Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Seeve or Siv?

I was awake bright and early this morning. The first thing I wanted to do was bake. Then I wanted to bake some more. Somehow I wound up on the couch doing nothing - but only for a few minutes. Z left for school and took the laptop with him so I got bored pretty quickly. I went into the kitchen and got fed up because all the dirty dishes from last night were on the counter waiting to be washed and the table hadn't even been properly cleared. (Sometimes it's a good thing I don't live with my parents...)I wasn't quite in the mood to wash dishes so I decided to tackle a project that I have been putting off for far too long. I organized the pareve cabinets and drawer. I finally moved all the stuff that I don't use regularly or frequently to the inaccessible back-end of the cabinet. I also spent a couple ofminutes playing with my mini-blowtorch. (I only lit it up once - you know, just to make sure that it still works.)
There's a before/after picture of the drawer down below - I know it doesn't really look that much better, but at least now 'like is with like' and the knives are in a little contained area so I can stop being paranoid about slicing off a finger when I need a spatula...
Once the cabinet was done I washed all of the dishes. Then I treated myself to a bowl of rice with potato chips for brunch. (It tastes good - I pinky-promise!) I didn't bother watching any tv because there was lots of stuff to do. I did some graphic-related stuff for a friend and folded 2 loads of laundry. Eventually I decided that my day would feel incomplete if I didn't actually bake anything. (Seeing as that was the only thing that I wanted to do when I woke up this morning.) I was supposed to make sugar cookies & short bread cookies for turning into dulce de leche sandwich-cookies. However, I decided that I would make a double-batch of fructose-friendly cookies instead because my stash of peanut-butter-oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies ran out yesterday. (I guess 'ran out' is a relative term. To be frank - I ate them all... Did I mention that a batch makes about 60 cookies?)


So - 124 cookies later I decided that the sweet needed a salty balance. I have seriously been craving bread. The last time I ate 'real' bread was sometime at the beginning of February. That's a pretty long time for a bread-a-holic like me to go without eating any wheat! Seriously!

A couple of months ago I made a batch of 1.5 hour no-knead rolls. Since then I had wondered whether the recipe would be able to be 'tweaked' to be fructose-friendly. Since Pesach is coming and I'm trying to get all the flours out of the house I figured it wouldn't be the end of the world if I used up my barley-flour. As you may have noticed, I'm finally gathering the courage to embrace working with 'alternative' flours.

I stirred the dough, scraped the sides of the bowl down, covered it with plastic wrap and put it in a warm spot.

I waited nervously to see whether it would rise and become less gloopy. (It did, but only a little bit.)

I stirred down the mixture, divided it into greased muffin tins and put it back in its warm spot to rise again while praying that the stirring and plopping hadn't destroyed the delicate gluten-network. (Amazingly enough it actually puffed up slightly.)

I slid the tray into the oven, set the timer and prayed some more.

20 minutes later I couldn't decide whether they were done. So I did what all good bakers do to cakes - I poked it with a toothpick. It seemed done.

I took them out of the oven and removed the 'muffin/breads' to a wire-rack to cool.

Wait for them to cool? Yeah - right, as if! I have no shame. With the bread-craving kicking in it was not the time for timidity and manners. I picked one up, ripped it in half and took a huge bite...

My craving subsided with a, "yeah, that'll do" sort of sound. As the roar in my head quieted down I anazlyed the flavor. It was earthy and dense but decidedly bread-y. It will be amazing warm with some butter.

If I could have jam then it would be absolute heaven - but then again, if I could have jam then chances are I could have wheat too and then this bread would never have been made by me in my house in these fructozoidal circumstances. I'm not going to lie - the recipe needs a bit of work, but not much. I even got a semi-approval from Z - which is impressive since he hates all foods fructose-friendly. (Except for french-fries...)
Here's the recipe that I concocted - it's fructose-friendly but contains gluten (cause celiacs can eat vegetables but fructozoids can have fructan-less gluten. So, it's 100% fair... Actually - I'd rather be celiac but we don't really get to choose.)
Fructose Friendly Barley Bread: In a medium/large mixing bowl combine: 1 1/2 cups barley flour 1/2 cup oat flour 1/8 cup tapioca starch 1/8 cup potato starch (I can't tell if it's flour or starch - what's the difference anyway?) 2 Tbsp cane sugar 1 1/4 tsp (fine) salt 2 1/4 tsp yeast Stir the dry ingredients to mix them. (I recommend using a nice sturdy spatula for this recipe.) Add to the flour mixture: 2 Tbsp canola oil 1 egg, slightly beaten (I used an XL egg - cause that's what I had) 1 cup very warm water (not hot enough to kill the yeast, but good and warm to get them moving. Stir the mixture well (it will be VERY wet and sticky) when everything is well mixed scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put it somewhere warm to rise for 30 minutes. (It won't rise drastically but it will definitely puff up a bit.) Grease 6-8 muffin tins, stir the mixture down quickly (just a stroke or 3) then divide the batter into the prepared muffin tins. Let the dough rise again for another 30 minutes - it will grow a little bit. Then pop it into a 350F (180C) oven for 15-20 minutes. Mine started a brown the tiniest bit on the top and I used the 'toothpick test' to determine when to pull them out. Let them cool for 3-5 minutes then carefully pull them out of the muffin tin and let them cool on a wire rack (to prevent soggy bottoms.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Drunkbird was her name-oh...

So the guys left at around 1:30 in the morning after 2 games of 'Settlers' - I'm pretty sure they had a good time. (They had eaten about 80% of the cinnamon loaf, and Z sent the rest of it home with them so I didn't even have to deal with the leftovers.)

Even though I went to sleep at a little before 2, I was wide-awake at 7:45 this morning. I figured I should probably start getting stuff done because I was kind of antsy just sitting on the couch and doing nothing.

I shlepped into the kitchen and took the cakes and frosting out of the freezer. (Have I mentioned that I love stuff that freezes amazingly well?) The frosting was leftover mocha-frosting from Purim and the cakes were the 'other half' of the cake batters that I used to make the ice-cream-cone-cupcakes. I sliced them horizontally and layered them with strawberry-jam as the 'glue'.

