Monday, December 26, 2011

Save Money!

If you shop online at all: When you are ready to check out, be sure to do an online search for promotion (or promo) codes for the store/website where you shop. You may just be surprised to find a code that will work and save you money. It just takes a few minutes and surprise savings are such a delight.

Happy treasure hunting.
love,
Aunt Laya

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Breakfast!

There is nothing as refreshing and enlivening as a living breakfast. This is one of my current favorites. Skip the corn flakes and give this a try for a while.



Change this according to the season. As it is it's delicious and so yummy.
2 apples
1 banana
3 dates
2-3 tablespoons of raw (shelled, unsalted) sunflower seeds
dash of cinnamon
diluted apple juice (optional) or water (or even yoghurt)

cut up the fruits, add the rest

It is great to add other healthy ingredients like chia seeds as well. Nuts are a bit heavier but also a delicious and healthy addition. If you add water, the dates will very quickly turn the water sweet when you stir it up some.

To your health!
Love,
Aunt Laya

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Veggie Soufflé

Veggie Soufflé 
is another of my easy, healthy comfort food recipes. 

I couldn't even wait to take a bite, I had to start during the photo session! 


You'll need a food processor to whip this one up in a hurry. It will take longer if you chop by hand but you certainly can do it that way too. 

I never measure on this one. Choose the veggies you love. Here's what's in this version:
1 large carrot
2 medium zucchini
1 red bell pepper
~1/2 cup broccoli florets 
1 medium onion

7 eggs (you could put more)
1/4 cup vegetable oil of your choice
salt to taste (1/2 tsp)
pepper few shakes
cayenne pepper to taste (optional of course)
parsley
oregano (OR dill)
tumeric (just a shake will do)

All the veggies in the food processor, the hard ones first, then the soft ones.
Veggies into a big mixing bowl.
Add the eggs, oil, seasoning and pour into a greased 10" quiche pan (or what ever you have!)

Bake in a medium oven for about 25 minutes until you have some golden color on the top. 

Variations:
You could add cheese to this, or melt cheese on it later.

Choose your veggies according to a color theme.
Here are some ideas or other combinations I've used (onion in them all):
spinich, broccoli, corn
tomato, zucchini, olive
yellow pepper, red pepper, zucchini
mushroom, corn, broccoli



Did I say YUM? Yum!
Love,
Aunt Laya

Saturday, November 12, 2011

How to tie a scarf

My friend Moriya just sent me this video. Perfect for the fall and winter when we can accessorize with pretty scarves while keeping warm.

Take care of you!
Love,
Aunt Laya

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sweetie, quickie, healthy candy

When I get a sweet tooth and I need something in a hurry, I whip up these yummy treats. 

I use a hand blender that has an attachment to make it into a mini food processor. Be creative, maybe the blender or your regular food processor will work.

Sweetie, Quickie, Healthy Candy

1/3 cup almonds
4 big medjool dates, pitted
heaping teaspoon of carob powder

Process until it looks like a fine, almost powdery consistency. It's possible it could lump together which is fine too. The "dough" will be warm to the touch now.

In rounded teaspoons, compress into the palm of your hand and roll into little balls.
Refrigerate or, better still, freeze for a chewier consistency. Serve. That's it.
Yeild: 12-14 candies

Extra tip:
If you want to make this in the regular food processor in a larger quantity, freeze on sheets of baking parchment to keep them from sticking together in storage.

Wonderful minerals, fibers, vitamins and healthy oil. To your health!

Love ya,
Aunt Laya 

Monday, November 7, 2011

How to orgaize a swap

Get rid of the clutter and trade your unused stuff for new treasures!
My friend had a yard sale with too much of the good stuff left over. That inspires me to write about what I call "White Elephant" swaps. This is one of the most fun, money saving, generous, bonding parties ever. Here's how I have organized them in the past with all the details. You can of course do it how ever you want. This is about being creative and having fun. The first one is usually not the best because people don't understand how letting go of the good stuff means getting back even better stuff.

