Celebrating the Circle of Life with Round Challah Shapes

Throughout the Jewish fall holiday cycle we have a tradition of round Challah shapes to symbolize wholeness and return (Tshuvah). As we approach the climax of joy for the Jewish fall holiday cycle with the onset of Shmini Atzeret (8th day of Assembly) and Simchat Torah (rejoicing in the Torah), I am writing briefly to share simple round shapes that look great without stress.

I have three basic round Challah shapes based on the basic ‘snail’ made from a single coil. This is the easiest to master and looks great all by itself.

Here are single and two-strand snail shapes

The second is a twisted snail, made with two strands, and the third is a three-strand braid, also coiled into the snail shape.

Here is a two-strand snail.

The three-strand snail starts with a simple braid:

Here you can see the difference between the two and three-strand snail shapes.

Whatever shape you choose is the right one – there is no wrong answer.

Parenting 360 – Take 4: Critical Importance of Medication Review

Medication organizer

My last parenting post centered on our adventures in supporting an adult son with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) which have brought us from Washington DC to Israel where he has been able to live away from home in a supportive community for the first time. You can read more about our experiences here, here and here.

Today I am returning to the other side of the coin, the needs of our parents – or other older relatives – who may no longer be able to live independently and who need our support to maintain their quality of life and basic dignity. This is where we are in 2022, experiencing what I call “Parenting 360” in our 2nd Middle Age.

I have to start this out by mentioning how blessed I am to have an amazing “big sister” living nearby to my Mom in Metro Detroit, who faces every challenge with tenacity, and who serves as our Mom’s legal and medical representative. There are four Kling daughters, two living locally and the two youngest overseas. We are all very different; fortunately we are on the same page where it comes to our Mom.

Most of the time I feel like there is very little I can do to help my sister from 6,000 miles away. It is dispiriting when things seem to be going badly and I can’t be there more than a few times a year (and not at all for the first two years of COVID). Then there is the occasional situation that arises that reminds me that all of our efforts matter, as happened recently with regard to my Mom’s medications.

You may have heard over the years about how important it is to routinely review all medications and supplements to ensure that none are contraindicated and/or avoid drug-drug interactions or other possible adverse effects. This is generally important, and particularly critical for older people who may be taking a plethora of drugs and supplements daily, and for whom drugs may have different effects than in younger populations.

To make matters worse, very few clinical trials include elderly people, for the obvious reason that their health is generally more fragile and all medical research carries some level of risk. Essentially we mostly don’t really know what we don’t know about how commonly prescribed drugs effect elderly patients.

This may be the most important thing that I ever write: if you have a family member taking one or more regular medications, supplements and or vitamins, check them on a regular basis for potential adverse reactions and/or contraindications.

Even the right medications can suddenly go wrong. Some time back, my husband and I witnessed this with regard to his mother (z”l), who suffered a severe adverse reaction to a medication that had been helping her for quite some time. In that case the facility where she was living was excellent, and the doctor almost immediately came to understand what had happened and took corrective measures. Still it took several weeks for her to recover.

In the case of my Mom, there was no overnight crisis that made it obvious that something was obviously wrong with her medications. Her deteriorating physical and mental condition came about over a period of months; we were all assured that it was to be expected and would only get worse over time. More specifically, the Assisted Living doctor (not a gerontologist) asserted that our Mom’s dramatically worsening tremors, dizzy spells and falls, memory problems, increasing detachment, reduced speech, lack of mobility and general inability to be comfortable in her own body were part of an expected progression. This led my older sister, quite rationally, to believe that our mother was dying and so my youngest sister and I – both living overseas – rushed back to spend time with her.

The physician at her Assisted Living facility also assured me – by phone and directly to my face – that she was carefully checking Mom’s medications every two weeks and that she was sure Mom’s medications were appropriate for her condition. She was apparently unaware of the potentially serious and debilitating side effects of the drugs she was prescribing for our Mom.

Still with little to lose and a great deal of anxiety about our Mom’s continuing negative trajectory, I decided to dig deeper into her medications. I had seen first hand how even appropriately prescribed medications could result in adverse reactions.

