♦ Steering Wheels

Dear Shaina,

I am typing on my new MAC PRO – way too much machinery for me.  I had my first one-to-one class today and actually learned how to download all my pictures and even understand a few things about the mysterious cloud. Now, if I could just learn how to take decent pictures.  If its any consolation to you, my videos are worse!

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Its been a tough week…hard to imagine that its been only a week. Gail came home from the hospital today and is healing well from her surgery although she still has a long way to go and there are still more questions to be answered.  All in all, we are feeling very fortunate.

I ran into a friend at the grocery store before the holidays and she said to me, “I am not wishing anyone a ‘Happy New Year’ this year.  I am wishing everyone a ‘Healthy New Year’ because if you are healthy, then you will have happiness”.  As I sat in temple all day yesterday and prayed for good health for all the people I love and care about, those words certainly rang true.

And once again, I am in the midst of a caring community that knows that food is the first line of defense – whenever there is a need for healing and nurturing and care giving. It is a way of doing something when the world ‘smacks us upside the head’ and reminds us that we have no control and that every day is a blessing to be cherished. Sorry for the schmaltz, but it’s just where I am. So, I am coordinating meals and working on schedules and doing whatever mundane things I can do to be helpful because …that is all that I can do.

I do want to say that I think the cleanse has changed the way your father and I experience food. We both felt so satisfied and healthy on the cleanse.  It was like our tastebuds woke up.  We talked about breaking the cleanse at the Break-the-Fast after temple and both of us were excited and hesitant about letting go of the cleanse-glow.  I wanted the potato knishes and Dad couldn’t wait for the desserts…and both were delicious, but the odd thing was…they didn’t give us the kick we thought they would after so many days of “deprivation.”  In truth, I wanted more lemon scented quinoa with kale and roasted tomatoes and crunchy pumpkin seeds (my favorite dish of the week).  So Shaina, thank you for this New Years gift…this cleanse experience really is a gift that reminds us daily to care about our bodies… and right now, that feels like a major gift!

Needless to say, I haven’t had much of a chance to do any new cooking this week.  But I have done a little reminiscing.

I was asked to make a dessert for a party last week and I wanted to make those chocolate cookies that Gail always makes that people love.  I actually originally made those cookies years ago from a recipe I found in a Bon Apetit magazine for Colossal Cookies.  I made them one night for Shabbat dinner.   And just as the recipe had instructed, I made them about 3-4 inches in diameter and they were ‘colossal’.

At the time, Daniel was about 3 years old and already had a taste for chocolate.  He picked up a cookie and said, “These are HUGE! They look like ‘steering wheels’.  Hence, ‘Steering Wheel’ cookies were born and are known by all far and wide as “Steering Wheels” regardless of their size.

Over the years, I lost the original recipe and Gail found another recipe that seemed to be equally satisfying. I got her recipe and made them for the party, but I was still bugged that I couldn’t find the original.  I searched through all my scraps of recipes and found a few errant pages from the Bon Apetit magazine, but no “Gobs of Chocolate” (the original name for these cookies) recipe.  I was crushed!  But, I did learn that the recipe was published in the September 1987 issue (before you were born… in fact, I was just barely pregnant) of Bon Apetit.

To make a long story short, I got all 12 issues of Bon Apetit from 1987 on EBay for $8.00 and they came today!

I know it’s not exactly on the cleanse…which I just went on and on about…but who says I can’t be a little fickle.

Life is pretty fickle…and pretty darn short..so enjoy these original STEERING WHEELS!

All my love,
Mom
xoxooxoxoxoxoxooxoxoxoxxooxox

P.S.
I realize that I didn’t really respond to your letter in my last letter.   There was so much going on here that I couldn’t focus.  Things have calmed down.  Gail is healing well and her prognosis is good.

Now that I have a few minutes, I do want to tell you how much your letter meant to me.  Having a child, especially a daughter, for me, has been one of the greatest gifts of my life. In truth, you could “yell” (get annoyed) at me all day long, in public or private, and it wouldn’t change my feelings for you  one iota. I actually have a much better understanding of Bubbe’s tolerance of all the “annoyedness” she had to put up with from me and I hope she has forgiven me for it.

I think that this letter correspondence thing is a good thing. When I got the “annoyed” letter, I had to stop and wait a few days to sort out my feelings and then think about what I wanted to say instead of my usual impulsive emotional over-reaction, which is even more annoying. I fully accept your apology and I look forward to many more years of annoying you. And hearing about it.

Sharing the kitchen with you as we prepared for Rosh Hashana was the best. Bubbe, and all the generations of Bubbes that we never had a chance to know, were there in the kitchen with us, marveling at the new twists on their old recipes and intrigued by the myriad of new flavors and foods being prepared for our holiday table.  They were there, kvelling watching our hands as they cut up garlic and onions and threw in a little more basil and mixed up huge shissels (Yiddish for large bowls that are too big to be called ‘large bowls’) of quinoa with kale.  Ingredients they never heard of, so different from the brisket and potatoes of their days…but they recognized the hands. They recognized the skill, the passion and the love in our hands…and so did I.

