A World First: Introducing Matcha Green Tea Crackers




When John and I look back upon our time in Eilat, I think about how different our experiences will have been in comparison:

1. He typically works 10 hours a day, six days a week vs. I have no defined job
2. He is surrounded by people all day: tousits and coworkers, and me when he comes home vs. Besides volunteering at the botanical gardens or visits to the grocer or beach, I am home...quite alone.
3. He explores miles of Eilat ocean underwater vs. I discover the ends-and-out of this city on foot
4. He takes his sixth student on an introductory dive as the sun is setting vs. I’m off somewhere jogging in the desert

How strange it will be when we think back on this period of having lived in a foreign country and seen each other so infrequently.


matcha tea crackers
Green crackers!? Green crackers! No vegetables necessary!

I have been busy, nonetheless.

I’m lucky I can say that I have not once felt bored, and the loneliness is not too frequent. I value this period as a means to catch up on writing, learning yoga (finally), reading, and recipe development.

It is, in fact, a bit absurd to think about the hours I have logged prepping, cooking, and reading about food.

Oh yes, you can bet your buns that during this period in which I have my very own kitchen, I plan to catch up on my recipe repertoire with a vengeance.

die hard with a vengence
Yeah you heard it right, you's about to go to Chowtown

My latest recipe is a new staple. Hands down.

Or, hands raised to my mouth over and over again, filling it with probably way too much food.

You see, I have this on-again-off-again relationship with bread.

We try so hard to make it work, we really do. I mean, in France, we tried way too hard. But it just doesn’t. There is genuine mutual love and respect, but in the end, the relationship is dysfunctional.

I’m sorry bread. It’s just not working out. The hips don’t lie.

But I’m not giving up on flour completely. There are too many cheeses, dips, and spreads out there just waiting for a crunchy, toasty serving vessel. We’re just toning the dough down a bit. (This can also be easily turned into a delicious gluten-free recipe!)

I keep looking at this huge bag of matcha (green tea) powder that I’ve lugged with me all the way from Wyoming to Georgia, then through England, France, and Germany, and now to Israel.

What is wrong with me?

It would seem that I bought way too much. And it’s expensive. It’s like that fifty dollar bottle of gourmet infused balsamic vinegar that has been sitting in your pantry for the past year.

Amazing, but what do you do with it?

matcha cracker
Green is the new gorgeous, didn't you know?

But wait, matcha powder is chock-full of antioxidants and goodness! It’s no vinegar, you fiend!

I couldn’t leave the stuff behind.

I mean, I was looking up the benefits of matcha powder on Body Health Love's website, and did you know that a gram of matcha powder has over five times the antioxidants of goji berries? Or twenty-eight more times than wheatgrass!?

That’s a big deal.

But alas, I’ve gotten a bit “tead” out lately. I’ve tried matcha brownies, cookies, and smoothies, and still the bag doesn’t seem to shrink.

So one day, as I fretted over the fact that the crackers from my natural foods store have way too much fiber in them (that’s almost too much information), a lightbulb went off.

How about a matcha green tea vessel that could go with lots of other foods and not have to be the main player? Not have to overwhelm the other flavors? What if I could skip pita with my feisty baba ganoush? Crostini with roasted pepper, olive, and chevre bruschetta? Ritz with my velveeta!?

(So, um, even if you have some sort of evidence that I’ve carried outnumerous scandalous-if-fleeting love affairs with that last example I, um...I deny it. Really.)


If any fat kid tries to steal these off my windowsill,
there will be karate choppage
Green tea crackers, did I ever tell you how beautifully
you contrast with the color blue?

So, I did it.

And I’m just gonna get it out in the open now: This is a first. Go ahead, google “green tea crackers” or “matcha crackers.”

Yup. Nothing. (at least in 2012!)

Why nobody else has thought to incorporate the health benefits of green tea into the beautiful carrier that is a cracker, I do not know.

But somebody had to do it.

And now it's your turn.



