◊ Dependence


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Dear mom,

You’re wrong. I wasn’t delusional about my ability to pack up and move to India on my own. I had a plan. But you offered to help and told me not to stress, and I let you pull a packing miracle because I knew you would.

And now here I am in India, pulling the same shit. I’m ready to depend on no one but myself and just as ready to depend 100% on others. There’s no other way.

My second day here, I took the local train during rush hour by myself to get to the Pracheen studio, my favorite place in Bombay. I knew the train, platform number and exit. But competing with flying elbows amidst hoards of frantic pushers and shovers was nothing I could have prepared for. I told a woman standing next to me that I needed to go to Masjid station, and she grabbed my arm and we ran together (elbows out).  The train doors opened and knocked out any sense control I had left in me. I shuffled my feet onto the ladies only car in sync with those of women sandwiching me on all sides. Half an hour later, as the train approached Masjid, someone put her hands on my shoulders and turned me towards the right side of the car. Another woman placed my hand on a rail near the exit.

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And I reached Pracheen (image above) in one piece! It was heaven. I spent two days at the studio asking questions and watching the printers do their thing. And I somehow managed to keep my rupees in my pocket (don’t worry, Ill be back).

At home, I rely on people and systems – here, I don’t know the systems. I make self-guided plans with enthusiasm, and scratch them without regret when I’ve miscalculated. I planned to spend yesterday at a women’s craft workshop, and ended up with a new friend at an Alabama-mega-church-style Guru garden/museum/monument dedication. It was weird. But I eventually made it to the workshop.

I rely on people and I embrace independence at the same time. I could have packed up my life in DC all by myself. But I let you help me.

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omg I love Indian kitchens

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Preparing salads and dosai

When I arrived in Bombay, I steered my bags and Aditi’s home address towards the taxi station until I heard Aditi and her father calling my name. They waited at the airport for my delayed arrival and took me home. Aditi held my hand as we crossed streets, coordinated my cell phone plan, indulged my playtime in the kitchen with her mom and filled my water bottle before I knew it was empty over and over again. Aditi’s family took care of me, and I learned yum maharstrian recipes from her mom (she cooks just like you – doesn’t rely on exact measurements, uses tons of garlic, is open to new/weird things (like my special salad creations) and even uses a piece of granite as her cutting board like you!). Below are recipes for her Pudina (mint) Chutney and Pohe.

Please use the vitamix and enjoy!

love,

Shaina

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PS. I want to tell you about all of the foods I’ve been eating here and brag about my intestines of steel (I figure I’ve already paid my dues to the intestine gods, but can you say another special prayer just in case?). Currently I’m sitting in a cafe facing a window… Outside, there’s a street-food vendor in a huddle of pani puri slurppers. Pani puri is my second favorite street food (followed by fresh cucumber with masala and lime). A puri is small fried cracker-bowl – pani puri is puri filled with potatoes and chick peas and spicy/tangy tamarind water. Pani puri balls are eaten in one bite – quickly, one after the other… crunchy and explosive. I want it.

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Above: I went to an organic farmers market in Dharavi (Asia’s largest slum) where they had organic pani puri! I don’t believe it.

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Basic Kande Pohe

  • Flattened Rice Pieces (can be found in Indian specialty market)
  • 2 tbs vegetable (or coconut) oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 large or 2 small onions, chopped finely
  • 1 bunch cilantro (corriander leaves) destemmed and chopped
  • 1 (or 2 depending on taste) green chili, chopped
  • 1 bunch curry leaves, destemmed and chopped
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 potato, diced
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Fresh (or dry unsweetened) coconut for garnish

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(Substitutions: If you don’t have access to an Indian market, you can substitute cracked wheat, rice, cream of wheat or vermicelli noodles for flattened rice pieces. Aditi’s mom often makes poha with cracked wheat, and adds cabbage and carrots for a heartier dish.)

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Aditi’s mom created a coarse brush to spread oil onto her pans from pieces of coconut shell… perfect for making thin dosai. She claims it’s her own innovation.

