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Archive for July, 2010

Craft Kit for kids

About two years ago, a friend of a friend offered to make us a craft kit for my then two-year-old for a low sum, including stickers, glue and things to glue, crayons, markers, paints, and dough. We tried it out and found what our son liked and what we liked: We didn’t like paints at home, our toddler loved glueing things and loved dough. It was very convenient to have everything on hand, and we bought the specific items as they ran out – mostly more stickers, glue, and glue-ables (shapes of felt or paper, etc.). Our only complaint about it was the boxes used – the  main box was cardboard and easily got bent; the inner boxes were flimsy plastic that were difficult to open and close and keep opened and closed; most things didn’t have a box at  all.

The dough soon became a separate entity and was accorded its own box. The markers and crayons also moved to a separate box, especially when my youngest became old enough to use them – he loves drawing. But for a long time we stayed with the original flimsy boxes.

A week ago we visited the shop of Keter plasticware. I looked for a box we might use, an I found something for fishing – a tackle box. It is pre-partitioned into 4 compartments and you can add more. Perfect.

At home, I filled it and arranged and voila – a perfect gluing kit for my eldest (my youngest still doesn’t use glue). We bought a big box  (up to 29 compartments) at 32 NIS because  he likes having lots of different stuff, but there was also a smaller box with 15 compartments for 15 NIS. And it fits perfectly into our crafts closet, doesn’t spill, and is durable.

I can’t wait to show him…

Closed Kit

Open Kit

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I’ve been dreaming for a long time of making my own ice cream. I even bought two vanilla beans for that purpose about a year ago, and kept them in vodka in a dark place (thus creating real vanilla extract as well). I never got arund to actually making it, though. Until now.

With some excitement I poured the cream into the pot, and took out one vanilla bean from the jar.

It looked disgusting. It smelled of alcohol, not vanilla. I thought it might be spoiled, but I read around a bit and vanilla beans keep very well. I thought, “Well, let’s give it a try. Maximum it will taste terrible…”. I opened the bean as I’d seen in numerous cooking shows (this was my first time with an actual vanilla bean) and scraped the inside into the cream, and threw in the vanilla bean as well. It looked extremely unappetizing, with little black dots. I heated the cream, stirred, and then removed from the heat. I tasted – and almost stopped dead.

This was the best vanilla flavoured anything I have ever tasted. The bean was still floating inside, and still looked heartily unappetizing. I tasted again. Unbelievable.

What were they thinking? The people who started using vanilla beans? “Oh, here’s a strange looking plant with a faintly nice smell, let’s see if it can be used?” How many utterly disgusting things did they try before scraping it and boiling it in liquids? Fried vanilla bean? Chopped in a salad? People had more patience once. Nowadays, I don’t think anyone would have looked at it twice.

In any case, the result was stupendous. The only problem was my husband, who is not a fan of yogurt in ice creams and not a fan of vanilla anywhere. Sigh. At least my kids got the right genes…

Vanilla Ice Cream

The original recipe calls for 500 ml of cream. I had only 250 so I substituted white sweetened yogurt instead. Of course, the reason I had only 250 ml was because I wanted to lower the fat content. The result is creamy with a faint sour aftertaste from the yogurt – I assumed that this was what my husband didn’t like. I admit that fat percentage is not as high on my priorities either. I intend to make chocolate ice cream next, and there I will probably use cream only. The original recipe is from “The Perfect Scoop” by David Lebovitz.

I chose this recipe because it has no eggs. This is home made and stays in the freezer a while, and I didn’t want to take chances with raw eggs.

250 ml cream
250 ml white yogurt
250 ml milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
3/4 tsp real vanilla extract

Put the cream (ony one cup if you are using only cream) into a pot with the sugar. Scrape the vanilla seeds from the bean and add the vanilla pod to te pot. Warm until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add the milk, the yogurt, and the vanilla extract. Cool thoroughly in the fridge.

I don’t have an ice cream machine, so I did it the old-fashioned way: I froze for about and hour, and then blended. And then I repeated this 3-4 times, blending once an hour (The idea is to break the ice crystals so you get ice cream and not a block of ice). You can see the process in the pictures. Notice the frozen edges and the soft middle in the second image.

