Monday, November 30, 2009

Weekend get away

I want to wish everyone who celebrated-a Happy Belated Thanksgiving. Being out of the U.S. and in a country that doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving, I tend to let the date slip. Really sort of ridiculous , since all my friends and family live in the States and I need to wish them a happy holiday as well. But, the 27th is our anniversary and we have made a tradition of going away for the weekend each year at this time, so I was really out of touch with Thanksgiving this year.
We took a trip up to the northern part of Israel for a beautiful weekend at a lodge in a forest setting. Unbelieveable weather, walking and bike riding, great food ( too much- but what am I going to do- diet on a vacation weekend?!) all made for a really perfect get away.

me at breakfast- after a meal like this one, there was no need to eat for the rest of the day!

hubby in front of the fireplace in the lobby- that was nice!

a view of the entrance to a nearby town

On another note, we just got notice that we have to move out of our apartment by the end of December so we are in a rush looking for another place to live. Bummer!  Probably won't be much baking or cooking in the next few weeks, but I will try to get a few things in whenever possible.
Lovely week to all!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


A few years ago I bought a cookbook called  Mrs. Field's Best Ever Cookie Book! It was one of those books I bought on a whim as I was browsing through Barnes and Noble. (Whenever I come to visit the U.S. I let my family know that on one day, they can drop me off in the morning at B &N and  pick me up at the end of the day!)
The book proceeded to make it's way to the shelf and sort of got forgotten. I pulled it off the shelf a few days ago, looking for something to make with macadamia nuts. Yes, those treasured, expensive, delicious tasting little nuts.  When I think of macadamia nuts, I think of Brazil or Hawaii. Lo and behold, I discovered that a friend of ours here in Israel who lives around the corner from us, has a macadamia tree in his yard! I never knew that and I go there to visit all the time. Where have I been?
Of course, I offered to make cookies or something or anything with macadamias if he would let me take some. Hey, no problem! Take as many as you want. Whoopee! Now the only problem with macadamias is that the shell is unbelieveably hard and they are very difficult to crack open. This friend of ours actually has a device that is used specially for macadamias. I've seen  everything now. I actually tried it with a regular everyday nutcracker ( all the  while with Hubby in the background yelling - "you're going to break the nutcracker!") and lo and behold, I did break the nutcracker- just snapped in half!

Can you believe this thing? Looks like some kind of torture device!

In any case, we got the macadamias cracked ( after they had been roasted in the shell). So back to this cookbook. I found a yummy looking recipe for cookies using white chocolate, coconut and macadamia nuts. How bad could that be?
Definitely an easy, yet elegant tasting little cookie. Great to freeze and pull out when you need them. I'm crazy enough to eat them frozen- is that weird?
 Great  holiday cookie! Here's the recipe- enjoy!

Choc-Co-Chunk Cookies ( from Mrs. Fields Best Ever Cookie Book)

2 1/4 cups all purpoe flour ( 315 g)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 sticks ( 3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened (180 g.)
1 cup (packed) brown sugar ( 240 g.)
2 large eggs
2 tsps. vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups shredded coconut
12 ounces white chocolate, cut in to chunks
1 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts

Yield : about 3 dozen

  • Preheat oven to 300 F (150 C)

  • In a small bowl, combine flour and baking soda

  • In a medium bowl , cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time and the vanilla. Beat in flour mixture but do not overmix.

  • Stir in white chocolate chunks, coconut and nuts.

  • Drop dough by rounded tablespoons ( I used a small ice cream scooper)2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet ( I used a silicone mat).

  • Bake for 18-20 minutes. transfer to rack to cool.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cake Slice

It's Cake Slice time again. This month we made a Burnt Sugar cake from the book Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott. I really didn't know what to expect since I have never heard of a cake like this before and couldn't imagine how burnt sugar might be in a cake and frosting.
As it turns out, the burnt sugar was no problem to make and the cake itself turned out fine. My problems came with the frosting. It called for a cream cheese frosting with the burnt sugar added.  I followed the recipe exactly, but the frosting came out so runny, I had to keep adding powdered sugar. I finally decided to put it in the fridge to try and solidify it a bit. Worked to some extent but not how I would have like it.
I brought it to school for a colleague's birthday, and though moany commented that it was super sweet, they seemed to enjoy it. Personally, I wouldn't repeat this one. Too many other great cakes out there!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bon Appetit Blog Envy Bake-Off

I write this blog to keep a record of the things I bake and sometimes to just express myself to open space. I don't  think more than , maybe 8 or 10 people have ever even read my blog but I'm ok with that. In any case , I decided to enter the Bon Appetit holiday baking contest just for the fun of it. I entered this great  and easy recipe for the most delicious brownies ever. They were one of the many wonderful recipes I learned during the pastry chef course I took at the begining of the year.

So, if you happen to stumble onto this blog and like what you see, I'd love it if you leave a comment here and there and give me a vote over here.
Happy weekend!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Flower and butterfly cookies

Since my daughters know I love decorating cookies so much, they don't hesitate to ask me to make  gifts for friends. I love doing it and it gives me the opportunity to practice. My youngest daughter is finishing a course in the army and she wanted to have a small  something to give to her classmates.
 "Mom, could you make some cookies for me to give to the girls?
 "Sure, no problem - flowers and butterflies ok? "
"Of course, that would be great!"

So here are some pictures of my weekend project. ( I am still not close to becoming an even amateur photographer). Like I said, it's my therapy, my outlet. The only halfway creative thing I do.

