Thursday, December 30, 2021

Sauerkraut Beef Stew


We somehow found ourselves with a can of sauerkraut, and I'd been trying to figure out what to do with it. For some strange reason, I began to imagine it with beef. Just to make sure I wasn't totally crazy, I did some google searches to see if such recipes exist, not that I actually follow recipes...

The recipes I found, and there are many, weren't at all kosher. They also required "slow-cookers" which I don't have. But at last I got some reassurance that people do cook beef with canned sauerkraut. Then I asked in a facebook group that prides itself on "real world" recipes, not those awfully complicated ones. Some nice people answered. They gave recipes/cooking ideas that also use "slow-cookers" or "cover well and bake in the oven," which I didn't feel like doing. I generally simmer beef on the stove for a few hours.

Now, to be honest, we haven't eaten it yet, but it looks and smells delicious. 


kilo plus of the least expensive frozen beef in the store, onion, celeriac, a few carrots, a couple of tomatoes, a can of sauerkraut, a bit of oil, coarse ground black pepper and a couple cups of water. 


  1. thaw beef
  2. soak beef or awhile in water, and then throw out the water
  3. put beef in pot with some oil, high heat
  4. add the onions, and then turn the beef over so it browns a bit all around
  5. add vegetables, sauerkraut, water and pepper, then cover
  6. as soon as it starts to boil, turn down heat to slow simmer
  7. simmer for at least two hours
That's it!

I plan on serving it with potatoes, cooked vegetables and salad.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Baile Rochel Wimps Out of a Swim, But Pumps Iron Instead

Our intrepid golden age athlete, yours truly Baile Rochel, can't handle the cold very well. Yes, heaven for me is sitting in the sauna or soaking in a jacuzzi. My only problem is that sometimes my gold necklace gets dangerously hot, but no sweat.

The past few weeks there have been problems at the pool I belong to. Not only hasn't the pool been hot enough, the jacuzzi barely reaches body temperature. Even before checking the posted temperatures on the wall it's easy to see the lack of thick cloud of steam hovering over it.

One of my friends who drives there is a lot more tolerant of chilly, icy water. I guess she still misses the icy lake water of the "old country." 

The other day when we arrived, I joined the parade of wishful, though cautious, swimmers and checked the temperature readings before even taking off my jacket. It was clear to me that not only was the jacuzzi too cold, but the post-swim shower would be freezing. 

Well, since I was already there in the health/fitness center, I looked for an alternative to sitting in the lobby playing with my cellphone. 

Even though decades have passed since I had stepped onto a treadmill, the high-tech gym called to me. It's also included in the price of my "pool membership" and has been on my "to do" list.

I opened the door and peeked in. Everyone seemed so busy and confidently "at home." I courageously walked around asking:

"Who's in charge?"

At my age, not only can a foolish move be dangerous, but some gyms demand proof of "fitness" before letting us "seniors" try out even the most gentle of machinery. When I finally found the instructor, a female who looked around the age of my oldest children, I mentioned that it "had been a long time" since I last worked out in a gym, but since the pool is cold...

I mentioned that I'd like to try the treadmill, so she showed me how to turn it on and off. For some peculiar reason, my body kept contorting, and I couldn't stand straight, but I soldiered on. I played around with the speed and incline, but I must admit that it felt a lot longer than ten minutes. 

After reporting to the instructor, I let her choose various machines for me. She instructed me in reps* & sets,* making sure to take out or reduce the weights/resistance according to her judgement as to how much my body could safely handle.

About a half hour after I had started, I decided that for a newbie* this was enough. I told her so and then asked how old she thought I am. She took a good look and answered:


I gave her a big hug and thank you, revealing that I have a daughter of that age. That's the best encouragement any one could give me. I'm seventy-two and not embarrassed to admit it. 

Gd willing I'll be back there, instead of one of my swims each week. And in case you're wondering, that night and the next day I did feel my muscles kvetching, but not as much as I had expected.