Matcha Green Tea Crackers

Ingredients
· 1 cup flour of your choosing*
· ½ cup seeds (I used raw pumpkin and sunflower seeds), ground to coarse powder
· 2 tbs matcha green tea powder
· 2 tbs black sesame seeds
· 2 tbs tahini (looking for something else to do with all that tahini?)
· 1 ½ tbs honey
· 1 tsp sea salt
· 2 ½ tbs sesame, sunflower, or extra virgin olive oil (or some blend therein)
· Approx 2 tbs water

*I usually use 1/2 cup gluten-free flour and 1/2 cup finely ground oats


matcha green tea recipe
green tea dough
matcha green tea recipe
green tea crackers


Directions
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Mix seeds (except for the black sesame seeds) in a food processor until ground coarsely. Add tahini, honey, and oil until just incorporated.

Combine wet mixture with flour, green tea powder, salt, sesame seeds, and water until you get a workable dough. Use your hands because it's fun. Add more water if it’s super dry, but note that it shouldn't be too moist or else the dough will be too sticky to work with.

Starting with a smooth, floured surface, flatten dough with hands, cover parchment or wax paper, and then roll it out as thinly as possible (just like you would a pie crust). Run it through your pasta maker if you have one.

Be gentle as the floating lotus flower; this dough can be a bit brittle depending on the flour you use. It will probably be slightly jagged on the edges, so pinch together where possible.


green tea dough
oh you so jagged and dangerous  (pre-bakeage shot)

Since I have the tiniest oven in the world, I broke the dough into two batches. I suggest doing this until you get the recipe down, as baking times may differ depending on altitude and oven size.

Plus, if you’re like me and you zone out during the final, most important minutes before something begins to burn, you’ll be able to salvage at least half of your dough the second time around.

After about 6-10 minutes, or when the dough begins to brown around the edges, remove from the oven. Don’t let the green color throw you off—these babies are done even though they aren’t getting golden in the middle (something you might be conditioned to looking for).

I suppose you’re looking for a “golden-green” color, if that exists?

Let rest for about 30 minutes, then break up into random pieces. Who needs a square cracker?

I have eaten these crackers solo, with cheese, tapenade, hummus, more cheese, peanut butter….you name it.

I’ve yet to be displeased.

matcha green tea recipe



Tomorrow, I’m off to a “zoo” in the middle of the desert to play with reptiles, hang out with some Israelis, and escape Eilat for a while.

The crackers are coming with me.

Until then, let’s eat...

Leave a comment below and let me know what you tried and how they turned out!

------------------------


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And if you're feeling literary, check out my other blog: RoadWritten.com

Happy trails!

Sustainable Tuna and Corporate Responsibility: A Letter to the Editor


As I was reading an article on Pan-Seared Tuna Steaks out of my favorite Cook's Illustrated Magazine, I bristled a bit at its "Tuna Buying Guide." 

The guide outlined four different types of tuna, two of which I knew to be red-listed under Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch.

Mad respect for the Fishlove Project and Lizzy Jagger (Mick's daughter) atop a [sustainably] caught/dead tuna...Thanks Buzzfeed for the photo!

The problem was that Cook's Illustrated made no mention to readers that in purchasing the tuna that they were suggesting, said readers would be harming the delicate balance of the ocean's current fish populations.

Perhaps a company so large should consider the implications of what it means to put out a guide.

Overfishing is an issue that people are slowly becoming more aware of, yet many remain blissfully ignorant of the fact that we are flippantly destroying the world's oceans.

Why worry about the next few decades when we can enjoy our sushi now??

seared tuna recipe
This makes me hyperventilate a bit     Photo cred: Miss Renaissance

For those of you who see the problem inherent in the question I just posed, please read on.


I wrote this e-mail to Cook's Illustrated and I want to share it with you to hopefully inspire you to think about your seafood purchases, and maybe even to take action by doing something similar.


"To Whom it May Concern:

I am a die-hard and enthusiastic fan of Cook's Illustrated. I read your literature faithfully and consider your recipes to be my cooking Bible.

Nevertheless, it troubles me that as I read your Tuna Buying Guide in the 2012 Modern Classics issue, there is no mention of the fact that Yellowfin and Bluefin tuna (two of the four listed types) are on the red list under Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch. Yellowfin, according to their thorough research on preserving the world's tuna population, should only be consumed when caught through troll, pole, and single-line methods, and bluefin should be avoided at all costs.