This was not an easy process – just to get the list of neurological medications took much more time than it should have, and required “in your face” communications with the Assisted Living Facility that were not really welcome. I really just needed to know for sure what was going on with the medications and prevailed in the end to receive initially just the neurological – behavioral health – medication list, and later the full list of prescriptions and supplements.

In the process, I learned that our Mom – who has never had any significant diagnosed mental health problems – was taking a boat-load of neurological meds.

On reviewing the publicly available – credible – information from the drug manufacturers themselves and from reliable sources like the Mayo Clinic, etc., it was obvious to me that her worsening symptoms correlated eerily with the well-known side effects for the drugs.
And she was taking one drug every day that was contra-indicated for her, given her medical history of serious heart disease. It never should have been prescribed for her in the first place!

Based on this review it was clear that our Mom’s doc was unable to tell the difference between adverse events caused by medications and the progression of pre-existing conditions. We could not know for sure unless and until we changed her medications. And that is what we did.

Through a series of increasingly insistent emails and late-night (for me) teleconferences and one in-person meeting, over time we were able to eliminate two of the neurological medications from her schedule completely. It took several weeks more to start to see the impact on our Mom.

The results have been shockingly positive:

– Our Mom was always a big reader, so it had been painful to see her stuck in front of a television for much of her day. Now she is once again plowing through her New York Times bestsellers.

– She is no longer (uncharacteristically) passive and once again is able to advocate effectively for her own interests with the Assisted Living staff.

– She has gone from being almost 100% wheel chair dependent to being able to walk with the support of her walker.

– Her tremor is almost unnoticeable and she no longer feels unstable or dizzy most of the time.

– She is much more verbal and socially engaged at meals and activities.

– Talking on the phone with her had become so difficult that it was hard for me to pick up the phone and try – as important as I knew that it was – now she even calls me back if she misses my call.

Exceeding our wildest dreams, our mother now is so much more like our pre-COVID Mom again and I am so grateful to have her in better spirits as well as in improved health. It feels like we found a time machine back to 2019.

The general take-away is that while we are well aware versed in advocating for the best interests of our kids, sometimes it can be much harder to play that same role for parents. And yet there is no alternative, where medications are concerned and more broadly.

Reviewing medications on a regular basis is incredibly important.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing the necessary research yourself, ask a pharmacist, psychiatric nurse or physician. But get it done.

Meditations on Moving House, Procrastination and Planning for Success

After nearly 3 years and 5 apartments, we have navigated the unknown waters of the local real estate market and found our home here in Zichron Yaakov, Israeli wine country. On Thursday we completed the process (don’t ask) and received the keys. So now the fun really begins.

Earlier this year I wrote about our adventures in Israel’s Sellers Market. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased domestic demand and prices continue to rise beyond expectations, and prices of houses with any green space are increasing most of all. Our past experience in Washington DC’s overheated real estate market proved to be good training; just like in DC, the velocity of the housing market here has led to multiple offers and bidding wars. So when we finally found the right place, we moved quickly.

Our house does have a small (now empty) space for a garden in front and modest backyard wrapping around the house currently covered in synthetic grass (as one does here in semi-arid Israel), along with a long, wrap-around balcony above that should make a good home for plants in pots. The house is located half a block from Zichron’s Gan Tiyul (Strolling Garden) in the center of town and across from a protected green space called Langa Grove.

Langa Grove, Zichron Yaakov

Now the time has come to roll up our sleeves, metaphorically, and pack our boxes just one more time.

It has been taking me longer than usual to embrace the process. Our last move in mid-February to our 5th apartment since arriving in Israel in October 2018 came on the heels of our son’s transition to his new program at Kibbutz Heftziba and we were frankly exhausted.

Then there was the fact that this 5th apartment was intended as a way-station – a way to get our foot in the door here in Zichron Yaakov make house-hunting easier.

