Category Archives: menu plans

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Weekly menu plan – nourishing, gluten free

After my last post when I shared some of my kitchen happenings, I got a good number of responses saying that readers miss my food posts.  I stopped sharing my menu plans when I moved to Israel, thinking they weren’t very interesting.  Interesting or not, it’s what we eat!

Here’s the plan for this week!

Sun: breakfast – homemade breakfast pizzas; l – black bean burgers, baked beets; d – chicken tamale pie

Mon – b- polenta; l – potato kugel, chicken soup; d – oriental rice (with cabbage and chicken)

Tues – b – morning rice; l – pumpkin smoothie bowls, d – chicken pot pie

Weds: b – oatmeal;  l – chicken pot pie; d – lentil meatloaf

Thurs: b – polenta; l – baked sweet potatoes, eggs; d – red lentil dal, rice

On Sundays I try to plan my menu for the week. I first check what I have in the fridge and freezer so I can integrate those foods. Today I defrosted chicken and a couple of frozen dishes that I’ll be using in the next 2 – 3 days. I also usually start the week by soaking at least two kinds of beans.

We make challah weekly and when there’s extra dough, we freeze it in smaller portions for use during the week.  This morning the boys defrosted homemade pizza dough for their own breakfast and each made his own version to eat.  My house smelled way too good for a Sunday morning! :)

Ds11 is preparing the black bean burgers for lunch as I write.  He didn’t mind making the recipe when I told him he didn’t have to chop the onions. :) Last week while I had the food processor already out, I decided to dice a bunch of onions at once and then popped them in the freezer in portion sized bags to make meal prep faster.  This morning I defrosted a one cup portion of the onions in anticipation of this recipe, so it was ready to be used by the time he began.

My purchases last week are influencing my menu this week!

Last week I got a case of bananas on sale for 4 shekels a kilo and put a bunch in the freezer, frozen as single bananas, chocolate covered bananas (for a Shabbos treat) and 1 c. portions of mashed banana. In addition, the kids ate so many fresh bananas, plus I made a couple of huge pans of funky monkey baked oatmeal for Shabbos in two different flavors.  This week I’ll be using the frozen bananas for smoothies.

There was also a good sale on pumpkin (2.90 shekels a kilo) so I bought a lot.  I put all that was on the refrigerated shelf into my shopping cart and then asked the produce guy to open up another huge pumpkin and give me half of it.  He couldn’t believe I really wanted that much and asked me a couple of times if I was really going to use that – so I had to reassure him that I really knew what I was doing.  Obviously I don’t have the buying habits of a typical customer.  :)  I prepped that pumpkin together with the boys the day that we bought it and froze it in 4 cup portions, so all it’s my ready to be used.

Having my menu plan ready at the beginning of the week gives me a calm and relaxed feeling around food preparations.  When I don’t have it ready, I end up wasting time and feeling pressured while trying to figure out each day what I should make.




Rosh Hashana 2013 menu plan

This year Rosh Hashana is immediately followed by Shabbos, making it a three day holiday.  Although you’re allowed to cook on Rosh Hashana, my preference is not to because then my entire holiday becomes cooking, setting up for the meal, serving, cleaning up, and cooking some more.  That doesn’t allow for me to feel the spirit of the day, so I try to prepare everything in advance.

Below is a list of the foods we’ll be making for Rosh Hashana.  Some are old standbys, some are new for this year.

  • Round challahs
  • hummus (chickpea and white bean dip)
  • matbucha (spicy cooked tomato dip)
  • dill dip
  • simanim salad for Rosh Hashana night meals
  • pomegranate salad
  • red cabbage salad
  • cucumber salad
  • cabbage salad with peanut butter dressing
  • corn salad
  • tomato salad
  • bisli salad
  • Moroccan carrot salad
  • apple spoon kugel
  • onion kugel
  • sweet and sour pineapple beets
  • ratatouille
  • chef salad (I’m still considering if this should be a main course for the second day meal of Rosh Hashana)
  • baked fish
  • roast chicken
  • baked sweet potato rounds
  • oatmeal cookies
  • brownies
  • two tone honey marble cake
  • birthday cake for ds6

When there are so many festive meals, it’s easy to feel weighed down by so much food.  I’ve found by having lots of salads and not so many starchy side dishes that everyone feels comfortably full but not weighed down by the food.