*fitness slang

Sunday, December 12, 2021

The Last Words We Said, A Book Review

The Last Words We Said by Leah Scheier was written for teenagers, but I must admit that I enjoyed it. It's not a childish book. It deals with issues that aren't exclusive to teenagers. 

The dynamics between good friends change over the years, but nothing puts friendship under more stress than the disappearance and probable death of one of them. In this case, no body has been discovered. 

Leah Scheier succeeds in a difficult format, telling the story from two timelines, alternating between after Danny's disappearance and before he disappeared. This format could be disastrous from a less talented writer, but Scheier makes it seem like the only sensible way to write the story.

Danny was Ellie's boyfriend, so most everyone is focused on her difficulties in accepting his most certain death in an accident. But her two best friends, Rae and Deenie, are also seriously affected by his disappearance. The three surviving friends must help each other to fully heal.

The Last Words We Said can also be considered a mystery, because only at the end do we discover what really happened the night of the accident.

Danny, Ellie, Rae and Deenie aren't just regular American suburban teenagers. They are from Modern Orthodox Jewish families and study in Jewish Day School, one with mixed- boys and girls together- classes. So besides the regular teenage issues, we're dealing with families that keep Shabbat, Kashrut and expect the girls and boys to keep their hands off of each other. 

Scheier does an excellent job writing about realistic characters and universal issues. I highly recommend the book. To paraphrase an old ad: 

"You don't have to be Jewish to read The Last Words We Said."

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (August 31, 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 320 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1534469397
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1534469396
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 12 years and up

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Baile Rochel Tries A "New" Art Medium

 Since, as my sister says: 

"We're from a family of artists."

I'm always on the prowl, the intrepid searcher, for a new art medium which will make me feel like one of the clan. Luckily my cheerful, optimistic disposition hasn't given up the fight against PTS post traumatic stress from all the times my horrendously unsuccessful attempts to draw and paint got me nothing but clear unmistakable mockery and criticism.

Thank Gd, a few decades ago I discovered photography and more recently mosaics which are art forms, art media, requiring no drawing at all. Jackson Pollock got away with splashing paint all over the place, but early in his career he showed that he could produce stunning realistic images. The same goes for Picasso. They didn't go abstract because they couldn't draw.

A few weeks ago I found myself signing up for a two session Pottery Workshop. There were two things going for it. One is that the price is subsidized, though I'm still not sure what it will cost, and secondly I envisioned myself producing a beautifully designed and molded mug for my morning coffee to be photographed for my daily #morningcoffeehaiku and #cinquains. 

The Art Center is a short walk from my house, but of course I got there ridiculously early and helped the young woman in charge set the room up. As the other participants showed up, I realized that they were young enough to be my granddaughters. I had even been at the weddings of the parents of two and am friends with their grandparents. But I'm used to being the oldest... Of course I was also the only one masked, since I don't know...

We finally got started an hour or more after I had arrived*, and my eyes were shooting poison arrows at the teacher. While we had been waiting everyone was chatting, and some were noshing. The leader kept asking me to participate, but I was embarrassed to say that I'm waiting for my hearing aids to be ready. They weren't even at the age of reading glasses. I could barely hear them, so I kept tuning out.

I understood the instructions, but deja vu nothing I tried to form looked like it was supposed be. The clay I rolled into strings looked like a snake that had feasted on a few mice, rather than the perfectly identical diameter strings I was supposed to produce. After trying to make some sort of bowl, similar to others, I gave up. My attempts looked like the awful "worst in the group" blobs of my childhood memories.

I squished it all together and decided to go in a totally different direction, a "plate" for the Passover Seder. 

"A Seder Plate?" my classmates asked.

"No, just something to place the matzah on." I answered.

"Maybe you should make it more perfectly round" they gently suggested when I was almost finished.

"No, hand matzah isn't usually perfectly round," I replied with the confidence of a true artist.

The teacher has taken all of our "pottery" to dry and then bake in her special oven/kiln. Next week, Gd willing we'll get to paint our art before being baked again. 

*Gd willing, I'll expand on this in the future, since this story is long enough.

