◊ #Blessed

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Dear mom,

#blessed #food #childhoodobseity #notreally

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#Bubbe. Bubbe interacted with us, her grandkids, almost solely via food. She fried blintzes for us, she peeled potatoes with us, she scooped us ice cream, she counted the chocolate chips that went into each cookie she force-fed us. We schlepped her to the grocery store, we brought her butter, we enlisted her in apple-chopping, we ate and ate and ate.

Bubbe showered us with indulgence. She conveyed gratitude, love, power, comfort, something, everything, through food. We — I — inherited this mechanism to cope with my own gratitude, power, drive, something. It feels good to make things.

But why so much?

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Why do you make over 300 hamantachen at once? Why do I cook for 20 when I’m hosting a dinner for 5? Why are the only posts in our family whatsapp group pictures of food and injuries from pushing ourselves too hard? Is it genetic that we, the grandkids, can’t sit still… that we thrive off of extremes? That we wake up one day and decide that baking 99 recipes will be fun? Your inheritance was an appetite for survival… is it part of ours too?

Our #blessings are also our neuroses.

Yes, food is metaphor. Our approach to it reflects our anxieties, values, loyalties. It shows our evolution.

Xo,

Shaina

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Around this time of year during my childhood, I’d be sick from Bubbe’s hamantaschen. As soon as the latke parties ended, she’d bust out the flour, jam and “hoil.” In her later years, she made Valentines Day cookies out of hamantachen material. She’d shape the dough into little hearts that she copied from playing cards, and topped them with strawberry jam and chocolate chips. I know she copied the heart shape from playing cards because one year she messed up and made cookies in the shape of spades. She still called them hearts. It was like how she used to make pizza with Velveta cheese.

I decided to pull a Bubbe and mix two cultures into one: I made traditional Persian cookies and added my own “filling” to retain the feel of hamantaschen.

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These cookies, called Nan-e Nokhodchi, are delicate gluten-free Persian cookies, usually decorated with a single pistachio. They are a perfect accompaniment to normal hamantaschen or a holiday alternative for those who keep a gluten-free diet.

DSCF2068Cardamom Scented Persian Cookies with Date Filling

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 5 tbs ground cardamom
  • 2 Tbs. rose water (the kind for baking)
  • 4 ½ cups fine chickpea flour
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt

Garnish:

  • 1 cup dates
  • ½ cup raw almonds
  • 1 tbs ground cardamom
  • 1 tbs rose water
  • pinch of sea salt
  • ¼ cup raw pistachios

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Cream butter with sugar, egg yolk, cardamom, and rose water in bowl. Add chickpea flour and mix well until lumps dissolve. Cover the bowl with foil or plastic wrap, and place in fridge to sit for at least one hour.

In the meantime, combine almonds, dates, cardamom, rose water and sea salt in a food processor until a paste forms.

When dough has sat for one hour, preheat oven to 300 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a teaspoon, scoop a spoonful of dough from the bowl and place into your hand. Roll the dough gently forming a ball in your hands. Press your thumb into the middle of the ball to form a dip in the cookie. This will flatten the cookie.

Fill each “thumbprint” with the date and almond paste and top with a single pistachio.  Line the cookies onto baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes until edges are brown.

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♦ Inheritance

Dear Shaina,

Thank you for your kind words. In truth, parents never know what their kids are picking up from them, the good and the bad. We put effort into intentional teaching; don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t hurt others, play nicely, share your toys, work hard, “no” won’t kill you, say please and thank you. We teach what we think are the essentials to get along in life and hope for the best. We also know that kids mostly learn from unintentional teachings, the good and the bad.

Dad and I both grew up in families that didn’t exactly fit the Leave it to Beaver TV family norm of the 50’s. Despite our different backgrounds and lifestyles, the basics were the same…our families loved us deeply and sacrificed for the hope of our futures. They were honest and hard working and gave everything they had to ensure our success in life without even knowing what that might look like. We were immersed in environments that taught us, unintentionally, that the value of each person doesn’t come from what they wear, where their house is, how they speak, which clubs they belong to or what kind of work they do.

Roasting a lot of veggies lately

Roasting a lot of veggies lately

We didn’t know any better than to just be who we were. It wasn’t always an easy learning. It took longer than I care to admit to accept and value the eccentricities of my growing up home life and understand the richness of what I learned from living in a home where two people, fueled by the instinct to survive, struggled together to build a new life for themselves and the family they were creating from scratch. Different isn’t bad. Honesty and integrity are key. Learn how to take care of yourself…and do it. Family first. It’s OK to need your children as much as they need you…you can learn a lot from them. There are all kinds of people in the world…people are just people, good and bad.

Although my life is worlds away from my parents’ lives, and yours even more remote, it seems that those lessons took hold and survived at least two generations of indulgence.

Braised Cabbage, my version.

Braised Cabbage, my version.

