When my mom was a baby, she had a cute, wiggly pink nose like a bunny’s (according to what I’ve been told – I wasn’t there!) As a result, she was nicknamed Bunny. As she got older and developed other interests, she subsequently garnered more and more nicknames, each reflecting her current animal interest at the time. But the name Bunny endured throughout all those time periods, and even today her family members call her Bunny in alternation with her real name.
It’s no surprise that my mom was somewhat bunny-like in her youth, since her mom is practically famous for her carrot cake recipe. Besides her chocolate swirl cake, it is one of her most-requested cakes for birthdays and occasions. If I was a bunny, I’d sure be glad to have a mom that was so good at making carrot cake!
This carrot cake smoothie would be the perfect treat for a carrot-chomping bunny who wanted a sweet, refreshing libation during the heat of summer. It’s a bit of a sugar rush – probably not good for hyperactive animals who would be bouncing off the walls anyway! I might suggest replacing the vanilla almond milk with plain almond milk and maybe a touch of vanilla or agave, and letting the fresh/frozen banana, tangy pineapple, and sweet navel orange sweeten the smoothie without the help of too much added sugar.
But aside from that, this smoothie was really splendid: a rich, sweet body made of blended fruit and creamy almond milk that reminds me of cake frosting (only more interesting) is emblazoned with delightful chunks of carrot cake and embellished with a topping of coconut, cranberries, and an orange slice just for style. Slurp it up it as a “guilty” breakfast treat or sip your sinfully scrumptious dessert in the alfalfa garden, watching the bunnies hopping around in the summer evening and pitying them because all they get are boring plain carrots.
Hop to it! Make this recipe now – you deserve a treat.
Fruity Carrot Cake Smoothie
- 1 banana, fresh or frozen
- 1 single-serving carton Silk brand vanilla almond milk
- 1/2 cup pineapple chunks, fresh or frozen
- 1 medium-large navel orange (reserve a segment for topping if desired)
- 2 Weight Watchers brand Carrot Crème Cakes
- ice cubes (use more if you used fresh fruit, and less if you used frozen fruit)
- 1 tbs sweetened flaked coconut
- 1 tbs dried cranberries
- 1 segment of orange, if desired
Place banana, almond milk, pineapple, orange (except segment reserved for topping) and ice cubes in blender. Blend until smooth.
Break one of the Carrot Crème cakes into several pieces and drop them into smoothie. Blend for about ten seconds.
Break the second cake into pieces and blend only for a second or two to distribute the big cake-y chunks throughout the smoothie.
Pour smoothie into desired serving glass. For topping: cut a slit in the center of one orange segment, and use the slit to arrange it at the edge of the glass. Sprinkle coconut and cranberry on surface of smoothie.
Pop a straw in this scrumptious sweet drink, and slurp it all up!
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One of the main things I found that united all the various cities of Israel was that each of them, in varying intensities and in different forms, observed Shabbat, one of the most sacred Jewish holidays. This weekly sabbath is one that many secular-ified American Jews tend to allow to fall by the wayside – myself included. Back home, I typically do homework on Shabbat and use electronics liberally, just like any other day. I don’t spend a moment reflecting on life or appreciating the good in what I’ve been given, what I’ve already achieved, because I’m too busy struggling to achieve more, and every minute of the day contributes to some scheme to do so.
In Jerusalem, there is a string around the city to symbolize the idea that it is all united by Shabbat. Even if you walk across the whole city from your dwelling place to your synagogue, you have symbolically remained in the same place, thereby not breaking the rule against hard work on Shabbat. The streets are empty except for a few tourists who don’t look around them to realize that everyone else has dropped everything for a refreshing weekly 24-hour period of prayer and reflection without attempting to alter their own lives or the world surrounding them. The streets are calm, without a car in sight. The shops windows are all darkened. And the synagogues emanate a great array of garbled intonations and choral chimes of prayers in English and Hebrew and perhaps a handful of other tongues and dialects, all intermingling to form a single broadcast of temporary complacency with the world, that enlightens even those outsiders who choose to tune in.
Above: The Western Wall, Jerusalem. On Shabbat it is even more crowded than weekdays (like the night I took this picture) and everyone is dancing and singing and you get pulled into a circle of happy dancers who don’t know your name or speak your language. It’s magic!)
