◊ Wary But Ready


Dear mom,

Tomorrow I leave home again. My direction is just as unclear as the last time I left (and the time before that)… the difference is that I’ve become more comfortable with not knowing things. This time, there’s less fear, less adrenaline, less newness attached to stuffing suitcases with this-and-that for life with clouded purpose in a foreign country. A sack of my favorite teas, a quick-dry towel, sneakers and good socks, a down pillow, four cameras (yes I need them all), ear plugs, chocolate chips for the plane, etc, etc… I know what I need.

From the front yard

From the front yard

Living with you and dad has been (uhh… how can a 25 year old with overbearing/hysterical parents word this kindly?)… motivating… but I will miss the small life I’ve rebuilt in Birmingham during these 3 months.  I’m already waxing nostalgic over my cooking-gig guided by “clients’” health needs, luxurious ingredients and big counter space along with all the other stuff: family and old friends, long runs through wooded trails, the first ever AL organic cotton, this company. Yes, pour-over coffee joints, Villager Yoga and hipster popsicles (requisite to any urban wannabe) are proof that Birmingham is rising.


Thank you for the luxury to return home and recharge. Each time I leave home I feel sort of like I need to resume fight-mode… Tomorrow I’ll muster a new energy and the next day I’ll turn it up a notch to navigate a new place, new language, new people, new foods (!), new projects.  What am I getting into?

Tomorrow opens a new chapter. When I sound ambivalent about the direction of my life, others assure me that I’ll figure it out soon. I’m 99.5% sure that I won’t because what does that even mean?

I’m wary of veering from the path I’ve built to move to Jerusalem because why?  But I’m ready… at least for some good hummus.




Right: not edible
Left:  will make you see funny things


best purchase of the summer: a shitake sprouting log

These recipes honor the luxury of home-life. I was never able to afford porcini or any other fancy mushrooms when I was out on my own (well… my priorities weren’t right) so I did some mega experimentation at home. I made two dishes with a variety of dried mushrooms (chanterelle, cremini, shitake…) – both vegan and both satisfying: Vegan Mushroom Risotto and Hearty Mushroom Farro. Porcini and chanterelle mushrooms were my fav with intensely earthy, deep meaty flavors. The farro was the best dish of the summer… hearty and toothsome (Arielle taught me that word, isn’t it good?). It’s even better topped with creamy cashew cheese, a rich vegan treat. A pairing of the two = the most luxurious meal ever.


Mushroom Farro

  • 1 cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 6 cups salted water (or vegetable stock)
  • 1 1/2 cups farro
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1 lb fresh portabello, shitake, cremini or baby bella mushrooms
  • Salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • good black pepper, freshly ground
  • Parsley, chopped


Put mushrooms in water and bring to boil. As soon as water boils, lower heat to simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large skillet. Add the onions and cook until translucent about 2-4 minutes. Add the garlic, fresh mushrooms (not the porcinis), salt and thyme. Cooking (stir often) about 8-15 minutes, until mushrooms are tender and onions are brown.
On a separate skillet, heat a drop of olive oil. Cook farro in olive oil until fragrant (about 3 minutes) while stirring.
Remove porcini mushrooms from water with a strainer, rinse, chop, and add to mushroom and onion mix.

Add farro to mushroom broth (you should have about 5 cups) and bring to simmer for about 45 minutes or until tender. The grains should be chewy and splayed. If water remains, continue to cook until grain is splayed. When ready, combine mushroom/onion mixture with farro. Remove thyme sprigs and add plenty of fresh ground black pepper.  Garnish with parsley (thanks for the idea, mom) and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if you please. Stir and serve warm!


Creamy Vegan Cashew Cheese


  • 2 C raw (unsalted) cashews or cashew pieces (pieces are usually cheaper), soaked overnight, then drained
  • 1/3 C nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp good sea salt
  • spices (you can do ANYTHING! For the mushroom farro, I’d stick with black pepper, but I’ve used a variety of herbs to liven things up in the past. Last time I put in a spicy smoked flavoring… delish!)
  • 1/2 cup water… more as needed

To soak cashews, cover with water and leave for 6 hours or overnight. When ready, drain cashews from water and add cashews and other ingredients to food processor. Puree all ingredients until creamy. The consistency should be like peanut butter, but add water if you want it looser. Chill for four hours before serving. If you like a firmer cashew cheese, strain pureed mixture in a cheese cloth overnight. Discard extra liquid and serve cold.


