Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Microfibre opaque tights by Atmosphere

The summer is not a very easy choice if you are usually wearing tights all round the year. Although the weather in Germany does not give too many reasons to worry about too many hot days, the sun is shining this year more than in the previous time, so I need to find out the proper outfits for a long summer day.
My relief come the last week when I found at my local Primark an offer of 3 pairs of tights from Atmosphere with only 4 Euro. Cheaper does not mean always good quality, but in this case, after one week of testing them, I am more than happy with my choice. Besides the price, I was determined to make the purchase by the following announcement: 'Keeps you warm when its cool and cool when its warm'. As hopefully the weather was only warm in the last days, with a very hot day last week, I noticed that I simply did not feel a bothering difference, despite the 40 denier. The composition is 95% nylon and 5% elastane. 
They also look quite fine, the opaque black with a bit of shining fits every outfit any time of the day. 
Although I wear them every day without taking care too much, my tights looks quite resistant and not a single thread left me since. 
The tights should be hand washed and dried separately. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

My variant of chickpea avocado salad with lemon and dill, by Tori Avey

When I am out of time and inspiration, the recipes of Tori Avey are my the main source of comfort. I love their simplicity, but also some background/historical stories that she usually includes, creating the perfect experience of the recipe. As I do love avocado a lot, and also chickpeas, ingredients that are rarely missing from my kitchen, I did not think twice and proceeded to the immediate preparation of this recipe that popped up into my social media flux a couple of weeks ago.
Except the boiling and preparation time for the chickpeas - that may last longer, even 1 day, depending of what kind of chickpeas do you use - everything is relatively simple and can be done within minutes. Instead of the dill in the original recipe, I used same water crest, a very fresh seasonal choice. It serves 2. 

1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
200 gr. of water crest
1 ripe avocado
150 gr. of chickpeas
1 tablespoon za'atar
1/2 teaspoon salt
If you like it spicy, why not use a teaspoon of Cayenne pepper?

In the mixer bowl, I added the olive oil, lemon juice, avocado sliced into small parts, the za'atar and the chickpea, plus salt. I first mixed them with a wooden spoon, and thereafter melted up at moderate speed for maximum 3 minutes. 
I spread the result on slices of potato black bread.
With a lemonade or a cold tea, it is a perfect morning or evening treat, especially during the summer. 

Bon Appétit!

Brown rice noodles with sour-sweet sauce

When the sun is so hot, I have a lot of writing inspiration and less fun for cooking. There are always some interesting recipes calling my name, and I promise to try at least once little Shavuot cake before the holiday. Till then, I very fast recipe using some unusual noodles I discovered at my Asian shop. The package of brown noodles is made up of small little pockets, that need to be kept in boiled water for maximum 5 minutes.
I tried to taste them without sauces or other veggie combinations, but the result was completely disappointing. In other words, there was no taste at all. And nothing annoys me more than a tasteless food. Thus, adding a lot of sweet-sour sauce was more than helpful. 
The preparation time is maximum 15 minutes. The meal is rich, simple and matches a glass of hot tea. 
Bon Appétit!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Spring shoes with air de Provence

Now, that I am sure that the good weather is here, and no more rains in sight for the next week, or so, it was about time to get my matched shoes. This time, I am fully in line with my travel dreams, a little bit of Provence, a little bit of elegance yet some comfort shoes that will not bother me if I am set to walk for a long time. They are good for long walks in town, easy to match with some spring outfits, and some white or colourful bags. 
I can't wait to wear them!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Is your picnic basket ready?

The good weather finally feels at home and if you don't have any special plans for the next days, maybe the sun with you in your side of the world and you can get ready your picnic basket. The weather in Berlin is getting incredibly better and better. It is that time of the year when all my grey thoughts about relocation to a sunnier place are vanishing instantly. How can I leave such a beautiful city when the flowers are in full bloom everywhere and the sun is so lovely?
Perfect time for spending more time outside! What about a picnic? It's a great opportunity to bring together family and friends, while enjoying a great time, doing activities, eating and talking. 
A perfect picnic set at Harvey Nichols Food Market in London
But what should you have in your basket? What the investment in such an adventure might be? How much time you will need to prepare the event? What is the dress code? 
I set up a list of tips and hints that can help you to have the perfect picnic experience.