In Tel Aviv, I had a different Shabbat experience that was more like a party: we joined an open beach service conducted by a group of musical prayer leaders who engaged a community of people of all ages to get up and dance to the vibrant Jewish songs as the sun set over the gently rocking harbor. Instead of a prayerbook full of ancient texts, each participant was lent a spiral-bound collection of eclectic poems and songs, from modern Jewish jams, to a page of translations of “What a Wonderful World” into a cornucopia of languages, to universal prayers found in any siddur, to interesting poems that really made me think.
Above: Tel Aviv service by the beach
Whether or not you are Jewish, I think there is something that can be gleaned from practicing some kind of sabbath, a regular, organized space of time during which you relinquish all work, even the thought of work, even using electronics if this is a gateway to doing work. Many people go through their lives almost nonstop, constantly letting life’s day-to-day anxieties take center stage while such invaluable things as family, self-care, meditation, are left by the wayside. In the short term it may seem like this is the way to accomplish more. But in a way, it really accomplishes nothing. That is something I was only able to realize when I experienced three Shabbats, from dusk on Friday to dusk on Saturday, in three different cities in Israel that all placed some kind of holiness on the concept of rest, and all things in moderation.
Above: I took this photo of a synagogue in Safed on a weekday. Most religious buildings discourage the use of electronics on Shabbat.
Another universal thing that unites Israel around Shabbat was the challah. My trip traversed much of the country, but in all the places we stayed these same round challah rolls were universal. They are probably made at a factory and distributed to every hotel kitchen in Israel just before Shabbat starts. They look like a round pile of something you’d find on a farm, and taste like slightly stale styrofoam. I’m sure Israel has some good challah bread, somewhere, but I never encountered any. Just these annoying round rolls.
When I returned to the states, I had to reconcile my disappointment with Israel’s challah by buying some that I knew was good: Sun Flour Natural Bakery brand challah rolls, found at Whole Foods Market. And for breakfast this past Shabbat eve, I made it into something even better: challah French toast.
Although my challah didn’t toast quite evenly (probably because I cut it too roughly) it still tasted great: soft, satisfying, with just the right amount of sweetness added with the soft cinnamon apple slices, juicy raisins, and a drizzle of agave syrup. Make your day of rest special with a special breakfast like this!
Challah French Toast with Apple, Cinnamon & Raisin
- 1 personal-sized challah roll (I used a Sun Flour Natural Bakery Brand challah roll)
- 1 egg
- 1 tbs milk (I used plain almond milk)
- 1 Gala apple
- splash of cinnamon
- 1-2 tbs Sunmaid brand mixed jumbo raisins
- 1-2 tsp organic blue agave syrup
Cut the challah lengthwise into three pieces as shown:
In a medium bowl, beat together the egg and milk.
Dip each challah slice in egg mixture and coat both sides. Let excess drip off back into bowl.
Spray a pan generously with nonstick spray. Place challah slices on pan. Heat to medium.
Cook challah this way for several minutes, until surface touching pan appears cooked like French toast. Then flip and cook the other side.
Remove from heat. Place onto serving plate. Top with apple cinnamon slices and raisins. Drizzle with agave syrup.
Bon appetit, and Shabbat Shalom (if applicable)!
What do you do to celebrate summer? My family always makes a list at the beginning of the vacation of all the quintessential summer activities our family must do to fully enjoy the summer: swimming, movies, museums, zoos, and aquariums are typically on the list. Yesterday we checked off one of our favorite semi-local aquariums by making the treacherous journey through extreme traffic to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. The trip was definitely worth it as we learned a lot of amazing things. My brother was particularly fascinated by their new exhibit, “Wonders of the Deep,” where a selection of midnight-zone marine monsters lurk. He urged me to do a blog post about it, and I happen to be interested in sea creatures myself, so here we are.
The deep-ocean exhibit contains the first jellyfish touch tank I have ever seen, in which visitors can gently feel the bells of harmless moon jellies (They’re so delicate I was more afraid of hurting the creatures than of their weak stinging cells!) Another highlight is a model whale carcass being scavenged by real abyssal scavengers (which are fed real meat and just hang out on their grotesque playground.) There is also a tank that includes giant deep sea isopods, which basically look like pill bugs or lice except the size of your forearm. Does this exhibit sound enchanting to you yet?
