♦ Meant To Be

Dear Shaina,

So what, exactly, does switching it up look like?

You: I’m worried about you… Should you still be driving, is your house too big for you to take care of, why do you have so much stuff?!
Soon enough.

Me: Let’s travel to exotic places and spend all our money on extended VRBO rentals, new furniture, house remodeling projects, yoga classes, dental work, more stuff, etc…we’ll try to fit in a visit to you.
Working on it now.

No, you do not sound like a stressy 20-something deep in crisis. Who doesn’t need a bi-monthly pep talk?…I love you just the way you are and I think you’re great! Does that count for this month? That’s never gonna change.

Happy to switch it up. You go first!

I am enjoying a no Labor Day weekend with a stay-at-home cooking marathon in preparation for Rosh Hashanah. It is such a luxury to cook in advance and not have to fit all the holiday preparation details in between working hours. The chicken soup, brisket, honey cakes, apple cakes and potato blintzes (a first for me) are done.

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The potato blintzes are a hybrid recipe; crepe dough from Bubbe’s cheese blintzes and the potato filling from her knishes. I made the crepe batter in my Vita Mix and it took 30 seconds and not even one lump! My Cuisinart effortlessly chopped the onions and blended the potatoes and fried onions. I used all my pots and pans and extra large bowls to boil potatoes, sauté onions, mix the filling, make the crepes and flash freeze it all. I pretty much trashed the kitchen, overfilled all my freezers and sampled enough fried onions and potato filling to have attached them to my DNA… if that is possible.

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I love what you are doing with the cleanse this year. Although I am fortunate to not have to worry about how much I spend on groceries, I learned at the hands of a master who taught me how to love grocery shopping and create healthy, nourishing, satisfying and tasty meals on a very tight budget.

My mother (Bubbe) always researched the food specials of the week and bought whatever she could on sale. Even after she couldn’t go to the grocery store herself, she gave me a list of what to buy each week…and I did. She hand-picked each green bean, each apple, each cherry to make sure she got the freshest items (no wasteful rotten spots for her). She never spent money on plastic storage bags or containers (she reused the food containers and plastic bags that her purchases came packaged in) and she never, ever threw out food (leftovers are what you eat the next day). We never had soft drinks or chips or candy in our house unless their was a party. She bought very little processed food and made almost everything from scratch. The things we thought we were missing out on (Oreo cookies and Wonder Bread for me) turned out to be not so good for us anyway.

It’s Rosh Hashana. It’s Zayde’s yahrsteit. I’m cooking Bubbe’s food. You are promoting a cleanse that raises personal awareness and global consciousness about food justice. I’m thinking that things are just as they were meant to be.


Wishing you the sweetest of New Years and may we all make it into the Big Book of Life for a safe, healthy and productive year to come!

Red Cabbage Slaw

I am serving this Red Cabbage Slaw at our erev Rosh Hashanah dinner this year. It has apples and honey in honor of the holiday and it’s an easy do-ahead dish that doesn’t require oven space. Other than the honey, it can be prepared Cleanse friendly and it is very cost efficient. A head of red cabbage makes a whole lot of slaw! And it gets better the longer it sits. If you are preparing this for the Cleanse, but want some additional sweetness, omit the honey and add a half cup of raisins ($.50).


Yield – 20 servings
Total Cost: $8.35
Cost per serving: $.42

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil ($.50)
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice with the zest from the lemon used for the juice ($1.00)
  • 2 teaspoons honey (.20)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 head of red cabbage, thinly sliced ($1.50)
  • 2-3 large carrots, grated into thin strips ($.40)
  • 1 large apple, cut in small pieces ($.75)
  • 8-12 ounces of sugar snap peas, thinly sliced crosswise ($4.00)

Whisk oil, lemon juice and zest, honey and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss together. Adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight before serving.

♦ 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?


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.


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,

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.


  • 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


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.


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.

