Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cooking Adventures Abroad...

I have found that living in Israel has really made me branch out of my culinary- comfort zone and try new ingredients, and new combinations, it's quite exciting actually :)
I had mentioned the heavenly Shrimp that I had finally found in the market a few weeks ago - well, I decided it was time to purchase it again. Now, here it is fairly pricey and I didn'
t want to waste too much money on the Shrimp, So I decided to take the discounted road, by purchasing the Shrimp with the skins, legs and veins still in. Now, ladies and gentlemen - crawly things creep me out, but
when it comes to food the process, for me anyway, is the fun part so I can overlook the grossness of peeling shrimp because I know the end result is delicious and rewarding. However! I will probably never buy this shrimp like that again, because the work was long, taxing, and Gross!!! The deveining is the part that really gets me, I don't want to have to remove the excrement of anything that I eat...really...I mean..gross.
Anyway! After all that I mixed it with some peas, red wine, zucchini, and whatever else had to
be used up in the fridge, it was really a "garbage bowl" dinner, since there was no
recipe or any real inspiration other than the Shrimp and I just took it as an opportunity to use stuff up, Looks pretty good no? It was Deeeelish. The next adventure I took myself on, was a very different one - One that didn't
really include any effort on my part, just my brothers. He is a farmer in the North of Israel, and when I went to stay with his family this weekend, he had brought home Fresh Fresh Fresh! Carrots, Onions, Parsley, Garlic - and they were just amazing!! They were a different colour than the normal stuff you see in stores. The garlic was so so tender that you could throw them in
the pot with the skins on, and they would just melt a
way!! I had to step back and think to myself how lucky I am to be here, and how unique some of the experiences are that I am having here. I mean, how many times can I make a quick mid-week soup with fresh ingredients that my own brother brought home from the fields just hours ago? Not many!

Yesterday, I wanted to attempt to make something that I could take to Boyfriend's house for the Passover Seder that I am joining. I know that they keep Kosher, and there is a special Kosher for Passover, so I knew that what I could make was very limited. However, I thought of something Simple, Kosher and delicious! Kind of like Peanut Brittle I guess, but inst
ead? Dark Chocolate covered Matzo Brittle! :) Everyone said it was really delicious and it looked so pretty!
Also, I guess our Apartment was in the mood to make stuff - Elsa decided to take
some of the leftover plain sugar cookie dough that I had made a few weeks ago and just thrown in the freezer. Well, she took an over ripe banana that I had also saved in the freezer earlier for a time just like this, and mixed it into the cookie dough. Now, they didn't look very great in the sense that they didn't hold any real shape - However! They were SO delicious!! I cannot imagine ever eating a sugar cookie again without banana in it!! They were kind of pancakey because of the softness of the banana but that just made it so much better. I was very proud of her experimentation and so glad that they turned out so well!! It opens a whole new world of possibilities for me. Chocolate chip - Chocolate dipped Banana Sugar cookies? hmm....
Happy Passover Everyone!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Wonder that is Vegetables!

So the past few weeks, regular, run of the mill salads have bored me almost to tears! (Literally, food is so important to me, that when there is nothing good to eat? Well let's just say I'm upset)
So, I have been thinking, what can I do with vegetables, rice, etc. but make it exciting and different than normal

So! A couple of nights ago, I decided to try a meal that is popular in my family, Stuffed Peppers. Now, this meal usually consists of a LOT
of oil, which I try to avoid since I value my arteries and heart, and a heavy Tomato sauce which I
would be allergic to. So if I wanted to create me own idea I had to start off by knowing that I didn't want tons of oil and NO tomatoes. Here we go!
It was sinfully easy and delicious, not to mention worthy of a magazine if I say so myself :)
Lee's (Healthier) Stuffed Yellow Bell Pepper:
1 Large Yellow Bell Pepper
Brown Rice - Cook per packa
ge instructions
1/2 Butternut Squash
4 Large Cloves of Garlic
1 Large Onion
Dried -Basil, Paprika(sweet)Chili Flakes, salt and pepper (or whatever spices you like)

Cook the rice according to package directions; in the meantime, stir-fry all the vegetables that are going to go into the rice.
Once the rice is cooked, add it to the pan with the cooked veggies

Place the yellow pepper on a oven pan, greased lightly with Olive Oil; you can choose to cut the top of the pepper and stuff it that way, but
I cut it length wise because I am using a tiny toaster oven and it wouldn't fit otherwise! :)
Fill the pepper with as much filling as possible, et Voila!
Put the pepper in the oven at about 150 degrees celsius until the pepper is soft and the contents is hot - the time it takes to cook the pepper can be to your taste also, depending on how soft you want your pepper!