My first swap was done as a young mama. My friends were all married less than a couple of years and we all had wedding gifts that we didn't ever use. Fifteen years later I have some jewelry that I still wear.
In those years we had regular swaps. One time I found a sweater that I had loved and given away. I took it back again, only to find that I still never wore it. I still loved it but somehow just never reached for that sweater.

It's a great feeling to know that people you like will enjoy the goodies you're letting go of. And because you're getting such good stuff in return, you'll never look back about the letting go. You'll probably take less than you bring, but that's the idea! You're taking new things you'll love even more, lightening up your own clutter, and all that's left goes to charity!

Here how it works:

Invite between 4-14 girlfriends to your house for a swap. Send them a letter introducing the concept.

Dear Friends,
Time for the semi-annual swap!
Dig deep and get out all the stuff that:
  • You love but just don't use/wear any more
  • You don't love because it was a gift and not your style
  • Doesn't fit any more
  • You got on sale and never used
  • It's too good to just give away to Goodwill
Here are the categories, but don't limit yourself, this is just for ideas:
  • clothing (including men's and kids if other moms are coming)
    • womens
    • mens
    • children
    • infant
  • shoes
  • books, cd's, dvd's
    • children's books
  • jewelry
  • scarves, hats, gloves
  • kitchen items
    • small appliances, kitchen linens
  • coupons for services
  • office supplies
  • gardening supplies
  • secret recipe in a sealed envelope
  • cosmetics and perfumes
  • linens
  • pictures, art, and knick knacks
  • throw rugs
You don't need to bring much, just show up!

Here's how the swap works.

Once all the items are laid out, everyone takes 10 minutes to just "window shop". The idea here is to find your top two or three items that will make you happy if you can go home with them. After the group comes together, then everyone goes to take their first pick. 
  • If two women want the same item, one will usually move on. If not, they should just look into each other's eyes. They'll "know" who it should go to. The one who lets go takes another pick.
Have a two or three rounds of top picks. Then, "go shopping!" There is no keeping score. Take what you want. The first half hour or so should just be picks for yourself, nothing for a friend yet, let the women participating have a chance to get what they want.

When people are done choosing. Time to clean up. It's worth it to stay for this. As things get folded and put into trash bags for charity, new things are found that were overlooked before. You will be surprised when you get home with your goodies that something you just took at the last minute could be your favorite for years.  

Questions? Post in comments and I'm happy to share more tips.
love,
Aunt Laya

Thanks to SideShowMom and morguefile.com for the perfect photo!

Why I don't use chocolate


I don't buy cocoa powder or other chocolate products any more unless I am certain about their origin.

Here's why:
There is child slave labor used to harvest much of the world's chocolate supply. I don't want to add pain or tears to the food I eat and serve if I can help it.
Here's more on this topic:

Here's the link to this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJMe7fdfEEQ

It makes me wonder. I wonder if there is so much depression in this world because we have closed our eyes to the brutalization of other human beings. We get to vote with our choices. We get to make a difference with our attitudes. Food tastes better when it's made with love. What if the food is grown with love? What if it's the opposite? What if it's harvested with pain? Wouldn't that change the vibration of the food itself. This may sound airy fairy to you. Read "The Field" for an explanation of how we are all connected.


Raw Carob Fudge Cake Recipe

Serve this without guilt to any kids (without nut allergies of course!).
My take on this raw cake.

Raw Carob Fudge Cake
2 cups walnuts or pecans
12-15 medjool dates
1-4 ripe bananas
4 heaping Tbs of carob or cocoa powder
pinch salt

Optional: dried shredded coconut, whole nuts or banana slices for garnish

With the S blade in the food processor, process the nuts first until they are very fine.
Add the pitted and checked dates (no worms or insects in my cakes!), carob powder, and bananas
If you have a super duper processor, you can add the bananas last but if yours is wimpy like mine, add them together.