- Find out the location. If you don't want or can't drive, the destination will limit probably the choice of the items to carry on. If you plan to go in a park near your house, it will be relatively easy to eventually go back home if you need something.  
- If there are more people involved in the picnic event, try to set up in due time the list of ingredients that should be bought and delegate the responsibilities in a kind, not-patronizing way. The maximum amount of time for the preparation of such a event can be 10 days - if you have a sure weather forecast. If you are working full time and/or if you are a busy mother, the sooner the better. 
- If you plan a bigger gathering, send the invitations as soon as possible and don't forget to set a reminder and check at least twice if the preparations are fine. Eventually, let know the people from the list where you plan to go and for how much time they can find you there. Maybe they are spontaneous enough to pop up over at a certain moment. 
The following list includes the minimal items that I suggest to have in mind when preparing the picnic basket list:
- basket - in the last years special baskets are on the market, some of them provided with various temperature facilities that will help to keep your champagne or coke bottles cold, although outside is boiling hot.
- blanket - try to find out a special blanket with a leather-like end: thus, you should not worry that the earth and grass will damage it.
- disposable items - I use during the week a lot of plastic knives, forks, plates, glasses, especially when I am busy enough to not have enough time to wash the dishes. It is a cheap and practical investment.
- napkins. If you have a thematic picnic - birthday or anniversary, or friends-getting-together - you can find a lot of options in line with your subject. 
- trash bags - because you might want to let other people to enjoy the great time, isn't it?
- moist napkins and travel soap bottle - especially if you have children, you should be careful to provide the highest health standards
- The food list can include: boiled eggs, bread or crackers, biscuits, bonbons or jellies, season fruits - I prefer bananas and water melon as I don't have to wash them, for instance - and veggies - tomatoes are always the top priority, but also the cucumber because is fresh -, sandwiches of different kind, French fries and pizza - if you like them cold, of course - salads, water or juices, soluble coffee, salt, pepper and condiments, mayo and ketchup, cakes, muffins. Try to carry items who can resist without being in the fridge for longer periods of time, that are healthy and energizing, and not too heavy either. 
- For the children and family activities: boardgames, cards, arrows, balls, badminton set, kite, skateboard, hula hop. 
- For the adults, a Kindle or a book, can help you enjoy your time in a smarter way. I would not necessarily recommend a music background, as either it increases isolation if you want to listen to your iPod, or can bother the other people neighbouring your blanket. 
Last but not least, charge your phone the day before - there are no chargers in parks - forget to take your laptop or any device that can separate you from the group and carry on a camera to get some nice memories and maybe encourage others to follow your example soon. 
The minimal investment can be of around 40 Euro, if you do the smart shopping, checking out the last offers and discounts.

As for the dressing code, try to wear sport shoes and large sport clothes - I usually have some long dresses  and skirts especially for such activities. If you plan to stay longer, carry a hoodie or a jacket. 
If the weather will be sunny, maybe you can find also a big umbrella to protect you against the sun. If it's not too heavy, you can get some special fishermen's like chair if you don't necessarily like to sit on the blanket. 

Ready for the picnic? On Sunday or in the afternoon, there is never too late or too early to have your picnic basket ready! 

5 Tips to Babysit Successfully Difficult Children

I am not a professional babysitter and the only occasions when  am doing it is for free, for helping friends and relatives to go through their busy days with the little ones. From time to time I was faced with some difficult situations that made me think a little bit more about what can I do the next time in order to be more successful. 
After a couple of experiences of this kind, with many ups and downs, I set up a short list of 5 tips that I wish I knew it before.

1. Have a plan 
Regardless how spontaneous the invitation to babysit was addressed, take your time to prepare a couple of activities that you would like to do with the little one(s). It could be a walk in the park, followed by checking the homeworks, maybe a little walk by bike and some games. If your task is limited - such as taking the kid to and from a hobby class, it is easier but still, there can be a couple of challenges especially if you are dealing with children that are not used with your presence or not necessarily keen to see you.

