Friday, July 29, 2011

Project 365 - July 2-10

July 2 - Someone had recommended taking a picture when you return from vacation of
all your purchases so you can remember.   This is the Israel shot.
July 3- One of the pastries I brought home
July 4 - With Uncle Sam at 4 Mile Historic Park
July 5 - Fun reading to help plan the rest of the summer
July 6 - Prior to heading to the Big & Rich show at the Wells Fargo Theater, we used our Groupon at Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs.   This particular gourmet dog was all beef, wrapped in bacon with the "international" toppings of wasabi aioli, caramelized apple and shaved Irish cheddar.  The charred tahini cauliflower were also amazing!
July 7 - Groupon day 2, this time at Pasquini's DTC.  They also had $5 pitchers of Sangria. 
July 8 - Brand name fail.  I couldn't possibly order from Pudge Brothers. 
Then you know the pizza goes right to your gut.
July 9 - Celebrating a friend's birthday.  I went to three new places that night. 
and finished the night on the patio at 3) The Lobby

July 10 - I start baking again.  Click here for the recipe.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Does France really want me back?

It's good to feel wanted.  Earlier this week I read an article on Budget Travel about how France wants to rebrand itself as a more welcoming nation.  The primary goal is getting tourists to extend their length of stay...and consequently their spending.  France is definitely on tourist bucket lists - welcoming more tourists than the US each year- but people pop in to hit the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Versailles and then head off to cheaper and maybe friendlier pastures.  Not two days later I see another article in USA Today -What's the world's best bargain destination?   They priced out a summer night stay at a 4 star hotel, a cheese pizza, a martini at a 4 star hotel bar and a 5 mile taxi ride at major cities in the US and around the world.    The best value internationally?  Bangkok.  The total was $111.99.  The best value domestically?  Las Vegas at $163.59. 

Paris also made the list.   #1 on the list for the most expensive international cities.  A hotel night, pizza, martini and a taxi ride will set you back $428.88.

Maybe France doesn't want me back after all.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Recipe: Buckeye Cookie Bars

Growing up in the Midwest and attending a Big 10 university, I associate Buckeyes with Ohio State and not with a combination of chocolate and peanut butter.  Peanut butter and chocolate is always a winning combination.  I remember the Reese's PB Cup commercials that just showed someone dipping a chocolate bar into a jar of peanut butter.  This is a little more subtle than that...but not much.

From the Eagle Brand Classic Recipes book:   

1 (18.25 oz) package chocolate cake mix (used devil's food)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup chopped peanuts
1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk (used fat-free)
1/2 cup peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350.  In a large bowl combine cake mix, oil and egg and beat until crumbly.  Stir in peanuts.  Save 1 1/2 cups of the crumb mix and press the remaining in the bottom of a greased 13x9 baking pan.

Beat sweetened condensed milk with peanut butter until smooth.  Pour over prepared crust. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture on top.   Bake 25-30 minutes until set.  Cool and cut into bars (again - small for easy guilt-free sharing). 

Recipe: Quick BBQ Pulled Chicken

This recipe is modified from the March 2011 issue of Cooking Light (click here for original).   The sandwiches in the magazine were presented as sliders, but since slider buns were at least twice the cost of regular buns at the store, I opted to make full-size sandwiches.  What does this recipe teach?  That's it's really easy to make your own BBQ sauce that has a spicy kick.  This recipe was in the "Superfast" section of the magazine and it really was superfast.

Modified recipe:
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
generous squirt (or two) of prepared dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
2 cups shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast

dill pickle chips
Combine ketchup and all ingredients (except chicken and pickles) in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer; cook 3 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring occasionally. Add chicken to ketchup mixture; stir to combine. Cook 2 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly heated.  Put on a bun with a pickle chip and enjoy!

Also delicious on chipotle tortilla chips from Mountain Man Nut & Fruit Company.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Power of Donuts

Last week in the weekly update from church there was a special note: "donuts are back!"  Having been out of town most of June, I didn't know they were missing.   But I was glad last week when a cherry frosted donut was there for me to enjoy during the service. 

Apparently donuts are on the 'sweet schedule' for the church academic year (September - May) and take vacation, just like people do, in the summer.  Today during the service, one of our pastors highlighted the return of the donuts and talked about her childhood when she would go to the choir room of her parents church where she was allowed 1 donut each Sunday...until one day a tall kind stranger asked if she wanted a second one, just this once. 

Growing up the church I attended in the country (Rock Prairie) had 'Cookie Sunday' once a month.  Naturally this was our favorite Sunday of the month.  Mom said that we could have two cookies.  I interpreted that as two cookies - when she was looking.  So many different delicious cookies, how could I possibly just pick one?

