Sunday, February 28, 2010

Purim Sameach!

Before I get back to the regular business of blogging, I wanted to take the opportunity to wish all of you a belated happy Purim. Purim here is not just a fun day - it is an event that begins with Rosh Chodesh Adar and continues at least until Shushan Purim, if not later, as will happen here, when the Purim parade takes place on Friday, delayed from last week due to (thank G-d) torrential rain.
As a baking related treat, wanted to show you the Mishloach Manot packages that we gave to a few friends. Shana wanted a theme this year, and we came up with fast food. (Naturally, it was not the first idea, and we did not arrive at it on a straight line course, but that is the long story short.)
We worked together to design a label that pulled it all together without having to resort to a poem (because there are few things I hate more than a haphazard, half-baked, desperately worded rhyme!), and Shana made it come to life on the computer. We included the usual fast food components: hamburgers,hot dogs,french fries (with a tub of "ketchup" for dipping"),

and an ice cream sundae for dessert.We packed it up in a take out container with a bag of Shoko - haven't you always wanted to have some chocolate milk with your burger? - and sent it on its way. Did I mention that everything was made from cake and cookies? The hamburgers were cookies and frosting, the hot dogs were a different kind of cookies and frosting, the french fries were sugar cookies, the ketchup was raspberry apple sauce (not a cookie, sorry), and the ice cream sundae was a cupcake. And the Shoko was Shoko - one vote for real food).Hope you had a wonderful Purim! We will visit Yerushalayim for a second round - happy Shushan Purim to everyone!


Monday, February 22, 2010

Yay! It worked!

If at first... right?! Challah - it worked! I have to give many thanks to my children, who enoyed the challah I made two Shabboses ago to insist(politely and respectfully) that I try it again. So I did, this time using a cool Israeli product, Shimrit, which is granulated fresh yeast, and you can buy it in a dual pack with dough conditioner. I sort of had to guess at what I was doing, but it came out great! Here are the unbaked loaves,

and here they are after a vacation in the oven:I will openly admit that they are not the epitome of beauty - not what I would envision, but frankly, they were delicious and beautifully textured, and they just made us all very happy. I guess now I can say I do bake challah...

I also can say that I make soup - kubbeh soup, to be exact. After thinking about it for a while, and doing a bunch of research (there are lots of varieties of kubbeh, not to mention kubbeh soups), I decided to make a variation of red kubbeh soup. This recipe included beets, carrots, celery, onions, sweet potatoes, zucchini, lemon juice, and a tomato base,with, of course frozen kubbeh, which, lucky for me, were on sale in the supermarket. Having never tasted the real thing, the soup was probably a ridiculously American-Ashkenazi-fied version, but we all loved it. The picture is not pretty, and the bowl is messy, but we did not care.

Next post, I will fill you in on last week's baking exploits - lots of cookies were baked, lots of sugar consumed.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I am, you should be too

I admit it - cupcakes have me hooked. It's not making them, or decorating them, or even eating them, though I love all of the above. It's just the fact of them - they are cute and little and personal, they can be delicious, and people just seem to love them. It seems like every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the U.S. has a cupcake boutique. There are a great many blogs devoted to them. So I added a link to one of the best, "Cupcakes Take the Cake." (You can find it on the right side, under "Good Reads.") Lots of pictures, great links, sometimes fascinating (people, even professionals, can be weird with their cupcakes!). I am trying to wean myself off by not reading it every single day. Now you can try to make up for my not being there! Maybe this is just a site for hardcore baked good fans, but just maybe you will like it, too. Or maybe you already secretly read it. Everyone needs a guilty pleasure like this one.
Hope you enjoy,

Monday, February 15, 2010

And then I remembered...