I understand that the Cook's Illustrated mission is to create the best recipes, period. But I believe that there is certain responsibility when in a position such as yours that has so many faithful followers. I am not suggesting that you align yourself with Greenpeace and begin preaching the "goods and evils" of fish consumption, but I am suggesting a tiny (or even lengthy) write-up of what your readers can do to ensure that the ocean keeps providing us with all that yummy tuna. A mere sentence saying "many seafood watch agencies suggest avoiding the purchase of Yellowfin/Bluefin tuna unless caught using sustainable methods" would at least let readers know that everything is not hunky-dory in that majestic ocean world. It leaves the choice up to them, while Cook's Illustrated is simply providing objective information.

Of course, you can claim that this is not an issue that involves an actual recipe, so Cook's Illustrated would rather not open a Pandora’s box of sustainability suggestions. But the fact is that if tuna doesn't last in the oceans, it definitely can't last in your recipe books. And what we can certainly agree on is that we all want tuna to last.

There are many similar food sustainability issues that we could discuss, but the importance of ocean sustainability is arguably not the same as eating free-range eggs, organic tomatoes, or grass-fed beef. It is an issue about fish survival under careless human consumption--all emotions and opinions aside.

Consider this what you will: a suggestion, a plea, a wake-up call. Only please, let your readers know that what they buy matters when it comes to fish!

Thank you for your time!"

Turns out that tuna are actually living breathing things that just might enjoy life

So there we have it. It is a simple letter, with a point made without seeming too pushy.

I want to finish this post talking about how that cheap can of "dolphin-safe" tuna typically finds its way onto your pantry shelves.

Most canned tuna is caught by a "long line" method, wherein a long line with many attached hooks is dropped into the ocean to float and catch tuna.

What really happens during this process, according to Tristram Stuart's book Waste, is that the longline, which can be up to 78 miles long with thousands of hooks,

"Gives rise to a discard rate [of non-tuna specimens] more than 71 times greater than fishing for [tuna] on an ordinary pole and line"



He goes on to describe that:

"Some new 'dolphin-friendly' methods of catching tuna, which can involve surrounding and scooping up entire marine habitats, can actually kill even more kinds of other fish, turtles, and sharks. For 15,721 tons of tuna caught using these dolphin-friendly methods in the eastern Pacific, fishing fleets killed 15,737 tons of sharks, rays, and other fish--a by-catch rate of over 50 per cent."

Let me say this now: I love tuna.

I love seafood in general. I love food in general. In my past, I have eaten enough cheap canned tuna to put a cat to shame and I am not proud of it.

So I am the first to understand that it is painful not to be able to eat whatever you want, when you want it. Sometimes it hurts to have to consult your conscience over a grocery list. But consult it we must.

If your interest is piqued, be sure to look for the "troll, pole, and single-line" caught designations on your tuna cans and raw tuna purchases.

This essentially means that a line catches individual tunas and nothing else. Sustainable tuna can be easily found in most health food stores, but being the bulk-buyer that I am, I typically buy mine by the case on Amazon to save money.

For other useful websites to guide your seafood purchases, visit...


  • Food and Water Watch
  • Blue Ocean
  • National Resources Defense Council
  • WWF


  • and of course...


  • Montery Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch


  • And maybe someday I'll forgive myself for all those .99 cent cans of tuna I consumed throughout college...


    (If this post makes you strangely hungry for that chicken of the sea, buy something sustainable and make my Authentic Nicoise Salad!)

    (Oh, and sign up by clicking here to receive Chowgypsy updates in your inbox!)

    Not ready to leave the computer? Check out my writer's blog at RoadWritten.com!

    Healthy Brownies: The Relationship Between Yom Kippur, Beets, Bulgur, and Chocolate

    Yom Kippur occurred on Septmenber 25th...this post came up a little late!
    healthy brownies
    What do brownies have to do with Yom Kippur? Anything I want.
    Looking out upon the streets of Israel, I can now see how very different this culture is from America’s. Could Americans really turn off their cable, cell phones, and car engines for a full 25 hours? And eat nothing on top of all that? I have severe doubts.

