Hamentachen

A snow day on the first day of the month of Adar, is a sure sign it’s a good idea to make some Hamentachen. Purim will be here in 10 days, and getting a head start on baking is never a bad idea, and the kids were excited to help. Here is how we did it, using Grandma’s trusty recipe:

What do we need?

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Zest from 1 orange
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Filling of choice- Nutella, jelly, peanut butter

And now what should we do?

  • Mix sugar, oil add eggs. Add in baking powder, baking soda, salt and orange zest. Alternately add the flour and the orange juice and knead just until all the ingredients are incorporated.
  • Best to refrigerate the dough for at least an hour, and up to a day. If pressed for time, 15 minutes in the freezer help cool the dough.
  • The dough will be sticky, so use extra flour to roll it out. And this is how to roll out the dough and shape the Hamentachen:

  • Bake at 350˚F (180˚C) for 15 to 20 minutes on greased pan.

To keep the Hamentachen fresh- it’s best to freeze them shortly after baking. And how did I avoid eating the whole batch? I sent them to kindergarten with munchkin #2 the next day.

Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 4 per Hamentachen

Posted in Fresh from the oven, Holidays | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How to make 10 soups in 1 hour

Do you think I’m crazy? And why would I want to make 10 soups in  hour, you’re wondering. Hold on a minute, let me explain.

Before I started my first semester of law school, I spent a few days in the kitchen cooking up several batches of my favorite foods. I thought I would never have time to cook again (in my life) and figured it was my last chance to cook myself some good wholesome food. The joke was on me. I continued cooking that whole semester, and I preferred making new things, since every time I reheated something from the freezer it tasted, well, reheated. Not terrible, there are definitely worse food-offenses than reheating food. But I just didn’t enjoy reheating the frozen meals, and I ended the semester with a full freezer. There must be a better way to do this, I thought, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.

It took me a few years to find the perfect solution, and I’m here to share it with you. I can’t really give you a recipe, but what I hope to do is share a method I use once in a while to stock the freezer with many meals in advance, so that when I want to prep the meal I just have a few minutes of work left, and yet the food is fresh. And it only takes me an hour or so to prepare about 10 meals. Magic? Not quite. Here is what I do:

1. I think of 10 soups that are good cooked in a crock pot- the long cooking soups, containing beans and legumes, are my favorite. Most soups contain four main parts:

  • Aromatic vegetables- typically onions, celery and carrots (mirpoux).
  • Grains/Legumes/Other vegetables
  • Liquid- water or stock
  • Seasoning- spices

I think about the soups I want to make in those categories, and sometimes even make a table that contains the different ingredients in that order. That way stage #2 is real easy:

2. I make a shopping list that contains the ingredients to all the soups. I check what I have at home, and shop for the rest on my next shopping trip. I make sure to do this before my designated hour for prepping.

3. On the designated day- I take out all the ingredients I’m going to need. I also take out 10 zip lock bags and label them with a Sharpie pen- so I’ll know which soup goes into which bag (and when I look through the freezer later, I’ll know what is what).

4. I start by peeling and chopping the onions, celery and carrots. I then sauté them in a large frying pan.

5. While the vegetable are slowly sautéing, I chop the rest of the vegetables and open any cans of beans or tomatoes I might be using.

6. Usually by then the aromatic veggies are slightly browned, and I take them out of the pan and let them cool. While they cool I start filling the zip lock bags. Into each bag I put the veggies/grains/legumes that it needs and the seasonings. I fill ALL of the bags like that, and then go back and add the aromatic veggie mixture to each bag- about 1 C per bag.

7. So now I have all the bags filled with uncooked grains/legumes/veggies + some sauteed aromatics + seasoning. All that’s missing is the liquid. I seal the bags and stack them in the freezer like this:

8. Whenever I want a quick meal I choose one from the freezer, place the contents of the bag in a crock pot, cover with water, and cook. That’s exactly 2 minutes work (3 if you count getting the crock pot out), and I have a fresh, yummy pot of soup.

I vary the soups and have never made exactly the same 10, but for example this is what I made before munchkin #4 was born last month:

  1. Veggie Chili *2
  2. Kale-Lentil
  3. Kale-Tomato
  4. Green Lentil
  5. Red Lentil-Butternut Squash
  6. Tomato-Rice
  7. Butternut Squash + Rice + Lentil
  8. Mushroom Barley
  9. Potato and Corn Chowder

I only have the mushroom barley soup and 1 veggie chili left, so I guess it’s time to start planning my next round.

Posted in Supermom | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Farewell CSA

It’s really sad, but tomorrow we will be getting our last CSA box. If there is one thing in Ithaca that has totally changed my way of cooking- it’s the CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported (or Shared) Agriculture- where you buy a “share” of a farm for the whole season, and then every week you get a “dividend” of fresh vegetables. Since you pay ahead of time for the whole season, this allows the farmers to use the money for the season, and to plan for the amount of people that have bought shares. It is a way to support organic, local farmers, and also get the freshest yummiest produce.

