How to Pick Perfect Berries

blackberries and raspberries

The wild blackberry bush on the border between our yard and the neighbors’ seems like it’s on the border between civilization and the wild. After all, it is beyond the fence. Clutching our little rinsed-out yogurt cups, my sister lifts the metal latch, too high for me to reach, and we follow the chain link fence to the grassy hill behind our house, the edge of the woods, the neighbor’s blackberry bush. Although we have permission from both the neighbors and our parents, it feels like a wild adventure to be pulling down thorny branches and reaching under wide leaves to search for hidden treasure: plump, juicy blackberries. We alight the cement stairs to the back door into the kitchen half an hour later with cups full of berries, scratches on our arms, and purple juice on our chins and fingers.

 

That was twenty-five years ago. I hadn’t gone berry-picking in over twenty years until last week. “Petel Bahar” (פטל בהר) in Gush Etzion opens its cherry orchards and berry bushes to public picking, for a fee, from mid-May through July. (This is an unsolicited recommendation. The opinions are completely my own. I am not being compensated at all for this post. BUT…if you happen to go, it won’t hurt to mention that you heard about it on my blog. ;-))  The staff gave us tips on how to pick the ripest, sweetest, juiciest blackberries and raspberries:

How to Pick the Best Blackberries

 

  • The berries that grow in the sun are sweeter than the ones that grow in the shade.
  • Blackberries should be completely black. If they are red, they aren’t ripe, and if there is even a hint of red, they may be sour, or at least not very sweet.
  • The best blackberries are plump and full of juice. They look like they will burst if you touch them. Sometimes they do!
  • Grasp the berry where it is attached to the branch and pull gently. It should come off easily. If it doesn’t, it isn’t ripe.
  • Wash as necessary.In the picture below, you can see that most of the blackberries are completely black. A few have reddish spots. Those are probably the least sweet.

blackberries

How to Pick the Best Red Raspberries

  • The raspberries here are shaped almost like strawberries, except they grow on bushes.
  • The darker the red, the better.
  • If the raspberry is fully ripe, it basically falls into your hand when you touch it. If it needs a gentle pull, it’s fine. If you need to tug, leave it. It’s not ready, even if it’s red.
  • The stem attached to the bush grows down into the raspberries, and the fruit slips right off, hollow inside. The stem stays on the bush.
  • Wash as necessary.

In the picture below, you can see the hollow spaces inside the red raspberries.

red raspberries

Raspberries and blackberries are rare in Israel, so I’m enjoying this unique opportunity!

 

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Lemon Veggie Baked Sole

Q: What do ladybugs and sole fish have in common?
Scroll down past the recipe for the answer.

The most popular choices for Shabbat fish dishes I hear about are salmon, gefilte fish, and sushi. Swimming against the tide, I have been trying out different budget-friendly sole recipes. Like most flat white fish, sole doesn’t have a strong flavor of its own. That makes it the perfect base for fun herbs and seasonings. This lemon-veggie baked sole is infused with flavor from the lemons and scallions, but it is still light. It is not covered in sauce, so it can be heated on Shabbat. It’s perfect for a summer seudah shlishit or weeknight supper. In the hot summer, I sometimes serve cold salads for lunch and heat fish, like this sole, for seudah shlishit in the late afternoon.

It is also very quick and easy to make!

sole baked

Baked Lemon-Veggie Sole Recipe
serves 4-5 as main dish, 8-10 as appetizer

Ingredients
8-10 sole fillets
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 small lemon, sliced
1/2 cup chopped scallions
salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. If using frozen fish, make sure it is fully defrosted and extra water is squeezed out.
  2. Heat over to 220 degrees Celsius/425 degrees Farenheit.
  3. Spread fish in a single layer in a shallow pan. The fillets can overlap a little, but don’t stack them.
  4. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the fish. Add the chopped peppers and scallions so the fish is evenly covered. Place a lemon slice on each fish fillet.
  5. Cover with foil. Bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Pour off liquid if this is an issue for heating it on Shabbat. Serve warm. Enjoy!


