Kitchen Tips: How to make (and freeze!) caramelized onions

By | July 22, 2014

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These days, it takes a lot of advance planning to make dinner. The first step is putting away yesterday’s clean dishes. The second step is washing the dirty dishes that are still in the sink, even though I thought I washed them last night when I should have gone to sleep already. Eventually I might get around to step 3, which is dicing and sauteing an onion…right, so you see how it takes forever to produce an actual meal. Sometimes we eat really late, and sometimes we eat really really late.

If I can sidestep even one thing in the dinner-making process, it makes my day that much simpler. And this is why I love caramelized onions so much: because (1) you can make them ahead and freeze them in small portions, so you get a head start on any dish that starts with a sauteed onion (or that features them), and (2) they are so.full.of.flavor. If you’ve never tried caramelized onions, you’ll probably be shocked that ordinary onions can have such a depth of flavor. I feel like I’ve said that before, but it’s so true.

onion collage w numbers

A few pointers, based on my personal onion experiences:

  • Material: Stainless steel pots work. Cheap-o pots do not.
  • Oil: Olive oil works. Canola oil does not.
  • Onion-to-oil ratio: Use ½ Tbsp oil per onion.
  • Stirring frequency: You want them to cook undisturbed so those brown bits start collecting at the bottom of the pan, but not so long that they burn. For most of the cooking process, one stir every 10 minutes is just right; at the end, check them more often to avoid burning.
  • Covering the pot: I have successfully caramelized onions in both covered and uncovered pots, but my favorite method is to cover the pot for the first 10 minutes and then leave it uncovered after that.

Okay, you convinced me. I caramelized some onions, now what do I do with them?

Caramelized onions just not your thing? That’s okay, I still like you. Try these instead:

Menu Plan: Week of July 20, 2014

By | July 20, 2014

When we moved into our yishuv exactly three years ago, I knew I was going to miss having a readily available source for iced coffee. The closest place that sold it was Rami Levi, but my husband does the grocery shopping 99% of the time, so I never really get there. So I managed as I best as I could without it. This helped. So did this.

Then last summer — dream come true! — someone on the yishuv rented an iced coffee machine and started selling cups of it for 5 shekels each. This year, they kicked things up several notches and turned their iced coffee/barad stand into an adorable little cafe that even has a soup of the day. We’re doing a family dinner there this week, and if the toddler actually sits and eats, it might have to become a regular thing.

A day in the life

By | July 15, 2014

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I always wonder about bloggers. Like: What do they do in their real lives? How do they make time to post regular recipes? And quite importantly, what do they make for dinner on a normal night? So I realize that this post may be assuming too much — for example, that you’re interested in what I was doing at 10:20 a.m. the other day – but just in case this comes across as a completely normal post, here it is: A day in the life of me. Welcome.

Scene: The Simon caravan

Characters:

  • Tali: mama bear, freelance editor, food blogger
  • Aaron: papa bear, with a job description longer than two words
  • Big Boy: baby bear #1, age 19 months
  • Baby Girl: baby bear #2, age 5 weeks

5:20 a.m.: Baby Girl starts to stir. I wake with a start, as I always do, hoping to get to her before she cries and wakes up her brother sleeping soundly on the other side of the caravan.

6:00 a.m.: She’s finished her bottle (and no crying yet). I put her back in her crib and go fill the washing machine with a load. I can’t believe the first thing I’m doing today is laundry. Every few minutes, I go back to the baby, who looks like she needs to burp. I try and try but no luck, so I rock her for a couple of minutes and then just put her back down. Maybe I can get some work done before the day really starts…

6:27 a.m.: Never mind. She’s still not settled. I try all the burping positions I can think of and give up on working until later. I hadn’t even turned on the computer, anyway.

6:52 a.m.: The baby is finally calm. About a minute after I put her down, I hear a little voice call, “Mama?” I walk down the hall and go say good morning to Big Boy. He hands me his pacifier, which is his ticket out. I change him, get him dressed, and put suntan lotion on him for the day.

7:15 a.m.: Big Boy climbs into his high chair and gladly takes the bottle of milk I hold out. Afterward, I set him up with his new coloring book (a gift from one of his aunties) and a few crayons while I put away the dishes I washed last night.

8:35 a.m.: He “helps” me wheel Baby Girl’s crib into the main room, where it will stay for the rest of the day. I should think about taking off those quote marks, though. He’s actually really good at walking backwards while pulling the crib by its bars.

9:30 a.m.: Big Boy had his breakfast of white bean dip on rice cakes (is that weird?), and I’ve changed and dressed the baby. Now I’m reading him books while I give her a bottle. A third hand would be useful right about now.

10:20 a.m.: The floor is full of toys. My husband, who is working from home today, comes into the kitchen to make eggs for breakfast. Big Boy wants some, too, so I scramble one egg with some cheese and put him back in his high chair. I grab two carrot spice muffins for myself and manage to get halfway through the second one before I put it aside so I can read Big Boy his favorite alphabet book.

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10:55 a.m.: The babysitter comes to take Big Boy out for an hour. I have a huge project due at the end of the week, and I’ve arranged for four hours of babysitting over the next few days to help me make the deadline. I love that this babysitter always arrives five minutes early and brings back my big-little boy precisely on time.

11:05 a.m.: I turn on the a/c, put Baby Girl in her musical seat, and double-click on my work files. I have 54 minutes to work … let’s hope the baby cooperates.

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12:19 p.m.: I’m in the middle of lunch, otherwise known as midday negotiations, with Big Boy. I succeed in getting him to eat a black bean veggie burger by giving him spoonfuls of (sugar-free) grape granita after every bite. He’s overdue for his nap and is totally exhausted (hey, me too!). I put him in his crib and get ready to return to work.

