Sunday, December 31, 2017

Cheers to a Successful 2018!

This year was, by far the best since the launch of this blog, back in 2010! With almost 100,000 views reached, more than half of them only in the last 12 months, tons of new collaborations with great brands, such as the German drugstore chain Rossmann, and a big range of articles shared, Boiled Words was busier than never before. Although the social media was a bit behind - with Instagram (I am boiledwords there too), Twitter and Facebook slightly behind, with a relatively limited social interaction, the blog took the best of it, with an increasing number of visitors and brands reaching out for collaborations.
But it is still a lot to be done to both my blog appearance and my writing, and I do have lots of things that would love to do it better - such as learning to be a much better cook, with more focus on creating edible complicated recipes and a better knowledge of kitchen tips and daily recipes. There is a foodie book in the making, that I can't wait to finish probably in the first half of January. And many more collaborations with local and international brands bringing to you, my dear readers, the best beauty and fashion tips and inspiration. I am also preparing more posts about good and healthy life tips and how to juggle with your professional and personal life of a single mom, without breaking nuts. Which is not the easiest thing on the planet, regardless what people say!
I am aware that there is a very long way ahead until being one of those famous influencers invited to the red carpet of fashion shows and glamorous events. But I can clearly see the light now, much better than 12 months ago. Besides all the challenges of my everyday life, I am trying as much as my time and health allow to keep the positive energies flowing and share my ideas for a better life, especially when you think that there is no way out of the mess you are living in. Been there, done that, and if I did, you can do it too!
I wish myself and my readers too, a full year of positive encounters, with daily moments of gratitude and the power to see the change you want to be in the world. One step or one blog post at a time, good things are coming to those who hustle! Keep up living your life and don't forget to always put yourself first!

Happy healthy 2018 to all of you!

2 Spinach Recipes to Boost Your Morning Energies

Especially in the last days, due to some overload of work, baby screams and other life assignments I cannot delegate to anyone, I felt like all my energies are just out in the wild, leaving me completely alone to deal with the everyday life nasty challenges. But despite all odds, I keep being optimistic by nature, trying to find the best ways to challenge the lemons life throws on me once in a while.
As usually, being creative and offering myself something good - and a bit sweet too - is my answer to all those problems. Although I do have my second thoughts about spinach, I've tried to do my best to include it at on our menu at least once the month, with an easy recipe that the baby loves too. This time, I was looking for an overload of energy and iron, which the spinach contains in big chunks, can balance my deep fatigue. In combination with other healthy fruits, I created fast two good recipes to boost your mornings with lots of good and healthy energy.
Surprisingly for me, the spinach is blending perfectly, the metallic taste being taken over by the combination with the other ingredients. Instead, it offers a good colourful healthy basis for the smoothie. 

Spinach, banana and pomegranate milk smoothie

2 medium size bananas, cut into chunks
1 cup spinach, clean
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1 cup milk - the same amount of water can be also used
1 full tablespoon of brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Add all the ingredients to the blender. Mix them at medium speed for 2 minutes. Let it rest for a minute. Because the pomegranate do have some small seeds which might be annoying, you may consider using a strain to clear them out. Serve it cold or at the room temperature.

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Serves: 4 full glasses of smoothie

Spinach, raspberry and banana smoothie

2 medium size banana, in chunks
1 full cup of fresh spinach leaves, cleaned
1 cup raspberry, cleaned
2 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cups water

Add all the ingredients in the blender and mix them at medium speed for around 2 minutes. Serve it fresh, or leave it for a couple of minutes in the freezer. It is a light, delicious and very fresh smoothie. Baby fully approves it too!

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Serves: 4 big full glasses of smoothie

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Chop...chop...chop...the Parsley for Tabbouleh

While many of the foodie humans around are spending impressive amounts of time trying to figure out how to do an Instagram-perfect layered cake - for those keen to follow my visual adventures on Insta, I am boiledwords there too - I am terrified about my lack of skills on chopping veggies. Ten years ago, while preparing a barbecue party, I was assigned to finelly cut the tomatoes for an Israeli salad and what I got back was the remark of my friend: 'Is this what you call chopped tomatoes?' And he was right but instead of honing and improving my skills I tried to avoid as much as possible to go again through the same challenge. 
But as there is a beginning for everything, it i also an ending for fears and frustrations and inferiority feelings. Today is the great day when I will do my own tabbouleh salad. Because I want and I can and I'll do it. Chop...chop...chop...
I've slightly adapted the recipe presented in Cooking Class: Middle Eastern. The Australian Women's Weekly, 2003 edition. 