So what do ladybugs have to do with sole?

A: They are both named after Moses.
The seven-spotted ladybug is commonly known as פרת משה רבנו (Parat Moshe Rabeinu, i.e. Moses’ cow) in Hebrew.  The ladybug traditionally received nicknames in a number of European languages relating to various divine deities, likely because of its power to get rid of mites and aphids. The Hebrew is a translation of the Yiddish variant, relating the little red bug to Moshe. Why a cow? I haven’t seen an answer to that yet. If you know one, comment below!
I just learned today that sole is nicknamed in Hebrew דג משה רבינו (dahg Moshe Rabeinu, i.e. Moses fish). According to the folk tale, Moshe stepped on the fish while crossing the Red Sea, which is why it is so flat.

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Israeli Products Explained: Melon

*This is part 2 of a new series on common Israeli products. Post 1 is my explanation of the difference between couscous and Israeli couscous.*

Two melons were talking in the fridge.
“Honey, do you love me?”
“Sorry, can’t elope tonight. I’ve got to water melons.”
This is one of the punniest jokes I ever heard. Go ahead and groan. I’m joining you. It does, however, highlight what Americans consider the standard varieties of melon.

melon

When I lived in the USA, the three types of melon we usually bought were spherical, netted, orange-fleshed cantaloupe; smooth, oblong, green-fleshed honeydew; and, of course, watermelon. Every once in a while my mother would come home from the supermarket with something exotic-sounding, like a musk melon or Crenshaw, just for fun.

Since I moved to Israel, melons, which are in season throughout the summer along with watermelons, are sold simply as “melon.” Both in the supermarkets and in open-air markets like the famous Machane Yehudah Market in Jerusalem, melons are melons, or occasionally “honey melons” hawked by over-zealous vendors. I learned from experience that “honey melon” is not honeydew, just regular melon being advertised as “sweet as honey.” Plenty of times, I have bought a small, netted melon, expecting it to be orange cantaloupe, only to cut it open and discover pale green flesh. The opposite it true as well; smooth-skinned melons can be orange.

I know this guessing game bothers some consumers. They want to know what they are getting before cutting the melon open. I understand. People are naturally curious. If you are not a caterer arranging a fruit platter with a specific balance of colors, however, I don’t see the problem with a little surprise. Nothing is a secret in this day and age. We tweet what we’re thinking and feeling and Instagram pictures of everything we do to whoever cares to listen. I even heard a while back of a company that developed a pregnancy test that automatically posts a positive result on the user’s Facebook page. Is there no shame left in the world?

melon whole

very ripe melon

But if you really want to know about your melon….

  1. The melons that we mistake for cantaloupes that turn out to be green are probably Galia melons. The Galia melon was developed in Israel in the 1970s at the Neve Ya’ar Research Center of the Agricultural Research Organization, Dr. Zvi Karchi and named after his daughter, Galia. Galia melons, our local “green cantaloupes,” are fat-free, cholesterol-free, low in calories, and high in vitamin C, vitamin A, bioflavanoids, potassium, iron, calcium, fiber, and pectin. A sub-type of the Galia melon is the Arava melon.
  2. One of the parents of the Galia melon is the HaOgen melon, literally “anchor” in Hebrew, and also known as the Israel melon. The HaOgen melon is smaller than most melons, and it has stripes on its outer skin and sweet, green flesh and hints of salmon color around the seeds. It is nutritionally very similar to the Galia melon.
  3. The Ananas melon, meaning “pineapple melon” in Hebrew, may be the most common generic melon on the Israeli market. It is oval in shape, has netted skin, and weighs about two kilograms. Its flesh can range in color from white to pale green to orange. This is probably my melon in the picture above.

Now that we have so much sweet, delicious melon, what should we do with it?
We usually eat it plain or in fruit salad. This melon I served with cottage cheeses as a light lunch.

