Archive for the ‘This and that’ Category

Fellow New Jerseyans and friends, I’m so excited to have finally complete the first phase of a project I have been working on for the past months. Thanks to the amazing volunteer labors of Jeanne Heifetz, Mimi, and Josh from NY, and Jessica Laus from NJ, we now have a new website, to match potential volunteers with non-for-profit org. in NJ, specifically in the areas impacted by the policies of the new administration.We want to protect our democratic, humanistic values, so take a look and share widely. I am updating the site constantly.

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It’s no secret that the essence of the Jewish holidays is food. Yes, it is a big deal. Each holiday has it’s own traditions, rules, restrictions, and expectations. We love to make a fuss and we love to eat.

So Passover is around the corner, and the basic rule is that leavened bread and any product that is fermented or can cause fermentation may not be eaten, including five grains: wheat, rye, barley, oats, and spelt. Why? because, life is not easy, just as it was not easy for the ancient Israelites who ran away from Egypt, and didn’t have time for gourmet food.

So when I stumbled upon a bag of chickpea flour, I had a eureka moment. What if, what if, what if I can bake a cake with the… hummus flour?! It’ll work for Passover. Well, I decided to explore. I found many recipes for some pancakes, flat breads, veggie burgers, and such. Nope, not satisfying. I need a cake. Based on the interesting fact that I did find– this flour can substitute the use of eggs, I decided to be brave, and try to bake a simple chocolate cake.

chickpea flour chocolate cake

just one slice ???

The reported results of the experiment: three very happy children who loved the cake.

The potential benefits: wheat-free, gluten free, easy to digest, vitamins and minerals = nutritional.

you’ll need:

  • greased 9″ round cake pan. I used the spring-form one.  A square pan will also do.
  • 2 cups chickpea flour;
  • half cup sugar, or if you’d rather keep out of sugar, use Raw honey, or stevia, but feel free to adjust sweeteners according to your sweet tasting buds (most cake recipes call for 1.5 cups of sugar, but we don’t like it that sweet);
  • 1 tsp baking powder;
  • 1 tsp baking soda;
  • 2 Tbsp good quality cocoa powder;
  • 100 gr/3.5 oz of good quality dark chocolate bar (I use 85% and up cocoa);
  • 2/3 cup olive oil;
  • 1.5 cup water.


heat oven to 350°f.

combine all dry ingredients together, and mix well.

chocolate cake dry ingredients

pour olive oil and water into the mixed flour, and whisk slowly together, until smooth and all the flour dissolved.

break the chocolate bar into a microwave-safe glass dish, and melt in 20 second time segments, mixing it between each time, until chocolate is uniformly smooth and liquified.

add 1 Tbsp of the batter into the melted chocolate, mix together, and add all melted chocolate back into the batter. mix well together.

mixing chocolate with batter

mixing chocolate with batter

pour the whole mixture onto greased pan, and into the oven it goes for 35 minutes. Don’t expect a high cake, this one’s a shorty.


  • the kids did recommend, however, to add chocolate chips. since the cake is bit on the drier side, that could be a good advice.
  • when adding the water, you may notice that you need a bit more than 1.5 cups. you want to have a smooth fluidish batter.
  • you may need more than 35 minutes- all depends on your oven.
  • yes- some add ice cream on top, some add frosting. I just like to dunk it in tea. the kids like it as is…

check out my gluten free carrot cake, and gluten free blueberry cake.

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Our back yard buzzes with life. We are fortunate to live so very close to nature, that we hardly need any pictures on our walls. Our windows bring into our home greens and pinks, and during the Fall, it brings those magnificent hues of red and oranges.

We learned to stop. listen. look. cherish the moment.

A few days ago, the very early morning hour summoned a turkey vulture to our yard. It sat on the old basketball post. It sat, and sat. All of the sudden, it drooped it’s scat, and flew away. “Slam, dunk”, shouted my little one. He understands.

nature in our back yard

Little birdie, little birdie, Come and sing me your song/ sung by Pete Seeger

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YES I can

I have not been writing in my blog for quite sometime. I really want to share some nice moments, like our summer in Tuscany, etc. I will, but it’ll take time. Because…

The cold air has been gushing in, almost at once. I can’t postpone it no longer. This week it has to be done.  Revolutionize the closets: bring back those bulky winter clothes, and tuck the summer back into its corner, till next year. 3 kids, 3 wardrobes. one more for the parents. All by the end of this week, otherwise, we’ll all freeze to death. I also need to buy a new fire detector to replace the out-of-order one. And a charger to the computer. And buy a gift to a friend’s birthday party. And start thinking and preparing for Friday’s dinner with friends. We are social, after all. These are just random tasks that change every week.  I know every mom faces those tasks.