The next order of business was a super-duper white-wash with bleach to get a serious stain out of Z's Shabbos shirt. It worked quite nicely and I think the other whites that I threw in for good measure benefited from the soak.
As I put plastic-wrap on the cake, Z showed up and wanted to know whether we were going to go out to the post-office. We left the house and as we approached the bus-stop on the main road Z saw a friend of his from School so we pulled over and offered him a ride into town.

The post-office was very crowded and we took a number but it was 40 numbers away. We figured we had a couple of minutes to run next-door to the nut & spice store. I got some white chocolate so that I can make truffles tomorrow (or sometime in the very near future) and I also got myself a very special treat of salted roasted cashews & almonds. Back at the post office only 4 numbers had passed.

It took close to 40 minutes just to collect our package and it wasn't even something that we had to sign for. Z ripped the bag open all excitedly and found a lightweight fleece-jacket from National Geographic. They were having a promotional thing a few months ago when I signed up for a 1-year subscription for Z. (Yes, that's what I got him for his birthday because he has everything that he could want. No, I didn't come up with the idea on my own - but it sure was a great suggestion! We love reading the magazine when it arrives every month.) Anyway, the deal was sign-up and get 12 issues of the magazine and a fleece! I signed up because I wanted the magazine and promptly forgot about the fleece - but it seems the fleece didn't forget about us. I think I'll leave it in the car as an 'emergency coat'.
Our next (and last) stop was at Yesh. Miraculously enough they had fresh chickens so I got 3 which is exactly the number that I need to get me to Pesach. I also bought a whole lot of potato chips and the other odds and ends that I'll need for Shabbos.

Back at Home Z shlepped everything inside and then cut up all 3 of the chickens. They're now bagged and tagged in the freezer. Super convenient if you ask me. He also washed all of the dishes. Isn't he great? Yeah, I think so too.

It took me a while to decide on the menu for 'birthday dinner extravaganza' but once I had made up my mind I was very excited. I put chicken breasts up to marinate (in the usual olive oil, salt, pepper & freshly squeezed lemon juice.) Then I shaped the no-knead loaves and as they rested I frosted the cake. I reckon I had a bit too much fun with the whole frosting-process. I'm really a beginner when it comes to piping frosting. Still, overall I was happy enough with the result. (Considering the cake was slightly lopsided, the frosting was a bit crumbly and the fact that I really have no clue how to pipe frosting even though I've seen it done a zillion times before.)
Finally it was time to put the bread into the oven. 10 minutes later the whole apartment smelled like fresh bread and I thought it couldn't get any better. But I was wrong - which I found out very very soon.

I didn't want a carb-heavy meal (since we were having the bread), and I didn't want to make a soup. But I wanted something with a lot of flavor. I browsed and browsed and just when I thought there was nothing to fit all of my criteria I stumbled upon Chana Masala.

Of course! Why didn't I think of that?! A homemade tomato sauce or sorts chock-full of fiber, protein and tons of amazing flavor! Yes please! Did I mention that it's totally meant to be served over rice? Umm, as some of my favorite Munchkins say "more?!"

So layered on top of the fresh bread smell wafting through the apartment add some sauteeing onions, then add some garlic to the pan, then throw in a bunch of pungent and aromatic Indian spices - cumin, cayenne, turmeric - now stir in a whole lot of chopped tomatoes along with some water, paprika, salt, garam masala and a whole lot of chickpeas. For the final flavor pour in a bit of freshly squeezed lemon juice then stir it all up and let it cook-down.

The written word can not convey the sheer deliciousness of it all.

I served the Chana Masala over Jasmine rice. There were pan saute'ed chicken breasts for an added dose of protein. And of course there was the specially-requested no-knead bread for soaking up the extra sauce and just generally stuffing our faces with.

I didn't try the bread, but I did put some of the sauce on my rice & chicken. Man oh man was it good! I'm definitely going to be making it again not to mention I'm going to start cooking with Indian spices more. A lot more. Hopefully. Well, that's the plan anyway.
After clearing the table, Sara helped by putting all the candles (plus 1 for good-luck) into the cake. Then we lit them all and carried the cake into the dining room singing.

I'm pretty sure that the birthday girl enjoyed both her birthday bread, her birthday dinner and her birthday cake. That makes me happy. I really enjoy being able to make someone's day a little brighter or a little happier. What can I say, I'm just crazy like that.

Tomorrow is going to be busy too - but all for me. Truffles, FF cookies and hopefully a FF bread-experiment. Wish me luck on that last one...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Schoo-puh

I keep taking long-weekend from blogging for some funny reason. Let me back-up a few days...

So on Friday after washing the kitchen window and scrubbing out the microwave we finally changed the sheets - whaddaya think? They're the new ones that I was sewing and sewing for ages! I still have to put the decorative buttons onto the rest of the pillowcases but they're functional for now. Aren't they nice? We think so!
Shabbos started nice and quiet. Our guests Friday night were a lot of fun and it was quite an entertaining night. The homemade pickles were a success, the soup was delicious, the boys played Settlers, we had a Dr. Seuss read-aloud-athon, Toffee & Co. made an appearance... All in all 2 enthusiastic thumbs way way up.
Shabbos day was quiet and relaxing. I didn't plan on napping but I fell asleep on the couch and before I knew it 4 hours had passed and Shabbos was just about over.

We didn't do anything interesting Motzei Shabbos because we couldn't agree on a movie. Also, weirdly enough, my cell phone kept ringing. Nobody ever calls me - but for some reason on Saturday night I was extremely popular. We wound up going to sleep quite late on account of the afternoon-napping and I figured I'd sleep late.
No dice. I was up by 7:30. (I guess 7:30 is still preferable to the old 6:30 wake-up time. And in just a few days 7:30 will be 8:30 again - so I guess it's better than sleeping the day away.)

