Category Archives: Birthdays
October has been a busy month. Between family reunions, the High Holidays and a multitude of family celebrations which have not yet come to an end, I’ve been insanely busy. Sometime in August, anticipating this busy time, I voiced a request to fall into a coma and to be woken up in November. No such luck…
Once upon a time About three months ago I had a birthday. I woke up to presents, birthday cards, and even baked my own cake. But way off yonder, in the Frozen North (London), my daughter Sassy and her Sabraman had their own idea for a present. In the most clandestine of operations, money was transferred into Ju-Boy’s bank account, and he was supposed to take me out for dinner. It was meant to be a surprise. And… it was meant to be for my birthday.
As is the case of most of my life, man plans and God laughs. Dinner plans were made. First I canceled, then Ju-Boy canceled, then I canceled again. At one point Ju-Boy decided to almost fly over the handlebars of his bicycle, and instead of going out to dinner I watched him get a few stitches in his leg (he asked the nurse for a lollipop for being such a brave boy). What I didn’t know was that all this time Sassy was waiting for a report as to how I enjoyed her birthday present. Ju-Boy finally confessed, and plans were made again, and canceled, and made again. And canceled…
Do you have a wish list? I do. Spending a few days at the Carmel Forest Spa was at the top of the list. That’s been checked off. I’d been wanting for years to go to Stonehenge. Ju-Boy made that dream come true in 2005. One of my mini-holy grails has been to eat at MC², a gourmet vegetarian restaurant in Bitan Aharon, just north of Netanya. Reservations were made, and canceled, made again, canceled again. Finally, this past Monday, which just happened to be Valentine’s Day, it looked like this was going to get checked off my list as well. We don’t normally celebrate Valentine’s Day, Jews have their own lovers’ holiday, Tu Be’Av, and we celebrated that back in August. But I wasn’t going to let a little kid in diapers carrying a bow and arrow ruin my birthday evening, no matter how many months after my birthday it was.
The restarant was offering a special chef’s tasting menu that night in honor of Valentine’s Day — 15 courses. We thought we were going to be in for a night of gluttinous gorging, but the courses were small, tiny, even miniscule, and yet by the end we were stuffed. And so it began:
Each table had a menu printed out specifying each of the courses. At this point, consulting the list, we realized that the restaurant had skipped a course, the almond pate. We asked the waitress and she said she would bring it immediately.
It seems that we thought immediately meant right now. The waitress wasn’t using our dictionary, it seems.
Did I mention that each course, each tiny course, was brought to us and then cleared away before they brought the next course? It started out as cute. By the time the goat cheese dish had arrived we were losing patience.
Um… we’ve just had our palettes cleared by the sorbet, we’re ready for the main part of the meal, but where’s that almond pate? Once again, we asked a passing waiter. He promised to bring it out…. immediately.
At this point Ju-Boy decided to excuse himself (you know what that euphemism is for). He came back and told me I just had to check out the restroom, so I went to freshen up (yet another euphemism).
I returned to our table to find that the soup had been cleared away and that Ju-Boy had inquired yet again about the almond pate. It was coming… immediately.
It was just about now that a very large and beautiful beetle crawled across our table. It was very colorful and looked like a piece of Egyptian scarab jewelry. It was quickly whisked off our table by our waiter who apologized and said, “That’s what happens when you are right in the middle of a nature preserve.” I was fascinated, but unfortunately, our unexpected dinner guest was gone before I could take a picture.
Dessert was not listed as a course on the menu, but we knew it was coming, and we were ready!
We had started our meal with a nice glass of shiraz each, which I didn’t photograph. Ju-Boy ended his meal with an “upside-down” coffee. We well-fed and ready to go home.
On the way home, cozy and warm in the car which was lightly pelted with rain, I called Sassy and Sabraman to thank them for my birthday present. It’s nice to still celebrate your birthday three months after the fact. Do you think I can drag the event out for the whole year?
I once read somewhere, back when blogdom was in its infancy, that one kitchen diva’s nightmare was that guests would arrive and there wouldn’t be anything on the table they were willing to eat. Haven’t most of us had that nightmare? You know what I mean… you invite guests over for Shabbat lunch and it turns out they are macrobiotic raw foodists who don’t want to go near your cholent, or snaggle-toothed carnivores who turn up their noses at your tofu curry. You just can’t win with some people.
I used to be one of those guests, once. I was a vegan for 5 years back in the mid-90s, eschewing meat, eggs, dairy, any kinds of animal product. I totally freaked my friends out. It’s not that I was being kind to animals, it was that animals weren’t kind to me, I had problems digesting animal protein and a vegan diet was the only one that worked for me back then. These days I’m my old carnivorous self again, although I love catering for veggie guests. When veggie friends come over I can whip some tofu curry as good as any card-carrying PETA member. Ju-Boy gets a bit miffed, though, when they reciprocate but don’t sacrifice a cow for his dietary preferences.