    It’s curious being in a country with traditions that greatly predate even the existence of the United States; it makes one realize just how inexperienced America actually is.Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement,” is the holiest day of the year in Jewish culture. For 25 hours, beginning at sunset the day before and ending at nightfall on the day of Yom Kippur, the devout fast and spend time on intensive prayer. It’s the day where God supposedly seals peoples’ fates for the coming year, so spending the hours on atonement and repentance is kind of a big deal, especially if you’ve been procrastinating this sort of thing the other 364 days.
    bikes yom kippur
    Enjoying the empty Yom Kippur streets in Tel Aviv                                                                          Photo Cred: Oliver Weiken/ EPA
    At this moment, just after sunset, the streets are crawling with families out enjoying the newfound freedom and safety in the streets (remember, most won't use cars today). If you’ve got some wheels, it’s a biking and roller blading bonanza out there. I think that even the cats are wearing tiny rollerblades.

    Eilat is a city that is known for its overzealous focus on profit from tourism, so it’s nice to see that not even this gets in the way of tradition and religious ritual. Even for the non-religious it’s a day of rest, if only to respect the wishes of the religious.
    eilat israel
    Looking out over Eilat, where the absent sound of motors is a wonderful sound 
    No, I don’t suppose that America has an occasion that will ever near Yom Kippur in its ability to almost fully shut the large-scale electronics of a whole country down, but what we could near is the general mentality that Israelis hold toward taking days of rest. I was prepared for Yom Kippur because every Friday evening through Saturday evening (this period is called Shabbat), something similar happens—nearly everything closes…the huge stores, restaurants, museums…you name it. Produce will go bad, revenue will be lost, space will be wasted, but those hours are for resting—profit be damned. I think that this is the principal difference between “them” and “us:” Many of “us” American capitalists couldn't be convinced to close down operations for anything.

    Let’s think about taking our Sundays back. If you already have the weekends off, ask yourself if you’re really taking some time during those days to think about your life—what you’re thankful for, the relationships you’ve nurtured, what you're doing with your life…you know the drill.

    Thanksgiving could be every week! And by that I mean I want to eat Thanksgiving dinner at least once a week, but that’s not the point. Let’s just relax a little, ok?
    desert street
    Anybody out there?
    As you might have guessed, I am not exactly spending Yom Kippur fasting. No, no...quite the opposite. I am, in fact, taking part in the highly relaxing art of making and eating brownies. I believe the atonement and repentance will have to wait until tomorrow...

    But maybe I won't feel so guilty after all...? We all know that the Chowgypsy is incapable of taking a traditional recipe and not trying to make it cheap and/or healthy in some way...
    healthy brownie recipe
    It certainly doesn't look healthy.
    Brace yourselves people, because the Chowgypsy has just invented Beet & Bulgur Brownies. I got healthy on some chocolate. Some may say I've gone too far; I say I've created a masterpiece.

    I ask you to suspend judgment, because the fact is, I'm on to something. Somehow, beets blend beautifully with dark chocolate. If it weren't for the slightly red tint of these brownies, most people wouldn't be able to guess that beets are in there at all.

    And bulgur, my faithful bulgur...always happy to take the backseat to a recipe while nevertheless adding so much: Texturally sound, flavorfully mild, and nutritionally superior--you just keep doin' your thing, honey.
    healthy brownies
    This looks precarious. Stabilize yourself or you might fall into my mouth.
    I could go on about the flavor of these brownies, but the things is, they just taste like yummy chocolate brownies. They're fudgy, super moist, dense, and chocolately, and I could serve them to the most health-food-hating people in the world and they'd be none the wiser. If they asked about the red color, I'd just say it's food coloring...or BLOOD.

    Or I'd say, "hm, it must have something to do with the cocoa powder," and then I'd watch as they finish their bite and then tell them the secret ingredients and watch as a rainbow spreads out behind them while they mystically transform into beautiful, healthy, exemplary eaters and human beings. That's how easy it is, folks. So go ahead, make your day. Make brownies that are very secretly [mostly] healthy.
    Fudgy Beet and Bulgur Brownies
    Notes: I significantly decreased the egg, sugar, and oil that this recipe called for, which is why you see ingredients like yogurt (acting as oil) and fruit puree (substituting 2 egg yolks). You can also sub honey for more sugar, but that would just be silly.

