Thursday, April 25, 2013

Too Easy Chocolate Chip Peach Cake

I don't bake much. It just doesn't get my creative juices flowing quite like stringing together a healthy, balanced, and economical meal that most of my family might eat. But when I ask a friend if there's something I can do to help, I mean it. And if the response is that I should bring cake... Well by golly, I'll bake a cake! Here's the thing, my one go-to easy cake is the Apple Sauce Cake recipe given to me by the same person to whose house I would be bringing the cake! 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Special Helpers in the Kitchen - Guest Post

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, I invited author and mother of four (including a 10 year old boy with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and an 8 year old daughter born with Down's syndrome) to share her experience cooking with special needs kids. Deborah teaches cooking classes in her home to mothers and children with mild special needs. Check out Deborah's amazing, powerful, and insightful new memoir A Brief Moment in Timepublished by ASD Publushing Co, New York, available where ebooks are sold.

Cooking can be hectic, messy and stressful. A brief loss of focus or minor slip up can lead to overly-spiced and over-cooked food, or blood and burns. Because adding children to that mix is quite often a ‘no no’ for many mothers, children are missing out on grasping the tools of a fundamental life skill.  

Photo from Nicole Mays
Cooking time with mum gives children an opportunity to learn about the different food groups and the importance of health, safety, and hygiene during preparation.  Furthermore, whilst we live in an environment where the consumption of processed food is more appealing than spending time preparing fresh food from scratch, we have a responsibility to teach our children how to make the correct culinary choices.

As a mother of four children, two of whom have special needs, finding the patience as well as the time to teach my children is no easy task.  Yet making the effort has taught me that cooking with children who have special needs is just as effective as a therapy session.  

How is this so?  I am certainly not a professional in the medical field with little expertise in the different techniques used when working with children with disabilities.  However, what I do have is a very specific skill set when preparing food.  This skill set is managed by rules and regulations that ensure safe food management and consumption.  Children with communication, coordination and attention difficulties thrive on rules and boundaries because they help guide them on how to behave.  By learning to cook using this skill set, they become more confident and focused by being able to reap the almost immediate benefits from their efforts by enjoying the food they have prepared.

Photo from Nicole Mays
It still amazes me that my 10 year old son, who has Autistic Spectrum Disorder and thereby has trouble focusing on a given task and trouble with hand eye coordination is able to egg, bread and fry chicken, under my watchful eye of course, with absolute precision. 

Below are my top 5 tips for cooking with all children:

1.  Allocate a 30 minute time slot for cooking:
For the first few sessions outlining a start and finish time will help the concept feel more manageable to you.  Also your child, who may have difficulty starting a new activity due to concentration issues, will be more inclined to participate knowing that this activity has a start and end time.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Basic Sauerkraut - How it all began

The first food I purposely fermented was a plain sauerkraut. Just cabbage and salt. I didn't like it at first, but my 1.5 and 6 year old boys were big fans. Then either my taste matured or the kraut matured after another month in my fridge, and suddenly I couldn't get enough!

I apologize if you can’t run across the street to the local veggie stand/quickie mart and pick up a cabbage for about 50 US cents a pound. I know; we’re blessed. In your case, buying the cabbage might be the hardest part of the recipe. Honest, the rest is that easy.

picture taken from my window
You will need:

  • ceramic crock or jar(s)
  • cabbage
  • non-iodized salt
  • any other fruits, veggies, seaweed, or spices you want to add like:
    onions, apples, carrots, juniper berries, wakame, ginger, garlic...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Intro to Fermenting Vegetables

I have been absolutely obsessed with fermenting foods the last few weeks. My interest began as I read and heard reports on the multiple benefits of probiotics and the importance of a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut. It went beyond good digestion and better absorption of nutrients. Studies show better mood and brain function associated with healthy gut flora. Research suggests that 80% of the immune system may be in the gut, with probiotic-rich foods, like kimchi, offering serious illness preventing effects.

A study published in Nature found that, "Mice fed a strain of Lactobacillus rhamnosus were less anxious and produced fewer stress hormones than control animals."

I'm sold! But consuming effective amounts of probiotic tablets and yogurt can get very expensive. Multiply that times the six anxious, antibiotic ravaged guts in our household, and it is completely cost prohibitive. Then I remembered, I could culture my own probiotics! I've posted before about kombucha and kefir, but I was having trouble getting my hands on kosher kefir grains or a kombucha SCOBY. I discussed my interest with a friend, who told me she makes her own sauerkraut - and it's easy!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Travel to Zichron Yaakov and review of Nili Restaurant

My mother is visiting from Florida for 10 days - yay! Yesterday we had a lovely day trip to the scenic and relaxing Zichron Yaakov and Ramat Hanadiv. If you are staying in Tel Aviv, or anywhere along Israel's train route, Zichron Yaakov is easy to get to. The train ride is surprisingly pleasant and the system is easy to use without any of the hassles of air travel or the uncertainty of buses. From the Binyamina train station, cross the street and take the #70 bus to the last stop.

In Zichron Moshe, we went to the First Aliya Museum, about the Jewish immigrants of the 1880's, and we walked along the pedestrian mall section of Hameyasdim Street. We had an outstanding lunch at Nili (kosher mehadrin). The presentation, atmosphere, food, and service was all excellent. I wasn't terribly excited by the sushi menu until my mom brought my attention to the Special Vegetarian - tamago, shitake, kampyo takuan wrapped in sweet potato and avocado. It turned out to be the surprise highlight of the meal - sweet, soft, and fresh. We also ordered the portobello mushroom appetizer with roasted pepper and goat cheese. I loved the gentle crispness formed around the circles of lightly roasted goat cheese. I splurged on tagliattele alfredo with fresh salmon.


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