Friday, March 27, 2015

Pre-Pesach Leftovers Recipe

At Pesach time we run down all the food we have in the house. You can keep sealed packets and frozen stuff but I like to use up all the open packets. We start using things up a few weeks before and it's a nice feeling to know that all the storage jars get washed out at least once a year. :~)

What do you think these are?

They are everything I had opened in jars in my food cupboard, fridge and freezer, made into rissoles and a kugel.

2 cups of polenta
1 1/2 cups of red lentils (soaked)
1 cup or orzo (cooked)
1/2 cup of  porridge oats
1 onion chopped
Half a bag of frozen broccoli
1/4 bag frozen spinach
About 100g of butter
Some cooking oil
curry powder
2 eggs
2 cups of milk

Saute the onion in the butter, cook the orzo, cook the broccoli, thaw the spinach and drain, mix it all together.

Poor into a well oiled dish and bake for about an hour until done for the kugel. Here is the kugel. Cut it into squares and serve with salad.

Make the leftover mixture into small patties and fry. Also serve with a salad, with or without ketchup.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Back In The Zone Week 2

Two weeks ago Emma (A Matter of Choice) and I challenged each other to shape up for the summer. You can read Emma's progress here. Last week I did her a big favour by losing 6.4lbs in a week and provoking  her to take up the gauntlet. To be fair, Emma has much less to lose than I do so she doesn't have to lose big amounts every week.

After last week's spectacular start I only lost 2 lbs this week (almost 1kg). However that is 8.4 lbs altogether and only 3 1/2 lbs away from where I was back in October when I lost 14lbs (and regained 12 of them). In 3 1/2 more pounds the weight loss ticker on the side will be accurrate again. (Those of you who can do the maths now know how much weight I need to lose).

I've crossed into one lower stone which feels good. The challenge for this week is to reach the half stone in this scale section. Sorry I can't give actual numbers yet, I'm just too embarrassed to admit where I'm at atm.

I'm not following any special diet or doing any extra exercise, just eating less and specifically not eating anything after a light early supper. This has meant lots of early nights as getting comfortable in bed with a good book is the best deterrent to eating. I've also read that the more rested you are the easier it is to lose weight. Not sure if this is a biological thing whereby a rested body uses up the calories more efficiently or a psychological thing whereby exhaustion has you running to the kitchen for a pick-me-up. Who cares as long as it works.

So that's the lowdown for this week. Not so lowdown but definitely lower down than last week. See you back here next Thursday for the next installment. And good luck to Emma for the coming week too. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Homemade Falafel

Homemade Falafel Burgers
Falafel is a national dish in Israel. It was always a traditional Arab food and still is in Egypt and other Arab countries but there it is more likely to be made from fava beans. In Israel they use chickpeas. Yemenite Jewish immigrants started the tradition of stuffing the falafel into a pitta pocket (or wrapping it in a bigger laffa) with salad humus, pickles and chips. 

This portable snack can be picked up on the streets in Israel the way you pick up a hot dog in NYC or a slice of pizza. It is the Israeli equivalent to the UK's fish and chips and you'll find several falafel shops along every high street here.

I have a big jar of dried chickpeas
The traditional Israeli falafel is dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and ground (processed today) and mixed with onion, garlic, parsley, coriander, cumin, salt & pepper, and a bit of flour to assist the binding. The resulting paste is then rolled into balls and fried. No eggs, this is totally vegan. With the pitta and salad it's a whole vegan meal.

The first time I tried making it I made the mistake of cooking the chickpeas before I made the falafel paste. This is totally unnecessary unless you prefer a more mashed-potato type consistancy to your falafel.

In recent years 'designer' falafel has emerged - curry flavour, green (more green herbs), lemon-garlic, sweet and sour, hot and spicey... You can add anything you like. I like to put some tehina paste in mine because my food processor isn't strong enough to really grind the chickpeas so the tehina gives it a bit more moisture.

In the pan
People don't tend to make their own falafel as it's so easy and cheap to buy. However I was tempted by a big bag of powdered falafel mix in the supermarket (just add water) before I opted for the dried chick peas.

I also opted to make bigger, burger sized, falafel rather than the more commonly sized balls. That way I'm more likely to eat them on a plate with my salad than with the unnecessary pitta. And I find I eat less when they are bigger. I could easily eat 7 - 8 small falafel balls whereas I'll only have two falafel burgers that are the size of about three balls. And you can't just pop one extra into your mouth every time you pass the plate.

You can google falafel recipes if you need exact amounts but I prefer to be creative and add whatever I have to hand.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

All That Glisters...