In past moves, I had followed the dictum for good moves of trying to settle in as quickly and thoroughly as possible, getting things up on the walls, and trying to feel at home wherever we landed, for however long that would be.

This time with the understanding that our focus was on using this apartment as a stop on the way to our permanent home, we never really fully unpacked. I did succeed, though, in repacking our hastily packed boxes from Jerusalem , and to rationalize, downsize and reorganize our worldly goods. That should make the next unpacking easier, I hope.

Boxes in our 5th apartment

Over the years I also have made notes on moving and am now reviewing them to do a better job this time. And we have also benefitted from amazing support of a good friend who both gave us her own moving boxes and even came up by train for a day from Yafo to help me make a start on packing family china and other fragile items.

Let’s hope that well begun is half done.

Japanese (Rationing) Fruit Cake

This is my favorite fruitcake, from a recipe handed down by my Bubbe Leah (Levy) Weisenfeld (z”l). This cake was a staple in our house when I was growing up. It was many years before I learned that there is nothing Japanese about the cake at all – the name came from the fact that the cake does not require butter or eggs – a great recipe when the United States entered World War II after Pearl Harbor.  Here is the original recipe.

Ingredients

1 box raisins

2 Cups sugar

3 tsp. cinnamon

2 Cups water

1/2 Cup walnuts

3 Cups unbleached all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda 3 T oil

Instructions

1.  Boil raisins, sugar, cinnamon, water and nuts for 20 minutes, either on the stove or in the microwave.  When done, the raisons will be plump, and the mixture will be a thick syrup.  Remove mixture from heat and cool.

2.  Stir in flour and baking soda, and pour into 2 lightly greased mini-loaf pans or one bundt pan.  The batter will be much thicker than for a conventional cake. 

3.  Bake for 1 hour at 325 degrees, or until a toothpick remains clean when inserted into the deepest part of the cake, and it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.  This cake freezes well.

*****

I have also had very good results with the following variation on the cake, for those who would like to use less sugar and substitute some of whole-wheat flour for the white flour.

Ingredients

1 box raisins

2 Cups sugar

4 tsp. cinnamon

2 Cups water

1/2 walnuts

1 1/2 C whole-wheat flour

1 Cup unbleached all purpose Flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda 

3 T oil

The directions are the same as for the original recipe:

 1.  Boil raisins, sugar, cinnamon, water and nuts for 20 minutes, either on the stove or in the microwave.  When done, the raisons will be plump, and the mixture will be a thick syrup.  Remove mixture from heat and cool.

2.  Stir in flour and baking soda, and pour into 2 lightly greased mini-loaf pans or one bundt pan.  The batter will be much thicker than for a conventional cake. 

3.  Bake for 1 hour at 325 degrees, or until a toothpick remains clean when inserted into the deepest part of the cake, and it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.  

Chocolate Rolls

Chocolate Rolls made with challah dough, tahini, Silan (Date Syrup), Cocao and Cinnamon.

As I have written my first cookbook was Betty Crocker’s Century of Success Cookbook; The Best Gold Medal Recipes of 100 Years (1979). My Mom – and maybe yours – had the Betty Crocker Cookbook and I love all things Betty.

For years I instinctively turned to Betty Crocker to make sweet rolls for my family which while delicious includes substantial quantities of both butter and sugar that is not healthy really at any age, let alone your Second Middle Age.

Now we know better. We understand that reducing processed foods including added sugars is a great way to reduce inflammation and reduce the likelihood of what are called Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) of inflammation, which include high blood pressure, diabetes and certain cancers. That is a big part of the Microbiome Diet.

And even if your misspent youth – like mine – included quantities of sugar-intense processed foods it is never too late to make healthy habits. That is what your Second Middle Age is all about, learning from the past to feel good now and for the rest of your life.

I have been looking for ways to remake my sweet roll recipe for Second Middle Age without sacrificing taste and enjoyment. After all, it does not matter how healthy something is if no one wants to eat it.

In place of higher-fat, higher sugar sweet roll dough I have used my Traditional Challah recipe; I have swapped out sugar in favor of Silan (Date Palm Syrup), and exchanged Tahini for Butter/Margarine. I also increase heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory Cinnamon. The result are a beautiful Chocolate Rolls that taste great.