Gotta get started on those Hanukah and Christmas cookies!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

To Do List # 2 Homemade Pop Tarts

I told you I was going to do it. Once a week, attack my "to do" list of "things I want to make but instead just add to the list".
My daughters love pop tarts. And even though they are grown women now, they still love pop tarts. We can't get pop tarts here. So a while ago I started looking for a recipe for homemade pop tarts. Of course I immediately came across Chez Pim's recipe and it went onto the list.
Now, the other day I decided it was time to clean and straighten out my freezer. Amazing what you find hidden behind this and that! I found a nicely wrapped package of pie dough that was left over from something. I had even been conscientious enough to date it, so I knew it was still good. (sometimes I actually do things in an organized manner!) Perfect opportunity to make the poptarts. It was so super easy- especially since the dough was made. Some I filled with raspberry jan and others with cinnamon sugar. I topped them with a confectioner's sugar and milk glaze ( the girls always liked the frosted poptarts) and wonder of wonders, they came out fantastic! One of the girls said it so well- once you taste the homemade, you wonder how you ever could have liked the store-bought.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Soup on Sunday

Soup is winter food. It doesn't have to be, but that's what I associate it with. I love soup.

But here, the winter refuses to show it's face. Last week we had 5 days of winter- wonderful rain  (we so desperately need the water here), cold "cuddle up on the couch with a blanket" weather and finally, soup! I made lentil soup which got devoured within a day and then quickly made a Middle eastern red kubbeh soup ( I will post about that in more detail soon). That got inhaled over the weekend.

So now it's Sunday (our weekend here is basically just half of Friday and Saturday- what a bummer!)and no soup. Mind you, no winter either. The rain made a showing and then decided to move on. Yesterday was 90 F, and the forecast is the same for the rest of the week! Ugh! I am so tired of the hot weather!

But soup is staying on the menu regardless. It's November and I come from ( originally ) Upstate New York,and November is winter. I'll just pretend I'm there,ok? So here we are on Sunday, no soup and I go to my trusty soup book to look for this week's choice. I think after the fairly heavy soups of last week I 'll go with a country vegetable soup. Simple, delicious, healthy.

Country Vegetable Soup- serves 6
50 grams butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 carrot, grated
1 small celery root, cut into squares
1 red pepper, cut into squares
1 tomato, peeled and cut ( I don't bother peeling it)
1 parsely root, coarsely grated
1 cup  frozen peas
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons flour
salt, pepper
8-9 cups broth or water
1 cup of chopped parsley

For serving:
120 grams grated parmesean cheese
2 tablespoons soft butter
6 slices of baguette, cut diagonally

  • Melt butter and olive oil in a large pot. Add all the vegetables, coverand cook 10 minutes.

  • Add the flour and stir for a minute. Season with salt and pepper and add the broth or water. Bring to a boil and cover.  Reduce heat to low and cook 1 hour.

  •  Add the parsley and remove from heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning

  • To serve: Heat oven using top heat( broiler). Mix parmesean cheese and butter, spread on the baguette slices and toast until browned. Serve on top of the soup or on the side.


                Happy Winter! Wherever you are!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Energy Bars

At the beginning of this year I took a pastry chef course. I was in seventh heaven. For four months, every Monday afternoon, the class of 20 gathered and listened to a lecture/ demonstration about the day's topic. Then we went to work completing the assignment of recipes- most of the time finishing between 12 and 1 in the morning! It was exhausting but thrilling and I loved every minute of it. I learned an incredible amount and accumulated a good number of recipes that I continue to use.
One of the recipes from the cookie lesson ( we learned different techniques of mixing, forming cookies etc.) was these energy bars. They are delicious (and rich!) "as is", straight from the recipe. But what I liked about it was the opportunity to substitute pretty much to your own tastes and if you follow the basic format, they come out fantastic, no matter what you put in them. I will give some suggestions as to possible substitutions but use your imagination and personal tastes! Here's to boosting your energy level- if these don't do it, nothing will!

Energy Bars
( we used a square 20x20 disposable aluminum foil pan- it works great- less clean up and just so easy!)

100 grams( 1/2 cup) butter
90 grams glucose (available at specialty stores for baking supplies)
70 grams peanut butter ( you can use tehina paste, almond butter, cashew butter etc. etc.)
1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste ( or 1 tsp. vanilla extract if you don't have)
15 grams flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
120 grams oats, lightly toasted
90 grams brown sugar
25 grams coconut flakes
25 grams sesame seeds , lightly toasted
45 grams hazelnuts( you can substitute any nut you like or eliminate if you choose)
40 grams raisins (or any dried fruit you like or omit if you don't like)
25 grams sugared orange peel , chopped (again, here you can play with it as you wish)

  • Preheat oven to 170 C ( 320 F)
  • Place glucose ( make sure you wet your hands well to handle the glucose or else it will stick - to your hands and anything else it touches!! not fun!) and butter in a small saucepan and bring to  a boil. Remove from heat and add peanut butter. Mix until smooth.
  • In a large bowl , mix all other ingredients and form a well in the middle. Add the butter mix and stir well to coat all the ingredients.
  • Pour  into pan ( you don't have to grease it, there is enough fat in the mixture. Believe me, it comes right out of the pan with no problem) and press down.
  • Bake 20 minutes ( when it starts bubbling, it's done)
  • Cool and cut into whatever size squares or bars you like. Store in a closed container.