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The Story of Noah — Good Friends in High Places

Rainbow Chocolate Balls

We all know the story of Noah — it rains, people start getting wet, but the ark is warm and cozy and in the end Noah finds a nice spot, high and dry and don’t we all love a happy ending?

 

Noah's Ark by Rebecca Shore

 

It was going to be a great Friday!  Ju-Boy and I were in the supermarket shopping for Shabbat when the heavens opened and the rain started coming down.  Everyone was smiling, rain is something we so desperately need here in Israel, and everyone loves the yoreh, the first rain of the season.  And how appropriate, since this was the Shabbat where we read Parshat Noach, the story of Noah.  Some of the checkout ladies started dancing in the parking lot, oblivious to the wet.  The guy who had fight with me at the cheese counter (he claims I cut in front of him, but how was I to know, he was standing in line at the meat counter at the time) smiled at me, and I smiled back.  Everyone here loves the first rain.  The weather hasn’t yet turned cold and after a long, hot summer, the first rain makes everyone happy.  Driving home while the drops pounded on the roof of the car, I watched the streets flood (in Ra’anana the streets flood even after a drizzle) and turned to Ju-Boy and said, “This is going to be a great Shabbat Noach!”  I couldn’t wait to get home and start braiding my challot and cook in my cozy house, filled with light and music and the smells of Shabbat coming out of my oven.

And then… boom!  Literally and figuratively.  A flash of lightning, the boom of thunder, and the lights flickered.  I quickly unplugged the computer and went back to braiding the challah.  Whew, that was close!  And then… boom!  And once again, I planned, God laughed, and the lights went out!  You could hear my scream all the way to Mount Ararat!  So the house darkened, the oven went cold, and we waited.  Then the lights flickered, our spirits were raised, and then, boom!  The lights went out again and the Miriyummy household entered the Middle Ages.  No electricity!  I had such plans for that electricity — I was going to bake challot, chickens, whip eggs whites and cream, even Ju-Boy was tenderly blow-torching a roast that was then going to get some oven time.  I quickly stuck my braided challah into the fridge and waited for the lights to come back on.  In the meantime, we started cooking on top of the stove (if you have an electric oven, you should have a gas hob).

Good friends in high (and dry) places

We called the Electric Company and heard a recording that the power cut was massive — Ra’anana, Kfar Saba, Hod Hasharon, Herzliya, Ramat Hasharon, we were all in the dark.  We had some friends who still had electricity, some friends who were busy hunting for candles.  Remember Serene Shar and Peaceful Perry from Headless Chicken?  They had electricity and said we could use their oven.  I quickly drove my challot over, leaving Ju-Boy to deal with the rest of the cooking over the stove in the darkening house.  The Electric Company promised to reconnect us at 4 PM, and when that came and went I quickly drove home through the flooded streets (and no working stoplights!) to get the chickens and shove those in Shar’s oven.  Shabbat was coming faster than a tsunami of floodwater and that’s when Shar and Perry truly proved that they were foul-weather friends and issued an invitation to eat with them that Friday night, a mingling of food and friends, 17 of us around the table basking in the light of the house and the light of Shabbat.  By the time we returned home around 10 PM that evening the lights were on and the day had been saved.  Don’t we all love a happy ending?

Rainbow Chocolate Balls

Even before the thunder went boom and the lights went out I had decided that we were going to have a dessert straight out of the story of Noah — everyone needs a rainbow.

The recipe isn’t mine, it’s Shy-Boy’s, so he’s my guest chef this week.  One of the best things about this recipe?  No electricity needed!

 

The ingredients

 

  • About 50 plain biscuits (we use petit beurre, two sleeves worth)
  • 200 grams (1 cup) margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa (we use Dutch processed)
  • 1 egg
  • A few glugs of wine
  • Rainbow sprinkles

 

Crush the biscuits with a rolling pin. We normally use a food processor, but that's when we took electricity for granted.

 

 

Try to get a fine a crumb as possible.

 

 

Work the margarine in with your fingers until well blended.

 

 

Add one cup of sugar.

 

 

Blend well. The crumbs should have the texture of wet sand.

 

 

Add one cup of cocoa.

 

 

Blend well. The crumbs should have the texture of cocoa-colored wet sand.

