Monthly Archives: December 2011

Almond sesame napa salad

Here’s a recipe that I created when I bought a case of napa on sale – you don’t even want to know how much that is!  A whole lot, even for a family of 11 that likes lots of veggies!

Almond Sesame Napa Salad

  • 1 head napa, shredded (you can also use cabbage or romaine)
  • 3 oranges, peeled and sectioned
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 t. Bragg’s amino acids or soy sauce
  • 1  T. sesame seeds
  • 1/4 c. sliced almonds

Toss the napa/cabbage with the orange sections.  Mix the olive oil and Braggs/soy sauce, adding in the sesame seeds.  Toss in the sliced almonds at the end.

You can play around with this basic recipe – if you substitute romaine for the napa, you can substitute diced avocado for the almonds and leave out the sesame seeds.  That’s what I made this weekend, yum!  You can also add a sweetener to the simple olive oil and soy sauce dressing, but I prefer the natural sweetness of the orange segments, though sometimes I’ll juice an orange and add it to the dressing.


Israel clothing recommendations

>>(if you are able and willing, could you share your ‘clothing situation’ in Israel?…ie how much to have, to store away, what you had to buy extra once you moved, what is unnecessary to have etc.)<<

We moved here and brought only what we could take along in our suitcases, so this definitely minimized the amount of everything we brought, clothing included.    If you’re bringing a lift, you have more flexibility.

We brought clothes for everyone for about the first year – I didn’t want to have to start shopping as soon as I got here.  (Though I ended up less than two weeks after arriving needing to buy uniform clothing.)  I didn’t feel everyone needed an extensive wardrobe – a few skirts/pants per child, a few tops for basic daily wear.  Some dress clothes.  What I made sure to bring more of were items that are significantly more expensive here, and not easily purchased used.

Those items included: shoes – very, very expensive here, and if I could have I would have brought more (I just didn’t have any more allowed luggage weight); underwear and socks – again, very expensive and the quality doesn’t match what you can buy from Hanes or whatever other company.

Coats – We brought a coat for each person, and in this area I’ve debated with myself if it was the best use of our space.  Although we’re in the north, we’re actually in a pleasantly temperate area.  Reminds me kind of Seattle.  So it really hasn’t gotten very cold yet – I’ve worn my coat a handful of times.  It might have been a better idea if we had brought our warm lined raincoats; it hasn’t rained much this year, but when it did, I was desperately sorry to have warm coats when what was much more important was being waterproof.  However, once I bought umbrellas for every family member, this internal debate disappeared since we now have a way to be dry and warm.

If we hadn’t brought coats and had needed them, buying them new would have been an expensive proposition.  (I was able to find a used coat for dd11, whose new coat I got right before we left somehow didn’t make it here, and paid just ten shekels for it.  It’s a decent coat and I’m glad to have been able to find it, but it’s nowhere near as nice as the one I had gotten her.)  But at least here in Karmiel, you don’t need a heavy down ski parka – that’s way overkill.

Boots – I gave away all of our boots, except for the littles.  Again, this was due to space  restrictions, not because I didn’t think boots would be useful.  I’ve been very glad to have boots for the littles, since they have a fifteen minute walk to school and their sneakers would be soaked on rainy days by the time they got there.  It would be nice for the rest of us, but since it hasn’t been very rainy yet, it’s easier to say that boots are somewhat a luxury here.  But if you can bring them, it’s definitely worth it – even if it’s not raining, they keep your feet toasty when you’re inside.  I kind of regret not bringing them, but again, I didn’t give them away because I wanted to, but because I had to be ruthless about making choices to stay within our luggage allowance.

Some parts of Israel are much colder than others.  In Tzfat (Safed), just a forty minute drive, it’s noticeably colder than here.  Jerusalem is much colder as well.  But wherever you live, I think that layers are a very, very good idea.  Often the outside temperatures aren’t low, but inside it’s freezing.  It’s happened almost every day last week that inside our apartment I’m sitting in the afternoon with a light fleece blanket over me, and if I go outside, it’s sunny and warm, and all I need is a light sweater or sweatshirt on top of a long sleeved shirt!  That’s because the buildings are made of stone and generally not well insulated – so they keep you nice and chilly, which is good if you run hot.  Which I don’t.

Knowing this in advance, I tried to pack thermals or long sleeved solid shirts for all of us that could be worn under other clothing, warm fleece sweatshirts that could fit under a coat, and then a coat.  Almost all of the older kids wear layers and sweatshirts on top of their uniform shirts while in school; the little kids are either moving around a lot more or their classrooms are kept warmer, because they don’t more than two layers.  Our teenage girls have the longest walk to school and have yet to wear a winter coat to stay warm on the way, but are the most heavily layered when inside.

The only clothing items that I brought to store away were little kids shoes.  I had a lot of clothing in storage that I had bought on sale, and donated almost all of this.  But the exception were shoes for the littles; I brought most of the shoes I had in sizes 9 – 13 because I knew I’d use them even if it didn’t fit someone right now, and they were small enough that I could still keep to my limit of one suitcase of clothing per person.

I hope to build up my clothing storage again, since I was able to save significant amounts of money by ‘shopping in the attic’, rather than needing to go out to stores every time someone needed something.  Some used clothing has come my way, and some of this is now in storage for when it fits someone it’s currently too big for.

For those of you who have made an overseas move (wherever it may have been!), is this similar to what your approach was?  What did you feel was most important, and what did you think ended up being a waste of space?  What recommendations would you have for someone moving to Israel?


