Lentil Salad

A couple weeks ago, I made a lentil salad to bring to a potluck. The dish was SUPER easy to make and turned out delicious! *full recipe below

To start, I chopped one onion and sautéed it in a little bit of coconut oil until it started to brown:


Next, I added 1 cup of brown lentils, 3 cups water, and 2 chopped carrots:


After stirring around, I added in 1 tsp each of rosemary and thyme:


I let everything simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 40 minutes until all of the liquid was gone:


Once finished, I let the lentils cool on the stove for about half an hour before transferring to the refrigerator and serving cold the next day. This recipe required very little active time and tasted great at the next day’s lunch!

Lentil Salad
 serves 10 as a side dish
 - 1 onion
 - 2 carrots
 - 1 cup lentils
 - 3 cups water
 - 1 tsp. thyme
 - 1 tsp. rosemary
 - chop onion and saute in saucepan with coconut oil or
 other oil of your choice until starting to brown
 - add lentils, water, and chopped carrots
 - stir and then add thyme and rosemary
 - simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until water is gone
 - serve hot or cold

In other news…

Noah and I recently enjoyed a brief visit to a toy store we found near Hadar Mall in Talpiot. The exterior of the store drew our attention, so we peeked inside to see what it was all about:

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SPOTTED: an Israeli version of a minecraft building set:


That looked fun, but princess puzzles are more my sort of game:


And finally, a big highlight from my week…

receiving a ‘Shanah Tovah’ (literally ‘good year,’ said as a greeting around Rosh Hashanah) chocolate with my Aroma coffee:


There is something so completely lovable to me about the visibility and commercialization of Jewish holidays in Israel. I guess sometimes it’s nice to not be in the minority. 🙂

Shanah Tovah!

This past Thursday and Friday were Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Jerusalem was completely abuzz with preparation for the holiday – especially since the holiday would be immediately followed by Shabbat, meaning essentially all stores would be closed for three days! Noah and I went to the grocery store three times in preparation (partly because we were hosting a 10-person meal so we needed lots of food), and the stores were definitely chaotic with extremely slow moving lines – it takes a long time to ring up a huge cart stuffed with groceries!

We had plans to have guests on Thursday night, so I did all the cooking on Wednesday before the holiday started. Like Shabbat, most major Jewish holidays carry prohibitions against doing work, using electronics, spending money, lighting and extinguishing fire (which many interpret as including turning lights on and off). While on Shabbat all cooking is prohibited, one is allowed to cook during most of the other holidays. You might be wondering…how can you cook without lighting fire? While you can’t light or extinguish a flame, you are allowed to transfer flames. Thus, someone could leave on a low burning flame on their stove and turn up the heat when they want to cook something. Alternatively, one could also light the gas of their oven with a transferred flame so long as they don’t light the fire through the stove’s mechanics. It’s a moot point for our apartment because the stove is electric. We did, however, still use a couple long-burning yahrzeit candles to transfer flame from for lighting candles in the evening.

Anyways…back to the dinner! I planned a dairy menu for the meal which included…

Grenada Salad featuring chickpeas and pomegranate seeds (recipe here):

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Pomegranates are a food traditionally eaten during Rosh Hashanah, and they also carry a more general symbolism within Judaism. It is said that they have 613 seeds (corresponding to the 613 mitzvot). Additionally, the pomegranate is considered a ‘new fruit’ during Rosh Hashanah time, meaning it is a fruit that has just come into season and typically hasn’t been eaten recently. This makes it a perfect candidate for fulfilling the obligation to eat new fruits during the holiday. The new fruit is eaten with a special blessing that reminds us to appreciate the coming of a new season and our ability to be alive to experience it.

While pomegranates are delicious (and beautifully symbolic!), they can be a pain to remove seeds from! Luckily, I found a great tip for pomegranate seed-removal in Woman’s Day magazine. Simply fill a bowl with water, cut the pomegranate in half, and turn it inside out under the water, using your fingers to break the seeds apart from the flesh. Once the seeds are freed from the pomegranate, drain the water and you’re all set!

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It truly only takes a minute and is SUCH an easy alternative to the juice-spraying wrestling match involved in other methods of seed-removal.

Beet and feta salad:


I roasted my beets dry, in foil, until tender and then topped them with 200 grams feta cheese and 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.

Sweet noodle kugel (modeled from this recipe):
I followed the linked recipe pretty closely except I substituted greek yogurt for sour cream, reduced the amount of cream cheese to 5 oz., and used about 1.3 lbs. of very thin egg noodles (all I could find in Israel!).

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after resting for an hour

after resting for an hour

topped with cinnamon sugar, before baking

topped with cinnamon sugar, before baking

after baking

after baking

Green Beans with Mustard Dressing (recipe here):

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I followed the listed recipe almost exactly (only changes were that I soaked the shallots in red wine vinegar instead of rice wine vinegar and I omitted both salt and cayenne pepper from the dressing). It was delicious! This was definitely one of my favorite things at the meal, and I highly recommend it!