2/3 cup burghul
4 cups fresh parsley, finelly chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint, finelly chopped
3 green shallots, finelly chopped
1 small red onion, finelly chopped
4 medium-sized red tomatoes, finelly chopped, without seeds and the chore
2 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
Cover burghul with the same amount of cold water and let it rest for 15 minutes. Press the burghul for spreading the water uniformly in the bowl. After 15 minutes drain the rest of the water.

The most of the time - around 30 minutes of preparation, in total - was spent chopping. I had in the front of my eyes the beautifully fine tabbouleh bowls served in the restaurant. And kept chopping more and more. The onions were the best, the tomatoes went well, but the mint and parsley were a far cry from any original chopped recipe. Which means that I should keep practising at least once the month for better and more experienced results. Maybe I also need a special knife, as a good knife can really help to achieve the best final results. Chop...chop...chop
The final result was delightful, easy to match with some fried chicken or an autonomous salad for the busy healthy mornings. You can add a drop of yogurt, feta cheese, goat cheese, or just eat it as an individual meal or a side dish for a meaty meal. 
Suitable to be kept in the fridge for at least one hour before eating and to be prepared and eaten in the same day.
Serves: 6

Bon Appétit!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Silky Smooth Dairy Mashed Potatoes

A couple of months ago I tried with satisfactory results a recipe of mashed potatoes, but I knew I can do more. At least, my taste memories told me that there are far better results than my modest outcome. Therefore, I gave it one more try and in one hour time, I prepared some silky smooth dairy mashed potatoes to remember and replicate for a very long time from now on.
It is easy to prepare, although a long list of ingredients is needed.

4 medium-sized potatoes, peeled
1 tablespoon Osem consomme
150 gr. Irish butter
1/2 tablespoon kitchen salt
1 tablespoon za'atar
4 big garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
150 ml. cold milk

Boil the potatoes in a salty water for around 45 minutes. Meanwhile, in a pan, melt the butter, mixed with the osem and za'atar. Mix well. Add the garlic cloves and let them soak in the butter for a couple of minutes. When boiled enough, mash the potatoes until creamy and add it to the pan. Pour the milk and the olive oil and mix well. If necessary, keep mashing the potatoes, until all the lumps are smashed. Keep mixing for at least another 15 minutes. Add more milk, if necessary.

To be served with a side fresh salad of olives, avocado and olive oil, or even some fish. For me, the combination between garlic and olive is the main predominant, addictive taste.
If you want to make it non-dairy, you can replace the butter with vegetable margarine and the milk with soy or even water. What matters is to have enough liquid to soak the potatoes in while in the pan.

Serves: 3
Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking: 15 minutes

Bon Appétit!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

More than a Noodle Soup Bowl

For the sake of SEO and other out-of-the context considerations, I will add the label 'cookbook' to this book. In fact though, it is more than a simple collection of recipes, but an anthopological journey of noodles, their meanings and local translations. 
'An epistemology of the noodle soup' - with a continual presence starting from the Bronze Age on the territory on what is today's China - may include the answer to the question: 'How do we know what counts as noodle soup?'. But happily, this book touches upon the limits of other issues associated with them. For instance, the bowl soup, to whose beauty a couple of paragraphs are dedicated. Obviously, 'not every bowl is intended for noodle soup', but there are more subtle observations as well: 'If you want to see through a clear soup, make sure it's a white bowl, either porcelain or made with a white slip'. The author, which for 2 and half years practiced noodle soups every morning for at least 15 minutes, makes bowls too, so the experience talks here too, it seems. Last but not least, keep in mind that chopsticks are 'crucial in constructing the entire noodle soup aesthetic'. In fact, every stage of preparing the noodles and the bowls as such are part of a larger existential exercise. Did you ever think that 'cutting soba by hand is a meditative practice'? 
'There is no denying that dried pasta is just about the most convenient food product imaginable; it's easy to cook, virtually indestructible and can be kept in your cabinet just for those occasions when you don't have a lot of time to fuss'. However, if you read this book seriously - with side notes and specific adnotations - you will realize that you can do your own noodles, but in fact it is not as easy as it sounds. It requires not only practice, but a rich imagination. Otherwise, how someone can figure out how to prepare a reconstructed - noodle soup - dish of a Reuben sandwich, or Baba ganoush?
As for me, I would rather keep reading this book, couple of minutes the day, for getting the right practices as much as my cooking abilities allows, in terms of matching stocks, types of noodles and, why not, bowls too.

Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

The Ultimate Perfume Recommendations of the Year

With only a couple of days from 2017 left, it is about time of a new perfume recommendation! Valentine's Day is only two months away, therefore, you should get ready, and for sure there will be more additional interesting luxury recommendations in the next weeks. Until then, it is enough time to have a look at your perfume store next door and look for some of my top picks for this season:

Baiser Fou by Cartier

What happens when you combine the scents of raspberry, with orchid, chocolate and vanilla? Sounds crazy and smells even crazier. The good kind of crazy. Baiser Fou - Crazy Kiss - by Cartier was launched this year and promises to be a hit among the lovers of elegant fragrances, wearable all round the day. Regardless if you are about to embark on a plane or hurrying up for a date. It makes you feel special, flirty and full of positive, spring-like energy. 

White Tea, by Elizabeth Arden

On a more accessible note, White Tea by Elizabeth Arden, also a new entry in 2017, is the kind of perfume you get so much used to that you simply integrate it into your daily rituals. It happened to me with Green Tea, also by Elizabeth Arden, and for a very good reason: it achieved a perfect balance of fragrances, which easily goes with any kind of personality. White Tea opens up with a combination of mandarin orange, muscat, white tea and white iris, which smells so refreshing that it doesn't bother if you wear it from early in the morning until late in the evening. 

Chloe, Eau de Parfum
Both the bottle and the perfume send the right message: a return or a forever-stay in the world of spring scents. With an exquisite choice of basic fragrances of Virginia cedar and amber, it offer a bouquet of flowers in a small bottle. I cannot see it worn otherwise but with a satin dress in pastel colours or with various flowerly imprints. A cocktail dress, too? Less likely, as I will rather keep this one for the day, the sunny day - outdoors and in your soul.

Evergreen, by Jil Sander

Jil Sander is one of those German fashion and lifestyle creators I want to feature soon on my blog, for its special style and inspiration. As for now, her Evergreen perfume is perfectly matching her design creations: simple yet rich in possibilities and an impecable good taste. What else can be done when you combine the following aromas: pear, grapefruit, white pepper, jasmin, rose, patschuli, sandal wood and vanilla? Any guess?

Aura, by Thierry Mugler

One of my favorite for this season is Aura, the newest by Thierry Mugler. Maybe the bottle is a bit too kitschy for my tastes, but it smells delish. A minty note which is the result of a the happy meeting between rhubarb leaves, Bourbon vanilla, various wood notes and orange blossom. It might be a bit heavy for the usual day of work, but it goes very well for the occasions when you want to feel good and fully empowered. 

What about you? Any great fragrances recommendations for this season?

Photos from:

Monday, December 25, 2017

Ginger, Honey and Teriyaki Sauce Chicken Thighs

Since 2010, when my blog was launched successfully in the online waters, I posted only 2 meat recipes. For your information, I am not a vegan or vegetarian, although I fancy to eat clean and healthy, and the low frequency of meat recommendations is due to the fact that I only eat kosher meat which if you are outside of Israel, America or England, might be a bit problematic, but not impossible to purchase. Anyway, I am not blessed with fancy restaurants to try various top notch meat recipes - I would sing you Hanukka songs for a piece of beautiful roasted duck in plum sauce or chestnuts right now - therefore cooking meat is always a challenge, but not an impossible thing. I do have more than one choice to try from and in the next years, my experience with meat will get diversified as well.
One of my staple meat meal are the chicken thighs, which I usually cover in various sauces. It is easy to prepare and cook, rich in proteines and matching nicely a salad or a portion of potatoes. 
This recipe is an Asian winter variant, without oil, which I perfectly loved because the tastes of the ingredients are mixing into the meat flavor with exquisite results.
5 chicken thighs
1 tablespoon greeted fresh ginger
3 tablespoons Teriyaki sauce
3 tablespoons honey
Place the defrosten chicken thighs in the pan. Smear on both sides the ingredients in order to cover them properly. For the honey and Teriyaki sauce, I used a brush. Place it in the oven at 250C and cook it for around one hour or until ready.
To be matched with a fresh tomato salad, mashed potatoes or just a classical portion of French fries.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 60 minutes
Serves: 3