Line a spring form pan with plastic wrap.
Spread the "batter" out into the pan and freeze for about four hours.

Sprinkle your cake plate with shredded coconut if you like to keep the cake from sticking.
Turn the cake onto your serving plate.

Garnish with shredded coconut, decorate with whole nuts, or, if you're not going to leave it out of the freezer for a long time, slices of bananas.

Optional glaze: mix a small amount of honey (2 Tbs) with carob powder and drizzle over the cake for a beautiful effect. (Do this just before serving because it won't stay so elegant once it's been out for a while and put back in the freezer. It will still taste divine though!)

Some people like to soak the nuts for a few hours first to take off the bitter taste and the enzyme inhibitor. It's the healthier option but this recipe is fine if you don't. If you do, be sure to drain the nuts well, even let them dry for a while before processing.

Remember that this is a raw recipe so you can taste it as you go... add more banana or dates as you like. Add honey or agave if you want to make it sweeter. Try processing all ingredients at the same time for a crunchier version. My family likes it creamier so I make sure to process the nuts well at the start.

Healthy and wonderful. Always a hit at the table.

Easiest Chicken Ever!


This is so simple and fast. I cook my chicken on the stove top but you can certainly bake this as well.

Lemon Dill Chicken

Whole chicken cut up, or parts as you like
2 large onions

Lemon juice of one or two lemons
Turmeric
Cracked pepper
Dried dill

Start by cleaning and peeling the onions.
Slice them into rings and lay at the bottom of the pan
(I guess I use a 14" skillet with a lid!)
Clean and rinse the chicken and lay the parts on the onions.

Drizzle the lemon juice on the chicken
Sprinkle the turmeric lightly so all the pieces are covered and lovely yellow
Pepper lightly over chicken
Sprinkle the dried dill over the pieces so they are completely covered with a thin layer

Cook covered for around 45-60 minutes on low flame. You will very likely have lots of juices from this. Save any juice and onion (and even chicken) left over and add it to soup to make it tastier and richer.

No oil, no salt!

Melts in your mouth. Delish!


Chili recipe

My beautiful friend Felicia requested a few of my recipes so there's the reason for the bunch of them in a row.

I make this several times a month because it's so yummy. You can use either a slow cooker (crock pot) or a regular pot on the stove. I always made chili but my recipe is tweaked because of another wonderful friend, Martha, one of the best cooks I or anyone else knows.

This chili is made with pinto beans so the color will vary on the beans you use.
All beans are good so use what you have or what you love.


Mexican Chili
Beans of your choice: 500 gr package (a 1 lb. package is a little less and that's fine)
Soak the beans between 12-24 hours for healthiest results. It will still make up fine if not.
Pour off the soak water and put into a pot with boiling water. Just boil them until soft before you add anything else! (If you do this in a crock pot, put them on high to start so they really boil for a while.)

In a frying pan:
2 Tbs oil
Medium-large onion chopped up

As the onion becomes translucent, add the rest of the ingredients:
1 green pepper (or yellow or red, or all three!)
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes cut up

Spices:
Salt to taste
Cumin (approx 1/4 to 1/2 tsp I just use a couple of good shakes)
Oregano (approx 1 Tbs, or something else green will work according to Martha and she knows!)
Cayenne pepper (hot pepper in Israel) to taste
Love and prayers for your and your family's well being!

When the beans are soft, add the veggies and seasoning.
If you need to add more water at any point, make sure it's boiling water so it doesn't interfere with the cooking of the beans.

For best food combining health serve beans with rice either on the side or mixed right in.

Best blessings!
Aunt Laya

Optional: you can add  1/3 cup of rice to the boiling or just add cooked rice at the end. Rice and beans together make a healthy combination.

You can add ground beef if you want to, or keep it veggie and serve with sour cream or shredded cheese. If you live in the US serve with corn bread!!