12:30 p.m.: Are these kids in cahoots? As soon as he’s asleep, she wakes up to eat.

12:54 p.m.: I take advantage of a pause in her feeding to feed myself something: two brownies from Shabbos, straight from the freezer.

1:36 p.m.: Big Boy has been asleep for an hour (and I’ve been working only half that time) when Baby Girl makes a loud yelp. He hears her and starts crying, at which point she promptly goes back to sleep. I wait a few minutes and then go into his room to comfort him. When I leave, he’s still crying.

1:43 p.m.: It’s a miracle! He fell back asleep! I resume working.

1:49 p.m.: I know I should keep working with two hands, but I feel guilty having the baby in her musical seat or crib for too long. I pick her up and try to work as usual. Mmm hmm.

2:13 p.m.: Big Boy is awake for real, and not happy about it. For reasons I only wish I understood, he’s screaming, crying, and refusing every attempt at consolation. My husband takes a break from work and comes over to calm him down. Abba magic works like a charm.

3:51 p.m.: Big Boy is opting to play in his room instead of eat, so I go find myself a snack instead. Pickings are kind of slim, but I’ll take what I can get, so brown rice, peas, and Bissli it is. Soon enough, he walks over saying, “nom nom nom!” He wants my Bissli but I tell him that it isn’t for little boys, a statement he seems to accept as fact. He eats a decent amount of the rice and peas.

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5:00 p.m.: A woman collecting tzedaka knocks on the front door, and after explaining why she’s collecting, tells me to watch out for Big Boy’s fingers, which are hovering perilously close to the door hinges. I look down, and lo and behold, she’s right. When she leaves a minute afterward, I tell Big Boy that we’re going to get ready to go to the park, and he tries to expedite the process by bringing me my shoes. They’re my Shabbos shoes, but he totally gets an A for effort.

5:45 p.m.: Baby Girl had to eat, so we still haven’t left. At this point, I figure it makes sense to cook Big Boy’s dinner so that I can feed him as soon as we get home. One seared tilapia fillet, coming right up.

5:55 p.m.: Two kids in the stroller, one packed diaper bag in tow, one tired mama thanking her lucky stars for her City Mini double. From the way this thing pushes, you’d never know there’s a six-kilo difference between the two sides.

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

6:39 p.m.: Makolet run for eggs, milk, and melon? Check. Stop at the park so Big Boy can go on the swings? Check. See at least half a dozen neighbors on the way there and back? Check. Now back at home, Baby Girl is in her crib and starting to fuss. I pull the crib closer to Big Boy, where he’s sitting in his high chair and finishing his fish. As if on cue, he leans over to her and says gently, “coo coo!” (= cootchie cootchie coo). Seriously the highlight of my day.

7:25 p.m.: Big Boy is in bed and the baby is chilling with my husband, so it’s time to start dinner. I’m working on a sweet potato cream sauce recipe to serve with pasta. Tonight’s test run is just about flavor; I’m not taking measurements at all. It’s delicious, though I might have drenched my noodles in sauce. Baby toes for dessert.

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9:01 p.m.: I know I should put the baby in the carrier if I want to be productive, but my back is killing me so I settle her in my left arm and start editing blog photos with my right arm.

9:31 p.m.: My husband is on the phone with good friends who live in the south when a siren goes off in their community — once again, they’re under rocket fire. I don’t know how these families keep going.

9:45 p.m.: I take a break from working on the blog to feed the baby. I should get back to real (read: editing) work after this, but it’s so late and I don’t have that kind of energy.

10:18 p.m.: My husband replaces the batteries in the baby’s musical seat and she stays asleep when I buckle her into it. I wash the dishes and it somehow becomes 11:00 p.m.

12:02 a.m.: Have I been working on this post for an hour? What? I need to go to sleep! I’m so tired, but I love being with the kids and I feel really lucky that this is my day-to-day reality.

And there you have it! If you made it this far, you get a prize. See you guys soon with a new recipe.

Creamy swiss chard mushroom bake

By | July 10, 2014

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I’m still processing what happened this afternoon.

A friend and I took our kids to a tatzpit (lookout) on the outskirts of the yishuv. The big boys shared a peanut butter sandwich and explored the area while baby girl hung out in her pink sunhat (and pink onesie and pink shorts, and don’t worry, the pink socks were in the diaper bag). We were headed for home, walking side by side with our City Minis, when the siren started.

It took a second for it to click: we were out in the open, not close enough to a house or building of any kind to make it in time, and there was a rocket somewhere in the vicinity, coming towards us.

We ran, pushing the strollers over to a cluster of boulders off the road, hoping they would offer some protection if we needed it and knowing there wasn’t any other viable option anyway. As we crouched there, I reached inside my stroller, one hand over each kid, trying desperately to cover them. All I could think about was that my babies were in danger and I couldn’t do enough to protect them.

A few minutes later, still in those positions, we heard the boom. I have no idea how far away it was and how far the sound could have traveled… The last time that rocket fire escalated into war, back in November 2012, I was in my ninth month with our first. This time, as the mother of a toddler and a baby, it feels a lot different.

What does a creamy swiss chard mushroom bake have to do with war? Nothing, really. It has more to do with total deliciousness. The inspiration for this dish was the pashtida (crustless quiche) that one of our neighbors brought us soon after baby girl was born. We loved it from the first bite, and I knew I’d be recreating it before long. This dish is cheesy, creamy comfort food that’s light enough for a summer meal and perfect for the upcoming Nine Days.

Hoping and davening that those days and every other day will be rocket-free.