It was so delicious, not saucy mind you - but that didn't bother me; and a comfort food that you can
Definitely feel good about eating.

Today, it's SO hot in Tel Aviv this week, like about 30 degrees everyday! Crazy, its only March! Oy. Anyhow, this weather makes me crave delicious salads that are fresh and refreshing. Due to my feelings of monotony in terms of the salads I've been making lately however, I decided to mix it up, and did I ever!!
Asparagus, Olive, Yellow Tomato Salad:
A Handful of Baby Asparagus Stalks
Handful of Yellow Cherry tomatoes - feel free to add red instead, if you prefer them or can't find the yellow ones, the yellow ones are the only tomatoes I'm not allergic too, strange I know
Half a small white Onion
Three Large Green olives
Three Large greek/kalamata Olives
Half a Pear
Fresh, torn Arugula leaves
Fresh, torn Basil leaves
Olive oil
Fresh Lemon Juice
S & P to taste

-I started by blanching (cooking very quickly in hot water) the Asparagus just to soften them up a bit, and brighten their Beauti
ful green colour
- I cut all the other ingredients up, added the warm asparagus
- I just squeezed the lemon right onto the salad and added the oil and salt and pepper directly on - if you are a Salad Dressing Buff, feel free to class up the dressing; the lemon juice really works to compliment the soft, sweetness of the asparagus and the tomatoes, I wouldn't use a heavy vinegar like Balsamic - an Apple cider vinegar might be nice! :)
- I placed the pear slices on top, and for some extra protein added two slices of smoked Salmon, Yum!!

And there we go! Two new ways of making veggies fun, healthy and GORGEOUS!
Oh and helpful hint? Don't throw away the water your cooked the Asparagus in! I know it looks kind of gross, and you might be inclined to, but something that I learned from my grandmother, is to save this water and use it as a base for a delicious, healthy asparagus soup later in the day!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

A month filled with Food and Travels!

It has been a month filled with adventures all around Europe and back here in Tel Aviv
In Israel we have a holiday that we celebrate at the end of January that gives thanks to the f
ruits and vegetation of Israel. So what we eat as celebratory food on this day is TONS and I mean TONS of dried fruits. So for the occasion I decided to bring a lovely, celebratory dessert to Yair's families Shabbat dinners. Now dessert is sometimes a problem, since because they keep kosher, it means that once we've had the necessary meat for Shabbat dinner, we have to find a dessert that has no milk!! So, what did I create?
Dark Chocolate bark!!! And here it is:
I Melted 6 bars (I know, a huge amount, but HEY! it was for a lot of people!) of 70% cocoa chocolate; before hand that morning I had gone downtown to a particular Health Food Store that I knew sold a really great selection of dried fruit, also a selection of dried fruit without any added sugar, which is great and hard to find.

While I was there I picked up candied orange peel, dried cranberries, dried
Papaya and dried Apricots, as well as some candied pecans and sliced raw almonds.
I sliced and diced the fruits and nuts before I put the chocolate on the double boiler so that It would be ready to mix in right away before the chocolate got too cold to mix. Once the chocolate was as liquidy as it could get (be careful not to burn it, burnt chocolate is just a tragedy) I mixed in the fruits and nuts, and poured the mixture into two aluminum trays; I had made sure ahead of time also so cut enough of the addings to sprinkle ontop so that you could see what was in it! I put the chocolate bark in the freezer overnight, and the next morning broke it into lovely un-unform, rugged, gorgeous chocolate pieces!
Yair's family just fell in love with it, being just amazed that I had
created something that looked so gourmet - well, after all, look how I presented it to them! I used an empty Ferrero Rocher box and it looked just unbelievable!! Anyway, It's something I'm definitely going to it again not only because Yair's family essentially fell worshiping at my feet, but also because it was super easy and looks so difficult and elegant!!
The day after I presented Yair's family with this dessert, he surprised me with a wonderful Horse riding session that he knew I was dying for, and it was a dream come true - riding on beautiful, brown thoroughbreds on the foggy mountains in Jerusalem? Nothing like it! Don't we look like professional horseriders?? :) Sweet gift, from a Sweet boy!

