Camp Mommy 2018, Week 1 Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

100% Fruit Ice Pops/Frozen Fruit Pops Recipe

Ingredients:
sweet, ripe fruit of choice

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

Lemon Ice Pops Recipe

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Fast Food, Food for Thought, Israeli Products Explained, Main dishes, Parenting, sweets | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Camp Mommy 2018, Day 1

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

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

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

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

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

Easy, Kid-Friendly Tomato Sauce

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

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

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

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Happy Birthday, Trees!

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

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

Coconut Almond Granola Bars

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Granola-Crust Cheesecake Fruit Tart

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Fruity Power Breakfast Bowl

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Fruity Power Breakfast Bowl

No-Bake Fresh Cherry Pie

cherry pie horizontal

Species of Israel Salad

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Winter Fruit Salad with Lemon Coconut Mousse

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Happy Tu B’Shavat!

Posted in A Taste of..., Sides, Snacks, sweets | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Apples to Apples(auce)

applesauce.jpg

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

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

apples on floor.jpg

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

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

What’s your favorite way to serve applesauce?

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Heart Health Challenge, Day 4: Fresh Pumpkin Soup

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

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

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

pumpkin soup book.jpg

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

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

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

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

Fresh Pumpkin Soup Recipe
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart! We’ll stop there. Many people get hung up on the continuation and because of the unpleasant side effects of beans, don’t regularly consume legumes. Legumes, however, really are good for your heart! High in protein, fiber, and vitamins, and low in fat, they are an important part of a heart-healthy diet. For those who aren’t frequent bean-eaters, red lentils are a good place to start. They are quicker and easier to cook than many beans, have a mild flavor, and may help lower cholesterol.

I grew up in a vegetarian home, eating brown rice top with cooked lentils on a regular basis. Here in the Middle East, a popular dish is mujadra, which mixes the rice and lentils together. It can be served as a flavorful side dish or, since the legumes and whole grain form a complete protein, as a filling, vegan and gluten free main dish. I made today’s mujadra with red lentils, as opposed to brown or green lentils, because my children are more likely to take to the milder flavor. I garnished the dish with sweet, juicy pomegranate arils because they are another heart-friendly food. And because they are pretty.

Want to join the 30 Day Heart Health Challenge? Follow Israeli Salad on Facebook.

red lentil mujadra.jpg

Red Lentil Mujadra Recipe

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, shredded or diced
1 cup brown rice
1 cup red lentils
4 cups water, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 bay leaf
pomegranate seeds (optional, for garnish)

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a medium pot. Sautee onion for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add carrots, rice, and spices. Sautee for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for a half hour.
  4. Add red lentils and one more cup of water. Mix well. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
  5. Remove bay leaf before serving. Garnish with pomegranate seeds.

 

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30 Day Heart Health Challenge and Edamame

Have you ever done a 30 Day Challenge? The idea of taking a month to try something new or change a habit has become very popular in the last few years. There are TED talks, support groups, and books dedicated to the topic. The claim is that it takes about 30 days to ingrain a new practice and make it habitual. However, there is also research to support the idea that many people take much longer than that to make lasting changes in their lives. I think the reason so many people are drawn to the idea of a 30 Day Challenge is because it sounds achievable. First of all, one month is a short enough length of time that we are willing to try, and if the habit doesn’t stick forever, well, at least we pushed ourselves for one month. In addition, calling the habit-forming experiment a challenge instead of a commitment leaves the door open to succeed even if we fail. A challenge asks us to try our best. A commitment makes us feel like we failed if we messed up one day. After missing one day in a challenge, we can say, “Well, it’s challenging. It is really hard. It’s only natural to make a mistake or two. Now I’ll keep trying to see how far I can get.” We set ourselves up for success, even if it is partial. It’s better to meet our goals 27 out of our thirty days than to never even try to change because we fear failing in our commitments.

