Grape Popsicles

June is a tough month for parents. So many end-of-year activities. My eldest is graduating from elementary school (oh dear…) and we had no less than three graduation parties this week. And this is in addition to a dozen other events.

Since almost all events somehow end up with me baking something, I’m all baked out. But I really can’t stay out of the kitchen for long.

So I made these grape popsicles. The easiest ever. And the kids loved them. My curly-haired 3-year-old asks for them first thing when he walks in the door after his daycare.

And since I haven’t been a nag in a while, I’ll just mention this: It’s summer. Clothes are down to a minimum. We’re much more aware of our bodies. Isn’t this a great time to get your breasts examined? Or send your wife/girlfriend to do the same?

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Grape Popsicles 

2 cups whole grapes, washed

4 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Instructions:

Place all ingredients in blender and work until smooth.

Pour through small strainer to remove all residual peel.

Pour into popsicle molds (made 6 in mine) and freeze for about 4 hours.

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Challah and Buns Galore!

There’s a standing argument between me and my officer. He can never understand why I feel the need to try a new recipe for something when I already have a great one I use regularly. Well, the answer to that is… um… I don’t know.

I have absolutely no good reason. And many times, he’s right – I’ll try out something new just to find that my go-to recipe is much better.

But every now and again, I’ll find a new “wow”. And I guess that makes it worth all the other times.

So I’ve been making challah for a while now, almost every Friday night, and it was really good. Fragrant, and soft, and just delicious. Also, fully approved by my sister’s kids, each of whom can eat an entire loaf on their own.

And then I tried this one. I actually tried it first as a bun recipe.

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And it was soooo good. And the dough was so soft and nice to work with. So I tried it again.

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And again.

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And I just love it. Maybe now I’ll stop trying out new challah recipes… Maybe.

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Challah (or Buns) (adapted from the wonderful blog Happy Kitchen)

1/2 kg (1 pound) flour

25 grams active yeast granules (or 1 tablespoon instant yeast)

100 grams sugar

200-300 ml milk, warm

1 egg

1/4 cup oil

1 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

In bowl of mixer with kneading hook, mix together flour and yeast. Add sugar.

Add 200 ml warm milk. Resist the urge to add more at this stage. The dough seems dry, but there are other fluids going in. Knead for 1-2 minutes.

Add egg, oil and salt and continue kneading. If after fully incorporated, dough is still dry, gradually add more milk. Dough should be only slightly sticky.

Knead for 5-7 minutes. Transfer to oiled bowl, cover and let rise for about 1.5 hours. It’s OK if it doesn’t double in volume.

Turn out onto floured surface. Shape challah or buns. Cover and let rise for another 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 175C degrees (350F degrees). Bake for 20-25 minutes. Challah is ready when golden.

 

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

My grandmother was the best. She lived with us for 5 years when I was young and was a complete parental substitute. My parents worked long hours. She was there when I got home from school. She taught me to love books. She taught me to play games. She taught my all kinds of crafts (though she probably could have found a better student).

She also spent hours and hours with me in the kitchen. I mostly remember baking cookies, but I know she was a wonderful cook and baker. My memories of her are all warm and homey. She passed away at the age of 90, in the prime of her life, with a busier schedule than I have. I miss her deeply.

One of my strongest memories is of making chocolate chip cookies together in our kitchen in Boston. I’m almost certain she used the Tollhouse recipe. Over the years, as I became more interested in food blogs,  I was always amazed at the sheer volume of recipes for chocolate chip cookies.  Why would anyone want to make anything different than the ones I grew up on?!

And then I tried these. They’re originally from a Martha Stewart recipe. And they’re amazing. They’re actually even better the next day, if they manage to make it that far.

I’m sure my grandmother,  with her love of baking,  would forgive me for going a different way with the cookies. And I promise I’ll be sharing some of her family recipes along the way.