Eleven years ago I went with three friends to Paris for four days. Four friends from primary school spending four days in Paris to celebrate our 40th birthdays.

We had come from all over - Jerusalem, Los Angeles, London, and Brighton. So on the last day we all split up at different times to go our various ways. I was rushing back to the hotel where I had booked a taxi to take me to the airport. I was rushing and collecting conkers along the way (it was September) when an old tramp stopped me.

He asked for money and started waving a ring about, showing me the hallmark and miming about how heavy the gold was. I was seriously in a hurry by this time, I didn't care about the ring - I wasn't sure what he was going to do with it anyway. I certainly wasn't going to buy it from him. I opened my purse. I had a 50 Euro note for the taxi and 3 Euros in coins. I gave him the 3 Euros - it was a sort of 'Thank you Paris' for showing us a good time as well as a small act of charity but mostly it was just the quickest way to shake him off and move on. The tramp dropped the ring into my hand and left. He didn't seem at all bothered about the fact that I'd only given him 3 Euros for it.

I kept the ring. It was a large man's wedding band. Far too big for even my thumb. About three years later I had an insurance assessor come to value my house contents and I threw the ring in with some other jewellery. The insurance man valued it at 3,000 shekels (500 GBP)!

I never told anyone this story as I'd felt a bit guilty about taking a gold ring from a poor tramp. Now that I knew it was worth 3,000 shekels I was even more uneasy about it. Not so uneasy as to cash it in and give the money to charity though.

A few weeks ago a friend told me about a shop in Jerusalem where they buy gold. So this week, after my mega decluttering efforts, I took the ring downtown to sell it. I was already thinking about next month's mortgage being taken care of as I handed over my heavy band of gold to the jeweller.

He was instantly confused. What colour gold is that? He examined it, hallmark and all, and declared it to be brass. And it's worth nothing.

Now I'm wondering what to do with my big brass ring. Here are the options:

1. Make it into a doorknob. (Too small)
2. A napkin holder for elves. (We don't know any elves.)
3. Wear it on a chain around my neck as a reminder of some deep and meaningful significance that this whole episode has taught me. (Not my style)
4. Hang it on the wall and polish it occasionally. (Isn't that what people do with brass?)
5. Take some thin paper and some charcoal and do a brass rubbing. (Or can you only do that in ancient churches?)

Any ideas?

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Week From The Store Cupboard

Everyone here is winding down their store cupboards before Pesach when we eat special foods and nothing from the previous weeks. We are going away and I would like to not spend any more money this March. So for this week we will be living out of the store cupboard, fridge and freezer. No buying any more food until we leave (when I may have to pick up some things for the journey).

I last went shopping on Monday. We have firm (and 3 overripe) tomatoes, cucumbers, and a small cabbage, 4 avocados, about 12 small potatoes and some onions. 6 oranges and 2 apples. One litre of milk (or slightly less actually), 200g of butter, 2 tubs of tomato puree, 9 eggs, about 300g of cheese, 2 x 250g tubs of cottage cheese, an assortment of frozen vegetables, one block of tofu, 4 frozen corn and tofu shnitzels and a full bag of frozen vegetarian sausages, a big box of cornflakes, 7 pittas in the freezer, 4 jars of pasta sauce, 2 tins of tuna, and unlimited dry groceries (oats, pasta, lentils, sugar, etc...).

Here are my cupcakes. There are chocolate-chips inside.
(I know you know what cupcakes look like.)
I just used 2 eggs and 150g of butter (and flour, sugar, etc) to make 30 mini choc-chip cupcakes. DD will take one of these to school with half a pitta and cheese every day for breakfast which they have at 9.40. She then gets a homemade (by the afternoon program lady) meal of meat or fish with a carb and vegetables for lunch.

I have coffee for breakfast and leftovers for lunch, and I am dieting.

Today (Friday) - It's already 4.30 and for supper tonight we will have tomato and lentil soup (made with the onions, overripe tomatos, tom puree, and lentils), roast potatoes, avocado/tom/cuc salad, and 2 corn shnitzels (DD).

Saturday morning - Me: Coffee, DD: cornflakes, cupcake, apple juice, an apple and an orange (whatever she wants from that selection).

Saturday lunch - Cabbage salad, Tomato/cucumber salad, potato latkes and cottage cheese, cooked green soy beans (endamame?).

Saturday evening - Soup, homemade felafel and salad.