Next, I travelled to Sweden, Berlin and London, where I spent endless lovely hours travelling around foreign cities, with my dear friend Miranda
and then met my mother in London!
London is a place that I reall
y feel that I need to live in one day, the people, the buildings the FOOD! everything is perfect there in my opinion.

Most importantly however, was this experience I had just a few days ago where my brother and I were taking my grandmother around Israel and we found ourselves at a Mar
zipan Museum! It was amazing! They showed us how to harvest the almonds, remove their skins, mix them with horrid amounts of sugar and water and eventually grind it into a pasta that can be died and moulded into anything or anyone you want! The Almond is a fruit that grows on beautiful white blossomed trees, and according to our tour guide, they bloom literally on the same day every single year for hundreds of Years!!! However, due to glo
bal warming, they bloomed an entire month early this year, which shocked everyone - but meant that we had the treats to see earlier than usual! :D There it is!! Isn't that amazing! They are donuts and pretzels and bagels! It was just such an interesting medium or edible art!!

That's it so far, its Purim here on Thursday, which is essentially the Israeli Halloween which means ideas for Halloween themed treats and for my Princess Peach from Mario Cart costume must come quickly!
Any Ideas!?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ole! Birthday!

It was my roommates birthday the other day and so we decided to have a festive dinner celebration with cake, wine and Mexican Food!!
I truly feel that a really nice way of getting a group of dinner guests together, is to serve a food that allows people to use their hands, get messy and not be embarrassed to take seconds, or even spill! And I don't think many food types are as accommodating as Mexican food is!
More specifically Tacos! We had everything one needs for a taco dinner, the ground beef, the purchased "taco kit", the guacomole, sliced tomatoes, sliced red onions, cherry tomatoes, grated cheese, salsa, soft taco shells, AND hard taco shells!!

I hate the way in which a hard taco crumbles, and due to my gluten intolerance I can't eat a flour tortilla, so I have in the past created a new "Lee Taco" which is really just all the Taco trimmings, including crumbled up hard taco shell on top of a taco salad. It's really just a deconstructed Taco! But since Elsa likes soft tacos only, we had to have the authentic mixings!
One of my favourite things to make when organizing a mexican themed dinner is homemade Guacomole! It's super easy, nutritious because it has nothing but fresh, fresh, fresh ingredients and is amazingly beautiful.
Lee's Guacomole Recipe:
3-4 Haas Avocados - unfortunately, it's hard to find Haas avocados in Israel, and so I am using a different kind, but ideally, Haas is my favourite because of its creamy green colour and rich avocado flavour
Juice of 1 and a Half limes
Fresh Coriander leaves
1 Tomato
Half a Large red onion
Half a Jalapeno Pepper
Salt & Pepper
Scoop the Avocados out of their skins into a large bowl, mash with a fork until the mixture is a uniform green colour, with no chunks
Add the diced red onions, chunked tomatoes, coriander leaves, Jalapeno pepper, s&p and Lime juice. Done!! Mix it all together and serve with Tortilla chips!!

The dinner was a great success, I also stir-fried some chicken with some paprika s&p in some Olive Oil, in case anyone wanted a Fajita sort of deal.

Going to Jerusalem this weekend, to show Jonah around and I am hoping we will also find great culinary adventures!

Elsa is now in Paris celebrating her birthday week with her family, so all the way from Israel I am wishing her a Happy Birthday and sending her endless kisses!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Stranded in Masada!!

Here we are, a week into Jonah's visit, and it has been nothing but great adventures. We spent the weekend in Haifa, looked around there which was beautiful, but ultimately not THAT exciting. I wanted to make sure that he got to see as much of Israel in his two weeks as possible, and so we ventured to Masada - which is supposedly where the Romans attempted to bring down King Herod and his people atop the mountain, but by the time the Romans built a giant ramp, King Herod has successfully instructed all his people to commit suicide, so there was really no one to conquer, gruesome I know - I take solace in the fact that that story is probably only 50% true, if that.

We ventured to Masada, of course stopping quickliy in Ein Gedi - which is the Oasis on the Dead Sea. It really was beautiful, and although we spent our time instead of in the Oasis, on the Dead Sea, we had a really nice time and it was stunning none the less.
Jonah, here shown enjoying the buoyancy! After spending the day, tanning (January 17th, and I said tanning! Ridiculous.) We took a bus to our beautiful hostel in Masada and decided to spend the day in the hostel, resting up for our 1.5 hour hike the next day up Masada. However, nature had other plans for us - it rained all night with thunder and lightening and by the time we got up in the morning to hike, the roads in both directions out of Masada were closed, there were no buses, taxis, etc. and we were not allowed to climb the mountain!!!! We were trapped!! Our hostel was right outside the mountain so we did have a unique and amazing view, and at the end we got a bus out and were home by Dinner time!