How to kasher chicken livers

 >>Avivah, I’m going to hijack your post here to ask you about chicken livers.  Do you know how to prepare them? I have been wondering this for a long time. <<

Yes, I do!  It’s kind of like making bread dough – in the beginning, hearing about all of the steps sounds overwhelming and then you do it, and it’s really not such a big deal.  I find that kashering livers myself saves me a boatload of money.

I use a gas burner on my stovetop, so that’s what my instructions are for.  You can use a grill and can use the same steps for the actual kashering process.

Before I start with the actual livers, I prepare the stovetop.  I take the grates off of all the burners, and cover the burner I’m going to be using with a disposable aluminum pan.  You can see below how I cut a big X and then folded back the metal flaps to create a hole that will fit around the burner.

A disposable pan cut to be a drip pan

Put the pan over the burner on your stove – this isn’t necessary but I like to minimize the work I have to do, and it makes it easier to clean up the splatters.  (You can reuse this drip pan for a future liver preparing session, if you like – I had accidentally thrown mine away so I had to make a new one.)

Drip pan fitted over gas burner

I bought a two sided hinged rectangular grill thing (sorry, no idea what the term is for this) with two handles – I thought it was impossible to find it in Karmiel so we bought it in Jerusalem, but last week saw it in two places locally (for those who are interested – with kitchenware in Mega Bul and Gama Deal).  I got the big one but have since learned that all the livers can’t simultaneously roast at one time when it’s full, so I really could have gotten the smaller size.  At least it makes it easy to rest on the pan so I don’t have to hold it at all while it’s grilling.

Anyway, this grilling tool is something you can find with supplies for grilling.  You can see below that the raw livers are on one part of the hinged grill, and the other part is resting at a 90 degree angle.

Sprinkle the liver with coarse salt.

Raw liver on grate over burner

Turn on fire and start to grill the livers.  When one side seems to be done, flip it over to the other side.

Livers roasting over gas burner

(The liver above had just been flipped.) The main caution I’d make at this point is to watch the heat of the fire – you don’t want to end up with chunks of charcoal, but you want to make sure that the insides are dry and there’s no blood left.  I usually grill the first side on high and the second side on low.  Remember, don’t stick a fork inside the liver to check it when it’s grilling because it will make your fork unkosher if there’s still blood there.

When the livers are roasted, put them on a plate or in a pan.  I’ve heard that you’re supposed to rinse the salt off at this time, and tried to confirm if it’s necessary to do or nice to do, but am not yet clear on that so would say to rinse it off.  This is a pain since freshly roasted livers are delicious!  And they’re not quite the same when you rinse them first.  (If you know about this, please let me know – I’d be very glad not to have to rinse them.)

When I kasher livers, I prepare a large batch at a time (this last time I did three kilos), and freeze it into portion sizes.  As far as using the livers, you can turn them into the classic chopped liver (which I have never done), or use them in some creative concoctions.  My kids like them straight off of the grill, so I have to make an effort to ration them so they last for future cooking experiments.  :)

Do you kasher your own livers?  Is this similar to what you do?  Have you found the money spent justifies the money saved?


Great resource for supplements

I just looked in my drafts file, and though I cleaned out over forty drafts a few months ago that I felt wouldn’t be of interest to anyone now that I moved to Israel, I still have 164 posts pending.  Sheesh.  So many things to write about, so little time!

Anyway, I’m going to try to post some of those pending posts since some of them are waiting an embarrassingly long time for me to finish them up.

The first of these is about a great resource for supplements for those in the US as well as overseas that I first learned about from a blog reader.  I didn’t want to share about it until I had tried it out successfully, but being that it’s been over a month since my first order arrived, and my second order is sitting and waiting at the post office for me to pick it up, it’s time to share the details!

I mentioned that we began buying cod liver oil recently, and I’ve been buying from this source,   The prices are good, and what makes it a great option particularly for those overseas is the very low shipping – I paid a flat rate of $4 for each order.

Another nice plus is that you can see the weight of each item that you order, and since you need to keep your order under a certain weight to avoid taxes on the receiving end, this makes it very easy to be aware of the shipping weight total of your order.  (The weight limit is either 3 or 4 pounds – I’ve seen people saying both, but limited my order to three pounds each to be on the safe side because dealing with the huge taxes that can be slapped onto orders received is no fun.  If you have definitive information on this, please share!)

I got $5 off of my first order thanks to a coupon code I had – this was only good for first time buyers.  You can use the code OBO992 for your first order to get this discount.  On my second order, I bought my cod liver oil when there was a ten percent discount for two days on everything on the website, so that helped my cost stay a bit lower for that.  But it still was very affordable, under $30 for three 12 oz. bottles of cod liver oil including shipping.

I am buying the Twinlab cod liver oil, not because I think it’s best, but because I think it’s decent and it’s affordable for us.  I’d LOVE to be able to buy fermented cod liver oil, but even with reduced bulk pricing, I can’t spend a few hundred dollars on a few bottles of cod liver oil, even though it is much more valuable nutritionally.  (I seriously looked into this because I’d love to give it to my littles to give them the significant nutritional boost it offers.)

You can strive for ideal, but when ideal isn’t an option (and it frustrates me sometimes that in the real food world so many people seem unable to validate that ideal isn’t possible sometimes, that there are real budgetary limitations), you can do nothing or you can do the next best thing.  So we’re doing the next best thing.

I’d like to be able to find what we need locally, versus having visitors from the US regularly bringing me all those things I miss from there.  So far we’ve done really well in making a shift to Israeli brands and products for just about everything, but sometimes you can’t find what you want here, and it’s nice to have an affordable way to get it!


Parent teacher conferences

The first few days of this week were full, full, full of parent teacher meetings!  Today I’ll share a little bit about this as part of our aliyah process.

