Monday, February 25, 2019


Nothing like the prospect of a deadline to get one motivated to get one's butt in gear. Nothing has been moving with regards to getting garb made for myself or my sons. However, we were just asked if we'd like to participate in a roleplayers' convention the end of April, so, yeah... lit a fire under my ass.

For myself, it will be a long-sleeved, off-white or white linen tunic gown, with a short-sleeved, pale green linen overgown. And trim at the neckline and cuffs on the overgown.

For the boys, I will make basic tunics in linen - the older one will be in pale green, the younger on in pale blue. If I have time, I'll make them brown linen pants. If I don't have the time, sweatpants or something similar for the time being it is.

Now, to stay properly motivated...

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Beef and Udon Noodle Soup Recipe

For some reason I found myself craving udon noodles last week. For those who aren't familiar, udon noodles are a thick, chewy wheat noodle popular in Japanese cuisine. And the weather was expected to be chilly, and I had a package of meat in the freezer, so it was a perfect opportunity to try something new.

I had Zach make the udon noodles using this recipe. We ended up using more water than they called for, and I don't think he kneaded the dough long enough, but for a first try, it wasn't bad. We used a pasta machine to roll and cut the dough. Actually, we had the boys do it.

They all had a blast. And want to do it again.

As for the soup, I started off using this recipe for inspiration and guidance, but then went completely in my own direction. I mean, the fact that the recipe is completely non-kosher since it uses pork, and calls for eleventy million ingredients were certainly motivations.

I went to the supermarket and picked up some beautiful mangold (it's what they call Swiss chard here in Israel) since that's available and bok choy isn't. I bought cremini mushrooms, because that's what they had (alternatives would have been shimeji mushrooms, and/or shitake mushrooms). I actually found fresh snow peas. I already had carrots, scallions, and canned baby corn. I also bought mung bean sprouts to add to the bowl, just before eating. So that's the vegetation I used. I wish I could get bamboo shoots and water chestnuts.

I boiled 1 kilo of "goulash meat" in about 3 liters of water for about 2 hours, uncovered. I skimmed the scum off (Asian soups tend to do this for broth clarity), and removed the beef. Cut up the vegetables, added that to the beefy liquid, sliced up the beef, added that back to the pot, and now for the seasoning.

No one had lemon grass, so I decided that instead of doing without, I'd use a healthy dollop of red Thai chili paste, which covered a good portion of the flavor profile in the original recipe. It's got the lemon grass, ginger, garlic, and the heat of chili peppers. I added soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, salt, and black pepper. Then I let the soup simmer covered for 30 minutes.

Holy smokes, was that good. And even better the next day. My big mistake - and take care not to follow in my footsteps - was to add the udon noodles to the pot of soup. After cooking them in a pot of salted water (they only need about 3 or 4 minutes), remove them to a colander and rinse them well. Add them to the individual bowls and ladle soup over the noodles.

SO delicious!

What recipe inspired you to come up with something similar, yet completely different?

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

State of the Nati - A New Chapter

Today, Zach and I had a meeting at Nati's school with his teacher, Y, the class psychologist, one of the therapists, and a school administrator. I will admit to a certain amount of trepidation, since Y was rather insistent on having this meeting, and I was worried they were going to tell us that they feel he should switch to the school for autistic children (which deals with children who have much more severe cases of autism) rather than keeping him in a class for higher functioning kids in a mainstream school. I don't know why I immediately went negative, it just seems to be reflexive for me.

Nati will be turning 12 in May, and if things had worked out better for him scholastically, he'd be in the 6th grade now. But he spent an extra year in preschool, and repeated second grade, which means he's actually only in the 4th grade. Now, I'm not giving this information because I'm embarrassed by/for him; I know he does the best he can, I know he's a smart kid, and I know he's come a long way. This is just information for context, and part of the reason Zach and I had a meeting today.

Nati is the oldest in his class. If he were in 6th grade, we'd be discussing middle schools for him. And that's actually what this meeting was about. Beginning dialog and starting to weigh the pros and cons of keeping Nati on the track he's been on (meaning 5th grade next school year, and being the oldest in his class by far), or moving him up to middle school, to be with his peers for the next school year instead.

His teacher and the therapists have noticed that during recess, Nati does seek out the 6th graders to play with (in my head, I call them the older kids, but in reality, they're Nati's age), which is rather telling. He seems to instinctively be seeking out his peers. Being older means his physical hygiene class (which they get) will be different than those of the 9 and 10 year olds; he'd be learning about puberty, the various changes in his body, the need for deodorant, etc. And as a Jewish boy, they'll be discussing turning 13 years old and the all important bar mitzvah.