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Come back throughout the summer for more melon recipes and ideas!

If you have an Israeli product you would like explained, please contact me.

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Red Lentil Fusion Curry

Fusion. It’s the rage in food these days. Instead of sticking to one ethnicity on our plate, we go for regional fusion. Taco pizza. Hamburger sushi. Latke sliders. I’m not sure if these experiments stem from boredom or extensive world travel and the globalization of everything. In either case, our tongues are often left with con-fusion. Sometimes, though, the dish just works.

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It’s another one of those days. 5:40 pm and I don’t know what I’m trying to have on the table at 6 other than cucumber sticks. The kids have already had pasta, eggs, and grilled cheese this week. Is there anything healthy I can throw into their diet for a little variety in just twenty minutes? Enter: Red lentils. One of the fastest-cooking and least bean-y legumes in my pantry. For some odd reason, I was thinking of making red lentil burgers, even though I knew there was no time. That idea morphed into sauce at some point between cutting an apple for one child and pouring a drink for another, with the baby tugging on my skirt while I was looking for a pot. I should just make supper at 11 am, right? 😛

Any good supper starts with sauteed onions and garlic. After I added the lentils, water and some tomato paste, I looked up a red lentil recipe to check how long to let it simmer, and a dahl recipe popped up. Two of the kids liked the photo, the same ones who liked the curry chicken I made a few weeks ago, so the lentils that were going to be in a tomato sauce became dahl, which became curry when I decided it needed more texture and might be more enticing for the kids with corn in it. This is rather old-fashioned of me–400 years old-fashioned, actually–but I still think of corn as a North American food, the American Indians teaching the starving Pilgrims how to plant corn and survive their first winter. So, even though there are recipes for corn curry, I still think of this dish as a fusion food. Especially because I served it on couscous, not rice.

P.S. Three kids tasted it, and they all ended up eating couscous with ketchup and cottage cheese. More left for the grownups! 🙂

Red Lentil Fusion Curry Recipe
serves: 8-10 as side dish, 4-6 as main dish
Ready in 20 minutes

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon oil
1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
100 grams tomato paste (about 1/3 cup)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 1/2 cups dried red lentils
5 cups water
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried or freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 can corn, with liquid
fresh green herbs such as scallions, parsley, or coriander, for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. Sautee onion and garlic in oil about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add lentils, spices, and tomato paste. Stir for a minute until well combined.
  3. Add water. Stir. Simmer 10 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, make couscous.
  5. Turn off stove. Add coconut milk and can of corn, with liquid. Stir and Let sit for a minute for the flavors to soak together while you dish out couscous and chop herbs, if you’re feeling fancy.
  6. Serve hot, over rice, or go fusion style and try it with quinoa, couscous, bulgur, or other grain of choice. Garnish with green herbs.

 

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DIY Frugal Shoebox Game: “Gogo’im”

There are 144 apricot pits in a peanut butter jar on my kitchen counter. I collected stamps, coins, and erasers. My kids collect apricot pits.

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The spinner craze has hit Israel, and kids around the country are spinning away with these finger-fidget-toys. Other years, there were rainbow loom kits or special cards to collect. The fads come and go, but for as long as there have been apricots in Israel, Israeli kids have been collecting and playing with gogo’im (גוגואים), known in Jerusalem as a’ju’im (אג’ואים). Lots of people would look at me like I’m crazy if I told them my kids play with apricot pits, but–like hopscotch and marbles–gogo’im is a classic schoolyard game. (The Israeli equivalent of jacks is חמש אבנים, “five stones,” which we bought on our trip to Shlomit.) In an age of consumerism, when we feel compelled to buy the latest toy, the season’s newest model car, the most fashionable clothes, and the newest iphone, it’s refreshing to have an old classic to fall back on. Simple living. Like a school uniform, every kid’s apricot pits look pretty much the same. No one will know if your parents bought apricots for 25 shekels a kilo at the corner store or the five-shekel apricots on a blowout sale that were half-rotten and your mom used to make fruit soup. It really doesn’t matter because a pit is a pit. It’s a great equalizer.

