"

There is a lovely tradition in many communities that after a women has a baby, people bring her family meals for a week or so.  One of the meals I received after our little guy was born included the most amazing turkey meat balls.  Below is the recipe from my friend with my notes and pictures.  Note there are two cooking options.

In "non-recipe" style, this dish is modified from Tripolitanian "Mafrum," a more complicated dish made with minced beef sandwiched in potatoes.  It is the traditional Erev Shabbat (Friday night) meal of the Libyan Jewish community.  It is usually served with couscous, but for a lower glycemic option, I recommend whole wheat couscous, bulgur wheat, or barley.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What's In It?

I often use prepackaged spice mixes.  Since you might not be able to find exactly what I'm using, I thought I'd share what is commonly in these mixes.  Different families, stores, and villages have different recipes, but the list below is a good representation of the common make-up, and most closely resembles what I'm using and what you should be able to find.  This is in preparation for a Yemenite meatball recipe I will post on Friday.

Hawaig Yemenite Seasoning from
6 1/2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1/4 cup cumin seed
2 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons green cardamom pods
1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves
3 1/2 tablespoons ground turmeric

Za'atar Middle Eastern Seasoning Mix from
1/4 cup sumac
2 tablespoons thyme
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons marjoram
2 tablespoons oregano
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Buying Beef in Israel - Guest Post

Sign behind the meat counter at my grocery chain
showing meat cuts by number.
I don't eat much beef and I can't remember the last time I did a cow justice in the kitchen.  To help, I invited professional caterer Rochelle Shalet to share her expertise.  Rochelle runs Tastes of the World catering and produces a free newsletter publication, with interesting and useful information and recipes.  The information and chart below are from a previous Tastes of the World Newsletter.  If this interests you, I strongly recommend you email Rochelle to subscribe to her monthly newsletter.  

Meat may take a long time to cook, but in the winter you have the dual benefit of heating the house and cooking dinner at the same time.  My first meat shopping experience in Israel was quite bewildering. If you have recently made Aliyah or been here for years but never quite got to grips with all the cuts and names, this newsletter aims to provide a guide for when you are next standing at the meat counter.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cheese Pancakes

Photo: Sarah Melamed of Food Bridge
Traditional potato latkes are a product of the Eastern European potato filled diet that Ashkenazi Jewry adopted.  But I never thought about the fact that the original macabees weren't eating potatoes.  According to Tastes of The World, "the Maccabees may have eaten a patty made of cheese and egg which was then fried in olive oil."

 Sarah Melamed of Food Bridge has a pancake recipe using cottage cheese, or you can use the recipe below for delicious dairy pancakes.  If you can't find "gvina levana" creamy white cheese, I suggest substituting regular cream cheese, yogurt, or a mix of the two.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dulce de Leche

To celebrate the heroic deed of Yehudit, who intoxicated the general of the opposing army with cheese and wine before slicing off his head, dairy products are often eaten on Chanukah.  What better way is there to enjoy dairy than caramelized?  My dad's family spent a couple generations in Argentina, so our family was eating "Dulce de Leche" before Ben and Jerry put it in ice cream.  It is also a popular sufgania (donut) filling here in Israel.  In Hebrew it is called "ribat chalav," literally milk jam.

Here in Israel I buy it in a jar on the shelf with peanut butter and jam (though the two are not commonly eaten together.)  It is sold in original, chocolate, vanilla. creme, and coffee flavors.  But my family in the United States makes it from a can.  And it's EASY!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

7 Ways to Make Coffee at Home

Photo by Lotzman Katzman
Caffeine is a drug that often gets a bad wrap.  Hey, I give coffee a bad wrap!  But today I'd like to celebrate the benefits of coffee.