♦ Schuster Shealy


Dear Shaina,

I laughed out loud, while shedding a few tears, when I read your response to Dad’s guest post. As if I didn’t know that the predominant gene pool stamped on your DNA had SHEALY all over it…

The minute you were born, after they slapped you to make you cry (Schusters don’t have to be prompted to wail loudly), they laid you down next to me for the first time.  I looked into your eyes as you quietly eyeballed me…and there you lay…clearly a mini Allen Shealy replica!  As you got older, the comments veered more toward, “We never knew Allen was so pretty.” I was grateful that at least you got my eyebrows!


The Shealy genes penetrated far beyond appearance. By the time you were two, I understood that the die was cast and that I should give up any attempts at trying to mold you in my image, or any other…you were hard-wired. So much for nature versus nurture!

You were quietly cautious and  took your time…with everything.  You were shy with strangers, easily manipulated by your more Schusterly cousins and adored by everyone! Even as a small child you emitted a sense of calm, loving acceptance and tolerance.

Lest anyone think that you were simply a sweet, adorable child, easily malleable by the prevailing players in your life, that was not the case. The strength of your core, the individuality of your spirit and the stubbornness of your will were apparent and readily available to you when needed.

Your pre-school teachers would place your cubby next to the most out-of-control boy… every year.  They knew you would ignore the bad behavior while promoting a sense of calm around you. When you decided that ballet classes and soccer games involved too much public performance for your comfort, you simply stopped, literally in your tracks. I had no choice but to take you home and hope the next activity might be a better fit. Even at the age of three, you would modify the teacher’s model of an art project, creating your own version from some vision in your head…and then other children would copy yours. You were/are a leader, quiet and non-dogmatic, but clearly present.

You are so like your father! Your signature, Shaina Shealy, speaks to your comfort in your genes. However, the impact of nurture has not been totally undercover. I would like to think that some of your creative skills have come from the hands of your Schuster relatives…along with the importance of family, friends and tradition, your love of food and cooking for large hoards of people and, of course, your keen bargaining skills. Perhaps, someday, the Schuster may find its way back into your given name, Shaina Schuster Shealy, no hyphens necessary.

Maybe the biggest challenge for an only child overdosed with love and attention and privilege from two doting parents is to find her own voice.  You took that on from an early age. I know you often feel that your path eludes you, yet the thing I am most proud of for you, is that you have the courage to pursue that search. You have learned to trust and follow your voice…wherever it may lead you. Your voice…and your path…may change over time, but you have mastered the process of paying attention to who you are.  Despite all the Shealy and Schuster chatter, the Shaina murmurs ring strong.

I sit here in the living room  wearing the soft cotton housedress, a gift direct from India from you (it’s what all the Indian mothers wear around the house). You putter around your room identifying the things you will need as you set out for a year of study and exploration amidst the Schuster family ambiance in Israel.
I sit with my own meld of mother worry and pride, an all too familiar feeling.  It has been a lightning quick summer filled with kitchen mess, stuffed refrigerators, endless trips to multiple grocery stores…and friends and family…sharing old traditions, trying on new ones…tashlich (casting away of sins) at the farm, new tastes at the holiday table, escaping from temple during Yiskor…the Schusters and the Shealys, together.
Rosh Hashana was an extravaganza of tastes and blessings. You requested Pomegranate Tabouli, a sweet and savory salad that has become a new Rosh Hashanah tradition.  As you leave Birmingham for the land of milk and honey…and pomegranates…I hope this dish is a reminder to you of how two seemingly disparate flavors can produce something beautiful, sweet and uniquely flavorful and captivating.  This is your dish!

We cooked together, we prayed together and we gave thanks. We looked to the new year with hope and promise. You bring so much that is fresh and honest and spiritual into our lives…making us better than we ever thought we could be. I will miss this time with you…even as I reclaim my kitchen.

I wish you safe travels, new friends, enlightening adventures…and an ever stronger voice!


Pomegranate Tabouli
With apples, walnuts and Pomegranates

  • 2 cups flat leafed parsley, finely chopped
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1 cup crisp sweet apples, diced unpeeled
  • ½ cup red onion, diced
  • 1 ½ – 2 teaspoons ground smoked paprika or chipotle chile pepper
  • ½ cup raisins or currants
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice and zest from one lemon
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • Honey (optional)
  • 1 cup walnuts


Mix first six ingredients together in a bowl. Stir in pepper, lemon juice and zest and oil. Season to taste with salt and a little honey if you like a little more sweetness. At this point, the mixture can be covered and refrigerated for up to two days.

In a dry skillet, over medium heat, stir walnuts until toasted, about three minutes.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  Crush with the side of a knife or in a mortar with pestle until they are in coarse pieces.