 

 

Add the egg.

 

 

Add a few glugs of wine.

 

 

The crumbs should now have the texture of a stiff goop -- you know, you should be able to form balls that won't fall apart.

 

 

Get your paper casings ready. We started out with size #3 (pictured here) but quickly moved to a smaller #2.

 

 

Rainbow sprinkles are good for a Noah-themed chocolate ball. Shy-Boy claims the best coating is flaked coconut.

 

 

You should form the balls with damp hands. Having a bowl of water nearby (or a faucet) is a huge help.

 

 

You should make the balls about yea-big, but in actuality, make them any size you like.

 

 

Roll the balls in the rainbow spinkles until coated. This was the only part of the recipe in which I got to help. Shy-Boy was busy making the balls, I was busy rolling them in the sprinkles, it was a real Lucy and Ethel moment for us.

 

 

One perfect ball...

 

 

The recipe makes about 50 balls or so. Your mileage may vary depending on how big or small you make these babies...

 

Chill the balls in the refrigerator for at least an hour or so before serving.

We brought these to Shar and Perry’s house where they were a hit for dessert.  We brought them home to have with kiddush and for dessert for lunch the next day.  Keep them in a Tupperware in the fridge, handy for snacking, great with a cup of coffee, a bit of whisky, or just a colorful nosh on a rainy day.

My Favorite Shiksa

Dree the Divine

Nature versus nurture, it’s a crap shoot, really.  How much of the person you are today is because of DNA?  How much of your personality is due to your upbringing?  Case in point:  my brother, Skeezix.

Skeezix in the sailor suit, self-fulfilling prophecy?

Skeezix is three years younger than I am.  In spite of my efforts to destroy this interloper into my happy childhood, he’s managed to survive to become one of the defenders of truth, justice and the American way.  Skeezix is a submariner in the US navy, stationed in Pearl Harbor.  We were both raised in the same home, both smothered in chicken soup, sweet kiddush wine and the paranoia of  Holocaust survivor parents.  And yet, we have ended up on opposite sides of the Jewish spectrum.

I am what you would call agressively Jewish.  I am Torah observant, I keep kosher, my week revolves around the spindle of Shabbat.  Judaism for me is not just a religion, it’s a way of life.

Not so for Skeezix.  In his early teens he began to buck against my parents and our way of life.  Today is he a fervent athiest.  He revels in letting me know how delicious pork is, that he has no clue when Yom Kippur is, and it’s really pissing me off that he inherited our mother’s cast iron frying pan and he’s using it to fry up his shark steaks and bacon strips.


Defender of truth, justice and the right to treif up a frying pan

One of the things that drove my parents to despair is that Skeezix married Dree, the Shiksa.  My father sadly shook his head and oy-yoy-yoyed into his Gemara.  My mother threatend to put her head in the oven.  Dree is the epitome of Shiksahood.  Tattooed, pierced in places you can only begin to imagine, this bacon-eating, Santa-loving transplanted surfer girl was every thing my parents dreaded Skeezix would bring home.

I have to admit, I was also prejudiced, at first.  My brother’s description of their wedding included the line, “Dree’s dad got so drunk we had to carry him out to his truck.”  No offense, my darling Dree, but those are words never really heard at an Orthodox Jewish wedding.

Skeezix and I planned a joint trip back to New York, me bringing my two youngest from Israel, Skeezix bringing the Shiksa and her daughter (from her first marriage) from Hawaii.  I was planning on being gracious, but not overly friendly.  I was sure this family reunion was going to set off an Armageddon in the Bronx (as if that didn’t happen all the time).

Dree and Skeezix

I planned on being gracious, and yet again, Miriyummy plans and God laughs.  What I discovered was that Dree was one cool Shiksa.  She’s funny, she’s smart and she refuses to take any crap from  the anti-religious Skeezix.  She’s the one who pushed my brother to light Chanuka candles in my father’s house.  She’s the one who forced him to drink kosher wine at my mother’s Shabbat table.  She made sure the chocolate dreidls they brought my kids from Hawaii were kosher.  She dragged my brother out of the apartmet to smoke in the stairwell so as not to offend my father on Shabbat.  As much as I wanted to not like Dree, I grew to love her.  She respected my parents’ way of life, and made my rebellious brother respect them as well.