It wasn’t about “my way is better than yours.” It was about  merging the wisdom of yesterday with the spirit of today and creating a whole that is greater than the sum.  That is what we did in the kitchen this past Rosh Hashana…and I look forward to doing it again and again and again, with YOU …in my kitchen and in yours.

As we start the new year, I wish you health,  ever-evolving and fulfilled dreams, and days filled with life’s blessings.

Oh…and no more bad food pictures from your annoying mother!

All my love,
Mom
xoxoxooxoxoxooxoxoxooxox

Steering Wheels

      • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
      • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
      • 1/2 tsp salt
      • 1/2 tsp baking soda
      • 1/4 tsp baking powder
      • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
      • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
      • 2 eggs
      • 1/4 tsp vanilla ( i usually add a little more)
      • 3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
      • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
      • 3/4 cup peanut butter chips (my addition..why not?!)

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. line baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine first five ingredients into medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Gently mix in dry ingredients, then all the white, chocolate and peanut butter chips.

Mound dough on baking sheet using 1/3 cup dough for each cookie and spacing 5 inches apart.  With moistened fingers, flatten each mound into a 3-inch round. Bake until cookies are puffed and cracked, 12 – 14 minutes.  Do not over bake.  Cool on a rack.

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◊ Repentance

Dear mom,

In the spirit of Rosh Hashana forgiveness and my Esrei Yamim spiritual Cleanse, I’m sorry for “yelling” at you on our blog. Even though I wasn’t yelling.

You read too deep into my last letter… which you made pretty clear when I was home, carrying on about how I’m not nice in our internet communications blablabla. I didn’t intend to “yell.” I just wanted to express a tinge of annoyedness. So yeah – sorry. I didn’t mean it.

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Shlivovitz Shots… A Holiday Tradition

And really I so enjoyed being home for Rosh Hashana. The visit provided much needed familiarity and comfort. But my eye still hasn’t stopped twitching!! It’s been 12 days. I don’t understand.  Aside from the two days at the beach with you and dad and spending time with family and friends during the holiday, I admit that one of the best parts about being home was what was playing in the kitchen with you.

See… I did it. I said something nice.

But really, my visit home was such a luxurious trip. Our house is so full! Full of people, warmth and so much freaking stuff. You always brag, “If one of my friends ever needs to make a special trip to the grocery store, I tell them to come to my house first.”

You say the same thing about furniture, clothes and appliances. It’s sort of a problem. But your beyond-well stocked kitchen (8 varieties of sea salt, bulk pine nuts, unlimited chocolate chips!) almost made me want to move home. Such luxury! One of my favorite drawers in the kitchen is the Costco drawer (really we could call them all Costco drawers) that encases restaurant size rolls of saran wrap, foil and wax paper, and bulk zip lock bags. Jeez.

Costco Drawer

And I’m also so glad we got to go to the beach. It had been too long. How pathetic is it that it’s late September and I just got my first sunburn of the season? Stopping for boiled peanuts on the drive home was the perfect throwback.

My transition back to the “real world” hasn’t been as hard as I expected. I was dreading returning to the day-to-day grind of my life (is it possible for my days to be both uncertain and monotonous at the same time?) and feeling sad about leaving my comfy bed and childhood room. But I’ve had little time to think about all of that… I’ve kept busy with experiments and inventions in my own limited kitchen prepping for The Cleanse.

Last night, I used over half of the Costco bag of almonds you sent back with me. I made two versions of almond butter – in one I used raw almonds only and in the other I used almonds that I roasted with cinnamon and salt. They’re so different! I couldn’t fit all of the roasted almond butter into the tupperware I’d planned to use, so I left it in the vitamix and added a few of the dates and figs you sent back with me, unsweetened cocoa powder, oats, unsweetened coconut shreds, vanilla and walnuts. It was a total experiment. And guess what.

I broke the vitamix.

It just stopped working. How does that even happen?! I thought that the vitamix was made to handle anything! I’m hoping that it’s not broken… that it just overheated from too many nut pastes in one sitting. As we say in the south, it wo’ out.

The reason that I’m not too upset about it is because something amazing happened. Since the vitamix stopped working after the first 10 seconds my fudgy experiment, most of it got pureed, but a bunch of it was still left chunky. There are some walnut pieces and chewy oats that didn’t make it to the blade. And the result was so freaking yummy. So I added a bunch more oats and walnuts to make it even chunkier.

My favorite cookies in DC are dark chocolate salty oat cookies from Teaism, a restaurant in Dupont circle.. and these are the Cleanse version!The roasted almond butter binds all of the ingredients together, and the chunky remmnants add chewy deliciousness.