Once upon a time, before my vegan days, I had a friend from back in the hood, Goldie From The Block. Goldie and her very own SugarBear had recently made aliya and I invited them over for dinner. “You know we’re vegan,” announced Goldie. My first reaction? Oy! I spent two weeks researching a vegan menu worthy of Goldie and SugarBear. After all, I wanted that meal to be perfect! I had invited another couple over for dinner as well, and the X (I was married to the X then) said, “This other couple are not used to this alien food, you should make something dairy as well, just as a backup.”
So our guests showed up for dinner, and I started to bring food out on to the table. Potato and leek soup, lentil pie, tofu and sweet potato curry, couscous and salad. I had a fruit salad chilling in the fridge for dessert, to be topped with a forest fruits sorbet. Not a single animal had been harmed or taken advantage of for this meal. Except for when I brought out the quiche. If I was going to cater to the vegans, I’d cater to the non-vegans as well, and I had made a small tomato and onion quiche with lots of cheddar cheese, eggs and cream. As I placed this dairy masterpiece on the table I said, “Everything here is vegan, except for the quiche.”
“Quiche!” exclaimed Goldieblox and her Bear. “Quiche, we love quiche!” and they helped themselves to giant portions of enslaved animal products. “B-b-b-b-b-but,” I blubbered, “you guys are vegans!” “Yes,” said Goldie, “but we don’t expect people to cater for us when we go out!” Goldie may have been married to a Bear, but I was the one who growled then.
But what’s a little oppressed animal cuisine among friends? Although Goldie from the Block and SugarBear have given up their vegan ways, they still are very kind to animals and other living things in the guise of lacto-ovo vegetarians. They live on the other side of town with their three cubs. Goldie had a birthday the other day, and her friends all got together to throw her a party. We all brought something to eat, and in memory of those vegan days I brought along a dish of edamame hummous. No animals were harmed, exploited or taken advantage of in that dish of green. As Goldie tried some on a cracker she told me that it was “juuuuuuust right!”
Don’t let the fact that this is healthy or vegan deter you, it’s yummy, and a nice alternative to chickpea hummous.
- 1 bag (400 grams, about 13 ounces) frozen, shelled edamame
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoon tahini
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Bring the edamame to boil in a pot of water for about 3 minutes. You can also nuke them in the microwave for about 5-7 minutes, until hot. Drain them in a colander and rinse under running water.
- Place the beans in the food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and give it all a good zhuzz until the mixture is the consistency of guacamole. If it’s too thick add a teaspoon of water, one at a time, until the right consistency.
- Taste and correct seasonings.
- Cover and refrigerate until party time!
Today is my birthday, and I’m shlepping a cake into work. Yes, I’m the one bringing in my own birthday cake. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? While I never “officially” worked in the States (does camp counselor and JCC dance teacher count?), I do know (because I watch The Office), that you don’t throw your own birthday parties at work in the States. You have the PPC, the Party Planning Committee do it for you. There are balloons, cake and maybe even a speech by the boss.
Not so in Israel. The birthday girl or boy has to bring in the refreshments. There’s always the cake, sometimes there’s ice cream, and if you’re lucky, you get a present. Wait, there is a PPC. I have always been the PPC, because I’ve always been the office manager. When I wasn’t the office manager I was the only woman in the office, and the job fell to me then as well. It’s a weird custom that always throws the Anglo immigrants for a loop, but they get into the swing of it quickly enough. And when they have completely gone over to the Dark Side, and have gone totally Israeli, they do what a lot of Israelis do for their birthday, they take the day off.
I’ve been here for almost 28 years, since I was 20 (now you know how old I am), and I’m Israeli enough to bring in my own cake, but not Israeli enough to take the day off. And that’s why I’m shlepping the cake in to work today. I baked it last night, and I really enjoyed myself. I’m going to enjoy myself even more today when I treat myself to sushi for lunch. And I wonder what Ju-Boy has up his sleeve as far as presents go. I’ve already given him several hints, even suggesting that you, my dear readers, pass the hint on to him as well. Some of you actually have. This Shabbat we’re going away for the weekend with two other couples whose wives are also celebrating birthdays this week. But tonight, what I really want, is just a quiet evening at home with my Ju-Boy, maybe watching one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride, which was another birthday present once upon a time.