I associate donuts with church, vacation, and now, leaving for the airport (Winchell's is open 24/7).  Donuts weren't in the house when I was growing up.  Maybe they fall in the "special occasion morning food" category.  Eggs Benedict would fall in that category too...although that's not a church or leaving for the airport food for sure. 

The return of the donuts also reminded me of an incidence where cereals were taken out of the cafeteria at work.  One day one of the managers was telling us about a conversation with his employees, "The most pressing issue according to our employees? The removal of the cereals from the cafeteria."  Sometimes it's the little things, the things that seem insignificant, are what people really care about.

The moral of the story? Bring on the donuts.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Recipe: Lemon Crumb Bars

Last weekend I was in the mood to bake again - it was convenient that I could bring treats to work for a co-worker's birthday on Monday.   I pulled out the Eagle Brand Classic Recipes book and looked through to see what sounded good.  Lemon ALWAYS sounds good.  This is an easy recipe, the filling is very similar to what I use when making key lime pie.   The use of saltine crackers was a surprise, but it added a little salty crunch that was pretty tasty.     A friend told me she liked them because they weren't too lemony.  Personally, I might make them more lemony next time...or even lime.

1 (18.25oz) package lemon or yellow cake mix (used yellow - on sale for 88 cents)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine softened
1 egg
2 cups finely crushed saltine cracker crumbs (let me say that I went for a more "coarse" approach)
3 egg yolks (my lucky dog got the egg whites)
1 (14oz can) sweetened condensed milk (used non-fat)
1/2 cup lemon juice from concentrate

The recipe called for a 10x15 jelly roll pan.  I used a foil lined 13x9 pan instead for a little thicker bar.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease pan.  In a large bowl combine cake mix, butter and egg, mix well (will be crumbly).  Stir in cracker crumbs.  Reserve 2 cups crumb mixture.  Press remaining mixture firmly in bottom of pan.  Bake 15 minutes.

In medium bowl combine the egg yolks, milk and lemon juice.  Mix well.  Spread evenly over crust.
Top with remaining crumbs.  Bake 20 minutes or until firm.  Cool, cut into bars and store in the fridge. 

As always, I cut things into pretty small pieces so that people feel less guilty about trying a treat.  Give them something too big and they'll say "oh no, I can't".  Instead it becomes "they're tiny, have two!"

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Travel vs Home Improvement

Home is where the heart is...
Don't get me wrong.  I love my family and friends.  I love Denver.  But I'm starting to think that the American dream of homeownership is a dream best left to people who like to paint after work and shop at Lowe's on the weekends.  I am not that person.  I started out wide eyed and excited: new sinks and lights, painting a bathroom, installing new door knobs.  The magic lasted about a year.  The honeymoon period has long since ended.   A new shower door?  I could fly to San Diego.  Energy efficient windows?  A volunteer trip to Costa Rica.  I have determined that I would rather rent and live closer to downtown.  Alas the economy is not in my favor today.  Hopefully my new ceiling fan will bring me as much joy as a road trip. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownies

After vacation and recovering from vacation, I was finally inspired to cook again.   There is a joy to having someone else cook all your food for you.  It should be part of the actually definition of vacation.  Speaking of joy - this recipe includes Nutella.  How can you go wrong?   I've made things similar to this before - sometimes from scratch and sometimes using brownie and/or cookie mix.  

This came from the Evil Shenanigans Blog - click here for the recipe.

Vacation style - make yourself a cappucino, sit on the deck and enjoy.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Project 365: The Rest of June

I've been much more interested in writing all my Israel posts while my memory was still fresh, so haven't been as concerned with my photo project, although I've still been taking a photo a day.   These pictures take you through June 23 and my Israel pictures cover the rest...and then some.

June 14 - Flowers

June 15 - Thought these would be my walking around Israel shoes -
still love them, but wore my Tevas all over

June 16 - Bus Etiquette Fail

June 17 - Random Propaganda at light rail stop

June 18 - Who knew the biggest comb in Texas was here at the Goodwill?

June 18 - A crazy afternoon at the Wildlife Experience
June 19 - First visit to the Old South Pearl Farmer's Market and delicious
ceviche from the Little Orange Rocket

June 20 - PB&J Cupcake from the Denver Cupcake Truck
June 21 - A delicious addition to deviled eggs 
June 22 - New to me travel purse from Goodwill
June 23 - Great read on the flight to JFK en route to Tel Aviv

Saturday, July 16, 2011

July 1: Holy Sepulchre and the Return to Palestine

Sunrise in Jerusalem - July 1
Friday July 1 was a sad day, because it was our last day in Israel.  It started early...why sleep in on your last day in the country?  I met Dave and Lisa at our bakery in the Jewish quarter.   I had my cappuccino in hand when they walked in the door and then Lisa gave her tour guide commentary on the way back to the hotel. 