Which has been a red line for him for nearly 2 years now. He doesn't want the chaos of a party or of a being around a lot of people. Which I completely understand. We would cater anything we'd do around HIS needs and sensitivities. Instead of having him read a portion from the Torah scrolls, he'd just say the blessing. Instead of having it on Shabbat in a full synagogue, we'd do it during the week for family only. Instead of having a big party... heck, we'll have a BBQ and he can have all the hot dogs and onion rings he wants. No music, no flashing lights.

And if he's in a class of peers, where all the boys are planning a bar mitzvah of some kind, maybe he'll come around.

As far as his actual education, we're told that at a certain point, classes often become a mix of different grades (and in classes for ASD kids, the class size is 8-9 children), but same age. The kids all have their own IEP (Individualized Education Program, called TALA here in Israel), so Nati wouldn't suffer scholastically by finishing 4th grade and going into 7th.

Once we were all in agreement that getting things started to move Nati up to middle school for September 2019, Y and the therapist both said that at the beginning of the meeting, they each felt that having Nati go to 5th grade was the right move for him, but after talking things out, and seeing how he's already seeking/needing peers rather than just classmates, making this move this year rather than next year is the best solution for Nati. There are three possible schools in Be'er Sheva that will suit Nati, but we won't know until closer to the 2019-2020 school year where he'll be exactly. And before anyone asks, no, I don't think any of the three schools are religious.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Non-potato latke recipes

Chanuka is upon us, and that means we celebrate the miracle of the potato.

Wait, no, that's not right; we celebrate the miracle of the oil - a small pitcher of oil burning for 8 days in the Temple.

A favorite Ashkenazi way to observe this is by grating potatoes and onions, adding eggs, salt, and black pepper, and frying patties until crisp on the outside, and creamy on the inside.... and praying that the remaining batter doesn't go grey, brown, or black as natural chemicals in the potato react to oxidation.

One year, I cooked for a Medieval feast, where potatoes aren't allowed. And in an intentional bit of irony, I made the Chanuka menu Greek themed (for those who don't know, the ancient Greeks are the bad guys in the Chanuka  origin story). So I wanted potato alternative fried patties to make.

And here are the recipes I used:

Onion Fritters
1/2 kg (aprox. 1 lb) onions finely diced (leeks work wonderfully as well)
1/2 kg flour
Fresh spearmint
Oil for frying
In a bowl, mix well the onions, spearmint, flour, salt and pepper. Add enough water to make a thick batter. Heat oil in a frying pan. Drop teaspoons of batter into the oil. Fry until golden brown. Drain the fritters well and serve hot.

Courgette balls (Zucchini)
1 kg (2.2 lbs) courgettes
1/2 cup grated cheese
200 gr grated feta cheese
3 eggs
flour for dredging
Olive oil for frying

Wash the courgettes and cut off their ends. Grate them and squeeze them to remove their liquid. Soak the bread crumbs and drain them. Beat the eggs. In a bowl mix the grated courgettes with the grated cheese, the grated feta cheese, the bread crumbs and the beaten eggs. Add salt, pepper and spearmint. Shape the mixture into balls. Flour the balls and fry them in olive oil until they take brown color.

Santorini Tomato Rissoles
* 500 gr. tomatoes, rinsed and dried
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped (not grated)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
salt and black pepper
1/2 cup fresh spearmint, finely chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
150 grams self-raising flour
sunflower oil, for frying

Put the rinsed and dried tomatoes whole into a large bowl. Squeeze and manipulate them with the hands, until they turn into a pulpy substance. This is the only way to do it as you need the skins to give some substance. Next, mix all the ingredients together, apart from the flour. Add enough flour gradually to make a thickish but moist paste. You will probably not need all the flour. The mixture can now wait until it is time to be cooked and eaten. Put about 2.5 cm oil in a large frying pan. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, drop in tablespoons of the mixture and fry, turning the rissoles over once, until lightly golden all over. Serve immediately.

*(I use peeled, whole, canned tomatoes and crush them between my fingers and just use more flour. I don't like the texture of the peel once the tomatoes are smashed).

Delicious yogurt dip to go with the above latkes
1/2 kilo (1 lb) strained yogurt (I use a good quality goat yogurt)
1 cucumber
4 garlic cloves (more makes it with stronger taste)
lemon juice

Grate the garlic and mix it with salt and lemon juice. Peel the cucumber, grate it and squeeze it until all its water is removed. Put the yogurt into a bowl and add the cucumber into it. Then mix the yoghurt with the mixture of grated garlic. Whiz the content until all the ingredients are well mixed. Add some oil. Yogurt dip can be served in a normal temperature but it is rather preferred cold.

Variation: substitute chopped dill for the cucumber or garlic.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Chocolate Lovers Truffle Brownies

2/3 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup butter or margarine
1-1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)

Brownie layer:
8 oz. best quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup butter or margarine
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

6 oz. best quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 cup heavy cream or nondairy creamer

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9"X 13" baking pan.

