Israeli Salad

Israeli Salad with Chickpeas

Cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes.  An Israeli salad seems so obvious, it shouldn’t require a recipe.  And yet, it was a revelation to me when I first encountered it in my mid-twenties.  I learned it about from an Israeli friend while we were attending a conference.  Each night for three nights, she made this salad to go along with dinner, each night a little different, but always wonderfully fresh and delicious.  After returning from that trip, the salad became an instant summer staple, and it has changed little over the years.  Eventually (i.e. after the kids came along) I started adding chickpeas, as a convenience, really.  It meant that now I could put a big bowl of salad on the table and call it dinner.  A mother’s dream.

Whatever else you have planned for the weekend, give this salad a try, while the ingredients are still abundant and the evenings are still warm enough to serve salad as dinner without too many explanations.  It travels great, so bring it along to a picnic or barbeque.

Israeli Salad

lemon

chickpeas

Israeli Salad

Israeli Salad

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Blueberry Dutch Baby - A Leek Supreme

Blueberry Dutch Baby

A Dutch baby (alternatively called a Bismark, Dutch puff, or German pancake – a rose by any other name?) makes a great after school snack or light breakfast.  Selling points include: it has plenty of protein and fat with a minimal amount of sugar; it can be made from all common pantry items; and it comes together in 5 minutes and bakes in 15.  A treat? Most definitely! I wish you could have been in my kitchen to hear the shouts of excitement when I mentioned we were having Dutch baby for snack.  No one had to be asked twice to sit down at the table.

Since I had blueberries in the refrigerator that needed to be used, I decided to add them to the Dutch baby.  Blueberries are native to North America and were mainly foraged from the wild until the 1920s, when ‘highbush’ blueberries were first developed (Harold McGee).   However, wild blueberries can still be found in abundance today.  For late summer hikes in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, we choose destinations that involve open ledges along the trail and summit, which are typically lined with overflowing blueberry bushes.

Although blueberries make for a delicious Dutch baby, any fruit will work and I encourage you to experiment with whatever you have around. If you decide to use a fruit that takes longer to soften, such as apples or plums, add them to the pan along with the butter during the pre-heating step, giving them a head start at cooking.

ingredients

aleeksupreme.com dutch baby batter

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aleeksupreme.com

aleeksupreme.com

Blueberry Dutch Baby - A Leek Supreme

Blueberry Dutch Baby - A Leek Supreme

Blueberry Dutch Baby - A Leek Supreme

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whole wheat pancakes with apple sauce and whipped cream

Cooking With Kids: A Mother’s Day Breakfast

Mother’s day is a wonderful opportunity for the kids to help make a breakfast for mom.  Here we make whole wheat pancakes with apple sauce and whipped cream.  The beauty of this recipe is that it comes together quickly with lots of opportunities for my 5 and 7 year old’s to help out.  The whipped cream recipe can be made from start to finish by a child.  Peeling and chopping are also great activities for little helpers, and it’s all that’s required to make the apple sauce.  The pancakes are made by initially combining the wet ingredients separately from the dry ingredients, so each child gets a bowl (and everyone is busy and happy).  The kids then take turns stirring the final batter, with the key being to stir just enough to combine the wet and dry ingredients without over-stirring, yielding the fluffiest, softest Mother’s Day pancakes.

apples

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kids whipped cream

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Chocolate almond butter

Chocolate Almond Butter

Nuts have been an important source of nourishment for humans since prehistoric times. Nut butters similarly have a long history; tahini, a paste made of ground sesame seeds, is mentioned in a 13th century Arabic cookbook. According to Harold McGee, nut butters obtain their characteristic consistency when their cells are ruptured due to mechanical manipulation, releasing the oils from inside the cell.

I have made this chocolate almond butter recipe many (many!) times, with just as many variations: adding cocoa powder, roasting the nuts prior to grinding them, adding salt, adding sugar, adding honey, using different vegetable and nut oils. But this basic recipe with only 3 ingredients is the one I always return to. While I tend to think that roasting nuts is a great idea as it intensifies and deepens their flavor, in this case, I prefer them raw. By not roasting the nuts, the almond flavor remains subtle and I end up having to add a little more oil while blending, a compromise I find well worth it. The sweetness of the final product is also very subtle, and some members of my family (the youngest of them) prefer chocolate almond butter sandwiches with honey. I tend to think the recipe as written below is pretty perfect, just as it is.

Almonds chocolate chips

Roasted almond oil

Almond butter blender

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yogurt

Yogurt

Milk is composed of almost 90% water.  In addition to water, the three main components in milk are: Fat, sugar (lactose) and protein.  When making yogurt, proteins are the main players involved in the process of solidifying the milk.  Milk contains two main groups of proteins, curds and whey.  The two groups of proteins can be distinguished by their behavior under acidic conditions.  Curds, or casein proteins coagulate under acidic conditions forming insoluble protein aggregates, while whey proteins stay suspended under acidic conditions.  It is the curd proteins, which enabling yogurt and cheese making processes.

In milk, the four proteins within the casein family are suspended as micelles, or clusters of a few thousand proteins intermixed with calcium in the form of calcium phosphate.  The calcium phosphate helps to keep the proteins from scattering.  In addition, the surface of the micelle is covered by a specific casein protein known as kappa casein.  Kappa casein is negatively charged, which keeps the individual micelles from aggregating, and helps keep the micelles suspended in solution.

Milk is slightly acidic, with a pH around 6.7.  Further acidifying the milk, either through natural or controlled fermentation results in molecular changes to the casein micelle.  At a pH around 5.5, two important things happen, first, the negative charges of kappa caseins are neutralized, and second, calcium phosphate begins to dissolve.  Both of these changes result in micelles that begin to scatter. Even further acidification, to a pH around 4.7, results in casein proteins that begin to re-aggregate.  However, instead of forming micelles, a fine network of casein strands are produced, which give yogurt its structure.

serving suggestion yogurt

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water bath yogurt

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yogurt culture milk

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biking breakfast cookie low sugar

Biking Cookies

The success of these cookies hinges on the ratio of four basic ingredients: flour, butter, sugar and eggs. These four ingredients together provide the structural integrity to which all the other ingredients can be added (or not, depending on your preferences!) to create a unique cookie. You may notice that aside from the sugar, the ratio of the four basic ingredients in this recipe is mostly consistent with Toll House cookies, and indeed the preparation of these cookies is the same.

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