Bon Appétit!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Everything You Need to Know about Ramen

I had a lot of ramen bowls in my relatively short life, but never thought seriously about the possibility of preparing my own ramen, from step 0 onwards. After all, I suppose that exactly as creating your pasta requires more than cooking skills but also a deep knowledge of texture and combinations of ingredients, for a non-Asian like me, homemade ramen is only worth a try without a guarantee of originality. 
Ramen at Home by Brian MacDuckston is written for someone like me, keeping up with the 'real thing' recipes, but keeping in mind the Westerners. If you are living outside Japan, at the end of the book there is a long list of online resources that helps to source the right ingredients. 
Very often in Japan, the popular saying goes often that many unpleasant things - like strong winds or cold or rains - are coming from China. But there are still some things that are actually pleasant and delicious too, like ramen, which are in fact Chinese noodles whose widespred consumption started only around 1870, during the period when Japan decided to end up its centuries old isolation. It took another century almost until the ramen style actually entered the food fashion. 
Generally, those noodles are made with wheat flour, water and kansui which is an alkaline salt which binds the ingredients together until the usual chevy texture is produced. 'A good bowl of ramen is something personal. Some people like a lot of big, in-your-face flavors, while others want subtle elegance. Some people want huge amounts of fat; the more oil the better. Some bowls can be spicy, some mild. Some people want their ramen to resemble a pizza tomato sauce with a side of anchovies. Nothing is off the table. Good ramen is good ramen'. 
However, experts like Brian MacDuckston - whose culinary encounters can be read on his blog Ramen Adventures - consider that there are two main flavor components of ramen: the impact - usually created by the dried fish spices - and the after taste - the smooth, umami full taste. Last but not least, the tares - the sauce - is the main player in this story, as it can bring the taste or destroy completely the bowl harmony. Yeah, it seems things are getting more and more complicated...
But after reading the book - once, twice, as often and many times you need it to figure out what all the fuss about ramen is all about - you can easily risk a recipe or two. The directions are relatively simple, the recipes are very well organised and even if you fail at least you can slurp your pathetic ramen while looking at the beautiful photos of the real thing. It also helps to offer information about how to match different ingredients or what the recommended side dishes are - pickled cucumber, mayo, friend gyoza, among others. 
Although I am not sure if I will be brave enough in the near future to make my own ramen, at least I am sure will taste my bowl using a completely different angle of (ramen) critical thinking. This is how good cookbooks operate to the foodie brain, probably.

Rating: 5 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Cookbook Recommendation: Totally Eggplant, by Helene Siegel

I do have a rather tragic personal relationship with eggplants. Although at home we used to have regularly fried eggplant often turned into baba ganoush - the only way our nanny knew to prepare it - I never been a big fan of it therefore my interest to this veggie - actually according to some opinions, it is considered a fruit, following the same school of thought which includes tomato in the same category - was limited to observing the long process of preparing it on the stove. But when once I wanted to have a taste of eggplant in a restaurant, it happened that the product was slightly overdue therefore I caught an allergy that was about to cost my precious life. Since then - it happened over 10 years ago - I only tried to do my own recipe only once and the results were just fine, but nothing to make me want to go early in the morning out of the house and buy eggplants for a challenging food tasting and testing. 
I would love to change this situation though, therefore my search for sources of inspiration convincing me to include it in my regular menu. Totally Eggplant by Helene Siegel is a very good beginning in this respect. It includes very easy recipes, for a meal shared with guests, with a very fast preparation time.
It helps the reader - especially the non-experienced one - that it is 'a vegetable of many possibilities not only grilling'. Instead of frying, it offers the healthier and quicker option of roasting, in combination with many interesting ingredients and spices. The most challenging part of the recipes is that you usually need minimum 5 ingredients, because its original taste is quite diverse and matches a large variety of additions, such as curry, miso, onions and garlic, meat, vinaigrette, fish. For instance, one of the recipes I would love to test is: couscous with eggplant and pine nuts (which includes cumin, parsley, cinnamon and onion). Polenta eggplant lasagne sounds good too. Most of the recipes recommend though the new star of the European farmers' markets: the Japanese eggplant, which can be also produced in Spain, corkscrew shaped, longer and thinnier, milder and less bitter than the original variant we are familiar with. The book also has some short historical snaphots, explaining the origin of that product of the earth considered by the 16th century Ottomans as 'the Lord of the vegetables': probably brought to America by African slaves along with okra, watermelon or black eye peas.
Totally Eggplant is an enjoyable read, with a lot of tasty inspiration. Can't wait to get in the right mood to try some recipes, hopefully soon. 