Sunday (a school day) supper - pasta and pasta sauce from the freezer, salad, cottage cheese (DD prefers the cottage cheese to the pasta sauce). Fruit for desert (apple and orange).

Monday supper - stirfry vegetables and tofu with ptitim (orzo), salad, cottage cheese. An orange

Tuesday supper -  Tuna salad in pitta, salad, roast ptotatos (I dice the potatoes into small cubes and they take 20 minutes in a hot oven with a bit of oil and salt). An orange.

Wednesday supper - Soup made from all leftover vegetables, vegetarian sausages, roast potatoes, salad. An orange.

Thursday supper - Leftover soup with any open pasta or orzo, salad, 2 corn shnitzels (DD).

Friday brunch - Vegetarian sausages, roast ptotatoes, salad (DD), Soup and omelet with cheese and onion (Me).

For the journey - Tuna salad in pitta. Cupcakes. I will buy some crisps for DD, and a couple of apples - we'll be in London by dinnertime.

Not very adventurous or exciting - I could make vegetarian shepherd's pie with a lentil 'meat' bottom layer, or tuna potato cakes, pancakes and silan, a potato or vegetable kugel, but there's no point because DD likes nothing better than her salad, some 'chips' and some cottage cheese for supper.

Let's see if I can manage this. I'll let you know on Thursday.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Back In The Zone

Last week I read that my blogging friend, Emma, in Cyprus, was planning to get back on the diet train to shape up for the summer. I suggested we both start the next day - 12/3/15 as the numbers had a nice roundness to them and that we both post our progress each Thursday.

I have way more than Emma to lose but I've had some success in the recent past so I was optimistic. Here's the story so far. In September/October last year I lost a stone in four weeks (14lbs, 6 1/2kg). I then tried Herbalife for a change and because I thought it would keep things going at the same pace. This didn't work for me as I could only manage the maintenence plan which meant I maintained my weight loss but didn't lose any more.

By the time I finished Herbalife maintenence at the beginning of January I had slipped well and truly out of the zone. During the first 10 weeks of this year I put back 12 of the 14 lbs I'd lost last autumn. :~(

But 12/3/15 had a certain magic to it so I started again.

Thursday was a great day - I hardly ate. Friday and Saturday we were away on our friends' kibbutz and I ate a big meal on Friday night and a big meal for Saturday lunch but very little else. And I made up for it by hardly eating on Sunday.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were so-so. The bad news was that on all three days I finished off DD's chips for supper and ate a bag of her cheesey wotsits for snacks (on all three days). On the other hand, that was my supper and I didn't eat anything else in the evenings, which is usually my downfall.

I also had an active week working at the Yedidya Bazaar on both Sunday and Monday morning, going on half a hike on Tuesday, and running around doing errands today. I'm not sure what happened to Wednesday - I seem to have lost it in a fog of grading students' papers. If it's not too much information, this was also the best week in the month for me to lose weight.

When I stood on the scales this morning I'd lost 6.4 lbs (almost half a stone, almost 3kg). I'm half way back to where I'd got to in October. This is the biggest incentive for me to have another good week. I intend to compensate for the fact that it's not the first week and I'm not going hiking, etc... by not eating DD's crisps and cutting out bread. We are also going away at the end of next week so I'm trying not to buy any more food before we go and only use up what we have in the house.

Meet you back here for the next installment next Thursday. Good luck to Emma in Cyprus too.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

So Am I Israeli Really?

Yesterday I learned that I am not really an Israeli and I learned that I am half of Israel and I learned that I am Israeli.

It was election day and a bank holiday. For a country that doesn't have Sundays off (we have Fridays off but the children have morning school and everything else closes at 2pm) it was a chance to have a real family day out. It seems the two preferred activities were shopping or hiking/picnicking.

The formidable cave
I wrote last week about how Israelis have an obsession with hiking. I also wrote about how DD hated her class trip which was inevitably a hike.

A group of friends asked us to join them on a hike and picnic. I said I'd have to consult with DD. I was confident that she'd decline and I'd have my out. I love walking in the English countryside where the paths are smooth and the hills are rolling. Here, however, the paths are rocky and the hills are mountains.

Unfortunately DD was all for it. I couldn't deny her the opportunity for a day out with friends and a picnic so I reluctantly agreed to go. I'd also followed the conversation on whatsapp and had seen them come down from a serious mountain climbing expedition to a more  moderate trek. We are a group of five, overweight, middle aged, women - and yet four of them wanted a seriously challenging hike. This is where the immigrant sticks out from the Israelis.