Dree and Skeezix are unfortunately separated now, though still married.  I never thought I would say this, but I hope my stupid brother comes to his senses and realizes what a treasure he has in my favorite shiska.  Listen, if your family has to have a token shiksa, let it be one  as cool as Dree.  Aloha au ia ‘oe kuaana!

Chocolate Babka

This is a Carine Goren recipe.  The first time I posted some pictures on Facebook of a chocolate babka I made I got a comment from Dree that she loves that stuff.  So here’s a yeast cake that transcends all religions and brings family together, even when they are 12 time zones apart.

For the dough:
1/2 kilo (3 1/2 cups) flour
1 tablespoon yeast
100 grams (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (300 ml) milk
4 eggs (at room temperature)
scant half cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon cinnamon
100 grams (1/2 cup) very soft butter
1 beaten egg, for brushing on top

To make the dough, place the flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand-mixer.  Attach the dough hook.  Melt the butter together and then add the cold milk to the melted butter so the liquid is just lukewarm.  Add th butter/milk mixture to the flour/yeast mixture, together with the eggs and sugar.  Mix at low to medium speed until the dough pulls together, and then add the salt.  Continue mixing until the dough is smooth and just a tiny bit sticky.  Cover and let rise until doubled.

Because the dough is sticky, it’s perhaps best to let it rise halfway in a warm place in your kitchen and then to let it finish rising in your fridger for another two hours.  This way the dough cools down and will be less sticky to work with.  You could also prepare the dough a day before, or let it rise in the fridge overnight.

To make the filling, mix together the sugar, cocoa and the cinnamon in a small bowl, and set aside.

Yes, these are supposed to be rectangular. What are you going to do, call the Babka Police?

Take out the doubled dough and punch it down.  Divide it into two separate (yet equal) pieces.  Roll each piece out into a rectangle about 1/2 centimeter (a little over an inch) thick.  I can never get the perfect rectangles you see on TV, but it really doesn’t matter, because when you roll the whole thing up in the end you can’t tell anyway.

I’ve impressed myself here

Spread the butter over the two rectangles (polygons, blobs) and then try to sprinkle the filling evenly over the buttered dough.  Roll each blob up from the long end, then twist the two rolls together and place in a buttered (or parchment-papered) round cake pan.  Brush with the beaten egg.  When I first made this recipe, as you can probably see in the photo, I didn’t read all the instructions, because, you know, I’m such a hotshot cook.  So I mixed the butter with the sugar, cocoa and cinnamon instead.  It was still spreadable, still edible, but not as good as doing it according to Carine’s instructions.  Hubris bites.

To rise or not to rise?

At this point you should have remembered to preheat your oven to 170 degrees C (340 degrees F).  Place the rolled babka into the oven, there’s no need for an additional rise.  Bake for about 50 minutes until the babka is all brown and yummy and inviting.

The reason you don’t have one more rise before placing the babka in the oven is because that’s the way most of our grandmothers did it.  If you really, really feel you need to let it rise just a bit one more time, go ahead, the Babka Police aren’t going to arrest you.

Mmmmm, babka! Who wants to come over for some coffee and cake?

Another Day In Paradise

Paradise Cake

Normally I’m a very confident cook.  People like my food.  Ju-Boy says I shouldn’t get too cocky.  Yes, that’s the word he uses, cocky.  I’ll make something and when I finish putting it together I might take a small taste, and if it’s worked out well I might just punch the air, do the Happy Happy Joy Joy dance and say, “I rock!”

“Don’t get too cocky,” Ju-Boy will almost always reply.  If he’s not there, I will play both parts.

I love desserts.  Actually, I love every course, from soup to nuts, as they say.  But I have a special place in my heart, stomach, psyche, for dessert.  I could be that once upon a time my Magyar father told me that it’s a Hungarian custom to eat dessert first.  My Lithuanian mother would then say it’s only because Hungarian Jews are slaves to their sweet tooth.  They would be worried about pogroms, so they would save the best for first.  Makes sense to me.