Stir crushed walnuts into pomegranate mixture. If mixture has been refrigerated, set it out at room temperature for about an hour before adding walnuts.

6-8 servings


◊ Thanks dad


Dear dad,

Next time I question who I am, I won’t drive out to the farm to find my name. Instead I’ll look for a perfect tomato, slather it with mayo and layer it with egg in two pieces of white bread. I’m sure the egg and tomato sandwich will root me plenty. It is the food of my childhood… a summer treat that you made when mom’s work kept her late, the garden turned out beautiful home-growns or you entertained my friends and me with your attempts at the one-handed egg flip.

The other day, I had a friend over for the first time who was surprised when I said that my parents were out of town: “Your parents? I always assumed you lived with just your mom. I always hear Shaina’s mom this and Shaina’s mom that… but I’ve never hear much about your dad.”

Last week I received a check in the mail for “Shaina Schuster” and in high school I had to correct my friends: my dad isn’t Schuster… his last name is Shealy.

Mom is definitely the louder voice in our family, but please let’s not confuse her volume with her side’s influence on my nature. It might not be so apparent, but your “country roots” contribution to who I am extends a few notches beyond the egg and tomato sandwich.  Our family talks a lot about Bubbe’s kitchen and her recipes, but your mother coveted her time in the kitchen too … And let’s face it, my kitchen habits inch more towards your mom’s than Bubbe’s (who kept the ends of her curtains tied in plastic bags – curtain condoms – so they wouldn’t get dirty). Sorry, mom… I do not lament my lack of Schuster-obsessiveness.

I’m with Tom Robbins on his last-meal wishes: the egg and tomato sandwich is a perfect food.  Thanks for sharing and for sparing our readers from your second favorite sandwich – I cringe – banana and mayo on white bread.


I created the following recipes with The Cleanse in mind. I’m cleansing in celebration of Esrei Yamim, the ten days in between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. I’ve experimented with raw, paleo and vegan diets, but The Cleanse feels like the healthiest eating style for my body.

If you’re interested in the cleanse, visit our cleanse recipe page to get inspired and leave a comment if you want to learn more… I’m always excited for new cleanse buddies!
Mom, it’s so much easier to cleanse when I’m at home with your three freezers and three fridges stocked to their brims with nuts, dried fruits, weird flours, restaurant-sized tubs of spinach… there’s no lack of cleanse-friendly foods!

Big Kale Salad

Tahini Dressing:

  • 4 tbs tahini paste
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp honey (optional)
  • 1/4 cup warm water if needed
  • salt and black pepper to taste


  • 1 big bunch of kale, destemmed, torn into pieces
  • 1 tsp course sea salt
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • dash of chipotle chili seasoning, to taste


4 medium carrots, shredded or finely chopped
  • 2 peaches or nectarines, cut into bite sized pieces
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced thinly
  • 1 medium golden or red beet, cubed into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 avocado, cubed into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup toasted sunflower, pumpkin seeds, almond slices, and/or walnuts

Make the dressing by pureeing tahini, lemon, garlic, honey, etc with an immersion blender or food processor until smooth.
Pile kale into a big bowl. Massage lemon juice, salt, paprika and chipotle chili seasoning into kale leaves. It sounds silly, but the massage is crucial… you have to exercise the leaves until they are tender. Gently rub the leaves with your hands for 2 – 5 minutes. This can be done the night before, hours before or minutes before serving.

Just before serving, combine the kale with half of the dressing and remaining ingredients. Use your hands to gently toss ingredients together. Drizzle the salad with remaining dressing if desired.


Miso-Sesame Soba Noodles with Pan-Fried Tofu


  • 1 package (12 oz) dried soba noodles (I like to use 100% buckwheat, but they can be hard to find and expensive. More common is a buckwheat + spelt or wheat combination.)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 5 shallots, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons grated, peeled ginger
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cane sugar (optional)
  • 3 tbs miso paste
  • 2 tbs brown rice vinegar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs toasted sesame oil
  • IMG_90971/2 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tbs toasted sesame oil
  • 1 package (12 oz) extra-firm tofu, sliced
  • 1/3 cup black sesame seeds
  • 2 heads of baby bok choy, chunked and steamed (or blanched)
  • 2 heads broccolini (baby broccoli), chopped into bite size pieces and steamed (or blanched)

1 bunch of chives or scallions, minced

Cook the soba noodles in well salted water, drain, rinse under cold water. Set aside.