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Also, if my children are begging me to buy them toys that come inside delicious, fresh fruit that they will eat in order to get the pits, that is a thousand times better than asking me to buy them chocolate eggs with toys inside. When they ask me to eat apricots for them, that’s even better. Considering that apricot season in Israeli very short, only about two months, it’s an extra incentive to take advantage of the soft, sweet little apricots before they disappear from the supermarkets for another ten months.

So, how do you make the game?

  1. Find a shoebox that you don’t need.
  2. From the cover, cut a few circles of various sizes.
  3. Assign different point values to the different size holes, with the smaller holes being more points. (It’s kind of like skeeball.)
  4. Close the box, and go grab your gogo’im and some friends.

How is the game played?

  1. The game came be played while sitting or standing.
  2. The shoebox is placed on the floor (or ground outside), and players must stand a certain distance away.
  3. In turn, each player tosses a gogo at the box, trying to land it in a hole.
  4. The number of points accrued before the bell rings equals the number of gogo’im you win off the other players’ collections.

    Israelis, please let me know in the comments if you play differently!

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Easy 5-Ingredient No-Bake Peanut Butter and Jelly Cheesecake

There are some childhood flavors that stick with you no matter where you move. For me, it’s peanut butter that’s stuck. This easy, 5-ingredient cheesecake brings together the nostalgic flavor of a classic American sandwich and a popular Israeli no-bake cheesecake recipe.

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The classic Israeli no-bake cheesecake recipe–the one on the back of the Osem tea biscuit box, which is the same recipe the kids bring home from preschool every year–calls for whipping cream with instant pudding, sugar, and gvina levana (soft white cheese) and layering with biscuits soaked in milk. I have a few issues with this. Why does cheesecake need cream, anyways? As far as I can tell, what the cream adds is fat, i.e. flavor, and supposedly fluffiness, which I never seem to achieve. I am generally unsuccessful with whipping. It doesn’t matter whether it’s cream or eggs, whether I use a whisk, a hand mixer, or the whipping attachment on my food processor, I seem to be always falling short of the sought-after “stiff, white peaks.” This is probably a sign of lack of patience. The instant pudding mix, as I understand, is meant to dry up and stiffen the cheese mixture, as well as sweeten. But since the cheese mixture is now dry, the tea biscuits now need to be soaked in milk to soften them. Am I the only one who thinks we’re making a lot of unnecessary extra work for ourselves here?

Enter: peanut butter. Thicker than gvina levana or cream, full of fat and flavor. We’ve just replaced pudding mix, heavy cream, ten minutes of standing over the mixer and five minutes of digging it out of the closet and washing it with one ingredient. I love peanut butter.

Peanut butter, as wonderful as it is, needs a partner. My favorite pairing for peanut butter is usually chocolate. In fact, this cheesecake filling would probably be perfect for making a Reese’s cheesecake by using chocolate tea biscuits instead of vanilla, eliminating the jam, and throwing a handful of chocolate chips into the filling. (Ooh, I may need to go make another cheesecake.) Today, however, I had a jar of strawberry jam asking for attention, so peanut butter and jelly cheesecake it is.