Ju-Boy, amazing cook that he is, is not a patissier.  He makes a decent trifle (Brits appreciate understatement, so he knows this should be a compliment).  He can serve up a pretty plate of fruit.  But beyond that, his talent lies with meat and potatoes, not sugar and spice, everything nice.  So as you can imagine, when I joined the Ju-Boy family, my dessert skills, along with my pastry bag and collection of sprinkles, were quite welcome… with the exception of Optimus Prime.

Optimus Prime, dessert hater

I would bring out pretty bowls of chocolate mousse and he would decline to partake.  I would serve up ice cream cake with praline topping and he would decline to partake.  I would bring out a bowl piled high with chocolate-covered profiteroles and he would decline to partake.  This kid was starting to give me a complex.  It didn’t matter that everyone else at the table was begging me to induce a sugar coma, Optimus was not interested in my desserts.  My balloon of contentment was starting to deflate.

One night we all went out to dinner to celebrate a bunch of birthdays.  Dessert was chocolate mousse cake replete with whipped cream and birthday sparklers.  You can just imagine my surprise and horror when Optimus cut himself a piece of cake and ate it!  Okay, that’s it!  I’m angry now!

Do not administer chocolate!

My anger soon evolved into smug bitchiness.  It wasn’t long before Optimus started to groan.  “Urgh, I feel sick!  Dad, why did you let me eat that piece of cake?  You know what sugar does to me!  That’s why I never eat dessert.”  As much as I wanted to hold a gun to his head, I obviously hadn’t, he had eaten that chocolate bombe bomb fully compos mentis.  I fully understood now, and knowledge is power.

My smug bitchiness soon evolved into irritation.  Optimus wasn’t feeling well and was going to make sure we all knew about it.  In the car on the way home I began to wish we had never ordered that &@*%! cake!  “Dad, drive slowly, I’m going to be sick!”  (Brits are polite, they don’t hurl.)  “Dad, open a window, I’m going to be sick!”  “Dad, can you stop the car, I’m going to be sick!”  And so on, and so on, ad nauseum

So imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when, during Shabbat lunch at our house, I served up some Paradise Cake and Optimus ate it!  It seems he’s been building up a tolerance.  What’s even more wonderfully surprising is that a few days later he called to ask for the recipe!  He and the Rani were having guests the following shabbat and they wanted something Miriyummy.  At that moment he was my favorite child.

I’ve been making Paradise Cake for over 27 years.  When the X and I were first dating in Jerusalem we used to frequent a restaurant called Le Souffle, and Paradise Cake was their flagship dessert.  They gave me the recipe and PC became my signature dessert for years.  Don’t you love restaurants that are generous and share recipes?  Sadly, Le Souffle went out of business in the mid-80s, but Paradise Cake lives on.

Paradise Cake

The recipe can be made parve but tastes so much better when dairy.  If you need the parve conversion, give me a buzz…

  • 15-20 plain biscuits (depending on the size of the dish)
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 300 grams (12 ounces) dark chocolate
  • 200 grams (1 cup) butter
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 80 gram box (3 ounces) instant vanilla pudding
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • chocolate syrup for decorating
  1. Dip the cookies one by one in the whipping cream and lay on the bottom of your cake pan  (I’ve used all sizes).  Reserve the rest of the cream for the vanilla layer.
  2. Make the chocolate layer by melting together the dark chocolate, butter, cocoa, sugar and instant coffee.  You can either do this on the stove top.  I normally nuke it for 3 minutes.  Mix to combine well.
  3. Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  If your chocolate mixture is still hot, don’t dawdle, you don’t want scrambled eggs in chocolate sauce.
  4. Whip the whites to stiff peaks.  Fold into the chocolate mixture until completely combined.  Spread this over the cookie layer and place in the fridge to set, between 15 and 30 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, take the rest of the whipping cream and whip together with the instant vanilla pudding and the vanilla extract.
  6. Spread this over the chocolate layer.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least an hour to chill.
  7. Before you serve the cake, decorate with chocolate syrup or whatever else you like to use to decorate cream cakes (I once used pulverized sugared almonds, a bit hit).

I don’t often quote my X, but will here:  “One piece and you’re in paradise, two pieces and you’re in heaven, three pieces and you throw up.”