Spinach, mushroom, and egg bake (a variation of my Dandelion Greens Egg Bake recipe):
I used 200 grams spinach, the tops of one bunch scallions, 1 package of chopped mushroom, 8 oz. cheese, and 18 eggs for this recipe:

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And after baking for 45 minutes at 350º:


And finally, curry tuna cakes (inspired from the recipe here):
I used whole wheat flour and omitted the salt and pepper. I made a big batch, so in total my full recipe included 7 eggs, 7 cans of tuna, 4 Tbsp. whole wheat flour, 4 tsp. curry powder, and 1/2 cup chopped scallions.

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Wow! So much food!

Noah set a beautiful table…


…and cleaned the apartment:

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Which involved mending the broom which essentially snapped in half. Luckily, Noah is extremely resourceful and did a quick-fix job using old cereal boxes as a splint:

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Side note, this sort of fix-it job reminds me of my dad’s home repair style (Dad, remember that drawer in Tulsa?).

Guests generously contributed wine, challah, green salad, salatim, desserts, and a carrot vegetable side dish to the meal. It would sure be a lot of work to host every week, but it was well worth the effort to have friends over and enjoy a holiday meal together. 🙂

Hotel Yehuda

Last weekend, I participated in a Shabbaton with Pardes. All the students spent Shabbat together at Hotel Yehuda, located in southeast Jerusalem near the Biblical Zoo. You know you’re in an Israeli hotel when the gift shop is full of Judaica:


The hotel was so nice! I haven’t stayed in a hotel in a quite a while, so that might have been part of my amazement, but the rooms were really nice with a great balcony and views:

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The shower was a little odd with some sort of nature scene plastered against the wall (ignore my creepy reflection in the photo):


The main lobby also had a large balcony with a restaurant/bar and great views overlooking Jerusalem:

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The real highlight of the hotel was the food! Like most Israeli hotels, Hotel Yehuda has some sort of cafeteria/buffet area. This is not your average cafeteria spread though. For lunch and dinner, there were multiple meat options, salads, breads, desserts, vegetables, potatoes, pickles…you name it.

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For breakfast, there was an impressive spread of cheeses, yogurts, fruit, puddings, baked dishes, eggs, and an awesome espresso machine!

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On Friday afternoon before Shabbat started, the group went for a short hike along the Israel National Trail (INT). The INT is a trail that crosses Israel from North to South and is about 620 miles in total. Many people hike the trail in its entirety over a period of several weeks, but people can also do small sections of the trail for anywhere between a few hours and a few days. With the Pardes group, we hiked a short section near South Jerusalem, but I definitely hope to revisit the trail several times during my time here! There were some great views from the section I did last Friday:

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It was nice to get out of the main city area where I’ve been spending essentially all my time, and the weekend ‘away’ made me eager to plan some other Israel adventures!


Jerusalem Cafes: Round 2

A couple weeks ago, I posted about cafe culture in Jerusalem and a few of the nearby cafes I visited during my first couple weeks in Jerusalem (see that post here).

As my weeks in Jerusalem have increased, the list of cafes I want to try grows longer and longer. Luckily, I’ve had the opportunity to try a couple more cafes in the last few weeks…

First up, I went to Shosh Cafe with a group of friends about two weeks ago. I went with a group of friends from college (oddly, there are a lot of us here in Jerusalem this year)! While the cafe was supposed to be yummy, a big motivating factor for choosing it was the comedic effect that it shared a name with our college Rabbi.


The signature ‘Shosh breakfast’ was quite a sight to behold:

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I opted out of the namesake breakfast, however, and instead had a frittata with sweet potatoes, cheese, veggies, and all the typical Israeli breakfast accoutrements (bread, spreads, salad):


Shosh Cafe was delicious and I would definitely go there again. As mentioned previously though, my list of places to try is long enough it might be a while before I’m going on a ‘second round’ anywhere. 🙂

My official first day of classes at Pardes was two Sundays ago, and after my first day ‘back to school,’ Noah and I went out to dinner at RoladinRoladin is near our apartment in the Baka neighborhood in a small shopping center. The cafe is both a bakery (with desserts, pastries, and coffee drinks) and a sit-down restaurant:


I ordered a salad with eggplant, tahini, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, radish and onions:


Noah ordered a pizza:


The meal was good, but I preferred the other cafes we’ve been to. I think I would be more interested to grab a coffee or dessert at Roladin than to go back for a full meal.

