Friday, August 31, 2018

Jerusalem Beer Festival, Great Fun

For the second year in a row, I joined the Beer Maivin aka Doug Greener at the Jerusalem Beer Festival in Independence Park. We all had a wonderful time. I stayed until the noise aka music made it impossible to talk, and then I trekked home, train, bus and tremps.

Of course, I was at the beer festival to drink Israeli craft beer and sample lots of new ones. This year the new and interesting beers were the fruity kind. At one stand there were what I considered "dessert beers." They were sweet, one more an apple cider and the other had a strong pineapple taste. I prefered the pineapple. At a different stand I tried a cherry one, which was awful. It had a very strong taste of artificial cherry, sort of like children's syrupy medicine.

The larger Israeli craft beer companies have been making deals with foreign craft beermakers. One got together with a beermaker in  Arizona, and they came up with what they called the 7 C's. The "C's" are different types of hops. I liked the Israeli version of it.

Basically, I used this wonderful opportunity, the Jerusalem Beer Festival, to hone in on my beer preferences. I like a strong dark beer which tastes like beer and doesn't mask the hops with other flavors. And to be honest, I do better drinking beer than wine.

Make sure you join us next year.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Homemade, Handmade Challah So Simple

Above are the challah ingredients, written rather simply. I keep this note on the fridge. I used to have an index card box with recipes, but they got trashed long before the cookbooks. In all honesty, I don't remember where the recipe came from. It sort of evolved, and it's a bit different every time I make it. I don't have a functioning mixer and haven't had one for ages. I bake "by hand." And I don't have the strongest of hands. It's not all that hard, though you can use a mixer dough hook if you want. The kneading will just take less time.

A few years ago, when my friend got her "new kitchen," she did a chanukat hamitbach, kitchen dedicating/opening ceremony by inviting lots of friends to a challah-baking evening. It was led by a neighbor who showed us how challah-baking is a very spiritual time, and as we physically handle the dough we should be praying and blessing our family, our children and grandchildren.

1 cup sugar (I use dark brown)
2 Tablespoons or a bit more of dehydrated yeast
approximately 2 kilo flour (I used 70% whole wheat extra fine)
pinch of coarse salt
3 1/2 cups of warm water (4 cups if no eggs)
1 cup of any vegetable oil
2 eggs (optional)
1 egg for painting to make a shiny challah


  1. Put almost all of the dry ingredients into a large bowl, but just use a cup of flour.
  2. Mix
  3. Add the warm water.
  4. Cover with plastic.
  5. When it looks all bubbly and has risen add the oil (and eggs).
  6. Mix
  7. Gradually add flour, mixing all the time, until you can knead it, without getting your hands all sticky.
  8. Knead for about 8 minutes.
  9. Coat completely in a bit more oil.
  10. Cover and wait until doubled in size, anything from 20 to 40 minutes depending on the weather and quality of yeast.
  11. Punch down, then cover and wait again. 
  12. "Take a piece of challah" for the blessing.
  13. Punch down and shape. The shaping as you can see in my photos can be very simple.
  14. Paint with raw egg and let the challot rise a bit.
  15. Bake. *Start in a hot oven, and then lower temperature when you can see the challah begin to brown a bit.
  16. It's ready when hard on the bottom and has a hollow sound when tapping the bottom.
  17. Let cool out of the oven.
  18. Enjoy for Shabbat, Jewish Holidays or whenever you want a special bread.
PS They freeze well.

*There are too many factors to predict exact baking time. For temperatures I think that I started baking close to 200c and ended more like 170c. But remember that each oven is different, and it depends on whether you're doing turbo and how many trays etc. Of course Farenheit numbers are different.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Decorated New Phone Case

Yesterday I went down one of the main commercial streets in downtown Jerusalem looking for a case for my new smartphone, the Xiaomi Mi A2. But it was a waste, because they haven't gotten any nice ones in.

So far the worst thing about the phone is that it's black, and nice colorful cases for it haven't been marketed here in Israel for it. Apparently, it does come in other/nicer colors, but the store I bought it in only had black.  I need a simple case, since I carry it in my pouch/fanny-pack. All I could find was clear or black.

It occured to me that I could decorate it with stickers, and I envisioned pretty colorful flowers all over the freebie case that came with the phone.

So, this morning I went into the local toy etc store for stickers. They didn't have what I wanted, so I spoke to the owner who pointed to special stickers, davka for phones. Of course, I hadn't had a clue there were such things.

The total price was NS8, or just over $2- and a few minutes of cutting and pasting.

Granted I don't have the phone case of my dreams, but I'm happy with it, B"H. It's certainly fine for the time being.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Hamlet in Motion, Hurry, Just 2 More Performances

Last night I had an amazingly enjoyable evening watching, or following, Hamlet in the Bloomfield Park behind the King David Hotel, Jerusalem. It was this year's production of Shakespeare in the Rough. This amateur theater group is wonderful, and the actors seemed to have as much fun as the audience. I was really impressed by the amount of young children in the audience, and they were enjoying themselves.