2. Be patient
It doesn't matter what it happens, please be patient. Never forget that you are the adult and you should offer a sample of authority. Children are difficult for various reasons: separate parents, parents too busy to share their attention, lack of adaptation in the classroom, various health challenges. When they react in a violent way they don't necessarily have something against you as a person, but they are trying to get rid of all the tensions accumulated. As they often might feel deterred by the familiar presence of a relative, you, the outsider can be the perfect victim of their frustration. Wait till the storm is gone and never lose your temper.

3. Don't take sides
When you have to babysit kids closed in age, expect some little fights as well. If yourself grew up alone or without siblings with 2 or three ages younger or older, you might be surprised even shocked. But this is life and those fights are part of the usual competition and establishment of status. When they are fighting, your role is to be careful that they don't harm, but never try to lecture them when they are in the middle of the boxing. Wait till they calm down and try to bring them together with a game or a play. You will be surprised how easily they are playing together as nothing happened.

4. Play! Play! Play!
Children are playing, isn't it? Get into their games and keep them as much as possible busy in the world of creativity. Find out from the parents what are their favourite games and what they love to do. Try to keep talking with them while letting them speak their mind. If the weather is fine, bring them in the park or do some activities outside. If they are very active, they will use their energies for some activities that soon will bring them a very good sleep.

5. Watch a movie together
I am not a fan of TV at home, but we know how to properly use the Internet for the choice of our programs and movies to watch. Check if the movie you are about to watch is appropriate from the point of view of the language and ask the parents if they agree with your initiative, and get ready. With or without popcorn, the movie - or cartoon - can keep the children busy. Be sure that the movie is not too long, as they might get bored. 

All being said, good luck! And remember, difficult children are not because they want to, but this is how they react to hostile and complicated environment. Try to avoid being critical and rather focus on how you can help them to get better. 

Foodie Book Review: Christine France Cooking Hints and Tips

As someone who worked hard to learn properly how to cook, I highly appreciate the value of books who are teaching you not only how to properly mix the ingredients, but also how to organize your kitchen and your working space in general. This book by Christine France brought rapidly light into long years of darkness when it comes to coping with the usual kitchen challenges. 
The information is very well organized and suits someone without too much time, but a lot of curiosities about the hints and tips of cooking. It goes from the very simple time and space management details, till guidance about how you should design your kitchen as to have enough movement space and enjoy your cooking experience not only through tasting. It also outlines the ways in which one can chose the perfect electronic items helping to avoid energy consumption, and good cleaning tips. Last but not least, there are also interesting ideas for table settings and as we have at least once the week the Shabbes table there is never enough inspiration for surprising your guests.
At the beginning - it sounds like long time ago, but it is not that far away in time to be honest - I struggled with the mixture of different smells in the fridge. If I knew that a simple plastic coverage can avoid this, I would have avoid a lot of unpleasant minutes spent with the door of the fridge open - yes, I know it is wasting energy too...- trying to figure out the best solution. Another idea is to always have half apple in the kitchen and change it every week. 
Another practical tip is to clean copper with lemon juice or with a pasta made out of vinegar and flour.  
Once I attended a cooking class and some of the participants were using their own special knives carefully looked after. Such a high attention is due to the fact that the good ones are usually very expensive and hard to find. Thus, be careful not to use them for cutting paper or plastic - there is not only an idea children have, believe me. If you don't have a wooden support to keep them, you can protect the knife blade with a cork. For sharpening, a piece of ceramics can be helpful for keeping the blade at proper standards. 
The conservation of some fresh herbs might be problematic, especially in warmer climate. Dry them in the oven or the microwave and you can have them for long. Also, from the kosher point of view, this is a very good idea. My dear garlic can be kept for a longer time fresh if it's hidden in the dark and out of sources of heat. Fruits like lemons or oranges can be kept fresh for a longer time if covered in several layers of paper and in a dry place. 
Many utensils used in the kitchen can have various chemical interactions with the food, especially those made of metal. Thus, if you want to have a good and chemicals free purée, you better use wooden utensils - as I am doing as well. 
The book can be read easily and is strongly recommended to both beginner and advancer cooker. 