It was delicious.

Bon Apetit!

Before putting in the freezer

After one hour

End result

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Chameleon Flowers!

Last post I photographed the beautiful flowers my husband bought me for my birthday. Well, something odd is happening to them: they are loosing their color into the water. From white flowers with blue streaks I have know white flowers in blue water. I assume that to get the blue streaks to begin with they were probably put in colored water.

Apparently, flamingos work the same way – they are pink becsue of the shrimp they eat. In zoos, they don’t eat shrimp (what zoo could afford it? 🙂 ) so they turn white. Zoos don’t like having white flamingos, so they either feed them red beetroot, add carotene to their diet, or in the case of the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem, colour their water pink (or maybe the water in the Biblical Zoo is pink for the same reason the water in my vase is blue? What came first? I need to find someone at the zoo and find out). So we get flamingos of colour ranging from pale pink to dark pink.

Purple flowers with flourescent green streaks, anyone?

White flowers and blue water

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My birthday was last Friday – I am now 30! Goodbye to the roaring 20s…

What I really wanted for my birthday was to be with my family, so Thursday evening we had a BBQ for our family and I enjoyed myself very much. We had entrecote steaks, chicken breasts in two different marinades, and salmon. Everything was amazing! I also made potatoes in the oven (just wash ’em, wrap in aluminum foil and throw them in the oven at 200 C for one hour), carrot, cucumber and red pepper sticks, cherry tomatoes, pitas, hummus, and my mother made my kids’ favorite carrot salad. For dessert I cut up some melon. A good time was had by all. 🙂

Friday I made myself my birthday cake (with my toddler’s help) and we ate it with the kids. I also made sure to give some to my parents –  though my sincere apologies to my in-laws – there is no cake left! My toddler loved it, my youngest didn’t like it a first but got used to it quickly, and it is one of my favorite cakes.

And my husband bought me beautiful flowers.

Not a bad way to start a decade.

Beautiful flowers

Chicken breast marinade I:
Juice from 1 lemon
Olive oil (about equal to the amount of lemon)
One bunch parsley, chopped (a bunch is however many stalks I can hold in my hand with the fingers and thumb touching)
pinch salt

Mix, and marinate breasts for 30 minutes to an hour before grilling. Enough for schnitzels cut from 3 chicken breasts.

Chicken breast marinade II:
6 tbsp white wine
6 tbs honey
6 tbsp mustard
3 tbsp olive oil
3 pinches salt
dried oregano to taste

Mix everything and marinate chicken breasts for 30 minutes to an hour. Is enough for schnitzels cut from 3 chicken breasts. Yum!

Salmon Teriyaki
This is from a food magazine called “Al Hashulhan” (“On the table”). This was amazing.
Teriyaki sauce:
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
6 cloves crushed garlic (I used two as we are not garlic lovers. Next time I’ll try three)
Ginger, chopped (I used dry and it was OK)

Caramelize the sugar (I tried to, I think it was OK) and add the other ingredients (at this point my caramelized sugar became a lump. It dissolved in the end, but if anyone might have comments on how to caramelize and add cold liquids, they would be greatly appreciated. Or maybe I should have cooked the caramel more?). Simmer for 20 minutes. Keeps in the fridge for a few weeks in a closed bottle.

Marinate the salmon fillet in the sauce for 30 minutes to 4 hours and grill. Sublime.

And, as every child knows, there is no birthday without a cake:

Chocolate sponge cake (from “Ugot Lekol Et” – “Cakes for all seasons” by Nina Shuer)
6 egg whites
1 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
2 tbsp brandy
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp vanilla essence
pinch salt
3/4 cup white flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder

Beat eggs until foam appears. Add sugar in two three times while beating until foam is stiff yet still a little liquid (“flexible”). mix yolks, brandy, oil, vanilla and salt separately and fold in. Mix cocoa and flour (I really recommend sifting it) and fold in. Pour into a greased pan and bake in a preheated oven at 160 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Because I made this with my toddler, I removed 4 tablespoons of the batter into two muffin cups (2 tbsp each) and baked them first for 7-8 minutes so that my toddler would have something to show for his efforts, and the youngest too. It was very good!