Dh went on Sunday night to meet with ds12’s teacher.  I think the expectations in this school of olim aren’t realistic because they have had so little experience with new immigrant, and it shows when they say what their expectations are.  It was recommended that we get additional tutoring for ds12 (his school is the only one that provides no support for olim/new immigrants), but I don’t think it’s necessary since ds is doing amazingly well, dh is working with him a lot, and since he’s probably going to repeat this grade in the coming year, anything he misses now will be caught then.

The next day began my meetings.  Officially the first one was just to go to the girls’ high school and meet ith dd15’s teacher, but additionally, I spoke with the principal, school advisor, and English teacher.  I spoke to their tutor on the phone the night beforehand since she wasn’t going to be there, and unfortunately missed speaking to dd17’s teacher – I didn’t make an app0intment to speak to her, and got to the school just a couple of minutes after she had left for the evening, which was fine since we can speak on the phone.

Of course, it was all just as I told dd15 it would be before I went – they all told me what a fine girl she is, how hard she’s working, etc.  Two of them were impressed that dd keeps a little notebook where she writes down words that she hears during the day (and every night she asks me to tell her what they mean!).   A couple of the teachers were extremely glowing about dd17 and dd15, and said it’s all a credit to how they were raised, but as nice as it is to hear, this kind of comment makes me uncomfortable.  I don’t think it’s honest to accept compliments like that which really aren’t mine, and I told the teachers that my kids deserve credit for the work they’ve done on themselves.  As a parent you can do your best, but how it turns out isn’t in your hands.  That’s not false humility – that’s the truth!

While there I took the opportunity to ask the homeroom teacher about some social dynamics in the classroom and how they were being dealt with – dd is in the most difficult class this school has ever had and the administration is struggling to figure out how to handle them.  Within less than two weeks of school beginning, I was already researching other options and seriously considering transferring her out, but after we discussed the options, dd decided she wants to stay where she is.  She’s getting a real education about what goes on in school, and has told me she wishes she could speak on the teen panel for the Torah Home Education conference now, after having been in school (she was on it this past summer) – she has plenty of perspective to share!   There are a lot of things that homeschooled kids take for granted about being homeschooled until they’re in a different framework where everyone hasn’t had that, and it’s nice for me that she can look back and now appreciate some aspects of our approach to learning that she wouldn’t have considered noteworthy before this.

The next morning I went to dd11’s school to speak with her teacher.  I had received a note about parent teacher conferences being scheduled for Tuesday evening, but those who wanted to could make appointments for limited slots in the morning.  I chose the morning knowing that it was likely to be more relaxed and with less waiting, while simultaneously ensuring I would be home in the evening for dinner and bedtime.

Her teacher mentioned that she thinks dd11 is having trouble because she was homeschooled until now.  “Really?”  I ask.  “What kind of difficulty?”  Well, she tells me, she is very well-behaved, attentive, pleasant, smiles at the girls and plays with them at recess, but she’s holding back by not speaking much to them.  Is she so closed at home also?  Ahem.  “Don’t you think it’s possible,” I suggest, “that she’s not speaking to them because she can’t speak the language yet?”   Oh, right.  “And don’t you think it indicates a degree of social confidence,” I asked, “that she’s interacting with girls that she can’t talk to, rather than sit to the side?”  Oh, yes, definitely, that’s a very good thing.

Then I told her that in my opinion, it’s because she was homeschooled that she’s made the transition so well.  Then the teacher began asking me all about homeschooling.  I avoided discussions of this sort when I first moved here; I had no interest in immediately becoming known as the person who was different.  But now I feel like people see who I am and I can discuss it in the proper context, without the ‘weirdo’ label attached to homeschooling or to our family.  After answering lots of her questions, I finally laughed and told her that I had come to talk about dd and her school experience, not homeschooling!

While I was in the school office, I learned that I had an appointment with ds9’s teacher that evening.  Ds9  had given the note to dh instead of me, and dh had forgotten to mention it to me, so I didn’t know about it.  The secretary told me she thought it was strange that I scheduled one meeting for the morning and one for the evening, instead of coming for both at the same time!  My efforts to avoid going out in the evening clearly didn’t work out as planned, and so I headed to ds9’s school that evening.

While waiting to speak with his teacher (the line was backed up), I meandered around into the girl’s school next door, and happened to meet dd11’s tutor.  As soon as she realized who I was, she told me, ‘Your daughter doesn’t like working hard.”  This doesn’t match dd11, so I asked her to clarify.  She told me that dd11 was very resistant to  the learning she tried to do with her, and that she doesn’t like to extend herself to learn.

Now, I had seen the homework dd was bringing home from this tutor and was dismayed that it flew in the face of the approach I had agreed upon at the beginning of the year with the principal and teachers – the focus this year is for her to learn the language so that she can communicate and understand what’s going on.  Dd is not going to be expected to participate in class, be tested, have to do homework, etc, for the first half a year.

During our conversation I learned that this very nice and well-meaning tutor wasn’t told about this, nor did she have any idea of what dd’s spoken Hebrew was like (basically non existent).  And so she went about tutoring her the way she would have tutored girls who were living here for a year or two and were already fluent in the language!  She felt it was critical for dd to be able to stay on par with her class, so she was teaching her Biblical Hebrew, isolated words that had absolutely no daily application, and dd11 was struggling to remember words that didn’t connect to anything.