Usually I make a number of dishes for the simanim (symbolic foods), and this year decided to do something different and have a big salad that will incorporate as many of these foods as possible – I think I should be able to get just about everything except the fish in.   This idea has never appealed to me before, but now it does – it feels much simpler and I think everyone will like it just as much as what I’ve previously done.

If there’s a recipe you want to see, please let me know  – things are really busy  so I make no promises but I’ll try to put it up in time for Rosh Hashana!


Shavuos menu

Shavuos in Israel is just one day, though I had to remind myself of this since after so many years I’m used to having two days of Shavuos.

Dairy is traditionally served on Shavuos, but I’m not really set up to easily serve dairy (no dairy oven, tablecloth, serving dishes).  What we’re doing instead is to have fish meals and then having cheesecake for dessert.

Night meal:

  • challah, homemade
  • dips: hummous, techina, matbucha
  • creamy vegetable soup
  • baked pollock with tomato olive topping
  • roast potatoes
  • chickpea quinoa pilaf
  • cucumber salad
  • tomato olive salad
  • fresh salad
  • cheesecake

Day meal:

  • challah, homemade
  • gazpacho (I might end up leaving this out since we have so many salads)
  • baked baby cod in coconut milk
  • salmon loaf
  • potato knishes
  • pancakes
  • tabouli (cracked wheat salad)
  • cucumber salad
  • tomato olive salad
  • savory beet salad
  • corn salad
  • vegetable platter
  • cheesecake
  • chocolate chip cookies

We made a huge amount of cheesecake at my kids request – this is the only time of year I make cheesecake – we made four very large pans.  (Obviously it won’t all be eaten in one day!)  I’m hoping to make another batch today to give to friends, but we’ll see what time allows for.   Since I don’t have a dairy oven I was looking and looking for no-bake recipes but the US recipes don’t work because I don’t have the right ingredients, and I wanted to make something a little different than the typical Israeli no-bake cheesecake (with layered biscuits).  I did some adapting to make the filling that we made – we all tasted it and agreed it was yummy – but I don’t yet know how the final product will be.

We made a few versions, all with the same cheese filling – one version was crushed coconut cookies and butter as a crust, another was biscuits laid flat in the pan as a crust, another used several layers of biscuits alternated with filling, then folded into a triangle shape.  All of them are frozen and will be put in the fridge to thaw  an hour or two before dessert.


Weekly menu plan

This morning marks six months from the time we met with the geneticist and were told that the testing results conclusively showed that Yirmiyahu had Trisomy 21.  As such, I was scheduled for a follow up visit today with the geneticist  but decided against going – I’m assuming (based on the first visit) they want to see how we’re coping emotionally and offer counseling if we’re suffering too much grief or emotional pain.  That’s not really where we’re at so I cancelled the appointment along with the appointment with the pediatric hematologist (which was scheduled for the sake of convenience since it was at the same hospital, but Yirmiyahu doesn’t need to be seen until March).  So instead of spending hours on the bus, I can post my menu plan for the week.  :)

Sunday – b – oatmeal; l – mushroom barley soup; d- stir fry, roast potatoes, beans

Monday – b – banana bread; l – lentil soup; d – meatloaf, french fries, salad

Tuesday – b – pancakes; l – baked potatoes, souffle, tomato salad; d – colcannon

Wednesday – b – fried potatoes, breakfast beans; l – lentil rice casserole, salad; d – cabbage meat soup, baked potatoes