Black bean, butternut, and tomato soup recipe


Here’s the newest experiment from my kitchen.
It was a big hit and didn’t last very long at all, I didn't even have time to photograph it, sorry. Maybe I'll add a photo when I make it again.

Black bean, butternut, and tomato soup:
Water to cover all the veggies below
Onion-med, garlic-two cloves (best if sautéed first)
Butternut squash-small (peeled & seeded of course)
Tomatoes-plum are best, any will do (about 3, cut up)
Can of black beans with the liquid

Boil until everything is soft.
Add:
Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)
Lemon (2-3 Tbs.)
Parsley (about 1 Tbs.)
Cumin (two shakes)
Cayenne pepper (to taste)

When all the veggies are soft:
Puree with a hand blender

You could garnish this with a dollop of sour cream or bits of parsley, or even a few pumpkin seeds. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Amazing Gefilte Fish Recipe


Popular at my holiday table, this is my version of gefilte fish. If you don't know, gefilte fish is sort of like the ground beef of the fish world and is an "Ashkenazi" (Eastern European) Jewish recipe and is traditionally served as a first course on Sabbath and festival meals. Often people will boil the loaf (in the parchment paper) in a big pot of water with a carrot and celery, salt, pepper and maybe some sugar. My "doctored" recipe is a favorite. I gauge if people like it by how much leftovers there are—or not.

Amazing Gefilte Fish Recipe 
© 2011 Laya Saul


Ingredients:
Gefilte fish in a prepared, frozen roll or loaf
Onions
Lemon juice (optional)
Cider vinegar
Olive oil (or other oil)
Salt (optional)
Pepper
Garlic granules (optional)
Dried or fresh basil
Tomato paste thinned to a thick sauce

Instructions:
Take the fish loaf out of the freezer so it begins to thaw
Peel and slice onion into rings
Line a loaf pan with sliced onion rings
Remove the parchment from around the loaf
Place in the loaf pan
Drizzle the lemon, vinegar, and oil over the fish loaf
~about a few table spoons of liquid per ingredient, there should be a little puddle of liquid at the bottom of the pan
Sprinkle the pepper, salt, garlic, and basil onto the loaf
Spread/pour the tomato paste so that the top of the loaf is covered completely

Bake uncovered at a medium temperature ~350 F or number 5.5 European for about 30 minutes uncovered.
Then cover and bake for another 30 minutes. If your oven doesn’t bake things well, you can leave it in to continue to bake a bit longer. (As long as you don’t burn it, it will be fine to bake for longer.)

This finished recipe takes a while to cool. When it has cooled enough to handle, cut into slices and arrange on a serving plate. Arrange the onions around the fish slices. If there is sauce at the bottom, drizzle it over the slices.
It can be served warm or cold from the fridge.  

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sacred Light of Peace




There is talk of war happening in Israel. There is an actual projection of as early as next week. This could be pretty significant since warfare has progressed in our time and we know for sure that certain of our neighbors have been preparing to attack. There's so much I could write about this but I'll be short here. I have a request. It's pretty simple really. It would take less than five minutes and bring peace into your life and home. Would you light Sabbath candles this Friday before sundown? 

In a nutshell: 
  • Give a coin or two to charity
  • Light one or two candles (these will stay lit until they burn themselves out and you don't touch them or even the candle sticks until after sunset on Saturday night)
This is the sacred light that a Jewish woman can bring into the world. 
It is the light of peace.
  • Once the candles are lit, circle your hands to bring the light into you and your home.
(I always have a deep breath here as I let go of the day and week.)
  • Here is where you can say the ancient words that our grandmothers and great grandmothers said as they performed the same ritual:
  • Cover your eyes, or, avert them from the flames as you read

בָּרוּך אַתָּה אַדֹנָ-י אֱ-להֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעוֹלָם אַשֶׁר קִדְשָנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶל שַבָּת קודֶש

Transliteration (how the Hebrew sounds but with English letters):



