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Monday, January 31, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

Thank you, PragmaticAttic, for awarding me the Stylish Blogger Award!
I feel really honored, considering I've only started blogging a few days ago! (And I really like your blog, too!)
Here’s how it works:
  1. Make a post and thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award!
  2. Share 7 things about yourself!
  3. Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers so we can share the love!
  4. Contact these bloggers and tell them they’ve won!
Things about myself:
1. I recently made Aliyah to Teverya
2. I'm a really frugal person, and I enjoy bargain hunting, but I hate haggling.
3. I was a vegetarian for over 12 years, but now I sometimes eat (organic) chicken
4. I miss fat-free milk
5. We bemoan the lack of Very Vanilla Soy Milk in this country daily in our house
6. I love strawberries, pineapple, persimmon, and kiwi
7. I have the best hubby and kids!

I am awarding the Stylish Blogger Award to:

Rena at Vegan Start, a good friend who recently became a vegan, and I love reading and trying out her creative recipes!

Kosher On a Budget, who tirelessly works on her frugality. So inspiring!

Vanessa Brooks CEO Blog, one I enjoy reading when Vanessa gets around to writing. She always has an interesting perspective to share.

I may add more!

Tuesday Night (Feb. 1, 2011)

I think I've been doing pretty well making sure our meals are balanced, nutritious, and frugal, and even a healthy mom deserves a really easy supper night sometimes!

So, it's Pasta Night!

Pita Crisps
Spaghetti with Rose Sauce
Spiral Pasta with Cheese (for those picky children)
Cut vegetables with "Ranch" dressing
Citrus Fruits for Dessert

Some notes about these foods:

If you have day-old pitot to use up, split them open, cut into wedges, brush with olive oil or melted butter, sprinkle with garlic, salt, and oregano (optional: parmesan cheese, but at approx 100 NIS/kilo, I decided not to buy the parmesan right now), and bake at 375 F (190 C) till crisp.

I use whole grain pastas. This makes me feel better about serving pasta, and my kids don't know about any other kind. Occasionally my husband says he misses white pasta, but I have convinced him that the health benefits of eating whole grains outweigh all of his complaints. Nitzat Haduvdevan has organic whole grain pastas on sale this month, the Teverya Mazon Organi store has them for just over 6 NIS, or I found (conventional) whole grain pasta at Yesh last week on sale for 3.99 NIS/bag.

Rose Sauce: I use shortcuts! I just simply combine crushed tomatoes with basil, garlic, salt, and pepper, and mix it with Gevinah Levanah (Israeli white cheese), and heat, but not to boiling. It makes a passable stand-in for Rose sauce.

Ranch Dressing - we really do miss Newman's Own Ranch Dressing. We haven't found anything like it. So I just mix up some yogurt and spices and pretend it's ranch dressing, and the kids eat it, but they do say there's something missing. Any ideas to improve it are appreciated! Just leave me a note in the comments!

A note about organics: I prefer organic over conventional in most cases, but having recently made Aliyah and still trying to figure out how to make our new budget work, I find that I have been forgoing some of my organic purchases for now. I have found that some things (bulk grains, legumes, sugar, etc) are about the same price at the health food store as the conventional version in most supermarkets - sometimes even less, so I'm sticking with affordable organic items for now, using lots of "Sterily" fruit and vegetable cleaner on my produce, looking for lab-path "pachot hadbara" certification, etc, and trying to buy items that are as natural as I can find. (Oils have been a challenge - you can find lots of cold pressed olive oil here, but it's very hard to find oils of any other kind that have not been chemically extracted. I've been splurging on organic sunflower oil and using it sparingly...)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Monday Night

Aside from the frugal aspect, I'm looking for easy meals. We usually have busy days, and since I homeschool my 4 kids, I really don't have much downtime...ever.

For Monday evening, I'm looking to incorporate leftovers into the plan (I've been trying harder not to have to throw those out. If you have tips to make sure that leftovers get used up, please share! My kids sometimes groan when they see a food served "AGAIN".).

I just took stock of the fridge, and while most of our Shabbat food actually got eaten (and the leftover barley went into the freezer), we have plenty of vegetable noodle soup left!

(By the way, I'm really big on soup right now. It's winter, and we live in a "warm" location in Israel, which means we have a poorly insulated house and not-so-efficient heaters. And it's raining - a good thing! In other words, sometimes it's colder inside our house than out, and I'm too frugal to heat the place all the time!)