     Ingredients
  • 2 oz. baker’s chocolate, chopped finely
  • ½ c cocoa
  • 1 ½ tsp espresso
  • 1/2 cup boiling water

  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/4 cup EVOO, Coconut Oil, or Avocado Oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tbsp fruit puree (like applesauce or peach jam)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¾ cup honey
  • 1 ¾ cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 8 oz. dark chocolate chips or a chopped bar
  • 1 cup finely grated beetroot
  • 1 cup fine grain bulgur, soaked until tender (or sub cooked quinoa)
  • healthy brownies
    beets and chocolate
    Directions
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    Whisk cocoa, coffee, and boiling water in a bowl. Add baker's chocolate and whisk to melt—things might be a little chunky, and that’s ok. Add butter and oil, then egg and vanilla, then yogurt and fruit puree. Whisk until smooth. Add sugar & honey. Whisk ‘til smooth...again. Add flour, salt, and cinnamon, whisk until just incorporated, then fold in beetroot, bulgur, and chocolate chips.

    Pour into greased baking pan...13x9 should do it (ideally not an oval pan like mine) and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out mostly clean. Or, if you're like me, undercook them at about 35 minutes just because you like that kind of thing.
    beet brownie recipe
    you know i can't resist a threesome...of brownies.
    How I love Jewish holidays! Click here to sign up for more fudgy, strangely healthy, and fun experiences with the Chowgypsy!  Vaguely adapted from Cooks Illustrated Chewy Brownies

    Dreams of Desert Rain and Tiny Miracles

    (I promise, this will have nothing to do with that Sting song)

    As the afternoon waned today, I took a peek out of our window and noticed with wide eyes that the sky was full of cloud cover.



    The fact that this is an occasion to be celebrated gives you an idea of how empty the skies of Eilat tend to stay. Knowing that this miraculous event could provide a little relief from the typical blanket of heat that covers our desert afternoons, I put on my shoes for a late-afternoon jog.

    How I’ve missed a cloud-filled sunset!

    Tonight’s was particularly stunning, with the setting sun falling just behind a small mountain and giving rise to an arc of piercing rays through the magenta and orange sky. 
    I sat down to stretch, admiring the setting which has now become so elusive in my life.

    textured glass
    Rain? Is that you?
    As a sweat droplet hit my leg, I began to think about all the games I play to trick myself into believing that it sometimes rains in Eilat: When I hear the water splatter upon tile floor of a neighbor’s shower (it’s close quarters, folks), I avoid looking out the reality-stricken windows and pretend that it’s the sound of rain beating against our roof. When a streetlight shines through one of our hammered-glass windows at night, it looks just like a window smattered with raindrops, and I tell myself that it is so. The pooled sweat after being outside for five minutes—why, that’s just the effect of a fleeting rain shower!

    Sitting on the gravel, I slowly shook my head at the clouds. We both knew that my 57 days without rain were going to turn into many, many more. Eilat, for the record, receives on average a mere 1.1 inches of rainfall per year. The average temperature in October? Oh, just 82 degrees. No big deal.

      Views from my typical cloudless afternoon jog--you can see "the armpit" in the bottom right corner 

    So, I thought, if I'm not going to get any rain, I'll take what I can get with some clouds.

    Another sweat droplet on my arm.

    Wait...WAIT.

    Where did that come from?

    Could it be??

    …It was raining!

    It's true—somewhere within that sunset, a cloud had taken pity upon me and managed to wring out a good 20 to 30 droplets. They were faint...elusive, even. I wouldn’t have noticed if I had been in motion. But it was happening. It was raining on me.

    Most people think it’s a bad omen to have an individual raincloud let loose over your head.

    If you ask me, I was showered by a little miracle.
    The Jordanian mountain view on another cloudless run.

    And hey, what's a good run without a good meal to follow?

    (By the way, if you're looking for a good running route in Eilat, find Holland Park.
    holland park eilat

    Easy Peach Jam. It's True.

    Here in Eilat, there are definitely some things that I miss.
    peach jelly recipe
    I see big things on your horizon...big things like big tubs of jam
    I miss thrift stores. I miss quality baking chocolate. I miss my food processor. I miss cold weather (sometimes).