First, some fun facts I've heard recently:

I've been hiding the following gem of information from my caffeine addicted, instant coffee loving hubby. According to "Nutrition Diva", Monica Reinagel, M.S.,L.D./N...
It turns out that caffeine has a lot of positive health benefits and, despite what you may have heard, relatively few drawbacks.  People who drink coffee every day, for example, have a significantly lower risk of diabetes, Parkinson’s, colon cancer, gallstones, and Alzheimer’s disease. Now, that may not all be due to caffeine. Coffee contains a lot of volatile compounds and antioxidants that may have beneficial effects by themselves, or in combination with caffeine. Read or listen to the full article "Is Caffeine Bad for You? March 3, 2009"

In the November 26 episode of KCRW's Good Food (29 minutes in), Evan Kleiman interviews author Kevin Sinnott about the terms and implications of fair trade, direct trade, shade grown and organic coffees. Most of us have heard of "fair trade," but did you know "direct trade" benefits the farmers more? Did you know that coffee from many countries is organic for all practical purposes, but the farmers don't pay for certification?  Listen to the episode or check out the Kevin Sinnott's book to learn more.

Mike of Daily Shot of Coffee shares lovely pictures of coffee making devices and how they work in "10 Ways to Make Coffee."  The article "The 7 Ways to Brew Coffee" lists different grinds recommended for different methods - course to Extra fine.

In a celebration of coffee, I'd like to present a compilation of video tutorials of different coffee making techniques.  How do you like your coffee?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pan Seared Salmon

We have a little issue with the electricity in our apartment.  If we have more than three major appliances on besides the fridge, we overload the circuit and half to go outside to the fuse box.  So we can't have the washer,  heater, hot water heater, and oven on at the same time.  This has caused me to cook more things on our gas stove top.  I recently made this delicious and very easy salmon from some odd shaped fresh salmon steaks.

I used my silicon brush to paint both sides of the salmon with a squirt of Hellmann's Mayonnaise garlic sandwich dressing, some dill, and coriander.  I cooked it in a non-stick pan until the flesh was light pink and opaque.  Then I removed the meat from the bone to make it easier for my family to eat.  I transferred the boneless, skinless fish back to the pan and reheated before serving.

You may also like Tarragon Salmon.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Israeli Treats: Crembo, Sufganiot, and lots of chocolate

Think you have a hard time staying away from some office Christmas cookies?  The Israeli junk food season begins in October!  In Israel "the holidays" generally refers to the "High Holidays" (Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah).  As soon as they are over around the end of October, the Chanuka goodies go on the shelf.

While the fall holidays come with their fair share of non-stop feasting, winter is full of sweets.  Unlike most mass produced candies which are available year round, these Israeli treats have a season. As the autumn pomegranates, dates, peaches, and plums go out of season, oranges, persimmons, and jelly donuts come in!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Don't be Lazy - Wrap Your Baby

My maternity leave is over.  I've thoroughly enjoyed the last seven weeks laying around with my new baby and making the worlds most perfect food - mother's milk.  But now it's time I get back in the kitchen and cook a little more for the rest of my family.  Here's how I do it:

You can make a No-Sew Baby Wrap with 4-5 yards of knit fabric.  Do not try to sew two pieces together or your wrap will be weak where you need it strong - in the middle. Useful links:

Wearing a baby is also great for sitting activities when you need two free hands  (like blogging, crocheting, hugging, and reading to older kids).  I can even nurse with my baby wrapped! Below is a picture of my husband wearing Avi while doing the dishes.  He was very skeptical at first, but now he loves to wear our baby. And they keep each other warm!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Link Party! Celebrate What's in Season LINK-UP BELOW

Here are some pictures I took in the shuk (local market, Petach Tikva, Israel) yesterday.  Click to enlarge.

What's in season where you live?
Comment or attach a link below to your autumn food-related favorite things.
Or play Name That Fruit by commenting below. 

See additional details and what was in season this summer in the August 2011 What's in Season? Link-Up.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shana Tova! - A sampling of my food prep

I wanted to wish you all a sweet, happy, healthy, successful, and peaceful new year.  Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, begins this evening.