Beauty corner: a glittering sorbet manicure

Summer is finally around and there is about time to completely change the colours of my wardrobe and also the makeup colours. Although I am not that extravagant and off the books when it comes to the daily makeup, regardless of the season, the manicure is always one detail that I keep in mind when it comes to going out of the house.
Due to the intensive use of nail polishing - my nails are usually free of lacquer only one day the week, from Thursday evening to Friday, when I am cooking - I need to be sure that my nails are getting the right protection. For a couple of week, I apply once the week this Multivitamin Gel from Rival de Loop, an affordable purchase from my local Rossmann store in Berlin. The nails are looking healthier and are stronger.
From the same Rossmann, I purchased last week two tempting bottles. One yellow sorbet - the colour is so tasty that I could not resist the 'buy me' call. Luckily, it was included at sales and thus, I was able to buy another item(s) too. The other one looks awesome, little glittering that doesn't necessarily looks uniform, but very elegant and interesting for various occasions. Either you go to a business meeting or at shopping, it gives a joyous air of distinction that matches a curious personality. 
I first applied the sorbet and waited till dry - maximum 10 minutes. Then, I applied with one single touch of the brush, the special effects. It shines without giving the impression of carnival outfit. It is not necessarily looking too teenage either. 
The good part is also that it resists a lot, around 5 days upon the first application, although I cook, wash dishes, and write the whole day. The cleaning will take a bit more efforts than usual. I was more than happy with both choices and be ready to hear more about the combinations I made with the 'special effects nail lacquer'.
The overall price of the purchase is less than 5 Euro. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Time to introduce my favourite matzah

Today is Pesach Sheni and I'm happy to introduce my favourite matzah: French, fine and irresistible. It is produced by France's oldest matzah-maker, based in Alsace, a region close to the border to Germany. Since I discovered it, four years ago, I take care every year to purchase in time at least 4 big boxes: there are so good that I hardly hear any complaints about how hard is rhe eating life during the Pesach.  
After the Pesach is gone, I use them in various combinations that I don't use during the holiday, including various brei, but also with nutella, jams, cheese, as base for pizzas and as a delicate accompaniment for various spring salads. 
As in the case of the general message of Pesach Sheni, there are always second chances! 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Learning how to properly prepare couscous - work in process

I love to much couscous not only because it's very easy to prepare - maximum 20 minutes if you are lazy enough - and very tasty too. Also, you can add various spices - za'atar, of course, but also cumin, and some dried parsley and even some cayenne pepper - veggies - such as carrots or tomatoes, scallions and garlic. It goes well with various types of oils - cotton being the less recommended, and olive the favourite. However, there is something always missing from my couscous recipes, mainly the real experience of preparing it in the traditional way, as it is done in Morocco or the Middle East.
Till will be able to take part to a live exercise of preparing real couscous, I tried to update my bibliography and have a look at various videos and traditional explanations and recipes. Based on the latest lectures and conversations, I improved a little bit the couscous recipe, as follows:
- before starting the cooking, I add 4-5 tablespoon of flour and mix it for 60 seconds till the entire composition is homogeneous. Did I say that I try to mix it with hand, feeling the special texture of the grains?
- talking about mixing, acquiring homogeneity after each ingredient added. It will take longer to prepare the recipe, but at the end you enter the ancestral pace of the genuine couscous experts. 
- limit the amount of water added. I used to add around 1 cup of water for 2 cups of couscous, but I rather preferred to be more generous with the oil - 4 to 6 tablespoon. 
- add the oil first, then the spices and then the garlic. For the bigger veggies - such as tomatoes - the cooking time takes longer and thus you better add them when the composition is almost done and hot enough for a proper preparation. 
Right now, I am very far away from a successful couscous maker, but following my personal motto of learning at least one new thing every day, I promise to improve soon and share a genuine experience.  
Soon...very soon... 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Recipe of the week: Yogurt biscuits

I don't like at all recipes without clear indications about quantities, but if I think twice honestly I will realize that it is how I usually cook: I use the basic recommendations as possibilities and add my own creative content. Such a strategy doesn't necessarily work well every time but it's another story. For a couple of days, I let open in my browser a recipe from Food52 of yogurt biscuits, that looks easy to make, but kept me confused about the values of the ingredients. Today, I was in a more creative mood and went further with the preparations.