Now! Dinner time! The most important part of Any Day :D
We found some shrimp at the near by market the other day, which was a great find, since Shrimp isn't Kosher, and it's very difficult to buy non-Kosher products in local grocery stores. So we had big plans for this kilo of shrimp we bought, however, tonight Jonah felt like a creamy pasta with Shrimp and I wanted to attempt to remake my favourite Thai dish of Tom Yom Guong Soup! (With Shrimp :) )
Jonah's pasta was very simple, and doesn't require a recipe; he heated a jar of tomato sauce in a pan until bubbling, added a healthy dollop of Phili' Cream cheese, waited until combined added the shrimp, and there you go! Cook some pasta and it looked delicious!

Now, I have to say my soup was a real REAL triumph! I thought about what flavours were in my Thai soup, having simple ingredients, I used whatever I could to imitate those flavours, it came out A)looking gorgeous B) tasting VERY similar, if no identical and C) taking only about 15 Minutes to throw together!
Lee's Tom Yom Guong Soup:
2 Cups Chicken Stock
1 Inch Grated, Fresh Ginger
4 Large Cloves, Fresh grated Garlic
Handful of full mushrooms
Half a small Green Chili -Chopped as finely as possible
Handful of Small yellow cherry tomatoes
The Juice of one Lemon - FRESH PLEASE!!! it really makes a difference...
LOTS of fresh Coriander leaves
Health splash of Soy Sauce
10 Raw, De-veined, skinned Shrimp

Boil the stock with the grated garlic and Ginger; add the Soy Sauce.
Almost right away, add the chili, tomatoes, lime juice, and half of the coriander leaves. Simmer together until everything is soft. Then, once the broth is finished, add the mushrooms so they don't soften too much, and the shrimp as to make sure they don't get overcooked! That's it! It's spicy, lemon-y, and amazingly comforting

All in all, it was an eventful two days, and exciting none the less. Accomplishments in the kitchen, to me, are the best sort of adventures anyway :) Perhaps if it hadn't been for the Masada fiasco, I wouldn't have craved this sort of comfort food, and found out how easy this favourite of mine truly is to make!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Awaiting the Guest..

Today my friend Jonah comes, and I always like to have special things in the fridge for special occasions, and this is certainly a special occasion! Because I know that my guest has an appreciation for good food, and I want to be able to enjoy nice meals in the apartment not only out on the town, I thought what better way to get a leg up on the next few meals then make a large pot of Soup! Yesterday Elsa bought something that we have needed TERRIBLY and it has already changed our lives :) A Hand Mixer!!! It's amazing, we've already made three different soups since yesterday.
We bought a copious amount of Avocados in the last few days (that's what happens when you don't discuss the grocery list before you both go shopping individually...) So we decided that we were sick of Guacamole, so what else does one do with Avocado? How about Smooth, creamy cold avocado soup?
Avocado Soup:
Avocados - as many as you like
Zest of 1/2 a Lime
Juice of 1 Lime
2 Peeled cucumbers - amount of cucumbers obviously depends on the quantity of avocados you use.
Now, I didn't lime i just had lemon...I should have used less of the lemon juice because it was SO-UR! But it has this amazing GREEN colour, and wonderful creamy texture and took 5 minutes with our magic blender:)
Anyhow, Elsa then proceeded to make her father's carrot soup, sans recipe I might add, and it came out Amazing!! Thick because of the carrots, had a bite from the tomato paste, and a bright orange also from the carrots. It was really good, and she inspired me! This morning, I woke up and decided I also wanted to attempt a soup, Pea Soup that is! (My favourite I think :) ) I also didn't use a recipe and the blender was a Treat to use! The soup was a wonderful green, creamy and so smooooooooth! I felt like a real chef! Or at least I felt like my dad when he makes a pea soup...
Pea Soup Recipe(not really recipe...just ingredients and process that I made up):
4 Cups of Chicken Stock
2 Large peeled, grated carrots - gr
ating them really speeds up the cooking time.
1 Medium White Onion
6 Large cloves of garlic
1 Small Yellow Bell Pepper
A LOT of Frozen Peas - I really did not measure at all, I poured in the peas and stopped when I thought I had put enough :D