Some days should just be over before they start. You know there is no hope for a good day virtually from the moment you open your eyes. Today was one of those days. When things don't work. Things go sour. I could not come up with a single good thing to say, not about myself or anyone or anything around me. But then something great happened. I have been tutoring a young man for nearly three years. This will be his last year with me, before he begins junior high school. He is not the only kid I have tutored or taught since we made aliyah, but he seemed to be the most sincerely present only because he had to be, because his parents forced him. That is not to say we don't have a good rapport, but he does not seem to be all that interested in learning all that often. But yesterday and today, we had really good sessions. He got what I was saying, he listened and absorbed, and lo and behold, he realized what we were doing was actually going to help him. Why today? I don't know. Maybe it was the different angle I approached on getting him the information. Maybe it was the different way of preparing that I tried. Maybe it was the weather (it's a heat wave in February, temps around 84 degrees Fahrenheit - take that galut snowbunnies!) It was one of those "a-ha" moments for him, and it became an "a-ha" for me that made me remember what I loved about teaching. Maybe it won't last beyond today, maybe it was a blip that won't repeat, but for a moment, I realized that I have value in the life of a child. Often there is more bad than good, more cost than reward in teaching, but today was a good day. At least for the teacher I once was. She doesn't show her face around here all that often, so it was a nice change. And it was a little redemption for an otherwise unredeemable day.

Wishing all of us a better day tomorrow,

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Much to say

This week has been a little much - too much to do, way too little time, and way too little sleep, though not for lack of trying.

For starters, I am not just obsessed with baking. I am also on a quest to make as many orange soups as possible, making sure that none of them taste the same. (Not so much a quest as a coincidence, truthfully. I love soup, and I love to experiment, and a lot of my experiments turn out orange.) I have my usuals - Shoshana's soup, which has onion, garlic, zucchini, carrot, sweet potato, and sometimes beef. We top that off with knaidlach, and it is a very popular dish. There is also sweet potato based soup, but the kids ask for it not to be sweet, so that has shallots, onions, garlic, and thyme, and then some vegetable stock. We also make a sweet butternut squash soup with curry, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and a little brown sugar. I made two new orange soups recently, complete with a lame photo for each. The first was a red lentil soup. I sauteed onions and garlic with a whole bunch of spices - curry, cumin, coriander, turmeric - and then added red lentils and orange vegetables: I think the holy quartet of carrots, sweet potato, butternut squash, and pumpkin, but I can not be entirely certain because although I committed to writing down the recipes, I have no idea where I wrote it!!! It was a warming and hearty soup, and we all, even Dani and Lola, liked it. The second was a sweet potato coconut milk soup, with spicy flavors. This soup was accented with a little soy sauce and Tabasco sauce, with a little curry as well, and shallots with the onions for a different flavor. The coconut milk gave a great sweetness and smoothness that contrasted well with the spice. I really enjoyed this one - now I just have to find the stupid coconut milk in the supermarket again, which should be simple, but things always seems to move...
In other news, I BAKED CHALLAH! This may not seem like much, but... I am a self-confessed perfectionist. People call me not infrequently and ask me about challah baking, since I am a baker. I am always abashed to answer that I do not deal well with yeast dough. The challahs I have made, though not for the last 3 years, never look perfect, and that is hard on me. But since I do not enjoy going to the bakery, and since their challah has been a little funky lately, I decided to take the leap. I got a recipe from my friend Lori, who makes challah EVERY WEEK (though it is with a bread machine, so I am not sure if it really counts...) and adapted it slightly for the mixer, as well as for a slightly larger quantity. It was delicious, if very sweet, but there are no pictures, and not because I forgot - it's because I REFUSE! They just don't look as nice as I would want them to, and I am totally vain that way. Maybe I will have better success next week - b'li neder I will try it again!
I also made a fun treat for the kids, but mostly because I had some vanilla cupcakes in the freezer that were mistakenly defrosted, not by me. We had Boston Cream cupcakes, and they were yum!! I used the cone method to fill the cupcakes with vanilla pastry cream (which became the crater method for us, as we like pastry cream) and topped them with chocolate glaze. It was a real treat for those of us who really miss Dunkin Donuts' Bostom Cream Cupcakes. The pictures are again, lame , and the cut of the cupcake was messy, but you will get the idea.

But darn if that cupcake didn't make me want a cup of French Vanilla coffee! BTW, see what I mean about the crater?! This was fun to make, and fun to eat. And it reminded me how easy it is to fill cupcakes. Guess that will be the next obsession!

