Summer, Summer, Wherefore Art Thou Summer?

11.5 days.

276 hours.

16,560 minutes.

This is how long I have until school is out for the 2014-15 year.

It can not come soon enough.

This year, for the first time since I started in this position, I am not buried in assessments.  Instead, I am managing the mental health needs for (it seems like) all the students, staff and people in my life.  I am pretty tapped out.

Over the weekends, the kids and I sit and make our summer lists- what we want to do, where we want to go, who we want to see.  Our big goal for this summer is to visit all of the playgrounds in our town that have “water features”- sometimes it’s a splash pad, other times a big fountain- and then go back to our favorites as often as possible.

To get myself ready, I’m moving into my summer cooking mode which always means increasing the fruit and vegetable intake and reducing the meat.  Something about the heat makes me prefer the crisp, cool veggies and acidic, sweet flavors.

Some of my summer favorites:

My HipstaPrint 931118145_1Sweet, red, ripe strawberries.  We eat so many of these in the summer.  I keep thinking I should plant strawberry bushes so that we can just go out the yard and pick them.  Someday….

My HipstaPrint 931118145_6Peach, fresh mozzarella and basil salad, dressed with a bit of olive oil and salt.  So very unexpectedly good.  The creamy mozzarella is offset by the sweet, tangy peaches.

My HipstaPrint 931118145_7Roasted broccoli with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.  Crisp, crunchy and salty.

My HipstaPrint 931118145_4A pedestrian version of ratatouille.  Chopped onion sautéed until soft in some olive oil.  Sliced zucchini, summer squash and red peppers mixed in with a can of diced tomatoes, a few spoonfuls of tomato paste and some crushed garlic.  Seasoned with salt and fresh basil.  Cooked until it’s all tender and the flavors have melded together.  So good over white rice or couscous.  Summer in a bowl.

My HipstaPrint 931118145Shredded brussels sprouts sautéed with bacon, red pepper and finished with a little bit of balsamic vinegar.  So delicious.

My HipstaPrint 931118145_3My husband’s favorite summer meal- corn cut off the cob and sautéed with butter, sautéed brussels sprouts and steak.

And of course the ever present ICE CREAM.  ALL THE ICE CREAM.

Everyone please cross your fingers for me as we countdown the days…..

 

 

 

 

South African Sweet

When I lived in Israel, I met people from all over the world. Some of my favorites were from South Africa. Something about the accent in general and then the specific people I met. Through the wonders of Facebook, I have managed to stay in touch with many of them and I hope that someday I can actually go to South Africa to visit. I think it would be fun to travel around to see each of them and the country. Until then, I satisfy myself by looking at their photos on facebook- of the places, the people and the food. Oh, the food. Recently something called “milktart” came up on my newsfeed.

Do you know what this is? I did not. But I was intrigued. I did a little google research and found a number of recipes- some more complicated than others. I improvised with one fairly simple one and what I ended up with was a sweet dessert unlike anything else I’ve ever had. I made it on a Thursday evening. We cut into it on Friday and it was gone by Saturday night. You must make this. It is so good. Creamy, smooth, sweet and a touch savory/spicy from the cinnamon on top.

If this is what the food is like, I should book my ticket now.

South African Milktart
(as improvised based on a number of recipes by me, with apologies to the entire country of South Africa)
Ingredients
1 can of condensed milk (sweetened)
2 cans (use the empty can of condensed milk) milk (I used 2% but I’m sure whole would taste even better)
1 can (use the empty can of condensed milk) hot water
2 Tablespoons of butter
4 eggs
6 Tablespoons corn starch
pinch of salt
1 package of Biscoff cookies (you could probably use vanilla wafers or oreos or graham crackers too)
2-4 Tablespoons melted butter

Cinnamon for sprinkling over top

Directions

Put the cookies into a food processor or smush them up with a hammer.  Add two tablespoons of the melted butter and mix.  Put some into your hand and squeeze.  If it stays together, press it into a pie or cake pan.  If it doesn’t, add a bit more butter. Once all of the cookie crumb/butter mixture is pressed into the pan, put the pan into the fridge while you do the rest.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the condensed milk, regular milk, water and butter. Add the eggs and cornstarch, whisk all together. I was a bit concerned about the eggs scrambling but they didn’t. Cook over medium to high heat until it thickens. Which it will do.  Be sure to whisk well and to scrape up the bottom and sides so that there are no lumps.
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Pour it into the prepared crust.  Sprinkle the cinnamon over the top and then put in the fridge to set.  We left ours overnight but I did sneak a small taste before then- it was still slightly warm and it was delicious that way.

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Seriously, it was so good.  The kids loved it, the husband loved it, I loved it.  I have the ingredients to make another sitting in my pantry but…  I’m afraid if I do, I’ll hide it in my basement fridge and eat the whole thing myself.  Yum.

On an other note, I have about three posts started and in various stages of completion.  Work is slowing down now so perhaps I’ll eventually get to them….

I’m So Sorry

You guys.

Forgive me for what I am about to share with you.

Really.