One of the cutest things in the exhibit, and the one my brother insisted upon returning to twice and stared at with a greater attention span than I thought he had in him, is a cylindrical tank full of chambered nautiluses. They gape out with their primitive eyes and pump their siphons to swim in whimsical backwards circles, often bumping into one another on the way but never seeming to be too phased by the collision.
When we visited the nautilus tank for the second time, an aquarium staff member was poking around in there with a long grasping stick. At first we were afraid she had to remove one of the animals, but it turned out she was feeding them shrimps. When her work was done, we asked her some of the questions that had been sparked in our minds by the sight of the alien creatures. She was more than happy to chat and the conversation kept expanding, elaborating on more of nautilus biology than I’d ever dreamed I’d learn by visiting the aquarium. For instance, it turns out the chambered nautilus is pretty easy to sex: if it has three long, curling tentacles on the left side, it is a male. Otherwise, it is female. The friendly staff member even took us behind the scenes to the mating tank where serious couples were given some space to be lovers. Here I had the opportunity to feed a dead shrimp to a diffident marine cephalopod. Unfortunately, the creatures didn’t seem to be hungry – or maybe they were trying not to spoil their appetites for their dates later that evening, because my crustacean offering was ignored. Even so, it was neat to catch a glimpse both of how the aquarium is run and how life is 2,000 feet beneath the ocean’s surface.
above: abalone, an unrelated, non-deep-sea gastropod
I’ve always been interested in the ocean, but somehow visiting the aquarium feels especially appropriate in the summertime. I guess summer = beaches = ocean = marine biology? Anyway, there’s lots of things I find just aren’t as fun to do when not done in summer. Eating fresh veggies is obviously one of them: there’s just so much variety and so much better quality of everything available right now. So I decided to take advantage of all the fresh produce while it lasts with a lasagna that’s as quintessentially summer as the beach.
This lasagna is truly a celebration of summer: it is bursting with the fresh produce that abounds this season, from vitamin-rich sweet mini peppers to zucchini, high in vitamin C as well as potassium and with some nourishing fiber. To make it more satisfying and less sinful, I used whole wheat lasagna noodles, which taste just as good as the refined carb-laden regular noodles but provide more fiber and a slightly heartier, nuttier taste. If you are a cheese lover, (and don’t mind upping the calories and fat content a bit), I might suggest doubling the amount of feta cheese I used in this recipe as it provided only a slight hint of cheese. Overall, this lasagna turned out wonderfully and made for a great light, yet satisfying midday meal to enjoy in the July sunshine. And I didn’t have to try and feed it to any uncooperative invertebrates either! (Do nautiluses eat vegetables?)
Gotta get your summer veggies and fruits while you can, because before you know it it’ll be all pumpkins and apples! Here’s one way to enjoy them:
Summer Veggie Lasagna
based on recipe from myrecipes.com
makes 4-8 servings (one 8″ square pan)
- 4 uncooked lasagna noodles (I used Eating Right brand Whole Grain Pasta lasagna noodles)
- 2 cups tomato sauce (I used Ragu brand)
- 1 cup fresh baby spinach
- 1/2 cup feta cheese (I used Lucerne brand reduced fat)
- 1 whole large zucchini
- 1/2 orange skin yam or sweet potato
- 5 large sweet mini peppers
- 1 whole shallot onion
- about 1/2 cup hot water
Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit.
Prep the veggies: first wash everything. Rip the spinach into little bits. Then microwave the potato until it is warm enough to slice in rounds and cut each round in halves or quarters. Slice the zucchini into halved rounds as well. Cut off stems of mini peppers and dice them. Peel and chop shallot onion.
Layer ingredients in your baking dish. Mine was a bit messy because I don’t really know the proper way to layer lasagna, but here’s what I did in order from bottom of the baking dish to the top: about 1/3 of total tomato sauce spread evenly on bottom, covered by 2 noodles broken to fit in dish, sprinkled with cheese and spinach pieces. Over this I added rows of zucchini and yam slices, broken up by handfuls of peppers and onions. I spooned some more tomato sauce over this. Then I covered that mess with the other two noodles, again broken to fit in the dish, sprinkled with the rest of the cheese and spinach, which in turn was covered by the rest of the veggies and the last of the sauce. Here’s a basic visual of my sloppy attempt at layering lasagna if you wish to give it a go:
2 lasagna noodles
2 lasagna noodles
Anyway, once you’ve figured that out, pour 1/4 cup hot water around inside edge of baking dish. Then cover dish with two layers of aluminum foil.