Hurry to see the play, as there are just two more performances. It's free, though a donation would be appreciated. 5:30 pm Bloomfield Park, today and tomorrow; follow the fun.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Recycled Furniture

As you all know by now, we've redone our kitchen. And as is well-known, it's not a cheap project. It cost a lot. Besides that I had a problem even finding suitable professionals to do the job. I wanted a few non-standard things in the kitchen, and I didn't want to knock down walls, change windows etc. We had to use the space that we had. One thing I did was to keep an entire wall of the old cabinets. It's from floor to ceiling, and I call it my "pantry." Since it wasn't connected to the plumbing or cooking, there was/is nothing wrong with it. I just made sure that the rest of the kitchen included its color in the color scheme.

But my real favorite "savings" was to recycle the specially built "table" that was part of the old kitchen. It was my design. It was an "island table" or "peninsula," since it attached to a wall and divided the "L Plan" between the kitchen and dining area. Instead of legs there was a closet. The center of the table was raised and that part was covered with heat proof ceramic tiles, the same as on the walls. The "overhang," which made it a table was on three sides. By using a bench on the long side and chairs, our entire family of seven could even sit there, though it was used more by the kids and their friends. And after the house emptied, it became "my spot." I sat there to prepare food, eat and even watch television.

Once I realized that I would really be making a new kitchen, I immediately saw a new use for it, aka recycling. By cutting off the table/overhangs I had the perfect piece of furniture for my Shabbat Candlesticks. For about a quarter of a century we've been using an old television table. Our kitchen guy agreed to saw off the overhangs, and the carpenter sent me wood to use for a mosaics project to cover the side that had been against the wall.

Thursday night I got the old tv table schlepped out to the recycling corner of our neighborhood, and Friday afternoon someone had already taken it.

Before Shabbat, I managed to clean and polish all the candlesticks and setup everything.

I'm very happy with my recycled cabinet.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Cooking in New Kitchen, B"H

Yesterday, although it's still a mess in my house, I began cooking for Shabbat. I used both ovens, though not simultaneously. Since they are large and have a turbo setting I could even use more than one tray at a time. That's a timesaver for sure. I bought Electrolux which is larger inside than the Sauter.

Some of the cooking/baking was done in bulk so I won't need to do it weekly. Challot and cakes freeze well for sure. I may have enough challah rolls to get me through most of the fall Jewish Holidays, Rosh Hashanah, pre/post Yom Kippur meals, Succot and Simchat Torah, depending on how many guest we have and meals we're invited out. The cakes will be enough for a few weeks, especially if I make my traditional Rosh Hashanah Applesauce Cake. And I already froze some of the baked chicken breasts.

So, yesterday's cooking/baking was truly a time investment, besides learning how to use the new ovens.

For those wondering about oven temperatures, something I never paid attention to with my old oven,* I sort of followed the guidelines on the inside of the oven doors:

To whet your appetite, here are some photos of my cooking/baking experiments from yesterday:

Challah recipe

Simple Basic Cake**, with blended banana and mango rescued from the freezer

These Chicken Breasts were simply layered over sliced onion and topped with tomatoes, dehydrated basil and coarsely grated pepper. I baked them covered with foil. I could see their cooking progress, since I used a pyrex baking pan. (Recipe)

Oven Baked Chicken, the food my kids consider my specialty
Besides enjoying the ovens, I'm super happy to be finally cooking on gas after almost two years of using an old two burner electric "hot plate."

The kitchen is almost completely organized. I think that all of the chametz dishes and pots are stored, but I will need help with the Passover things which will be on higher shelves. More updates, Gd willing, in future posts.

Bottom Line:
Was the expense and chaos of a new kitchen worth it?
*The numbers had long been rubbed/cleaned off the old oven, so it was like telling time from a sundial. 

**I made a few small changes, cinnamon instead of vanilla, and the blended banana and mango instead of some of the water. That's the beauty of the recipe; it's very adjustable.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Kitchen Chaos, Almost in Order

Here's just a sneak view of how my kitchen has been progressing. I am not finished setting it up and cleaning up the mess. And there are still a few things for the "kitchen guy" to complete or tweak.

But the great thing is that it already functions. Yes, I have a stove with four burners, including one large one with a double flame. And I have two large, by Israeli standards, ovens. Actually, the outer size is considered standard, needing a 60 centimeter cabinet, but I got Electrolux, because the actual oven capacity is a bit larger than the other lower priced ones. My previous ovens were tiny, like the size of a large microwave. I had always had a small, about 57 centimeter "one piece" stove that had double-ovens.

When we moved into our Jerusalem apartment in 1971 that was standard and considered very modern. Unfortunately, our "old kitchen" was planned around those stove measurements and there was no way to upgrade to a larger stove/oven without redoing the entire kitchen. It took quite a few years of misery on my part until enough of the old kitchen deteriorated to warrant these major renovations.

The sinks are also a teeny bit larger than I had before and much prettier and better quality. I have almost no upper cabinets compared to our previous kitchen, and the lower ones have drawers, except for those in the "island" for Passover.

Before the new kitchen had actually been built and until I started putting things away, I kept vacillating between confidence that there would be plenty of room for everything and fear that there wouldn't be enough room. As a consequence I had decided that if there isn't enough room I'd just give things away or throw them out. In the end, I've discovered that I have tons of extra space, especially the high shelves, which we didn't need to build at all.

Gd willing, next week I'll blog more about the kitchen with pictures and explanations.

PS I must say that thank Gd we survived the two weeks sans kitchen pretty well. It was easier than I had thought it would be. The first week I was in shock and had trouble functioning, but after a few days I did better. My neighbors were very helpful and generous. We also spent an entire Shabbat with our daughter and her family in Ofra.