For the dressing, combine shallot, salt, sugar, ginger and garlic in morter and pestle. Crush until ingredients are well-mashed. Heat olive oil in pan and add shallot, salt, ginger and garlic. When browned and fragrant, remove from heat and whisk with toasted sesame oil, miso, vinegar, onion and lemon zest. Stir vigorously until all ingredients are incorporated.  Set aside.


Drain the tofu and pat it dry. Cut into matchstick shapes and season with a pinch of salt,  1/2 tbs olive oil, 1/2 tbs sesame oil, and black sesame seeds.  Cook in a large pan on medium heat until tofu is golden brown on both sides. This may take 10 – 15 minutes.
In a large bowl, toss the soba noodles with the veggies and dressing. Top with tofu and garnish with chives or scallions.

Guest Post


Dear Shaina,

Thanks for inviting me to be a guest contributor to your and your mom’s blog. I’m glad you wanted me to describe the making of my tomato sandwich which I have made for us many times. And I’m assuming this invitation is not just because your mom is busy cooking for Rosh Hashana.

This is an appropriate recipe for me to write for you because it relates to my “country roots” contribution to who you are. I used to feel shame about my dad selling eggs in town, raising our own wheat and grinding the flour, and eating mostly fresh vegetables or ones we canned during winter. I wanted to be like town people who bought bread and other groceries at a store. Now city people want to be like country folks, at least about groceries.



I was at the farm today and when there I always make a point to see the “Shaina Lane” sign. When you were born, my basic hope as an older father was to live long enough for you to remember me.   Now the danger is that I might live so long I won’t be able to remember you. So the sign may come in handy.

Rock Ridge completion 12 01 07 356

In one of my early travels to NYC I was walking across Central Park feeling insignificant and had a mild depersonalization experience. When I emerged from the park there was a pet shop where I knew I could find a Tropical Fish Hobbyist book “Cichlids of the World.” My name was in the book under a photo I had taken… When I saw it and read my name, I felt rooted in the world. So if you ever question who you are, drive to the country and see the street sign with your name on it.

To be remembered is so important to Jews, maybe because it is as close to eternal life as we get. And my beliefs don’t include an afterlife, so in the words of Todd Snider “Babyface, that’s all I’ve got.”

It has been really nice to have you home for the summer. Let’s find time to go to the farm and walk and talk-or at least walk- before you leave for Israel in a few weeks.




Fried Egg Tomato Sandwich

In Wild Ducks Flying Backward Tom Robbins wrote an essay about what his last meal would be if he were facing the hour of execution. It was the tomato sandwich made with two slices of Wonder bread or some other white bread you might find in a 1950 kid’s school lunchbox. Other necessary ingredients were Hellman’s mayonnaise, a home-grown tomato, and plenty of salt and pepper. The proper tomato for our sandwich is also the topic of a bluegrass song: “There’s just two things that money can’t buy; that’s true love and home-grown tomatoes.”

I would modify TR’s recipe for my last request by adding an “over easy” fried egg.



  • IMG_1363Two slices of fresh white bread, for example, Merita or Claussen’s brand. Do not use any bread that claims to have whole wheat as an ingredient.
  • One preferably warm, just picked home-grown tomato. If you don’t have this growing in your garden, it would be OK to buy a tomato from a farmer’s market. Do not use Mountain Pride, Roma or any tasteless type of tomato bred for shelf life which is all you will find in grocery stores. My favorite is Rutgers; most “heirloom” varieties such as Brandywine are not acidic enough. Beefsteak will work.
  • Hellmans Mayonnaise; at least two tablespoons; the more, the better.
  • Salt and black pepper; LOTS of salt.
  • Two fresh eggs, preferably just laid with dark yellow yolks. If you have your own chickens you will occasionally get a double-yolked egg which is ideal.

Begin with the two untoasted pieces of white bread; if it is not absolutely fresh, or has been refrigerated, microwave for five seconds (both pieces together) or until the bread is soft. Slather at least one heaping tablespoon of mayonnaise on each slice. Have your frying pan medium hot and break your egg (or two) into the pan; being careful to not break the yolk. While they are frying for less than a minute, cut enough thick slices of juicy tomato to go to the edges of one of the bread slices. When this is done (you have to do it quickly; otherwise the eggs will be overcooked), slightly break the yolk(s) with your spatula and flip the eggs and cook the other side for maybe five seconds, depending on how hot the pan is. You want the yolks to be a little runny but not too much.  The perfect sandwich will have a runny yolk that comes to the edge of the bread but not spill out when you bite into it. Sprinkle the tomato slices liberally with salt and black pepper before you put the egg on top of the tomato slices. Cap it with the other slice of bread and eat it while it’s hot with a cold glass of milk.