Though, I'm not quite sure about that - especially when there isn't anything to do. In any event, I wasted all of Sunday on the couch trying to keep my toes warm. I didn't even make dinner (though in my defense, I had 'leftovers' written on the menu-plan - so I can't really feel bad about it.)
In the early afternoon Z sent me a text-message asking if it would be alright if 2 of his friend came over after class. I figured it couldn't hurt and offered to make dinner. Thus the agonizing process of deciding on a dish commenced. I knew it had to be something with pasta (because that's what the menu-plan said) but in terms of sauces and sides I would have to 'mix it up'. I decided that I would make a big pot of Pasta Primavera with rolls on the side and a cinnamon sugar pull-apart bread for dessert. (I've been wanting to try the cinnamon thing for weeks now - people keep posting it on Tastespotting but there hasn't been a 'good' time. I figured 3 guys in the house was as good a time as any.)

I decided to try a recipe for 'olive oil rolls' (figuring that the fruitiness of the oil would be a good balance to a light cream sauce) but the dough did a bunch of funny things that made me wonder how the bread would turn out. Suffice it to say, halfway through baking I decided to play it safe and pulled out a different new recipe for 'quick-rolls' it was an easy looking recipe which used a bit of baking powder to help with the rising process (since the procedure was, make dough, shape dough, put rolls in pan, rise in warm area, bake. So the dough only got 1 rise - which I am always a bit skeptical of - but results are in and I got a BIG smile from Z when he bit into it. Crispy crust, slightly-dense but delicious crumb. He was a happy boy.) As for the 'flopped' olive oil rolls - maybe I'll cut them up and make them into croutons or something...

The guys are playing 'Settlers' - 2 veteran players and 2 newbies. I think I'll go and keep the peace...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Who is a Bum.

Happy Friday! Hard to believe it's here again. Yesterday flew by - a lot of rain, crazy thunder & lightning and even a little bit of hail. Thankfully the crazy weather didn't hit until late in the afternoon so I got my grocery shopping done nice and early. When I got Home from the store I put the chicken soup up to cook. (2 big pots-worth.) Then I baked the cookies. I decided to leave the rest of the cooking for this morning. We worked on the puzzle and somehow managed to finish it - well, just about. See, it's a new puzzle. We haven'thad any guests over since opening it, and we did it at the dining room table and somehow there's 1 piece missing. I'm going to e-mail the company next week to see if I can maybe get a replacement. It's so frustrating - but also kind of amusing. Do you see the missing piece?Embiggen the picture and look around - I'm sure you'll spot it.
This morning I woke up a little before 7 but I forced myself to stay in bed until 7:20. I got the garlic prepped to roast, put together the sweet potatoes and assembled the potato gratin. I was basically done in the kitchen at 1pm. It was great! I was way ahead of myself so I was excited to 'Skype' with Debs & Avromi for a little over an hour. Then I had to go make sure that the floor was getting washed and that other chores were getting done.
After finishing the first stage of cooking I looked out the window and got fed-up with it being so darn dirty. Do you see that coat of dust and dirt? It's been getting worse and worse but I finally decided to do something about it. We popped the windows out of their frame and put them into the bathtub where we washed them. It's amazing what a difference a washing can make. Now the kitchen is sunny and bright again. No wonder my pictures have been dark and icky looking lately - the natural light was being kept at bay - thankfully it's back in abundance now!
While I was on a 'cleaning spree' I decided to re-purpose the zested-lemon from the fridge - I cut it into quarters and dropped 2 of the pieces into cups of water which I put in the microwave on high for 4 minutes. The steam loosened up all the gunk and I was able to wipe it all up super-easily - best part, my microwave was left with a lemony fresh scent (which is a vast improvement over tuna. - because Z has been eating lots of tuna-melts on the bagels that I made 2 weeks ago...)
As I've mentioned a couple of times in the last few days - Sara, Aviv & Zvi are coming for dinner.
We'll be serving:
Roasted garlic, Matbucha (which Zvi made), 'Salatim', Chicken Soup with matzah balls (we're getting the last ones in before rosh chodesh!), Zaatar chicken, White rice, Couscous, Struesel-topped sweet potatoes & peas.
Tomorrow for lunch we'll be having:
Chumus & Salatim, honey-mustard broiled salmon, potato gratin, sun-dried-tomato pasta salad & (FF) 'tri-color' rice-pasta salad (that's tri-color pasta salad without any of the vegetables.)
Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cinnamon-ing the Ants...

I'm on a 'do it yourself', 'be thrifty' and 'cost-saving' mission of sorts. I've been looking around for some sort of 'work from home via the internet' job - because now that I'm feeling better I feel stupid about wasting all my time watching tv and wasting money that is really supposed to be for times when I can't be working. So the way I figured it - until I actually manage to find a job I should try to cut back on expenditures as much as possible - not in a 'poverty is my way of life' way - but in a 'hey, I can do that for a lot less money in a much more convenient way' sort of way.

So far I've cancelled my 2nd cell phone plan (because I don't really use it now that I'm home all the time, with a great landline rate), I re-figured my internet/phone packages so that I'm getting the most for my money, and I realized that a big chunk of cash goes towards 'girly stuff' like waxing and pampering. So - I decied to see how much I could save. I gave up manicures a couple of years ago because a 10 shekel bottle of nail-polish works just as well at home. However, waxing eats up a whopping 780 shekels a year if I go every 4 weeks or so - which I generally do - because I'm crazy self-conscious like that. I remember buying one of those 'wax strips' kits years ago when I was in high school. It came in a bunch of crazy colors with little contoured strips for face and whatnot. I tried them once and it was a disaster, so I was a little nervous to try it again. I'm a sucker though - and to save 780 shekels a year I figured it might be worth it. So, I 'splurged' 30 shekels on a box of pre-waxed-strips - you basically rub them between your palms to warm the wax, apply and then 'riiiiiip' to remove. This morning I worked up the courage to try them out and I am pleased to share waaaay too much information with you and tell you that they worked amazingly well! In 10 minutes and for a mere 5 shekels I had taken care of what I've been paying 65 shekels every month to get done - right in the comfort of my own home on my own schedule. I know, I know - you are probably either grossed out or creeped out by now - but I'm just really excited about the whole thing.

Last night I sat down and wrote out menu-plans for every meal I've got to prepare between now and Pesach. I tried to optimize consumption and utiliztion of the 'chametz' that is in the pantry. I'm pretty impressed with my forethought. Anywho - as I mentioned yesterday - I've managed to book guests for every Shabbos until Pesach. I hadn't planned on having anybody so when I made challah about a month ago I made enough rolls to last exactly until the holiday. Now that we're having lots of people rolls definitely won't cut it, so I've got to make challot.