Lastly, at the end of last week we went out with some friends to a nearby Baka neighborhood cafe called Hamakom Shel Itzik (Itzik’s Place). As mentioned in some of my previous posts, essentially all restaurants in Jerusalem in kosher. What this typically means is that the restaurant pays a fee to hold a kosher contract with the chief rabbinate of Jerusalem. After paying the contract fee, a restaurant can receive a certificate of kashrut on their wall, confirming that they meet the standards of kashrut as set forth by the chief rabbinate. If, however, a restaurant meets all of the standards of kashrut but doesn’t pay the fee to the chief rabbinate, they cannot receive a certificate and, therefore, are prevented from being publicly recognized as kosher.

As you might imagine, this system leads to some frustration and the feeling that the fee to the chief rabbinate is, at best, unfair and, at worst, corrupt. In response, a small group of Jerusalem restaurants have challenged the chief rabbinate’s authority, refusing to pay the kashrut fee but still calling themselves kosher. No, there’s no certificate on the wall, but the kitchen is kept strictly kosher and all business stops on Shabbat. If you are uncomfortable eating at the restaurant for lack of certainty about their level of kashrut, they are even happy to give you a peek into their kitchen!

Hamakom Shel Itzik is one of these restaurants, and I really enjoyed my meal there. Around the table, there was lentil soup, stuffed grape leaves, eggplant/egg/tahini salad, and a cheese-filled boureka.


The food was excellent, and our server was also particularly friendly (something not so common in Israel where the waiters often seem less-than-interested in chatting with their table).

Stay tuned for more cafe recaps soon…and if you are interested in reading more about the situation regarding Jerusalem restaurants holding their own kashrut and challenging the chief rabbinate, read this article!


Dense and Delicious Brownies

After last week’s cooking experiment with avocado chocolate cake, I was eager to try another dessert recipe using the big green monster.


When I was asked to bake another dessert to bring to a Shabbat meal this weekend, I decided to make a recipe for brownies using avocado as a dairy replacement again. I found this recipe online and used that as a starting point for the recipe listed below. *full recipe at bottom of page

To begin, I (vigorously) beat together 4 eggs and 2/3 cup white sugar:


Then, I heated 8 oz. non-dairy semisweet chocolate chips on the stove top until just melted:

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So much love chocolate!!

I quickly re-stirred the egg/sugar mixture and then stirred in the melted chocolate.


Next, I added 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cocoa powder, and 2 tsp vanilla to the mixture and stirred until it formed a smooth, thick batter:

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Next up…mash the avocado!


The avocados in Israel are ENORMOUS, so I only used one. If you are using regular size avocados I would use two though. Once the avocado was sufficiently mashed, I added it to the batter and stirred until it was thick, smooth, and had no visible green flecks:

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I poured the batter into a 9 inch round baking pan and baked for 45 minutes at 350º. If I had a better stocked kitchen, I think it would be better to bake in a square baking dish (I would also check to see if the brownies are set starting at 30 minutes).

They came out wonderfully.

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The brownies were extremely dense, moist, delicious…all the good things. Last week’s cake had a little bit of the ‘healthy’ flavor to it, but these could have passed for brownies teeming with butter and heavy cream. Definitely a good contribution to any meal. 🙂

Dense and Delicious Brownies
- 4 eggs
- 2/3 cup white sugar
- 8 oz. chocolate chips (non-dairy if necessary)
- 1/2 cup wheat flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 1 very large or two small mashed avocados
- Vigorously beat together eggs and sugar in a large bowl
- Melt chocolate chips on stovetop over low heat until
just melted
- Quickly re-stir eggs/sugar and add in melted chocolate 
and stir until well combined
- Add flour, cocoa, and vanilla, stirring to combine
- Mash avocado and then add to the batter
- Stir until a smooth, thick batter forms
- Place in a 9 inch round or square baking dish
and cook for 30-45 minutes at 350º (I would
check the center of the brownie to see if firm
starting at 30 minutes)
- Allow to cool and slice, if desired


Jerusalem Wine Festival

This past week was the Jerusalem Wine Festival at the Israel Museum.  The Wine Festival is an annual event, taking place in the Israel Museum’s Art Garden and featuring tastings from wineries from all over Israel.

This was actually Noah’s and my second time to the Israel museum. On our first visit two weekends ago, we looked at a few of the indoor galleries and exhibits. The museum is quite large featuring a wide collection of art, Judaica, synagogue recreations, a model of the second temple, the Dead Sea Scrolls, archaological exhibits, the outdoor art garden, and a few temporary exhibits. When we went, we visited the contemporary Israeli art galleries and temporary exhibits called ‘Dress Codes: Revealing the Jewish Wardrobe,’ ‘Light Spaces,’ and ‘Big Bambu.’

photo from one of the rooms included in the 'Light Spaces' exhibit

photo from one of the rooms included in the ‘Light Spaces’ exhibit

Big Bambu was definitely the highlight of the visit! Essentially, Big Bambu is a huge sculpture made entirely out of bambu…and the best part is that people can climb it! The exhibit is outside in the art garden, and if you buy a ticket to climb you are assigned a certain entry time when you will be allowed to go up in the sculpture:


Good thing they limit the number of people climbing, because at times it was a little scary climbing up so high on only bamboo floors!


