Monthly Archives: June 2010
One of the best things about moving to Ra’anana is that not only did I get reacquainted with friends from the past (for instance, Karen from high school), but the second generation has kicked in, and my kids are now friends with their kids. Way back in the day, before the second generation was even a twinkle in our eyes, Jonathan was a friend of The X. He used to come over for Shabbat and abuse our bathroom. A few years later he married Vicki, one of my favorite yummy mummies. We didn’t see each other often as a couple, usually just at weddings and other celebrations. But when I married Ju-boy and moved into his burb, Jonathan and Vicki were just down the street, and the friendship was renewed, and a stronger link was forged. Jonathan is a loyal friend, and Vicki, well, Vicki is such an amazing cook she actually makes me think I have miles to go before I can keep up with her in the kitchen. Her petite frame has some wonderful shoulders and she’s a great friend, always willing to let me rant and set me straight about life.
Jonathan and Vicki’s son Shim-boy is friendly with my Tinky, but the closest bond is between my Didi and Leah. They started out in high school together, went on to do their bagruyot (matric) studies together, and now that both are in National Service (Didi in Afula, Leah in Jerusalem), they try to meet up when both manage to get home on the same weekends. They laugh together, fight, make up, go out for sushi and ice coffees (I hope not at the same time), and each one likes to raid the other one’s kitchen. Didi, picky thing that she is, will willingly eat anything Vicki puts in front of her, and Leah is always ready to sample my baking experiments.
With such devotion to kitchen quality assurance, how could I not play around with some of Leah’s favorite ingredients and make a brownie in her honor. Well, not exactly a brownie, with Leah’s tightly curled flaxen locks, it’s more of a blondie. A lambie blondie. A luscious lambie blondie. A Luscious Lambie Leah (always alliterative, actually).
White chocolate, check. Gooey caramel toffees, check. Light brown sugar, check. These luscious lambies are a combination of various ideas. The blondies are based on the Butterscotch Blondies found in Bruce Weinstein’s The Ultimate Brownie Book. The idea for the toffee filling comes from Carine Goren, my dessert diva. You need to flatten the toffees (or caramel squares). I made good use of Shy-boy. I highly suggest everyone acquire a step-son interested in cooking for this task, a valuable piece of kitchen equipment.
20 milk toffee candies (or caramel squares), unwrapped
1 2/3 cup white chocolate chips (divided)
3/4 stick unsalted butter (150 grams)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar (I used golden)
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Flatten the toffees/caramels and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Line a 9×13 inch (23×33 cm) baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Place 2/3 cup of the white chocolate chips and the butter together. Melt either on top of a double boiler or in the microwave. Stir until well combined and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda together until well combined, set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl beat the white sugar, light brown sugar and eggs at medium speed, for about 5 minutes, until all the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is light and creamy. Beat in the white chocolate mixture and the vanilla, 2 minutes or so, until everything is smooth and uniform.
- With a wooden spoon (I used a spatula), stir in the remaining 1 cup of white chocolate chips and the flour mixture. Do this until everything is just incorporated, do not beat, do not overmix! The batter will be very thick.
- Pour half of the blondie batter into the prepared pan. Then evenly place the flattened toffees/caramels over the surface of the batter. The gently pour the second half of the blondie batter over the flattened toffee/caramel layer, and smooth with your spoon/spatula until everything is covered. Do this gently.
- Bake for 35 minutes or until the top is light brown. You can’t do the toothpick test here because of the goopiness of the filling.
- Chill well before cutting into squares.
I received this via email from my friend Brynn and thought it should be passed on. If you agree with me, please pass this on any way you can.
To all my friends who light Shabbat candles, I’m not usually into group messages like this but this Shabbat marks four years in captivity for Gilad Shalit. I was talking to some friends and we are going to light an extra candle this Shabbat in merit of Gilad ben Aviva Shalit. We also thought that when we light our candles it would be fitting to say a prayer for him; whether it is your own words to Hashem to bring him home soon or to say the following tehillim (Psalms):
פרקים: כ’ ב”ד קכ ק”ל קמ”ב
Chapters 20, 24, 121, 130 and 142
Let the extra candle that we light bring some light to his life and return him to his family safely and speedily in our days.
Ve’shavu banim legvulam
Haveil Havalim #272 is up at Frume Sarah’s World, check it out!
A second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience.
— Samuel Johnson
Today Ju-boy and I have been married for five years. A mere seven years ago, if you had told me we would be celebrating this auspicious event, I would have asked you what did you smoke for breakfast? Seven years ago I was married to a different husband, living in a different part of the county and I intended to continue doing so for the rest of my life.