So - I did the math and decided that with the freezer stash and the number of people we'll be having that I'd need 8 medium-sized loaves made out of a full batch of dough. At least I'll get to separate challah with a bracha.

I also put together a batch of 'Rum & Spice' cookie dough. Sara is coming for dinner Friday night with a couple of friends (Aviv from Eilat & Zvi-kachu) and she really loves Rum&Spice - so I'm making them 'specially for her.

I've got lots of laundry to do and I also need to go out to the grocery store. It's kind of funny how no matter how many eggs I buy I always seem to run out. The same goes for flour and margarine. I guess maybe I do bake and cook too much.

I was going to be lazy and tell Z to eat soup from the freezer stash for dinner - but I felt a little guilty doing that because that's what he had last night. So, I decided to be slightly less lazy than I wanted to be and made these awesome pretzel-dogs. They're hot-dogs wrapped in soft pretzel. Z seemed to like them, especially with mustard. Go figure. I'm pretty sure that they'll hold up slightly better as 'left-overs' than the ones in puff-pastry do. He usually eats 6 hot-dogs for dinner, but I only made 4 - and with all the pretzel-deliciousness going on he actually only ate 2. (I guess he's got 2 for lunch tomorrow - score! One less thing to think about.)
In less happy news - today more rockets fell on Beer Sheva and someone was shot near Revava. Scariest for me was a terror attack in Jerusalem at Binyanei Haumah at the bus-stop where we usually wait for the 417 bus to The Sun House. 30 people wounded, 1 succumbed to her injuries. Insanity - absolute insanity. Where's Moshiach already? Tsunamis, Bombs, Earthquakes, Murders - it's got to end at some point. When will enough be enough?!

Tomorrow grocery shopping, laundry-washing, Shabbos cooking, more organizing and hopefully happier news around the world.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Audio Mission

Yesterday: It's 6:40AM and I hear an annoying beeping noise. It sounds like the battery-backup on the desktop. Oh, the power is out. 8:30am the power comes back on - but only for 15 minutes. For the next 3 hours the power goes out for 5-10 minutes and then is on for 5-10 minutes.

Z & I did go to the post-office to pick up the package of batteries which had arrived. We also hopped over to Yesh to pick up some rice (because I polished off the kilo we had in the house last week.) We also checked the air in the tires which was good because it was back down to 28 instead of 32...

All in all Shushan Purim was pretty tame. Ayala and a friend decided to come and visit us so we didn't end up going into Jeru. For lunch I heated up tomato-basil rolls from the freezer and threw together an easy mushroom cream sauce which I served on spiral-y pasta. Of course there was a cute little tossed salad on the side. For dessert we sampled everything from dulce-de-leche to hamentashen.

Eventually we walked with them towards the bus-stop but said goodbye to them when we reached the P.O. Boxes. It was nice to get a little walk in. I'm trying to squeeze them in because I know that I really need them.
Today -
Well - it was a pretty boring day overall. I woke up early and did nothing productive. Z woke up late and did nothing productive. Until I noticed that a couple dozen ants were wandering around the living room/dining room area and that they were encroaching on the 'front hall' which meant - next stop - kitchen. I'm not ok with ants in my kitchen. So, we swept off the rug, rolled it up and moved it into the guest room. Next we moved all of the furniture away from the walls and swept then washed the floor. Then we put the furniture back in place sans rug and I sprinkled some cinnamon on the door-frame which seems to be where the ants are coming from. (Yes, cinnamon - rumor has it that ants don't like it and that it will make them leave. It's relatively cheap and is definitely more environmentally/family friendly than harsh chemicals of any kind.)
While sorting out the living room issues I also straightened up in the kitchen by washing the dishes from yesterday and wiping down the countertop. It wasn't much but it made me feel better.
I also managed to book up Shabbos guests from this week until Pesach today. That's a lot of people. I decided to be really good and even drafted up 'menu-plans' for each of the weekends. I'm pretty impressed with myself.
In a 'crazy' sort of mood I pulled a 700-piece puzzle off the shelf and decided to 'take a crack' at it. (I'm terrible at puzzles. Honestly, I am. I can put together the border but then I tend to lose focus and get frustrated. I remember in the 'good old days' when I lived with Shosh... I'd put together the border and a few days later the rest of the puzzle would be finished - now that was real puzzle magic.)
Today I ate; a dozen assorted fructose friendly cookies, half-a-bowl of 'rice pasta' spaghetti and 2 bags of potato chips but at 9PM I was hungry. So Z put some french-fries into the oven for us to share. I enjoyed mine with a couple of tablespoons of 100% Hunt's Tomato Sauce - my latest and greatest food-indulgence. It causes minimal problems that I'm willing to deal with, because I need more flavor in my life!
I've got lots to do tomorrow. I'm hoping to bake challot and cookies for Shabbos. I also have to organize the pareve corner-cabinet (my cookie cutters are running amok and getting bent out of shape doing it.) I also really need to make the last third of the hamentashen because the dough is just sitting in the fridge and purim is kind of over...
We're in the 'month before Pesach' now so I really have to buckle down and do my 'organizing' - it's not Pesach cleaning but it still needs to get done and Pesach is as good a deadline as any. At least - that's how I figure it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Gowron the Great!

I left you last with a cliff-hanger - the car battery was dead and Shabbos was coming...

Thankfully the fix-it-guy showed up 2.5 hours after calling in the problem. The battery was dead, but he was able to switch it 'on the spot' - so we were on our way to The Sun House only half-an-hour later than we had planned on leaving.