Arabic Semolina Cake

I wanted to try to prepare a semolina cake for a long time and I also had in mind some directions, but I was not sure about the right combinations and portioning of ingredients. After reading the very resourceful and inspiring Veggiestan by Sally Buther (more recipes to come in the next posts), I've found the easiest recipe to try for the first time. It has complex ingredients and you have to love sweet Middle Eastern sweets, but if you do, it guarantees a perfect tasty satisfaction. As usual, I slightly adapted the recipe, but in this case, I am not so sure I did the right thing, for reasons I will explain later, while developing the recipe.

The cake is made of the basic batter and the syrup. Before starting the preparation (first the syrup, the cake after), I warmed the oven at 250C.


The Syrup
175 ml. warm water
250 gr. brown sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon orange blossom water. If you use rose water, the recommendation is of 2 teaspoons

The Cake
500 gr. semolina
175 gr. unsalted butter
1 teaspoon baking powder
150 gr. dessicated coconut 
200 gr. butter milk or plain yogurt
75 ml. orange blossom
50 gr. fine crumbs of pistachio

The Syrup
In a pan, add the ingredients and mix until boils and turns syrupy. Put it aside.

The Cake

Melt the butter in a pan, until turns watery. Add the ingredients and mix well. If necessary, add a bit of warm water until it tourns into a dough. I used a round pan, but the square one suits better the original recipe, as you can cut it into squares when ready. In the pan you pour the dough and spread it, by hand if necessary, until the entire pan is covered. Bake it for around 15 minutes at 250C.
What I made different compared to the original recipe was to add the syrup when the cake is half-baked, and not at the end. Which means that some of the syrup is absorbed and the cake is dry, which is a matter of taste, but I personally loved it this way although one day would love to do the other way. 
Add the pistachio crumbs.
To be served with a fresh cold lemonade or a strong Turkish coffee. Because you deserve it!

Bon Appétit!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Brushetta Recipe - Easy Like Sunday Morning

Good late morning everyone! Fancy something special for your brunch today? I made today my first bruschetta and very happy about it! If you want to have and eat it too, here is the easiest tastiest recipe around the world wide web:
2 slices of black bread
3 medium sized tomatoes
3 garlic cloves finelly minced - if you are supposed to have a lot of busy meetings for the rest of the day, you might skip this. I never do it, anyway
1 bunch of fresh parsley
2 tablespoons dried tarragon
2 tablespoons olive oil
A pinch of sea salt, on taste
Grate two tomatoes. Add and mix well the ingredients. Spread the juice on top. Slice the tomato and add to the bread.
To be eaten with some slices of fresh Fetta cheese. Goat cheese goes perfectly well too. Or some fried eggs. It is important to take it easy, enjoy the taste and think about the good things coming your way.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Serves: 2

Bon Appétit!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Three Basic Chanukah Recipes

Is that time of the year when the oil is frying hot, the candles for the 8 nights are ready and the presents for children are wrapped and ready to be given. And so are the usual Chanukah stories told around the burning candles. First time after the birth of the baby, I was finally able to be full time in the kitchen, trying various classical recipes, to whom I gave, as usual, some special tasty flavor.
As for now, I recommend three easy recipes that can be prepared in less than one hour, that will bring you the full (oily) taste of Chanukah. A great company for the Hanukkah lights.

For all recipes, be ready to have some extra reserves of cooking oil - canola and sunflower are both fine - as well as special kitchen paper towels for absorbing the extra oil from the latkes and the sufganiyot. Also, keeping a baby carrot in the frying pan would prevent the burning of rests to get together.

Cheesy potato latkes

4 medium size potatoes - grated
100 gr. Grana Padana grated cheese
2 medium size eggs, beatem
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup margarine
2 tablespoon white flour
250 ml. or more cooking oil

Heat the oil at 250C, at least 10 minutes before starting the frying. Add each of the ingredients, one by one, while mixing slowly until a compact mix is created. Usually, I take out the extra liquid from the potatoes, but this time it was not in excess therefore it get along well with the other ingredients. Made by hand small balls of latkes and drop in the oil. I fried only 3 latkes at a time, for allowing enough space and energy consumption for frying well. Be sure that you turn them from one side to the other every 3 minutes or so. 
To be served together with cold sour cream.