This recipe is a result of those efforts. These Chocolate Rolls that taste as good – or better – as traditional cinnamon rolls with healthier substitutions consistent with the Microbiome Diet.

Ingredients

1/2 of the dough from the Traditional Challah recipe

1 Cup Tahini (Whole Sesame Paste)

1/2 Cup Silan (Date Palm Syrup)

1/3 Cup Cocoa

1 T cinnamon

Directions

  1. Follow instructions for Traditional Challah.
  2. After the second rise, separate the challah dough into two sections, refrigerating the remaining dough.
  3. Stir together the Tahini, Silan, Cocoa and Cinnamon until smooth – if the mixture is too thick for spreading add water a Tablespoon at a time until you get it to a consistency which will be easy to spread on the dough.
  4. Roll out the challah dough into a rectangle, approximately 14 x 10 inches (or 35 x 25 cm), and spread the chocolate filling onto the challah dough, leaving a margin of approximately 1/2 inch (or 1.25 cm).
  5. Roll up the filled challah dough tightly, and seal each end.
  6. Move the rolled-up challah dough to a cutting board and with a sharp knife cut it into 1.5 inch (approximately 3.5 cm) slices.
  7. Place the slices into a greased casserole or other baking dish, allowing room for the chocolate rolls to double before baking.
  8. Spray the chocolate rolls with water and cover in a warm place for the final rise (proof) before baking – approximately 45 minutes to an hour should be sufficient, unless the room is very cold. If the room is very cold, you can put them in a warm – not hot – oven to proof.
  9. Once the rolls have doubled in size bake them at 350 degrees for 20 – 40 minutes. All ovens are different (and I have been cooking for the last 6 months in a toaster oven believe it or not). So it is good to check to see if you need to rotate the pan or otherwise adjust the rolls in the oven for even baking.

Enjoy!!

Traditional Challah

When you make home-made challah for Shabbat or festivals, you gain a three-fold blessing in  your own home:  sanctifying  the everyday with the special experience of challah-baking,  bringing the aroma of this timeless Jewish ritual into your kitchen, and of course sharing a taste  of the ‘world to come’ with our loved ones.

You can also make a combination of loaves and rolls – which are easy to make and great to have on hand!

Understanding the importance of following a Microbiome Diet for healthy aging, yet there is something special about traditional challah for Shabbat and Jewish holidays. There are many great challah recipes – and also substitutions to meet special needs – and of course our own experiences and family memories play an important role in personal preferences for how challah should taste.

This is my favorite challah recipe, the one that I have been using for the better part of 40 years at home and for teaching the Jewish Study Center Challah Class in the past. This recipe yields  6 – 8  medium-sized challot, or 3 – 4 large challot for special occasions.

This recipe may be cut in half or you can use some is the challah the dough to make Chocolate Rolls which are great for breakfast.

Ingredients

2 scant Tbs yeast (2 American packets)