    But I feel most profoundly the absence of certain organic foods. I won’t go into a huge explanation (yet) on why I purchase most of my groceries organically, but the fact is that if a fruit or vegetable is not organic, I typically don’t buy it. So it pains me to see all these beautiful bananas, apples, bunches of herbs, cucumbers, etc., that I know are grown right here in Israel, yet an organic one is nary to be found. The fact is that organic does exist all over Israel…just not in Eilat, apparently. And all the huge grocery stores do have an organic dry goods section the length of a small car, but a diet of organic grains and pasta just isn't gonna cut it for the Chowgypsy.
    organic jam recipe
    you're soooo totally organic and special
    But I do have one salvation. In a space the size of a small classroom, nestled within an industrial park on the outskirts of town, is my new best fried: Bereshit ("bear-eh-sheet," not "bear-shit") Natural Store. It is, in fact, one of the reasons John and I chose the apartment where we live—it’s only about a 10 minute walk from here. Due to its size, the  selection is limited, but as it sells dried foods in bulk, loose-leaf teas, peanut butter (!), and a small selection of produce, I am burdened with significantly less anxiety than if Eilat was completely organic-less.

    So when the new shipments come in every Thursday, I am one of the first ones at the store.

    As I’m typing this, I wish that my wonderfully cynical friend Tyler were here to make fun of me, because this is indeed what my life has become: anticipating daily what this week’s new shipment of organic produce will be. It’s like a slightly pathetic scene from Portlandia.
    organic jam recipe
    We're going places together. You and me. And then I'm going to spill jam all over my purse.
    Back to the point: I’ve notably missed jam. What is a huge vat of peanut butter without some equally delicious jam to give it a big, sloppy high-five? Bereshit does have organic jam, actually, but I can’t vibe with the notion of paying nearly five dollars for a tiny jar of the stuff. It is not the Chowgypsy way. Plus, I go to town with my PB&Js—that jam wouldn’t last a week in my house. And finally, take a look at the jams and jellies you buy in the store—most have wayyy too much added sugar (I used part-honey with this jam), and many have even started adding high fructose corn syrup! Why oh why must they make simple foods more complex with unhealthy and unnecessary ingredients?

    So I’ve been watching…waiting... for a jammable and organic fruit. When I saw the shipment of beautiful if unripe peaches last Thursday morning, I made my move.

    Now, I’m not trying to get into preserving with this recipe—it’s a hot, messy process that’s meant for a larger and more-air conditioned kitchen than mine. But the thing is, this recipe is so easy that I’ll have no problem with making it every two weeks or so and storing it in the refrigerator.
    Let the sugar do the work
    sugar + time= released peach juice
    A lot of people shy away from making their own jams because it seems like a daunting task, but lucky for you, this could honestly be prepared by a five-year-old. That is, unless you’re not ok with five-year-olds wielding kitchen knives. Ok, just make it yourself. I spent less than 30 minutes of actual work in preparing my peach jam. There is more time spent letting the fruit sit to release their juices, but during that time, you can do whatever you want! So go for a hike, run some errands, or just sit and stare at the wall for several hours. It’s your world.

    So enough talk, let’s jam.

    Amazingly Easy Peach Jam
    Makes about 3 cups. It's perfect amount to last two people for a couple weeks, so double (or triple!? You're crazy.) as needed. Feel free to use all sugar and no honey or vice versa. Recipe inspired by Joelle's French Apricot Jam
    Ingredients
    · 8 very ripe peaches
    · 1/4 cup sugar
    · 1/4 cup honey
    · 2 tbs lemon juice
    · 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    · 1 tsp cinnamon
    · 2 tbs fruit juice concentrate (optional--I've used goji berry and cranberry/apple before just because they happened to be on-hand)

    Directions
    Quarter all the peaches and remove the pits. Place in a cooking pot, cover with the rest of the ingredients. Let sit for 3-6 hours. Give it a stir now and then if you’re around.
    organic jam recipe
    sweeten 'em
    easy peach jam recipe
    sweat 'em
    easy peach jam recipe
    simmer
    easy peach jam recipe
    'n' blend
    You’ll see that the peaches have released a lot of juice after a few hours, so at this point set the pot on a burner and bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately turn the heat to low and simmer for about 40-60 minutes, stirring occasionally, or as long as it takes to get to your desired consistency (remember, some batches are going to be juicer than others, so I can’t give you an exact time here). Once the liquid has reduced a bit, take out that immersion blender and go to town, making the jam as smooth or chunky as you like. If you have no immersion blender, 1. Why not? 2. Transfer the jam in batches to your blender or food processor and go to town. If the jam seems especially liquidy, just cook for a while longer.