Sunday, December 05, 2021

A New Recipe, Low Fat Chicken


Let's start at the very beginning....

A couple of weeks ago there was a sale on "chicken breasts" in our local supermarket, so I bought a couple of packages. A lot of people use them to pan or "oven fry" as schnitzels, but not me. Quite often I separate them and cut and bake with lots of vegetables, sort of like "stir fry," but neither stirred nor fried. In the meantime, I stored them in the freezer.

As our table was "filling" with expected guest for Shabbat lunch, I realized that I had to cook something else as main course for me and my husband for Friday Night. Friday morning I took the "chicken breasts" out of the freezer to thaw planning on cooking just enough for the two of us. As the cooking deadline approached I realized that the chicken was still frozen solid. I managed to break off half, but they fillets couldn't be separated at all.

I put the "chicken breasts" in a glass-like baking pan, so I'd be able see if it's cooking later on. I added onion, tomato, red pepper, mushroom plus a bit of oil and coarse black pepper. Covered with foil it started baking at 200C with the heat coming from below. After I could see bubbling "oil" I switched the oven heat to "top." 

Once I was almost 100% certain that it was fully cooked I took it out of the oven and sliced it to check that it was white and not pink. If it had looked raw, I would have returned it to the oven for more cooking.

My low fat chicken was super tasty, and since I had cooked more than needed, we have a couple of servings left over.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

"Why We Fly" Book Review

Why We Fly by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal is probably the most difficult book for me personally to review. I feel torn and as always must be totally honest. I'm conflicted. 

On one hand Why We Fly is an excellent, well-written book for youth touching realistically on numerous important timeless issues. Even though I'm more than half a century past my teenage years I could easily relate to the main characters and all of their challenges. As I'm sure you've noticed, there are two authors. Why We Fly is written in two voices, Eleanor and Chanel aka Leni and Nelly. 

Leni, Nelly and the other main teenage characters are all top high school athletes, cheerleading and football. They live in a world that is relatively free of color prejudice and antisemitism, though when Nelly, who's Black,* doesn't  get a position she had expected, she blames color discrimination. I saw other reasons in the narrative

Three, the nickname of the local high school football star, develops a relationship with Leni after they unexpectedly meet outside the sport physical therapy clinic. There never seems to be an issue/problem that they're different colors and religions. Objections only come from Three's parents who don't want any girlfriend to distract him from their plans for him. Three's their last chance to have a son be a star in the NFL, and before that he must get into the best possible university team. The various ambitions the parents have for their children is a subplot.

Conflict in Why We Fly concerns whether or not to kneel during the national anthem, which was a major issue a few years ago in the United States. Unless I missed it, everyone agrees that there's racial injustice which supports kneeling, but the school administration opposes kneeling. And some of the parents and kids are afraid that kneeling will blacklist the participating student athletes negatively affecting their futures.

Now I'll speak as A Jewish Grandmother. Even though Leni and her family are involved in their local Reform Temple, intermarriage with a non-Jew isn't an issue. I've seen the rate of intermarriage rise in my family and friends in the United States, even among those who attended Jewish Day Schools. I "voted with my feet" when I was in high school. I became Torah observant, Orthodox as it's called in the states, and also became a Zionist. My husband and I made aliyah (moved to Israel) two months after our 1970 wedding. 

The blurb/motto on the book cover of Why We Fly is:

Don't just stand on the sidelines.

I've never stood on the sidelines. It's not my nature. Maybe that's why I could so easily relate to Leni and Nelly. But as A Jewish Grandmother I wish that Leni's rabbi taught a Judaism based on Jewish Torah, Law and Lore rather than Progressive Liberal Ideology. 

Honestly, I didn't mind being out of my "comfort zone." To be honest I really enjoyed getting to know today's America. I'll repeat that Why We Fly is a well-written book.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Sourcebooks Fire (October 5, 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 320 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1492678929
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1492678922
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 14 - 17 years
  • Grade level ‏ : ‎ 8 - 12

*Black, capitalized, is used in Why We Fly. I checked while writing the review.