First, cut all the veggies. Once the pot is hot put a little touch of Olive Oil and saute the Onions and Garlic until they are soft.
Add the carrots, peppers and peas; Saute these just for a little while, approx. 5 mintues.
Add the chicken stock - I say
4 cups, but I also just eye-balled this, so feel free to do the same; adding more will give you a thinner soup, and less a thicker one.
Allow the veggies to come to a nice simmer in the pot; add salt, pepper, lots of Dried Basil and a little Curry Powder.
Once all the veggies are super soft, and the broth is to your taste, Blend away!!
* Make sure to keep the spinning blade of the mixer submerged in the liquid the entire time'll have a HUGE clean up:)
And that was it!! Beautiful Pea soup!

After the Soup success I decided why not make some lovely cookies? I already had a huge amount of frozen homemade sugar cookie dough,

so all I had to do was spice them up with a little Chocolate Ganache
To Make the chocolate, I did it a little unorthodox but it turned out glossy and smooth:
Milk Chocolate chips
White Chocolate chips
2 Tbsps of Butter (Unsalted)
1 Tbsp of 3% Milk (preferably Heavy cream)
Melt over a double boiler until really shinny, without Any lumps.
Dip the baked and cooled sugar cookies in the hot melted chocolate
Once cookies are dipped, sprinkle with chopped Honey glazed pecans and raw almonds! :)

Monday, January 11, 2010

It's Been TOO Long!

I realize that it has essentially been eternity since I last blogged, and for that I don't have an excuse, other than finals and the semester ending and having more work than is healthy. Anyhow!! I am back and ready to blog!

Now, just because there may be no time to blog during exam period, that certainly does not mean there is not time to eat - in fact, if anything, it means there is more time to eat, because one is feeling like they deserve treats, etc. and its a good break from the studying.

Anyhow, since last I blogged, we have welcomed a new year, and while the Party itself was nothing too too special, Yair sent me roses even though he was stuck on the base, with a lovely note apologizing for his absence. Well it was just so sweet of him, and he sent me lovely Yellow roses, knowing that I think red ones are slightly cliche and overly mushy.
Here they are, Aren't they lovely?? Well, you can imagine how special it made me feel, and that he got many "thank you thank you thank you" text messages :)

Back to the most important thing, Food. During a particularly grueling study session, I decided what I needed was a pasta dish that was super salty, but guess what I didn't have? SALT!!!! That is a travesty a) because I have an addiction to salt, which I know is unhealthy, and b) salt just enhances flavours, it's a fact. So boiling pasta in unsalted water, making a sauce without salt, it just felt wrong, and sad.
I knew, however, that this gave me the opportunity to experiment with different ingredients that would make my dish salty without a grain of actual salt.
So, here we go. I boiled my rice pasta in CHICKEN STOCK, Salt? CHECK! which made the pasta nice salty, and gave it a really nice depth of chicken flavour.
The Sauce:
1 Medium white onion
A handful of cracked green olives
1 small red chili
5 cloves of garlic - or to taste, because that's a lot of garlic, so take account of your surroundings before hand :)
4 Large Mushrooms
1/2 Cup of frozen Peas
1 Tbsp Soya Sauce
Handful of Alfalfa Sprouts
Handful of Fresh basil leaves, torn. - careful not to cut fresh basil with a dull Knife, it bruises really easily, and then it gets brown, and sludgy, nothing like its crisp, fresh self when torn nicely.

I sauteed the onions and garlic until the onions were transparent and the garlic was nice and brown - but not burnt! There is nothing worse than Burnt garlic, it's so bitter, blech! :(
Once the onions and garlic were cooked, I added the peas, the mushrooms, the olives and the chili; and when it was almost cooked, I added the basil and voila! it was done!
Now, although the chicken stock helped with the salt, it wasn't good enough! So once I had mixed the pasta and the veggies, I added a generous splash of Soya Sauce. Now! it was salty, saucey and had so many different complementary flavours, it was really nice. I added once it was in my bowl ready to be eaten a very generous HEAP of alfalfa sprouts which added an amazing crunch and a great freshness.
So that was that! A perfect, homey lunch for a tough day of studying!
Tomorrow I have a friend coming from Denmark, who is really a friend from Toronto, who is doing an exchange like me in Copenhagen - He will be here for two weeks, and like me has a love for good food and for cooking and Baking, so I look forward to the adventures and blog entries his presence will provide :)