Our family has been invited out for three meals.  I'm bringing some salads and dessert and keeping the rest of our meals simple.  We are even mixing it up with a couple dairy meals (blasphemous, I know). Tomorrow we are planning a cold meal with fancy cheese, smoked salmon, bagels, and fruits like persimmon and pomegranate.  Traditionally meat and hot foods are eaten on holidays, but with six meals, we think whatever is considered special is fair game for a holiday meal, and we love dairy!

While I'm sitting down for my little break, I thought I'm share a few other things I'm making.

- Cinnamon honey cookies with apple sauce and fresh vanilla - to go with a non-dairy frozen dessert I bought.  I had a tough time with the dough, so I put the whole lump on parchment paper, covered it in plastic wrap, and rolled it out.  No sticky mess on the table or rolling pin.  Then I baked it whole and used cookie cutters while it was still warm.  I would recommend this method if you have sharp cookie cutter (I didn't) and if you don't mind the leftover, though equally yummy, scraps.

- Quinoa tabbouleh - some for us and some for one of our hosts.

- Pasta salad.  I don't know what kind yet. Maybe Sun-dried Tomato Basil Pasta Salad.

- I also have Pre-mixed Bulgur Salad I can always make by adding hot water.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Kosher Cooking Carnival - The Holidays Are Coming!

Welcome to the Kosher Cooking Carnival (KCC) for the Hebrew month of Tishrei! Autumn is officially upon us. It rained this Shabbat here in Israel and I'm guessing some of you have an incredible view of the colorful autumn leaves. This year Israelis and Jews abroad unite under the infamous "three day yom tov."

For those who don't know: Outside of Israel, Jews celebrate holidays for two days, whereas in Israel the chagim are only observed for one day... except Rosh Hashana!  The Jewish new year is, and has always been, observed for two days throughout the world.  Outside of Israel, where two day holidays are commonly observed, it is not unusual for the holidays to abut or overlap with Shabbat, giving two or three days in a row where holidays are observed with the resulting restrictions.  But Israelis are not accustomed to the extended period of observance that occurs this year where two days of Rosh Hashana (beginning Wednesday night) lead directly into Shabbat.   This puts many in quite a frenzy, especially those in charge of preparing six festive meals in a row (lunch and dinner for two days of Rosh Hashana and Shabbat).

G6's  Croation Star Raisin Challah  
For the majority of us who have not been planning our meals and freezing kugals and pies for weeks, I hope this edition of KCC will put you in the mood to celebrate the way Jews do best... with food!

Food is an integral part of most Jewish holidays.  While Passover seems to be the best known for requiring specific foods, Rosh Hashanah has a rich tradition of food-based symbolism to reign in a good new year.  Sarah Melamed of Food Bridge celebrates Symbolic Foods of Rosh Hashanah with her beautiful photography and explanations of a sampling of traditional symbols.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Creamy Roasted Tomato and Corn Soup with Cauliflower (non-dairy)

Autumn is officially here, but our vegetable stands are still selling some reminders of summer.  This soup is perfect to use up your summer produce and enjoy on an almost cool, and possibly rainy day.

Working in this order will lead to more appropriate cooking times.  You can prep while other things cook.  If you have a large oven, you may want to think of other things you want to cook at the same time to conserve energy.  This would be good served with toasted garlic bread or homemade pita chips.
  1. Roast garlic.  You only need 2 or 3 cloves, but I like to roast the whole head and use during the week.
  2. Seed and roast tomatoes.  I cut regular vine tomatoes in quarters.  You can also halve Roma or cherry tomatoes.
  3. Wash corn and cut off cob. (Yes, you could use frozen.  I wouldn't bother with canned.) 
  4. Wash cauliflower, cut to small bite-size pieces, and roast.
  5. Begin cooking corn in the pot you will use for the soup.  Sauté in a little oil.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Creativity Outside the Kitchen PLUS Recipe Links

I've been so tired lately.  Not up for much standing in the kitchen.  I don't know how much more cooking I'll be doing in the last six-ish weeks of my pregnancy or right after. I am planning a home birth, G-d willing, so maybe the labor pains will inspire an interesting kitchen creation.  In the mean time, I've been getting crafty with things I can do with my feet up.