Also unfortunately, the tutor doesn’t speak English.  She told me that was no problem because she would have dd look up the words in the dictionary.   When dd had first showed me the work she was doing with this tutor, I decided not to make an issue of this, since I knew it was a short term arrangement and someone very good would be replacing her soon, and dd was getting concrete assistance from her other tutor.  I realized while speaking to the tutor how much she really didn’t understand of the situation.  But it bothered me that she was still unfairly categorizing dd.

So I explained to her that dd11 can’t even say or understand more than the most simple of sentences, and didn’t understand most of what the tutor was telling her.  I told her that what she did was like teaching Shakespeare to a child who doesn’t yet know how to read .  And because the tutor didn’t speak English, dd had no way to express to her that it was all way over her head.

Her tutor felt so badly after we spoke and kept saying she wish she had understood all these things before, because it was clear to her how unhelpful her approach had been.  (I told her not to feel badly, that it was just how the circumstances were and no one’s fault.)  Then she told me that she saw during one of their very last lessons, she had given dd easy words, of colors and numbers, and all of a sudden she perked up and was involved – and it was only as she told me this that she realized that dd hadn’t been more involved then because she was lazy, but because it was finally something on her level!

If I had any inkling that no one had told her about how to approach learning with dd (this is arranged through the school, during school hours), I would have spoken to her.  But I had spoken to the other tutor, and the principal, and the teacher, and the new tutor, and everyone was on the same page with me, and I assumed this tutor was teaching in this way because it was her approach.  I don’t think it’s appropriate to tell people how to do their job, once they know what their job is – but she didn’t know what the job was, unfortunately.  I learned that over- verifying isn’t a bad thing to do.

I was really glad to have bumped into her and straightened that out, and then I went back to the boy’s school and met the math teacher of ds9.  She told me to tell him that she understands English well, though she can’t speak it, and that he can answer questions that are asked in English.  She also told me she sees he understands not only the math, but the Hebrew, and shared the following example with me: she asked the class a question, and ds’s seat partner answered it very quickly. She asked him how he figured out the answer so fast, and he told her that ds had written down the answer on the paper and showed it to him!

It was interesting speaking to her, since she came to Israel from Russia at the age of 13 (she’s in her twenties now), and understands exactly how hard it is to be a new immigrant.  It was nice to have someone right away get it, without me having to explain the obvious (eg the above examples regarding dd of the reality of not being able to talk to those around her).

Then I met the music teacher.  I had learned just a few days before that ds9 is the only boy in the class without a recorder, and asked the teacher about this.  She immigrated from Russia at my stage of life, with school age children, and she also was very understanding of the difficulties for a child his age.   I told her that I’d like him to have a recorder, and would send money to buy one at the office the next day (after learning that parents are supposed to buy one – I had never been notified about this).  She told me that she had given him a recorder to use on several occasions, but feels that he has so much to adjust to in learning Hebrew, that she doesn’t want to pressure him more.  She explained that music is like a second language, and felt that since next year this class won’t be having the recorder, it was better for him to not have the added expectation of himself to learn how to read music and how to play the recorder.

I appreciated her thoughtfulness, though I thought ds9 would feel left out continuing to be the only one in the class without an instrument.  But when I asked him about it, he told me he’d rather not play and is happy to sit and watch.

Then I finally spoke with his teacher (I got in about an hour or more after my scheduled appointment), who is such a caring and devoted teacher.  He asked me what our expectations of him are – isn’t that a thought provoking question?  I told him that some things are simply going to take time to improve, until ds can speak Hebrew.  He wanted suggestions for the ways I felt it would be best to engage ds in class – he doesn’t want to ask of him something that’s too much, but he doesn’t want to ignore him, either.  He understands English though ds doesn’t seem comfortable speaking to people in English unless they speak to him in English also.  Definitely limiting!

All in all, I enjoyed all of my meetings.  All of the kids’ teachers are good people who want them to succeed, and I feel like we’re working on the same goals.

For those of you who have moved overseas with children (or been children) who are in school, does any of this sound typical?  Better or worse than usual?  Any suggestions or tips you’ve learned along the way to make the system work better for your children?


Missile warning siren today

This morning I was sitting, responding to blog comments, when a weird howling sound began.  I wondered if it was the wind whistling through cracks, and opened the window to eliminate that possibility.  As I did, it was very obvious that there was a city-wide (country-wide? – edited to add, just learned this was northern Israel and an hour later in Jerusalem) warning that was being sounded.

I know that in this situation, you’re supposed to head to the closest bomb shelter, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do – like what to take with me, or how long to stay there.  Late yesterday afternoon, I had seen a fighter jet zooming very close overhead right across the street (I’ve never seen those except in pictures), and after the four missiles that were shot at northern Israel from Lebanon last week, I wasn’t sure if this siren was a sign we were entering something serious or not.

I quickly looked outside to see  how other people were responding (I have a view to the nearby mall), and no one seemed worried.  So I hoped that meant I don’t have to worry (I don’t really rely on other people’s reactions to be a good indicator, but it was something), but even if there was no emergency, it was a good time to find out about where the entrance to our building’s bomb shelter was.  We went downstairs and found it locked – we were the only ones in the building who left their apartments – and then went up to find out about getting a key.

Then I learned from the neighbor who has the key to the bomb shelter that it was a practice warning, and that the jets flying overhead the last few days were engaged in practice drills.  In the US, there were regularly announcements over the radio “This is a test of the emergency broadcast system.  This is only a test.”  Followed by a buzzing sound.  Much less unnerving than this siren.  My neighbor told me her dog was freaking out because she remembers the Second Lebanon War that took place just a few years ago, when a number of missiles were shot from Lebanon into northern Israel, including Karmiel.

