Friday, December 27, 2019

Strawberry and Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast Casserole

Looks fancy, but is really easy to make.

Strawberry and Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast with Strawberry Compote

1 loaf of bread, cubed
10 strawberries, sliced
350 grams cream cheese
4 eggs
2 cups milk
brown sugar (to taste)
cinnamon (to taste)

White sugar

Since you'll want to make sure the sugar is dissolved, make the 'custard' ahead of time by whisking the eggs, milk, brown sugar, and cinnamon together.

Place a layer of cubed bread into a tube pan or casserole dish, then a layer of the sliced strawberries, then cream cheese, then cubed bread.

Carefully pour the custard over the bread, cover, and refrigerate overnight (or up to 12 hours).

Bake at 180° C for 30 minutes COVERED, then for another 15 minutes, uncovered.

To make the compote, cut strawberries into a pot, add some sugar, and cook on a medium flame. As the strawberries begin to release liquid, lower the flame to a simmer, and cook for another 10 minutes or so. The mixture should thicken as it cools, but pour over the French toast casserole while it's still warm.

Serve warm. Whipped cream or ice cream would probably be amazing with this.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Getting Carried Away

Finally took out the fabric, tape measure, and checked the pattern sites for making the new mei tai.

No, it's not some tropical cocktail, that's a MAI tai. A mei tai is a soft structure baby carrier.

When my oldest daughter was born, I had a fairly basic Snugli carrier. It was convenient, but in hindsight, probably not the most ergonomic for her.

Many years later, when my oldest son was born, I made a baby wrap. 6 meters of a t-shirt material with a non-stretch meter long pocket sewn on, more to mark the midpoint of this long wrap, than for function as a pocket. The construction of the thing was much easier than trying to wrap yourself and baby into it, although after a few tries, I was a pro at it. With a shift to the side, I could easily (and modestly) nurse in public.

After 6 months or so, my son became too heavy for the wrap. It was so stretchy, I found myself constantly having to adjust, tighten, and retie. So I looked into making something that required a bit more than finding the middle and sewing three straight lines.

And that's when I found the mei tai. The basic construction is a rectangle with four straps coming out of the corners. The bottom two, the waist straps, are sewn in straight, as they are simply going around your waist. The two upper straps, the shoulder straps, are sewn in at an angle, because they're supposed to go over your shoulders, cross at the back, then come around to your front, where you either tie it, or cross it again and tie it at the back if the straps are long enough and/or your skinny enough.

So I found a pattern, bought white cotton duck (heavy cotton canvas material), and nicer material with a pattern. I also bought some polar fleece to use for padding the shoulder straps.

I really went overboard in making it strong and safe. I double, and possibly triple stitched where I sewed the straps to the body of the carrier. I'm fairly certain I used a double layer of cotton duck (where the straps were sewn to), and then lined the inside with the nicer pattern material, and definitely the outside.
My oldest daughter "wearing" my oldest son. I believe he was about a year old.

Well, whatever I did, I did it right - except using polar fleece for padding. That did NOT work well. Both my boys used the mei tai, and two out of three grandsons have used it. With my middle grandson being 4 1/2, I think he still is carried in it every now and again.

So it's an 11 year old well made mei tai. And at my daughter's request, I'll be making a new one. Same patter as above, and I'll be making it overboard in strength and safety. And this time, I have padded shoulder straps from a backpack to use for padding the shoulder straps of the mei tai. (I went to a Goodwill-type store near me and found a backpack that had just the type of straps I wanted for just the right price (cheap).

So I've taken some measurements, cut the straps off the backpack (and labeled left and right (yes, it matters)), and I'll be all ready to get measuring, cutting, and sewing tomorrow evening.

Monday, May 6, 2019

60 Seconds

Before I go into what our Saturday night was like, I'd like to give some perspective. Folks who live in "Tornado Alley" will have the better idea of this analogy.

Imagine sitting at home, or driving home from work, when the tornado sirens go off. You have X number of minutes to get to safety, get your family to safety, wrestle the dog or cat to safety (or leave Fluffy to her fate). As you huddle in your shelter, you hear the storm on its destructive path. Hopefully, you're a lucky one, and you'll escape with little or no damage, injury, or worse.

The all-clear comes and it's back to whatever you're doing. Maybe you decide to start dinner. Or take a shower. Or go back to bed. Or, go outside to inspect any damage.

Ten minutes later, however, the tornado siren goes off again. And it's run to safety, regardless of your state of dress or undress.

Imagine doing this over, and over, and over, and over again. Day after day, week after week, year after year.

Saturday night, Zach and I were watching TV. The air conditioner was on, so the windows were closed. At about 11:13 p.m., my phone gave a weird chirp, and when I got up to look at my phone, I heard the faint wails of the siren.

I paused the TV and opened the window to make sure what I was hearing was real, immediately turned, told Zach to help roust the boys from sleep, and we had to get the apartment building stairwell IMMEDIATELY.

We have 60 seconds from the time the siren goes off to get to safety.

You try rousting kids from a deep sleep and getting out of the apartment in less than 60 seconds.

We heard faint booms as rockets from Gaza were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome. We heard a fighter jet or two flying over head.

I'll admit, we didn't wait the required 10 minutes to go back to the apartment. The boys were tired. And cold. They were wearing shorts, and nothing else.

So we went back into the apartment, the boys went back to bed, and we went back to watching TV, but this time, the air conditioner was off, and the window was open.

And 10 minutes later, the siren went off again.

I don't know how we (Israel) got to calling these sirens "red alert", but it's become part of our every day vocabulary. To be honest, I think it glosses over the seriousness of just what it represents. Let's call it what it is. An air raid siren.

The boys were cranky about having to get up again (can you blame them?), but I was much happier about that than having to face a panic attack from one or both (could you blame them?). They were still in shorts, and I foolishly didn't think to tell them to put on a shirt and sweatpants as we all went back to the apartment.

TV show was over, it was now 11:30 p.m., Zach and I went to bed. We had the air conditioner on in our room, but I also left the window open a little so I could hear the air raid siren. And just as I was finally falling asleep, at about 11:55.... another siren.

Lather rinse repeat. Only this time, about 2 minutes after the first siren, came a second. At least this time we were still in the stairwell. As the times before, lots of booms as rockets from Gaza were intercepted. The building DID rattle a few times from the concussive force, and we did hear a larger explosion which meant a rocket landed somewhere in the city and hit a building of some kind (high school cafeteria was hit about a 20 minute drive from our place).

THIS time as we were heading back into the apartment, I told the boys to change into a t-shirt and sweatpants. Thankfully, the rest of the night was quiet.

This photo is of Zach and the boys, during siren 2 or 3-4. I didn't feel comfortable posting it with them half dressed, so I censored it a bit. There's nothing censored about their expressions, though.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Super easy pineapple chicken

Not really giving amounts because it's according to taste (and how many people you're serving)

1 whole chicken or 2 kilo of chicken breast, diced
green and/or red peppers, diced
onions, diced
minced garlic
1 large can of pineapple chunks in syrup
brown sugar
black pepper
garlic powder
1 1/2 cups ketchup

Sautee the peppers, onions, and garlic until the onions become translucent.
Add the chicken and mix.
Pour the syrup into a large bowl and add the pineapple chunks to the pot.
Add the brown sugar, s&p, garlic powder, and ketchup to the syrup, mix until well-blended and add to the pot.
Mix thoroughly and add just enough water until the chicken is mostly covered (I leave about an inch exposed)
Cover and let it simmer on the stove top on a medium flame for about 2 hours.
Serve hot on rice or couscous.

(BTW, it tastes better the second day)

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.