Talking To God

Photo by jewishsearch.com

I am not a spiritual Jew.  I am a social Jew.  If you happen to find me in shul (synagogue) on a Shabbat morning, you will see that I talk more to my friends than I do to God.  No disrespect intended, honestly, but I will admit that I am not a fan of prayer… in shul, that is.  I don’t connect with words written hundreds of years ago by some man with a beard who spent his days with the holy texts while his wife struggled to get Shabbat on the table.  Now, if she had written these prayers I might feel more connected.

God is in the details

It’s not that I don’t believe in God, I do.  How can you not look at nature and see God in the details?  I see God in my four beautiful daughters.  I see God in music, in solar eclipses, even in evolution.  There is no way that something as twisted as the human race evolved on its own from the muck, we had help.  And God certainly has a sense of humor, don’t you agree?

While I do believe in God, my belief is limited to the fact that once he set up the game of Life, he didn’t hang around to play much.  I think there’s something more interesting out there than the likes of us.  But just because I don’t think he’s listening, that doesn’t mean I still don’t talk to him.  I have my chats with God every day, with the hope that at some point he’s going to pick up his messages.  In my mind, life on Earth is just a macro set to run until God sees fit to check up on us.  He helps those who help themselves, so my chats with God aren’t so much prayers asking for something, but rather little personal updates, verbal thank you cards, and sometimes a letter of complaint or a note in the Suggestion Box.

So this Rosh Hashana you really won’t see me hanging out much in shul.  I’d rather give my seat to someone who wants it, who needs the connection via the words written in the machzor.  I’ll be at home having a cup of coffee with the Big Guy, I’ve got my dialogue worked out already.

Rosh Hashana Honey Cake

One of the proofs of God’s existence has got to be honey.  A whole colony of buzzing bees work so hard to bring us such wonderful yummy sweetness.  Yes, I know there are quite a few people out there who don’t like honey and, even worse, hate honey cake.  God makes all kinds…

The original recipe comes from Ruth Sirkis, doyenne of Israeli cookbooks.  I’ve been making this honey cake every single Rosh Hashana since 1983.

  • 3 teaspoons instant coffee
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup honey (about 12 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup oil (not olive, use soy or canola)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (I leave this out)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (I usually use nutmeg)
  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C (325 degrees F).
  2. Get a baking pan with a 7 cup capacity.  Grease lightly and set it aside.  You could also use parchment paper, my favorite trick.
  3. Prepare a strong cup of coffee with the hot water and the instant coffee.  Let it cool down a bit so it’s not boiling.
  4. Separate the eggs.  Put the yolks into a big mixing bowl and the whites into a medium one.
  5. Beat the yolks with the sugar until creamy.
  6. Add the oil, then the honey, beating after each addition. Beat until the mixture is totally smooth and creamy.
    Sift the flour and combine with the salt, baking powder, baking soda and the spices.
  7. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture alternately with the coffee, stirring with a spatula or a wooden spoon.  Do NOT use and electric mixer for this one.  Stir only until all the ingredients are well blended, do not overmix.
  8. Clean and dry the mixer beaters.  Whip the egg whites until they are stiff and can hold their shape.  Don’t overbeat the whites or you will end up with little islands of egg white that will never be blended into the batter.
  9. Add one third of the beaten whites at a time to the batter.  Fold in gently until the batter is smooth.
  10. Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake in the preheated oven for about 80 to 90 minutes.  The cake is done when a toothpick comes out dry and clean.   This cake keeps really well.  In fact, it gets better with a little aging, so bake it several days ahead.

Angelic saboteur of honey cakes

I can’t bake this cake without remembering way back in 1986 when I was still in my baby-induced coma.  Nomush has just had her first birthday and suddenly Sassy was so grown up at the age of 2 and one month.  I decided to let her help me make the honey cake while Nomush took her nap.  I lifted my little helper up on to the counter and she was thrilled to be able to stir the batter.  I was so proud of myself, thinking I was training my sweet little angel to make honey cake at the age of two.  And then (man plans, God laughs) my little angel took the measuring cup, dipped it into the sink full of dishes soaking in soapy water, and poured a cup of that stuff into the batter….

You Say It’s Your Birthday

Photo by -Sylvie- of Recipezaar.com

 

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!” 

No summer babies, do you hear me? Oh, and mazal tov!