When the kids came home, I asked them if they heard it.  Dd15 said she always wondered how you’re supposed to get down the bomb shelter in thirty seconds, but the entire school was there by that time, with the exception of one class.  The teachers also hadn’t heard about the practice warning siren, and some of the girls were sobbing – they had lived through the recent war as well, and their immediate reaction was terror.

Dd11 said in her schools some girls were crying as well (for the same reason), but ds12 said that someone in the office of his school said something was going to happen at 10:05 in the morning.  Since vaccinations were scheduled to be administered today, he thought that’s what they were talking about!  (He asked someone who spoke Hebrew what she had said, but they also didn’t understand what she meant – I don’t know if she herself knew what the ‘something’ would be.)  But when the siren went off, everyone realized that was the ‘something’ that was going to happen.

Ds4 and ds5 said they didn’t hear anything, which isn’t suprising considering the lively music that is often playing in their classrooms!  My first thought when the sirens went off was about my kids in school, and I’m glad none of them were overly frightened.

I was later told that this test of the emergency system can’t be announced too far in advance, out of fear that Arab terrorists will schedule an attack to coincide at that time.  It was definitely announced on the radio around 8 am, according to my neighbor, but if you’re not listening to the news on the hour every hour, how would you hear about it?

Edited to add – since posting twenty minutes ago, I’ve learned the following – when it’s a drill, the siren will go up and down.  When it’s a real alert, it will be one long blast that doesn’t change.  And here’s an article I just read that shows that I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t sure what was going on –

Hopefully we won’t have to experience this when it’s a real warning, but I would like to be more mentally prepared.  I’m going to get a radio, and would welcome suggestions from readers in Israel of where and how to get news from – internet sites, radio stations, or whatever.  


Dietary changes since moving to Israel

I recently answered the question about how we’re adapting to the differences in availability of certain foods since we arrived in Israel from a philosophical perspective.  Today I’ll answer the nitty gritty details.  😛

>>How are you finding the price differences in food?<<

Food prices are for the most part higher here on just about everything but fruits and vegetables.  When you take into account that the average Israeli salary isn’t as high as in the US, food costs make up for a much higher percentage of income here.

But even in the US, I wasn’t buying food at retail prices; I had discounted sources or bought on sale for just about everything.  Therefore, I was able to feed our family of 11 a high quality diet on $650 a month.  Our budget hasn’t drastically changed – we’re budgeting 2000 shekels a month for food ($555) and so far this is working out very nicely for our family and the guests we have almost every week – but we’ve had some shifts in what we’re eating.  I’m including prices of some basics since I was asked about that in the comments section of a previous post.

If I mention a price and you’d like to figure out what it would be in dollars, the conversion rate is currently 3.6 shekels to the dollar; 2.2 pounds equals a kilogram, and 4 liters is about a gallon.  (Yes, I stand there in front of the display shelves in the supermarket doing these calculations in my head to figure out if things are a good buy!  I fortunately have to do this less and less as time goes on, though.)

Dairy – We used to use lots of butter, raw milk, homemade yogurt (from raw milk), kefir, organic cottage cheese and sour cream, and small amounts of hard cheese.  Now, we’ll occasionally have some butter or pasteurized milk, or maybe a yogurt or two, but dairy is no longer a staple in our home.  I can’t stand that soy fillers are added to ground meat and cheeses here to make them cheaper (this was a surprise to me the first time I looked at a package of frozen chopped meat that was on sale), so you have to really, really read the labels to be sure you’re getting what you think you are.

On a related note: I was invited to a party last week at which I was the only English speaker, and when I looked at the so-called natural juice on the table, I saw it had artificial stabilizers added.  I chose to drink water instead, but the woman next to me asked me why I put the juice down.  I told her, and since everyone else at the table was listening, they showed me the ‘no artificial colors or preservatives” claim on the front, and then one of them turned the bottle around to show me where it said it in English (in case I didn’t get the point!).  I turned the bottle to the ingredients and showed them – in Hebrew – the problematic ingredients.  They couldn’t believe it.  Lesson – you must read labels carefully!

Back to dairy.  The least expensive cheese that doesn’t have soy fillers in it is about 42 shekels a kilo when bought at the counter (ie not prepackaged, so it’s the cheaper way to buy).  Milk is between 4.50 – 5 shekels a liter.  Butter is about 7.50 shekels for 200 grams. An individual unsweetened yogurt (150 – 200 grams) is about 1.20 – 2.35 shekels, depending on the fat content (sour cream is on the higher end of this price).  Cottage cheese is 5 shekels a container on sale; I don’t remember how many grams this is, maybe 250 (I haven’t yet bought it) but it’s about a cup.  These prices aren’t for organic or raw dairy products.

I’ve been unable to find raw cow’s milk, and the raw goat’s milk I’ve found is quite a drive from here.  I had a discussion with someone who raises goats and sells raw milk, but she was very adamant that it should be pasteurized before drinking.  She had some good points, basically about the importance of knowing not only the person who raises the goats, but each goat itself to see how it’s feeling that day to determine if there might be any infection that would transfer to the milk.   In any case, I don’t have a vehicle and renting a car to get milk once in a while would be a big expense.  (The cost of the raw goats milk was 7.5 shekels a liter.)  So due to cost and quality concerns, I’ve chosen to drastically minimize dairy, to the point of just about eliminating it.

Eggs – I used to buy pastured eggs directly from the farmer for an amazingly low price and used them very freely – it was common to go through two dozen eggs just at breakfast.  Here for non-pastured eggs I’m paying 27.50 shekels for 2.5 dozen non pastured eggs.  Organic eggs are much, much more.   We still use plenty of eggs, but closer to thirty dozen a month instead of sixty dozen.