I’m baking one of my favorite cakes, Orange Poppy Seed Cake, which is from Levana Kirschenbaum’s cookbook, Levana’s Table. The first time I saw Levana Kirschenbaum was on some obscure cooking show where some huge woman with an almost incomprehensible Jamaican accent strolled the streets of New York extolling the joys of Jewish cooking. She and Levana prepared latkes in the basement of Levana’s synagogue on the Upper West Side. The second time I saw Levana Kirschenbaum was in Zabar’s in the cheese section. I was in New York with my cousin Rivka and she introduced me. As it turns out, Rivka and Levana go to the same shul, and Levana even catered a kiddush Rivka threw to celebrate her return to good health after an illness that had the whole family worried. I mentioned the TV show to Levana and she told me she could barely understand that woman as well.
So it’s my birthday, and I’m in the office, and I’m heading in to the office with the cake. I hope they like it, and if they don’t, I do.
Levana’s Orange Poppy Seed Cake
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 tablespoons grated orange zest
- 5 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup orange juice
- 3/4 cup poppy seeds
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F.)
- To make the cake: In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and orange zest. Set aside.
- In an electric mixer, combine the eggs and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the oil and vanilla and beat until just combined.
- Beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the 3/4 cup orange juice. Mix slightly after each addition, just to incorporate.
- Add the poppy seeds and mix to incorporate the seeds into the batter.
- Pour the batter into a greased 10-inch springform pan.
- Bake for 1 hour, or until the point of a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
- To make the syrup: While the cake is baking, place the syrup ingredients into a small saucepan and heat until thickened, about 3-4 minutes.
- When the cake is done, immediately unmold it from the springform pan. Prick it all over with a skewer and brush the syrup all over the top and sides of the cake while it is still hot. The cake will absorb all the syrup.
- Let the cake cool completely before serving.
My mother, of blessed memory, hated the heat. Born in Lithuania, she spent the first 35 years of her life either there, or freezing her tushy off in Sweden (with a short stop in Bergen Belsen, also not exactly warm, balmy breezes). My mother loved freezing her tushy off, she hated the heat. When I first became engaged to The X, with an August date set for the wedding in Israel, my mother kvetched about the trip which would take place during the hottest month of the year. After the glass was broken and my mother hugged me under the chuppah, she whispered in my ear, “If you ever give birth to any babies in the summer, I am not coming to help!”
Mommy plans, God giggles…
Ever hear the phrase lazy days of summer? Hah! I have four of the most gorgeous daughters on the planet, each one more beautiful than the next, each one simply exquisite, each one born in the summer.
Three of my gorgeous girlies have birthdays at the end of July, all within two weeks of each other. Nomush, my maverick, decided to let me experience pregnancy during a record-breaking swelter, all the way through to the end of August.
And you know what? My mom came out each time to help! In the multiple diaper-induced coma back then I am not sure I fully appreciated her sacrifice. Back then we had no air-conditioning, and I’ve never seen anyone wait for the chill of the Jerusalem evenings more.
Five years ago I got married again, and yes, it was during the summer. When I called my mom with the good/bad news, she said to me, “Oy! Miraleh! Again with the summer?” And this time, with the wisdom accumulated over score of years (in between weddings), I absolved my mother from coming out. She loved the pictures I sent her.
So July and August can be busy months in the Miriyummy household. Once upon a time there were birthday parties to plan, Bat Mitzvah celebrations to coordinate, presents to buy, cakes to bake… oh yeah, the cakes! I once tried to get the girls to have ice-cream cakes for their parties, but all they really have ever wanted was a deep chocolate cake (like their Miri-mummy, can I blame them?).
Deep Chocolate Birthday Cake with Miriyummy Ganache
I’ve made bajillions of birthday cakes over the years, but back in 2004 the lovely Molly53 posted a cake on Recipezaar that has become THE birthday cake in our household. We accept no substitutions. I usually make a non-dairy version.
- 1 cup butter or 1 cup margarine (200 grams)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 eggs, well beaten
- 1 cup cold black coffee
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 300 grams (12 ounces) dark chocolate
- 1 cup cream or non-dairy substitute (I use Rich Whip)
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 F).
- Grease and dust an 33 x 23 cm (13 x 9 inch) cake pan with cocoa. Actually, I just line it with parchment paper.
- Cream the butter and add sugar a little at a time.
- Add eggs the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
- Sift the flour, salt, baking soda and cocoa together 3 times. Sometimes I don’t bother to do this and the cake still bakes beautifully.
- Add the coffee to the batter alternatively with the flour mixture.
- Mix well after each addition.
- Then add vinegar and vanilla. Mix well again.
- Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until your cake tester comes out dry. Leave to cool completely.
- To make the ganache, simply melt the chocolate and cream together, either on top of the stove over low heat, or nuked in the microwave for about three minutes.
- Pour over the cooled cake and let set.
- This cake actually tastes great when kept in the fridge. You can also decorate it with little silver sprinkles or anything that shows up well against the deep, dark chocolate of the ganache.
Today is the 12th of Elul — happy 25th birthday Nomush!
Today is the 22nd of August — happy 21st birthday Chip!
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 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.