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. 

Aren’t they beautiful?

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. 

It’s never to hot for a cuddle — Savta and Didi

Yes, it was hot under there!

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. 

Cake: 

  • 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

Ganache: 

  • 300 grams (12 ounces) dark chocolate
  • 1 cup cream or non-dairy substitute (I use Rich Whip)
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 F).
  2. Grease and dust an 33 x 23 cm (13 x 9 inch) cake pan with cocoa. Actually, I just line it with parchment paper.
  3. Cream the butter and add sugar a little at a time.
  4. Add eggs the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  5. 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.
  6. Add the coffee to the batter alternatively with the flour mixture.
  7. Mix well after each addition.
  8. Then add vinegar and vanilla.  Mix well again.
  9. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until your cake tester comes out dry. Leave to cool completely.
  10. 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.
  11. Pour over the cooled cake and let set.
  12. 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.

Using parchment paper enables you to lift the cake easily out of the pan and serve

 

Today is the 12th of Elul — happy 25th birthday Nomush! 

Today is the 22nd of August — happy 21st birthday Chip!

Miriyummy — A Guide To The Perplexed

Ever wonder who all the people are that I talk about in my blog?  Here’s a guide to the Miriyummy family — two parents, eight kids, and more, many more!

You can always find this on the side of the blog, along with Conversions — Metric and Imperial and a listing of My Blogged Recipes.

Miriyummy — A Guide To The Perplexed

The Miriyummy Family -- we put the FUN in dysFUNctional

Holy Grail

A very unique Do Not Disturb sign

Have you ever wanted something that was just out of reach?  Sometimes it’s just there, over the horizon, you can almost taste it, but it’s just… out… of… reach!  Such is the case with the Carmel Forest Spa.  Ju-Boy and I had been wanting to go there for the longest time, ever since we first got married.

We go away at least twice or three times a year.  Living in a blended family is not as easy as the Brady Bunch made it seem.  Everyone in our family has issues, both pre-and post marriage.  Every so often Ju-Boy and I tell the kids we’re disappearing for a while.  They either stay with their other parent, or with friends, or they have a bayit rek (empty house), where they invite all their friends to come have an adult-free Shabbat together (can you spell Risky Business?).  Believe me, this is much cheaper than marriage counseling!

Taking your bicycle through Egyptian customs evoked scenes from Midnight Express

We’ve been to Eilat (and bicycled into Egypt), the Dead Sea, twee little tzimmers (bed and breakfasts) in the north, even an Alpine cottage on the Lebanese border, but we have always chaleshed (yearned as only Jews can yearn) for the Carmel Forest Spa.  I’ve been squirreling away the shekels, and we were finally able to achieve this Holy Grail of alone time for our fifth wedding anniversary.

This place was everything we had imagined.  The solarium was peaceful, the massages and treatments blissful, the meditation class relaxing (we both fell asleep and snored in class) and the food… the food was divine!  Flying to Venice for the week would have been cheaper, but this was at the top of our To Do List.

When you go to a hotel, have you ever been tempted to take away a souvenier?  You know, a towel, a robe, plumbing fixtures, plasma televisions?  Come on, fess up!  This time I was desperate to take something home with me.  Actually, not something, someone!  I wanted to make room in my suitcase for Uriya, the spa’s patissier.  All the food in the spa was amazing, but the desserts, OMG the desserts!  By Day 2 I had started pacing myself at each meal just so I could have plenty of room for Uriya’s handiwork.  The pecan pie!  The tri-chocolate pyramid!  The lemon meringue pie!  And most special and delicious of all, the halvah parfait!

Well, I didn’t get to take Uriya home with me, but I stalked him enough while I was there and he generously offered to give me the recipe for the halvah parfait.  I don’t think I could have brought Uriya home anyway, I already have Ju-Boy eclipsing my culinary talents on the savory dishes, let me still be the Queen of the Sweet Stuff at home.

Man Plans God Laughs Department:  Uriya and I spent about a month emailing each other back and forth, but in the end, unfortunately for me, the Carmel Forest would not release its halvah parfait recipe as it is still in rotation in their dining room.  So the story of my Holy Grail has a secondary Holy Grail to it, my search for halvah parfait.  It’s taken me all of July and the beginning of August, three different recipes and my own tinkering with the variations, but I think I finally got it.  It’s not exactly the intense pleasure I experienced with Uriya’s parfait, but it’s as close as I am going to get without an industrial ice cream machine… or a kidnapping.