♦ Too Much

Dear Shaina,

I planned on writing this letter last Sunday night, but your dad came home from the farm with 120 ears of fresh-picked corn that he insisted had to be shucked, blanched and frozen ASAP. We were leaving for Atlanta the next day to pick up our Israeli cousins to take them to the beach for the first few days of their weeklong Birmingham visit and there was no other time to do it.

I hadn’t packed. I had cleaned the house all day so it would be ready for guests when we returned. And I had set aside the evening to leisurely write and get ready for the beach. Dad shucked all the corn and said he would take care of it…until his hands cramped up and he couldn’t do it. So there I was stuck with 120 ears of shucked corn complete with corn silks stuck to every surface of my just cleaned kitchen and no room in my freezer for all those ears. I spent the rest of the night cutting the corn off the cobs, blanching it, bagging it and stuffing it in the freezer. So, I yelled, “Would 50 ears not have been enough? You HAD to pick 120?! What are we going to do with all this corn?!!! It is too much!”

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I had just put about 8 hours into shelling, cleaning and bagging a black garbage bag full of purple hull peas…an apparent delicacy here in the South. Then there’s the kale and okra and tomatoes and cucumbers. All my freezers are full! It is too much!

IMG_6287We got up early the next day and drove to Atlanta, picked up the cousins and packed the van to the roof with their overstuffed suitcases and carry-ons and proceeded to the beach. The sand and water were perfect and we logged some marathon hours at the shopping malls. I am not even sure how we all fit into the van for the ride back home… more bags were jammed into every nook and cranny of that car! It was almost too much! And everyone was happy.

The rest of the week was filled with food, family and celebration. I experimented with cooking peas and corn together and they were a great addition to Shabbat dinner at Gail and Abe’s. Then I made Shirly’s Corn pudding for brunch. I used a bunch of cucumbers in a cold cucumber and yogurt soup, but no one will eat it but me. I made fresh basil pesto and put it on tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and pasta with roasted veggies. I served tomatoes with everything; eggs, sandwiches and just plain with salt and pepper. I even made a tomato and peach salad with feta cheese. I am determined to use every single vegetable one way or another. I am hoping this will convince your father that a much smaller garden will produce more than enough food for all the friends and family we have, but I am afraid he is just enjoying all this fresh stuff way too much.


Too much seems to be the desired norm for this family. I remember when you were a small child and would put a large glob of butter on a piece of bread and we would tell you it was too much. The next time you asked for some butter for your bread you said, “I want too much.” You come by it honestly. Too many options, too many opportunities, too many places to stay and stories to hear.

I know it can be stressful and even maddening at times, but I can’t help but feel grateful for all the too muchness in our lives.


Love, Mom

Esther’s Purple Hull Peas and Sweet Corn

When you have too much of everything in your freezer, just put it all in a big pot and cook it together. That’s how this recipe came to be. If you love peas and you love sweet corn, this dish is sure to make you happy…and put a dent in your freezer. This recipe will serve a lot of people for a lot of days, but they won’t mind if it’s too much.

  • IMG_62981 large onion, cut in thin wedges
  • 3-5 fresh garlic cloves, halved or quartered
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of oil (olive oil, vegetable oil or butter will do)
  • 2 tablespoons of Osem pareve chicken flavored soup powder (any chicken, onion or vegetable soup powder or seasoning mix will do)
  • 1 quart bag of frozen or fresh purple hull peas (about 4 cups)
  • Water
  • 1 quart bag of fresh or frozen corn kernels (about 4 cups)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place cut up onions and garlic in an eight-quart soup pot over a medium flame and cook about a minute until a little of the moisture is released. Add the oil or butter and sauté until the onions and garlic are lightly browned.


Stir the powdered soup mix into the onions and garlic.

Add the frozen or fresh peas and just cover with water. Cook over a low flame until the peas are tender. This may take 30 to 40 minutes.