For 35 pieces, I decided the following quantities of ingredients:
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 4 small scallions, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 150 gr. fresh yogurt
- 4 tablespoon butter milk
- 200 gr. parmesan or hard cheese
Mixed all the ingredients together till I was happy with the texture of the dough. Let it to rest for a couple of minutes, till I set the oven to 250C. If you have enough time and less hunger, you can eventually let the mixture to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes or so. As for me, I rather wanted to prepare them as soon as possible. I separate the dough into little or bigger pieces and arrange them chaotically on the brownish baking paper. 
After 20 minutes, the smell of fresh baked goodies push me away from my reading and encouraged to stop doing anything else but tasting the golden biscuits (in fact, little scones, in my humble opinion). And tasting, and tasting. In this pace, I should prepare a new batch soon.

Post-Pesach corn matza brei

Compared to the other years, this year we have a lot of matza boxes left. Maybe because it was too much, or because we were invited relatively often, but anyway, we should do something with them and eating them 'raw' doesn't look like the best idea.
But there are a lot of recipes that I don't usually prepare because, we don't eat gebrocht. Such as, matza brei, that we enjoyed fully for at least 3 days and one full box of fine French matza. 
Especially recommended for breakfast or evening meal: it can be prepared very easy, is healthy and doesn't bring any extra-pressure for your stomach. I dare to say that also works if you are on diet.

Ingredients for 2 persons:
2 big matzot, made into little pieces
100 gr. vegetable margarine
2 beaten eggs
200 gr. canned corn
1/2 teaspoon salt, on taste

The preparation - around 10 minutes - follows the next steps:
Beat the eggs and mix it with matza. Add the corn, the margarine and the salt and mix them for a couple of minutes. Fry them slowly in a pan while continuing mixing at 250C. 
That's all!

Bon Appétit!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Beauty corner: Vitamin C Microdermabrasion by Body Shop

What's the best relaxing solution after a crazy week: a face mask. This time, I rather preferred to test something new, and the answer was a Vitamin C Microdermabrasion from Body Shop. Right now, there are a couple of small size pocket face masks, available for only 2 Euro, and I plan to test as many of them in the next weeks and at the end of the testing to purchase the one who's really the best.
I usually use extensively green tea-based masks with proved results over the years. This time, not sure why, I picked up this product, probably because I know also how good Vitamin C does for my skin. One of the main qualities of this vitamin is the production of collagen, which aids the regeneration of cells and the recovering of blood vessels. After using it on the skin, your face will look firm and generally strengthen. 
The application is relatively easy, and there is enough cream to use it for both face and neck. Applied with round movements, the fine exfoliating micro-particles. Keep it on the skin for around 5 minutes. During this short amount of time, I felt how the mask is producing effects on my skin: a little bit of irritation. 
I cleaned the mask with water and couldn't believe how fast the soft and smooth of my skin returned. It felt as a mask of dead cells left my face. It works efficiently and is strongly recommended for any type of skin. 
As in the case of any type of mask, it is recommended to clean the face previously from make up or other impurities that one usually got from the air.  

Chocolate Coconut (easy) cake

Shabbes starts late so I have more time to think about the menu. But when it comes to cakes, it seems that I'm very often out of inspiration and I need a longer research than usual. This time, I tried to be fast yet creative and using the available ingredients. 
The results were not bad, not bad at all.
Here are the magic ingredients leading to the big piece of cake serving 8 (at least).

350 gr. flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
250 gr. melted butter of veggie margarine
200 gr. baking chocolate
5 beaten eggs
200 gr. sugar - I rather wanted a less sugarly cake, otherwise, you can add 50 gr. more eventually
200 gr. dessicated coconut -if you want a stronger taste, you can add more.

Directions - preparation time 15 minutes

Add the baking powder to the flour and mix it well.
Beat the eggs and add them. Mix well again.
Melt the chocolate and the butter or margarine. Add them to the mixture.
Continue with the sugar and coconut.
Mix them for around 5 minutes till you have a perfect pasta.

Heat the oven at 200C. Bake it for around 45 minutes.
To be served with green tea or a nesscafé.

Bon Appétit!