    Taste, add more cinnamon, sugar, or vanilla to taste, bearing in mind that the flavors will strengthen over the next day.

    Aaaaaand, we’re done!
    easy peach jam recipe
    Everybody jump in!
     
    organic jam recipe
    What is this, you ask? Only the best breakfast
    combination of breadless PB&J ever.
    The Savings: Let's get this straight: It is always much, much cheaper to make your own preserves. There is no argument, and it's surprisingly easy. A jar of high-quality store-bought jam (meaning no added thickeners or high fructose corn syrup!) runs at about $4 for four ounces--that's $16 per pound! Clearly, if you buy peaches at around $2-4 per pound and factor in the cost of sweetener, you're still paying less than half for something fresh and homemade!

    Grilling Meat in Israel + Feisty Baba Ganoush Recipe



    I have remained steadfast in keeping a curious and open mind to this newfound Israeli culture—a culture in which I became quite suddenly and solidly submerged back in the beginning of September.

    But there is one thing that sends my jaw to the ground every time—time and time again. 

    I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to understand or even grasp this recurrent ability of the Israelis to really push the limits—maybe too far (!?)—when it comes to this one thing...

    The thing is this: grilling out.

    grilling meat
    Um, this is only round one of three...

    Never, never have I seen so few people consume such vast amounts of food.

    It’s like these normal-sized humans are eating their last supper (actually, it might be similar to the way I see people stocking up at the store).

    It is baffling, impressive, and mildly disturbing all at once.

    The past three cookouts I’ve attended have each had a grill master gallantly sweating over the flames for at least three hours. And it’s a constant three hours.

    It’s as though (thankfully) nobody has any idea of what a typical serving size suggestion would be for a group of ten-or-so people.

    grilled eggplant
    Once the eggplant is finished we scoop out
    the "pulp" and have an easy dip for pita bread
    meat in israel
    Green shirt shows no shirt the ropes...
    the picture of calm & control

    And don’t you go thinking that there ends up being a surplus of food. No no, these people can eat.

    I’m pretty sure that everybody—guys included—is pregnant. Who will raise all these babies?

    With a nonchalant methodocism, the Israeli calmly takes this kebab or that chicken wing from an intimidating yet beautiful pile of piping hot meat and works through it, bite by dedicated bite.

    Follow one bite with tahini-dipped pita, the next with a schmear of baba ganoush.

    Then on to the next piece of meat.

    I thought in dating John I knew the true measure of the freakish ability to consume large amounts of food. An ability which (I'm jealous to say) often has no correlation to a person’s body mass index.

    And yet here in Israel are a thousand Johns, fearless in the face of what appears to be waaaay too much food.

    israeli grilling
    The peons await the grill master
    Try not to grasp the meat while it's on the grill
    israel grilled meat
    The amount of meat might lead to psychosis
    grilled sweet potatoes
    How easy does that look?

    I should mention that since the whole point of this trip is to visit as many places as possible and eat as many various foods as possible, we have a pretty small budget when it comes to cooking for ourselves at home.

    That money has to be put toward new flights and new restaurants.

    This, of course, contrasts with my need to eat high-quality and delicious foods, so one way we have bridged the gap is by cutting out meat. Buying local and sustainably-raised meat is the only option, and it’s not the most prevalent thing here in Eilat.

    So, we skip it. As long as the vegetarian cooking is good enough (which, ahem, the chef being moi I say it is), you won't notice it's absence.

    On the other hand, I can't go without pricier items like unrefined sea salt, real dark chocolate, and quality quality organic produce.

    That is not to say, however, that we aren’t beside ourselves with excitement when we get invited to one of these cookouts. It’s like we’re suddenly transformed into malnourished orphans who’ve never had a bite of steak in their lives.