Then there’s the everyday, full-time job tasks of every week that don’t change: regular laundries, food shopping, cleaning, cooking.

And the specific jobs we received from our other boss – the school teachers:  projects, exams, homework. No, I don’t do and won’t do my kids’ homework for them. I talk about those projects that I was directly ordered by the teachers to do. You know, the ones about sitting together with our kids and collecting family memories and making a presentation. You know, the one where you receive a letter from school that starts with “Dear Parents…”. And as for exams and homework, I need to be on top of everything and remind, remind and remind, and even lend a helping hand when needed.

The automatic pilot that drives the kids around town to their sports activities, music, friends. That same pilot also stands with a virtual hammer to insist that the kids practice for their music lessons, and at times get into a vocal fight over it.

And the talking, knowing, inquiring the kids about their day in school, their friends. Listening to stories. Reacting.

And then there’s the every-once-in-a-while work to do. The “real” work, for our dear Boa.

Finally, for my own sanity and secluded bubble, there’s that English course I’m taking, where I have to produce 2 formal essays every week, based on research and backed by citations. Books, notebooks, pencils are scattered across the dining table.

I am not complaining. In fact I consider my self very lucky. I am only explaining what every mom already knows. The obvious.

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And the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’
And the cotton is high..”  by DuBose Heyward.

So I gathered bits and pieces from here and there that I felt I needed to tell the world.

  • Starting with food. Here’s a real quick and tasty recipe of Pattypan summer squashes. I just got them at our local farmers market. They’re not only cute and add color to your dinner table, but also, ahammm, healthy (here). Most of all- they’re yummy !

Pattypan squashes fresh from the market

All there’s to do: Cut them into halves wide-wise. Also cut a thin flat slice at each end, so the half squashes could rest steadily in the baking dish (wide side facing up). Turn oven to 400 F or 200 C. Drizzle olive oil, bit of salt, crushed or chopped garlic and coarsely chopped rosemary on the yellow shining faces of the squashes.

pattypans go into the oven

That’s all folks. Cover with aluminum foil, put in oven for 30 minutes. Take off foil and let them pattypans get some oven tan till they’re golden(ish). Out of the oven and into your plate they go. With some nice green salad on the side. Ahh ha. Oh yeah- don’t over roast them, they don’t like to dry out.

  • more food: Yesterday, on our way to one of the last shows of HAIR in Broadway, a small window on 9th Ave. caught our eyes.  A pile of some fine-looking Bourekas just called us in. The owner, Gazala Halabi, was placing paper-thin rounds of dough on the taboon, which will later become Druze pitas.
tasty druz bourekas

Gazala makes pitas on the taboon

We had wonderful bourekas: one filled with sun dry tomatoes and goat cheese, and the other was with spinach and feta cheese. The kids had a Druze pita wrap (“laffa”) with salad and falafel. The plate was wiped clean off the lamb kabab that was there merely 20 minutes before.

We’ll be there again.  Gazala’s Place


Druze cuisine @ Gazala Place

  • Staying in the city: restaurants will now need to display the cleanliness rating of their facility according to new letter-grading rules. Now, when deciding upon your next dinner in the City, look on the restaurant’s window. Does it have an “A”, “B” or “C”? Under the new plan, a restaurant receiving an A grade will post it at the end of the inspection. If the grade is lower than an A, the restaurant will not have to post a grade until it has a chance to improve its sanitary conditions. The Health Department will return within a month to conduct a second inspection. The ultimate goal is to improve sanitary conditions and reduce the risk of food-borne illness.
  • Going west: San Francisco is requiring stores to post cellphone radiation levels.  Those rates are the levels at which radio frequencies penetrate body tissue. whether or not there is a connection between cellphones (and their radiation) to cancer, it sure brings the question to the table again, to deserve a serious awareness.

Any thoughts to share?