Serves: 19
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

Apple Latkes
This recipe I instantly fell in love with. It is the sweet equivalent of the potato latkes and goes along very well as a dessert to finish the Hanukkah table or as a morning nosh. 

4 red medium size potatoes, grated. I prefered to not peel them, as it gives a special aroma, which is a matter of choice.
2/3 cup white flour
1/4 brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
2 medium size eggs, beaten
250 ml. or more cooking oil

Heat the oil at 250C at least 10 minutes before starting the frying. Mix well the ingredients, by adding them one by one until a compact paste is created. You can eventually take the liquid from the apples out, otherwise it is too watery. Create small croquettes by hand and put them in the frying oil. Turn from one side to the other as often as necessary for frying properly on both sides. 

Serves: 19
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Sufganiyot (doughnuts)

For me, this is the hardest part, because it has to do with dough, and my relationship with dough is rather problematic. There may be cases when everything goes perfectly smoothly and me and the dough, we are a match made in heaven, with a perfect communication and outstanding results. But it can be also that although I am doing everything perfectly right, I still fail when it comes to the final results.
In this case, it was first time in a long time since I made some relatively complicated dough, and the results were just fine. Meaning, the dough raised and the sufganiyot fried well. My only problem was that I cut too bigger balls of dough, therefore, I needed to cover them in oil, in order to be sure that everything is deeply fried, in the heart of the sufganiya.
1/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1/3 cup oil for the dough, and another 250 ml. or more cooking oil for the frying
3 medium size eggs
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tablespoon vanilla sugar
1/4 tablespoon sea salt
4 cups and more of white flour
You may need some confectionary sugar for decorations

Add the yeast to the water and wait until bubbling. Add one by one: the eggs, the sugar, the vanilla sugar, the oil, the salt and the flour. Mix all well and knit for a little bit. Leave the dough in the fridge over night, or at least for 3 hours. Knit the dough a couple of time more, to be sure that everything mixes well. With the top of a cup, separate the dough in small balls. 
Heat the oil at least 15 minutes before starting the frying. Add the balls, 2 or 3 at a time. And turn on both sides as often as possible. It might be that the doughnut looks very burned on outside - especially after a couple of batches - but the inside is in fact still raw. You need to add more oil and wait more. After that, this holiday is - when it comes to food - everything about fried oil, isn't it?

Serves: 17
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

All being said - and eaten - I might be back with some interesting Chanukah recipes soon, but at least I've got you the basics covered. 
Wishing all my Jewish readers a meaninful Chag Chanukah Sameah!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Baked Quinces, East European Style

One of the very few meals that I associate with childhood are quinces. Baked quinces, to be more specific. Every autumn, someone from my family, getting smaller and smaller with each year, used to prepare a tasty, spice-infused meal based on quinces. Very hard fruits with a very complicated texture and taste - not so sour but not sweet either - baked in an aromated sauce whose preparation was filling the air with various smells and aromas. Not the fruits I might love, but nevertheless the fruits reminding me of childhood. For years I tried to find them back and it is not that easy in Berlin, unless you are lucky to have a Russian or a Turkish store near by. Three years ago, I've found some, took them in my hands and smell them, with the same dedication as some might smell and look at the esrog on Sukkot. Actually, in the old country, the custom was to have them in the house near this beautiful autumn Jewish holiday. Only this year I've decided with all my mind and body to search for a simple recipe which might suit my visual and olfactive memories.
The escape came from the acclaimed book by Olia Hercules, Mamushka featuring Ukrainian and East European cuisine. (Actually, a couple of days ago, I've discover a similar recipe in a cooking book dedicated to the Middle East so maybe there is more history to this recipe that I thought). I was personally a bit disappointed as I was expecting some more childhood recipes, but maybe it is because the Ukrainian-, Russian speaking focus. However, my beloved baked quinces were there, waiting for me to prepare. 
As usual, my recipe is an adaptation, as ingredients as juniper berries - it might sound strange to you, as it did to me initially, but if you ever tasted gin, you need to know that those small purple berries do give to that drink most of the taste - were not easy to find, and replaced cinnamon stick with powder. I used a bourbon vanilla bean which was not the best choice in terms of taste. For the star anise I preferred the powder. The ingredients of the syrup are very important as they should smoothly come along with the taste of the quince, which, as I mentioned before, is one of a kind.
As a first time try, I was happy with the result, but I am more than sure that it can be done much better. 
Before you start, be sure that you have around 3 hours available for the entire preparation and baking process. 