For the last two years we have enjoyed belonging to a cooperative of farms known as the Full Plate Collective. In the summer we went out to the farm, enjoyed picking our own tomatoes and herbs, in addition to selecting the vegetables of our share. A typical summer share could include all of these:

During the winter we got a box, that could look something like this:

And tomorrow it comes to an end for us- the winter share is ending. Since the summer share will start up only in June, and by then we will on our way out of Ithaca, we won’t be joining the CSA this summer. I hope we can find something similar in Israel- maybe here.

The two things I enjoyed the most cooking with CSA produce was (1) getting to know knew vegetables and finding ways to utilized them and (2) getting re-acquainted with familiar vegetables, that taste totally different when they are fresh from the ground. Today I’d like to share a recipe that pairs a vegetable from each of those categories- kale, which I had never tried until we started getting a huge bunch weekly from the CSA, and potatoes, which turned out to be my favorite vegetable week after week- and they taste nothing like potatoes from the supermarket. I’m sure this recipe would be delicious even with veggies from the store, but with our CSA produce, it was something special. The recipe belongs to Martha Rose Shulman, who also wrote the classic The Vegetarian Feast– my mother’s copy is falling apart, and I photocopied the soup chapter many years ago and have made every single one of them over the years. But back to the recipe- here is what I did:

Greens and Potato Gratin

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch kale (I’m sure other greens would work too)
  • 2 lbs small potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1.5 C low-fat milk
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 C grated Mozzarella

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 F/ 190 C . Oil a 2-quart gratin or baking dish.
  • Place the potatoes and salt to taste in a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover partially and boil the potatoes until soft, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, wash and stem the kale.
  • When the potatoes are done, remove from the water and set aside until cool enough to handle, then cut in 1/2-inch slices. Bring the water back to a boil and add the greens. Blanch for about three or four minutes until just tender. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon  and transfer immediately to a bowl of cold water. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop coarsely and set aside. At this point you might taste the kale and notice how delicious it is, and just want to finish it all off just like that. Try to resist, otherwise the dish won’t come together. By us, munchkin #3 LOVED the steamed kale (notice 1 leaf in her mouth, the other in the hand):

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Chop the onion and add to skillet, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Chop the garlic and add to onion for 30 seconds to a minute.
  • Layer the baking dish with potatoes, then kale, and on top the onions and garlic. It should look something like this:

  • In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and milk, and then add nutmeg and Mozzarella and more salt and pepper. Pour over vegetables, and bake 30 to 40 minutes, until lightly browned on the top. YUM!!

Bete’avon!

Posted in Vegetarian Feast | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Cinnamon Bread

The only thing better than cinnamon toast is cinnamon IN the toast! I had been thinking about making some kind of cinnamon bread when I saw the recipe of Ellie Kriger (a Cornell Alum!) in the Food Network Magazine. Of course, I had to make a few changes. Seems I just can’t stick to any recipe. The result: warm deliciousness. Perfect for a winter day- fresh out of the oven, or toasted with some butter. And I am still planning to make some into french toast- I’m sure it will be out of this world. Here is what I did:

Ingredients

  • 2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 C soy milk (originally nonfat dry milk, and I’m sure regular milk would work too)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for brushing
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 C warm water
  • (2/3 cup raisins- I didn’t put these in since the munchkins don’t approve)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

Directions

  • Combine both flours, milk, egg, canola oil, honey, salt, yeast and warm water in the bowl and knead until a ball of dough forms. Continue kneading another few minutes- the dough should be soft and sticky.
  • Cover dough with a towel and let rise at room temperature until the dough has nearly doubled in size, about 1.5 hours.
  • If using raisins-  soak them first in boiling water until plump, about 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
  • Spray two loaf pans with cooking spray. Divide the dough in half; roll out each half into an 8-inch square. Brush each square with canola oil, then sprinkle with the cinnamon and brown sugar (plus the raisins, if you are using them).
  • Roll up each square of dough into a tight cylinder; place seam-side down in the prepared pans. Cover with a towel and let rise at room temperature until the dough fills the pans and springs back when touched, about 1-1.5 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 F/190C. Brush the loaves with canola oil and bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the pans and transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Weight Watchers PointPlus: 2 per slice

Bete’avon!

Posted in Fresh from the oven | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Eggplant Ricotta Rolls

As a nursing mother, I struggle to reach my goal of eating 3 dairy products a day. If ice cream counted towards that I wouldn’t have a problem at all. But since I’m trying to stay away from ice cream, and trying to keep things on the healthy side in general (so huge amounts of smelly blue cheese won’t do either)- I need to get creative. I usually have yogurt at least once a day, but sometimes that is all. Last week I recalled a favorite recipe I made last year, after seeing it on the cover of Bon Apetite, the official title of the recipe is “Eggplant Parmesan Rolls with Swiss Chard and Mint”. A little long for me, and too many ingredients too. So here is my simple/dietetic adaptation of the original- enough for 2 hungry people, but probably should be enough for more people with a regular appetite (i.e. not me):

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant
  • Olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 15-ounce container fat free ricotta cheese (I’m sure more fat would be yummy too)
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint
  • 1 C tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cups grated Mozzarella