Warning: This five-ingredient no-bake peanut butter and jelly cheesecake is so dangerously quick and easy, not to mention delicious, that you just may end up making it every week. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Easy, Five-Ingredient No-Bake Peanut Butter and Jelly Cheesecake

makes 1 medium cheesecake

Ingredients

750 grams gvina levana
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3-1/2 cup sugar, depending how sweet you want
about 1/4 cup fruit jam
about 30 plain (vanilla) tea biscuits
crushed peanuts (optional, for garnish)

Directions:

  1. Mix peanut butter, sugar, and gvina levana in a medium bowl with a spoon.
  2. Spread jam on one side of enough tea biscuits to cover the bottom of your pan. Place them in the pan JAM SIDE UP.
  3. Spread a generous layer of peanut butter cheesecake filling over the tea biscuits. Repeat.
  4. The third layer of biscuits put JAM SIDE DOWN so the top layer of peanut butter cheesecake filling spreads more nicely. Think of it like a lasagna with noodles right under the top layer of sauce instead of cheese filling.
  5. Cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours, or overnight, in order to allow the moisture from the cheesecake filling to soak into the tea biscuits and the whole cake to set.
  6. Garnish with a sprinkle crushed peanuts on top to serve, if you want the cheesecake to look fancier, and to add a little crunch.

 

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Yom Yerushalayim 2017- Forever My Jerusalem

One spring evening, a few years ago, I was privileged to be part of a small group of women sitting on the porch of Puah Shteiner in Jerusalem’s Old City, listening to her first-hand account of her exile from and return to the Old City. In her book, “Forever My Jerusalem,” she describes her childhood in Jerusalem’s Old City and its seige and surrender in 1948. She also recounts her feelings upon returning nineteen years later, after Israel’s miraculous victory in the Six Day War, the Old City once again in Jewish hands.

“The vaulted road shut out the sunlight. The sudden darkness caused my heart to to beat faster, just as it had when I was a little girl taking the 2a bus home from school. The street gradually widened and opened up tot the sun again. The further we walked, the more excited I became. Soon we would reach the turn in the road. Here the old bus used to slow down, scraping the wall of the narrow street as it squeezed through.

A few more steps, and there it was–Zion Gate. The gate was now wide open. Trembling, I walked up to it and leaned my head on the stones. I saw a newly scrawled inscription ‘Shema Yisrael…Hear O Israel, The L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is one!’

‘We left the Old City from here,” I whispered hoarsely, seeing in my mind’s eye the throngs of people pushing and pulling as they all tried to squeeze through the narrow opening in the blockade. It was a miracle that we had all managed to escape with our lives. I stood still and recited the blessing aloud: “Blessed art Thou…Who performed a miracle for me on this spot!””

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My family no longer lives in Jerusalem, but now my son has Rebbetzin Puah Shteiner’s son as his school principal!

When you love someone or something so much that words are limiting, there are pictures. You can find beautiful, professional pictures of Jerusalem online. These are a few shots of my Jerusalem:

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A photo my 5 year old snapped of the Chords Bridge while taking a break from playing ball

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A dove’s nest on our windowsill

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Kanfei Nesharim Street the day after a snowstorm

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The bus wishes people “Happy Chanukah”

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cement block placed near a light rail stop to discourage terrorists from running over people waiting for the train, November 2014

And because this is primarily a food blog, you might be interested in this Arutz 7 article on Food in Jerusalem Today.

Happy Yom Yerushalayim!

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Granola-Crust Cheesecake Fruit Tart

As the holiday of Shavuot nears, the smell of cheesecake is in the air. Well, not just yet, but at least the recipes are already flying around the internet and the playground benches. We eat cheesecake on Shavuot because it is delicious. There is also a custom to eat dairy foods on Shavuot because we received the Torah on Shavuot, including the laws of kosher food. Before there were laws of what animals were kosher and how to slaughter them properly, it was safest to stick with dairy. In the Song of Songs(4:11), the Torah is also referred to as “honey and milk under your tongue.” Rav Kook explains that both milk and honey are foods that come from forbidden sources–honey from bees and milk processed in the animal’s body from blood, but they themselves are permissible to consume, symbolizing “fixing the world,” which the Torah also has the power to do, as does the Land of Israel, which is called the “Land of Milk and Honey.” (Pninei Halacha on Festivals)

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This beautiful tart is sweetened with honey and filled with cheese. The fruit topping is also a nod to a different Shavuot theme. Shavuot is the holiday when bikkurim, the first fruits of the Seven Species of Israel were brought to the Temple in Jerusalem. This tart features fresh, seasonal fruit, but the fruit theme is still a reminder of the special fruit of bikkurim.