All together now: man plans, God laughs.
I have recently begun to think that one should count second marriages in dog years.
When Ju-boy stepped on the glass under the chuppah on that brilliant Friday morning five years ago the world changed for both of us. Instantly we each acquired four step-children, a step-dog, an elderly parent-in-law (sadly both are no longer with us), brand new siblings, nieces, nephews, friends, mortgages and baggage. Lots of baggage.
Enter my dog years theory. Of course, it goes without saying that we are happy together, thrilled at being able to find “The One” a second time. I’m not saying that each year drags on and feels like seven. What I am trying to say is that because of our (for want of a better word) previous lives, each year is now filled with seven years worth of life.
Warning: Ahhhhhhh moment approaching. Those allergic to corn please avert your eyes.
I am infinitely grateful that in this instance, God did laugh at my plans. I could not have found a better person to love, hate, adore, get up my nose… in short, spend the next 50 years of my life together with him. Which, if you follow my dog years theory, amounts to 350 years. Buckle your seat belt, Ju-boy, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
In my Chapter 2 I have been blessed with a husband who not only appreciates my cooking, but is an amazing cook in his own right. When we were dating he once returned from abroad bearing the gift of, no, not jewelry, no, not perfume, he proudly gave me a blowtorch. One friend asked me if I would now be breaking up with this wierd present giving geek, but those who know my fondness for kitchen toys could already predict a merging of cooking techniques in the near future.
Ju-boy, never one to embrace the mundane, even in the kitchen, uses my (now our) blow torch to brown his beef before roasting. It really works, the meat is moist, the juices sealed in wonderfully. The man can really cook a cow.
Torched Roast Beef
Here in the Miriyummy household we use the #6 cut of meat, falshe fillet. My buddies at israel-food told me that the American equivalent is called chuck calachel. Use whatever works best for you when making roast beef.
1 1/2 kilos (3 pounds) roasting beef
Freshly ground black pepper
Brown the meat by using a blow torch.
Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Roast at 200 degrees C (400 degrees F) for 45 minutes.
This produces what Ju-boy calls the perfect roast, moist, delicious and red all the way through.
They say a little competition in life is healthy. I once had the bad judgement to take a class in philosphy. Not much of that class has been retained, but I do remember writing a paper about Adam Smith. One of my vague memories of him is that he wrote about cooperative competition, where individuals compete to improve their levels of happiness, but do so in a cooperative manner, joining forces to achieve a desired end and not violating each other’s targets.
Ju-boy and his friend Tom Jones do not believe in cooperative competion. They just believe in competition, period. They compete over who has the best whisky collection, they compete over who paid less per kilo for a whole chicken at the supermarket, and they compete at the gym. There they are, running side by side on their treadmills, little gerbils spinning their wheels, trying to see who can get nowhere first. Tom’s wife, Sweet Caroline, and I just shake our heads. Let the boys play their little game, we have better things to discuss.
The other day it was Tom’s birthday. Ju-boy, in the spirit of friendship, asked me to bake him a birthday cake. I thought, how sweet. Tom works hard to help everyone see a better world, and my altruistic husband wants to give him a surprise for his birthday. I can be so naive. When I asked Ju-boy what kind of cake to make for Tom, he cackled his reply, “Who cares! Just shtup the thing full of sugar and fat and calories. We’ll see how fast he runs at the gym, mwah hah hah hah hah!”
Did I really want to do that? Tom’s a nice guy. He and his Sweet C belong to that group of friends-in-law that made me feel so welcome when I moved to Ra’anana. And did I want to sacrifice quality over quantity (of calories)? I went pouring through my recipes and found one that would make all parties happy.
Carine Goren has a recipe for cinnamon rolls that I’ve been dying to try out. I can also have my own agenda. The recipe was calorie-laden enough to make Ju-boy happy, interesting enough to make me happy, and Tom ate just one, managing to both treat himself and not totally annihilate his diet, so everybody wins. Except Ju-boy, who would have preferred that Tom scarf down the whole plate. Ah, well, he lives to plot another day.
Carine Goren is my favorite (at the moment) for sweet yummies. This is my variation of what she calls Better Than Store-Bought Cinnamon Rolls. She uses instant vanilla pudding in the yeast dough, which gives it a nice flavor and an wonderful texture. Carine’s original recipe calls for a cream cheese frosting, which I left out. Also, her recipe is dairy. I originally made this for Tom with milk and butter, but have since altered the recipe to make this non-dairy. Feel free to sub milk and butter for the soy milk and margarine.