A number of friends and loved ones are now trying to lose weight, eat more whole foods, or lower cholesterol. One of them, in an attempt to eat a more plant-based diet, has been trying to incorporate a new fruit, vegetable or nut/seed into her diet each week. For her, and for all of us, I’m starting a 30 Day Challenge to only post heart-healthy recipes. With Chanukah coming up in less than a month, this will be truly challenging! I would love for you to join me in this challenge by clicking on the little button on the right and following the Israeli Salad Facebook Page. I will not be able to have a new heart-friendly recipe posted on the blog every day,  but I’ll try to post a new or old recipe or other heart-health tip on my page for the next month. If you have friends who would benefit from this challenge, feel free to invite them, too!edamame.jpg

I’m kicking off the month with a heart-friendly snack, edamame. They are high in protein, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and other vitamins and low in saturated fat. You can read more about research on the nutritional benefits of edamame here. The need to pop the beans out of the pods also slows down the eating process, a recommendation of many diets. While processed soy foods have been getting a bad wrap lately, along with other processed foods, edamame, young soy beans, are totally unprocessed, fun, and delicious, in addition to being healthy. I first heard about edamame back in high school, but I recently got hooked on it after ordering a plate as a side dish at a local pizza place. A steaming bowl of edamame pods was served with fresh lemon wedges and a sprinkle of coarse salt. Definitely way better than french fries. Since then, it has become a favorite snack in my house. My kids don’t yet share my enthusiasm for eating edamame, but some of them enjoy opening the pods.

Look for edamame in the freezer of your local supermarket, near the other frozen vegetables. They are edible if they are just thawed, but best when boiled, steamed, or microwaved for 3-5 minutes. Serve with salt, and fresh lemon if you’re feeling fancy. Snack away to a healthy heart!

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Roasted Bell Pepper Dip

The black-necked wag-tails are flitting about, we haven’t used the air conditioner in weeks, and packages of tissues are disappearing faster than cookies. Here in Israel, our clocks fell back last night, following the fall leaves. Now, untwist your tongue and get it ready to taste this sweet and simple dip. red pepper dip.jpg

When the holidays are over, and routine starts to set in, it’s the perfect time to try out new foods. New, however, doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated or include exotic ingredients. It can be taking another look at what we have and seeing how we can make the most of it. This includes, but is not limited to ingredients. We have all kinds of limits in life–limited time, limited skill sets (that we will hopefully expand, but for now), limited energy, and a range of dietary restrictions that can be rooted in religion, ethical beliefs, or health issues. Maximizing our potential within a strict set of limitations can be exciting and rewarding.

This roasted bell pepper dip is vegan, gluten free, and allergy-friendly, and it only requires about five minutes of hands-on work. Any individual color of pepper can be used, or a mix. I blended yellow and red pepper dips separately and then served them together, but they can be blended together as well. I got the idea for this dip from a recipe for roasted red pepper and eggplant dip, which I make every once in a while, but I’m the only one in my family who eats eggs. This roasted pepper dip is naturally sweet, with no added sugar. It’s delicious spread on bread, on its own or with vegetables and cheese in a sandwich. It can serve as a chip or veggie dip on its own or mixed into chummus, soft white cheese, or roasted eggplant. It can also be served on pasta, as an alternative to tomato sauce. Be creative with this pepper dip and enjoy its versatility.

You have now spent more time reading about this roasted bell pepper dip than you will spend making it. 🙂

Roasted Bell Pepper Dip
Yield: about 1 1/2 cups, depending on size of peppers

Ingredients

3 bell peppers
1  onion
1 head of garlic
cooking spray or oil
salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Cut peppers and peeled onion into large chunks. Spread on a baking tray.
  2. Spray with cooking spray or drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper
  3. Wrap a whole head of garlic in foil and place on baking tray with vegetables.
  4. Bake at 350F/180C for about a half hour, until edges of peppers are brown. Cool and place in bowl OR food processor.
  5. Cut off end of garlic head and squeeze garlic out into the bowl with the peppers and onions.
  6. Blend in food processor or with immersion blender until smooth. Season with more salt and pepper, if necessary.