How is your cleanse going? Is dad sticking to it? I’m still waiting for the spiritual afterglow, but having too much fun eating and prepping. Pure food just feels better to eat! While trying to channel my gut/brain/spirit connection, I’m working hard not to force it…  waiting for my body to speak to my spirit, rather than leveraging my brain as an intervening interpreter. Dear brain, shhh.. stop stirring.

I’m sending you a few recipes that are all on the cleanse, including boiled peanuts because they are the perfect food for my homecoming nostalgia. And they’re on the cleanse (can you believe it?)!

I can’t wait to hear about your cleanse!

Love,
Shaina

Dark Chocolate Salty Oat CLEANSE Cookies

  • 1/2 c roasted almond butter
  • 4 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 tbs unsweetened coconut shreds
  • 2 pitted dates
  • 2 dried mission figs
  • splash of vanilla
  • dash (or 2) of cinnamon
  • 1/3 c water
  • sea salt
  • 1/3 c walnuts (chopped)
  • 1 c oats

Combine roasted almond butter, cocoa powder, coconut shreds, dates, figs, vanilla, cinnamon, sea salt and water in food processor and blend until chunky paste forms (no need to run processor until all the lumps are out). Then, stir in oats and chopped walnuts. Form into cookie patties and let set in fridge for a few hours before serving.

But remember these cookies are dense – while healthy, they’re definitely not low-cal. Remember when I made the Sweet New Year ladoo balls? You saw how much oil those produced. These are similar.

For RAW dark chocolate salty oat cleanse cookies, substitute roasted almond butter for raw almond butter. I can’t promise the same result that come from the nutty roastedness of the almonds, but I’m sure they’ll be tasty.

Roasted and Raw Almond Butters

  • Raw almonds
  • sea salt
  • cinnamon (optional)

 

Lay flat on cookie sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon and sea salt. Cinnamon brings out the sweetness of the nuts, but I only add a dash so that I can still use the butter in savory recipes. Place in oven for 20 minutes on 325 degrees, flipping the nuts at 10 minutes so that they don’t burn. Place in food processor, run until smooth, and hope for the best. For raw butter, skip the roasting step – Just place raw almonds, sea salt and cinnamon in food processor and puree until smooth.

Cleanse Almond Banana Treat

  • 1.5 tbs roasted or raw almond butter
  • 1 banana
  • cinnamon, coconut shreds and/or cocoa powder (optional)

Cut banana in half vertically and sandwich almond butter inside. Wrap with foil and bake in oven on 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with cinnamon, coconut shreds and/or cocoa powder and enjoy!

 

 

 

Boiled Peanuts

  • 1 pound unshelled GREEN peanuts
  • 1/4 c sea salt or kosher salt
  • 4 c water

optional seasonings: star anise, old bay, paprika

In the case of boiled peanuts, “green” means two things:
1. raw
2. fresh from the ground (not dried out)

The prep is simple. Place unshelled green peanuts, salt and water in large pot. Bring to boil. Maintain low boil for at least 3 hours or until peanuts are soft and mushy.

♦ ◊ Rosh Hashana Special

Dear readers,

Mother and daughter reunited in the kitchen to prep for Rosh Hashana meals.

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Together, we prepared beautiful food for our intergenerational family and friends ranging from the classics (chicken soup and matzoh balls, Kasha with Mushrooms and Onions, noodle kugel and brisket) to the new (lemon scented quinoa with pesto and kale and sweet new year ladoo). We tried to design most of our menu to apply to The Cleanse so that we’d have some leftovers for Esrei Yamim.

This is how my ___ turns out better than yours…

We threw around the above sentence freely throughout our work together in the kitchen, teaching one another new lessons. Our cooking styles are different (fo sho) but it worked.

The major consensus: no matter how much counter space you have, it’s never enough.

3 things daughter learned:

1. When roasting veggies in the oven, heat olive oil on the cookie sheet before placing the veggies on them. The hot oil will scorch the skins of the veggies adding an extra crunch. And you need a really hot oven to get good roasted veggies. With convection, the heat gets blown evenly throughout the oven with a fan, typically from the back, for more even and quick distribution of heat. If you have a convection-bake setting, you have the convection component as well as the normal heat coming from the bottom of the oven, which crisps the veggies with high heat.

2. I learned that the shapes I cut vegetables in makes a difference. Usually, I just cut vegetables into lopsided chunks or whatever’s easiest… that’s why they come out ugly.  Cutting veggies with sharp edges allows them to crisp better on the outside… and consistent sizes are important for timing.

3. You can wash sneakers in a washing machine and dry them in a dryer and they’ll come out like new… what?

3 things mother learned:

1. Turn off the overhead lights to minimize glare when photographing.  And white balance is important – when pictures are taken indoors, the colors in the artificial lights are captured, rendering the natural colors of what is photographed. The things that are actually white should look white in the photograph… not yellow or blue. This is best achieved when photographing in natural light or using flash. Take away: photographs should be taken outdoors or near a window with plenty of natural light.