Nothing new and interesting on the cookie front. I thought I would have some time to experiment, but it just did not happen, so the same old, same old, tried and true will have to do. That's all for now. If I can think of more, I will be back. Things should be interesting around here - Adar is arriving, and learning will come to a screeching halt, so there should be fun and nonsense to report.
Shavua tov and Chodesh tov!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bar Mitzvahpalooza, the sequel

Every few months, there is an explosion of bar mitzvahs in the yishuv. Three weeks ago we went to a bar mitzvah, two weeks ago we went to a bar mitzvah and there was a second one on the yishuv that we were not a part of, and this week we went to two bar mitzvahs and there was a third we were not a part of. In the upcoming weeks, there are at least three more, though not of families we are friendly with. It has been a whirlwind, though! This past Thursday, we went to Sammy's bar mitzvah party - a neighbor and one of David's students. Then on Friday night, we went to an oneg for Naftali's bar mitzvah. I made some very cute mini-cupcakes: chocolate with chocolate buttercream (sorry, no pix of that one), red velvet with cinnamon buttercream, and lemon with lemon buttercream, sprinkled with yellow sugar.

The red velvet, combined with the next treat I made for the oneg, is my new obsession. I keep working ongetting just the right recipe, with the right texture, moistness, and balance of red and chocolate flavors. The other item is cake pops - yellow cake, which has a white drizzle, and chocolate, which has a dark drizzle.David says that they taste like Entenmann's chocolate covered pop'ems, but I think they are just fun to make and to eat. They were definitely gobbled up at the oneg.

On Shabbat morning, David and Dani and I all attended the hashkama minyan for Sammy's laining, then moved on to the 8 o'clock for Naftali's, where Ariella joined us. She especially enjoyed standing near David and catching the flying candy, though she did say that she needed to ice her head when she got home, since she got bonked in the forehead by candy projectiles. Both boys did a great job and were a credit to their excellent teacher. Shana, Ayelet, and Lola ate lunch at home, while David, Dani and I joined Naftali's celebration lunch. The only snafu - a fuse blew on our main floor, so that stayed dark until after Shabbat. On Motza"sh, David's basketball team played their first, and what turned out to be their last, playoff game. Oh well, it was a good run, and the first loss of the season.

On Sunday, David and I went out for breakfast to Bonofait, a local eatery, and enjoyed an okay Israeli breakfast for two. Sunday evening was the last installment of Naftali's bar mitzvah, a party for family and out of town friends, and a few local close friends. It was a fun party, and Dani had a blast dancing. Pretty sure he will want a party with music when his turn rolls around. Now we take a little bar mitzvah breather, and get on with the business of life.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

No cookies in this post

Last night David, Shana, and I attended a meeting at her school to discuss the upcoming trip to Poland, the Israeli high school student's rite of passage that visits sites of former Jewish life and Nazi destruction. It was freezing and pouring on the way to Yerushalayim, so much so that we nearly turned back soon after we left home, but as the weather is wont to do here, we held out a couple of minutes, and it changed.

Shana tells me a few of her friends so not want to take this trip. I want her to go. Here's why:

1. I went when I was eighteen, and it was a life-altering, consciousness-raising experience. The Rav who spoke last night laid out his goals for the trip (I don't think I have them all here, but here is an attempt to recreate the list): to be knowledgable of our past, to strengthen our emuna, to intensify our resolve to help our fellow Jew, and to be happier afterwards - yes, he said happier. I could not agree more. I walked away with the resolve to lead a Torah life and to have lots of kids. Also, to live in Israel, but obviously, that took a while and may not have been the best thought out part of my plan at the time. Everything has to come in its own time, and B"H it did.

2. Shana is the great-granddaughter of survivors. I want her to see with her own eyes and thereby understand the horror they endured, while coming out the other side with their faith intact, and with the determination to build a Jewish family, steeped in Avodat Hashem. Sounds a lot like what I said before, but directly as a result of appreciating my grandparents and their sacrifice.

3. See what happens when the world stands silent, indifferent. Where were the Jews of the Allied countries, of the Land of Israel? I still can not comprehend how American Jews who were adults at that time could live with themselves, could get through the day to day without haunting, devastating guilt for the rest of their lives. I guess the human mind is a protective thing. But we need to know, especially as citizens of this land, that we are responsible for every Jew. We can be good citizens of the world, sure, but Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh La zeh comes first - if we are not for ourselves, who will be?

4. Sometimes it is okay to be intimidated by what is to come. It is okay to be frightened by the idea of what you will see. Overcoming that makes you a stronger person. There is no other way to fully comprehend the enormity and ferocity and technical precision of what happened in Europe in the Shoah years. Hearing, reading, none of it is close to seeing with your own eyes.

Rambling thoughts, somewhat unrefined. Thanks for bearing with me... Lighter subjects next time.

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