At the beginning of the summer I learned bead-weaving from a great book - Beaded Allure.  I'm sure there are lots of good books out there, but after I read through this one I had the skills and confidence to make my own designs.  The pictures and instructions were very clear, and right now it's on sale for half what I paid.  I was instantly attracted to the more expensive plated beads and Swarovski Crystals.  Both in an out of the kitchen, I have always been inspired by great materials.  Beading is not the cheapest hobby, but I really enjoyed learning, designing my own things, and knowing that I have one more skill in my craft box.   Below from left: My first beaded necklace - trying an asymmetrical design; easy necklace from an instructor's design; heart for my daughter's backpack - figured it out myself; earrings and necklace made for my mom - my design with gold plate beads and Swarovski Crystals.

I've been wanting to learn how to knit or crochet for sometime, but kept putting if off, thinking, "How often do I/will I have two free hands?"  Last week I finally got to the store to buy some yarn and hooks and I learned to crochet from YouTube - a fellow blogger's suggestion.  I recommend Crochet Geek.  The new hobby came just in time for a week sick in bed.  I'm glad I went overboard buying yarn and hooks when I had the chance, because it really saved my sanity.  Below: Baby boots from YouTube tutorial - Rib Cuff Baby Bootie; netted snood - my first project, my own design; two views of a lamb doll I made - my own design, but inspired by the "blackberry stitch."

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fig Marmalade Pie with Low-fat Crust and Lavender Sugar

With six cups of fresh figs in my fridge not getting any fresher, I needed to do something with them, fast.  I used the technique from Mini Cherry Pies, to make this simple fig deliciousness.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Non-dairy Gourmet "Tuna" Noodle Casserole (with vegan option)

My favorite compliment from my husband, "Can you make this again?" began with my son running in from the park asking, "Can we have pasta and tuna and frozen corn?"

Yes, my children would have been satisfied with pasta covered in ketchup, tuna salad, and frozen, literally still frozen, corn.  But, ew, really?

Though sardines are usually more expensive than canned tuna, I've been trying to steer my family toward these healthier and more ecological little fishies.  I even found a brand I love.  I call them "sardines for beginners."  No heads, tails, spines or scales, and no fish breath.  My husband was the last hold out, preferring the the dry mercury laden giants often called "the hot dog of fish" (canned tuna).  But even he couldn't resist sardines smothered in this flavorful creamy sauce in a familiar, noodle casserole format. 

For school lunch, try it cold, for a one-dish, energy packed, lunch to-go!

The sauce is so fast and easy to make, you can begin the prep at the same time you start the pasta water.  And like all my "non-recipes" the ingredients are flexible.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Knives: Choice, Care, Storage, PLUS Product Recommendations

I purchased some new knives at the beginning of the summer, and I have been dying to tell you all about it.

Purchasing or Registering for Knives 

When buying knives, I recommend two or three very good knives that will last your whole life, rather than a set that appears to have more value.  The knives in the set may be of lower quality and they are likely to take up valuable real estate in your kitchen.  Additionally, the knife blocks that come in sets tend to be very bulky, take up a lot of space on your counter, and only fit the knives with which they are sold.  However, if your family eats a lot of steak and you depend of a full set of quality steak knives, go for the set.

Restaurant discount stores can be a good place to find quality knives, but you may also see some of the top brands in mega-marts and grocery stores.  I did some price comparison and feel that I got a good deal on  Stick to well known brands.  Knives made in Europe are generally higher quality.  Specifically, Germany has an excellent reputation for blades.  (I never buy a pencil sharpener without making sure the blade was made in Germany.)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Make Pre-mixed Bulgur Salad

The end of summer is a busy time.  Everyone I know seems to be moving, having a baby, taking a last minute vacation, or getting ready for school to begin.  Busy times can lead to poor food choices, so I want to take this post to remember an old favorite - instant bulgur pilaf.