Shabbos was a lot of fun! There were a zillion different fructose friendly desserts - including hamentashen (filled with brownie batter and peanut butter cookie dough - since we can't have jams.) Friday night was relaxed and amusing and Shabbos lunch was equally as entertaining - partly because the Dibble sat at his own table.
We played a lot of games of 'Settlers' and it was fun until it wasn't fun anymore. (The fun kind of ran out after playing 3 games straight during which only 12's, 2's and 11's were rolled. Talk about statistical anomalies.)
Shabbos ended and after havdalah everybody scrambled to find their costumes. I was a bubble-gum pink crayon and Z dressed up as 'Mr. Polly' - which was juuust fine because Daddy dressed up as a Hawaiin beach-bum type dude. Mean'ma was a purple crayon, Soldier-boy was a green crayon, Drummer-boy was a scary scary black-masked man (he switched to white for the day) and the Dibble was a spotted cow. (Z switched to a royal blue crayon costume for the day.)
We caught the early minyan and megila reading this morning. Then we delivered our shalach manot around The Sun House. Finally we got on the road (which was quite crowded considering everybody should've been partying.) We made it Home quickly and safely and wondered whether the overcast sky was portending rain. It was 1:20 and we had to go to the Seudah at 3.
The first thing I did when we walked into the house (after washing my hands) was juice an orange. I got 1/4 cup of juice out of it which meant that I could make a batch of hamentashen. So, I put together a batch of dough and stuck it into the fridge to chill. In the meantime I put the p'titim up to cook. I rolled out a chunk of dough and shaped 1 tray of hamentashen which I had time to bake right before we had to leave the house. Z was quite happy that he finally got a 'real' homemade hamentash on Purim. We packed up the kugels, p'titim, shalach manot, and everything else and made our way down to the other side of town.
The seudah was quite well attended. There were about a dozen of us there. Good company and lots of alcohol - definitely a good party. Truth be told everyone drank very responsibly and it was about having a good time and not all about getting completely sloshed - which I was quite happy about. The most exciting part of the meal (after the Turchicken - which was the main course of the meal - a whole turkey stuffed with a whole chicken with 'stuffing' layered between them. The whole shebang was cooked to perfection - with the help of a trusty meat-thermometer.) Anywho - as I was saying - the best part of the meal was dessert. Chocolate shot-glasses filled with 96% alcohol which was set aflame so that marshmellows could be roasted and strawberries could be dipped in the melted chocolate. Pretty decadent if you ask me - but also a whole lot of fun!
We helped straighten up after just about everybody had left and as we walked out to the car we got rained on. We offered a lift to the other 'last guest to leave' and dropped him off at Home so that he didn't have to walk in the rain.

Back at Home and trying to decide what to do tomorrow. Purim really isn't my favorite of holidays - so I'm not sure whether I really want to go into Jeru tomorrow and have a second day of it. I've still got more hamentashen to make - I'll send them to school with Z on Tuesday - I'm sure his classmates won't mind.

Shushan Purim Sameach everybody!

Here's a recipe for some hamentashen of your very own:
3/4 cup margarine
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup orange juice
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Cream margarine & sugar. Add egg, orange juice and vanilla - mix. Add flour, baking soda and salt - mix until everything is combined. Roll the dough out relatively thinly and using a glass or a round cookie-cutter cut circles of dough out. Put a bit of jam or some chocolate chips in the center of the cirle then pinch the sides (sealing well) to form a triangle. Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes (you've got to get them out of the oven just as they start to think about browning at the edges - it's kinda just guesswork)

Notes:
- I like to chill the dough to make it easier to work with.
- If you want the edges to stay closed don't 'over-fill' seriously, there should be just a little filling and you should think to yourself - "that's so little filling" - but really it should be enough.

I can't say how many cookies this recipe makes. Partially because I made a double batch of dough and partly because we ate so many as they came out of the oven that it wouldn't be accurate in the least bit. Also it depends on the size cookie cutter you use to make the circles - I used a relatively standard drinking glass.

(Recipe Source: Madrichot of Afikei Torah '03-'04)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thin Mint Heaven

I woke up at 6:30 this morning. Probably due to 'driving anxiety' - I seriously need to get myself a psychologist - I have some sort of insane agoraphobia and it is like 10 times worse when I need to drive somewhere. Issues I tell you, serious issues. It's making my life complicated.

Anyway - I got up and out of bed but was feeling pretty good. I showered, put a load of laundry into the machine, straightened up some stuff and decided at 9am that I would get in a little bit of walking. (I've decided - yet again - that I really need to get 'active' and if walking is the best way to do that, and I need a goal then I'll gladly take the '1400 step' walk down to our mailbox and back up the mountain. It's a good start anyway.)

There was lots of mail to pick up today. A couple of bills, and a 'petek' from the post office for a package which needs to be picked up. I paid the bills and decided to go out to the post office to pick up the package.

I walked out of the building all chipper and tried pressed the button to unlock the car doors. Nothing happened. I pressed again. Still, nothing happened. I figured the battery in the remote had died - but I'm not dumb, so I unlocked the door manually. Then I noticed that the 'codan' (immobolizer) wasn't blinking, and I noticed that the clock and little door-icon on the dashboard weren't lit up. Yup - the car was dead. D E D - dead.

So - I called the 'roadside assistance' guys and explained my predicament. Mor - the nice guy who helped me - explained that it would take 3 hours for someone to come and look at the car and told me to find a garage nearby in the event that the car had to be towed. I thanked him and freaked out a little about 'in the event that the car had to be towed.' Yo'Abba helped me search online and we found a garage in Ariel. I called them and they'll be in until 2 today - hopefully the car-man will show up in time just in case we need to go there.

I'm really hoping it's just a quick battery switch because we're supposed to go to The Sun House for Shabbos. Sara is counting on us for a ride and I don't have anything in the freezer or in the house to make a 'last minute' Shabbos even if I wanted to. (It's a negative impact of the FructMal diagnosis - I don't keep many fruits or vegetables on hand because they end up going to waste. I'm also all out of chicken (because I was planning on buying next week.) I even used up the freezer-stock of chicken soup (because it's the only soup in the freezer that I can actually eat.)

Anyway - hopefully it'll be a quick fix (sooner rather than later) and then we'll be on our way.