1.5 C warm water

3 Tbs sugar

4 eggs + egg to separate for egg wash

1/2 c oil + 2 tsp oil for bowl & trays

1/4 c honey 

2 tsp salt 

6 – 7 c bread flour + extra for  kneading and braiding challah 

poppy, sesame seeds 

Equipment

Large bowl for mixing, rising

Wooden spoon for mixing

Custard cup or small bowl for checking eggs

Measuring spoons, cups

Baking tray for challahs

Sunflower seeds or pine nuts for baking trays

Napkin/foil for taking challah

Saran wrap or kitchen towel to cover the rising bread

Instructions 

  1. Mix together yeast, warm water and 1 Tb of sugar into a large bowl and wait until the yeast becomes activated.
  2. Stir in remaining sugar.
  3. Break eggs one at a time into your egg cup to be sure that each one does not have any spot of blood, before adding it into the bowl.
  4. Measure and add the oil and then the honey using the same Tbs or 1 cup measure – this makes it easier because then the honey does not stick to your measuring spoon or cup.
  5. Stir in salt.
  6. Add flour one cup at a time until the dough is sticky but pliable. (This may require some practice – don’t worry about the first few times!)
  1. When you can gather up the dough so that it makes a ball that can be removed cleanly 
    from the bowl, then turn it onto a floured counter or board for kneading.
  2. Knead the dough for 10  minutes until it is smoother and more pliable.
  3. Wash the bowl and add 1 tsp oil to coat the bowl.
  4. Return the bread dough to the bowl and cover with damp kitchen towel or saran wrap.   Leave in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes or un6l doubled.
  5. Punch down the dough and allow to rise again until doubled.
  6. After the 2nd rising, punch down again and divide into 3 sections.  
  7. Take the 1st section out of the bowl for shaping on the floured board or counter.   Depending on the number of braids that you want in your challah, divide the 1st  section  into 3, 4 or 6 pieces to roll into strands for braiding.  This takes some practice and you  should not worry if your braided challot are not perfect.  It is also traditional to roll the  larger pieces into coils to make a snail shape, particularly at the time of the High Holidays.
  8. Aeer you make each braided challah, you will probably end up with a little piece of dough  that did not fit into the braid.  Pinch these off and aggregate them into a ping,pong ball sized piece of dough that is taken for the ritual challah and put into foil.  (When you bake  the challah you can put this in the bottom of the oven where it may burn.  Some people  also discard it in a paper napkin or kitchen towel.)
  9. Place each completed braid on a greased cookie sheet with or without pine,nuts, according  to your taste.  Spray each challah with water to keep them moist while they are rising.  
  10. Separate the last egg and add 1 tsp water to the egg yolk; mix to make an egg wash.  Using  a pastry brush, sparingly coat the challot with the egg wash.  Add the egg wash to each  challah one at a 6me, sprinkling each with seeds before adding the egg wash to the next  challah so that it does not dry out before you sprinkle the sesame seeds and/or poppy  seeds.
  11. Allow the challot to double in size, this should take another 45 min., and con6nue to spray  with water from 6me to 6me to keep them moist.
  12. Preheat oven to 350 and bake challot for 20 – 30 minutes.  Times vary depending on how  “hot” your oven runs, so check the challot at intervals to see if they are golden,brown.  
Loaves and special round Challah shapes for the Jewish High Holidays at the final proof stage before baking

Once you become accustomed to baking challah at home it is hard to ever go back to the store, bought variety! It may seem difficult at first so stick with it. 

Like many other things, the only  way to get better at it is to practice. Let me know how it goes!

Alternative (Vegetable) Piecrust

In full disclosure, this is more of a snippet than a full post….

It is great to receive comments/questions/and requests in response to blog posts, and I am writing today to respond to a request for an alternative piecrust for vegetable pies/quiches, and specifically gluten-free, vegan and/or lower-carb substitutions for the traditional wheat-based crust.

In the past, I have used shredded potatoes seasoned with onion or shallot and garlic for a Passover-friendly pie crust, and so I thought I would try using different vegetables to see how they would taste. One alternative, shown above here, uses zucchini and carrots. It is fairly straightforward and tasty.

On the positive side, I found the sauteed vegetables very easy to work with, and they did not require any eggs or other binders to stay put in the pie pan. It also does not require any pastry skill, and definitely gives the look of a pie crust without any flour of any kind. It does not taste the same as a wheat piecrust, of course. I found the flavor to be mild – this is a good thing for a pie crust as the filling should be the real star of the show.

I did have to spread the vegetables a bit thinly and you can increase the quantity of grated zucchini and carrot if you prefer a thicker crust, and you could also substitute other grated vegetables, depending on what you have on hand.

This is a flexible recipe. Here in Israel zucchini is plentiful in early summer, so use what is in season and convenient.