Bake at 375 Fahrenheit for 25 minutes. Then add another 1/4 cup or so of hot water around inside edge of baking dish, just to make sure lasagna noodles soften. Cover and return to oven for another ten minutes. Then, remove aluminum foil cover and bake for another ten minutes, uncovered.
Remove from oven and allow lasagna to cool for ten minutes before serving.
Serve with a sunny smile!
According to Hawaiian legend, Pele is the goddess of fire and inhabits the volcanoes of the big island. If visitors do not want to anger the goddess (and possibly cause a volcanic eruption) they’d better not offend her. Things tourists might unwittingly do that could provoke the goddess are many and not always obvious – carrying pork from one side of a certain street to another or bringing back native sand and rocks to one’s home state are examples of seemingly harmless enough actions that irritate Pele. And once she’s enraged, you’d better watch out: she has the power to send a sea of lava your way!
Besides her unpredictable anger, Pele is also known for her jealous nature. She pretty much tries to wipe out anyone who stands a chance of rivaling her in terms of power or beauty. This means she’d probably be pretty envious of this chocolate orange smoothie: it’s attractive, luscious, and literally explosive! The recipe makes such a generous serving that when I poured it into my glass it began erupting, sending cold, chocolatey “lava” cascading down the sides of the glass. With napkins galore and my desperate tongue I tried to save as much of the delicious goodness as I could before it was lost forever. But it was a losing battle – this smoothie was determined to create a chocolate island of its own, all over my kitchen table.
It’s a good thing Pele didn’t hear about this chocolatey challenger to her supreme reign as volcano queen, or she surely would have snatched it away and burned it. And that would have been a shame, because this smoothie was too tasty to be missed!
The sweet, sophisticated harmony of chocolate and orange was complemented by a delightful burst of coconut flakes and a sprinkling of chocolate chips. A hint of strawberry in the background provides some tart, fruity flavor as well as the extra Vitamin A and fiber. And a satisfying scoop of chocolate almond butter adds protein power while complementing the chocolate theme of the smoothie. This smoothie is so rich and filling, I might suggest sharing it…if you’re feeling generous.
But whatever you do, DO NOT let the volcano goddess know about the eruption of flavor you’re creating in your blender, or surely her anger will descend upon you. And magma spit up from the earth’s mantle is a lot less enjoyable than a cool, refreshing smoothie. So keep it low key, okay? And enjoy.
Pele image source: http://mail.colonial.net/~hkaiter/volcanoesthree.html
Hawaiian legend info sources: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/10/hawaiian-legends_n_3898664.html; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pele_(deity)#Legends
Is it really true that blonds have more fun?
When I was a kid, I certainly thought so. Many of the popular Disney princesses were blond, and it seemed to me that to get any attention in this world, to be a pretty princess, to marry Prince Charming, one had to be blond. Which was a shame because I happened to be brunette. This caused me to hold Disney’s Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and blond people I met on the street in great contempt, perhaps unfairly.
Then I discovered Ariel the little mermaid, who quickly became my favorite princess because a) she was a mermaid and b) she didn’t have blond hair. I wanted to stand out with a feisty red hairdo that flowed in the breeze. But my mom wouldn’t allow me to dye my hair blond or red. So I was stuck with boring brunette hair.
I finally began to identify with the kick-butt brunettes of the children’s entertainment scene with Pocohantas, that historically wonky Disney movie that always got my heart pumping with the sheer excitement of living with talking trees and fighting European warriors. If a brunette could do all that while the fair-haired heroines were locked in towers or under a deep sleep, maybe being brunette was more exciting than I’d first thought.
(image source: http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Pocahontas_(character) )
Now that I’m older and much more mature, I have resolved that I don’t want to dye my hair blond or red anymore. My heart is set on dying it purple.
But seriously, hair color doesn’t really affect happiness! Regardless of what you look like, you can have exciting adventures. In my opinion, a world where everyone sported the same hair color would be boring.
Likewise, if all desserts were blond, that would pose a serious problem. A great percentage of sweet-lovers in this world hold chocolate as the golden standard of dessert flavors. That’s why, rather than making a boring blondie, I decided to enhance the experience with a multitude of tasteful colors.