Thursday – b – banana bread; l – chili; d – kasha pilaf, meatballs, vegetables

Friday – b – apple oat scones; l – split pea soup

My dd18 did the planning last week, and stayed up late one night when I was already sleeping and filled the freezer with a number of dishes for the coming week, like the proverbial shoemakers elf. :) As I was writing this out, I got a call from the municipality education representative – he got a report from the school that I refused the psychological counseling ‘recommended’ and wants to meet with me this afternoon to see if we can cooperate with one another.  (This is a nicely phrased way of saying they want me to agree to do what they want – my experience with institutions has repeatedly been that ‘cooperation’ is one sided. )  Since I already have a physical therapy appointment for Yirmiyahu in the afternoon and now this meeting, dd’s planning and preparation will be an even bigger help than I envisioned!


Weekly menu plan

Friday night – challah, chicken soup, roast chicken, potatoes, squash, roasted carrots, sesame stir fried vegetable, cinnamon buns; Saturday lunch – challah, hummous, beef stew, sesame chicken, kishke, potato kugel, zucchini kugel, sweet potato pie with crumble topping, pepper salad, pomegranate salad, fresh salad, brownies, rugelach

Sunday – lunch – chicken, kugels, salad; dinner – stuffed peppers

Monday – l – chicken lentil stew; d – baked sweet potatoes, salads

Tuesday – l – noodles and cheese sauce; d – Mediterranean white bean soup

Wednesday – l – shepherds pie; d –

Thursday – l – chickpea and sweet potato burgers; d – Mediterranean white bean soup

Friday – l – CORN (clean out fridge night – though it’s not night :))

My weekly vegetable shopping trip didn’t happen at the end of the last week since I took ds to the emergency room instead, so I’m low on some key veggies and out of fruit.  I hope to go shopping before I go back to the hospital so I can get everything stocked back up again.

I didn’t write breakfasts for this week, since it’s usually the same – oatmeal, polenta or eggs.  I’m trying to minimize grains which is why you don’t see many starches other than sweet potatoes or potatoes on the menu.  That means more beans to replace the starches.  As always, the kids take a midmorning snack to school as well as lunch on a few days; fruits and vegetables available for snacks aren’t written in.



Weekly menu plan

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a weekly menu.  When I know that I’ll be sharing it here, it helps me to commit to preparing my menu plan at the beginning of the week and that’s a good thing since having it in place before the the first meals need to be prepared makes the entire week go more smoothly.

Friday night dinner – challah, chicken soup, roast chicken, butternut squash, roasted potatoes, sesame green beans, savory baked carrots, leafy pomegranate salad, cinnamon buns; Saturday lunch – challah, hummous, beef stew, potato kugel, carrot kugel, apple kugel, red and yellow pepper salad with olives, creamy cucumber salad, cabbage/tomato/lettuce salad, brownies; Saturday night – sweet potato carrot cream soup, potato latkes, fresh doughnuts

Sunday – breakfast – eggs, fruit; lunch – creamy yam/carrot soup, potato kugel, carrot kugel, salad; dinner – split pea soup

Monday – b – polenta; l – chili con carne; d – sweet potato pear soup

Tuesday – b – oatmeal; l – chicken with celery gravy and baked potatoes; d – Hearty Tuscan white bean soup

Wednesday – b – polenta; l – shepherd’s pie; d – kidney bean burgers

Thursday – b – oatmeal; l –Hearty Tuscan white bean soup; CORN – clean out refrigerator night

Friday – b – oatmeal; l – CORN

The kids have a sandwich and fruit or vegetables as a midmorning snack at school, and usually have a fruit or vegetable with breakfast. Lunch and dinner are usually served with some kind of fresh vegetables – pepper strips, carrot sticks, cucumber rounds. This week I bought a lot of lettuce so we’ll be having more leafy salads with our meals.

Last week I bought a lot of sweet potatoes – the price is usually too high to include them on a regular basis, but they went all the way down to 2.99 a kilo and I bought three cases (small cases). This is great because they’re so versatile – you can use them in soups, stews, baked and eaten plain, or made into breakfast puddings. Since the weather is cool now, they are able to be stored without spoiling in a cabinet on my laundry porch.