We started the day walking through the Damascus gate - the same gate I had walked through the night before.  This time, though, there was a police presence.  Why?  It's Friday.  The Muslim holy day and the start of the Sabbath.  We started by walking the Via Dolorosa - the stations of the cross.  Apparently now there are two Via Dolorosa, the traditional one and another used by Catholic pilgrims today.   Why are there 14 stations of the cross?  Because of the 14 generations mentioned in Luke and Matthew. 

Station 5 - Simon carries Jesus's cross
We finished at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  We started by going up the stairs to Calvary, where Jesus was crucified.  Unlike the artistic Christian pictures you might see that imply that Calvary was a mountain, it was really about 100 feet up a rocky up cropping off the main street.  Since crucifixion was capital punishment, they wanted the criminals above street level where everyone could see them.  The church has 6 denominations present and they each maintain some portion of the church (and do not maintain anything that doesn't belong to them). 

Inside the Holy Sepulchre
Outside the church, I had my one moment of worry of the entire trip.  A random guy came out of the church and then took his machine gun back from whoever was watching it.  It was loaded.  I felt slightly better when he grabbed the hand of a child who must have been a part of his group.  I felt even better when he went away. 
Our next stop was the refugee settlement of Dheisheh in Bethlehem.   This was a refugee camp from the war in 1948 that has morphed into a full time permanent settlement.  There were a little over 3,000 people living there in 1948, on less than a square kilometer of land, and now there are about 13,000.  We got a tour of the camp from Shaeed (exact spelling unknown) who is very passionate about the plight of the Palestinian people.   The fun part about walking through the settlement was the kids.  They didn't like to be photographed, but they loved saying hi and practicing their minimal English, as well as playing hide and seek.    To learn more about the camp and the Phoenix foundation (their cultural and recreation center) click here.

Turnstile left from when there was a gate at the settlement. 
Keys symbolize the Right of Return for the Palestinian people.
Our last group activity was our "Last Supper" our celebration lunch at a Bedouin style tent restaurant in Bethlehem called the Shepherd's Tent.  On the way we passed a bakery whose claim to fame was the Guinness World Record size Katayef (or Konnefeh) in the world.  A giant pastry.  What could be better?  Peter actually stopped at another bakery along the way to the restaurant to see if he could find one for us.  We lucked out that we were able to have it for dessert at the restaurant.    At lunch we went around the table and everyone shared their best moments of the trip.  It was fun to think about all the great moments in just 10 days of time.  What's the best?  The church service at Mt. of Beatitudes?  Floating in the Dead Sea?  Sailing on the Sea of Galilee?  Standing on the ancient stairs?  Everyone had a different memory.  

The site of our Last Supper

Not the world's largest Konnefeh, but delicious nonetheless

In the afternoon, we had time to pack, shop, nap, whatever.  I had 40 shekels left to spend.  Bought a bottle of wine, a soda and then one last cappuccino from the hotel that I drank quickly before we had to walk to the bus. 

And that's where I end my reflections of Israel. 
It's never as exciting going home from vacation as it is going. 
Hopefully these posts encourage you to experience Israel for yourself. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

June 30: The Wall & The Rock

In a very small space in Jerusalem you have serious holy sites.  Thursday was the day of especially modest dress for us ladies.  Shoulders, cleavage, you name it, we covered it.  We started at the Western Wall, which is one of the most sacred spots in Judaism. Parts of the wall date back to the second temple period.  The wall is always open for prayer.  Two thirds of the wall is the male side and one third is the women's side.  While we were there, boys were celebrating their Bar Mitzvah's.   Over on the women's side, sisters, mothers and other relatives would stand on chairs and lean over the partition to watch the action as well as taking videos and photos.  At the wall, you see people rocking while they are praying, especially on the men's side.  The rocking can help keep you focused while praying - Brian said that while he was on the men's side, you start doing it because those around you are doing it - it becomes a community of prayer.

The men's side of the Western Wall
Taking my turn on the women's side

You can go from the Western Wall on to the Temple Mount - just a little more security.  

Riot gear on the bridge to Temple Mount

Peter, our guide, referred to the Temple Mount as the most expensive piece of real estate in the world - the value is beyond measure to the three major world religions.  The second temple was on the Temple Mount, the location of the Holy of Holies is unknown, but anyone of the Jewish faith who comes on the mount has to be careful that they don't walk over it (which is why the Chief Rabbinate has forbidden them to go on the Temple Mount).  For evangelical Christians, the second temple has to be built again for Jesus to return, so the land must remain protected.   For Muslims, this is where Mohammed ascended into heaven.   Who owns the Temple Mount?  It's a tricky question.  Under international law it is part of East Jerusalem, so it's Palestinian.   Under Israeli law it is annexed land that belongs to Israel.   There are two main structures on the Temple Mount:  The gold roofed Dome of the Rock and the El-Aqsa Mosque.

After leaving Temple Mount we went to the pools of Bethesda and the Church of St. Anne.  