Yummy Cinnamon Buns
4 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
one package instant vanilla pudding (3.5 ounces, 80 grams)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups soy milk, lukewarm
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon cinnamon
melted margarine for brushing, 1/4 – 1/3 cup
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Mix and proof the dough:
- In a mixer bowl fitted with the dough hook, mix the flour, yeast and instant pudding mix.
- Add the sugar, soy milk, egg, melted margarine and salt, knead for 5 minutes until the dough is fairly soft and smooth.
- Cover and leave to double in size.
- Make the cinnamon filling:
- Mix together the sugar and cinnamon and set aside. You get to melt the margarine later…
- Assembling and baking the buns:
- Turn the risen dough out on the a floured surface and roll it out to a rectangle about 1/2 an inch thick (1 1/4 centimeters).
- Brush with the melted margarine, sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon, and roll it up width-wise into a long roll. Cut into equal sized buns about 1 inch thick (2 1/2 centimeters).
- Place the buns in a parchment paper lined tray, give them enough space to spread out. As you can see from the picture above, I didn’t, but they came out just fine.
- Leave them to rise and double in bulk once again.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
- Brush the buns with the egg wash and bake for just 15 minutes, or until the buns are golden but still soft to the touch. DO NOT OVERBAKE. These are yummy when soft, not so yummy when overdone.
When you consider yourself to be a decent cook, adroit in the kitchen, you take certain things for granted. Ju-boy, the technical writer, has always told me that you write for your audience. Sometimes it’s difficult to gauge exactly who makes up your audience. Do I discuss the intricacies of proofing yeast, or am I wasting your time, and even worse, word count? Am I talking above your head, or treating you like a culinary child? Where exactly do I start to take things for granted?
Which brings me to a little piece of high school apocrypha. The story I am about to relate may or may not be true. Even the participants don’t remember the exact details. But in the mumble mumble years since 11th grade this story has grown wings and taken flight, becoming an urban legend within the limited demographic in which it took place.
Back in the Seventies SW and her family were refugees from South Africa. Her parents saw what was happening to the country in general and the Jewish community in particular and moved the family across the ocean to another hemisphere, and settled in New York. South Africa’s loss was my gain, she and I became friends. And so begins the legend.
In our New York eyes SW had grown up in a very priviledged state. We studied apartheid in school and whatever propagaganda we heard led us to believe that our friend was a modern day Scarlet O’Hara, with her own personal staff to tie her shoes, fetch her breakfast, brush her hair. One day one of our little group (no one remembers whom anymore) received a phone call…
SW: I’m alone in the house and I want to make some tea.
SW’s Friend: That’s nice.
SW: Urm, I’ve never done this before, how do you make tea?
SWF: You put the tea bag in the cup, and then you add boiling water.
SW: Urm, how do you boil water?
If this is the case with some of you, then perhaps my recipes are a little too complicated. Do you really need me to hold your hand and tell you how to cook pasta or peel a potato? Just in case you are a total newbie cook, Recipezaar has two wonderful recipes just for you: Boiled Water and Ice Cubes.
So whatever happened to SW? We’re still friends, so many mumble mumble years later. I’d like to tell you that she went on to master boiling water and is now a famous Food Network chef, but my good friend does not count cooking among her hobbies. She views it as something she *has* to do. Every now and then I will get a frantic phone call with SW on the other end of the line, “The family is coming over for dinner, what can I do with a tub of cottage cheese and an onion?” Miriyummy to save the day! Actually, I exaggerate for the sake of what I hope passes as humor. SW is an excellent, if unwilling, vegetarian cook. I was at her house a few weeks ago and she made me a great cup of instant coffee, and I can vouch that she boiled the water beautifully.
I actually had SW in mind the other week when I started playing around with some vegetables and cheese. As I may have mentioned before, I’m low carbing it at the moment, and came up with this version of lasagne that doesn’t involve noodles. Those of you that dread recipes that start out with the words “one pound of pasta, cooked” may now breathe a sigh of relief.
Pasta Free La Sag Nee (Lasagne)
1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, grated
olive oil for sauteeing
1 largish eggplant, unpeeled and thinly sliced into rounds
2 medium zucchini, unpeeled and thinly sliced into rounds
3 cups of your favorite pasta sauce (buy it, make it from scratch, borrow from your neighbor, you get to choose)
400 grams (1 pound) grated cheese (again, you get to choose, I use a mix of mozzarella and the Israeli Gilboa, an Edam-like cheese)
oregano, basil, salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).
- Saute the onion in the olive oil until golden. Add the grated carrots and saute for one minute or two more. Remove from heat and leave to cool.