2. I learned to be a little more experimental in mixing sweet and savory herbs.. like cinnamon and parsley. And sea salt! I learned about celtic sea salt, and that all the salts really do taste different.

3. If you let dried fruits and nuts run long enough in a food processor, eventually it will become a paste – the oil in the nuts will bind it together. And nuts have loads of oil, so be careful!

Kasha with Mushrooms and Onions

  • Kasha (whole buckwheat groats)
  • olive oil
  • mushrooms
  • onion
  • garlic
  • salt
  • pepper

This is an all time Jewish favorite!

First toast kasha on stove. Then, cook in water and salt according to instructions on box.

Meanwhile, cook onions in oil over low heat until deep brown – this will take a long time. Add garlic and mushrooms and cook til browned and tender. Stir into kasha. Add salt and lots and lots of pepper.

If you get bored of eating it like this, stuff the leftovers into pepper, add tomato and bake in the oven!

Kasha is also great as a garnish to any salad or veggie. Just toast the kasha and throw it on any dish for extra crunch!

Lemon Scented Quinoa with Pesto and Kale
Inspired this 101cookbooks.com recipe

  • 1tbs  extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 3 shallots diced
  • 3 cups cooked quinoa (here I used a combo of red, black and regular quinoa)
  • 1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
  • 2 cups kale, chopped and massaged with lemon and salt
  • 1/3 cup basil pesto
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • Juice and zest of 1 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup roasted cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup currents
  • 1/2 cup shopped scallions for garnish

Roasted tomatoes

Lay 1 pint of cherry tomatoes (seasoned with salt and pepper) flat on pan and roast in 350 degrees until shriveled and brown on the outside. This may take up to 1.5 hours.

In the meantime, cook the quinoa according to the box (I like to toast the quinoa in a pan before cooking – it brings out a nuttier flavor and always makes the quinoa more fluffy and chewy rather than mushy).

Heat 1 tbs of olive oil in pan. Add diced shallots and cook until brown. Add corn, salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Add currants last, leaving them in heat for 2 minutes – just enough to plump them.

Remove corn, shallots and currents from stove and stir in pesto.

In a separate bowl, add chopped kale, sea salt, lemon juice and lemon zest. “Massage” this marinade into the kale, gently rubbing the leaves until they become bright green and tender. This should only take 5 minutes.

When above components are complete, mix together. Add pumpkin seeds and chopped right before serving so that they stay crunchy.  The best part of this dish is the variety of texture – chewy quinoa, gummy roasted tomatoes, and crunchy pumpkin seeds. And look at all the beautiful colors!!

Honey Cake

  • 3 C unbleached baking flour
  • 1 TBLSP cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp

Mix all dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl

  • 1 heaping TBLSP of instant coffee or espresso dissolved in 3/4 C of boiling water (allow to cool to lukewarm)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 C oil
  • 1 C honey
  • 3/4 C white sugar
  • 3/4 C brown sugar

Mix liquids and sugars together

Mix sugar mixture into flour mixture.

  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 C raisins

Add to combined mixture and mix thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 350°.
Grease 2 standard sized loaf pans.
Divide batter into the loaf pans.
Bake about 45 minutes til toothpick comes out clean. Start checking at 35 minutes and do not overbake.

<img class=”alignright size-medium wp-image-693″ title=”IMG_0613″ alt=”” src=”https://shainashealy.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/img_0613.jpg?w=200″ height=”300″ width=”200″

Sweet New Year Ladoo Balls on The Cleanse

  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup dried figs
  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • sea salt
  • cardamom (best if fresh out of pods)
  • cinnamon
  • raisins
  • unsweetened coconut shreds

Dump all ingredients except for raisins and coconut shreds into food processor, and run processor until a smooth oily paste develops.

This may take a while depending on the food processor. If it gets warm, turn it off for a bit so that you don’t overheat the engine. Remove from food processor and mix raisins into paste. Roll into balls, and then roll in coconut shreds. Put in fridge to allow the balls to harden before serving.

cardamom pods

This version of the balls tasted a bit earthier than the original. I used only pumpkin seeds in the original version, which produced a creamier, smoother taste. Really, any nuts will work (any combo of fruity sweet and nutty fat is delish) – use whatever you have in the house.

Bubbe’s Potato Knishes

 Potato Filling

  • 5 lb potatoes
  • 3 lb onions
  • 1 tbs Mazola corn oil
  • sea salt
  • black pepper

Boil 5 pounds of good potatoes (I like the thin skinned red ones) in salted water until done

Chop up 3 pounds of onions (more if you like onions) and sauté them in a little Mazola oil until golden or as brown as you like.