Vanilla cream filling:
1 cup milk
250 ml whipping ream
1 packet instant vanilla pudding

Beat together until fluffy. I already mentioned this cream – this is undoubtedly my favorite food in the world. I could eat this alone. To paraphrase, sometimes the cake is just an excuse… 🙂

Slice cake lengthwise in two, putting the upper layer on a plate. Spread half the cream on the lower layer. Cover with upper layer. Spread cream on top (and I even had enough left over that I could eat it, but not so much that I felt guilty 🙂 )

I decorated the top with melted chocolate chips. My MIL gave me decorating pen (she knows I love these things) so I tried it out. It is a combination pen and syringe: You suck into the pen whatever filling you want and by squeezing on the sides of the pen you write what you want. It was nice an easier to handle than the Wilton piping bag I’ve got, but for even slightly longer or more complicated decoration the piping bag is better as the pen is less comfortable and has more air inside.

Decorating pen

The result was a pleasure to the eye and the palate.

My Birthday Cake

Just before picking up the fork...

Bon Apetit!

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Day after BBQ lasagne

Last week we had a BBQ for my husbands colleagues and some more friends. We splurge on this every once in a while, buying steaks from the best place around (more expensive, but sooo worth it). If we could, we would probably do this once a week, but good meat is expensive. Besides, it’s not so healthy to have BBQs all the time. Last time we had it, we ordered just enough steaks, and one person we were counting didn’t show up in the end. So this time we calculated around the same lines and added 1-2 steaks.

We had 12 steaks left over, 6 of them cooked.

The uncooked ones went into the freezer. I’m not worried about them – we just need an excuse to eat steaks :). But what to do with the cooked ones? Even the best entrecote steaks don’t really taste as good the day after they are made. If I would have had one left over, I would have eaten it next day for lunch with some red wine sauce, but six?

So, I cut the steaks in pieces and used then in a rich tomato sauce, and we had it in lasagne for Shabbat (two days after the BBQ). The six steaks made enough sauce for two lasagnes, so I froze half. The results were awesome. We had my in-laws for dinner, and I also made my never-fail meatloaf, and because everyone was raving over the lasagne, I actually had leftover meatloaf for the first time in ages.

There were two pieces of lasagne left over (what I managed to photograph), and I ate them for lunch on Sunday. On the way home from work, my husband asks me:

“You left me the lasagne for dinner, right?”

and I was “uh no… I ate it…”

“But  I’ve been dreaming about this all day!”

So, I took out the frozen half and made another lasagne. This was gone almost before you could blink.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, cubed
2-3 stalks celery, including the leaves (optional)
6 cooked entrecote steaks, cut up and the fat removed (by far the most tiring part of the process)
1 can crushed tomatoes (800 gr)
about 1 cup red wine
100 gr tomato paste
1/2 cup – 1 cup beef stock (I had some from making beef the week before. I freeze leftover sauce from roasts as I don’t thicken them to make a gravy) or water
2 bay leaves
dried oregano, basil and thyme to taste

Fry onion in olive oil until transparent. Add carrots and celery. Sauté on a low fire until celery leaves look wilted. Add meat and mix, sauté for a few minutes more. Add canned tomatoes, tomato paste, beef stock or water, spices and wine. Simmer for half an hour or until carrots are soft.

This is good in lasagne and over pasta or rice.

Bon apetit!

***********

I found an interesting blog at http://www.squawkfox.com/category/recipes/. She also cooks from scratch and has lots of great tips on cooking cheaply and healthily. And as I’m trying to get my toddler to eat more iron rich foods, I might try some of her 5$ bean based meals. My toddler eats meat only at my mom’s and no where else. I already started making rice and lentils which he likes, but I’m always on the lookout for more tasty easy dishes that might appeal to him. I just hope my toddler will eat it…

What was left of the lasagne

Love Food - Don't Waste!

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