Chicken/meat – Though we’ve cut down on the eggs and dairy, we’ve switched to more poultry.  This is an area where I think we are able to compensate a lot for the nutrients we used to get in milk and eggs.  I buy a lot of chicken giblets, a very nutritious organ meat, and use it almost daily for lunch (purchased on sale for 7 – 8 shekels a kilo). We usually have chicken on  Shabbos (the price of chicken varies drastically by kosher certification, ranging around 10 – 28 shekels a kilo for a whole chicken).

A lot of the beef in Israel is raised in Argentina, where the vast majority of animals are pastured.  I buy this once a week for Shabbos (when I can get it on sale for 3 kilos for 100 shekels).

Liver – I wrote a while back about my experience kashering liver.  After undertaking to kasher 20 pounds of beef liver, I was so burnt out that I didn’t reattempt it once we used up that huge batch.  However, in light of the lack of raw milk and high quality eggs, liver is again reentering the picture in our home.  :)

Dd17 bought a two handled rectangular grill thingy that I can kasher the liver with on our stovetop when she was in Jerusalem a couple of weeks ago – there was nowhere in our city that they’re sold and I was really happy she was able to find it!  (Liver is very bloody and since Jews are forbidden to eat even a drop of blood, liver has to be roasted in a special way to ensure no blood is left in it before eating – this is called kashering.)  We kashered the first one kilo batch of chicken livers a few days ago, and it went pretty quickly, so last week dh picked up another four kilos.  By purchasing these on sale, I pay between 18 – 20 shekels a kilo.  (If you buy them kashered, the price goes up to around 100 shekels a kilo.)  This isn’t something that we need to eat lots of since nutritionally a little goes a long way; I’m planning to use about a kilo of liver a week for our family.

Broth – We are able to buy chicken bones for 4 shekels a kilo on sale, and usually have a pot of broth in use in some way.  We use this as a basis for soup, grains, and of course, with dh being on GAPS for over 1.5 years, broth is a staple for him.  In the winter I particularly enjoy drinking it instead of hot tea.

Fats – This was the thing that took me the longest to come up with some good choices after we moved and caused me the most frustration.  In the beginning had to use regular oil (soy and canola) from the store.   That was the worst since we haven’t had things like that in our house for five or six years and I think they’re nutritionally damaging, versus  less than ideal.  We used a lot more extra virgin olive oil during this time than usual.  Fortunately, we now have palm shortening for most baking and cooking (9 shekels a kilo).

I bought beef fat for 13 shekels a kilo last week  (the butcher discounted it down from 25 shekels a kilo for us – here the fat sells for almost as much as the meat!) and rendered it.  We use extra virgin olive oil for salads or to add to hot foods after they’ve been cooked.  None of these are cheap options but this is an area where I’m willing to spend more. I also try to regularly buy avocados, which range from about 6 – 8 shekels a kilo.

Produce – We still have lots of fruits and vegetables, and this is an area where we spend less in Israel than we did in the US.  I used to limit myself to produce that was under $1 a pound.  Here I’ve been limiting myself to produce under 4 shekels a kilo (this has gotten a little harder with the cold weather approaching and I might have to bump this up to 5 or 6 shekels a kilo at some point), though I occasionally go over for something like avocados, and can still find a good selection to choose from.

Beans – Legumes are famously known as budget stretchers, and of course we continue to incorporate these into our diet.  They average between 5 – 8 shekels a kilo when purchased unpackaged in the bulk section (prepacked is more like 8 – 11).  We soak and sprout all legumes to mazimize the nutritional value and to increase digestibility. 

Nuts – Since I believe that grains are best in limited quantities, I spent a lot of time a couple of years ago experimenting with nut flour recipes to minimize our grain usage – pie crusts, pizza crusts, muffins, desserts of all sorts – I got very good at this!  I was able to buy nut flours in bulk (50 lb sacks) for up to $4 lb.  Here, nuts are very expensive.   In my recent bulk order, I got 50 lb of sunflower seeds, the cheapest option, which is still not exactly cheap (17.20 a kilo plus 16% tax – sorry, I know that’s annoying but that’s how it’s itemized).

Sesame paste (tahini) is the only other affordable nut/seed option that I can think of.  Sesame seeds are about 10 or 11 shekels a kilo; tahini is about 20 shekels a kilo.  We make a batch of techina every week and use it as a dip for veggies.

Grains – I brought my grain grinder along, but thanks to someone’s recommendation, didn’t buy an adapter in the US for it (they said it was a waste of luggage weight and something we could easily buy here).  This was a big mistake.  When we got here, we learned that the transformer we need in order for it to work on the 220 electrical currents here was ridiculously expensive, over 600 shekels.  I’m planning to buy one from the US and ask my mother to bring it to me when she comes for our upcoming bar mitzva, but until then, I have to lay low with our usual grain grinding.

For the last few years I’ve been using primarily freshly ground hard white wheat or spelt when baking.  Without my grinder available to use, I’ve been using white flour, something that I haven’t used in many, many years.  Unless grain is freshly ground (due to the high phytase content), there’s a lot of controversy about if whole wheat or white flour are less damaging due to the phytic acid issues.  I’m not convinced that whole grain flours that have been sitting on the shelves of the store for weeks (at best) are a great source of nutrients, and there are definitely digestibility issues.  I’m not going to idealize white flour, believe me, but I’ve chosen to do this although I could get whole wheat flour for about the same price as white.  It’s a question of what’s the lesser of two evils and I’m not really happy with either choice.  I’ll be thrilled to be back to grinding our grains in the near future.  Using white flour keeps me very conscious to use it minimally and keeps me from falling into the thinking that as long as its freshly ground flour, then it’s healthy.  (I don’t think flour is ideal even when freshly ground and sprouted, but I do believe that those things make flour as ideal as it can be.)

