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Archive for July, 2011

Last week I went to a cooking workshop with a friend. We made six dishes: whole wheat pita (amazing!!), whole basmati rice with spices and fava beans (ful in hebrew and arabic) (amazing!!), fresh vegetables and dates in rice paper (amazing!!), apple pie without sugar (OK, but full of butter), broccoli quiche (OK, but nothing special except for learning how to use real nutmeg instead of the ground stuff you have in the supermarket) and fried marinated tofu (OK, but tofu is not my thing).

After the cooking workshop

What I like about cooking workshops is the new ingredients. Whole nutmeg; Whole cardamom pods; dried chilli peppers; rice paper; fava beans. These are things that I never tried using, and now they would be part of my kitchen.

The rice rolls from the workshop

I’m definitely going to try doing the amazing dishes at home, but I started with the rice paper. A friend of mine recently gave birth and I wanted to invite her, and I asked her to tell me when they’ll be in the neighborhood (her father lives close to us). Friday an hour before Shabbat I received an SMS from her – they were in the neighborhood for Shabbat, perhaps they could drop by in the afternoon? I said sure! And then I realized that my cake would probably be gone by the afternoon, and I didn’t have the time or patience to bake something additional.

And then I remembered my rice paper. For those of you who, like me, have never heard of it before, here is what you need to do:

1. Buy rice paper (I used 22 cm diameter, there are smaller).

Rice Paper

2. Cut up everything you want to put  inside and place it within reach.

3. Prepare a large pie dish that can hold the rice paper without folding. Put  roughly half boiling water and half tap water. The water should be hot but cool enough to put your fingers in.

4. Spread a clean kitchen towel next to the pie dish.

5. Soak one rice paper in the water for 30 seconds.

6. Take out and spread on the towel.

7. Arrange the vegeatables in the middle, in one line (like for blintzes or similar)

8. Fold the edges inwards;

9. Roll the bottom half, trying to keep it as tight as possible.

10. Continue rolling over the top half.

11. Slice in two diagonally and place in serving dish.

So I cut up our regular vegetables: carrot, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, celery. I prepared for the kids with the vegetables they like: carrot and cucumber for the youngest, carrot, bell pepper and celery for my eldest; I added to the kids’ rice rolls also some dried apple (our dates spoiled, otherwise I would have added dates). For the grown-ups, I just put a bit of every vegetable. I served it with a recipe from my mother’s korean cookbook, for dipping fried vegetable patties in: 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp vinegar (I used balsamic) and 3 tbsp soy sauce, mixed well and left to stand a bit until the sugar dissolves. It was absolutely fabulous!

my rice rolls and vegetable platter

In the end my guests arrived late (of course, as they were about to leave the baby decided she wanted to eat) so they missed it, but that turned out great as we ate them all! My eldest loved the rolls, my youngest picked out the vegetables and gave the rice paper back. And my husband and I wolfed them down.

My rice rolls

Other ideas for stuffing: bean sprouts; smoked salmon; stir fried vegetables; slices of pickled cucumbers; any salad at all; canned fish such as sardines… the sky is the limit! (I also heard it goes well with shrimp, but we don’t eat that 🙂 )

Shavua Tov (Have a nice week)!

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I have back problems, as you may have gathered. And it really amazes me sometimes how every expert you see sees things from his point of view. The orthopaedic told me I don’t have anything at all which was surprising (“So I’m not in pain now? How wonderful!”); the osteopath told me that I suffer from misalignment of  the pelvic bones, common to women who have given birth, and I should be fine after three sessions (I wasn’t, though I suppose my pelvic bones are aligned now); The physiotherapist told me my stomach and lower back muscles aren’t strong enough and gave me exercise for them – great for my figure, but not very effective otherwise; the Shiatzu expert told me that my chi was blocked and I need to learn to let things go (I’m trying); the acupuncturist also muttered something about chi and began raving about chinese herbs (I ran from there as fast as I could); the rheumatolog I was recommended told me I’ve got fibromyalgia, which made me feel better until I discovered what fibromyalgia is: the “You probably have something, we don’t know what or how to fix it” disease. Reading about that a bit showed me that it tends to be stress related, and reading about stress showed that it is a known cause of lower back pain. So I went and got the “Stress reduction and relaxation workbook” where I discovered, among other things, that I am a chest breather. They describe this as the most under-diagnosed plague of modern living (what, haven’t you heard of it?!) that people breath by moving their chests instead of by moving their belly (incidentally, I recommend trying to breathe their way whether it ultimately helps my back or not – it really is relaxing). I wouldn’t be surprised if next time I’m at my ophthalmologist he will say, “of course, your back problems are because of the colour of your eyes!”  🙂