My apartment building has been having some kind of problems with the pipes, so the water has been turned off repeatedly at odd times without warning for hours at a time for over a week. This has made cooking the last two Fridays very challenging, since one week it was off until 1 pm, this week it wasn’t turned on until an hour before Shabbos began. Then when it was turned on I was racing to wash my mountain of dishes with a little trickle of water. I told my kids that it was a Chanukah miracle that the food was cooked and all the dishes washed by the time Shabbos began. :) The reason for mentioning this is that the water is currently off and has been for hours, and we’ve used up all the bottles we filled in advance. Once it’s on again, I’ll be soaking kidney beans and white beans so they’ll be ready to be used in recipes this week.

This past week I stocked up on chicken/meat for the month. When I went into the store I saw whole chickens on sale without a limit on how many could be purchased (usually it’s limited to 4 kilos with a purchase of 100 shekels of items that are not on sale so I get just the amount I can buy on sale – usually two chickens), and bought eight whole chickens. The beef was also on sale, so I got four kilos of that (I use a kilo each week in beef stew for Shabbos lunch) and then six kilos of chicken bottoms at half price (though our family prefers dark meat, it’s much more expensive than whole chickens). I only have the freezer space available in my fridge freezer or I would have gotten more.

The guys at the meat counter know my purchasing habits and asked me if I wanted giblets. I glanced down and saw the price, and told them that since they weren’t on sale I wouldn’t bother this week. They told me they’ll make it on sale for me, so I asked how much? When they said six shekels a kilo, I told them I’d take ten kilos!I cooked up all the giblets in a huge pot when I got home, then bagged them into kilo servings. These make a great addition to all kinds of chicken dishes.  (Last year I wrote about using giblets here.)

Celery is such a great addition to winter soups but usually the heads of celery are scrawny and I don’t bother buying them. This week they were huge and leafy, so I bought one to use fresh during the next week or so, and three of them will be sliced up and dehydrated.


Weekly menu plan

Life is so busy that now more than ever I really need to be on top of my menu planning!  I have too much to do in too tight a time frame to waste any time not knowing what I’m making or not being able to prep ingredients or go shopping in advance.  Things could easily fall apart around here right now without tight organization; this week I’ll be organizing other aspects of day to day life that will be helpful in getting everyone through this intense period reasonably happily, but the menu is the first step.

I’m trying to integrate suggestions from a naturopath that I’ve taken a couple of the kids to recently regarding food choices.  She basically thinks that we have a well-balanced diet so her suggestions are pretty minor – eg add in more dark beans (lentils, split peas, red/black beans).  For your convenience, I’m adding links for the basic recipes that I’ll be using – I don’t make most recipes exactly as suggested but I find a basic framework helpful to work from.

Here’s our menu for this week:

Sunday – fruit, oatmeal; dinner – pasta and cottage cheese, salad, watermelon, cake, ice cream (in honor of ds10’s birthday)

Monday –  b – oatmeal, fruit; l – beef and eggplant stew; d – brown lentil salad

Tuesday – b – oatmeal, fruit; l – Persian poached eggs in tomato sauce, kasha; d – Italian salad (pasta, Bulgarian cheese, vegetables)

Wednesday – b – polenta, fruit; l – chicken fried rice; d – white bean tabouleh

Thursday – b –  oatmeal, fruit; l – crispy baked fish, baked potatoes; d – cucumber, tomato and kidney bean salad

Friday – b – polenta; l – leftovers; d – Shabbos menu begins

I serve some kind of vegetable or salad with lunch, but I don’t plan that ahead.  I just look in the fridge to see that I feel like using that day!  For dinners in the summer, I’m making a lot of main dish salads that are filling but not heavy, and integrate a nice amount of vegetables with that.  Several of the kids have specific additions or changes to what is written above,  and  I also usually have something different than what is listed for breakfast, usually eggs or cottage cheese with vegetables.  But this is the basic family plan!