I had to put this in a bowl and have this for breakfast just to take the photograph -- oh, the things I have to go through for my readers...

Miriyummy Halvah Parfait

  • 1/2 pound (400 grams) halvah, any flavor (I used vanilla and chocolate marbled halvah)
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups cream (I used a non-dairy version)
  1. Grate or grind the halvah and heat it over a low flame with the water until melted.  Cool.
  2. Beat the yolks an add the sugar.  Beat for about 4 minutes until creamy and light.
  3. Beat the cream and fold into the yolk/sugar mixture.
  4. Beat the whites and fold into the mixture.
  5. Fold in the cooled halvah mixture into the fluffy creamy mixture.
  6. Freeze according to your ice cream machine or in a Tupperware.  After about 3 hours remove the parfait from the freezer and fold it all together again, as this might separate in the freezer.

So what do you do when you’ve achieved the top of your To Do List?  Slot in another Holy Grail — what do you guys think of Venice?

Man plans, God laughs, but I got a good recipe out of it in the end

Cheddar Salvation

Life can be good, even with danger lurking behind you

It’s a good thing I hang out with Ju-Boy, because he always sees the glass as half-full.  I tend to be a bit more pessimistic, having been disappointed on many occasions.  I was recently reminded of a joke I heard back in a university psych 101 class:

Mr. and Mrs. Smith have twin boys, Billy and Bobby.  Billy goes through life crying over every little thing, while Bobby is irritatingly optimistic.  They take the twins to a pediatric psychologist who asks that they leave the kids with him for 24 hours and he promises overnight success. 

The next evening they meet the psychologist at the door and he looks like he’s been through hell.  “I don’t know what I was thinking,” he tells the parents, “but your kids have broken the mold.  I put Billy in a room full of toys, thinking that would cheer him up, but…”

As they walk down the corridor they hear the sound of a little boy weeping.  They enter the room and there is Billy, sitting in the middle of as many toys as a boy would want, and he’s crying his eyes out.  “Billy, sweetie, what’s the matter?” asks his mother.  “Look at all these wonderful toys, why are you crying?  Why don’t you play with them?”

“Because if I play with the toys, I’ll break them!” came Billy’s answer.

“You think that’s strange, wait until you see Bobby,” said the psychologist.  As they walk down the corridor to Bobby’s room they are assailed by the most horrible smell of horse manure, and as they get closer to the room, the see that the door is open.  They can hear Bobby whistling while he flings handful after handful of horse manure into the corridor.  “I put your son in a room full of horse poo to try to get him down a little off his permanent high, but it doesn’t seems to be working.”

“Bobby, sweetie,” cried his mother, “why are you so happy playing in all this horse manure?”  Bobby’s answer?  “Because somewhere under all this horse poo, there’s got to be a pony!”

And that sums up my husband.  He’s always looking for the pony.  God loves him, how can life be bad, even when it looks bad?  Me?  I’m not crying, I just like to call myself realistic.  When things are going well, I want them to always be like that.  I don’t want the glass to be half-full if I’m enjoying the wine, I WANT A FULL GLASS OF WINE!!!!!!!!!!!

Lately I’ve come across a blog that I enjoy reading — Pancakes and French Fries.  It seems that the blogger, Jules, was having a bad month.  A month full of ill children, supermarket mishaps, balded dogs and finally, what can only be the epitome of bad experiences, and here I quote Jules verbatim, “Shortly before we left for the store I slipped in a puddle of urine, and it wasn’t mine.”

Okay, I’ve been having a bad month.  Actually, a bad summer.  Come to think of it, it’s been a bad year.  But then I start to think about Ju-Boy’s conviction that God loves him, and maybe I should hitch a ride on his star.  And while I’m not slipping around in someone else’s wee, I can take a leaf from Jules, at least I can comfort myself with these amazing chewy cheesy cookies.