Peel and mash potatoes, add cooked onions, a little oil and salt and pepper to taste.

 Dough

  • 1 c boiling water
  • 1 c Mazola corn oil
  • Gold Medal unbleached flour

Mix equal parts of boiling water and Mazola Corn Oil (1 cup each)

Add enough Gold Medal Unbleached flour to make it doughy and elastic. It should be soft, pliable, shiny and greasy to the touch.

 Putting it all Together

Take a small handful of dough and roll out on a floured surface until very thin and almost translucent in an oval shape that is longer than it is wide.   (12 -14” horizontally by 5-6 inches wide)

 

Place a tube-like amount (1 – 1 ½ “ diameter) of  the potato mixture filling about a ½ inch from the edge of the rolled dough closest to you along the length of the dough. Just plop the potato mixture along the edge of the dough and shape it as you roll it.  Imagine the potato mixture as a long thick hot dog that you will wrap dough around.  Use more potato mixture if you like really thick knishes.

 Start at the long edge of the dough closest to you and roll/wrap the dough around the potato mixture tightly to shape your roll (like a long horizontal tube) and continue rolling the dough around itself until you have wrapped it a few times. Because the dough is thin, wrapping it a few times will cover any holes that may have popped up. The dough is very stretchy and is actually pretty forgiving.  Close the ends by pinching the dough together or folding ends under.

 Lift the Knish “tube” and place seam side down on a cookie sheet sprayed with PAM or use parchment paper. Lightly score (cut) the top of the tube with horizontal angled cuts about an inch apart across the length of the tube to define each bite size piece that you will cut after the knish is baked. Do not cut all the way through.

Bake at 350º

Brush the top lightly with oil and bake at 350º until golden and crisp.  Cut along scored lines and place knish pieces on platter to serve immediately, if you can get them out of the kitchen before they disappear.  You will get several tube-like rolls of knishes from this recipe. You can cut 10 to 15 knish pieces from each roll depending on how big you make them. Bubbe’s knishes are generally no bigger than 1 ½ inches in diameter and cut into pieces about that long.  Whole lightly baked knish rolls can be frozen and re-baked at a later date when needed. Before rebaking, brush with a little oil and add a little salt n the top if you like them on the saltier side.  Pop the frozen knish in the oven at 350 and bake until crisp and golden.

 Options

If you run out of dough before you run out of filling, make another batch of dough, or just serve mashed potatoes with onions at your next meal. If you have too many fried onions, save them in a glass jar and use them next time you make something with fried onions, which in our house, was almost every meal.  If you run out of filling before the dough, just freeze the leftover dough and use it when you have some extra apples or peaches or blueberries and make a strudel.

 This dough is very versatile and can be used with any filling, sweet or savory, using the same method.  Some of my mother’s specialties were cheese knishes (farmers cheese with onions and dill, mixed with a little egg to hold the mixture together) and raisin strudel (finely chopped raisins and nuts held together with a little strawberry or apricot jam, with the dough topped with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar), all of them tightly rolled in the same dough and cut into those perfect bite-sized pieces

♦ Misunderstood

Dear Shaina,

Just got your out of order blog post and loved the recipes and the message.  I am moved by your depth and commitment and willingness to experience life in all of its dimensions.  I was just getting around to sending my response to your last post.


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I have to say I am relieved to get the Shabbat letter, not only because it is “nicer”, but really because it feels more like the authentic Shaina. I know you have many dimensions and I don’t begrudge you any of them, including your anger, even when its directed at me. But it is a relief to hear your more familiar self. In the meantime, I still need to respond to your Sept 7 letter.

I have read and reread my last letter to you, and yours to me, trying to understand your response which felt angry and unfair.  Perhaps I am not communicating well, or maybe you are reading more into my comments than I intend. I did not use angst as a label, but as a short hand description of what you most vividly described as your feelings these days. And I have no intent or need to try to throw any fixes at you.  In fact, I feel proud of your self-awareness and your ability to articulate your feelings… which is what I thought I was trying to communicate. But I obviously missed the boat on that one.

Of course you could have predicted my questioning of my life in Birmingham, as I could have predicted your questioning.  It’s a life process, something I’ve done most of my life… and something I expect you will also do throughout your life.

You think I had a clear vision in my 20’s? Hell no! I had dreams and hopes and yearnings and frustrations and lots and lots of uncertainties.  I was way more clueless than you.  I ultimately “fell into” this life, which wasn’t exactly the one I had in my “plans,” and I am continually amazed at how well it has all turned out despite the unexpected twists and turns. I was lucky to find love in my life, but not always sure I would, especially when I was your age.

What has become more clear over the years is the value of experiencing the moments….the good, the bad and the boring…while continuing to pursue those experiences that provide meaning, fulfillment and wholeness to your life…and always wrapping yourself in the love of family and friends.  Do I think we’re on the same page? Sort of…just very different stages of life, very different pursuits.  Am I concerned? Not at all. This is part of the experience of life, and I am glad you are having it.