Weekly menu plan

This week, I was thinking that I haven’t posted a weekly menu plan or shared any recipes for ages!

The truth is, I haven’t been on top of menu planning for quite a while, though there are always new recipes that we’re trying out (like every day or two!). About the menu planning, I’ve been relying on dd17 to come up with dinner ideas but even though she’s very good about it, I don’t like to ask that of her on a regular basis – there’s a kind of pressure in having to think about what to make for dinner an hour or two before it needs to be on the table that I don’t like and don’t want anyone else in my family to feel.  Now with the summer weather here, it’s really time to think about our meals differently, since the stews and soups we enjoy when it’s cold out aren’t especially appreciated!

On Monday, I sat down to plan our menu for the rest of the week and frankly felt a little nostalgic since I’m not able to buy so many of the things that regularly made up our meals in the US.  Frugal beans and grains have always had a part in my menu plan, but generally a small part.  I miss the abundant dairy, pastured eggs and nut flours that I regularly used, but the cost here is just too high to regularly include them.  And since this week is the last week of the month and my budgeted food money for the month was spent, I was faced with the additional challenge of using whatever was in the house without buying more groceries, which meant lots more bean based recipes than usual!

However, planning the menu got me into a good frame of mind since I was able to come up with some new frugal meal ideas that everyone has been enjoying!  Since someone asked me today to share some ‘food’ stuff and recipes on my blog, I’m going to share my menu even though I usually post this at the beginning of the week (links below are for the basic recipe though I adapted most of them):

Monday – breakfast – oatmeal, fruit; dinner – red lentil cauliflower soup

Tuesday – breakfast – oatmeal, fruit; lunch – sprouted brown lentil salad, green pepper strips; dinner – fluffy scrambled eggs, mile high biscuits

Wednesday – breakfast – oatmeal, fruit; lunch – baked potatoes, kohlrabi/carrot/cucumber salad with yogurt dressing; dinner – white bean salad

Thursday – breakfast – oatmeal, fruit; lunch – dirty rice (rice with ground beef and veg), black eyed pea salad (with tomato, scallions, fresh mint); dinner – lunchbox salad

Friday – breakfast – polenta, fruit; lunch – clean out the fridge!; dinner –
Shabbos menu (this is incomplete because it’s still being planned) – challah, roast chicken, roast potatoes, coleslaw, steamed Moroccan carrots, beet salad

Shabbos lunch – chicken, potato kugel, mushroom quiche, crunchy cabbage salad, tomato olive salad, cucumber salad, hummus

The kids take sandwiches and vegetables with them for their ‘ten o’clock meal’ that they have in school.  For snacks between lunch and dinner, usually they have fruits, vegetables, or home popped popcorn.

I bought a juicer a couple of weeks ago, and so everyone also has been having at least one cup of carrot juice a day.  I’ve really been enjoying starting my day with this!  Dd17 likes beet juice but no one else has gotten too interested in that.  I haven’t been experimenting with different mixes since carrots are currently very inexpensive (1 shekel a kilo/13 cents lb when I buy them in bulk bags), and everyone enjoys the juice.  Last week we went through 30 kilos/66 lb of carrots!


Menu plan for final days of Pesach

Despite my optimistic hope of several days ago that the vegetables I bought would be sufficient for the week of Passover, they weren’t!  I do have some things left, like onions and potatoes, but most of the salad vegetables except for avocado were finished.  Yesterday I went to the vegetable store for yet another order – I’ve spent 50% of my monthly food budget on vegetables in less than two weeks!

Here’s what I bought:

  • 3.7 kg zucchini
  • 2.7 kg cabbage
  • 2.5 kg fennel
  • 2 kg red cabbage
  • 8 kg cucumbers
  • 4 kg kohlrabi
  • 8 kg red and orange peppers
  • 5 kg Granny Smith apples
  • 30 kg carrots
  • 24 kg tomatoes

So now I hope that we’ll have enough to get through the rest of Pesach!