I enjoy rich, decadent cheesecakes, but traditional cheesecakes full of butter and cream don’t always feel as good in my stomach as they did on my tongue. This light, fruity treat is the perfect ending to a big holiday meal, when you really don’t want anything rich and heavy. My taste testers described it as “tangy,” “like lemon meringue pie,” and “reminiscent of key lime pie.” All good things. And it contains no butter, cream, or eggs.

The granola base can be made days in advance and frozen until the time of assembly. The filling should be made at least a few hours before assembly in order to give the Chia seeds time to work their gel magic. This tart takes more work than I usually put into a cake, but Shavuot is only once a year. If this looks delicious but daunting, contact me about ordering options.

Granola-Crust Cheesecake Fruit Tart Recipe

Ingredients:

Crust:
2 cups whole oats (not quick oats)
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup ground almonds
2/3 cup honey
1/3 cup oil (preferably coconut oil)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling:
500 grams (about 2 cups) soft white cheese (gvina levana– I prefer Ski)
1 tablespoon corn starch
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon Chia seeds

Topping:

3-4 pieces of assorted fresh fruit, sliced thin

Glaze:
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon liquid sweetener (honey/maple syrup/apple juice concentrate/agave nectar)

Directions:

  1. Line bottom of round standard size pie pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
  2. Mix together crust ingredients and press into lined pie pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden. (See picture above.) Cool completely before adding cheese layer. This may be stored in a sealed bag in the freezer.
  3. Make the cheese filling: Sift together the cornstarch and powdered sugar and mix with a spoonful of the soft cheese. Add to the rest of the cheese. Add lemon zest and Chia seeds. Mix thoroughly and let sit for a few hours or overnight.
  4. Assemble: Spread the cheese filling evenly over the crust, in a circular motion, working from the inside out.
  5. Lay the fruit on top of the cheese mixture in a decorative pattern.
  6. Make a glaze with lemon juice, water and liquid sweetener. Brush over the top of the fruit to prevent browning.
  7. Keep chilled until ready to serve.
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Summer-Friendly One-Pot Shabbos Solution: Couscous Chicken

Even people who love to cook, like me, have those weeks when they don’t want to spend all Friday in the kitchen. In the winter, Fridays are simply too short, but chicken soup and cholent are a popular, easy go-to meals. In the summer, Shabbos starts later, but who wants to spend all day standing over a hot stove when it’s in the 30s outside? (Celcius. I’ll save you the math. That’s 90s Farenheit.) Some people even take family trips on long summer Fridays.

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This couscous chicken recipe is versatile, healthy, filling, and quick to put together. It’s also dry enough to put on a warming tray on a timer for Shabbos morning. That means less heat and less cooking. If you make enough, you really can serve this one dish for multiple meals. As a bonus, this chicken is made in a large baking dish that can be brought to the table, so there are minimal dishes to wash. No wonder it’s a family favorite. 🙂

Are you wondering why half the chicken and couscous is covered in vegetables? It’s not because I ran out of zucchini or because I was too snap-happy with my camera to wait until I was done layering the veggies. When I said it’s a versatile dish, I mean the vegetables and spices can be adapted based on your family’s taste. Most of my kids don’t like cooked vegetables, so I leave half of the chicken and couscous clear for them. In the picture, you see zucchini, tomatoes, and onions, but I have also made this with frozen baby carrots and once with frozen green beans. One pan with protein, whole grains, and vegetables. What could be better?

This couscous chicken takes about fifteen minutes to put together and just over an hour in the oven. Why not use the cook time to make a summery dessert like Gluten-Free No-Bake Brownie Bites and chop a salad? There you have it. Shabbos ready in under an hour and a half.