Cover rice pieces with water and set aside. Heat oil on high heat in skillet and add mustard seeds. Cover skillet for one minute or until you hear the mustard seeds begin to pop (covering the skillet/pan is important – the mustard seeds will fly when they pop and can be very hot… remember the 1st time you tried cooking with mustard seeds, mom? You had seed burns on your neck!). Then, add cumin seeds and chopped onions. Cook until onions are translucent – about 4 minutes. Then, add half of the chopped cilantro (reserve other half for garnish), green chilis, curry leaves, tumeric, sugar and potato. Cover and cook for 3 – 5 minutes until potato is soft. Drain water from rice pieces and add to skillet along with lime juice and salt.  Cover and let cook for 5 -8 minutes stirring every 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered for 5 minutes. Garnish with coconut and cilantro.

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Pohe is a signature Maharashtrian breakfast and snack, but is eaten all over India. It’s super easy to make, nutritious and filling. I remember eating pohe shoveled from a gigantic yellow mound on a trafficky street in Ahmedabad a year and a half ago, where vendors feed busy men rushing to their offices in the morning. Despite eating amongst the dust, gasoline fumes and constant honking, it was delish. But Aditi’s mom’s pohe blew me away. All of her ingredients were so fresh – she even grated coconut straight out of the shell. She makes Pohe every Sunday for breakfast. It’s easy to make and nutritious. Traditionally, when men visit homes to meet potential brides, the family serves pohe as a snack. Curry leaves pack iron and turmeric helps circulation.

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Eating instant Pohe at 5am after a night out in Delhi

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Pudina (Mint) Chutney

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  • 2 bunches fresh mint (3 cups destemmed and flattened into cup)
  • 1 bunch cilantro (coriander leaf) (1 cup destemmed and flattened into cup)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 3 (or 1 or 2) green chilis
  • juice of 1 fresh lemon
  • salt

Put all ingredients into food processor and puree until the ingredients are no longer recognizable. The end product should be a thick paste.

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Pudina is usually eaten as a chutney to accompany partha (stuffed flatbread) and other dishes, but at Aditi’s house, I stirred Pudina chutney into a salad with cabbage, beets, carrots, sprouted mung beans, yogurt and lime. Another great way to eat pudina is with plain yogurt and a boiled potato (sounds weird, but it’s perfect I promise).

See where I’ve been:

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Train station in South Bombay

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Organic greens at farmers market!

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Falooda! It has chia!

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Pracheen

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The walls are lined with blocks

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whack!

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I had did an amazing bike tour of Havelis (old mansions) in Old Delhi… In the first minute of the tour, I almost crashed into a man carrying a skinned goat on his shoulder.

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It’s been great reuniting with old friends… I went on a road trip with Tarini and her friends and we ended up at the Taj. Typical Sunday adventure..We tried (and mostly failed) to get some good poses in.

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Learning about craft from my guruji

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♦ Attachment…Not Such a Bad Thing

Dear Shaina,

Although I admire your efforts to waste nothing (you got that from Bubbe and me), I must admit I was a little overwhelmed (horrified) by the remnants of all those little bits and pieces strewn about in the most unlikely places throughout your house (maybe a few traits from your father’s side, too). Packing up a life, even under the best conditions, is a messy dirty process and yours ranked right up there. As far as getting everything into the car…was there a choice?!

You thought you could put all your stuff in a few bags, plus your backpack and carry-on luggage for India, and hop on the bus to New York and somehow get to New Jersey to store your stuff and then take off for India…all by yourself.  No wonder you felt calm…you were delusional!!  I could say, you owe me, but in truth, we will be leaving you with enough stuff (we are all so attached to our STUFF) to make up for all the packing I could possibly do for you.  Know that you have my full permission to dispose of all of our junk, when the time comes, in whatever way you want!  In the meantime, I am inspired to do some cleaning out…for your sake.

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So here I sit…left with a super-high-end, not so clean blender, some exotic teas and a plastic container full of pungent spices, about all of which I am clueless.  I will touch them, smell them, gaze upon them and maybe even use them…just to feel your presence as you move further away on this leg of your life’s journey. I will watch anxiously for your infrequently meted out emails designed to assure me of your existence as opposed to inform me of the intricacies of your very foreign life. You are ever-present and notably absent from my days.

IMG_0825My world does revolve around you (parents of only children also process things differently). I am attached!  And despite my attachment, I am proud of you and honored to be the packer, schlepper and guardian of your material attachments.They are the promise that I will be reconnecting with you before I even get a chance to clean out my own closet.

Dad just returned from his week-long ski trip. We have been traveling in different directions for the past month. I’m not quite the same without him…a little lost, less motivated and a bit restless… even slightly disoriented. It wasn’t that I stopped living…I exercised and played mahjong and watered the plants and went out with friends and did the laundry…all the while enduring a sort of fuzziness around the edges of my being.