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Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Martha Stewart)

Makes about 24 cookies

2 1/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

200 grams butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup demerera sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 eggs, large

1 package semisweet chocolate chips (about 1.5 cups)

Instructions:

In mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. At low speed,  add salt, vanilla and eggs. Beat until well mixed. Add flour and baking soda and beat just until combined.*

* I add all of the dry ingredients at once, cover the mixer with a towel and use a few short pulses until the flour is incorporated into the batter – this helps avoid overbeating the mixture.

Drop balls of dough on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Are you using a cookie scoop? You should.

Place sheet in refrigerator for a few minutes (this keeps the cookies from spreading too much). Another option is to refrigerate the whole bowl and then scoop out the refrigerated dough.

Heat oven to 175°C (350°F) and bake for 8-10 minutes. I usually place two sheets in the oven at once, and thenthen baking time should be a little longer. Cookies should be golden and soft.

Let cool for 5 minutes on sheet before removing to rack, otherwise they’ll crumble when removed.

I have often doubled and tripled the recipe with no problem.

One-Bowl Egg-Free Chocolate Cake

Let’s talk about some misconceptions about breast cancer.

Only older women get breast cancer: No. While it’s true breast cancer is more common in older women, many cases occur in women in their 30s and 40s, and even 20s. Thirty is a good age to start annual breast exams.

Mammograms are worthless: No. While not perfect, mammograms are the best tool we have for early diagnosis of breast cancer. If you’re over 40, get a mammogram.

I had a mammogram and it was normal, so I’m fine: I certainly hope so, but since mammograms are not perfect, as mentioned, you always need to have a manual exam as well.

More next time.

Now about this wonderful chocolate cake. Wait, aren’t all chocolate cakes wonderful?!

I’ll cream and beat and whip and boil with the best of them, but sometimes I just don’t feel like it. Wouldn’t it be nice to make a great chocolate cake using just a bowl and a spoon?

This has become my go-to kids birthday cake. It’s been a lion, a princess castle, a butterfly, a farm and dozens of other cakes over the years. It’s moist and just sweet enough. It’s also great as cupcakes. Really, you should make it.

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One-Bowl Egg-Free Chocolate Cake (adapted from “Sweet Secrets 2” by Carine Goren)

3 cups (420 grams) flour

2 1/4 cups (450 grams) sugar

1 cup (140 grams) cocoa powder

1 heaped teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (240 ml) oil

400 ml sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups (250 ml) soda water

Instructions:

Heat oven to 175°C (350°F).

In large bowl, mix together all dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and mix until combined. Make sure you scrape the bottom of the bowl well.

Pour into oiled baking pan (30×40 cm or 26cm round or muffins). Bake 45 minutes ror rectangular,  55 minutes for round or 25 minutes for muffins.

Let cool and top with frosting of your choice. Or not.

 

Majadra with Wheat Groats (Burgul) and Cauliflower

I am not a night person. I have an 8-month-old baby, a 3 year old and a preteen girl. I haven’t slept in 12 years… I also have a pretty demanding job, more emotionally than physically. So, most evenings by 21:00 o’clock I am on the couch staring at any stupidity on TV that does not require my brain to function even a little bit,  and fighting a losing battle with my eyelids.

I’m also not a coffee person. Can you imagine going through a surgical residency without coffee? Crazy. The kids finally broke me down. On really difficult days I’ll swallow a cup of coffee as if it were medicine just to make it through the evening.

So then there was this evening. I’d had my afternoon cup of coffee. My eldest wasn’t home. I’d managed to get the boys to bed by 20:30 (pat on back). My officer hadn’t been home for three (or was it four?) nights in a row and wasn’t expected. I was on my way to the couch (otherwise known as the land of no return), and somehow decided to head into the kitchen to try this recipe I’d seen earlier in the week.

There’s no explaining it. It’s unheard of. I guess something about having the house to myself, the complete and wondrous quiet, just made me want some kitchen time.

And I found myself still awake at 23:00 o’clock (middle of the night!!), with a wonderful dish as well.

Not to worry. The next evening I was asleep on the couch before the kids.