Couscous Chicken Recipe
serves 6-8

Ingredients:

cooking spray
2-3 potatoes
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 cup uncooked whole wheat couscous
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil or other oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced, or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
3 cups water
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tomato, thinly sliced
1 zucchini, thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray. Thinly slice potatoes and place them to cover the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. (The spices in the couscous will be blocked by the chicken, so the potatoes need their own salt.)
  2. Cut each piece of chicken in half length-wise so it is thinner, more like shnitzel. Cover potatoes with chicken.
  3. Mix spices and oil with couscous. Spread over chicken.
  4. GENTLY pour water into the edge of the pan so that the couscous is mostly covered with water, but be careful not to wash the couscous off the chicken.
  5. Layer sliced vegetables on the couscous, as desired.
  6. Cover and bake at 180C/350F for 60-70 minutes.

 

 

 

 

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Chili-Free Chili

Recently, I participated in a video conference for write-from-home mothers. One of the tips offered in the lesson on time management was to realize that there is no such thing as a “normal” week for a mother. Over the week since I heard this, one night was eaten up with a class parents meeting, another with parent-teacher conferences, and another with an attempted bonfire. I had kids home on school vacation for two days, and when I took the baby to the doctor this morning, I was told he needs a minor surgical procedure tomorrow. Totally normal week. Because different things always come up. I hope that viewing my schedule in this way will reduce a lot of frustration normally caused by the little things that mess up a rigid schedule in a big way, otherwise known as real life.

Monday was the official school vacation day given for Lag BaOmer for most of the schools in the country. It was also International Museum Day. That magic combination meant that dozens of museums around the country opened their doors to the public free of charge and were swamped with over-tired children and exhausted parents. Even though my two-year-old was home on Sunday and had preschool on Monday, I took her along on the family trip to Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem. It is the most kid-friendly museum in the capital, and with rotating exhibits and guest exhibits, there is always something new for the kids to touch, build, poke, or test.

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exhibit comparing different types of wheat and other grains (taken with my left hand while holding baby)

 

 

On this museum visit, I was excited to find a new exhibit all about food! We saw plants with different types of roots, honeycombs built around plates and toys, towers of packaged food, comparisons of different types of wheat, and tubes of Spirulina (algae)–the most nutrient-dense food on the planet.  In the same room as the wheat, there was a glass-topped table filled with different types of legumes. Since I’m trying to vary my kids’ diet beyond whole wheat pasta with cottage cheese and ketchup or scrambled eggs and couscous, I called them over to look at the beans. Supposedly, when children participate more in food choice preparation, they are more open to try new things. I challenged them each to choose a legume for me to take for supper later in the week–green lentils, red lentils, yellow lentils, white beans, mung beans, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, black beans, split peas, chickpeas, etc. I got a few upturned noses, but my five-year-old was really excited about the red kidney beans. So I made chili tonight.

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I wanted the kids to actually eat the chili, so I kept it mild. There was a chili recipe on the back of the package, which I adapted slightly. Ironically, chili powder is not easy to find in Israel. So I made chili without chili powder. It was still delicious. Half of my kids even ate it.

Chili-Free Chili Recipe
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
2 1/4 cups pre-soaked beans (from 1 cup dried)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 hot pepper, diced (optional; I didn’t use)
1 cup corn kernels
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
100 grams (a little less than 1/2 cup) tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup diced scallions, for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a medium pot. Saute onion and garlic.
  2. Add beans, spices, and two cups water. Simmer for about an hour. If using canned beans, skip this step and move on to step 3.
  3. Add the peppers, corn, tomato paste, and one more cup of water. Simmer for another hour.
  4. Remove bay leaf before serving.
  5. Serve over brown rice, garnished with scallions.

*I made this on the stove-top, but it would work great in a slow-cooker (which I have never used, so I can’t give details).

Like Mexican food? Try Vegan Burritos with Easy Refried Beans

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