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Home Again!

We’re both finally back at home, together.  I went to yoga, he watered the plants, I made breakfast, he went through the mail, I did the laundry, he built a fire…and we sit together in the living room, taking in the misty fog outside, as he reads and I write.  My fuzziness has faded. It seems a bit retro to admit that the fullness and clarity in my life is so dependent on the daily presence of the man I live with. It’s a little scary, too. I am clearly attached. And, it’s really not such a bad thing…

Where are you anyway?  We want to hear from you. We miss you!  After all, we are very attached!

Love,
Mom
xoxoxoxooxooxoxoxoxoxoox

P.S. I haven’t done much cooking lately, but I did prepare a few comfort foods to get us through these rainy dreary days. All recipes are vegetarian and gluten free to accommodate the needs of friends, but everyone seems to like them anyway.

Mock Chopped Liver:


This makes a great vegetarian, gluten free appetizer served with crackers, chips, carrots, sugar snap peas or any veggie you like.
Very easy to prepare in a food processor.  Makes about 4 cups.

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  • 1 small raw onion
  • 1 ½ cups walnuts
  • 3  14.5 ounce cans of cut green beans well drained
  • 3 hard boiled eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients, in the order listed, into the large chopping bowl of a food processor using the chopping blade.

Pulse until all the ingredients are chopped and blended together.

Continue processing for another 30 seconds or more until the mixture is a smooth but still slightly grainy in consistency.

Add plenty of salt and pepper to taste.

May be garnished with chopped hard boiled egg, olives or parsley.

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Easy Split Pea Soup:
This hearty and healthy soup is great on cold winter nights, even in Birmingham, Alabama.

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  • 2 – 3 cups dried green or yellow split peas
  • 6 -8 cups Vegetarian broth or water mixed with soup powder or  bouillon
  • 1 large onion
  • 3-4 carrots
  • 3-4 stalks of celery with leaves
  • 4-6 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tblsp fresh basil or 2 tsp dried
  • 1 apple peeled and cut in small pieces
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp (or more) cumin (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse split peas and put in a large pot with 6 cups of broth or water with bouillon, soup mix or any other soup flavoring.

Bring to a boil and simmer peas while preparing vegetables. Stir occasionally.

Put onions, carrots, celery and garlic in a food processor and chop into small pieces.  They don’t need to be pulverized.

Throw chopped vegetables into the partially cooked peas and continue to cook on a low flame stirring occasionally.

Add chopped apple and continue cooking on a low flame until all ingredients are tender (about 30-40 minutes).

Add spices, salt and pepper to taste.

When vegetables cooked through, blend in the pot with a stick immersion blender.

Add water and adjust spices if soup is too thick.

Options:
3-4 Tblsp of white wine or red wine wine vinegar can be added if you like.
To vary the flavor, try adding Indian spices to the mix.
Garnish with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt, parsley, or dill.

The kind of day to stay home and make soup...

The kind of day to stay home and make soup and cookies…

 

Gluten Free Oatmeal Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip-Raisin Cookies:

Bring all ingredients to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Makes 4-5 dozen cookies.

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  • ¼  cup butter
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¾ cup regular sugar and 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tblsp vanilla
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • ¾ cup Chocolate chips
  • ½ cup peanut butter chips
  • ½ cup raisins or currants

Mix sugar, brown sugar and butter together.

Add eggs, vanilla and baking soda and mix well.

Mix in peanut butter & oats.

Add chocolate chips, peanut butter chips and raisins.

Mix everything together.

Place 1 inch flattened balls of dough on a lightly greased cookie sheet (or use parchment paper) about 2 inches apart

Bake for 12 minutes

Enjoy!

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◊ Clearing Out

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Dear mom,

 
You instructed me to enjoy it all… and I can assure you that it happened during my final days in DC. I enjoyed every last bit and bite.
My intentions of zero waste and minimal $s sent me on a dizzying pantry-emptying bender during my last weeks in DC. I pressured myself to use all the ingredients I had on hand creatively. Combing through my freezer, I found crumpled baggies of oats and quinoa and almond meal and chia and flax seeds and coconut shreds and figs (note that my kitchen staples aren’t the typical ones) tucked away in corners and beneath ice trays. I dumped heaps of these ingredients into puddings and cookies and cakes, mixing and crazed like a mad scientist. I spent more time with my food processor than my computer. My experiments were mostly successful…  Even though the yeast rolls came out hard as rocks and the cakes tasted like too much buckwheat, I did enjoy it all.