So here's what we'll be eating (it's a vegan menu!):

Vegetable-Noodle Soup
Sloppy "Sams" in pitot
Steamed Cauliflower and Broccoli
Oven-crisp Roasted Potato Wedges
I rarely do dessert during the week, but maybe I'll even bake muffins! I have a few wrinkly apples to use up.

Some notes about these foods:

The soup is the same one from Friday night. I keep all my Shabbat soups pareve, so I can use them again during the beginning of the week.

Sloppy Sams are Vegetarian Sloppy Joes. I'm making these with drained and crumbled tofu (I buy these at Kimat Chinam; if you buy 3 tofu cubes at a time, they are 3/23.99 NIS. Does anyone have a better deal to share?), browned in olive oil with diced onion and peppers, cooked with tomato paste, water, and spices. We still haven't worked out the perfect combination of Sloppy Sam spices, so if you have any TNT recipes, please share!

Cauliflower and Broccoli - the cauliflower was on sale for 1 NIS/kilo, so we'll be going heavy on the cauliflower, light on the brocolli. The best price I found for broccoli was 8 NIS/kilo at Yesh. Kimat Chinam was 14 NIS/kilo and Rami Levy something like 17 NIS/kilo. My kids love broccoli, so I figured I would have to continue to buy it and stretch it with the cauliflower...

For the Potato Wedges, I usually combine olive oil, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mix well with potato wedges (just scrub and cut - leave those peels on so you get the vitamins and trace minerals!), and bake in the oven at 400 F till crispy and turning brown. The kids like to eat them with ketchup...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sunday Night

It's going to be a busy week, so I've begun my planning already now that the kids are in bed (ok, only the younger ones).
Tomorrow, we plan to be out and about all afternoon. And I still have plenty of those 1 and 2 NIS/kilo veggies, plus the Bulgarian Cheese that was on sale at Kim'at Chinam.

Here's the menu for Sunday evening:

Black Bean & Tomato Soup (crock pot)
Embellished Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Salad - Lettuce, Tomato, Avocado, Bulgarian Cheese, and Olives(w/ a splash of olive oil)
Fruit for dessert (we have tons of oranges and pomelit right now)

A note about the soup: be sure to used pre-cooked black beans! (It's another one of those chop and toss recipes that I love: chop onions, garlic, celery, red pepper, a small potato, and 2 tomatoes. Place in crock pot with cooked black beans, tomato paste or crushed tomatoes, and 1 c. frozen corn. Cover with water or soup stock, season to taste. Let your crock pot cook it all day!)

Embellished grilled cheese means everyone gets to put their own "toasted" sandwich together. We usually offer a variety of cheeses, tomatoes, olives, and roasted peppers. But, of course, you can be as creative as you like!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Shabbat Menu

This week's Shabbat menu is built around the produce I got at Kim'at Chinam for 1 NIS/kilo, and the produce I got at Yesh for 1.99 NIS/kilo. Both really great deals! I just have to learn how to figure out how heavy 3 kg is, as the maximum you can usually get when they have these sales is 3 kg per type. Unfortunately, I lowballed all my purchases, and could have easily come home with twice as much produce for these awesome prices...

When we don't have guests, I try to keep my menus simple - that means fewer courses and fewer dishes, but still plenty of good food to fill everyone up! Since we have no guests this week, here's my plan:

Vegetable-Noodle Soup
Pomegranate Chicken
Pan-Fried Tofu Steaks for my favorite vegetarian (my 12 yr old - yes, a boy!)
Carrot Kugel
Oven Roasted Beets
Oven Roasted Cauliflower
Toasted Barley with Mushrooms
Salad - lettuce, purple cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and avocado
Lentil-Barley Stew (in the crock pot, for lunch)


Some notes about these dishes:

When making a vegetarian vegetable soup, I always sautee all the veggies in extra virgin olive oil, then cook, covered, to reduce, for 10-15 min. before adding any liquid. I don't know, I just think it tastes better this way in the end. I use onions, garlic, celery, tons of carrots, zucchini, and other veggies as the mood hits me. It's a really easy soup.
I also save all the trimmings from vegetables (don't use potato peelings or beet trimmings, though!) in gallon-size zipper-close bag in my freezer. when the bag is full, I simmer the trimmings in water for many hours in my huge stock pot, to make vegetable stock. Just make sure you strain it well when it's done. I then use some for the day's cooking, and freeze the rest in pint-size containers for later use.