Now I’ll share what we’re making, and it will immediately be obvious why we go through so many vegetables.  I’m breaking the list below into main and side dishes, which will all be supplemented with a variety of salads (we usually have a selection of 5 – 7 for each meal).  Here’s what we’ll be having for the next couple of days:

Thursday night dinner:

  • chicken soup
  • meat stew with carrots, kohlrabi and zucchini (we also made this for seder night)
  • mashed potatoes and gravy
  • selection of salads
Friday lunch:
  • roast chicken
  • cauliflower kugel
  • variety of salads
Friday night: 
  • chicken soup
  • roast turkey
  • roast vegetables
  • roast potatoes
  • variety of salads
Shabbos/Saturday lunch: 
  • chicken and cabbage stew
  • vegetable matza kugel
  • variety of salads
Here are the salads that we’ve made so far:
  • pickled radish salad
  • Moroccan carrot salad
  • beet salad
  • tomato mint salad
  • carrot and pineapple salad
  • cucumber salad

I don’t have enough containers to make in advance all the salads we’ll be having, and some salads are better made fresh, anyway! We’re planning to prepare different salads when we need to.  These will include some of the following:

  • Persian tomato cucumber salad and/or Israeli salad
  • guacamole (great to spread on matza!)
  • pepper olive salad
  • cauliflower salad
  • fennel orange avocado salad
  • tomato avocado salad
  • fresh salad
  • coleslaw

You may have noticed that we don’t have desserts listed.  Usually I make a lot of kugels, baked goods, and homemade ice cream for Pesach.  This year we discussed it and decided that although it’s nice, it doesn’t enhance our holiday enough to do consume that much sugar. :)  We bought some fresh fruit and dried dates; my husband gives the dates as treats to the kids when they answer holiday related questions, and we serve the fruits for dessert on the lunch meals (at night it’s so late that it’s excessive).   It’s worked out nicely so far!


Catering the bar mitzva weekend

We catered the entire bar mitzva weekend ourselves – this meant cooking for three meals, plus the kiddush.  Friday night we had 25 people, for the kiddush there were around 200 (lots of kids!), for the main bar mitzva meal we had about 80, and for shalosh seudos (the third Sabbath meal), we had under 25.

This was definitely more work than hiring someone but: 1) in Karmiel there are no caterers so arranging catering from another city would have been complicated, and 2) we catered the kiddush for our last bar mitzva 5.5 years ago because it was a very busy time in our lives, and were extremely disappointed with the quantity, setup, and service.

I’ll backtrack for a minute and share with you that scenario – ten minutes before everyone entered the social hall, I came in and was horrified – a couple of other adults who saw it were also shocked – there had been just one table set up for men and women in the entire hall.  Never, ever were receptions were set up in this way, and they had sent enough food for just one table!  I had to ask that everything be rearranged at the last minute (the people who came down early immediately told the catering staff how it was supposed to be and started moving table around).

The young man who had been left in charge was very belligerent and unhelpful (the caterer had three events that weekend and wasn’t there), insisting it was all done just as it should have been.  I had to have my kids run home with a baby stroller and bring back lots of food that I had for our main meal after the kiddush  – kugels, salad, and big bags of cherries – to  compensate for the caterer bringing enough for only half of the number we had paid for.  I told the person in charge that I realized a mistake had been made, and asked him to put out the stuff we brought so the tables wouldn’t look empty.  The worker was very upset at us – I think he was new to the job and insecure about it, and he didn’t want this to reflect badly on him – and though we thanked him repeatedly for his work and told him mistakes happen, we knew it wasn’t his fault – it was very, very stressful and unpleasant.