- Coat the bottom of a 13″ x 9″ (33 x 23 cm) pan with a bit of the pasta sauce. This is to prevent the food from sticking to the pan. It will still stick a bit, but at least you tried.
- Layer half of the eggplant rounds on the bottom of the pan. Add the carroty-onions and spread evenly over the eggplant.
- Add a layer of sauce and then a layer of cheese. Sprinkle with oregano, basil, salt and pepper, to taste.
- Layer the zucchini rounds next. Add another layer of sauce, then another layer of cheese. Sprinkle with oregano, basil, salt and pepper, to taste.
- Add a last layer of eggplant rounds. Now add the cheese, and then the sauce. This is to prevent the cheese from burning and sticking to the silver foil that you will use to cover the whole thing.
- Cover the whole thing with silver foil (for those who didn’t bother to read the above instruction).
- Bake for about 50 minutes.
Let it cool for a bit before slicing into servings. In fact, this serves up prettiest when completely cooled in the fridge and then cut into neat, serving-size squares which are then reheated in the microwave. If you like your food fresh and messy, then serve up straight from the oven. When low carbing it I usually make up a batch of this stuff and eat it throughout the week. This also freezes well.
SW! I’m coming over, put the kettle on!
When I was a little girl I had conflicting views on what a grandmother should be. There was the storybook grandmother, the one you saw on the cartoons on television, who sat in a rocking chair, knit you sweaters for your birthday and baked you oatmeal cookies. And then there was my grandmother. She couldn’t knit, she couldn’t cook. She didn’t even own a rocking chair. She had a makeup collection to rival the cosmetics department of Saks Fifth Avenue. That’s where she worked, the cosmetics department of Saks Fifth Avenue. In my eyes that trumped any cookie-baking, sweater-knitting grandmother any day. Her claim to fame was that she was Jackie Onassis’s favorite saleslady. When I was little and came over to visit, she used to let me play with her powders and creams. She would let me have tea parties with the 100 year old samovar she had brought over from Sweden. She didn’t bake me any cookies, but always had my favorite black and whites from the bakery waiting for me in her kitchen. She didn’t knit me any sweaters but took me shopping for my first handbag when I became Bat Mitzvah, because “every young lady is never properly dressed without a handbag.”
My grandmother was my mother’s step-mother. That made her officially my step-grandmother, but in my eyes, she was always just my grandmother. She was my grandma. I have something in common with her. I am also a step-grandmother. In fact, I am a third generation step-granny. There’s my grandmother, the original. My mother was step-granny to my step-children (even though they never met), and now there’s me, step-granny to the Crown Prince. Crown Prince is the son of Ju-boy’s eldest, Optimus Prime, and his bride, The Rani. Last year they added the next generation to Ju-boy’s dynasty, and yesterday he turned one.
I am the sweater-knitting, cookie-baking grandmother. When Crown Prince was 10 hours old I gave him his first pair of booties, knit that morning. And for his first birthday I offered to bake him his birthday cake. But there was a few provisos… The Rani declared that the cake must be healthy. The cake must be low fat. The cake must be low sugar. In my opinion, this meant the cake must be low taste. But The Rani is the Crown Prince’s mother, and in her house, The Rani reigns. I’ll shtup the kid some sugar next time he’s in my house and his parents aren’t looking (kidding, Optimus, kidding….).
I don’t really do low fat, low sugar low taste cakes, so I went off and did a little research. I didn’t have to go far, just a few clicks away to the Recipe Sifter on Recipezaar and within minutes I had the perfect cake to make all parties happy. You can find the original recipe here, but of course, I played around with it a little. I changed the ingredients just a bit, and instead of one large cake I made little cupcakes. I thought that with the lack of fat the cake would be dry, but it was chocolate-laden, moist and delicious. I’m pleasantly surprised, and actually plan to make these again.
Chocolate Apple Birthday Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or half white, half whole wheat)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar (as per recipe reviews that stated the original 1/2 cup did not work)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup water
1/4 cup applesauce (I used no sugar added applesauce)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 apple, peeled and chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350° F (180 C).
- Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
- Combine the dry ingredients your mixer bowl.
- In another bowl, combine the liquid ingredients. Add to dry ingredients, stir until just combined.
- Toss in the apples and fold into the batter.
- Pour into the prepared muffin pan.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until done. These are really moist so a little bit of wet crumb might stick to your tester.
Ju-boy and I bought Crown Prince some great presents, lots of wooden blocks to gnaw on and throw, but Optimus Prime seemed to be more excited than his son. In fact, both grandfather and father didn’t let the birthday boy play with his presents, they were having too much fun.