Have a nice weekend everyone.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Slow Fast Days

I have got to admit that now that I can't eat a whole lot of things - fasting while preparing those things is a whole lot easier. Sounds crazy, but it really is.By 9:00 this morning I was mixing up a batch of yellow cake. I made 12 of these ice cream cone cupcakes and turned the remaining batter into two 8-inch round cakes. I did the same thing with chocolate cake batter when the yellow cakes were almost done baking.
I wrapped the round cakes up well and put them into the freezer for a birthday celebration which will be coming up in a little less than two weeks.
While the chocolate cakes finshed baking I prepped 3 loaves of carrot kugel. We'll be taking 2 with us on Sunday to the Purim seudah and the third will go into the freezer for shabbos in a few weeks when we'll be having company.
I washed the dishes and then put together a batch of caramel popcorn. While it baked I frosted my adorable ice cream lookalike cupcakes. I also figured out the best way to package my shalach manot. I've been collecting the little boxes of mushrooms all year long. They hold 3 cupcakes perfectly. I've jut got to put the cellophane and ribbons on. I'm so excited about them!
To break the fast I heated up some tomato basil rolls along with vegetable soup for Z. I made myself some rice and finally ate the chicken breast that I had roasted for myself for last Shabbos.
Since I spent my entire day today in the kitchen I've got a lot to do tomorrow before we leave for The Sun House. Laundry, cleaning, packing... I'm not looking forward to all that work and then the drive aftewards. Plus I still have 1 more thing to cook for the seudah and I have to wrap up the shalach manot. Gosh, I'm tired already.

At least Shabbos should be a lot of fun - so I guess that'll be nice.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Javier Carmichael...

I slept like a log last night. At 7:15, Z's alarm went off and then at 8:00 I got out of bed. By 8:45 I had concocted an almond-flour pancake batter (made fructose friendly by substituting 3.5 Tbsp of cane sugar in place of agave syrup) and was making Tablespoon-sized pancakes for breakfast. (It's funny how easy it is to stick to a resolution for 1 day after making it. The question is really how long I can keep it up for.) The pancakes tasted 'ok' - I liked them better than 100% oat-flour pancakes - but they're still not great. It might be because the almond-flour is very 'gritty' in texture - but that's because my food-processor isn't really all that great for making things 'superfine'.
Z left for class at 8:50 - because the first class on Wednesdays this semester is taught by a crazy woman who won't let anybody in late.

20 minutes after I said goodbye to him I heard a noise at the front door. I heard a key, the lock turning and the door opening.

"Did you forget something?" I asked.

"Yeah, I forgot that we don't have any school today." was his reply.

Remember how the school messed up the vacation between semesters and they had off 2 random days last week? Well - today is the 'third day' of their 'between-semester break' - a random Wednesday smack-dab in the middle of their second semester. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

After watching the latest episode of a pointless tv show I made my way back to the kitchen.

I've been meaning to make myself some fructose-friendly 'thin mints' for a while now. You know - the 'girl scout cookies' that I recall being quite tasty - or maybe it's all in my imagination. Anyway - a chocolate mint cookie with a chocolate coating really couldn't taste bad - could it? Obviously I tweaked the recipe (due to availability of ingredients and diet constraints.) I used about 1/2 cup of oat flour, 1/2 cup barley flour and another 1/4 cup of slivered-almonds (in place of almond flour - since I was making it all in the food processor anyway.) I've never seen a cookie dough that looked quite as much like an enormously long log of 'poo' before. Still - I'm hopeful that the taste will be worthwhile and that once they're little discs of cookie coated with chocolate that they'll look slightly more appetizing.

I've got almonds sitting on a tray and waiting to be roasted in the oven. I'm trying all sorts of new fun stuff today. I'm actually really excited about this Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Almond Butter. The recipe is completely fructose-friendly from the get-go and looks incredible. I'm a little too excited to eat it with ice cream or on top of oat-flour pancakes. I'm just hoping that my food processor is up to the task.

My 2 fears for today are developing a nut allergy and burning out the motor in my food processor.

When I compose my post throughout the day it gets kind of choppy.

I successfully 'processed' my very own, very first, almond nut butter. It's grainy because my Kenwood isn't really a super-deluxe model, but it's pretty good. I'm waiting for it to cool a bitand then I'll stir in some small chocolate chunks. I'm pretty sure it'll taste awesome on pancakes or microwave-bread-toast.
I also baked the chocolate-mint cookies. Note to self (and any other interested parties) when baking with peppermint extract - be sure to hold your breath and close your eyes when you open the oven door. The stream is really really strong. They have a nice minty tang - not too overpowering at all. I'm excited to chocolate coat them but first they have to cool completely.
Summary of today... The nut butter isn't quite as smooth as I would've liked but it is delicious - especially with the chocolate chunks stirred in. The thin mint cookies are amazingly delicious - I am officially obsessed with chocolate-coating things.

All in all - quite a successful day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mutli-Vitamins

There are some things and they have got to change.

The problem is that change is hard. Like, really really hard.

The first part is that I tend to put a lot more effort into taking care of others than I put into taking care of me. The best example which springs to mind is my 'cooking habits'. As long as there is someone else around I am happy to slave away and cook/bake delicious things but if it's just me then I'll eat a bag of potato chips and try to pretend that I'm full. (Yeah, so it actually doesn't work too well and I generally end up eating cookies and/or another bag of potato chips - when in reality I should just buckle down and make myself some rice pasta or an egg.) Last week I baked 2-dozen bagels (which I couldn't eat) and although I did make FF crackers (which turned out great) I only made a small batch and was too lazy to make any more.

The second part is that I have a very hard time remembering that the journey is the important part of life. I tend to get stuck in 'routine' mode. My brain kind of blanks out and everything passes by in a blur. The 'day-to-day' stops mattering because in my head more time is coming. I neglect to pay attention and realize that the moments that pass are the important ones, because I'll never get them back.

Over the last 2-years I've been going through a lot of stuff and especially in the last year I didn't necessarily cope with everything as well as I should have. (Granted there were imbalances and chemical reasons - beyond my every-day control which I can techinically attribute things to.) The short of it was that I was completely out of control of everything from my emotions to my physical well-being. It was scary. No other way to describe it. Like a twisted-evil out of body experience. I wouldn't wish it on anybody.