 

 

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

Lite Chocolate Date Nut Cake

One chilly evening, ten years ago, I sat in a cafe in Jerusalem with my parents and brand-new husband, taking a quiet night off from sheva brachos celebrations. When the waiter, dressed in crisp black and white, glided over to our table with a tray piled with full dishes. “You do such a good job of balancing all that,” my mother complimented him. The experienced waiter dismissed her praise with a wave of his hand and proceeded to deliver a short speech about the importance of balance in life. These words of wisdom from the waiter still reverberate today.

Throughout life, we are always looking for the balance between the ideal and the real. This site is called Israeli Salad. I love salad. My third post on the the blog was a recipe for my favorite breakfast, the fruity power breakfast bowl. Chopped fruit topped with plain, low-fat yogurt and seeds is a great way to start the day. Lately, however, I’ve really just wanted a cup of coffee and a slice of chocolate cake for breakfast. Cake for breakfast? The mother who tries to convince her kids to throw out lollipops? The writer of a food blog named after salad? Such hypocrisy!

Chocolate date nut cake

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Well, this chocolate cake, while not as healthy as fruit and yogurt, has no refined sugar and no oil. As far as cakes go, it’s right up there health-wise with No-Bake Fresh Cherry Pie, Banana Muffins with the Works, and Granola-Crust Cheesecake Fruit Tart. All the sweetness comes from dates. With no added sugar or oil, this chocolate cake can definitely count as a guilt-free breakfast or a light dessert. It also holds together well and slices beautifully. Served as dessert, it can be dusted with powdered sugar, or topped with ice cream or whipped cream.

The lite chocolate date nut cake has a light, spongy texture. It’s sweet, but not too sweet. The walnuts and coconut lend both texture and flavor. The chocolate flavor, boosted by a spoonful of instant coffee and a splash of vanilla, is still dominant. Fruit, nuts, eggs, whole grains, and caffeine. Sounds like breakfast to me! If you really need balance, go ahead and have a Ratatouille-Inspired Mediterranean Grain Bowl or Beet Bulgur Salad for lunch. chocolate date nut cake bite

Lite Chocolate Date Nut Cake Recipe

Ingredients

20-25 pitted dates (150 grams)
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions
1. Pit, check, and halve dates. Place in food processor with regular knife blade.
2. Dissolve instant coffee in boiling water. Add to dates. Blend for about a minute, until there are not large chunks of date.
3. With food processor on, add vanilla and eggs. The continuous blending will help keep the eggs from cooking in the hot date mixture.
4. Add the flour, baking soda, shredded coconut, and walnuts. Blend until all of the dry ingredients and evenly combined with the wet ingredients.
5. Pour into a cake pan greased with cooking spray (or oil, if you prefer).
6. Bake at 180 degrees C/ 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Do not over-bake.

Posted in Baked Goods, sweets | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Six Tips for Successful Car Trips with Kids

“Aaaah! She’s bothering me!!” wails my son from back seat.

“He hit me!” follows instantly.

“What now?” I ask.

“She breathed my air!” the little one shouts back.

“There’s enough air for everyone,” I answer. “Let’s play a game…”

After over three weeks of holidays, I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t want to think about cooking. Luckily, in addition to plenty of kitchen time, I spent a large part of the last month on the road with family trips. Travelling with any number of children can be stressful. If the above conversation sounds familiar, the tips below may help you make the most of family fun time, unless, of course, the kids breathe each others’ air.