I admit it was pretty at the top (or half way to the top)
Before we went I had to vote. This election was extrememly emotive. People voting for Bibi on the Right felt they had no choice but to put national security first even thought there are gaping social injustices that need fixing and the Left were promising to address these problems.

People on the Left accused the Right of not caring about the poor, infirm, and downtrodden. They also believe that actually, Bibi's security policies are more dangerous than re-entering peace talks with the PA.

There was the issue of the Right aligning themselves with the ultra-orthodox community who contribute nothing to the country but aren't shy about receiving all the benefits going and then demanding more. There was the issue of Bibi himself who doesn't invite people to love him with his arrogance and wanton spending of public money on his own personal comfort.

And there were all the smaller parties some of whom were inspiring but, if they passed the votes threshhold and gained a seat in the government, would have to compromise on all their principles to be included in the ruling coalition so what is the point of voting for them.

I had seen how fiercely my hiking friends 'knew' who you 'should' vote for and who it was 'wrong' to vote for. I decided to keep my ballot a secret. I, along with 20% of voters, were undecided right up to the last minute. I did not need approval or lectures either way. If there was one 100% correct way to go we wouldn't need elections. I made sure DD didn't see which slip I put into the envelope because she can read now and I didn't want her telling them under interrogation by accident.

We packed our lunch and went round to my friend who was driving. She was irritated with me because I had nixed the idea of a joint picnic. She had asked if we should organise a joint picnic and I answered that I'd prefer not to. I don't enjoy eating outside, sitting on the floor so all we need is a sandwich, an apple, and a bottle of water (and a packet of crisps for DD). Two others said, 'ok,' and that was the end of the discussion. I didn't realize I'd cancelled a big part of the overall experience. And then I got told off for not making more of an effort to enjoy hiking. (Those of you who hate brussel sprouts or heavy metal music - just make more of an effort, eh?).

Deceptively gentle
We, five families, met up at Nes Harim just outside Jerusalem. We set off along a rock strewn path. I'm sure the scenery was lovely but I was too busy concentrating on avoiding the rocks and watching my step to appreciate it. This is what you typically hear on an Israeli hiking trail: "Come on sweetie (to a toddler who can barely walk), climb the mountain with Grandma and Grandpa, isn't this fun?"

Then we climbed up a steep(ish) incline to some caves. During the whole ascent all I could think about was that we would have to come down again. I'm fine climbing up. You can't fall up. I am scared climbing down. The children disappeared inside the caves. I was nervous about getting back down the mountain. I was nervous about my daughter being inside a cave (it was only an overhanging rock really but it was dark and I couldn't see her). I admit there was a pretty view.

We stopped to rest, eat, chat, play. Then I saw there was another steep(ish) ascent. I was fine with this but the route was circular and who knew what climbing down the other side looked like. I decided to go back. The others offered to take DD on with them but she opted to come back with me. All the way down she was trying to help me with a steady flow of supportive commentary:

I'll help you Mummy.
You don't have to be scared of rocks, they can't hurt you.
I'll carry the bag.
Just stop thinking about the rocks, think about a nice cup of coffee instead.
I love you Mummy, you're the best.
We're nearly down now so just get those rocks out of your head!
Phew, we're nearly home, aren't you happy about that?

When we got back to the meeting point we found an ice-cream van (one happy daughter). Then we spent two hours eating our picnic, playing word games and on the playground equipment. It was nice. We're good company. And the relief of not worrying about the climb down made me all giggly and dizzy with happiness.
All I could think about was climbing down again

The others eventually arrived. First came the fittest mothers with all the children. About 20 minutes later the other two mothers huffed and puffed to the end. Red faced and sweaty they exclaimed, "it was so much fun, you were so silly to go back. The descent was much more gentle than the ascent."

The hike was a confirming experience for me. It confirmed that I don't enjoy hiking in Israel and I won't be doing it again.

And what of the elctions? It turns out that more people are more scared of being killed by terrorists than they are of dying of starvation so Bibi won.

Emotions are still running high. Facebook and emails are flying about how depressed and incredulous the Left are that people don't want change. While the Right answer them that they do want change but they first need to be alive to enjoy social equality. And the Left didn't help themselves by basing their whole campaign on the slogan: Anything but Bibi.

I understand both sides. People have different realities. It's a small country but some people are living under immediate physical threat near the borders whereas others are concentrating on social inequalities. Some are looking at the bigger picture of eventual peace in the region while others need to know that they will be protected tomorrow.

My (secret) vote reflects roughly half of Israel. I hate rock-climbing hikes. Je suis Israeli.