When peas are just tender, add the corn and more water if needed. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Continue simmering over a low heat until flavors are blended and liquids are slightly reduced. Add more water and seasonings if you like a lot of broth.
Serve hot as a side dish or with rice and roasted veggies for a healthy vegetarian meal.


Tomato and Peach Salad
Tomatoes and peaches are two of my favorite summer fruits. I first had a version of this salad at a friend’s house and I loved the flavors of these two fruits together. Here is a modified version with some lettuce added for a little touch of green. This recipe will serve 4-6 people.


  • 2 generous handfuls of arugula (lettuce is optional if you prefer the tomatoes and peaches only)
  • 3-4 medium to large fresh home grown tomatoes
  • salt and pepper
  • 2-3 fresh summer peaches
  • olive oil and balsamic vinegar for drizzling (or your favorite bottled oil and vinegar salad dressing)
  • Feta cheese for topping (optional)
  • Fresh basil leaves or green onions for garnish (optional)

Place arugula on a platter.IMG_6355

Slice tomatoes and arrange a layer on the platter over the lettuce.

Lightly salt and pepper the tomatoes to taste.

Slice the peaches in slices or wedges and arrange a layer over the tomatoes.

Drizzle lightly with olive oil and balsamic vinegar all over the salad.

Top with feta cheese crumbles if desired and garnish with sliced green onions or basil leaves.


♦ No Big Deal

Dear Shaina,
Another revelation for the apparently clueless mother…I had no idea of your anticipated diabetes diagnosis. There were many things that rolled around in my head in regard to the impact of my disease on the inner workings of your child mind, but that one eluded me.

I have always worked very hard to not burden anyone with my disease. When I was first diagnosed, your Bubbe and Zayde were devastated. My illness took on the magnitude of all the tragedies they had endured in their lives. I became to them the sick child. It weighed heavy on their hearts. I somehow knew that the only way I could ease their pain was to stay alive and live my life as if this diabetes thing was no big deal.


I started baking sugar-full desserts when I had friends over because I didn’t want people to feel like they had to deprive themselves in my presence. I baked sugar-free apple crisp and always had fresh fruit for myself so people wouldn’t feel sorry for me or feel bad for eating sugar in front of me. Managing the food part is the relatively easy part of living with diabetes, but it’s the most obvious concern to the non-diabetic world.

I learned early that people had a lot of misperceptions about this disease and I intuitively knew that it was my job to protect them from feeling responsible for my diabetes and, in turn, protect myself from their stereotypes. I made it look like it was no big deal. It worked for me…most of the time. I have only recently come to appreciate how big a deal the past fifty years have been. I can finally allow myself to feel some of my sadness without fearing that it will weigh heavily on the people I love or dampen my own spirit.

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I am truly grateful that you didn’t feel my burden as your own. I am truly grateful that the worst fallout you have had to deal with are your enormous grocery bills and your obsession with fresh foods and cooking for yourself and everyone else you come into contact with. I am truly grateful to be very much alive and able to finally figure out what was really going on in that child brain of yours. I pray every day that I will live another twenty years (at least) so that I can be fully enlightened about what is really going on in your brain today. By now, I realize that cluelessness is a natural state of parenting in real-time.


In the meantime, the full force of summer in Birmingham has hit…hot and humid. The kale and cucumbers are thriving. The tomatoes are just beginning to get red and all the herbs are flourishing. A bluebird has decided to take up residence in our little birdhouse in the front yard and she has hatched a noisy little bunch of chirping baby bluebirds. So much for our summer entertainment…


I look forward to hearing about all of your adventures and I look forward even more to being clued in on the whole story twenty years from now.


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Savory Herbed Potato Salad

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This is my go-to summer Potato Salad. It has no mayonnaise which makes it a little less scary to take on a summer picnic. This recipe takes full advantage of all the herbs growing in our garden. It is very flavorful and everyone seems to love it. For those of you who have asked for this recipe, here it it is!