Thankfully 4 months post-FructMal-diagnosis - I am feeling like a new person. I still have my 'off' days and am chafing with regard to my ridiculously restricted diet - but the bright side is that I am more or less back in control of my body. (Next step is getting control of my 'mind' - but that's a much tougher thing to do.)

Day by day my body heals and my energy returns. Now I need the motivation. I'm not posting this looking for 'you can do it' slogans in the comments section - I'm posting it because I need to see it, read it and internalize it. I need to do this for myself.

It's time for me to put my sneakers on and walk. It's time for me to dig out my yoga mat and stretch. It's time for me to get off my couch and move.

And while I'm at it I suppose it wouldn't hurt to be a tad less ridiculous about how I spend my time in the kitchen. I've been bookmarking recipes and concepts for weeks now for 'allowable foods' that I could eat - but I never bother making any. In that time I've baked a dozen new types of bread and two dozen types of desserts. Isn't it time for me to cook stuff that I can enjoy too? I think it is.

It's a pain that the foods on my 'ok' list like; nuts, alternate flours - (oat, barley, almond), rice pasta and meat are much more expensive than plain old flour and white sugar - but it's my health we're talking about. Physically - literally.

So - I guess I'll have to step up the serious job-search while I'm at it.

94.5 years left and counting...

So much to do - so little time.

Goofy Face...

In the last 2.5 weeks I have bought 32 bags of potato chips at Yesh. Sounds crazy I know. But they're the 50-gram 'snack size' bags. Oh yeah - and they've been on this insane sale which lets you get 4 bags for just 10 shekels. I know, it sounds like a lot of potato chips- well you know what - it is! Seriously though - if they were all you could eat then you would also stock up. Trust me.

I know I've been on 'radio-silence' since last week. I was kind of in shock and experienced some serious brain-freeze after the shock I got when I turned the computer on after Shabbos. Tsunamis, earthquakes and brutal murders of a family who davened in the same shul as us until they moved to a different yishuv just 15 minutes away. Seriously world -where's the good news?! In the wake of everything that had taken place I just couldn't bring myself to write about the daily-stuff in my life. Makes a person feel really small in a really big universe. That's all.

However - life does go on. (Another one of those brutal facts that never fails to give me chills.) So I'll give a quick summary of the days I missed while floating around in my shock-induced funk-stupor of sorts...

Friday flew by. Z & I went out to town in the morning and then I finished the cooking nice and early. By the time Shabbos started I felt jetlagged (probably because I forgot to take my vitamin in the morning.) The Lockermans joined us for the meal Friday night. The food was good (although I really have to remember to resist the urge to add water to the soup - I need to relax and realize that there will be enough and I shouldn't worry.) After the meal we shmoozed and played a game of 'Settlers' - let's not talk about the benefits of taking wheat vs. ore in a monopoly... They left at a little after midnight and we collapsed into bed.

Shabbos morning dawned cold and bright. It was a leisurely day. A lot of reading - I polished off 2 books.

The menu this past weekend included:

Friday Night: roasted garlic, salatim, sushi (with seared-tuna), chicken soup with matzah balls, couscous, rice, Sara Schapiro's sesame chicken, peas, savory roasted sweet potatoes.

Shabbos Lunch: sushi, cheesy potato bake, chumus & salatim.

Sunday was extremely quiet and boring. Z worked on homework all day and I finished sewing the snaps onto the quilt covers. Z had 'volunteer hours' in the evening.

Monday was pretty typical. Z had school all day and I watched a whole bunch of movies. I also cooked up a batch of dulce de leche - which I stuck a few too many spoons into while waiting for it to cool. I think I'll make some sandwich cookies or swirl it into brownies - though I'm seriously considering filling some hamentashen with it too.

This morning I hopped out of bed then cattle-prodded Z out of bed and we went out to town. First we picked up a package from the post-office. (Did I mention that I sent 100 photos off to print last week? Anywho - they arrived!) Our next (and last) stop was at Yesh. We received a coupon in the mail for a 'free' bottle of grape-juice. No joke - totally free! I figured we might as well make use of that chance - and while we were there we bought some more potato chips...

See how I did that? Right back to the original topic from the beginning of the post.

Am I good or what?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Don't Something, Something Don't.

Wednesday passed quickly, quietly and rain-ily(?) I didn't do much of anything. Z half slept through his first class and by the time he was ready to leave he got an SMS saying that his 2nd class was cancelled. We called it a 'rain-day' and he just stayed Home.
The temperature has gone way way down - our concrete walls are radiating 40 degree weather in at us - so unless we sit in the middle of the room next to the heater it's basically just as bad as sitting outside. For that reason we layered up on sweaters, put the heater on high in the office and locked ourselves in there. We should get a port-a-potty so we don't have to leave the room every once in a while. It's just too cold to venture out there. Seems like such a waste to pay rent on a 3 bedroom apartment when we only use 1/3 of the space for the duration of the winter.
I was brave for a while though. I trekked to the kitchen and shaped my Lemon Chiffon Truffles. Once they had chilled (which didn't take very long for some odd reason) I melted some dark chocolate and gave them a double coating. It's really not too hard if you use the right chocolate and add a little canola oil to it. It still requires patience and time - but I figured out the trick - the truffles need to be chilled but not frozen. That way the chocolate doesn't set-up before you can get them off of the fork that you're using to dip them with.
Thursday was equally as boring but I was slightly more productive. I put my chicken soup up to cook, made rice and baked 3 desserts. FF cookies for myself, cookie brittle for Z and caramel walnut brownies - because I had extra chocolate left over from dipping the truffles. I'm not sure how the brownies will taste - since I totally messed around with the recipe - but it's chocolate, sugar and caramel so I mean, how bad could it be?
I made sure that all of the dishes were washed before going to sleep - to save me time and frustration this morning. Then the tris-strap in our bedroom snapped - so I knew I'd better set an alarm or there was a risk of waking up super-late on a Friday morning.
Even with the trisim down I woke up at 6:30. It was cold and I had no interest in getting up. At 7:30 I woke up again. I tried to fall back asleep for 10 minutes, but it just wasn't working. Instead I got out of bed and started working. I turned on the dud, prepped the chicken in a baking dish, folded a load of laundry that sat in the dryer all week, put a load of laundry into the washer, rinsed the sushi rice and set it up to soak, switched the laundry and put in a 2nd load after half-stripping my bed.
There's still laundry to do. I really have to go out to town to pick up the salatim and a shabbos clock for the second heater - we're definitely going to need it this weekend. Especially because we're having the Lockermans over for dinner tonight. But first a nice hot shower - then the insanity can begin.