So, just to be clear – this is not a pep talk.

I am not in the least trying to fix you. Nor am I the least bit concerned about where your life is going.  I actually think you do a pretty good job of balancing your “suffering” with pleasure and your stability and productiveness with risk-taking and adventure, with a little partying thrown in for fun.  So, go be angry at someone else.

Coming home from Oregon was a bit of a let down…heat, humidity, laundry and lots of bills and junk mail.  I am looking forward to relaxing at the beach and having some real-time conversations with you.  This little “just for fun” letter writing experiment is not so easy and not always so much fun either, so I am looking forward to some plain old talking it out.

I am also trying to get a little prepared for the holidays and starting to think about menus.  Since we’re going on the “cleanse” right after Rosh Hashana, I want to make some things that we can eat after our holiday meal.  I am thinking veggie chop liver (are eggs okay on the cleanse?), kasha with mushrooms and onions and a new Indian cucumber salad recipe.  Of course, I am going to make some of the traditional stuff also…Bubbe’s potato knishes, and maybe a kugel or two, and some apple crisp, of course.  Any requests? I’ ll send holiday recipes next time, when I figure out what I am doing.

Even the veggies are art in Portland

In the meantime, I got inspired to cook something delicious for dinner tonight.  We had so many creative, beautiful, unusual meals in Portland. So I tried something new tonight and it didn’t turn out quite how I wanted it to. But I am prepared to share a recipe with some modifications that I hope will produce better results.  It did look sort of pretty…even though my photos aren’t nearly as nice as yours.

I know we’ll be doing lots of shopping and cooking while you’re here and I am looking forward to cooking with you and watching you trash my kitchen.

Love,

Mom xoxoxooxoxoxooxoxoxooxox

Thai Cucumber Salad (modified with roasted eggplant)

Original Cucumber Salad

Dressing

  • 1/2 c brown rice vinegar
  • 2 stalks lemongrass ( white part only) sliced
  • 2 tsp sugar or agave or splenda
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic

Finely chop and blend in a blender or food processor

  • 4-5 small Persian cucumbers sliced
  • 3 scallions thinly sliced diagonally
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1 jalapeño seeded and minced (optional)
  • I added a little sweet red pepper sliced

Marinate sliced veggies in dressing 15 minutes

Final Outcome

before serving

  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro … More can be added to taste after eggplant is added
  • 3/4 cup chopped peanuts for garnish

I made this recipe and the dressing was a little strong. I really was disappointed in the flavor and overall taste. I recommend using less jalapeño.  I happened to have an eggplant that I was planning on roasting.  I cut it up in cubes, mixed it up with a little oil and salt and pepper and roasted it in the oven on the convection bake setting at 375 degrees until the edges were browned and the eggplant was soft.  I ended up mixing the eggplant with the dressed cucumber salad and added a little fresh basil. I topped it all with chopped roasted peanuts. Adding the eggplant to this salad saved the day and made a very substantial and tasty veggie side dish.

Let me know what you think if you try it.

◊ Shabbat and Prep

Dear mom,

As promised, here’s my out-of-turn post about our Shabbat dinner.

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Shabbat was a blast and first I want to show off our fancy menu:

Challah

*Chilled herby zucchini soup

*Massaged Kale with grilled orange peppers

*Porridge with grilled peaches in tahini herb sauce

Roasted tomato and corn chesapeake

*Curried quinoa with peas and cashews

*Gujarati eggplant

Bean salad with feta

Spinach and cheese frittata

Brownies

Followed by wine and vodka, I’d say the most popular dishes were the challah and frittata. I think when people are drinking and socializing, they veer from weird dishes heavy on the veggies. It’s too much effort to crunch, chew, swallow… and get drunk.

Arielle and I tried to stick with recipes suitable for the cleanse in preparation for our Esrei Yamim Clean experiment. Starred menu items above are “Cleanse” appropriate.

I know you know this, but for our readers…

Esrei Yamim is Hebrew for 10 days – it’s the term representing the ten days in between Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the day of repentance).

Here’s what I remember from Jewish Day School: Esrei Yamim is the time in which God chooses who will live and who will die in the upcoming year – God opens the book on Rosh Hashana, and for the next ten days scribes the names of who will live. On Yom Kippur, the last of the ten days, God closes the book to seal the deal. That’s why we’re so desperate to pray during those last few hours before the sun goes down on Yom Kippur. We get down on our knees and beg God for forgiveness.

It’s tradition to repent, reflect and purify during Esrei Yamim. It’s also tradition to ask people for forgiveness.