  • 3 pounds red potatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 small shallot minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fresh pepper
  • 1/4 small red onion, chopped or thinly sliced
  • 3-4 scallions sliced in small pieces
  • 3-4 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Black kalamata olives (optional)
  • Coarse kosher salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

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Boil potatoes with skin on until just done (easily pierced with a knife or fork). Overcooking can cause potatoes to be mushy.

Rinse with cold water and cut into bite sized pieces. I leave the skin on. Put in a large bowl.

While potatoes are cooking, prepare the fresh herbs and onions.

Whisk together oil, mustard,vinegar, shallots and salt and pepper. IMG_6243

Pour mixture over potatoes and toss until potatoes are covered.

Add remaining ingredients and toss together. The amount of fresh herbs can be varied based on your taste preferences

Add salt and pepper to taste.

This dish is best if prepared the day before serving.

♦ My Sweet Life

Dear Shaina,

Don’t despair. There is hope for the burn-your-ass and keep-running-like-a-rat syndrome. Eventually you find your stride. Eventually you make your place and settle in. Eventually you realize that you don’t have to feel the burn in order to do some good.

I hate to acknowledge that you may have internalized this suffer-until-it-feels-good affliction from my side of the family. I think its about survival. The good news is we are all surviving. The tough part is that we all have to figure out how to do it on our own.

Speaking of survival tactics, I hear you’re doing a little yoga. Mahjong and yoga…hmmm…I won’t say a word. You are already 30 years ahead of where I was at your age!

In the meantime,I am celebrating my fiftieth year of living with Diabetes! Hard to believe…that fifty years have gone by…and that I am still here to write my daughter a letter about it. On June 6, 1965, the day I was diagnosed with what was then called Juvenile Diabetes, my odds for surviving another fifty years were slim.

46 years ago

46 years ago

The chatter I heard on the street as a 13 year old newly diagnosed diabetic was about a neighbor, an elderly grandfather, a long lost cousin…who lost a leg, went blind, died from kidney failure or heart disease. I chose to tune out most of that. I was instructed to never go barefoot, to not get upset, to eat the same thing at the same time every day, to stay away from sugar, to test my urine four times a day, and of course, to take insulin shots. I chose to ignore most of that too, except taking insulin and staying away from sugar. I knew I had to do those two things in order to survive.

I made the decision, early on, that I wanted to live and that Diabetes was just going to have to live in my life. I wasn’t going to live a life ruled by the fear and dogma that was the prevailing diabetic wisdom of the day. So I went barefoot outside in the summer, got mad when I was mad, stayed away from sweets, took my shots and avoided doctors as much as possible. I allowed myself to hate diabetes without having to hate myself or my life.

I live my life fully everyday; I work; I travel; I celebrate with friends and family; I love my family deeply. I cherish each day! Diabetes has been my constant, many times, unwelcome companion. Our relationship is based on mutual respect and acceptance…acceptance of our mutual goals and our individual needs…and the necessary compromises required for any relationship to succeed.

It is hard for me to believe I have reached this milestone. I am grateful for all the skilled doctors who have hung in there with me despite my stubbornness, for all the latest and greatest torture devices designed to help me manage this disease and for all the research that has enabled me to see the world through my own eyes, to walk as many miles as I feel like on my own two legs and to love with a heart that beats regularly and reliably.


I am thankful for all the miracles in my life…especially for you and Dad…and hope that I have not overly burdened you.

I know I have been lucky, but I still hate diabetes…and I am ready for the cure! I wish I had a fairy godmother who could temporarily turn me into one of those lab rats at the UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center, www.uab.edu/diabetes, where they have been studying a drug that essentially cures diabetes in diabetic rats. I’m putting my hope on that research and I plan on spending this year prodding them along with a little fundraising support.

I have so many things to celebrate in my life. This year, my sweet life is at the top of the list!