First, I mixed into the blondie batter some chocolate chips that were deliciously brown as can be. I added chocolate raspberry flavored yogurt, and some ravishingly red fresh raspberries, to honor the redheads of the dessert world. Topping it all off with a brunette drizzle of chocolate hazelnut butter makes for decadent, melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness, as well as proving that some of the best things in this world are not blond!
So celebrate diversity with me today, and make this blond, red, and brunette fro-yo sundae! (But please, no hair in the actual sundae!!)
Chocolate Raspberry Blondie Fro-Yo Sundae
blondie recipe based on recipe from foodista.com
makes one generous serving
- 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 2 tbs Truvia baking blend
- dash cinnamon
- pinch salt
- 2 tbs water
- 2 tbs pumpkin butter
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 15 semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 Dannon brand Light & Fit 80 calorie yogurt, Raspberry Chocolate flavor
- 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
- 1 tbs chocolate hazelnut butter
Freeze the Dannon yogurt for about two hours or until texture is similar to that of soft-serve frozen yogurt.
For microwave blondie: Combine whole wheat pastry flour, Truvia, a dash of cinnamon, and a pinch of salt in small, microwave-safe bowl. Mix.
Add water, pumpkin butter, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Microwave for 45 seconds to one minute (microwaves vary so adjust timing accordingly. I like to err on the side of too short a microwave time so the end result remains moist.)
Now, to add the toppings: Remove yogurt from freezer. If texture is too hard, use an ice cream scoop or spoon to mush it a bit, until texture resembles commercial soft serve frozen yogurt.
Then, use ice cream scoop to scoop the frozen yogurt on top of warm blondie. Arrange fresh raspberries on top. To finish it off, drizzle chocolate hazelnut butter over all this delicious goodness.
You probably don’t need to be told, but just in case here’s the final piece of instructions: dig in! And savor.
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Cat sleeping outside a pizza restaurant in Israel – I guess the waiters were taking too long to bring his pizza!
Before going to Israel, I was told one food I would see everywhere would be shakshuka, an egg dish with tomato sauce and sometimes feta, herbs, and/or chickpeas. I was told it would be served all day, every day, from the fanciest restaurants to the seediest hostels… I prepared myself to be mopping up a lot of tomato sauce with pita bread. And I went to Israel and… we saw shakshuka once. Maybe twice in the same hostel. And it didn’t look all that inspiring, so I did’t try any. I knew I could make something better at home than anything the cheap hostel kitchen came up with.
Rather than going the classic egg-on-top-of-tomato-sauce-on-top-of-pita-bread route, I got it in my head to try something a little more original: a shakshuka pizza. The pizza idea evolved even further and I decided to make a shakshuka pizza burrito. You can’t get more American than Mexi-Israeli-talian fusion food!
I swear this idea is really going to take off. They’re going to be serving it in food trucks across the country. It’s the perfect combination of all three of the multicultural dishes it encompasses: the protein and succulent tomato sauce found in shakshuka mesh well with the fresh veggies that are common pizza toppings, and the whole thing is conveniently rolled up in wrap format, courtesy of a Flat Out flatbread, that makes it fun and easy to eat. With the wholesome protein of an egg, the vitamins and fiber from numerous veggies, and the whole grains and balanced nutrition provided by the Flat Out flatbread, this recipe makes a mighty meal for any time of day.
Here’s my recipe, but feel free to get creative and elaborate on it – make it a fusion of all the cultural flavors you find most delicious! If you have a cool idea for how to infuse even more tasteful elements into this wrap, please do comment!
Shakshuka Pizza Wrap
- 1 Flat Out brand light original flatbread
- 1/4 cup tomato sauce of choice (I used Ragu brand)
- 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (I used Lucerne brand fat free cheese)
- 1 egg
- 1 cup raw kale
- 3 white mushrooms
Spread tomato sauce across Flat Out flatbread, leaving only a little plain space around the edges. Sprinkle cheese on top. Quarter and add mushrooms. Heat this in microwave until cheese is melted.
Cook egg sunny side up. Remove from heat and place in center of flatbread.
Arrange kale across middle section of flatbread.
Roll flatbread around egg and kale to create a wrap.
Enjoy! Bon appetit, l’chaim, olé, etc.
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If you know me, you know my passion for dessert for breakfast. That’s why there’s a whole section of this blog devoted to Dessertable Smoothies! My recent Israel trip got me thinking about new ways to enjoy dessert in the A.M., guilt free.