Cream the brown sugar and butter or margarine until light and fluffy. Slowly add flour and continue to mix until blended and smooth. Add pecans. When completely combined, press crust into bottom of prepared pan. Set aside.

Brownie Layer:
Melt the chocolate and butter in a metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stirring until smooth. Remove the bowl from heat and cool 10 minutes.

Stir the cooled chocolate mixture. Whisk in the sugar, vanilla, and eggs one at a time until batter is smooth. Stir in the flour and salt until just combined.

Spread brownie batter evenly over the crust and bake in the middle of the oven until top is firm and tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 25-27 minutes. Remove from oven and place immediately into the refrigerator.

Heat all the glaze ingredients in a large metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until chocolate and butter are melted and glaze is smooth. Remove from heat and cool glaze to room temperature, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Pour glaze evenly over the brownie layer and return to the refrigerator. Cut into 20 bars and serve cold. You may serve each brownie with a blackberry, raspberry, or strawberry.

Yield: 20 brownies.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Changing Perspective, One Smile at a Time

Years ago in high school, I had a teacher who taught a variety of subjects throughout the years. I didn't particularly like her, and it certainly wasn't helped by the fact that none of the subjects she taught held any interest for me. Oooh, shocker! Student doesn't like teacher! Oooh, bigger shocker! Student doesn't like subjects being taught!

But there's one thing she said once - and since it was a million years ago, I don't remember if this was what the lesson was about, or just something she said in passing - that really stuck with me, and I've tried really hard to carry it on throughout my life.

It doesn't cost anything to smile.

Nothing profound, nothing earth-shattering. But the words resonated with me for some reason.

Since I can't remember the context, I imagine when she talked about cost, she meant actual financial cost. No comments about braces or plastic surgery, please.

I've taken it to also mean emotional and mental. Once upon a time I would have also said physical, but for years I've suffered from "Dear God, kill me know" sinus pressure headaches, where it hurts to think, so I've removed that from my equation. And I understand being in a mental or emotional place, where smiling seems impossible, but having been there, done that, I firmly believe in faking it till you make it.

Throughout the years, I've tried very hard to instill this tenet into my children. I know I've succeeded with my daughters, as I have been told time and again from neighbors and strangers-to-me (in other words, people who know my daughters) what polite, kind, and thoughtful girls I have. My boys are significantly younger and are a work in progress, but I definitely work on it with them as well.

There's a Russian woman who lives in the house next to Nati's van stop. Often, when we wait, she's outside, mopping her porch. I started saying good morning to her as we arrive, and she'd reply in kind. After about a week, if I was too slow with my greeting, she'd say good morning to me first.

There's an elderly couple in our building, and Nati and I often see them as we head to his stop in the morning. I started saying good morning to them as we passed them. Now, as soon as the woman sees us coming out onto the street, she'll wish us a good morning.

Thanking the bus driver when he opens the door. Telling the cashier to have a good day. Saying hello to the driver when you get into the taxi. Little things to you, but they can mean so much to the person receiving.

Unfortunately, politeness is seen almost as a bad trait here in Israel. I joke and say that the national sport is yelling, but frankly, it's not far from the truth. I think the worst insult you can give an Israeli is to tell him he's a "frier", a sucker. And for some reason, politeness seems to be equated with being a frier.

So it's going to be an uphill battle, doing things one smile at a time.

What profound bit of unintentional wisdom have you carried through from high school?

Monday, July 23, 2018

Sarcasm, Just Another Service We Provide

My husband likes to tell a story of how when he was a kid, and the family would go on trips, his mom would line the dashboard with twenty single dollar bills. If she had to tell my husband and/or his sister to behave, she'd remove a dollar. My husband and his sister would then split whatever was left when they got to their destination.

This afternoon, we took the boys to the beach in Ashkelon. The drive is a bit under an hour, depending on the driving conditions. We spent a bit over an hour at the beach, and it was wonderful. The water was as warm as a bath, but the waves made things feel more like a washing machine.

On the drive home, the boys were bothering each other more than usual. After telling them to leave each other alone for about the tenth time, and this only being 15 minutes into our drive home, I told them we were going to have a contest.

Not a quiet contest, those things never work. I told them to each look out their window, and call out whenever they saw a pink flamingo. A brief discussion followed to iron out the rules - such as would plastic flamingos count, or did it have to be the real thing. And Elchanan wanted to clarify it was only pink flamingos, and not any pink item.

Unfortunately it only lasted for ten minutes, but it was a gloriously silent ten minutes. And of course during that time, I knew Zach and I couldn't look at one another, because we'd burst out laughing.

And just to be clear, other than in a zoo, there are no pink flamingos in Israel.

Ship off the coast of Ashkelon.

So, what kind of snipe hunt have you subjected your children to, in order to keep the peace and quiet of a drive home?