Summer Kale and Pesto Pasta

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It’s summer time and the garden is rich with basil and kale. This meal is dedicated to you, Shaina. You and Dad went out to the farm and picked a garbage bag full of young tender kale…and you even washed out the dirt and most of the grass. We may overdose on kale this summer…kale smoothies, kale quiche, kale salads, kale burgers…but it’s all good! I am already seeing green!


Small bow tie pasta, basil, olive oil chopped garlic dried or fresh good black olives sundries tomatoes pine nuts (optional) shaved Parmesan Cheese (optional)

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain. While the pasta is still hot, mix in basic basil pesto (fresh basil leaves, olive oil, fresh garlic, salt, pepper, all thrown into a food processor) to taste. Add olives and sun dried tomatoes. Set aside.IMG_6054 (1)


Fresh kale, as much kale as you have or want fresh chopped garlic, to taste olive oil salt pepper hot pepper sauce (optional)

Wash kale thoroughly. If kale is mature, remove thick stems and tear leaves into pieces. If the kale is young and tender, the stems do not need to be removed and you can use the whole leaf.

Heat a large sauté pan. Add a little olive oil and the chopped garlic and sauté lightly.
Add the fresh kale and salute until just cooked and tender. Add salt, pepper and more garlic to taste.
Place pesto pasta on a plate and top with the sautéed kale. Garnish with shaved parmesan cheese, pine nuts or pepper sauce, if desired.

♦ Life Lessons

Dear Shaina,

And you didn’t even like puzzles when you were a child! I am moved by your willingness to give yourself over to your work despite the emotional confrontation it requires of you. You seem to have landed exactly where you need to be at this particular moment of your life. Looking back at how you got here, your process was both random and intentional, rational and gutsy and always trusting of your instincts. You stayed in the pursuit, many times not knowing where it would lead, until you found a path that felt on target…and you took it. What a life lesson! You have mastered it and it will serve you well throughout your life. Life is a series of intentional meanderings and instinctive pursuits of ever-evolving targets. You are well prepared and I am proud of you!

It was Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, last week. I wrote a memory story about Bubbe for a community program. Of course, it was about food. Food was and is such a big deal in all our lives. Bubbe and Zayde’s early experiences of extreme hunger insured that no one in our family would ever have the opportunity (at least not under their watch) to encounter even a remote sensation of hunger. Stuffed was the only satisfactory response to “did you have enough?” And we carry on that legacy of physical and emotional sustenance through food.

I had a strong urge to make Bubbe’s Blintzes this week. I hadn’t made them in years and the last time, it was difficult. The dough skins were thicker than hers and stuck to the frying pan or fell apart when I filled them. I struggled. They were good, but I knew I hadn’t yet achieved the Bubbe Blintz standard of excellence. The blintz cheese waiting in my freezer was calling to me to try again.

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With my shmata on my head and my ceramic non-stick pan in hand, I swirled the first spoonful of batter over the lightly buttered pan.DSCF7001
I knew from that very first blintz dough that my hands were moving in Bubbe motion. I turned out 60 or so paper thin crepe skins with ease and relative perfection.

I was transported back to Bubbe’s kitchen…watching her magically flip a perfect circle of translucent lightly browned dough onto a waiting torn open brown paper grocery sack…waiting for her to mess one up so I could eat it fresh out of the buttery frying pan. Sometimes she would mess one up on purpose because she knew how much I loved them. The very same taste and texture came out of my kitchen. Bubbe’s Blintzes have become mine. Taste memory has the amazing capacity to immortalize and transform in the same moment. It is the closest I can get to comprehending the concept of a Time Machine.


It’s your birthday! You were born on Earth Day.It always seemed so fitting. You dare to make this earth your home and  you have experienced the diversity and richness and suffering that exists beyond your footprint. Twenty-seven years old!! Your footprint has already left indelible marks in many people’s lives.

Happy Earth Day and Happy Birthday, Shaina…may you continue to follow your instincts, to share your goodness with everyone you encounter and to live on this earth in peace and good health always.