After the kiddush we took back whatever was left – the things we brought in addition to a small amount of cake and kugel the caterer had provided (which we ended up throwing away in a dumpster because it was so dry and unappetizing).  When I spoke to the caterer after Shabbos, I was told that his worker claimed there was plenty of food (yes, because I brought so much!) and the proof was that there was food left over that I took home.  I explained that I took back the food I had brought since I needed it for our meal following the kiddush, and there was only a small pan of the other things left that wasn’t what we had brought that I took back, but the clear implication was that I was lying.  So no apology, no compensation – just accusations at me.

This was really upsetting to me because I was being treated like a manipulative liar, when I had been extremely reasonable about the entire situation, and really thought that there had been a mistake and the caterer would be embarrassed about this huge bungle.  When I delegate something like this, I accept that if I’m not doing it, it’s going to be however it is – and as long as it falls into the range of acceptable, I don’t nitpick and I don’t micromanage – I trust whoever’s in charge to take care of things.   He was more concerned about covering his ego and wouldn’t admit anything had been done wrong.   The irony is that my husband had no idea of all that was going on behind the scenes of the setup – there was no time to tell him – and thanked the caterer publicly earlier that morning when he spoke, for the amazing kiddush that was so much nicer than we had expected!  So our kiddush ended up being a feather in the cap for the caterer, and only a handful of people who saw things at the beginning knew that it was because I had worked hard in a very short amount of time to salvage what would have been a disaster.

I had people who told me right away that morning they’d back up what they saw if necessary when I spoke to the caterer (it was really bad), and could have made a big deal about this and insist on having part of the money paid refunded, but I just wanted to wash my hands of having to deal with the entire situation; we had paid in cash in advance so there was no leverage, and we would have had to fight for it.  So in short, we paid a lot of money for the privilege of having all of it ‘taken care of for us’.

I wanted something different this time!  By cooking and baking everything ourselves, it allowed us to have a variety and abundance of foods that we would have had to pay a lot to have had.  Also, most caterers here seem to have the same basic menu, which is a lot of carbs that are all the same color (beige/brown/white), and I like when food on the table is visually appealing.

We did the baking for the kiddush the week before, mostly, and froze the cakes.The cooking was done entirely from Weds. evening through Friday morning.  It may sound like a marathon but it really wasn’t – dd15 kept saying she felt like there should be more to do than there was.

For the bar mitzva kiddush (reception), we were told the norm here is cakes, drinks, fish (eg pickled herring), yerushalmi kugel, and sometimes crackers, dips, fruits and vegetables.  Initially I considered this, but didn’t really like the idea since it  made things more complicated with set up and clean up.  I also feel like people are going home to a full Shabbos lunch, and I don’t need to provide a full meal for all of them before that.  So I decided that I didn’t have to do that just because everyone else did, and would instead have just cakes and drinks.

(Below, ds4 helping spread filling for a the layer cake.)







Bar mitzva kiddush:

  • chocolate layer cake
  • 6 layer strawberry cake
  • orange marmalade layer cake
  • oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
  • chocolate dipped shortbread cookies
  • chocolate chip loaf
  • chocolate chip pie
  • lemon pound cake
  • checkerboard cake
  • raspberry squares
  • fudge crinkles
  • chocolate cake
  • carrot cake
  • coconut snowballs
  • chocolate balls
  • marble cake
  • cinnamon blondies
  • peanut butter balls
A couple of people sent over yummy treats to put out, fancy looking concoctions that added a nice look to the dessert platters we put out, but I don’t know what they’re called.  We took everything over to the hall before Shabbos, and set up for the kiddush late Friday night, including arranging all the platters.  This was done by dd15, dd17, ds18, two 19 yo male guests, one 18yo female guest, dd11, and me.  They all did a great job making the platters look fabulous.  We covered the platters and put them on the tables, and the next morning we just had to uncover them when we got back from morning services.  Very low pressure.
I heard yesterday from three different people how nice the kiddush was, and how impressive the many kinds of cake were – each of them had been told about it by several other people!  That was very nice to hear, but we all felt good about how it went even before this – the tables looked nice and we had plenty for everyone.