John 5: 1-9

"Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.  One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked."

We had another Presbyterian (bad) singing moment in the church, which has amazing acoustics.  Afterwards we held a prayer for healing in the gardens and had a few minutes to explore the grounds. 

Our next visit was to Yad Veshem, the Holocaust Museum.   I've been to the Holocaust museum in Washington DC, but it was a long time ago.  The exhibit was extremely well done, and I learned a lot.   You can't take photos in the museum, but a photo wouldn't do it justice.  It's something you need to experience for yourself.

View from Yad Veshem

Our last visit of the day was to the Israel Museum.   We went to see two things: 1) The model of Jerusalem from the time of Herod 2) The Dead Sea Scrolls.    Throughout our time in Jerusalem we were constantly challenged to remember which place was which from the time of Jesus and what things (like the gates) were built afterwards.   As you can see below, Matt was a master at remember what valley was where and which temple was what.

Matt masters the map

Model of Jerusalem (this is Herod's temple)

After visiting the museum we were free for the afternoon.  Due to our plans for Friday, we were encouraged to visit the Holy Sepulchre independently if we wanted to go inside the tomb because there is usually a line.   We lucked out without having to wait.   After leaving the church, I went on a bit of an exploration on my own, walking outside the gates and then entering the Muslim Quarter through the Damascus gate.  The market there was not for tourists, it was fruits and vegetables, clothes, headscarves, toys, and other things for daily life.  I got a little turned around at one point, but some guys smoking sheesha (waterpipe) sent me in the right direction and I made it back to the tourist market in time to buy some jewelry (and get some for free), chatting it up with the storekeepers.    Sitting on the roof terrace on Thursday night, knowing it was our last night in Jerusalem, soaking it all in, finishing up our wine....time well spent.

The tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

June 29 continued: Ancient Stairs and the Upper Room

Peter and Brian reenact Jesus telling Peter he will deny him three times
After lunch and our coffee break we went back to following Jesus's last days.  We visited the "Church of the Cock Crow" (Sancti Petri in Gallicantu) that references Jesus's claim that Peter would deny Him three times before the cock crowed (Matthew 26:34).   Most likely this church is the location of the high priests house where Jesus was first tried.  Jewish law would have prohibited any sentencing after dark, so He was put into a pit overnight and then tried first thing in the morning.   The church was beautiful and then we descended into the pit.  It is tradition to read Psalm 88 in this place.  When John was done reading the Psalm, the lights were turned off and we reflected silently in the dark pit.

LORD, you are the God who saves me;
day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.
I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
who are cut off from your care.
You have put me in the lowest pit,
in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
my eyes are dim with grief.
I call to you, LORD, every day;
I spread out my hands to you.
Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
Is your love declared in the grave,
your faithfulness in Destruction?
Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?
But I cry to you for help, LORD;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Why, LORD, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?
From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me.
All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me.
You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
darkness is my closest friend.

"No, I don't know him."
Outside of the church are the 'holy stairs.'  These stairs do date to the time of Jesus and were the ones that He walked on going in to Jerusalem. 

My feet where Jesus walked

Leaving St. Peter's we went to Mount Zion.  The big site here is the Coenaculum which is believed to be the room of the Last Supper.  The room in question was also used as a mosque later on in history.  The building is part of a Crusader Abbey (interesting fact - during crusader times the pelican was a sign of Christ because the mother pelican will give of her flesh to her chicks).    The Upper Room commemorates a variety of stories from the Bible including: washing feet, the breaking of bread, the descent of the Holy Spirit (pentacost), doubting Thomas, Jesus telling Judas he would betray him and Jesus telling Peter he would deny him.   The story of the Pentacost in Acts 2 was another fulfillment of a story in the Old Testament.  In the OT in the story of the tower of Babylon, people are cursed with different languages so they can't understand each other.  In the New Testament story of the the Pentacost in Acts 2, the crowd comes together with each person able to understand the story in their own tongue (the church universal is brought together in Christ).    We also had a chance to visit King David's Tomb - a big site for both Jewish and Muslim pilgrims (and in fact the only place on the entire trip where as women we needed to cover our hair). 

Olive Tree art in the Upper Room was a gift from Pope John Paul II
The tree symbolizes that Christianity, Judaism and Islam all stem from the same root
After visiting the Upper Room we were free for the afternoon and I headed to the market with Brian and Ashley.  We did some bartering for gifts to take home and then headed to a bakery in the Jewish Quarter that I found on Tuesday.   I have no idea what the name of the bakery is - all the signage was in Hebrew.  But just turn right by the Armenian restaurant go down the long alley, dodge the school kids, go down the stairs by the fruit shop and then turn right and you'll be there.   The pastries were AMAZING!  No wonder I was jumping for joy.


Thank you Ashley for taking this great picture!


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