Monday, October 8, 2018

Chocolate Lovers Truffle Brownies

Crust:
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

Glaze:
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.

Crust:
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.

Glaze:
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?

Friday, July 13, 2018

Family Affair

My sister-in-law, we'll call her Molly, is here in Israel for an intensive 2 week seminar. Her days (and many evenings) are packed with lectures and meetings, and unfortunately it doesn't leave a lot of time for non-seminar touring and certainly doesn't leave a lot of time to visit family.

The last time we saw Molly in person was the summer of 2012, when Zach, the boys, and I flew to the States for a family visit. Nati was 5, Elchanan was 3. Neither were toilet trained... oh, that was fun. So the last time Molly saw my boys, they were barely out of toddlerhood. And it had been even longer since Molly saw my daughters, and she'd never met my son-in-law or my grandsons.

Needless to say, I wanted to arrange a family get together, despite Molly's tight schedule.

My original idea was everyone come to Jerusalem, where Molly was based, and we'd go to a restaurant. But then I started picturing the get together.

First of all, it would mean that my daughter and her family would have to travel by bus, minimum of 90 minutes, just to get to Jerusalem, and then depending on where the restaurant was, would have to get there as well.

Five minutes after arriving, Nati would start complaining that he wants to go home.

Ten minutes after that, Elchanan would start complaining that he's bored. And when he gets bored, he starts picking on... well, everyone.

We'd have to make sure that my grandsons (ages 6 and 3) would sit at the table for the meal, and the schmoozing.

Yeah, none of that seemed appealing.

But then I realized that this get together wasn't going to be about the food, it was about the family. The people, gathering together for the company and the conversation, reconnecting.

So then I suggested having a BBQ at my daughter's house. We'd pick up Molly in Jerusalem and then drive further north to where my daughter lives. By car, it's about 45 minutes. I made cole slaw, potato salad, a batch of chocolate chip cookies, brought burger and hot dog buns, and bag of chicken wings marinading in a home made sauce. I told my daughter to buy the burgers and hot dogs, and I'd reimburse her. The reason behind that was so those items would be cooked and ready (especially for the kids) when we got there. See, sometimes I have a good idea.

And it was amazing. The kids all got to eat and run, play as they wished, where they wished. The grown ups got to have pleasant conversation. And as a bonus, Molly got to see a part of the country that she'd otherwise not have had an opportunity to visit. And we took a 5 minute pause to do some amazing star gazing in mostly dark skies.


What kind of family get together have you been to that ended up being fantastic and amazing, despite being nothing like what you first planned it to be?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Recipe to save

Mexican Burghul Salad



2 1/2 cups burghul grains (I like the larger grain best)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 finely chopped spring onion OR 1/2 red onion
1 large red pepper, finely diced
1 large yellow or orange pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

DRESSING (see Cook's Notes for substitutions)
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon silan/honey
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander spice
Salt and coarse pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil

1: Pour salted water over burghul grains - cover well with approximately 2 cm extra margin - and set aside to absorb for approximately 1 1/2 hours.
2: Whisk dressing ingredients together till well mixed and check seasoning.
3: Check water is fully absorbed - press out extra in a sieve if absolutely necessary but you shouldn't have to unless you added too much - and then add vegetables, beans and herbs to grains.
4: Toss through dressing to coat well and refrigerate till ready to serve.

COOK'S NOTES: Quinoa could replace burghul if you prefer but this will have to be cooked and can't just be soaked. I cook quinoa in the microwave for ease. If you insist, you could simplify the dressing even further, by simply adding cumin, ground coriander and silan to 2/3 cup ready-made French dressing. Apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar can replace red wine vinegar.  Salad feeds approximately 8 and leftovers last for days.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Food, Glorious Food

Every year, one of the local North American organizations has a Canada Day/US Independence Day picnic and fair at the beginning of July. This year, for religious reasons, it's going to be an "end of summer" fair instead.

Last year, I rented a table and sold a variety of cookies, muffins, and cakes. Chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal craisin cookies, peanut butter cookies, banana walnut chocolate chip muffins, mint fudge brownies, and cinnamon fudge brownies. It was a big success for me.

The chocolate chip cookies and the mint brownies were sold out. No one really bought the cinnamon brownies. I was left with quite a bit of the oatmeal craisin, and the banana muffins. And the peanut butter cookies just didn't hold up. They were very crumbly.

Since I'm a list maker, I made sure to create a spreadsheet and make notes regarding the baked goods.

For this year, I'll be selling chocolate chip cookies and mint fudge brownies. I'll make a smaller batch of banana muffins, and also make blueberry muffins. I'll also be making a small batch of "brookies", which is where you drop a lump of chocolate chip cookie dough into brownies batter, and bake together. I'll be selling potato kugels and garlic monkey bread as well, and since it's going to be only a week and half until Rosh Hashana, I was thinking of also making small apple cakes.

Brookies

Garlic monkey bread

Do you have any local fairs you attend and/or sell at?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

One Big Something Family

Normally I work from home. The company I work for is located more in the center of the country, while I live smack in the middle of the Negev Desert. Driving, it's nearly 2 1/2 hours. I don't get up to the offices on a regular basis, but occasionally there are holiday-related things I make an appearance for. Today, the team I work with organized a brunch at a cafe not too far from the offices.

Now, when I go up to the offices, I take the train. It's temperature controlled, I don't have to worry about sitting in traffic, there are bathrooms on board, and since I get on at the first stop, I always get a seat. Sometimes it's even got an outlet so I can charge my phone. The big disadvantage is getting from the train station to the office. The scheduling is way off, and often not particularly convenient. But for the three or four times a year, I manage.

For the most part, the seats are arranged four around a table. Well-padded, often even have a middle arm rest, decent-ish amount of leg room. Well, for me, anyway. And yes, I'm short. When you are lucky enough to get a car with electrical plugs, it's only two per table, so that can be annoying if your laptop or cellphone is low on battery and your seatmates are already plugged in.

On this morning's ride, as we pull out of the Ashkelon station, an older man (OM1) sits in the seat diagonally from me in "my" quartet. Right across from me was a young Ethiopian woman in IDF uniform. And right next to me was another older man (OM2). I forget what sparked the beginning of the conversation, but by the time OM1 got off the train over an hour later, I knew quite a bit about his life and family, and he knew a bit about mine.

I knew he'd been a farmer all his life.
Right now he's only growing peaches and persimmons.
He used to grow apples as well, but with the import of Pink Ladies from the US, it's just not worthwhile.
Climate change is real.
His wife was an English teacher.
His wife is from South Africa.
He lived in SA for 6 months and moved back to Israel mainly because of antisemitism.
His family is from the UK, but he was born in Israel.
Much of his family left Poland during the 1930s.
He served in the IDF during the first Intifada and Lebanon Part I.
He has a son and daughter, and then his wife couldn't have more children because she had cysts on her ovaries and had to have them removed.
He's not religious at all, but all during his service and reserve duty, he carried his IDF-issued Psalms in his shirt pocket, just in case.

And a whole megillah of more information.

He got on, a total stranger. And I still don't know his name, and I can't remember what Moshav he lives on. But there's something about sharing a few square meters of space with other human beings for a couple hours. And maybe it's one of these "only in Israel" type of things. Yes, we're strangers. But genetically we're Jews, the three people (OM2 seemed rather put out that we were talking - not loudly, mind you) having a discussion were all immigrants or first-generation Israeli. And that commonality - Jewish-Israeli - immediately made us family.

Sure, we're a loud, obnoxious, frustrating, dysfunctional family.

So what insightful public transportation rides have you had?