Bulgur wheat is pre-boiled, dried, and cracked.  It cooks as easily as instant oatmeal, is faster and healthier than instant rice, and fit for lunch or dinner.  And, it's a whole lot cheaper than pre-packaged grain mixes.

You will need a clean container that closes tightly.  I'm using the jar from instant coffee.  Before you begin, check all your ingredients and spices for bugs.  (One wormy walnut will ruin your whole batch.  Ew.)

Fill about halfway with bulgur wheat, then add whatever you like.  The bulgur will double in size, so season accordingly.  Don't be shy!  Have fun, be creative, mix and close tightly.  Here is what went into my last batch:
  • bulgur
  • sun-dried tomatoes (not marinated) chopped small
  • dry shitake mushrooms, broken small  
  • pine nuts
  • dehydrated onions
  • whole mustard seeds 
  • dry thyme
  • dry basil
  • ground coriander seed
  • garlic powder
  • ground red pepper flakes
  • citric acid 
  • salt
For a single serving, poor 1/4 to 1/2 cup of mix into a bowl or hot cup, add twice as much boiling water, stir, cover, wait for grains to absorb all water.

Featured in Slightly Indulgent Tuesday; 8/16/11

Friday, August 12, 2011

Food Photography Video

Feast your eyes on these awesome photos from Modernist Cuisine.  Photographer and scientist Nathan Myhrvold talks about how they get those amazing images, and what happens after the camera flashes.  To see more, check out the Modernist Cuisine Blog.

The Photography from Modernist Cuisine on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

All About Iron & Black Lentil Salad

I did pretty well in high school and college.  Multiple choice tests, essay tests, I could handle them all, with the exception of oral Spanish tests.  Now I'm in my third trimester of pregnancy and most of my tests involve my blood, not my brains.  My blood is in severe need of after-school enrichment in order to pass the hemoglobin portion of my retake-test.

Adult women need about 18 mg of iron per day and pregnant women need 27.  However, not all iron is absorbed equally.  The body absorbs iron from animal sources (heme iron) much better then iron from plant sources (non-heme iron).  For instance, 100 mg of egg has 2-3 mg of iron, all of which is absorbed by the body, 100 mg of boiled spinach has 4 mg, but only about 1.2 mg is absorbed.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mock Plantains / Banana Chip FAIL

First, some advice.  If you think about making something with green bananas, DO IT before your bananas ripen.  This might have worked with really starchy bananas, but instead I got a sweet mush.

My husband and I were reminiscing about how much we used to enjoy plantains.  My dad and I slice them, oil and salt them, and lay them out in the oven to bake.  We wait until the plantains are mostly brown.

I thought I might try the same thing with bananas, but they were too moist and just deflated into a wimpy goo, only fit for spreading on pound cake or putting on top of ice cream.

FYI, this idea isn't totally crazy.  Penniless Parenting had success with her Fried Green Bananas.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Save Time at the Grocery Store with a Pre-printed List

In my home growing up, my parents always had pre-printed shopping lists where we could put what we wanted in its appropriate aisle to make shopping easier.  Our local grocery store was recently turned into a small, decently priced mega-mart, and it seemed appropriate to finally make my own shopping list.

Next time you have an extra few minutes at your favorite grocery store, make a record of what is sold in each aisle.  You can zip around with a camera or camera phone and snap photos of the aisle signs as well as items you buy or things you want to remember in each aisle.  You could also go with a pad of paper, but I think taking a few pictures (flash off) in each aisle is fastest.  Remember how many aisles there are and think about the best way to represent them on paper. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Summer Salad Links & Asian Coleslaw

First, my coleslaw: 

Cabbage is easy, cheap, and has numerous health benefits.  I often make an Asian-inspired coleslaw as an alternative the to classic mayonnaise version.  It's easy, and I just add whatever I'm in the mood for like:
  • half a cabbage sliced, or a package of thinly sliced coleslaw mix
  • shredded or matchstick carrots (optional)
  • rice wine vinegar
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce or tamari sauce
  • date syrup or molasses
  • lots of sesame seeds (toasting optional)
  • dried cranberries, preferably unsweetened
  • washed bean sprouts (optional)
  • Optional: Before serving crumble instant egg noodles/Raman noodles into the salad. 