Ingredients

1 T Extra Virgin Olive (EVO) Oil

1 T Sunflower Oil

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 – 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 medium zucchini squash

1 small carrot

1/4 tsp salt (or just a pinch of salt), black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat the EVO and Sunflower Oil in a sauce pan large enough for all of the ingredients.
  2. Saute the shallot and garlic until transparent (3 minutes or so)
  3. Add grated zucchini and carrot and cook until soft
  4. Remove from heat and let the vegetables cool to the point that they can be moulded into a pie pan
  5. Bake the vegetable pie crust at 350 degrees for 10 – 15 minutes or until the edges start to look crisp. (If pressed for time, you can skip this step, and add your filling to the crust and bake them together.

If you have been looking for a gluten-free, low-carb pie crust alternative, give it a try and let me know what you think!

Black-Eyed Pea Salad aka Aaron’s Appetizer

Black-eyed peas are a traditional Jewish New Years food dating back to the Talmudic period over 1500 years ago, and eaten with the accompanying blessing: “May it be Thy will … that our good deeds shall be plentiful as the black-eyed peas.”

More broadly, black-eyed peas for New Years are a multicultural phenomenon, eaten around the world to usher in the new year, as a symbol of luck, prosperity, and/or in association with other milestone events, including Emancipation of African-American slaves in January 1963. There is no reason to wait for the holidays to make this delicious black-eyed pea salad as an easy summer salad or nutritious add-on for your Buddha bowls.

And black-eyed peas are first among equals in terms of legumes – despite their modest size they pack an amazing nutritional prebiotic punch:

Black-eyed peas are an excellent source of protein, fiber, and other key micronutrients. One cup of black-eyed peas (about 2 servings) contains approximately 194 calories, 13 grams of protein, 11 grams of fiber, 35 grams of carbs, 88 percent DV folate, 50 percent DV copper, 23 percent DV iron, and 21 percent DV of both phosphorous and magnesium.

The Spruce Eats

Black-eyed peas and other Prebiotics are critical for good nutrition and gut health; what I like to call the unsung heroes of the Microbiome Diet (more about that here).

Black-eyed pea salad is a traditional New Years food in many cultures, including Judaism.

While I had grown up eating chickpeas, lentils, spit-peas, etc., and considered myself fluent in the language of legumes, my initial efforts with black-eyed peas were not a success. To be totally transparent, I found black-eyed peas baffling. After a number of valiant efforts to make black-eyed peas palatable my family while we were living in Manila, Philippines in the mid-90’s, I took a break. (We enough on our plate in Manila.)

So for a time black-eyed peas were ‘the legume that got away;’ I kept them in the back of my mind while cooking other things. Then late one December I ran across a special New Years Eve recipe that I was able to modify for my family.

With this recipe, I was truly able to go from zero to hero.

The resulting Black-Eyed Pea Salad immediately became one of my son Aaron’s favorites, so much so that after a while he would simply ask for his appetizer – and we understood exactly what he wanted. We began to call it “Aaron’s Appetizer” and it has never fallen out of rotation.

This Black-Eyed Pea Salad is vegetarian and kosher (dairy); and can easily also be made vegan (see details below):

Ingredients

To Do Ahead: Simmer 1 bag of dried black-eyed peas (app. 2 cups / 450 – 500 grams) in water with 1 bay leaf for 30 – 40 minutes, until tender.

While the black-eyed peas are cooking, prepare the vegetables which are all diced in 1/2″ (or 1.25 cm) pieces:1

1 shallot OR 1/2 cup mild onion, 1/2 cup red pepper, 1/2 cup green pepper, 1.2 cup carrot, 1/2 cup cucumber

2 T chopped fresh parsley

1 T julienned basil (optional)

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese*

Dressing

1 – 3 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon (1 whole lemon if it is small)

1/2 – 1 tsp lemon zest, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Reserving the cooking liquid (its great to use in soup), drain the tender black-eyed peas and discard the bay leaf.
  2. Assemble the salad with diced fresh vegetables, herbs, and feta cheese.
  3. Stir in the salad dressing
  4. Season with black pepper to taste

*To make vegan Black-Eyed Pea salad, omit the feta cheese and stir in 1/2 tsp salt, to taste. You can also try this with vegan feta.