The hydrotherapist completely ignored my lower back and instead treated my neck. apparently my head is too forward (tsk,tsk) and my shoulders are slumped. She recommended that I imagine I have a diamond necklace that I want every one to see (shoulders move back and down) and tuck my chin in (head backwards). It’s one of the few things I keep doing even after I finished seeing the expert. My neck  and shoulder muscles hurt, but in a good way, and it makes you feel better -more confident. Also, it imbues everything with something special – aren’t you doing it with a diamond necklace?

So today I cooked with a diamond necklace. Very difficult, I found my shoulders slumping all the time, but I persevered. Some of what I cooked for Shabbat is shown in the picture: small hamburgers, mushroom lasagne, spinach lasagne, roast potatoes, roast vegetables, lemon loaf cake (4-cake with lemon zest), puff pastry (the cream is already gone, yum. 😛  just kidding, it’s in the fridge). This is my first try at puff pastry, too!

What isn’t shown: One vegetable kugel, tomato, cucumber and red bell pepper stew, another set of potatoes in the oven, I made breadcrumbs from old bread, challot (2 large, two medium and six small ones for the kids).  And what is still left: cut vegetables, cherry tomato salad.

And all with a diamond necklace!

Puff pastry

I love puff pastry. That is my criterion for defining a good bakery – how is its puff pastry? But this is my first time trying it by myself. Recipe from Ugot Lekol Et (Cakes for all seasons, Nira Scheuer)

1 cup water, 50 gr margarine, 1/4 tsp salt: Bring to a boil. Lower to low heat.

1 1/4 cups flour: add at once and stir furiously until dough leaves the edges of the pot.

3-4 eggs: Add one at a time until dough hangs from a spoon but doesn’t drip. I used a beater and 3 eggs.

Use a piping bag to make nice shapes or put in one tbsp heaps. Bake at 160 degrees for 40 minutes until light brown (it took me 20, but mine are a bit small)

Filling: I used my favourite vanilla cream, made with 250 ml whipping cream, 1 cup milk, and one packet vanilla pudding (Yum!)

Have a nice weekend!

lots and lots of food!

Update on the puff pastry: My guests loved it, except for my in-laws who apparently don’t like vanilla cream (the horror! 😛 ) So next time I’ll make part with whipped cream and part with vanilla.  But there was a problem – it doesn’t keep so well, the pastry becomes dry after 2 days or so. It’s still tasty (especially the cream!) but not…you know… amazing. Some more notes: The puff pastry done with a piping bag was more difficult to fill, and it was easiest to put cream with a teaspoon and not try to fill with a piping bag. Sometimes the simplest solution is best 🙂

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In keeping with the health fads of the day, I’ve been trying to modify our cakes to be healthier (the chocolate cake and also the 4-cake). The substitutions I thought of were:

  • Substituting half the white flour for whole wheat flour
  • Substituting half the margarine(75 gr) for 60 ml oil
  • substituting brown sugar and/or honey for white sugar
I tried all three on our chocolate cake recipe. substituting flour was good, it made the cake more brownie-like. substituting oil was excellent. Substituting sugar was a flop. Even though I find brown sugar to be as sweet as white sugar, substituting one cup of brown sugar for one cup of white sugar was not sweet enough and came out insipid and bland. I added chocolate frosting to “cover it up”.
In the 4-cake I only substituted the oil, and the result, again was excellent. It makes the cake lighter and was a great success, as I have always found the 4-cake a little dense. As part of its charm is its colour, I didn’t try substituting whole wheat flour yet, but maybe someday…
I know I could just try to find a healthier recipe, but these are the cakes we’re used to. I’m still keeping an eye open for chocolate oatmeal oil based cake, but last time I tried it I got an oily black mess. Any suggestions would be welcome.
Can anyone think of new tips?

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