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Super-Easy Thick, Spreadable, Bakeable DIY Cream Cheese in Israel

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Cream cheese can be a hit or miss affair here in Israel.  Sure, some brands are okay for eating, but where the native product fails is usually when it comes to baked goods that call for genuine cream cheese, as I discovered at Shavuos a couple of years ago.  It's too thin, too gummy, too shiny, whatever.  It's just... WRONG.

In case you’re wondering, sour cream is called “krem gevina shamenet,” and as you can see, there are lots of flavour choices…

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…but none of them are anything I’d want to bake into a cheesecake.

But then this year, I found out I could make my own.  And not only does it taste great, it works perfectly in recipes!

I won't bother calling it a RECIPE, because it's too easy to be a recipe! 

It only works if you're in Israel, simply because you can’t get Israeli dairy products here.  Then again, if you're outside of Israel, you can probably just buy Philly.  The truth is, you can buy Philly here in a lot of places as well, as well as some good brands that substitute reasonably well.  But if you're turned off by additives like

Vegan Pretty Pink Swirl Kool-Aid Sugar Cookies

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I wanted something different for dessert this Shabbos and for whatever reason, my mind went to the stash of Kool Aid that's been sitting in the cupboard here for over a year.  And the only flavour of Kool Aid that counts, as far as I'm concerned, is Strawberry.

Feel free to make these with any colour you want!

Anyway, an image of these swirly cookies swirled into my mind and I knew exactly how I was going to make them.

All I needed was a decent sugar-cookie recipe that didn't rely overly much on butter.  I've used a couple of pareve sugar cookie recipes in the past, including this one from Couldn't be Parve, which uses margarine, and these ones which use shortening. 

But here in Israel, I don't like the taste of the margarine, there are no "healthier" margarines available, and shortening simply doesn't exist.  My substitute has become coconut oil, or (sometimes) half and half margarine and coconut oil.  So I started looking around for recipes... and found another one from Couldn't be Parve looked absolutely perfect. 

I wasn’t consciously looking for a vegan recipe, though I was delighted by the idea that we could nibble on the dough to my heart’s content!

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(Vegan goodness? demerara sugar, coconut oil, Kool Aid, coconut milk…)

This recipe uses coconut oil and coconut milk, which I was leery of but

The Kosher Cauliflower Nuggets Revolution: Have you been assimilated?

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Have you tried cauliflower lately?

I know, it’s been around for a bazillion years, but trust me – today’s cauliflower ain’t, as they say, your bubby’s cauliflower, steamed or boiled, mushy, drenched in cheese sauce.  Not that there’s anything wrong with cheese sauce (slurp!).

I admit I'm a latecomer to the cauliflower revolution.  But this versatile veg, which is showing up these days in everything from pizza crusts to vegan tacos, has won me over totally and utterly.

I mean, honestly, what's not to love?

- You can buy it frozen (no checking for bugs!) and just cook normally
- It's colourless so it can look like whatever you want
- It happily takes on the flavours of whatever you cook it with
- It's low-carb (okay, I don't care about this one much, but some people do!)

I mean, basically, cauliflower is the tofu of veggies.  Or, like the midrash says about mann (manna), the food the Jewish people ate in the desert, if you were righteous enough it could taste like anything you wanted.

I guess I’m pretty righteous.  Aren’t you?  And virtuous, if you’re adding cauliflower, which is a super-healthy cruciferous vegetable to your diet.  Pat yourself on the back!

But wait a second – just like with tofu and other bland-neutral foods, it's only healthy if you don't weigh it down with a ton of oil, processed flour, and whatnot.  If you bread it and deep-fry it, it will be yummy, but it won't be "health food," as such.

Since we had some in the freezer left over from the Spicy Cauliflower Bites we gobbled up the other day, I decided to make cauliflower nuggets (aka croquettes) for the kids’ after school lunch today.  (In honour of the second-last day of school I decided to get my act together!)

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These croquettes are a fabulously easy homemade replacement for storebought shnitzel, a staple food here in Israel, and also for tuna patties of various kinds.  They'd probably also work well with the addition of a little bit of thawed frozen spinach, for variety, or even other veg like frozen peas and carrots or frozen corn (don't puree them with the rest of the mixture, just stir in before forming croquettes!).

I adapted these “Cauliflower Tots” from Just a Taste, dubbing them “nuggets” because it’s more fun, making my nuggets pareve, and playing around with the seasoning a little, then baked them up quickly in the oven.  The whole project (not counting thawing the frozen cauliflower for a few minutes first) took under 1/2 an hour, start to finish, using the food processor, and they turned out absolutely delicious.  They hit that “need-something-savoury” spot just oh-so-perfectly round about mid-afternoon and you feel virtuous because unlike regular nuggets they’re not fried or heavy with chickeny greasiness.

All vegetables, all deliciousness, all the time!  I’d imagine they’d be easy to make vegan by using whatever egg substitute you prefer.  There’s only 1 egg, and in fact, because they’re not deep-fried, they might hold together fine without anything, but I wouldn’t necessarily want to risk it.

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(oops, didn’t realize I was going to take pics until the mixture was almost used up!)

I'm not going to list quantities here, because I wasn't keeping track.  You can find proportions in the original recipe or just

Fancy challah without braiding? Testing out the “dad hack”

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After however-many hundreds of years, it's not often that you come across a NEW way of making challah.

So when Seth Brandes shared his "dad hack" for making challah "without messing with braiding the dough," I passed it on earlier this week. (Why isn't anything moms do in the kitchen considered a hack?)

I also decided to try it out.  Instead of my usual portioning, balling, rolling, snaking, and braiding steps, I formed the dough into elongated ovals and got ready to go to town.

The most yummy coleslaw–even for people who hate coleslaw

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How do you feel about coleslaw???

I’ll be honest – I’ve always hated it.  I just found it bland and uninspiring.  Of course, I was used to the KFC style of coleslaw, which is essentially pureed or finely chopped-up cabbage with a ton of mayonnaise.  Just not much to get excited about there.

This one’s from Popeye’s, not KFC, but I’m sure you get the idea:

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One more complicating factor in our coleslaw lives was this:  one of our kids hates mayonnaise with a passion.  Cannot stand to be

The taste of fall: Easy homemade apple cider without a juicer!

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Here in Israel, we miss lots of the familiar tastes of the seasons, but mostly, we get by.  We adapt and learn to enjoy new flavours, like the way Naomi Rivka will stash a few fresh dates in the freezer for a couple of hours and then take them out and mash them into “sorbet.”  Or like chummus – NOT!

One of the things I love in the sukkah, besides a cool breeze (since there’s no hope for that where we are) is real apple cider.  We drink it, but it’s also a crucial ingredient in my Yom Tov Squash Soup.  Or at least it WAS, before we moved to Israel.

There really is no substitute for cider.  If you’re from the Northeast or some other fall-colours, cool-weather kind of place, hopefully you’ll agree.  They sell alcoholic cider in the liquor stores here, but it’s more like bubbly-sweet apple juice than anything I would call cider.  Apple juice is kids’ stuff, but cider has sass – it’s all grown up.  It’s sweet but spicy; spunkier than apple juice and fuller in body and texture.

And since we came here, it’s been impossible to obtain. 
Oh, sure, there may be some kind of health-food store in the centre of the country that stocks a nice, cloudy apple juice.  But – repeat after me – it’s Not The Same.  And I didn’t know

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