Leek-Mushroom vs. Spinach-Feta (Pie)

The back story:

Last month we started to receive weekly produce boxes from the organic farm that delivers to our neighborhood here in Zichron Yaakov. We do go through a surprising amount of fresh fruits and vegetables and so I was hopeful that the organic produce boxes would work out – I really love the idea of receiving organic produce boxes every week.

I like everything about getting a weekly box except for the reality that we just don’t have enough people to consume its contents. This is particularly problematic in our temporary apartment – our 5th in case you’re counting – in that we don’t have great storage.

We also don’t have hungry teens ready to pounce on anything and everything edible. We went through that stage while my husband was serving for a year in Kabul, Afghanistan about ten years back, where he thought we might have taken in a lodger because our grocery bills spiked suddenly – they were just eating everything in sight. Now we are just two older adults trying not to eat like there is no tomorrow; our son Aaron is here with us a few days a week and I am still shedding the last of my COVID-weight.

And there is one other problem … sometimes whatever is in season and provided in ample quantities in our box is not something that we eat on a regular basis. For example I cook with leeks for Passover – it is a traditional Pesach food and I have a few really good recipes like Egyptian Potato Leek Soup and Leek Feta Patties. Then after Passover I feel like we are done with leeks for a while. So when we received leeks in our box last week I was initially stymied and stowed them at the bottom back of the produce bin in the refrigerator while I figured out what to do.

We also had received a huge bundle of spinach; I knew what I wanted to do with that. It only takes a few minutes to sauté an onion and a few garlic cloves, and A LOT of spinach is just what you need to end up with the right amount for a Spinach-Feta pie. The pie crust is super easy and does not require butter or margarine. As long as I am making one pie crust, its about 5 minutes more to make two, and that gave me the idea to use the leeks to make a Leek-Mushroom pie for my husband Matt.

The Spinach-Feta pie I have made many times before; the Leek-Mushroom combination was a first-time pie that I will definitely do again given my husband’s enthusiasm. Within a day the two pies had shrunk to 1/2 size and fit neatly into one pyrex for easier storage (see above).

Leek-Mushroom Pie and Spinach-Feta Pie

Now for the big questions:

If I write down and share these recipes who will make them at home?

Do you have a favorite?

Please let me know in the comments if you would like more information about Leek-Mushroom Pie, Spinach-Feta Pie and/or if there are other vegetable pies that you would like to know more about.

Bon Appetit!

Tossed Salad (American Salad)

American Tossed Salad may include lettuces, carrots, cucumbers and red peppers; the possibilities are limited only by your imagination

Salad is an amazing source of the Prebiotics that your body needs every day. This is an easy recipe that anyone should be able to make at home and that will be a colorful and delicious addition to your Microbiome Diet.

Ingredients

1/2 head of romaine/red leaf lettuce/oak leaf other lettuce

1 cucumber

1 carrot

1/2 red pepper

Simple Dressing

wedge of lemon

extra virgin olive oil

Salt, pepper

Optional:

cooked or canned chickpeas

feta cheese, rinsed and crumbled

cubed firm tofu (1 inch/2cm cubes)

1. Tear washed lettuce or other greens and place in a salad bowl or shallow platter. For romaine lettuce, tear the lettuce from ribs in 1 – 2 inch pieces. It is very nice to have two or more types of lettuce or greens in the salad, but this will depend on the size of your salad eating household.

2. Slice carrots in small rings, or cut 5 – 6cm cross sections into carrot sticks.

3. Slice cucumber in half lengthwise, and chop into 1/4 inch half moons, and add to lettuce with the prepared carrots. Slice bell peppers into rings (or half rings) and lay on top of other vegetables in the salad.

4. Serve with a wedge of lemon – to be squeezed onto the salad – and a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Optional add-ins: Ingredients listed above like chickpeas, feta cheese, cubed tofu, as available, can be added to make the salad even more attractive, interesting and nutritious.

Here’s a tip: make a salad ahead of time to have it on hand for dinner.
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