3 medium sized quinces, almost 750 gr.
100 gr. brown sugar - instead of the white recommended in the original recipe
2 tablespoon cinnamon powder
1 1/2 tablespoon star anise
1 bourbon vanilla bean
around 500 ml. water

Before starting, warm the oven at around 160C. 
For the syrup, in a pan, add the sugar, 350 ml. water, spices and put to boil, while stirring slowly for around 15 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved.
Meanwhile, wash and cut the quinces into slices. Be sure you clean the core for the seeds, and the ends. You may need a very strong and sharp knife, as the raw quince has a hard texture.
Add the quinces into the syrup pan and boil it covered for around one hour in the oven at 250C. I added around 150 ml. water to be sure that the quinces are covered in syrup. Every 15 minutes I moved the quinces on sides to be sure that all parts are well covered. After one hour, take the cover and keep boiling it, with the 15 minutes checking. 
Ready to be served warm. 
My favorite part about it: how the aromated spices invaded the air and perfumed the house for at least half of the day.  

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: around 3 hours
Serves: 6

Bon Appétit!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

My First Dry Shampoo Experience

I am writing this article with one hand, while with the other I am strongly massaging the roots of my hair. It is the newest hair routine in the morning: washing my hair on the go, without water, perfect when I am - as usual - out of time and need to look decently good. Actually, my need for winning time while juggling with my very busy schedule pushed me in the first place to finally try a dry shampoo, a product around for a couple of years already.
Out of the many products on the market, I wanted to start with the best and Aussie comes always first when I think about hair care. I purchased my product from the German Rossmann drugstore chain for a quite accessible price - under 5 Eur.. It looks very American in terms of branding, with big letters spread over the 180 ml. tube, and a lot of instructions in Italian, German and French. It has the usual smell of the Aussia products, given by the use of Australian Balm Mint, the main ingredient of their hair care lines. 
What I really liked about this shampoo, before the opportunity of a fast use and was on the go, was that it does not leave any white powder traces so you can use even during a break between sophisticated business meetings without any risk to damage your outfit. The head massage might be a good thing, after all, not only for cleaning your hair, but also for relaxing and putting your blood into motion. In addition, you got also a great volume, which you rarely achieve easily just after washing.
However, there were also some downsides for me. I experienced every time a head rash which is not very pleasant, most probably an allergic reaction. Also, although it might fix your hair hygiene for at least a couple of hours, you still need to use water. I tried to use again only the dry shampoo after a couple of days and I had to switch to water at the end of the day, because the rash plus the hair look were a bad match.
Given my experiences until now, I will probably keep a dry shampoo in my bag just in case for hair emergencies or for the busy travel schedule, but for the regular hair care, the usual shampoo and water are still the one and only solution.   

Friday, December 8, 2017

Delicious and Perfectly Easy Halwa Truffles

I love sometimes to offer myself the treat of a fully chocolate truffle, but I never dared to prepare my own batch. Maybe because the ones I can purchase from the store looks so perfectly round in their golden box that I could only dream about producing something at least half as awesome. But I believe in the changing power of books that through words therefore, after reading the Rosewasser&Granatapfel by Suzanne Zeidy I decided that after all, it might not be so difficult to create my own recipe. I was so happy with the results that I dared to bring my truffles as my foodie contribution to a party.
200 gr. Halwa from Koska - it is a Turkish company which do have a lot of kosher certified products
7 tablespoons Tehina spread - I bought mine from the BIO Company store

Mix and knead well the tehina with the halwa, including by hand, until it looks like a dough. It can be done in the mixer as well, probably but I haven't tried it myself. By repeatedly kneading the dough I was able to avoid any additional lumps that might make the further preparation difficult. I left the content in the fridge for around 30 minutes.