Sometimes the most unlikely people make the best roommates.
I made aliya (immigrated to Israel) in 1983 with relative ease. I was single, no household possessions to ship across the Atlantic, no children in tow and zero commitments. I was “engaged to be engaged” (eventually marrying the guy, subsequently divorcing him 21 years later, but that’s another blog post, maybe). Due to my unencumbered status the Powers That Be decided not to send me to a family-oriented absorpton center, but to a hostel for single olim (immigrants).
The hostel decided to place me with a religious roommate. I was religious, she was religious, we should have gotten along beautifully, no? No. Anna was desperately Romanian, desperately incommunicative, desperately wanting to get married. She had placed a singles ad in some Romanian newspaper and the phone calls were coming in fast and furious. This would not have been a problem except for the fact that the only phone was three long flights down. A bell would ring in our room and one would have to run downstairs. Sometimes one would have to get dressed first. Sometimes one was already asleep. Can one see a pattern emerging?
Anna was a nurse who worked odd hours, usually evenings and nights. The bell would ring, I would trudge down three flights of stairs, only to find that the call was for the ever-hopeful yet always absent Anna. I always took a message, even the ones in garbled Romanian (no, I don’t speak Romanian). One message from a Bucharesti lothario made it into Anna’s heart and she eventually went off to live happily ever after with the newfound love of her life.
So now I was roommate free and due for another one. Age lived next door, and she had just had a huge fight with her roommate (also expertly chosen by the hostel staff for their ability to cohabit peacefully). Rather then each of us wait for the next unsuitable roomie, we told the hostel we wanted to move in together. We were told it was impossible, I was religious, Age was secular, we would never get along. After all, they knew better. So the next day we presented them with a fait accompli, and I moved my stuff in with her stuff. We were two people who were total opposites and never should have been roommates. Age was secular, I was religious. Age was neat and tidy, I was a slob (still am). Age liked the folk rock of the Sixties, I liked the hard rock of the Seventies. And yet it worked. Except in the kitchen…
I keep kosher, Age doesn’t. On paper and in practice it worked, 99.99% of the time. I had my dishes, Age had hers. We each had our own food on our own shelves in the fridge. Everything was copacetic, until Age decided to make one of her favorite dishes, chicken with Parmesan cheese. Those of you who know the rules of kashrut can hear the alarm bells ringing, can’t you. Yes, she made this in her own pan. Yes, she ate this off her own plate. But the smell of it cooking… a lifetime of kosher conditioning had me running from the room at the smell! Yes, we were a wonderful example of religious/secular harmony, until Age made her chicken.
In spite of this heinous chicken (sorry, Age), our friendship flourished. Unfortunately, when Age immigrated to Israel she neglected to bring with her one of the most important things in her life, her family. After a few years in Israel she returned to the States. Even across the water we stayed friends (probably better friends now that I couldn’t smell her chicken cooking). First we wrote chatty letters, then we started emailing. Everytime I go back to the States for a visit Age will meet up with me, take my daughters shopping in Target, and we’ll share a meal at one of the many kosher restaurants in Queens. When my mother died last fall Age was there at my side, helping me check into my hotel room, taking me into Queens for some stress-busting hot dog eating and junk food shopping. She drove Ju-boy and me back to the airport, but not before stopping for a slice of pizza. Age always did know how to relax me. One day she’ll come back to Israel to visit and I hope I can give her a good a time as she always makes sure to give me.
I’ve been low-carbing it lately (prepare yourselves for a plethora of recipes in the coming weeks), and as I prepared some chicken breasts for the grill the other day I couldn’t help but think of Age and her Parmy chicken. I can assure you this recipe has no Parmesan cheese. In fact, it doesn’t have many ingredients at all, but it’s a good dish if you’re on a low-carb diet, and a good dish even if you’re not. I like to make up a huge batch, place single servings in little sandwich bags, and freeze the lot of them, taking out a bag or two (or three) at a time for grilling, either stove-top or out on the charcoal.
Miriyummy’s Marinated Chicken Fillets
1 kilo (2.2. pounds) chicken fillets
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon granulated garlic powder
1 tablespoon sumac
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Place the chicken fillets in a large bowl.
- Add the rest of the ingredients. Massage the marinade into the fillets.
- Let the fillets rest in the marinade for 15 minutes, or overnight in the fridge.
- Grill on the stovetop with one of those special lined pans or barbeque outdoors. You only need to grill these babies for two or three minutes on each side. If your fillets are thick, or you are using a big piece of shnitzel, cook for longer until no longer raw and pink in the middle.