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 400 F/200C. Prepare 8 inch square baking dish- or two small loaf pans. I used my cute foux-foil pans.
  • Cut eggplant into lengthwise 1/4-inch-thick slices. Grease a baking sheet, and spread the eggplant in the sheet. Drizzle with olive oil.  Bake for about 20 minutes, until eggplant is soft to touch.
  • Mix egg, ricotta cheese and mint in a bowl.
  • Divide ricotta filling among eggplant slices, placing about 1 heaping tablespoon filling in center of each. Starting at 1 short end of each, loosely roll up eggplant slices, enclosing filling. Pour 1/2 C tomato sauce on the bottom of the baking dish, arrange rolls seam side down, atop sauce in baking dish. Spoon remaining tomato sauce over. Sprinkle mozzarella over rolls. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

  • Bake eggplant rolls until heated through, about 30 minutes.

Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 10 (if serving 2)

Bete’avon!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Secret Ingredient Soup

It seems like Americans Moms are obsessed with getting their kids to eat vegetables. They go through great lengths to do so, and even go as far as cooking, puréeing and sneaking butternut squash into brownies to make sure they get their daily dose of vegetables. If they only knew how many Israeli kids gobble up simple chopped salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner, they would know that Israel is on to something.

It seems to me that the best way to teach kids to eat veggies is to (1) show them how much their parents enjoy eating them (2) prepare them in a variety of ways (3) make it fun.

One of my favorite ways of doing so is what we call “secret ingredient soup”, a name taken from Kung Fu Panda. In case you haven’t seen the movie I won’t give away the whole story line, and I won’t tell you what the secret ingredient is, but since my kids saw (and loved) the movie, they think its hilarious that we have the food from the movie. My secret weapon here is fresh Chinese noodles- and it seems that if you add noodles into the soup, you can basically put anything else in, and the kids will eat it all. Even if they pick out 1 or two vegetables, if there are still 8 other ones they are eating, I think that’s not bad at all.

No two soups are identical, and the veggies change depending on the week and season, but the basic technique is the same, and some of our favorite veggies appear week after week. Here is what we had this week:

Secret Ingredient Soup

2 T olive oil

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

2 T green curry paste

2 carrots

2 zucchini

1 sweet potato

1 red pepper

10 cremini mushrooms

10 shitake mushrooms

A handful of snap peas

1 crown broccoli

Soy sauce

1 block extra-firm tofu

8 oz. fresh Chinese noodles (I like Melissa’s)

The hardest part about this soup is the amount of chopping. So I delegate, and the older kids do most of the chopping. They get to chose which vegetables they like to chop, and they munch on the veggies as they go. All veggies should be chopped into bite size pieces- small, but not too small.

Then I heat a pot, add a little olive oil, and add the onions. Stir them around and let them sweat a little. Add garlic and curry paste, and mix, until the whole kitchen smells like curry paste. That means the spices have “woken up” and we are ready to go.

All the sturdy vegetables (in this case- everything but the snap peas and broccoli) go into the pot, and I cover them with water. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer about 10-15 minutes, until the hardest vegetable (sweet potato here) is cooked.

[If I’m making this soup in advance, I turn off the heat here, and let the soup wait until right before we are ready to eat. When we are ready, I turn the heat back on, bring the soup to a boil, and continue as follows:]

I cube the tofu and add it into the pot, add the noodles into the pot and give them a gentle stir, and let them cook for the designated time according to the packages instruction. Fresh noodles cook in about 2-3 minutes, spaghetti in about 7-8 minutes. I then add soy sauce- to taste- turn off the heat, remove the pot from the stovetop and add the gentle green vegetables (snap peas and broccoli in this recipe), which will cook from the steam.

Several variations on this soup are possible:

Vegetables- We have tried lots of veggies, such as butternut squash, rutabaga, potatoes, bok choy, cabbage, kale, cauliflower. I let the kids guess what’s in the soup, and see how many there are, and what is each person’s favorite.

Oodles of noodles- we have tried this with regular spaghetti, whole wheat spaghetti and (my favorite) soba noodles too- all delicious, just adjust the cooking time to allow the noodles to cook sufficiently.

Eggs- to boost protein and just add another dimention to the soup, scramble a few eggs in a bowl, and after the soup is cooked through, while it is gently simmering, pour the eggs in while stirring the soup with your other hand.

Bete’avon! (Bon Apetite in Hebrew)

Posted in 30 Minute Meals | Leave a comment

Does the world really need another food blog?

Probably not. There are a gazillion food blogs out there- and some of them are really fantastic. But I love sharing what I’m doing, and I bet there are a few other people out there with similar challenges- how to make better food, quicker, healthier and easier. And how to get the kids to eat it.

I have always liked to cook, but having 4 kids to cook for makes it that much funner. If munchkin #1 likes something, it’s pretty much a sure bet #2 will only taste one bite and #3 with throw it across the room. If #3 likes it on the other hand, then #1 will turn up his nose.

Pleasing all of them- impossible!

Giving up? Not an option.

Making pizza every single day for every single meal? Not in my house.

So I keep trying and trying.

And that is what this blog is all about.

Welcome aboard- I hope you enjoy the ride!

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