Then there’s this food obsession that has seemingly invaded all our lives…blogs, pictures, recipes…cooking frenzies around the world. Food is real. Food is metaphor…love, family, friends, sharing, nurturing, healing, celebration, tradition, generosity, bounty, beauty, creativity, sensuality, productivity, focus, risk, meditation. Metaphors are real.

What an inheritance! We are all so blessed!

In the meantime, I made your cabbage dish and added asparagus. I served it over Persian rice made with edamame and it was excellent! I am making it again with tofu for a yoga potluck. Thanks for sharing your recipes…and your life.

Love,
Mom
xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Vegetable Spaghetti Stir Fry

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This very simple recipe was made using my newest gadget called a Vegetti. It is low tech, easy to use and makes ordinary vegetables into veggie strands that can be substituted for spaghetti. I have only used it with yellow squash and zucchini, so far.

Vegetti, my newest kitchen toy

Vegetti, my newest kitchen toy

Even though this recipe has the same
ingredients as my standard sautéed squash, the flavors seem to permeate the spaghetti strands in a way that makes it a whole new dish. No matter how much I make, it all gets eaten. This recipe will feed two people as a main dish and four as a side dish.

Vegetable Spaghetti Stir Fry

  • 2 -3 zucchinis
  • 2-3 yellow crookneck summer squash
  • olive oil
  • 1 red or yellow onion, sliced in thin wedges
  • 2 -4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Optional vegetables:1/2 pound mushrooms sliced, cherry tomatoes, asparagus
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional spices: basil and oregano
  • Optional garnishes: toasted pine nuts, green onions, parsley, parmesan cheese
  • Optional accompaniments: rice, lentils

IMG_5396Following the instructions that come with the Vegetti, use the larger holes and spiral the squash through the Vegetti until you can’t rotate it through anymore. I cut the “noodles”  with a scissor into spaghetti lengths as I go. When it gets down to a nub, you can put a fork into it and try to get a few more turns or just cut the rest up by hand into strips.

Put the raw veggie spaghetti in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 5 to 10 minutes or until liquid has cooked out. Drain vegetables thoroughly and set aside. I actually use the drained liquid as a vegetable broth for soups.Image 2-24-15 at 11.32 AM

Sauté onions in a little olive oil in a large sauté pan until partially cooked. Add minced garlic and sauté for another minute. If using mushrooms or any other vegetables, add to the mixture and sauté for a few minutes. Add drained veggie spaghetti and continue sautéing. Add salt, pepper to taste and any additional spices desired. Cook until all vegetables are done to taste.

Add garnishes and serve.

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◊ Bird by bird


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Dear mom,

Thanks for the votes of confidence (over and over and over again). But yeah, stone by stone, bird by bird, person by person is much more reasonable than change the freakin world.

It doesn’t feel like I’m doing much of anything these days except trying to finish my homework on time. Last night I fell asleep with my laptop. Today is Sunday and I woke up at 6 am to do work! My lower right eyelid has developed a chronic twitch.

Repeat: stone by stone, bird by bird. It will get done.

storyboarding brunch with my multimedia group

storyboarding brunch with my multimedia team

While the days of your youth were filled with bra burning, marches and protests, the days of my youth are filled with screen time, social media and internet trolling. It’s sort of the same (except my generation will come into more severe eye, back and neck strain issues). People gravitate toward platforms on which they believe their voices will be heard.

Listening to those voices without judgment or assumption is an aspiration that I inherited from you and dad. Both of your careers were built on the premise that at their cores, people are good; that human flaws are a build-up of societal plaque and genetic misfortune; that no matter how strange their actions may be, people are people are people. You built your lives on trust in human goodness. It’s a powerful legacy.

That’s all I can say for now. I budgeted only 45 minutes today for this letter to you. It’s time to go back to work quickly quickly. I feel lucky that I have the opportunity to do work that excites me, but I sure wish I could shake this eye twitch. The recipe I’m sending today, coconut milk braised cabbage, is my go-to dish when I want to make something quick, healthy, cost-efficient, filling and bulky.

Xo,

Shaina

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Cabbage is the most efficient food out there, and this recipe transforms it into something luxurious, rich and flavorful. And it’s gluten-free, vegan, paleo and cleanse friendly!

Coconut Milk Braised Cabbage

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3/4 c carrots, chopped
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 c coconut milk
  • 1 tbs yellow curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbs cinnamon powder
  • dash of cayenne powder or red chili flakes to taste
  • 1 head green cabbage, chopped into thin shreds (4-5 C)
  • 1 tsp salt (to taste)
  • juice of half lemon
  • 1/2 cup yellow raisins
  • salt, to taste
  • fresh chopped cilantro and/or sliced almonds for garnish

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Heat oil in large pan. Add onions, carrots and garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Add coconut milk and spices and bring to boil. Add cabbage and salt and bring heat to simmer. Cover pan and cook over low heat for 15 – 25 minutes, until cabbage is desired consistency. Stir in raisins and lemon juice. Garnish with chopped cilantro and/or sliced almonds. Serve warm or room temperature over a bowl of rice for a hearty meal, top with an egg, or enjoy as is.

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