You know that Trader Joe’s sells something called cookie butter, right?  It’s delicious and I only discovered it recently.  I prefer to eat it with a spoon once in a while.  I can’t imagine eating it any other way.  As good as it is, I was able to portion it out.  It wasn’t an obsession.

But this.  Oh no.

The Kitchen Paper posted a recipe for Oreo Cookie Butter.  Oh boy.  You guys.  I can’t even.

It’s so simple and yet so, so good.  It’s so dangerou to have becuase, honestly, I just made it and have already had three spoonfuls.  I mean, I JUST made it.  This is bad.  Bad, bad, bad.

Oreo Cookie Butter (Posted by The Kitchen Paper)

Ingredients

1 package oreo cookies (I actually used Wegman’s house brand.  Same thing, really)

1/4 cup coconut oil

Directions

Put the cookies and oil into the food processor.

My HipstaPrint 983616577_2Turn it on.  Let it run for about 3 minutes.  Scrape the sides and bottom.

My HipstaPrint 983616577Let it run for another 3-5 minutes.  I actually let it go longer because I ran upstairs to help with a bathroom issue, only to find that my son had locked himself out of his bedroom which required me to remove his doorknob… anyway, I let it blend a long time.

My HipstaPrint 983616577_4It will be warm from being chopped/blended for so long.  This will make it a good consistency for pouring into the jar you’re going to store it in.

My HipstaPrint 983616577_3After it cools, it will be more the consistency of peanut butter.  You could, I suppose, spread this on bread or graham crackers or something.  You could eat it with ice cream.  Or maybe dip fruit in it?  I prefer to eat it with a spoon.

My HipstaPrint 983616577_1Oh my.  So good.  Again, so sorry for showing this to you.  Best to just click to a new page and move past it.  Really.

 

 

 

 

Purim 2015

Yeah.
It’s been a long time, no?
I have good reasons but you’ve heard them all before (work, kids, life, work, sleep, friends, work, kids and oh, did I mention not enough time in the day ever?!) and they are just, well, they are just what they are. So. I’m here now.

And it’s Purim. A favorite holiday, made even better this year by my use of technology. As I sit here, buried in snow in Boston, my family and dear friends in Israel are sending me photographs of their gorgeous children, dressed in costume, playing outside on the green grass in the warm sun. Sunshine. Grass. Costumes. I am jealous.

So, we made Hamantaschen. I used the same recipe I used here but this time I took photos.

Hamanaschen via Kveller.com

Ingredients

2/3 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2-3 cups of flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

dash of salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Cream the butter and sugar.  I used the food processor because, as you may recall, I am lazy.

My HipstaPrint 983616577_9Add the egg and vanilla and give it a whir.  Add the baking soda and flour and mix until it becomes a big ball.  My HipstaPrint 983616577_4Mine was super crumbly.  I should have added a bit of water here but didn’t.  Instead I sort of smushed it all together, wrapped it up and threw it in the fridge for a few hours.

My HipstaPrint 983616577_13When I took it out I realized that it was way too dry to be rolled out.  So I put it into my mixer and added a bit of water (maybe a spoonful or so) and mixed it up.  Made it more pliable and I was able to roll it out.

My HipstaPrint 983616577_12We used a small round cookie cutter.  My plan was to make small cookies- for the more commonly seen larger size, use a larger cookie cutter.

My HipstaPrint 983616577_3I rolled the dough to about 1/4 to an 1/8 of an inch thick and the kids helped me to cut out the circles.

IMG_3098 IMG_3096Now for filling.  Poppy seed  is my favorite and maybe one of these years I’ll make it.  We did the shortcut strawberry jam, apricot jam and chocolate since that’s what we had.  I melted the chocolate chips in the microwave before using them as past experience says that they won’t melt in the cookie itself.

My HipstaPrint 983616577To fill and shape, place a bit of the filing in the middle- maybe a half to a full teaspoon- in the center of the circle.  My HipstaPrint 983616577Wet a finger and trace the outside of the circle so that the sides will stick to themselves.  This was my son’s favorite part.  Sadly, I have zero photos of him helping me but he was so excited to do it.

Fold one edge over.

My HipstaPrint 983616577_7Fold the next edge, overlapping the first.

My HipstaPrint 983616577_15Fold the final edge over the first two, creating a triangle.

My HipstaPrint 983616577_11Place on a greased cookie sheet. Repeat until you’re out of dough.

My HipstaPrint 983616577_4Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until they are golden brown.  I actually like mine a bit underdone so tend to pull them on the early side.

My HipstaPrint 983616577_3Thanks for hanging in with me.  I owe my son a birthday letter since he’s almost 3 years and one month already!  Here’s his cake (it didn’t come out quite as well as I’d hoped, somewhat lopsided):

My HipstaPrint 983616577_1 My HipstaPrint 983616577It’s my daughter’s birthday next and tomorrow is their joint party at our house with friends.  I’ll be making cakes well into tonight….  Oh boy.  Who needs sleep?!