Carrot Kugel - I usually make 6 of these at a time, and freeze for later. My 3 year old can't get enough of them, so I serve carrot kugel almost every week. I use a modified muffin recipe, bake in loaf pans, wrap well, and freeze.

Oven-Roasted Veggies - what could be easier!

The toasted barley recipe is new for my family, but I have promised them that we'll be trying out new dishes, in order to find some new favorites (this is what I need that vegetable stock for this week)

Thursday Night

I usually cut myself a little slack on Thursday night; I know that I will either be up late cooking for Shabbat or frantically cooking the whole next day (trying to end that bad habit!). We used to order pizza, until we started noticing just how expensive that really was... so in the States we switched over to pre-made pizza crusts, that we topped ourselves. Always yum!

Here, I haven't found premade pizza crusts. So we have a few options:
1) make our own pizza dough (too time consuming for a Thursday, in my opinion).
2) use pizza crust that we made previously and froze (an ambition of mine).
3) use pitot or other flatbread instead of crust.
4) buy french bread or bagels or random other breads and make "french bread pizza" or pizza bagels.
5) buy premade pizzas in the frozen food section of the supermarket (Yesh sells 3-packs for 33.80NIS), and add our own toppings.


So, the menu for Thursday Supper is:

Leftover Minestrone Soup (for those who want it)
A Variation on Pizza
Salad

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Today's Menu

Today seems to be a "Pantry Challenge" Day. If you're not familiar with the idea of a pantry challenge, I'll give you a quick explanation:
A pantry challenge is when you challenge yourself to cook meals only using the food you already have in your house - pantry, fridge, freezer - without running out to the store. (There's a Yahoo group I've been a member of for several years devoted to this practice. People get really creative!) Some people do a Pantry Challenge when their budget is too tight, and they really cannot afford to shop anymore till the next paycheck, some do it because they simply aren't able to get to the store (that's me!), and still others do it as a "test" - to see if they are stocking up on the right things when they shop. This has lots to do with emergency preparedness, and also everything to do with bargain hunting.
I haven't been to the supermarket since 9 days ago (no good reason, really), so the food situation in my house right now is interesting, to say the least.

For now, my menus are going to focus on Supper (or Dinner).
I found a bunch of wilting broccoli at the back of the fridge that must get used - or thrown out, and that would be a shame - so I'm building my supper around that:

Minestrone Soup
Crustless Broccoli Quiche
Baked Potatoes
Cut veggies with dressing (all that's left are tomatoes and orange peppers, so that's what it is!)

Not Gourmet

I am a busy person. I used to cook all sorts of complicated recipes, and I really enjoyed the challenge. Now, though, I don't have time for that. And my kids like simple flavors better, so I rarely use recipes (sometimes recipe is a stretch, I improvise so much!) that have multiple stages, more than one bowl, or complicated instructions (that's why there won't be any recipes that require that you separate eggs and beat the whites). These menus are for people like me - people who have busy lives and, perhaps, picky kids.

A Note of Explanation

We basically follow a lacto-ovo-vegetarian lifestyle (that means we do include dairy and eggs in our diet), and we even eat chicken on Shabbat. I know that there are others out there who do the same, and for those of you who eat more meat, well, you can always use my ideas to expand your repertoire of vegetable-based dishes! For those of you who are vegan, I will have to refer you to my friend over at Vegan Start, although many of my dishes can be adapted as you like.

Inspiration

Since our recent aliyah, I  have found myself scrambling to put together healthy, appealing meals for my family of 6, almost always at the Last Minute. I have been trying to acclimate to the fact that so many of my go-to meals in the States are just not practical here. (Either the ingredients are not readily available, or they are so absurdly expensive that it will not work within my modest budget!)

I have spoken to so many people who have similar issues. Ok, so not all of you have made Aliyah, and some of you made Aliyah 20 years ago, and some are Returning Citizens, but so many people struggle to keep a balance and keep their families fed without resorting to pizza or other takeout (definitely budget busters!).

So I have decided to organize my menus (mostly for my benefit) and post them here, so others can enjoy them, tweak them, and help me out!

So as this blog progresses, please comment, leave your feedback, tips, etc. I can always use the extra help!