Esrei Yamim has always been a time for me to think about the previous year – my accomplishments, successes, failures; the big questions I’ve pondered; the relationships I’ve built, maintained and broken; the holidays I’ve celebrated with friends and family; the states and countries I’ve visited; the milestones – and to consider goals for the upcoming year – identify my needs for improvement; think of where I have room to grow; figure out how I can be a better person than I was last year; apologize to people I’ve hurt; write a list of my top ten most offensive sins.

I make resolutions during secular New Year too, but always draw a line between the types of resolutions I make on Jan 1 and Rosh Hashana.  My resolutions for the secular New Year are typically material resolutions:  I want to stop using the word “like” in my speech. I try to keep my resolutions for Rosh Hashasha on a more spiritual plane: I want to rely more on my gut than my brain.

I think of Esrei Yamim as a time to recharge and reset, so I can start the new year on a fresh slate.

This year, Arielle and I are teaming to inspire Jews from all over to participate in an Esrei Yamim Cleanse. We are posing the cleanse as an effort to integrate mind/body/spirit connection with our Jewish traditions. We’ve done “the cleanse” several times  (there’s even a category for it under the recipe index here!). I like the cleanse because it forces me to slow down and think about what I put into my body, to appreciate food that isn’t tainted by chemicals and synthetic additives, to taste the goodness of purity. Eating on the cleanse makes me feel clean.

The rules are:

  • No gluten
  • No processed soy
  • Vegan (plain organic yogurt is ok)
  • No alcohol
  • No added sweeteners (no sugar, no honey, no agave, no aspartame, no stevia, etc)
  • Nothing that comes from a package with more than 3 ingredients
  • No wheat

It sounds scary, but I promise that there’s still so so so much to eat. Visit 10yamimclean.wordpress.com for recipes, meditations, reflections and a virtual support group.

For some inspiration I want feature a few recipes on The Cleanse.

Curried Quinoa with Peas and Cashews

      • 2 tbs olive oil
      • 1 onion chopped
      • 2 c quinoa (I like using red quinoa.. I think less mush/chewier than white quinoa)
      • 2 tsp curry powder
      • salt and pepper
      • 3 yellow squash (recipe calls for zucchini)
      • 1 c carrot juice
      • 2 c peas
      • 1/4 cup sliced scallions
      • 1/2 c cashews
      • 1/2 cup golden raisins (or chopped apricots)
      • 1 bunch cilantro

Heat oil in a soup pot and add onions until brown. Then add quinoa, half of the curry powder and salt for two minutes to toast the quinoa (this will make it chewier and nuttier). Add 2 cups of boiling water and simmer for 20 min or until done.

Meanwhile, cook zucchini (or squash) and peas in oil and remainder of curry powder (add chilis or cayenne if you like spicy). Then, add carrot juice and salt and simmer for 10 minutes. Chop cilantro and scallions.

When veggies and quinoa are ready, mix together and add cilantro, scallions and raisins. Another option is to add peas separately (if you want to maintain their pure green freshness like I did in the above photo).

Grilled Peaches with Tahini and Herbs

      • 4 summer peaches
      • 2 tbs tahini
      • juice of 1 lemon
      • 1 c arugula
      • bunch of fresh sage, thyme, basil, and/or tarragon
      • salt
      • pepper

I have to give credit to Arielle for this one. It’s amazing. When she grilled the peaches, it smelled EXACTLY like cotton candy. Foreal. I think it was the burnt sugar of the peaches.

So.. cut peaches in half and lay face down on flaming grill. Grill until slightly charred. Let cool.

Chop arugula and herbs into small pieces and mix into tahini and lemon sauce. Cut peaches into chunks and mix into sauce.

Serve over greens or grains (I prefer greens).

Chick Pea and Raw Squash India Inspiration

      • 3 cups chick peas (cooked and drained or from a can)
      • 5 medium squash
      • Juice from 2 lemons
      • 1 tsp lemon zest
      • 1/2 c sliced almonds
      • 1/3 c apple cider vinegar
      • 1 tsp whole cumin seed
      • 1/3 c golden raisins
      • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
      • dash of cayenne
      • 2 tsp curry powder
      • 2 tsp turmeric
      • salt

This is a great recipe to throw together if you’re in a rush. If you’ve got a can of chick peas in the cabinet, it requires no cooking! Just mix spices with apple cider vinegar, spices, lemon zest and lemon, and mix with cut raw squash (cut into thin slivers), chick peas, raisins, and almonds. Add grated carrots for a treat!

◊ Feel Good

Dear mom,

I don’t like your labels. You think what I’m going through is angst?

Newsflash: this is my life. It doesn’t need fixing. Sure, it needs perspective every now and then. But I’m not some angsty 15 year old in need of a pep talk and a Prozac.

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I’m not depressed. I have fleeting in and outs with the overwhelming nothingsness of my life. I think that’s how it’s supposed to be. I’m not on any sort of career path, I’m cluessless about love, I don’t know what makes me happy, I don’t understand the value of most of my efforts… but am I really supposed to? What’s the point?

