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


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)


  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.


Posted in Main dishes, Sides, Stovetop | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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!

Posted in Fast Food, Snacks | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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


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


  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

chocolate date nut cake slice.jpg

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


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

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 , , , , , , , , , , | 15 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!

Posted in Parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Energy Bites, 3 Ways (Gluten Free, Vegan)

Fasting on Yom Kippur is one of the most widely-observed Jewish practices. Polls conducted in recent years have revealed that 73% of Israelis fast on Yom Kippur. Whether it is for religious reasons, or an affiliation with tradition and Jewish culture, this is a special day for Jews.

Many are planning what to eat before and after the fast to preserve their energy throughout the day and regain it when the the fast is over. Others, however, would like to be fasting but cannot for medical reasons. Those eating small amounts spread out over the course of the day face he question of what nutrient-dense foods to eat on Yom Kippur to give them energy to get through the day, one bite at a time. (A rabbi should be consulted for procedural details. I just have recipes.)

A friend of mine who needs to eat on Yom Kippur this year for medical reasons was looking for ideas for little things to eat. Suggestions included grapes, Cheerios, date halves, and squares of chocolate. Dates give her a stomachache. Squares of chocolate spike the blood sugar and then let it crash—and eating chocolate all day on a fast day just doesn’t feel right. Below are recipes for three types of nutrient-dense, no-bake energy bites, all without dates. These are basic recipes to which other types of seeds or nuts could be added. All of the energy bite recipes are full of fiber, protein, and fat. They are very lightly sweetened, with just a tablespoon of honey per recipe. Each energy bite is a tablespoon, 15 mL. If made with gluten free oats and maple syrup, agave nectar, or date syrup, they are both gluten free and vegan.

These delicious little bites are great for an energy boost before a fast, after a fast, or any time. Enjoy them in good health!

energy bites chocolate sesame

No-Bake Chocolate Sesame Energy Bites Recipe
Yield: 20 bites


1 cup quick oats
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup techina paste (טחינה גולמית-the base used to prepare the techina sauce)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1-2 tablespoons honey or other liquid sweetener


  1. Mix in a bowl.
  2. Refrigerate for at least half an hour.
  3. Press into a tablespoon to form balls.
  4. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator or freezer.

energy bites chocolate peanut butter

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites Recipe
Yield: 16 bites


1.5 cups quick oats
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon honey or other liquid sweetener


  1. Mix in a bowl.
  2. Press into a tablespoon to form balls.
  3. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator or freezer.

energy bites coconut almond.jpg

No-Bake Coconut Almond Energy Bites Recipe
Yield: 22-24 bites


1 cup quick oats
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 tablespoon honey or other liquid sweetener


  1. Mix in a bowl.
  2. Refrigerate for at least half an hour.
  3. Press into a tablespoon to form balls.
  4. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator or freezer.



Posted in Fast Food, Snacks, sweets | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Honey-Glazed Roasted Carrots and Beets

Honey, sometimes life stings. Wherever we choose to live and work or study, whoever we choose to associate with, however we budget our time and money, there will always be a mix of advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes we get to choose between the good and the better; others times, we pick the lesser of two evils. beets and carrots roasted

The most popular traditional Rosh Hashanah food today is an apple dipped in honey. One reason the sweet apple was chosen over other fruits is a reference to the love between G-d and the Jewish people in the Song of Songs (2:3): “Like an apple among the trees of the forest…and its fruit is sweet on my palate.” Dipping the sweet apple in honey shows that we want a doubly sweet year. Honey is unique in a number of ways. It is kosher even though it is produced by a non-kosher animal. The sweetness of honey is stronger than the sweetness of regular granulated sugar, but when it is eaten in a large amount, it can have a bitter aftertaste. For this reason, some follow the tradition of dipping challah and apples in sugar instead of honey. Too much sweetness is bitter. Without the bad, we wouldn’t appreciate the good as much. When we recognize the bee’s sting, we are even more grateful for our honey.

beets and carrots raw

I like to use honey sparingly, for glazes and dressings. A little bit goes a long way. This way, you get the maximum flavor with minimum use. (It’s the same principal my parents used to explain how Kix cereal could taste sweet and have lower sugar content than higher-sugar cereals.) According to the National Honey Board, it takes 4.4 million bees to produce one kilogram of honey. No wonder it’s so expensive.

This roasted vegetable dish includes three traditional Rosh Hashanah foods in addition to honey. When we eat beets, we asked for our enemies to be removed. When we eat carrots, we asked for a good decree; as a bonus, carrot circles look like coins. I use both orange and yellow carrots to give this dish maximum color. Roasting the vegetables preserves more of their natural flavor than boiling. The honey glaze gives it a beautiful shine and jewel-like pomegranate seeds (that we should be full of mitzvot) used for garnish really make it look like a bowl of treasure.

Wishing you a sweet year!