Additionally, you need some ingredients for the decorations. The original recipe recommends: cocoa, white sesame and pistachio. I personally made my own combination, with: cocoa, desiccated coconut and black sesame. For each ingredient, I used 7 tablespoons.
Rolling the little pieces of truffle was a very soothing and relaxing experience. It is very important to take your time first for rolling the little balls as round as possible, second as you are spreading the decorations all over the surface of the truffle. I was partially happy with my results, but I bet the next time I will be a better pupil, more patient and more details focused.
The preparation time is around 40 minutes - minus those when the halwa-tehina dough is in the fridge.
Serves: 30-35 truffle lovers
Recommendation: Try to keep them as much as possible in the fridge prior to serving. Serve them with some black coffee - sugarless, as the truffles do have enough natural sugar - or with a glass of mint - also sugarless - tea.

Bon Appétit!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Cornbread Muffins instead of Bread

When I am out of bread in the house, I don't worry, as I always have in my pantry enough ingredients to create fast savory substitutes which might be much better than any other baking product I can find on the market. 
I've tried the zucchini and savory muffins recently, but this time I wanted to learn better how to use the cornflour which is an ingredient I hardly use more than once the year, if ever. 
The following improvised recipe was easy to prepare and bake and delicious enough to disappear in less than half a day. 

250 gr. cornflour
2 cups white flour
8 gr. baking powder
2 medium eggs
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
500 gr. butter milk
1 tablespoon Osem consomme
150 gr. black sesame for decoration

Warm the oven at 250C, at least 15 minutes before you are ready. In a muffin iron, add 12 colourful muffin sheets.
Mix the ingredients well, until you have a compact paste. Pour it into the muffin papers. In the end, spread the black sesame seeds.
Bake it in the oven for 45 minutes.

I served it with yellow cheese, ricotta and spicy black olives. It is a perfect afternoon and breakfast snack, or some take away travel goodies.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 45 minutes
Serves: 12

Bon Appétit!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Cardamom Ginger Muffins for a Romantic Winter Afternoon

I love my coffee with cardamom and I rarely can breath more than one hour in the house without being sure I have in my pantry za'atar, cinnamon, pepper, vanilla and the list is longer the more I think about my favorite spices. But I rarely dare to mix my spices for creating unique recipes as I am still very unsure about the right taste match. 
However, I am becoming bolder and bolder, therefore new ideas and recipes are created spontaneously.
When it comes to preparing fast a delicious dessert, muffins is the first choice. So, why not doing some spices mix-up for the change. The following recipe suits best the long winter afternoons, with its spicey texture and natural sweetness, accompanied by a chai latte or an aromated tea. It is very easy to make, affordable in terms of ingredients and delicious too.

200 gr. white flour
8 g. baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
150 gr. brown sugar
1 tablespoon cardamom
2 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
100 ml. cooking oil
150 ml. cold orange natural juice/you can make it yourself, therefore you need 3 medium sized oranges

Heat the oven at 250C, at least 15 minute before baking.
Add the ingredients, one by one and mix well until a compact paste is created. The issue with the spices is that you want them well spread and a balanced taste for your final result, therefore, you need to give a little bit of additional effort when mixing.
Pour the final result in the muffin papers and leave it in the oven - at 250C - for around 45 minutes. 

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 45 minutes
Serves: 12

Bon Appétit!

With Klicksafe against Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is affecting an increasing number of teens, in Europe and abroad, equally girls and boys. The victims do have ages between 10 and 16, the most dangerous time for internalizing pain and abuses of all kinds. Some of the effects are either that the victim is becoming an aggressor him or herself or that anti-social dramas and serious depressions are developping. Often, the dramas are consumed in silence, no parent or close friend or relative being able to notice the suffering, unfortunately in many cases until it is way too late. 
Besides a close and active relationship with your children, it is possible to fight against cyberbullying using the same weapons used by aggressors - the World Wide Web. At the level of the European Union a budget was created through Youth Initiative supporting projects aimed to counter this dangerous phenomenon. Thus, the Klicksafe was created as a platform offering support and assistance to the cyberbullying victims. 
Part of it, an app was created - free, available for both Android and Apple - in English, French, German and Luxembourgish - aimed to offer first help for victims of cyberbullying. The two main characters, Tom and Emma, are helping the users to cope with various situations and offer a big variety of tutorials about how to protect yourself from the harm and react properly to online bullying. A noteworthy initiatives which might save young people from the torments of suffering in silence. It might save lives too.