You are a wondrous joy in my life.

Bubbe’s Cheese Blintzes

I have been on a baking binge. It rained all last week and I entertained myself in the kitchen. I am sharing the Blintz recipe again with some refinements. I learned a few tricks from a Russian friend of ours who made delicious Blinis for brunch. Blini dough is a little pancake-ier than Blintz dough and is eaten in more of a crepe style, but the basic principles are the same.


Bring all ingredients to room temperature. This recipe makes 4 to 5 dozen depending on how much cheese you use, how thick your blintz skins are and the size of your crepe pan.

Blintz Crepe Batter

  • 3 Cups flour
  • 6 – 7 Cups skim milk
  • 7 Eggs
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Mix ingredients in a blender or in a large deep bowl using an immersion stick blender until there are no visible lumps*. Let batter rest for about 30 minutes.

*Having a hard time with the lumps in the batter? Try pouring the batter through a mesh strainer over a bowl. Mash up the lumps with a spoon, adding additional milk if needed or if your pressed for time, just throw the lumps away and start cooking.

Blintz Filling

  • 3 pounds Farmer Cheese* (it looks like very small curd dried cottage cheese) *It can be stored in the freezer for a very long time if it is vacuum packed…and it is as good as new when defrosted!
  • 3 Eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients together by hand or with a stick blender or electric beater. Set aside while making Blintz crepes.

Use a non-stick or stainless steel or cast iron crepe pan or small shallow frying pan. Heat pan over medium heat before smearing butter lightly on pan. I use wax paper to hold the butter and lightly spread it on the pan.IMG_5823

Pour about ¼ to ⅓ cup of batter into the pan and swirl it around the bottom of the heated pan to cover the pan with a thin layer of batter. It may take a few times to get the pan to the right temperature and the right amount of batter to cover the bottom of the pan with a thin coating of batter.

Cook on one side only until you can see the bottom of the crepe bubbling up from the bottom of the pan a bit and   the edges come away from the sides of the pan. Don’t be discouraged if you mess up the first few crepes. They are delicious plain, so enjoy your mistakes. Flip the crepe out of the pan onto parchment paper or brown paper sacks cooked side face up.

Repeat process until all the batter is gone.IMG_5819

Once the crepe is cooled. Place a couple tablespoons of the cheese mixture at the bottom of the circle of dough on the cooked side of the dough. Roll the dough over the cheese to form a tube about the size of a roll of quarters. Roll the dough over once and fold the sides in. Then continue to roll the dough until the blintz is formed. The uncooked side of the dough should form the outside of the blintz. Place the completed blintz with the seam down on a fresh piece of wax paper on a metal baking sheet. You can use more or less cheese filling based on your preference, but don’t overfill.


At this stage, the Blintzes are ready to be sautéed in a small amount of butter until the outsides of the Blintz are lightly browned. Blintzes may also be flash frozen prior to sautéing and placed in freezer bags to be prepared and served at another time.


Biscotti Dipped in Chocolate


My baking binge didn’t stop with the Blintzes. I decided to try making some Biscotti.  I knew I hit on a good recipe when some friends came over to play mahjong and between dad and them, they made a serious dent in the Biscotti I was planning on serving to a Book Group I was hosting the next morning. It was all good. I just made another batch. They are easy to make and satisfying to eat. Hope you like the ones I sent to you. This recipe makes between 30 -50 Biscotti depending on how big you make them.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons of Brandy or Amaretto
  • 1 tablespoon of Almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole almonds lightly toasted, cooled and coarsely chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or melting chocolate
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips or melting chocolate
  • sea salt (optional)
  • toasted slivered almonds (optional)

Mix together sugar, melted butter, brandy and extracts in a large bowl. Add eggs and almonds and stir together well.

Mix together flour, baking powder and salt and add to egg mixture, mixing until combined.
Chill dough for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°.
Using moistened hands, halve dough and form 2 (12” x 3”) loaves and place on parchment paper on a large baking sheet.