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Majadra with Burgul and Cauliflower (adapted from “Mom’s Food” by Benny Saida)

1 1/2 cups black or green lentils

2 cups thick wheat groats (burgul)

1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons olive oil

4 onions,  peeled, halved and sliced

1 cauliflower, broken into small florets

2 heaped tablespoons baharat spice

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1 heaped teaspoon cumin

salt and pepper

100 grams (3.5 oz) pine nuts, lightly toasted

Instructions

Rinse lentils and place in bowl. Cover with boiling water and let rest for 1 hour. Place burgul in separate bowl,  cover with boiling water and let rest for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, heat 1/2 cup oil in large saucepan,  add onions and cauliflower and sauté for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally,  until lightly browned.

Drain lentils and place in large pot. Add 3 tablespoons oil, baharat,  allspice, cumin, salt and pepper. Add 4 cups boiling water and bring to boil.  Cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes.

Drain burgul and stir into pot. Remove from heat and let rest for 20 minutes, allowing the burgul to absorb the fluids in the pot. Stir and add spices to taste.

Stir in onions and cauliflower. Stir in toasted pine nuts.

Serve with salad, tahini sauce or yogurt.

 

 

 

Tunisian Meatballs

It’s a Friday night. The end of a long week. I’m needing some comfort food, and this recipe hits the mark. It’s one of my favorites, and, happily, one of my kids’ favorites, too.

But first. Just for a second. Bear with me.

One in 7-8 women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. Can’t stop it. That’s just a fact. But you can stop it from being a tragedy. Early detection saves lives. Be aware of your body. There’s no shame in going to a doctor because something feels different. And if there’s nothing there? Believe me, as a breast surgeon, there’s nothing I love more than saying “Everything’s fine”.

On to comfort food.

This recipe is from a cookbook named “Meatballs” by Benny Saida, who is one of my favorite cookbook writers.

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Tunisian Meatballs (adapted from “Meatballs” by Benny Saida)

For Meatballs:

500 grams ( 18 oz) ground chicken

1 potato, peeled and grated

3 tablespoons bread crumbs

1 egg

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves

3 tablespoons chopped celery leaves

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Salt and freshly ground pepper

For Sauce:

1/2 cup oil

8 garlic cloves, minced

4 tomatoes,  peeled and diced into small cubes

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon hot or smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Instructions:

Mix all meatball ingredients in large bowl and set aside.

In wide saucepan with lid heat oil. Add garlic, tomatoes and spices and sauté for 5 minutes. Add 3 cups water and bring to boil.

Form small meatballs and add to sauce. Bring to boil again, cover and cook over low heat for approximately 30 minutes, until sauce thickens.

Serve over pasta. Or just, you know, eat.

I usually double the amount of meatballs since they go so quickly.

Allspice Crumb Muffins

I really love baking. Really. But somedays it’s sooooo hot, I just don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen. So when a friend said she was dropping by for coffee (yay!) I wanted to try something new, but quick.

This recipe is from Dorie Greenspan’s book “Baking: From My Home to Yours“, a wonderful, friendly, homey cookbook.

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Allspice Crumb Muffins (from Baking: From My Home to Yours) – makes 12

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup light brown sugar

120 gram (4 oz) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 large eggs

3/4 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Zest from 1 lemon

Streusel:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

75 grams (2.5 oz) cold butter, cut small

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F).

In large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in brown sugar, making sure there are no lumps. In smaller bowl, whisk together butter, milk, eggs and vanilla until combined.

Pour wet ingredients over dry and stir quickly just to blend. Mixture should by lumpy. Don’t worry. All is well. Stir in lemon zest. Divide among muffin cups.

In separate bowl, mix flour, sugar and allspice. Add butter bits and work with fingers to create crumbs of all sizes. Sprinkle over muffin batter in each cup.

Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden and pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes before removing. They’re going to smell so good you’ll want to gobble them up immediately…

The muffins are best on same day but can keep a day or two if wrapped. You can also freeze them for 2 months, wrapped tight.