  1. Plan ahead.
    This includes knowing where you’re going and how long it will take you to get there, as well as packing up any necessary gear, hats, water bottles, and snacks well in advance of the time you want to be piling into the car. My husband was shocked that I managed to get out of the house for a day trip with five kids last Chanukah at 8:30 am. It was this trick that allowed us to get out efficiently, before the kids got caught up in the middle of a game at home or got hungry for a snack before everyone was ready to go. Part of planning ahead is also knowing your family rhythm and pace. If you know it will take you two hours to get out the door in the morning, no matter how much you pack up the night before, planning the impossible will only cause frustration. For young children who nap, if a whole day activity is too much, consider a half-day activity, leaving after lunch, at naptime, so the kids will sleep in the car and arrive at the destination refreshed and energized. Alternatively, leave early and end the outing with lunch, and allow the kids to sleep in the car on the way home.
  2. Send everyone to the bathroom as close as possible to leaving.
    Everyone includes the adults. Parents can sometimes be so focused on getting the kids ready that they forget about themselves. While they can usually wait better than the little ones to arrive at the destination, less personal discomfort means more patience for handling traffic jams and children’s squabbles in a calm and patient manner.
  3. Eat before leaving home.
    If you don’t allow eating in the car, this is crucial to starting the kids off in a good mood, unless they get motion sickness. Like Tip #2, this will give the parents the energy and patience needed to deal with cranky children squished into a metal box on wheels for an extended period of time. Don’t count on eating on the road. You will likely be too busy to eat properly. If you are the driver, eating while driving may also distract you from focusing on the road and driving safely.
  4. Have an arsenal of age-appropriate car games and songs memorized.
    One of the things that stands out the most clearly in my memory when I think back to childhood road trips was making up new, silly verses to “Down by the Bay.” That seemed to last longer than “Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar?” lasts with my kids. My favorite car game is now “I Spy,” which can be adapted to children’s levels by using colors, things that start with different letters of the alphabet, shapes, etc. or played backwards, with kids searching out the window for airplanes, animals, unusual-colored cars, etc. For mathematically-inclined children, license plate games can range from simply finding a license plate with a 2 on it to adding up license plate numbers. For older children, who know how to spell, the classic “We’re going on a trip and bringing apples and bread and a can of corn, etc,” adding items with the next letter in the alphabet, in turn. A similar game that does not require spelling but does require creativity and language skills is telling a story one sentence at a time, in turn. Songs and games involving everyone are especially helpful for keeping tired kids awake and preventing sibling fights via distraction.
  5. Arrange seating strategically.
    “Why do I always sit all the way in the back where the air conditioning doesn’t reach?” “I never get a window that opens!” “I want to sit next to the baby!” “Why am I always in the sun whatever direction we’re driving?” Deciding who sits where in the car can be as bad as deciding seats at the supper table. However, whereas many people have a rotation system at the table, you probably don’t want to constantly be moving car seats around. Plan your youth jigsaw carefully, taking each individual’s needs, as well as the family needs, into account. With our small seven-seater, we have two rows of kids to scramble.
    Seating factors include, but are not limited to: Who is the most likely to be bothered by the sun? Can you put up a sun-shade? Who is the most likely to fall asleep? Should the sleepers be in the least accessible seats, so they aren’t bothered, or in seats where it will be easy to take them out of the car without waking them? Will anyone need to get out to throw up or use the bathroom before arriving at the final destination? Who may need adult assistance in transit? We always make sure to have someone in the middle who is big enough to play with the baby and has long enough arms to pass things to the little ones in the back seats. Do some seats have less leg room than others? Decide whether you want to put the taller kids in the seats with more leg room or the smaller kids, with bags by their feet. Don’t forget the important factor of personality. Which kids are the least likely to fight if they are sitting next to each other? Take a deep breath (of your own air), and let the mapping begin.
  6. Give each child a water bottle and a quiet toy to occupy themselves in the car.
    Sun, air conditioning, and boredom all increase thirst. Even if you have Mr. Long Arms sitting in the middle seat and happy to pass water around the car, it’s much easier to just give each small child their own sippy cup or bottle to hold during the ride. If your child’s car seat has a cup holder, they will definitely want something to put in it. As far as toys go, you don’t want any traveler to have to rely on another for entertainment, especially if some are snoozing. Travel board games are great for packing, but those tiny pieces are not car-friendly. Stick to self-contained, personal toys like Rubik’s cubes, maze balls, action figures, fifteen puzzles, and (Don’t laugh at me; this is one of my kids’ favorite toys.) rubber bands.

Ready? Set? Go!

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