From the center of the sculpture, it looked like a big mess of bambu sticks to all sides:

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At the edges of the sculpture there were great views looking out over the city and the art garden:

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But back to the Wine Festival!!

The Wine Festival took place exclusively in the Art Garden, and attendees received a wine glass upon admission:


The various wineries had booths set up around the garden.

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Most wineries seemed to offer about 2-4 wines for tasting, and the people working at the stand were quite friendly and happy to offer multiple tastes or more information about the wine.

Mixed in with the wine were a couple hard cider stands, including one called Buster’s that had an amazing hard lemonade!


There were also stands giving out samples of passionfruit wine, chocolate liquor, and aperol spritz.

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Mixed in among the tasting stands were some nice places to sit and relax…


…as well as a few eateries (wine tastings were included with admission but food was for purchase). There was an especially nice looking cheese stand!

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We were at the event for about two hours, and there seemed to be a steady stream of people coming in the whole time. It was definitely a popular outing!


Afterwards, Noah and I walked home and stumbled upon some live music at the Tahana:


All in all, a wonderful evening. 🙂

Avocado Chocolate Cake

Kashrut is a Hebrew word meaning ‘fit’ or ‘proper.’ Although it has several applications in Jewish law, kashrut is most often spoken about in relationship to food and the Jewish dietary laws. To explain the entire system of dietary laws here is a much larger undertaking than I am interested in, so I will VERY briefly sum up the highlights: no pork, no shellfish, no mixing of meat and dairy , and no eating dairy after meat for 1, 3, or 6 hours (depending on who you ask). Due to the prohibition against eating meat and dairy together, traditional Jewish meals are classified as either halavi (dairy) or basari (meat). Restaurants in Israel serve EITHER dairy dishes OR meat dishes, and meals within homes are also given the same classification. Therefore, after being invited to a Shabbat meal and being asked to bring dessert, my first question was, “Is it a meat meal or a dairy meal.” The answer, “Meat.”

No. That does not mean I would be making a dessert with meat in it. It does, however, mean that the dessert cannot contain any dairy products – milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, and other creamy things that often find their way into the end-of-meal deliciousness.

Fear not, dessert lovers, because there is a solution! It’s BIG. It’s green. It’s still creamy:


Yes. The avocado is the magical replacement ingredient for dairy. While others may be bringing margarine-laden delicacies to Shabbat meals, I am powering my meat-meal dessert with the fatty avocado (a good kind of fat, if you’re interested!).

I decided that I wanted to make a chocolate avocado cake, loosely based on this recipe*see the full recipe for my cake below

First, mix together the dry ingredients of whole wheat flour, white flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda:


In a separate bowl, mix together melted coconut oil, water, apple cider vinegar, 1 mashed avocado, and white and brown sugar. This will quite possibly look gross. In fact, the one in my kitchen looked quite gross, hence my artistic decision not to include a photograph of this particular step. Don’t worry though, it will still taste great!

After you mix the wet ingredients (as listed above), combine them with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly:

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Pour the batter into a large pan (two small pans would be preferable  – I just didn’t have) and cook for 45 minutes at 350º.


When the cake comes out of the oven, allow it to cool for about 30 minutes. While you’re waiting…make the frosting!

Combine two cups powdered sugar with cocoa powder and cinnamon:


Add (another) mashed avocado to the mix and stir until the frosting takes on an even consistency:


Once the cake sufficiently cools, you can layer and frost it! Since I had only the large pan to cook in, I ended up cutting the cake in half and making layers that way. If you have two pans, I have no doubt that would be much easier!

Full cake (with avocado flecks – don’t be scared of the green!):


Half cake (otherwise known as the first layer):


Frosting and layers:

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Tell your guests that the green bits are actually delicious. And that it’s healthy. And no one will care. Or, just get a food processor. 😉

For the cake:
- 4 Tbsp. cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 cups white flour
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1 3/4cups water
- 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 ripe avocado, mashed
- 2/3 cup white sugar
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
For the frosting:
- 1 ripe avocado, mashed
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 3 Tbsp. cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
 - for the cake, combine cocoa powder, flours, cinnamon, baking 
powder, and baking soda in a large bowl
- separately, combine coconut oil, water, apple cider vinegar, 
mashed avocado, and sugars
- add the wet ingredients to the dry, transfer to a pan and cook
for 45 minutes at 350º
 - as cake cooks, make frosting by combining all ingredients
and stirring thoroughly until smooth
- allow cake to cool for at least 30 minutes before frosting