Cheddar Salvation

The original recipe as per Jules can be found in her blog entry.  She calls them Cheddar Pecan Crisps.  But my version has no pecans, and I’ve played around with it a bit more, but they’ve made this day a glass half-full.

 

 

  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (8 ounces, 225 grams) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon za’atar (or oregano)
  • 2/3 cup (100 grams) pine nuts
  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C (325 degrees F).
  2. In a mixer, combine the butter and cheddar cheese.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until combined.  Do not overmix.
  4. With wet hands (to prevent sticking), pinch off some of the dough, about a heaping teaspoon’s worth, and roll into a ball.  Place the balls about an inch apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Flatten down the balls with the tines of a fork.  It helps to dip the fork in flour because the dough is very sticky.
  5. Bake for 15-18 minutes until brown.  Remove to cool.
  6. As Jules claims, these little cheddary bites of salvation are crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside.  Serve with a full glass of wine. 

     

     

Cheddar Salvation -- is the glass half-empty or half-full?

Haveil Havalim #279 — It’s Almost Elul Edition

Ima On and Off the Bima is hosting this week’s edition of Haveil Havalim, and this time It’s Almost Elul!  My Rapunzel post made the list, so why don’t you visit the Ima and check it all out.

Rapunzel

With my mom on the evening I made aliya — 2 March 1983

As I’ve posted before, last October my mother passed away.  One minute I was worriedly calling her social worker, the next I was an orphan.

My father's picture from his Hungarian identity card, dated 1938

Hanging with my dad in Norway, 1970

I have now lost both my parents.  I really do hate that term, lost.  I didn’t lose them, they are always with me.  I constantly find my father in his sifrei kodesh (holy books), which I inherited, especially in his tikkun, which, as the ba’al koreh of his synagogue, he read from every day.  One Friday night not long ago, Ju-Boy was asking Biblical trivia at the supper table.  I disagreed with a certain interpretation and was able to prove my point by taking out my father’s book of Bereshit (Genesis) and show him the exact Rashi commentary that proved me right.  The father/daughter team was triumphant!

Dvirkeh, Baylkeh and Maishkeh (Dora, Baila and Yakov Moshe), Vilna, circa 1933. My mother, Dora, was the only one of her siblings to survive.

I find my mother in her kitchen utensils which I now proudly use regularly.  I use the same hochmesser and wooden bowl she used to chop onions (and liver).  I even cut my fingers in the same places she did.  I can imagine as I reflexively place my wounded finger in my mouth that my mother is kissing it all better.

The Courtship of Miriyummy's Parents -- Goteborg, Sweden, 1948

My parents' Coolness Moment -- Haifa, Israel, August 1983

In Judaism, when you “lose” a parent, you enter a one year mourning period.  There are many traditions one can adopt as to how to spend this year in both honoring and mourning your parent.  Some of the traditions I have adopted are:

  • I don’t go to the movies or attend concerts or other live performances
  • I keep a yahrzeit candle that lasts for seven days going all year long, lighting a new one each week on Friday as I light the Shabbat candles
  • I don’t attend any kind of celebration (I’m missing some good ones this year, including tonight’s wedding of the daughter of dear friends)
  • I am not cutting my hair for the entire year of mourning

People are usually surprised by that last one.  It’s a rare tradition, although not unheard of.  And it’s driving me crazy.  I feel I need to do this, just one way to honor my mother, who loved my long hair, loved to brush and braid it.  She would spend hours detangling my long, knotted hair after a bath.  While my mother would have thought I was insane to miss out on parties on her behalf, I know she would have appreciated the effort I’m making in not cutting my hair.

Long, glorious hair -- back then it was my mother's problem

I have been blessed with a head full of thick, wavy, unruly, very much a-mind-of-its-own hair.  It grows like a weed, it’s already halfway down my back.  Every day I try to coax it into some kind of order.  When I clean my brush I pull out more hair than most people have on their entire heads.  And it gets everywhere.  I try to clean out the drains before the family gets totally grossed out, but some a lot escapes, only to remind me later by completely clogging up the sink.

A solution my mother used to use for as long as I can remember…

Drain Cleaner and Declogger

  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
    1. Pour baking soda into drain.
    2. Follow with vinegar.

    Photo courtesy of Marg (CaymanDesigns) of recipezaar.com

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