Honey-Glazed Roasted Carrots and Beets
Yield: About 3 cups

3 cups peeled, cubed beets
2 cups orange and yellow carrots, peeled and sliced in circles
2-3 T olive oil, divided
2-3 T honey, divided
2 teaspoons dried ginger, divided
1 T lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
pomegranate seeds, for garnish


  1. Put on an apron. You are going to be working with beets. I know some people who actually feed beets to their toddlers. I am not one of them, as I am in charge of both cooking and laundry in my house.
  2. Peel and cuts beets and carrots. Put into a medium-sized bowl.
  3. In a small bowl or jar, combine oil, honey, and ginger. Pour half off to save for later. Add garlic and lemon juice. Mix, whisk, or shake to combine.
  4. Pour glaze over the vegetables and toss to coat.
  5. Spread the beets and carrots in a single layer in a roasting pan or baking dish, lined with parchment paper for easy clean-up. (Beets, remember?)
  6. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 350F/180C for 30-40 minutes.
  7. Once the roasted vegetables have cooled, dress them with the reserved honey-oil mixture. Garnish with pomegranate seeds. Serve at room temperature.
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3 Ingredient Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies (Gluten Free)

Taste can be a strong memory trigger. Even in our adult years, we find ourselves comparing drinks to medicine our mothers made us take as toddlers or reaching for “comfort foods” that remind us of home when we are feeling down. Many people remember meals from special occasions, like a first date, engagement, or wedding. When one woman I knew passed away in her eighties with a freezer full of her famous secret-recipe cookies, her children divided the cookies up evenly and savored a memory with each bite until they were gone.

peanut butter cookies 2.jpg

Two years ago today, mortality tapped me on the shoulder. A friend a few years younger than me passed away suddenly. Like I had done years before her, Sara had left her family in North America to move to Israel. Though she missed them terribly, she was starting her own life in the Jewish homeland. At the time of her death, she was engaged to marry an Israeli man. Even though she had a day job and MA studies keeping her busy, Sara was my kids’ (and my) favorite babysitter. Living with roommates just a few blocks away, she was also our most frequent non-family Shabbat guest. I enjoyed listening to her book recommendations and English-teaching adventures, and my children fought over who would sit next to her at each meal. It’s not easy to live alone, far from family. In Sara’s memory, please take a moment to think if you know someone lonely–a bachelor, a widow, a student, an elderly person, or anyone else who could really use some company–and consider adding them to your guest list for the upcoming holidays. The holiday season is an especially difficult time to be alone.

On one visit, Sara brought flour-less peanut butter cookies and introduced me to the concept. I didn’t get her recipe, but I played around with the basic ingredients until I got something I liked. These sweet treats have a chewy center and crispy edges, and they are super easy and gluten-free. Whenever I eat these, I think of my friend.

peanut butter cookies


3 Ingredient Flour-less Peanut  Butter Cookies
Yield: About 30 cookies


1 cup peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder (optional)


  1. Thoroughly mix peanut butter and sugar, by hand or with a mixer.
  2. Add eggs and mix thoroughly.
  3. The vanilla and cocoa add a richer, deeper flavor to the cookies, but they are completely optional. If using them, add at this point.
  4. Drop spoonfuls evenly spaced onto a cookie sheet lined with baking paper.
  5. Bake at 180C/350F for about 8-10 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies. Do not over-bake. Cool completely before taking off the pan.
Posted in Baked Goods, sweets | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

No-Bake Fresh Cherry Pie

The first time I tasted a no-bake fresh fruit pie was two years ago when I was visiting family in the United States. A guest brought my parents two fresh blueberry pies. Fresh fruit loses a lot of its nutritional value when it’s cooked or baked, but this pie was just a crust smeared with cream cheese and filled with fresh blueberries, with a very light glaze. We ate the leftovers for breakfast for most of a week because fresh fruit is totally guilt-free and healthy!

On my recent berry-picking excursion, I also picked fresh cherries and ended up bringing home almost two kilos (over 4 pounds) of them. As delicious as they, those are a lot of cherries to munch on! As I was pulling dusty, sun-kissed cherries off the trees and dropping them into my basket, I already began to envision this fresh cherry pie. Concentrated cherry taste with none of the fresh, delicious flavor baked out.

Searching for a recipe, most “fresh cherry pie” recipes I found were baked pies make with fresh cherries, and “no-bake cherry pie” gave me a lot of recipes for cheesecake with cherry pie filling. What I wanted was a pie that would just showcase, contain, and highlight the cherries’ natural sweetness, not mask it with creams and syrups. I wanted to recreate that blueberry pie in cherry form. Here is what I came up with:

cherry pie horizontal


The three parts of this pie are the crust, fresh cherries, and light glaze. For the crust, you could use your favorite basic pie crust recipe. I used the King Arthur no-roll oil pie crust, exchanging 80% whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour. I baked it for fifteen minutes before filling, and its mild, slightly salty flavor complimented the sweet, fresh cherries very nicely. I call this a no-bake pie even though the crust is baked in order to distinguish it from traditional, baked cherry pies. The cherry-pitting is the most time-consuming step in this pie, especially if you don’t have a cherry pitter, but it is well worth it. The glaze I kept simple, with just some chopped cherries simmered with sugar, water, lemon juice, and vanilla while I filled the pie crust with the fresh cherries.

Take advantage of fresh cherries while they are in season. You will want to make this pie every year.

No-Bake Fresh Cherry Pie Recipe

Your favorite pie crust or this one from the King Arthur site:
2 cups whole wheat or all-purpose flour
heaping 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3/8 teaspoon baking powder
7 tablespoons oil
1/4 cup cold water

4-5 cups fresh cherries, halved and pits removed

1/2 cup fresh cherries, chopped
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Crust: Mix dry ingredients. Then add wet ingredients and mix into a dough. Press evenly into a pie pan (9-in/23 cm). Make sure there are no holes. Bake at 180C/350F for 15-20 minutes, until slightly golden. Cool before filling.
  2. Put the glaze ingredients into a small saucepan on medium heat. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved and the cherries are cooked, stirring occasionally to avoid burning or sticking to the pot.
  3. While the glaze is simmering, cut up as many cherries as you can fit into the crust.
  4. Drizzle glaze over the cherries.
  5. Served chilled with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or on its own.
Posted in Baked Goods, sweets | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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.


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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