One blistering hot day in Safed, after an hour of exploring touristy art shops under the glaring surveillance of suspicious merchants, my friend and I were ready for a refreshing lunch. I went with a classic falafel and pita combo, but found myself not so into the piping hot food as the sun beat down on my back. Luckily, my friend chose to order something from a quiet, though somewhat grimy, little café where we could both sit in air-conditioned comfort.
A while later, a waitress brought my friend’s lunch – an ice cream/granola sundae. A somewhat untraditional choice for the midday meal, but certainly tempting when it was too hot outside for “real” food! And Safed, like most of Israel, is hot.
View from a street in Safed: most all the streets are narrow and the cobblestone is slippery – walking in Safed is sort of scary!
After walking around in that cramped, hot town for hours, it’s time for a break…
How about some fresh pomegranet juice? (The word “pomegranate” is spelled three different ways on three different signs on this juice stand. Though I can’t really complain, since I don’t really know any Hebrew. I just thought it was cute 🙂 )
When I got home from the trip, I decided to experiment with ways to create the best of both worlds – a healthy, nutritious meal I could feel good about eating any time of day, and a sweet, summery treat to cool off and pamper my taste buds, rolled into one. The obvious choice was a frozen yogurt parfait sundae! I made both of these sundaes with Greek yogurt for less fat, more calcium and protein than ice cream or regular yogurt. One is fruity and perfect for a balanced breakfast, the other has a chocolate/mocha/caramel motif going on, and might be better left as a special treat as it contains sugary cereal. But hey, at least it has fruit!
If you’re going with a frozen treat for breakfast, lunch, or anytime you want to cool off and refresh yourself this summer, try either of these delicious, satisfying, and health-conscious fro-yo bowls: Tropical-tastic Breakfast Sundae or Macchiato Midnight Madness Sundae. These recipes each make one generous serving, but could be multiplied to serve guests if desired.
Tropical-tastic Breakfast Sundae
A fantastic fusion of lemony yogurt, luscious nectarine, sweet flaked coconut, and nutritious whole grain Great Grains cereal is the perfect guilt-free treat to fuel your day and satisfy your sweet tooth!
- 1 Yoplait 100 calorie Greek lemon yogurt
- 1 large, ripe nectarine
- 3/4 cup Post brand Great Grains cereal: Raisins, Dates, and Pecans flavor
- 1 tbs sweetened flaked coconut
Place yogurt in freezer for 45-60 minutes or until just frozen to the consistency of soft-serve frozen yogurt.
Roughly chop nectarine into bite-sized pieces.
Remove yogurt from freezer. Use an ice cream scoop to scoop some into desired bowl. Top this with some of the cereal. Continue layering yogurt and cereal until both are used up.
Arrange nectarine pieces around edge of bowl.
Sprinkle coconut flakes on top.
Macchiato Midnight Madness Sundae
An indulgent treat that can also be acceptable for breakfast! Treat yourself to decadent mocha-flavored Greek yogurt with a hint of caramel, layered with crunchy Cocoa Pebbles cereal and rounded out with fresh banana slices.
- 1 Dannon Light & Fit Greek 80 calories Caramel Macchiato flavored yogurt
- 3/4 cup Post brand Cocoa Pebbles Cereal
- 1/2 banana
Place yogurt in freezer for 45-60 minutes or until consistency is like that of soft-serve frozen yogurt.
Use an ice cream scoop to scoop yogurt from container. Layer yogurt and Cocoa Pebbles cereal in desired serving bowl.
Top with sliced banana.
Indulge and enjoy!
Hello out there,
It’s nice to be back! In case you are new to this blog, I just returned on Thursday from a twenty-five day teen trip to Israel that expanded my brain, taught me a thing or two about the holy land (and about b.o. as a major world issue!), and at times tested my physical and emotional limits. While the trip was awesome overall and a lot of fun, it was also my first time outside the U.S., the longest time I’ve ever spent away from my family, and many times I was presented with challenges I didn’t think I could overcome, like climbing Masada and descending into the Tunnel of Hezekiah.
I suffer from claustrophobia. Apparently the ancient Hebrews did not, for at one time King Hezekiah ordered a deep, dark tunnel to be dug beneath the City of David to reach an underground water source. Before traveling to Israel, I’d read about this tunnel, how it was dug by two groups of workers at two starting points, and they used a complex system of signals to ensure the two tunnels would meet and merge into one.