Now, for the invaluable links:

I just came across one of the most comprehensive lists of mouthwatering salads I have seen on the web, in link form.  It is well organized and you are sure to find something to fit your occasion.  My problem was, where to start?  The list was compiled by Leora A of Here in HP.  Check out her great list of Simple Summer Salads!

Photo by Leora @ Here in HP
I was especially intrigued by some of the "Light Meal Salads," including
Ilana-Davita's Salade Ni̤oise РCarbohydrate-Free Recipe
Leora's Japanese Noodle Vegetable Salad with Peanut Sauce
Chanita Harel's Tuna,Red Cabbage and Caper Salad 

There are also several recipes for vegetarian pate / mock chopped liver, such as the two recipes posted by Laura of Pragmatic Attic in her post "Tastes Like the Real Thing Vegetarian Chopped Liver."

Hey, look, Leora included my Quinoa Tabbouleh!

While we're talking salad, have you heard of purslane?  I'm still intrigued by urban foraging, but the summer seems barren of edible weeds.  Not so!  Mimi of Israeli Kitchen introduces purslane and how to eat it in her post, "Purslane, Summer's Edible Weed."

For a compilation of my salad posts, CLICK HERE.  Some salads you'll find here:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

EASY Pickled Watermelon Rind

You may also enjoy last weeks post: Curried Watermelon Rind & Mango Salad.  Below are directions to make the easiest pickled melon rinds ever.  This is great for a small batch that you want to eat within the month, not for large batch preserving.
  1. Cut watermelon rind into workable sections.  Peel with sharp knife and remove pink fruit.
  2. Stuff small jars with slices.  Boil water in the microwave or kettle.
  3. Add to each small jar: 2 tsp salt, 2 tsp sugar, and 3 Tbs cider vinegar. (You can experiment with adding whole spices like cloves or mustard, crystallized ginger, more sugar, more vinegar or alcoholic beverages.)
  4. Top with boiling water.  
  5. Using an oven mitt or rag, shake to mix.
  6. Unless you use proper canning/preserving procedures*, refrigerate jars when cool.
  7. For best results let soak close to a week before enjoying. 
*If you want to preserve a large batch, you may want to use a proper recipe like these sweet Pickled Watermelon Rinds on

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mini Cherry Pies (Reduced Fat)

"Guest Worthy Wednesday" (see top menu bar) is coming early this week, because I just can't wait to share this delicious treat with you and the participants of "Slightly Indulgent Tuesday."

I was inspired to make Cherry Pie by the mouthwatering pictures on Ari Cooks "Welcoming July with Sour Cherry Pie." However, I needed something a bit easier and with less fat than traditional pie crusts.  (We can pretend it was for health reasons, but I also was restrained by only having one spoonful of margarine left in the fridge.)

For the filling you will need:
  • 3-4 cups clean pitted cherries, halved, or other seasonal fruit cut in small pieces.  (I added three red plums.)
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1-2 Tbs fresh lemon juice 
  • A small pot

Make a Protective Cookbook Cover

While you're helping your kids cover their textbooks, why not make a little something for yourself?  With a cookbook cover, you can have your favorite cookbook in the midst of flying oil and sauce and not have to worry about the pages.

  1. Find heavy clear plastic, like what they sell in rolls to cover tables, or to make shower curtain liners.
  2. Cut enough to cover your favorite cookbook while it is open.  Leave a little extra at the open end.
  3. Tape the edges, or sew using an extra wide stitch.  Don't forget to leave one side open!  You can use a clip to hold the plastic in place while you tape or sew.  You can even use decorative tape. 
  4. Optional - To hold the open end closed you can use stick-on Velcro, a large paper clip, or a chip-clip.

Now splatter away!  Pile ingredients on your cookbook!  Bring it right into the action!  Just wipe off after each use and store folded in half on your cookbook shelf.


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