Sweeteners – My staples in the past were organic sucanat (used for all baking), real maple syrup, honey, and xylitol.  I brought some xylitol and one 12 pound container of honey with me; the xylitol because it’s not available for purchase here and I use it for toothbrushing; the honey because I had already spent the money on it, and was able to use it to weigh down a suitcase of clothes that was full but under the allowed weight.  I was really glad to have brought it since honey is so expensive here but that’s finished now – we went through it much more quickly than we generally do since since organic sucanat isn’t available in Israel, and I used more honey.

But I also have bought – gasp! – white sugar.  I don’t believe that brown sugar, demerara, rapadura, or any other of the supposedly healthy forms of sugar are actually of much value, and definitely not worth spending extra money on.  (I did all this research about three years ago when learning about sucanat.)  I’ve shifted my cooking to lots of savory foods rather than sweet in order to minimize the use of sweeteners that are either nutritionally empty or very expensive – there doesn’t seem to be anything in the middle.  I don’t make the healthy muffins and quick breads that I used to serve many mornings for breakfasts, since with the ingredients I have now they wouldn’t be healthy enough for me to consider it nourishing food.  I’ve mentioned before that I cut the amount of sweetener that recipes call for in half, and this generally brings it down to the level of sweetness that our family is comfortable with.  Flour and sugar are now mostly saved for Shabbos challah and desserts, which I’m basically okay with since it’s so limited. 

Our food remains unprocessed and everything is made from scratch, which is also a big factor in our food budget remaining so low even while here in Israel.  I hesitated about sharing how much we spend monthly because I’ve noticed two tendencies people have when seeing this information: a) to gloat because they spend less, or b) to be discouraged because they spend more.  I hope that everyone realizes that this is just our budget, and that this isn’t the place to compete or compare.  If someone wants to cut their budget, I’ve shared extensively over the years about how to cut costs in this area (look in the frugality section), and this has helped many, many people get their food costs down significantly.  If someone thinks we spend too much, well, this is what we’re comfortable with, and we’re not looking to get down to the bare bones.  We enjoy having guests, and we enjoy having nice meals – you can see from what I’ve shared above that there are things we could cut out if we were looking for the cheapest possible food. 

Okay, I’ve spent ages writing this up!  Is this helpful or interesting information for you?  Is there something you would have liked to know about that I didn’t mention?  Have you ever had to shift your diet to accomodate local availability, and how do you feel about it?


(This post is part of Real Food Wednesday.)

Illustrating recipes to make it easy for kids to help

Last night we had vegetable stew and cornbread for dinner, and guess who did almost all of the cooking?  Ds5!  This was thanks to the efforts of dd17, who involved him and found a way for him to independently prepare most of dinner.  You should have seen how proud he was, as he kept telling everyone during dinner that he made almost everything himself and dd17 hardly helped him!

Here’s what dd17 did.  (I was considering taking a picture of this to show you, but didn’t think it would show up well.)  She fully illustrated the cornbread recipe for ds5!  To start, at the top of the page she drew an ear of corn + a loaf of bread, then asked him what that was – to which he quickly answered, “Cornbread!”

She went on to draw each item – when it called for two cups of something, she drew two cups and then the item that needed to be measured out.  For tablespoons, she drew big spoons; for teaspoons, she drew small spoons.  She numbered the instructions, which was important for the next step.

When she wrote out the instructions, she wrote, “1, 2, 3, 5, 6” and illustrated that it was supposed to be mixed.  Then she wrote the numbers that were involved in the next step.  Thanks to these very clear instructions (which she explained to him to be sure he understood them all before he began), he was able to make the entire pan of cornbread by himself.

As far as the stew, he already knows how to peel and chop vegetables (yes, with a sharp knife – ds2.5 also peels vegetables, but doesn’t yet use a sharp knife), so that was mostly just a matter of putting it in a pot and dd adding the necessary liquid.

Do you know how much it builds kids up to be able to do something they view as ‘big people’ work, and do it well?  Ds5 was hearing “thank you”s and compliments all dinner long!  Getting your kids involved in the kitchen is an easy and natural step to helping them develop important home management skills.

Dd15 was telling me recently that she never understood why so many people were taken aback about her baking and cooking so well, until she saw how uncommon it is even for teenagers to be involved in the kitchen.  (She told me about a teenager who proudly told her about the cake she had made ‘by herself’ – the mother had measured the ingredients into the bowl, and the teenager had mixed it and poured it into a pan.)  And also, she’s now heard enough comments to realize that many people view cooking from scratch as a very difficult thing.   But for us, it’s just how we’ve always cooked, so it’s normal to our kids.

It definitely takes more time to get your kids involved when they’re young, because it’s easier and faster to do it all yourself.  It’s in the long run that it pays off, when your kids can prepare anything that needs to be made – I think by 12 a child is basically capable of mastering all of the chores that are part of running a home, but that doesn’t mean they want to do it or know how to do it.  They have to be taught, and it has to be something they’re given the opportunity to do – they won’t learn by osmosis! I’ve found that when I view the time I spend preparing your meals as an activity I’m doing with my kids, I don’t mind that it takes longer.  They’re busy having fun while being productive and learning important skills, while you’re getting something done!


The Best and Easiest Chocolate Cake

We made this recipe the last few weeks, and we had requests for this specific recipe from two of the three families who had it when they were at our home during that time.  What’s really nice about this recipe is that it’s really, really easy.  And that means that your child can make it by himself, and have the fun of serving it and impressing your family and friends!