 

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Unfortunately the clean-out energy didn’t make it up the stairs into my bedroom. But you did! You swooped into DC and packed up my whole room in just 6 hours. Maybe my kitchen clean-up was just procrastination of the real thing. I know you think I have a lot of junk.. but if it was really a lot, we wouldn’t have been able to fit it all in one car. But we did it and I’m out of my house and out of DC. What?

 
IMG_1912And tomorrow I go to INDIA. Why am I so calm? It’s not a familiar feeling. I’ve never ever EVER felt content before a big change. It’s not in my nature to feel at peace with my decisions before I take action. I’m never at ease during my last night somewhere. But I’m sitting on the couch updating our blog like it ain’t no thing. Am I in denial of the situation? Is it going to be a disaster? Or am I just bored of stress?

 
This year I understood that the world is big and I am small. My life is nothing… in a good way. My world revolves around me, but the world does not (obvi a menial realization, but we only children process these things differently…). I’m nothing and it’s a load off. No one cares.

After tomorrow, I’ll have no food processor or kitchen. No climate control. No down comforter. I know things won’t be easy, but it’s part of the package. And I hope to enjoy it all!

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So please enjoy these recipes inspired by the last few crumbs of my DC kitchen. See you in a few months!

Love ya, see ya later,

Shaina

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Raw chocolate pudding

Making “puddings” from leftover pantry staples became an obsession as I was getting ready to leave DC. I created endless variations on this healthy treat and each came out differently. Below lists my most successful combination of ingredients, but I encourage experiments. Always.

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  • 3 c hot water
  • 1/3 c flax meal
  • 1/3 c raw almonds
  • 1/3 c pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 c raw cashews
  • 1/3 c coconut shreds
  • 4 pitted dates
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 1 tbs cinnamon
  • 4 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder (or 6 for extra deep choco flavor)
  • 2 tbs chia seeds

Pour hot water over oats in food processor and let stand for at least five minutes. In separate vessel, mix tbs chia seeds with 1/2 cup of water and let sit (chia seeds will absorb water and form a gelatinous ring around them – chia seeds help our bodies absorb water and are an excellent source of fiber). Add all ingredients except for chia seeds to food processor and blend on high speed until smooth (for vanilla pudding, leave out cocoa powder). Add water to loosen mixture. Once all ingredients are blended into a smooth liquid, stir in chia seeds.

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Let set in the fridge – it will thicken overnight. Top with a dollop of yogurt for a healthy breakfast. It’s RAW and on the cleanse! Wow.

Add peanut butter, cardamom or whatever for additional flavor.
Leftover Veggie Crunch

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  • 1 1/2 c greek or plain yogurt
  • 3 large eggs2  cups leftover/pre-cooked brown rice, room temp
  • 1 dash nutmeg
  • generous tsp of black pepper
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 c  spinach, finely chopped
  • 2/3 c leftover cooked rice
  • 2 c kale, de-stemmed and finely chopped
  • 1 c carrots, chopped
  • 1/3 c butternut squash, diced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 heaping tbs pesto or chopped basil
  • 1/4 c almond meal or sliced almonds

IMG_2908 (1)Whisk eggs, yogurt, nutmeg and salt/pepper until frothy. Chop spinach and kale into fine threads, and dice carrots, squash and onion (or whatever veggies you have on hand) into chunks. Chop garlic. Stir veggies, garlic, rice and basil (or other fresh herbs – dill, basil, sage, parsley, whatever) slowly into wet mixture and pour into greased casserole dish.  Top with almond meal or sliced almonds and bake for 20 minutes on 350 degrees. Edges should be crisp and and brown.
Quinoa cookies

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  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flourIMG_1873
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder, cinnamon, clove powder and/or nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (I use tri-colored quinoa because it’s pretty)
  • 1 cup rolled thick oats
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, crushed into small pieces

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and desired spices in bowl and set aside. With a fork, whisk or electric mixer, beat oil, sugar, agave, eggs and vanilla for about 3 minutes. Add flour mixture and blend well. Stir in oats, quinoa, raisins and nuts. Spoon onto baking sheet in 2-inch balls about 1 inch apart. Bake for 15-20 minutes until brown on the edges.