Have a wonderful weekend and a Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Like a Gangsta Frog...

A thunderstorm woke me up at 6:30 yesterday morning. The rain was pouring down, lightning was flashing, thunder was booming - all in all - quite a gloomy start to a day. It was quite chilly too. Not really a problem for bread-making, because the rising can always be done in a warmed oven.While Z lazed around in bed - I kneaded together a double batch of bagel dough. 11 cups of flour later, I was exhausted but the dough was rising in the slightly-warmed oven. Shaping really didn't take long at all - I think it gets easier with practice. I've really gotten the whole 'gluten-cloaking' thing down-pat - that's where you shape the dough into a tight ball by pinching and pulling dough from the top down to the bottom and sealing everything neatly underneath. It makes a nice strong 'skin' on the ball which helps it keep its shape.
I don't know why people are so scared of making their own bread. Yeast is 'alive' - but it's not like it can hurt you (unless you're allergic to it...) Kneading isn't all that hard. Shaping can be fun. Honestly - there's no smell quite as amazing and rewarding as having a homemade loaf baking in the oven. It's so easy people - and the ingredients are so cheap! It's really not an expensive proposition to just try. You can do it!Freddie arrived at a little after 2. We relaxed for a little bit while I started making the fructose-friendly portion of our snacks. I've been wanting 'snack foods' (that aren't potato chips) - I miss being able to grab a bag of crackers from the pantry for a nosh. So - I decided to make us some crackers.
I found a recipe for 'Homemade Ritz Crackers' and following the recipe (very loosely) I made crackers. I substituted barley flour (in place of white wheat flour) and cut back on the water.

They need a bit of work - they're really cumbly due to lack of gluten in the flour, so a starch of some sort will probably get added to the mix. But overall they tasted really great!
At 3ish, Phil arrived from Jeru. Then we partied. First Z stole the laptop (to take to school to work on a project) - but we had been using it to look at Freddie's wedding pics, and had forgotten a disc in the cd drive. I tried to get him to come back but he claimed he was halfway downthe mountain - I stuck my head out the window and saw him only 2 buildings away. He wouldn't come back but I called him on his lie and it led to a lot of giggles (and my almost falling off the counter) but that's neither here nor there.
It took almost 3 hours to look though all 6-discs of photos. I copied all of them to our external hard-drive. Now I've got to get a batch printed! Phil & I looked at pictures while Freddie got comfy with my newest Juliet Marillier book.
Phil decided that she'd go Home to make going to school in the morning easier. We looked at schedules and figured that a train from Petach Tiqwa was the quickest and most efficient way to get back to The Sun House.
I made some sauteed chicken for Phil for dinner. Then I gave Freddie some mushrooms, peppers and broccoli so that she could make a pasta-primavera when she got Home. They packed up their stuff and drove off into the night right after Z got Home with the captive photo-disc.
Since I had a whole bunch of vegetables out and I had defrosted chicken, I threw together a stir-fry for Z (enough for dinner and a lunch), and I sauteed a chicken breast for myself. Quite the delicious dinner.
We watched some tv before going to sleep and this morning I was woken up by wind and rain whistling in through the cheap-o windows. I can't wait to have my own house. Central a/c and heating. No more tris-boxes which let in drafts, look ugly, take up space and make it annoying to hang up curtains. Two sinks in the kitchen not to mention 'top' cabinets and hopefully ovens that fit more than one tray in at a time. One day, right?
Yeah - sure - right...
Well, it doesn't hurt to dream.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Muffaletta

The architecture-department was granted a 3 day vacation. They had to petition for it, it was cancelled twice, and it's actually taking place during 2nd semester. Most annoyingly the days allotted were Sunday through Tuesday - but only architecture department classes - so any courses taken in different departments still had to be attended. As you may remember - the architecture-schedule is arranged with Sunday as a 'free-day' (because of the sheer amount of homework and assignments) but Z has his 'volunteer hours' - so Sunday wasn't really 'vacation' since he had to work for 6 hours and had a 'moed bet' test too. This semester Z has Tuesdays free as well (because he has taken just about all of the 'optional' classes available in previous years.) That essentially leaves him with just 1 day of vacation. Nice of the school - huh? I guess it's better than the original proposal of giving them off on 'Friday through Sunday' at the end of the second-semester. Yeah, stupid school.
Since today was Z's only real day of 'vacation' we decided to do some fun stuff this morning. Errands can be fun when they're enjoyable. Right? So we went to Yesh and I bought another 12 bags of potato chips (they were 4 for 10nis and had the ridged ones I really like in stock! I'm not crazy - it's just about the only snack-food available to me.)
Our second stop was at the little sewing store in Rova Alef. We took our new pillowcases with us and spent a while holding them up next to myriads of buttons. Squares, circles, solid, patterned - all different kinds of buttons. Finally we agreed on cute little beige ones. I guess that's what I'll be doing on Wednesday. Sewing buttons.
The last leg of our journey was in 'town' - we bought white chocolate and lemons (because I'm planning on making those 'lemon chiffon truffles' - probably for Shabbos.) We popped into Mega for some other random items. We also learned that the only place in the city to get a watch battery changed is at the glasses store. Makes perfect sense. I mean, obviously you would go to an optician to have a watch battery replaced.
Back at Home I put the sour-cream into cheese-cloth in a strainer and let it start dripping. Yeah, I'm making cream cheese in my kitchen.

Tomorrow we're having a bagel making and baking party. Sara was supposed to come - but it kind of slipped her mind, and since school gave everyone (except the architecture department) a week-long vacation (yeah, I'm a little bitter about that) she actually went back to The Sun House this morning. It's ok though - the show must go on. Z will be Home, Freddie is coming over and maybe Ora will come too. It'll still be a lot of fun.

Maybe tomorrow I'll even get around to those FF crackers that I've been meaning to try and make.