    It’s beautiful and a little confusing.

    But I don’t come empty-handed to these meat smorgasbords. It just so happens that I have become a master of one of the common players at these cookouts: baba ganoush.


    eggplant spread recipe
    Sooo...I’ve been eating you throughout this entire photo shoot...
    Awkward.

    Baba ganoush, an eggplant and tahini (sesame seed paste) based spread, is all over the Middle East.

    And I’m gonna say it now: it should be all over everywhere.

    Like air. Like music. Like macaroni and cheese. Not because it’s healthy, not because it’s vegetarian, but because it’s eyes-roll-to-the-back-of-your-head-good.

    And eggplant-haters, step down. Even you will like this.

    It’s like eating eggplant clouds, which may or may not be pleasant or even possible, but I’m willing to take the risk.

    Savory, aromatic, and earthy—one bite and you’ll be wondering why this hasn’t been a staple in your life.

    israeli baba ganoush
    eggplant spread


    Feisty Baba Ganoush (Eggplant Spread)

    Ingredients
    · 1 large eggplant (enough for 2 cups roasted)
    · 1/4 to 1/2 cup sesame tahini (add to taste)
    · 2 cloves roasted garlic + 1 unroasted, chopped (vary this however you’d like, noting that fresh garlic will have much more of a bite)
    · 1/2 tbs dried basil (or 1/2 bunch fresh)
    · 1/2 tbs dried parsley (or 1/2 bunch fresh)
    · 1 tsp salt (used smoked sea salt if you have it)
    · 1 tsp cumin
    · 1/4 tsp paprika
    · 2 tsp turmeric
    · 1/2 tsp hot paprika, cayenne, or harissa
    · 1/4 c fresh lemon juice (add 1 tbs at a time, to taste)
    · 2-3 tbsp EVOO (depending on how much you used and whatever is left over from baking the eggplant)

    Directions
    Cook that eggplant.

    Many recipes grill or roast the eggplant whole to impart a smoky flavor to the dip (and I do recommend this), but I don’t have a grill and it’s just too hot here, damnit.

    So late at night, I cut my eggplant friend up into big chunks, slather them with olive oil, throw in my garlic to roast along, and bake for a good 40 minutes or so, or until super soft and beginning to brown.

    You’ll know it’s ready once it loses that chalky look.


    roasted eggplant
    baked eggplant


    OK, easy recipe summit time:

    Combine everything in a food processor. Boom.

    If you don’t have a food processor, mix all of this by hand by mashing the eggplant and roasted garlic with a fork and finely dicing any fresh garlic/herbs, then mixing it all up. This method also lends a denser and more fibrous texture, which is desirable in its own right.

    Add lemon juice and EVOO a tablespoon at a time until your desired consistency is reached. I can’t emphasize enough the need for fresh lemon juice and a high-quality EVOO here.

    Did I ever tell you how great it is having an extra tiny food processor?
    That's because it's not so great.

    And listen, I like really really big flavors.

    If you’re typically a chicken alfredo person over a Thai curry, tone down these spices as you see fit.

    The eggplant and tahini will happily stand on their own. Honestly

    Serve with grilled pita bread, matcha green tea crackers, regular crackers, a spoon, a fork, your hand, whatever.

    Just try not to eat it all in one sitting.

    eggplant spread recipe
    Pita bread? Pretty essential. Matcha green tea crackers? I bet you didn't know that those are essential, too...check out the recipe here!

    One of the best things about making this baba ganoush is that if you do it while listening to heavy music like this album, it makes you feel like you’re doing something really intense and important and you’re not just a girl in her underwear with hair that sticks straight up cooking eggplant with way too much enthusiasm.


    The Savings : Eggplant is one of my favorite foods because because it tastes great and is sooo inexpensive. You could make this recipe solely with eggplant and tahini and you'd have a nutritious meal full of vitamin A, fiber, protein, and more. It's great to feed a crown because lots of people dont' know what to do with eggplant, and you don't have to tell anybody you spent less than three dollars...


    And hey, let's stay in touch! Sign up here or leave a comment!

    Also, check out my writer's blog over at RoadWritten.com

    Happy trails!


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