Ds12 made this the first week, and then I had ds9 prepare this, who has very little kitchen experience.  When kids first begin learning to cook, you have to remember not to give them just the preparatory work (eg peeling, measuring), but to let them put together enough of it that they have pride in the final product.  It’s the gratification and pride that makes them want to be involved in cooking in the future.  In this case, they can put together the entire thing themselves with very little help.

So here’s the recipe!

The Best and Easiest Chocolate Cake

  • 1 3/4 c. flour
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. cocoa
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. milk (you can substitute water, coconut milk, or any non-dairy milk)
  • ** 1 T. vinegar (if you’re using Dutch cocoa – see explanation below)
  • 1/2 c. oil
  • 1 1/2 t. vanilla
  • 1 c. boiling water

Mix all the dry ingredients.  Then add in the eggs, milk, and remaining liquid ingredients in the order listed.  Pour into a 9 x 13 baking pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 35 minutes.

***Here’s some interesting information about cocoa that I learned about from the woman who used to be the Girl Scout troop leader years ago for dd17.  This is especially relevant for those who are using US recipes but aren’t living in the US.  In the US, the standard cocoa used is natural and therefore acidic -Hershey’s cocoa is typical of the standard cocoa in the US.  In other parts of the world, Dutch cocoa is the standard, and this means it is alkalinized.  What this means is that though people in different countries are calling cocoa by the same name, the natural and Dutch cocoa actually work somewhat differently.  Since I’m now using Dutch cocoa for baking but this was a US recipe, adding 1 T. vinegar compensates for the missing acidity.



My dryer status

>>Are you planning on buying a dryer? I don’t have one and with three boys and dh and I, and constantly doing laundry, I can’t imagine having a family your size without one!<<

I honestly don’t yet know the answer to this.  So far we haven’t purchased a dryer, and my hope is that I won’t need to.  Drying laundry in the sun is a no-brainer six months of the year here, when it’s sunny with not a drop of rain.  The challenge comes during the rainy season, which we’re in right now.

In the rainy season, it gets much more labor intensive to consistently hang laundry outside.  All the Israelis to whom I mentioned not having a dryer think I’m crazy.  This last two weeks have been sunny, but for a couple of weeks before that it was consistently raining – which is a beautiful blessing in this country that is so dependent on it – and it was very, very tough to deal with the laundry.

Here’s what it looked like: wake up, look for a break in the rain, and quickly hang the laundry up.  Keep your eye on the overcast sky the entire day.  Tell your kids to let you know if they see any rain.  At the first sign of a sprinkle, the kids come running and yelling that it’s raining, and you bring in all the still wet clothing.  Hang the damp sheets over doors.  At least that’s one thing that dries.  Keep your eye on the sky. Rehang all clothes when you see a break in the rain.  Try to remember to take them in before you go to sleep even if they aren’t yet dry, or hope that if you take the risk of leaving them out overnight, that it won’t start pouring in the middle of the night.

Take your risk since you really want these clothes to dry and you’re 2/3 of the way there….and you lose.  Wake up in the middle of the night as you hear the rain suddenly pour down, and frantically jump out of bed and maniacally begin taking in the laundry, until your rational brain tells you to stop because it’s too late.

Once they’re soaked in the downpour, leave them hanging another two days until you’re at the same place you started, with clothes as damp as if they just came from the washer.  Bring them in once more when they are halfway dry and the rain comes again, and hang them once more when there’s a break in the weather.  Five days after you first did the load of wash, bring them in with gratitude that you are finally finished with this load, look at the huge pile of dirty laundry needing to be washed, and start wondering how long it will take you to cave in and buy a dryer.

No, I am totally not exaggerating.  Five days and I hung and rehung the same laundry three times during that time.  I’m telling you, I felt like my family needed to say a lot more than ‘thanks’ for those clean clothes!  Thankfully the laundry was finished after five days and then during the next week with nonstop rain, I got smart – before I went to sleep at night, I covered the clotheslines with our heavy duty plastic tablecloth, and only took it off when there was a break in the weather.  Moving a plastic tablecloth was a big improvement over taking all the laundry in and putting it back out.

Because the air is so damp and cold, even when it’s not raining the laundry doesn’t dry quickly.  So it still takes a while to dry but with my new system I don’t think it will take more than three days, and probably only two, for clothes to dry.

I’ve developed strategies to stay on top of the laundry despite the weather.  Firstly, wash clothes regardless of the weather.  Then you have them ready to hang as soon as you have a chance.  (Usually, I wash one load, hang it, wash another load, hang.)  Secondly, really keep an eye on the weather.  You know the saying, “Make hay while the sun shines”?  That’s my motto.  When the weather is sunny, I do a ton – sheets, towels, rags, anything that needs washing so that I’ll be set if it rains the next day.

In general in the winter, I try not to let dirty clothes build up.  If it means putting in a load of clothes and the machine isn’t totally full, that’s okay.  Waiting another day for the machine to be totally full could be the difference between trying to dry things in the rain or the sun.

When I wake up in the morning and see the blue sky, I am SO grateful because I know I’ll be able to get my laundry done.  Really, you don’t know how nice it is to hang the laundry one time, and then take it down when it’s done.  And even leave it overnight without worrying.  The small pleasures in life. :)

Here’s a reminder about a post I wrote a couple of years ago about tips for hanging clothes to dry outside:

All that being said, I very much hope we’ll have a very, very rainy winter and I’ll be constantly pushed to deal with my laundry that isn’t drying easily.  We need the rain!

Do you line dry clothes year round?  Why or why not?  If you do, how do you deal with inclement weather?