200 challah rolls waiting to be baked

Bar mitzva meal:

First course –

  • homemade challah rolls
  • guacamole
  • hummus
  • Mediteranean chickpea salad
  • tomato onion salad
  • sweet carrot salad
  • coleslaw
  • cucumber salad
  • cauliflower salad
  • sweet-sour pepper salad with sesame seeds, almonds, craisins
  • savory carrot salad

Main course –

  • cholent (bean barley stew)
  • chicken
  • yerushalmi kugel (made by a friend)
  • sweet noodle kugel (made by a friend)
  • potato kugel
  • kishke (baked stuffing)

Dessert –

  • choice of lemon or strawberry pudding layer cake

We had the main meal in the same place as the kiddush, so we had to clear up from the kiddush before we could set up for the meal.  When we got there from morning services, we had an hour before the kiddush began, and I used that time to begin cutting up the kugels and warming them up.  A couple who came from Efrat for the bar mitzva came in to the kitchen to help, and cut up all the chicken, which was a big job.

After the kiddush, ds18 and three nineteen year old guests moved all the tables and chairs into place for the meal.  Initially I had planned to set up the food buffet style, but realized that though it sounded easier, it would end up much more chaotic.    So I decided to serve family style, which is what I do at home – I don’t like plating meals since I prefer for people to take the amount they want, of what they want.

Some younger guests who were around offered to help set the tables (their families were there for the kiddush and stayed for the meal) – I had so much help that I had to work hard to keep up with them all!  While the tables were being set up, I was preparing dishes of salad for each table, so that they could be put on the table before everyone sat down to eat.

For the main course, I put out the kugels on the platters while everyone was still eating the first course – I could have asked someone to come in and help, but particularly my older girls and our 18yo guest had done so much that I really didn’t want to ask them to do more.  They’re also entitled to enjoy the simcha!  This was a big change from the hectic help of before the meal, when I had at least eight girls between the ages of 6 – 12 who kept coming in and asking for things to do, in addition to the help of the older girls.  I kind of enjoyed the quiet; it wasn’t pressured at all.  While I was setting up these platters, the older girls came in to the kitchen and began taking platters out to the tables.

Once I sat down to enjoy the main course, I didn’t get back up again.  I let other people clear the serving platters and bring out individual plates of pudding cake, while I chatted with dear friends who came from Raanana.  I stayed there chatting for a couple of hours, and didn’t do anymore food prep until it was time for shalosh seudos.

At that point, we rearranged the tables and chairs – again! – and set up for an informal shalosh seudos – rather than individual place settings, I set up buffet style – a pile of plates, napkins, cups, a basket of challah rolls, and then large serving bowls of salads and platters of kugel (planned leftovers from the main lunch meal).  People began eating whenever they got there.

Then there was the final cleanup after Shabbos.  All in all, it was a lot of work, but it didn’t feel tense or overwhelming at any time.  And we were able to spend a lot less while getting a lot more.

How much did all of this cost?  Dh took out 1200 shekels from the ATM and that went towards food and miscellaneous bar mitzva costs that came up (in addition to using some of our regular food budget money) but I don’t have any idea how it breaks down – honestly, it seems to me like it was too much.  With all that was going on, we didn’t track the specific breakdown like we usually did.  We spent an additional 400 shekels on paper goods.  And the hall rental was 1100 shekels.

When figuring the total spent, I’m not taking into account that we have enough leftover chicken for another three or four Shabbosim, or any other leftovers that we’ll use at a different time (eg papergoods).  Without working out the actual cost of what we used only for the bar mitva itself, we spent a total of 2700 shekels for the hall rental and catering for the entire weekend – at today’s exchange rate, this is  equivalent to $715.

Considering that for our last bar mitzva over five years ago, we spent $1200 on catering for just the kiddush itself (and I already said how woefully inadequate the caterer’s provisions and set up were), we’re quite pleased that we were able to have the kind of event that we wanted without any compromises, while staying within a frugal budget!