According to the fictional book The Source by James A. Michener, the two paths were off from each other until one of the diggers realized the other had strayed and enlarged the tunnel at the middle to encompass the divergent path and preserve the mistaken one’s dignity. I was interested to see what this tunnel looked like in person – until I reached the entrance and saw a long, steep flight of slippery stairs leading to a tiny, cramped hole of blackness.
Could I turn back? Already I was marching down the stairs, herded by the wave of tourists that had come along with my educational group. The human current pushed me down, down, down, and I resigned myself to making my slow way towards the source of my fear, clutching the rusty banister for dear life.
The stairs seemed to extend forever. When I finally reached the bottom, there was the mouth of the tunnel gaping at me. From the light emitting from a few lamps within, as well as all the cell phones blaring from the tourists around me, I could see a little clear, rushing waterfall leading the way from the ground on which I stood down into the black hole, which was hardly tall or wide enough for a modern person to comfortably fit into. My fellow group members ahead of me scrunched down and stepped inside, instantly vanishing. I could feel the impatient stirrings of the tourists behind me. It was now or never.
I sucked in a deep breath, then took one step onto the rushing water. I expected to be carried away by the current, but it was really just a nice jet of water like a cold, mucky jacuzzi massaging my ankle. I took another step in and crouched down to be swallowed by the tunnel.
Following the footsteps of the people ahead of me, I navigated my way through the space which seemed infinitely too small. The rough rock walls seemed to be closing in on me, and I was sure the rushing water would sweep me under.
As the minutes passed, I marched onward and presently found the fear and anxiety growing dull. I became aware of the gentle coolness of the water washing over my feet; surely this water was too calm to knock me over. I began to move forward more confidently, clutching the glowstick I’d been issued at the front to my heart – I didn’t need light to find my way.
The space in the tunnel widened, then constricted again at different points. But I was no longer scared – I was intrigued, excited to move forward (so much so that at one point I bumped my head.)
But I didn’t let that phase me. I continued on, noticing how the path took a sudden haphazard turn – that must be the point where the two diggers met and adjusted for the miscalculations of one.
When I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, I was happy to arrive at the end. But as I emerged into the fresh air again, I was not merely glad the ordeal was over. I was piqued with fascination with the history of this land I found myself in on an unprecedented 25-day adventure.
25 days later, I got on a plane bound for home, after an experience I will never forget. I had lots of adventures and tried lots of new things in Israel, many of which I would have been too afraid to do if I hadn’t been forced into it. As the plane took off I knew I had come to the end of a long tunnel – I was going home. But as part of being in the “tunnel” of being away, my horizons had actually broadened, not narrowed like the walls of a tunnel. In the darkness I had found light: I had become enlightened about many modern and ancient aspects of Israel that I didn’t know before, and I had also caught glimpses of the inner light inside of me that powered me to keep going during the hard moments of the trip.
Now that I’ve come to the end of the tunnel, I am inspired to take the lessons I learned inside about my culture, my planet, and myself, and use them in my life here in the states. Some of these lessons are deep and profound, and maybe I’ll post more on them in later writings if the jet-lag ever wears off. Some of them are lighter and seemingly insignificant – for instance, in Israel I saw a lot of interesting ideas for foods that inspired me to make some different things at home. Some of the ideas I had are based on traditional Israeli fare, some on the American-ized junk food that was accessible everywhere we went, and some just from random inspiration that hit me while traversing the holy land.
The first recipe I’m posting here, I made a couple days after returning home. It is inspired by the quiche that was served as a breakfast at several of the hostels our group stayed at. I didn’t try the sad, stale-looking concoctions languishing in the buffet troughs during the trip, but the idea of quiche appealed to me. So when I got home I picked up some fresh, reliable ingredients to make my own!
These Italian Veggie Quiche Muffins are quick to make, and are sure to be even quicker to disappear from your family breakfast table! And since they’re packed with fresh vegetables and lack a carb-y crust, each is a healthy and relatively low-calorie option to fit into a nutritious breakfast. Scrumptious and satisfying, served warm with melty cheese and pesto sauce gracing bites of baked egg and flavorful veggie morsels, these delicious and nutritious savory muffins are a perfect addition to any breakfast or brunch.
Are you hungry? Well, get ready for the light at the end of that tunnel! Click here for some yummy Italian Veggie Quiche Muffins for you, family and friends to enjoy.
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