Panic. Calm. Nothing. Happy. Full. Nothing. Calm. Whatever.

Sure it’s frustrating, but I’m over the angst. It just is what it is.

I even feel like we’re on the same page, just communicating it differently. You and dad re don’t know what you’ll do next. You have another chance to think about what you want to be when you grow up. So you go to Oregon to experience the present moments in order to figure out what makes you feel good. I get that.

But…

  1. Is questioning your “fit” with Birmingham something new? Because I could’ve predicted that uncertainty years ago.
  2. You wrote that you had a clear vision for your life when you were in your 20s (friends, family, community), but do you have a clear vision of what you want now? I’m curious because I’m without one.

I do understand that Birmingham is comfortable and familiar. Nostalgia has a strong grip on my heart, and it pulls my desire to return to Birmingham all the time.

But right now, familiarity is boring and comfort is painful. I’m itching for a new adventure… one thousand bites from Indian monster mosquitos itching.

India. I’ve been thinking about it too much lately. Two years ago, I celebrated Rosh Hashana in an Ashram in Ahmedabad. It was a time where I felt that my life was so full (of who knows what). There seemed to be so much.

I think that you and dad are doing it right… Taking off on grand explorations to experience the present moment.

I need more practice. I do indulge in present moments, one by one… but I want to get lost in them. I want to get lost in and feel satisfied with my moments. How can I practice?

Yoga? I get too ancy.

Vegas? Dancing my pants off with thousands of half naked bodies in a murky day club pool is my zen.

Dani’s bachelorette party last weekend was out of control. We were 13 girls in 2 hotel rooms with 1 goal to party hard for Dani. And nearly a week later, my body is still in recovery from the debauchery.

First of all, can you believe it? Baby Dani’s getting married?! I don’t understand!! I’ve never seen someone so genuinely happy with his or her life. It makes me so happy to see her so happy. A glimmer of hope for all of us.

It was also refreshing to be with a group of girls just like me, 24 and clueless about goals and dreams. But the difference is that they’re ok. In my DC circle, it seems that everyone makes up some random goal/dream in his/her head, and works day in and day out to pursue the freaking dream for the sake of pursing a dream.

Just dance your pants off.

Maybe I’m looking for the wrong things. I’m sad because I don’t know what “dream” to pursue. But maybe the dream is to be motivated, feel good, explore new things always, grow spiritually and emotionally and learn continuously. Can I leave it at that? Can I be ok with it?

Are those the dreams that I can sacrifice everything for?

I’ll think about it…

Rosh Hashana is creeping up and I want to take a pause for some serious resolution making. I want to find what makes me feel good.

I want to do what makes me feel good in the moment.

In the spirit of Rosh Hashana and and indulging in the moments, I created two ridiculously indulgent, luxurious India-inspired recipes. They’re perfect for ringing in a sweet new year… and both gluten free!

They are rich. They are full. They are an adventure. They are even sort of healthy. And I made them up all by myself!

These two are a great success.

Love ya and Shabbat Shalom!

Shaina

PS. Arielle and I are throwing one of our Shabbat shindig/party/disasters tonight. Here’s a preview of the menu: grilled peach/avocado salad, succotash with roasted tomatoes and grilled corn, herbed zucchini soup and Gujarati eggplant. I may have to post out of turn to share the most successful recipes.

Sweet New Year Ladoo Balls

  • 4 C Raw Pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds)
  • 1/2 C Raisins
  • 2 Tbs honey or agave
  • Fresh cardamom to taste
  • Clove Powder
  • Sea salt
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 2/3 C Unsweetened Coconut shreds

Put pepitas, salt, coconut oil (just a drop!), honey/agave, and spices into food processor and blend until it becomes a dark green butter. Stir in raisins. Store in fridge for half an hour or until butter becomes firm. Remove from fridge and roll into balls.

Then, drop them in a bowl of coconut shreds until the balls become covered in coconut. Serve chilled or at room temperature (they become mushy in heat).

Stick to a gluten free diet? I don’t recommend trying to pretend this is Rosh Hashana raisin Challah… but I do believe the two serve the same symbolic purpose: round, sweet and indulgent.

Curry Cashew Butter

  • 2 C Raw Cashews
  • 2 tbs Curry Powder
  • 1 dash cayenne pepper
  • 1 dash sea salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric

Put all ingredients into food processor and blend until consistency of creamy butter is reached. It helps if you have a vitamix (it takes about half a minute), but I’ve done it in a cuisinarte and it works fine. If you use a cuisinarte, be careful of the engine/blades overheating. If they get to hot they’ll “cook” the raw cashews, and some of the sweetness of their rawness will be diluted.

Spread over apples and drizzle with honey… or raisin challah for a real treat!

Above: My tricolor tub of nut butters  – pepitas (pumpkin seeds, cashews and pistachios). Thank you, vitamix.