Bake until pale golden, about 30 minutes.
Carefully transfer the loaves to a rack and cool for 15 minutes.
Cut loaves into 1/2”-3/4” slices with a serrated knife.
Arrange biscotti on a baking sheet and bake until golden, about 25 minutes.
Cool completely.


Place white and dark chocolate in separate pint mason jars and melt carefully in the microwave at a low power. Check every 15-30 seconds stirring to see if chocolate is completely melted. Do not over heat as chocolate can burn easily.


Dip ends of cooled biscotti in the chocolate as desired. White chocolate can be drizzled over a dark chocolate dipped biscotti or vice versa. Sprinkle with slivered almonds and a little sea salt if desired.


♦ Happi-stress

Dear Shaina,

I don’t know which one of us should be scared. Your emotionally-drained, stressed out, exhausted, anxious, overworked, confused, chronically twitching self never looked so good…and happy, I might add. Maybe you have embodied a new state of happi-stress! Whatever…happiness or happi-stress, if you’re happy, I’m happy!

It was pure pleasure having you here for the holidays. Lots of home time, lots of talk time, lots of family holiday time and lots of good eating. The Seders got people talking. IMG_5747The matzah balls were fluffy. The Gefilte fish was my best ever.  I think I finally perfected the recipe after only four years of trying. Gail’s brisket was outstanding. And all the desserts have disappeared. It still brings me great pleasure to watch you nibble down a half of a Passover spongecake in one sitting leaving the crumbs as proof that you actually did not eat the whole half a cake. Not to worry…Passover sponge cakes are 99% air. All the calories lay in those crumbs you left strewn all over the counter.


Then there was the momentous breakthrough…real chicken broth crossed your lips for the first time in twenty years! And it was good, wasn’t it? What next? I know its not beef tenders!

All in all, it was an exceptional Passover. DSC_0074_2Putting you on the plane was hard. I miss you already. I am comforted knowing that you are returning to your stress-filled, important, thrilling and mostly happy life. The mid to late twenties aren’t the easiest years in a person’s life. It’s a time of figuring out who you are and what’s important to you and, mostly, realizing and accepting that you are the only one who can make that happen. I know its not always fun, but I am proud of you for struggling to figure it all out and owning the responsibility for making it what you want. I love watching you evolve into your grown-up person, while at the same time I am so aware of time moving quickly. I feel like I am in the midst of a multi-character serial with ever-changing plot lines. I cherish each episode and don’t ever want it to end, but can’t wait to know how it will all turn out. That’s life. For now, all good…and I am grateful.


I am dedicating my recipes this week to Passover. It’s a fun time to experiment with cooking and every once in a while something turns out really good. Since you already took those ridiculous sponge cake pictures, I just have to add the recipe. I am also including my new and improved matzah pizza recipe. It’s a far cry from the tomato sauce and cheese on a piece of matzo toasted under the broiler that was a standard for you and your pre-teen buddies. Once you make the matzo dough, the possibilities and varieties are infinite.

Hmm…just like life. No wonder we like cooking so much!


Passover Sponge Cake


This recipe comes directly off of the Manischewitz Potato Starch container. It is gluten free and very light. My mother, Bubbe, made this cake every year and always marveled when the cake rose higher than the edge of the tube pan and came out intact.

Although the recipe is simple, it is a bit of an art to have it rise appropriately 11032844_899514556757905_666511423_nand come out in one piece. In my early years I always ended up making two cakes because one would invariably fall apart and I would use it in a strawberry trifle concoction I made up and try again to bake an intact cake. The strawberry trifle was such a hit that it has become a regular Passover dessert item and I just bake two sponge cakes from the beginning. This year, they both came out! I have arrived!