Baruch a-tah Ah-doe-nai

El-o-hay-new mel-ekh ha-oh-lahm

ah-share kid-dish-ah-new

be-mitz-vote-av

ve-tzi-vah-new

le-hahd-lick nehr shel 

Shabbat koh-desh


Translation:

Blessed are you Lord, our God, 

King of universe,

who has made us holy with His commandments,

and commanded us to light the candle of the holy Shabbat



  • In the stillness of the moment, take the time to ask God for anything your heart desires from the smallest to the most profound. Ask for yourself, ask for your family, ask for your nation, ask for your world.
More than ever we need light in this world. This ritual will bring light into your personal life and that will radiate out in ways we can not really comprehend, but I'm certain--without a doubt--that it makes a difference.

Thank you.
Sending love,  hugs, and blessings for all revealed good,
Laya

PS please share this freely. <3

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Searching for Meaning--Finding Emuna

When the tragedy of Leiby Kletzky came to light, the world grieved. People asked "why?" In a world that seems topsy turvy, there is still a matter of faith--or on an even deeper level (in Hebrew) "emuna."

While reading the popular book The Garden of Emuna--A Practical Guide to Life, by Rabbi Shalom Arush (and translated by Lazer Brody) I was very moved by this true story. I knew I would have to share it. I will let the story (and Rabbi Arush's comment at the end) speak for itself...


A beautiful young lady - daughter of one of the community's most prestigious and respected families - married a righteous merchant, a man of charity and compassion. The early years of their marriage were blessed with happiness, abundance, and children. The modest wife became a wonderful mother, utilizing every free minute from her busy schedule to recite Psalms or to care for the community's poor and underprivileged. The husband, whose successful commerce carried him to surrounding cities and hamlets, never failed to fulfill a strict daily quota of prayer and Torah learning. In addition, he gave enormous amounts to charities all across the country, easing the suffering of thousands of impoverished people.

Suddenly, disaster struck. Their home – a bright beacon of charity, good deeds, and loving-kindness – became the scene of agony. A drunken soldier viciously abused, mutilated, and murdered the couple’s three-year-old son!

The entire community was appalled. Thousands joined in the mourning, including the nation’s leading sages and spiritual leaders. No one understood. Many vocalized the doubts in their hearts in public: Is this the reward that such a righteous couple deserves? Why did Hashem (G.d) do something so horrendous like that to them? Why did the poor little toddler have to suffer so severely? Others harbored malice in their hearts against Hashem that weakened their emuna (faith) and distanced them from Torah.

The couple reacted with total emuna, capitulation, and loving acceptance of the Divine decree. They continued with their righteous lifestyle as if nothing had changed – the wife with her acts of loving-kindness and the husband with his Torah learning and magnificent charity.

Shortly thereafter, tragedy struck again:  Like wildfire, word spread around the town that the righteous merchant had fallen deathly ill. All of the local synagogues mobilized their members in round-the-clock prayer vigils. Everyone loved the merchant. Almost every person in town had benefited from his generosity at one time or another.

Understandably, the cries of the community pierced the very thresholds of the Heavens.

The community beadle ran breathlessly into the town’s main synagogue, where the head rabbi prayed, and shouted, “The doctors have given up hope! They say the end is near!’

The head rabbi, himself a pillar of righteousness and a learned master of Talmudic law, declared forcefully but calmly, “It shall not happen! No evil shall befall our brother the righteous merchant!”

The pain and bewilderment of the entire town reached the heights when the word of the righteous merchant’s death became common knowledge. Such a young man, at the prime of life – didn’t he suffer enough? He did nothing but good deeds his entire life, is this what he deserved? The tears of the young, barely thirty five year old widow tore at the community’s already perplexed and agonized heart.

A few years passed. One Friday afternoon, the newly-married son of the young widow came to wish his mother “Shabbat Shalom;” she tried to smile, but burst into tears.”