 

Catching Up

So it’s been more than a month since I last posted. Obviously I’ve been cooking but I haven’t really been cooking anything new or of note. True to my history, I’ve taken lots of photos and have often forgotten to photograph the final product. But in the interest of catching up, I’m going to throw them all up here and see what happens.

Happy holidays to you and yours! May these next few weeks bring you lots of love, laughter, joy and good food!

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Seasonal cupcakes from Whole Foods. The kids begged me and I couldn’t resist!

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Beginnings of the ever-present in the fall/winter chicken soup.

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My new favorite pasta to put into the chicken soup.

My HipstaPrint 823794753_16The beginnings of a Thanksgiving sandwich.

My HipstaPrint 823794753_27 Adding the cranberry sauce. My HipstaPrint 823794753_8and the warm, stove-top, of course, stuffing.

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One of our favorite go-to meals, thanks to a good friend and Cooking Light- Rosti with baked eggs. 

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What I may or may not have been having for dinner these days.

 

 

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What my kitchen looks like at the end of the night.

 

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I find dinosaurs in the strangest places!

 

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We have started our holiday season around here.

 

My HipstaPrint 823794753_30 My HipstaPrint 823794753_11 My HipstaPrint 823794753_17Which means brisket

My HipstaPrint 823794753_5and, of course, latkes.

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This year, we also had Chanukah pasta, thanks to another good friend.

 

 

My HipstaPrint 823794753_28 My HipstaPrint 823794753_9So, there you go. The last few weeks in pictures.  I am off on vacation for the next two weeks or so and may attempt a few fun food projects.  If so, stay tuned.  If not, well, stay tuned anyway.

Halloween Dinner 2015

Admittedly, not my best work but it was fun, nonetheless.

IMG_0184The easiest?  Minibagels with sliced cheese.  Melted under the broiler and then a plastic spider on top for creepy effect.  My daughter was almost insane with anticipation- I asked her to hand me four spiders and then she asked, incessantly, “What are the spiders for, Mumma?”  She was delirious with joy when I showed her the bagels.

IMG_0186Next easiest were the pumpkin eggs.  Hardboil your eggs and devil the filling.  Click here for my version.   Just add the paprika directly to the filling to make it more orange.  IMG_0170

Then fill the egg whites using a pastry bag or a ziplock with the tip cut off.

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I sort of smoothed the filling with my fingers and then used a pumpkin carving tool (the one that comes in the little book with the patterns?) to make the pumpkin lines.

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I then made some thin slices in a peapod for the stem.  You could probably use anything green- scallion, broccoli stem, etc.- for this.

IMG_0175There you have it!  Pumpkin eggs.

IMG_0174Finally, I made monsters with brains.  I’ve been telling the kids for a week that we were going to have brains for dinner and they would always giggle and add, slightly nervously, “But it’s really spaghetti!”

So, make your spaghetti.  If you 1) have tomato sauce and 2) have children that will eat tomato sauce, it would probably look better to have sauced spaghetti for the brains- more “real.”  Neither 1 nor 2 were true for me so plain brains for us it was.

As my kids are unpredictable eaters, I used tiny peppers.  First I sliced a bit off the bottom to make them flat and then cut off the top with the stem.

IMG_0168IMG_0169I used cheese to make the eyes and mouth.  I tried cutting out circles with a straw but was too impatient for that.  So I moved on to an old apple core-er.

IMG_0176 Then it was a matter of getting the cheese to stick to the pepper.  Frustration abounded while I experimented and was successful when I ended up using a toothpick and a dab of miso paste to get the cheese to stick. IMG_0177

For the eyeballs I used a toothpick and a bit of chocolate syrup.

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Stuff the spaghetti (I coated mine in butter and cheese in a desperate attempt to get my kids not to eat it plain) inside the peppers and there you go.

IMG_0185The kids loved it, ate very little of it and went out shortly after for trick or treating.  As we are not a candy family, the novelty has worn off and the candy that is left (we didn’t get much) is promptly being eaten by my husband and myself.  As it should be.

Happy Halloween!

Halloween Approaches….

….and I’m not ready, food-wise!  I always make fun stuff for Halloween but, I gotta tell you, (in what is a recurring theme for this blog) I just don’t have time these days!  I’m cooking, obviously, since we have to eat but nothing very exciting.  No good photos to share with you, no creative recipes, no fun food.  It’s sad but true:  we are in a rut.  A food rut.  A food blogging rut.

I can offer you an example of the boringness that we’re consuming.

Last night it was chicken, potatoes, red peppers (for the kids) and broccoli.  It was good, don’t get me wrong, but just not…. blogworthy.

IMG_0164 IMG_0165 IMG_0166We made pumpkin bread this week but, of course, I don’t have a finished photo.

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They thought it looked like there were “three hands, muma!”

IMG_0162 IMG_0161 IMG_0163It was delicious.

I made a huge pot of the Pioneer Woman’s Chicken and Noodles and I’ve been eating that for the last few days.  I don’t know what to say- I’ve lost some of my cooking joy.  I’m not sure how to get it back but I am certain that it will return.  Please stick with me until it does…