Fun and healthy summer to us all   🙂

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preparing tea

Drew is preparing tea

what’s the most relaxing and serene way for four ladies to celebrate a 40+ birthday ?

It was original, it was beautiful, it was tasty, and it was ceremonial. It was a Japanese Tea Ceremony.

traditional seasonal meal

traditional seasonal meal

Drew Hanson demonstrated The Japanese Way of Tea. He’s a gardener and ceramicist and we had such a lovely time at his Boukakuan, a Japanese Tea House and Garden at his home, right here in NJ. All the elements were there: a gorgeous day, Japanese gold-fish in a pond, historic house at the background, neatly prepared Japanese meal and an informative hospitality.

zen composition

zen composition

Zen goldfish

Zen goldfish

Geta, my Japanese clogs

Geta, my Japanese clogs 🙂

I am considering of adding a photo of me in a Japanese Kimono, from Japan, from many years ago, as a bonus. Well, just considering…


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Where do I even start?

Well, it’s my inner instinct and logic to prefer food that does not contain chemicals (man made), toxins, pesticides, hormones, or any other synthetic additives, nor food that has been meddled with (genetically). I don’t need any books, studies, magazines or movies for that strong inner feelings. Yet, better know and be educated, informed, than not…



Lately I have read Robyn O’Brien’s book “The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It“, who has started AllergyKids.com.

According to the book, most of Europe and Great Britain, Australia, Japan, and even Russia demand the clear labeling of food products that contain genetically engineered ingredients.  Several African countries even refuse to accept genetically modified (“GM“) grain as food aid. According to Reuters, Egypt just announced that it won’t be importing or exporting any GM foods.

Today I have also watched the film “The Future of Food” that has reinforced and better illustrated my gut feeling. I am already waiting to watch the much talked about film “Food, Inc.“.

It seems that while the world around us has long begun to understand the meaning of contaminated food and its consequences, here in the US, people are either too sleepy, or ignorant, or affixed and have their mind set, that the FDA or big agri-businesses or the government are taking real good care of the people and the food they are allowing us to eat.

That’s right, nobody is forcing us to buy GM food,      or do they?  When we try to buy any box of any food, and read the list of ingredients, do we know which was GM’d ? Do I know if the corn flour, the soy or any other grain was modified?

No, I don’t. In fact, I just learned about genetically engineered sugar beets in Kellogg’s products:

Organic Consumers Association and allies sent a letter to Kellogg’s on June 12, requesting that Kellogg’s not use sugar from genetically engineered sugar beets in its products or face a consumer boycott.

Kellogg’s has responded, claiming that US consumers do not care if their food contains Genetically Engineered (GE) food or not.”

So do I have any free choice in choosing the unmodified foods? not if I can’t identify them.

proccessed food

processed food

D’you hear the name Monsanto before? I bet that once you start to read a little more about any of those topics above, “Monsanto” will introduce itself right out of those articles you’ll be reading, because it is one of (if not the largest) multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation that has produced herbicides, genetically engineered seeds, and develops and markets Bovine growth hormones, just to name a few.

And guess what? Monsanto is fighting hard and lobbying with all its might (and mighty it is) to keep us consumers in the dark. It is fighting against labeling any of the GM foods as such. The Europeans, concerned about the food they eat, chose mandatory labeling of GM foods and ingredients. Here, Monsanto and big $$$ are still winning, and GM foods aren’t labeled. Read more about GM foods.

The more I dived deep into the food industry info, I became aware of the knotted political ties that thrive behind the scene of the food industry, the ones between government, pharma- business and agriculture business. I also became aware of the potential role of the chemical toxins added to the foods in the development of autism, allergies, asthma, and ADHD.

What is one to do in the meantime?

  • read, learn, watch the movies, get educated, and pass on the word.
  • try to avoid processed foods, or at least read the labels and make a rational decision based on what you know when choosing that product;
  • try to consume organic food products, or at least the basic ones, such as milk, and eggs.
  • try to purchase locally grown fruits, vegetables, dairy and support your local farmers.
  • take an extra step and write to your local newspaper editor;
  • take an even bigger step and write to your legislators (type your zip code to find your officials);

It’ll probably be long before the labeling of GM food will become a must, or maybe even banned, it’ll take some time before government will subsidize organic farms. But we shall overcome someday.

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