“Mama,” the young man pleaded, “three years have passed already. You’ve cried enough! Our sages prescribed set times for mourning. If someone cries more than they should, then sorrow never leaves them! We are believers; none of us can know Hashem’s considerations. Everything Hashem does is for the very best! Mama, your crying not only saddens us – your children – but it saddens Papa’s soul too. The matchmakers have been chasing after you with several good proposals, and you’ve been avoiding them. Mama, please, you must continue on with your life.”

The young widow took a deep breath. Enough! She made a firm resolve to overcome the sorrow. An encouraging thought flashed across her mind: “Am I more merciful than Hashem? Of course not! I’ve always trusted Hashem, sow why shouldn’t I be happy?!” To the relief of her worried children – that very Shabbat – Mama became a new person.

For the first time in years, the widow slept soundly and peacefully. She realized that a lack of emuna – not her husband’s absence – was responsible for the gap in her heart. Now, that gap was filled again.

She had a dream… She saw herself standing in an exotic garden of supernatural beauty, and she understood that this must be the next world. Standing among the aromatic flowering trees, she saw an mage of an old man with a long beard, who radiated brilliantly. He approached her and asked if she’d like to see her deceased husband. She nodded in the affirmative. He led her to a magnificent palace where a young man was giving a Torah lecture to thousands of elderly righteous souls. When the lecture was over, the lecturer approached her – it was her husband!

“Dearest husband,” she exclaimed, “why did you leave me along at such an early stage in our lives? How have you become the teacher of so many tzaddikim (saints or righteous sages)? You were a merchant and an upright man, but you were never a Torah scholar.”

The husband smiled. “In my former life, I was a great scholar, but I never married. When I died, I was told that I couldn’t assume my designated place in the upper palaces of Heaven because I never fulfilled the first commandment of the Torah, namely, that one must be fruitful and multiply. Therefore, I was reincarnated again for the sole purpose of marrying and having children, and to raise them in the path of Torah. That’s exactly what I did. As soon as my tikkun (repair) – my soul correction and my mission on earth – I no longer had to remain down there. Now, as you see, I live a life of eternal bliss…”

“Then why did our little son die?” probed the wife.

The husband answered, “He is the lofty soul of a holy tzaddik, an extremely righteous individual. In his previous life, he was kidnapped at birth and raised on the milk of a gentile surrogate mother. Finally, at age three, he was redeemed by the Jewish community and subsequently became a sage of enormous spiritual proportions. After his death, he was denied his rightful place in Heaven since his early childhood had left a tiny blemish on his soul. His sole tikkun was to return to earth, to be born, nursed, and raised for three years by an upright Jewish woman; you, my dear wife, were granted the privilege of being that woman!”

“But why was his death so horrible?”

“Know,” continued the husband, “that since our toddler son had completed his tikkun, he was destined to die anyway. At the same time, the Heavenly Court had decreed – in light of the dire sins between man and fellow man in our town – that all its inhabitants be destroyed in a catastrophic pogrom. The righteous soul of our little one volunteered to die a terrible death as atonement for the entire town. He became a holy martyr and sanctified himself as a public sacrifice. No one is allowed to reach his lofty abode except for me, since I was his father. When your time comes, you – as his mother – will also be allowed. You can’t imagine the bliss of the Divine light that surrounds our son…”

The husband faded away. Before he departed, his voice reverberated, “Only by virtue of your reinforced emuna (faith) was I revealed to you! As long as you were in a cloud of sadness, you almost lost another child. All my requests to be revealed to you were refused… my tikkun is over, but you still have much to do. Go, remarry, and live a life of emuna and joy. Go with my blessing… farewell!” The husband’s image disappeared completely.

The widow awakened. She felt like she was born anew. She realized that her questions – as well as the rest of the town’s questions – were needless. If the Torah teaches that Hashem is righteous and just, there there’s no need to wonder why Hahsem does what he does.

Those of us who don’t merit revelations in our sleep should strive to strengthen our emuna. The knowledge that Hashem does everything for our eternal benefit should be engraved on our hearts and minds.