◊ Switching it up

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Dear mom,

It sure is nice to have someone believe in me.

Dear Internet,

This must be weird for you.

Mom, our exchange has become too predictable. In the three (!!) years we’ve been writing, our letters have become a looping pattern…

Me: I’m stressed and everything is chaos and what is my life?!

You: Oy vey, I’m so worried about you! I’m worried, I’m worried, I’m worried, but you should NOT worry! You’re fine… you’re great! And yoga helps.

Me: Ummm thanks, you’re a weirdo and I’m still confused about my life. Ps. I have principles.

You: Wow, sounds like you’re doing great (I’MSOWORRIED). Maybe you should lay down in shivasana. Dad and I miss you. We love sitting around the house.

And on and on and on and on.

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I’m bored. Should we make an effort to switch it up? Or is this what our communication looks like? Do I come across to you as a stressy 20-something deep in crisis, in need of bimonthly pep talks from my mother?

This was my first week back at school. It feels good to be back and I am calm (what). My move back to Berkeley went smoothly (what). Being confused about my schedule does not count as a crisis.

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first day of school

Yeah, I’m switching it up.

It’s almost Rosh Hashana and after four of our annual whole foods diet “cleanses” (reflection on the mind/body/spirit connection) during the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, Arielle and I feel bored.  This year, along with the food rules, we’re asking participants to spend no more than the national average food stamp benefit – $4.10 daily – on food for the ten days of the cleanse. I expect that nourishing my body with a whole foods, vegan diet will be nearly impossible on this budget. So, we’re be asking people to match the amount spent over the allotted budget in a charitable donation to a food justice org. I’ll lay out the details in another post.

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It was really nice to sit around the house with you and dad before school started. The mega-eating (new term) marathon, prepping vegetables from the farm and hanging out were all treats. I weirdly miss home!

Anyway. Thanks for the pep talks, horrible pictures and congenital neuroses. Thanks for indulging the crazy in me. And believing in me always.

xo,

Shaina

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Different from my usual recipes with 1 million + ingredients, this one is simple, simple, SIMPLE.

Also, I’ve been roasting beets for years with the same method – wrap them in foil and sticking them in the oven with whatever else is in there. For this recipe, I steamed them in the oven with water and vinegar. I’m hooked.

Thyme Marinated Beets with Crushed Hazelnuts 

Serves 5-8 as appetizer

  • 3 – 4 different colored beets (I used chiogga and yellow)
  • ½ cup Sherry or red wine vinegar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1  shallot, chopped
  • 5-8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ¼ cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
  • good black pepper
  • good sea salt

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Preheat oven to 425°. Combine whole, unpeeled beets, ¼ cup vinegar, salt and ¼ cup water in a pan or dish Cover with foil and steam 45 minutes. When cool, remove skins with fingers (they should slide off). Slice beets thinly with knife or mandolin.

Toss beets with shallot, thyme, remaining ¼ cup vinegar, and olive oil . Season with salt and good pepper and let sit for at least two hours. Before serving, garnish with hazelnuts and extra thyme sprigs.

*This dish is even better the next day – – beets can be marinated 2 days ahead of time.

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♦ I Worry

Dear Shaina,

I don’t even know where to begin…When you watch your child transform into the adult that they were always meant to be, it is awe-inspiring, humbling and terrifying all at once.

I started writing this weeks ago…after you told me you had been to Gaza and back…you hadn’t told me before you went to prevent me from worrying.

Dad and I met you en route to a scuba diving adventure the two of you had planned. Gaza barely registered a blip on my worry radar in the shadow of my scuba diving dread.

You survived both…a momentary comfort blunted by the understanding that I have no control over the ever-present lurking dangers in the world that you may encounter by chance or intention. Your beliefs, decisions and actions are beyond the purview of me or anyone else.

How did this happen; that you should own your life so completely, that you could transform your fearfulness into fearlessness, that you are able to trust and challenge your own voice?

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I guess there were clues all along the way. Before you were born I, with the naiveté of a first time mother-to-be, eagerly awaited the arrival of my “mini-me” daughter.

The first time I laid my eyes on you, you looked directly back into my eyes. I saw your father’s penetrating, but self-contained gaze and I knew in my gut you were not a “mini-me”.

You were a quiet and calm baby…some might say passive. I could put you on the carpet in the living room and you would amuse yourself by staring at the beams on the ceiling 20 feet above. You cried rarely, but let me know clearly if some need was not being met.

In preschool, you were shy, but attentive. Your cubby was always next to the most out-of-control child in the class…maybe because you had a calming  effect…maybe because you were tolerant…maybe because you never got caught up in the fracas.

A teacher gave all the children the same colored cut-out pieces of paper and instructed them to paste them onto their sheet of paper to create the shape of the flower she displayed. You placed your colored pieces of paper onto your sheet creating a flower design of your own making. Some of the other children liked your variations and tried their own. You led without intention or demand.

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At age 5, I enrolled you in soccer. You hated it. I made you go twice. You sat down in the middle of the field during a game. I took you home and we never went back. I signed you up for swimming and you swam almost everyday. You refused to participate in swim meets. I let you skip them.

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In your own unassuming way, you continued to assert yourself. I maintained the illusion that I was in charge, but I knew the truth early on. I learned to respect your needs, to trust your instincts and to understand that you knew better than I did what was best for you.

Bubbe used to say, “When you have little children, you have little worries. When you have big children, you have big worries.” So I’m a big worrier…a proud worrier. You are an amazing kid who is worth all the worry I withstand on your behalf. I may not own your life, but that doesn’t stop me from petitioning the universe daily…may you be safe and healthy and happy… and may the harshness you encounter on your life’s journey be minimal.

India Allen All 3 09 695 (1)Love,
Mom
xoxoxoxoxooxoxoo

Green Beans with Tomatoes and Chick Peas

There is no end to the excess of summertime garden veggies. This recipe accomplishes the goal of using up two surplus veggies (plus fresh basil which you can never have an excess of) in one easy-to-prepare dish. It can be served as a vegetarian meal over pasta or rice or as a side dish with any meal.  It can be prepared ahead of time, made in large quantities and served hot or at room temperature.  All measurements are flexible and subject to individual taste.

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  • 1 large onion, cut in thin wedges
  • Olive oil as needed
  • 5 garlic gloves (or to taste), coarsely minced
  • Green Beans – about a pound or as many as you have of any variety, ends cut off and strings removed
  • Tomatoes – about a pound or more of fresh tomatoes cut up or a couple boxes of processed chopped tomatoes
  • Fresh basil – a couple of handfuls chopped or a couple teaspoons of dried basil
  • 1 can of Chick peas
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Calmata olives (optional

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Heat a small amount of oil in a large skillet and add sliced onions.  Sauté until edges are lightly browned. Add minced garlic and continue sautéing for a few minutes.

Add green beans to onions and continue sautéing until green beans, onions and garlic are slightly browned and mixed together. Cover the skillet and continue cooking over medium heat until the beans are almost done.

Add the chopped tomatoes and half of the fresh basil or dried basil to the beans and continue cooking. I use about equal parts of tomatoes and green beans. If I want a more tomato based saucy dish, I add more tomatoes.

Continue cooking until liquid from tomatoes is reduced and thoroughly blended with the beans.

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Add the chick peas, salt and pepper and more basil and continue to cook until all flavors are blended together. Adjust seasonings to taste.  If desired, add calamata olives.

Garnish with fresh basil.

This dish gets better everytime you reheat it so make enough to have leftovers and don’t be afraid to add more tomatoes and basil.