Serve in a trifle with strawberries and cream or with plain strawberries or lemon curd. Or just nibble on the plain cake. It will be gone before you know it. Just watch those crumbs…
Passover Sponge Cake


Preheat oven to 350°

  • 7 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup Manischewitz Potato Starch, sifted
  • dash of salt

Separate 6 of the eggs setting aside the egg whites in a separate bowl.
Beat the six egg yolks and one whole egg until light and frothy. Gradually add sifted sugar, lemon rind and juice, beating constantly and thoroughly until light and lemony colored.
Gradually add sifted potato starch, stirring constantly with an electric beater to ensure thorough blending.

With a clean beater, beat the egg whites with a dash of salt until stiff but not dry. Fold gently but thoroughly into the egg yolk mixture.

Place in an engrossed 10” tube pan. (I recommend a two-piece tube pan with a removable bottom for easier cake removal.) Bake in a moderate oven (350°) for about 55-60 minutes or until cake springs back when gently touched with fingers. The top should be lightly browned and have a little crusty top.

Remove from the oven and immediately invert cake over a bottle (like a wine bottle). Cool completely before removing from pan. Cut around sides and tube of pan and separate cake from sides of pan. Cut around bottom of cake and remove tube. If it falls apart, don’t worry…just make a trifle with your favorite fruits or toppings.

Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Pizza (for Passover)
and then some…


Passover Pizza Crust

  • 4 pieces of matzah
  • 1 large bowl of very hot water
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or melted butter
  • 1teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil (optional, it gives the dough a hint of pesto flavoring)

Break the matzah in pieces and soak in the bowl in hot water for about 5 minutes or until soft. Then drain the matzah in a colander and dump the water.

While matzah is soaking and draining begin preparing the toppings.

While preparing the toppings, place the drained matzah for the crust in the large bowl and mix together thoroughly with the remaining dough ingredients. The mixture should be moist and thick, but able to easily spread.


Use a 12-16 inch non-stick pizza pan. The larger the pan, the thinner the crust will be. Spread the matzah mixture to the edges of the pizza pan being sure to cover the bottom of the pan entirely. I started in the center and spread outward to the edges of the pan with a spatula.

Place the pizza pan in the 400º oven and bake for about 15 – 25 minutes (depending on thickness) or until crust is dry on the top and the bottom.

Remove from oven and set aside.

Passover Pizza Topping
This particular topping was inspired by a pizza we had a chain pizza place that was the best pizza I have had in a long time. The matzah dough is a far cry from the real thing, but the topping almost makes up for it. A traditional margherita pizza topping or any topping you like will work just as well. Be creative.

  • 1 sweet onion, sliced in thin wedges
  • Oil or butter for sautéing
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 12 ounces mushrooms, any variety (I used shiitake and portobello), sliced
  • 2 1/2 – 3 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
  • Truffle oil (optional)

Heat up a large sauté pan at medium heat with a little oil or oil and butter. Add the sliced onions, allowing them to cook slowly until browned and soft, but not mushy. Add a little salt after about 10 minutes of cooking. A little sugar (optional) can also be added to aid in the caramelization process. It could take 20 – 30 minutes for the onions to caramelize. When done, remove them from the pan and set aside.IMG_5641

Place the sliced mushrooms in the same pan and sauté until they are done, adding oil or butter if needed and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from pan when done and set aside.
Grate the cheese.

Sprinkle the grated cheese over the baked matzah crust and top with the mushrooms and onions.


Bake in the 400º oven for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is crisp.
Remove from oven and lightly sprinkle a few drops of truffle oil over the pizza, if desired.

Tips and variations:
The dough can be made ahead time and ready for toppings at a moments notice. Consider traditional pizza toppings with tomato sauce, mozzarella and leftover roasted vegetables. Experiment with different cheeses and fresh herbs like basil and oregano and any other toppings you enjoy.


This pizza reheats well in a toaster oven the next day and is a nice treat for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

♦ Happy Spaces

Dear Shaina,

My morning started with instructions from our yoga instructor to bring three things into our minds that make us happy. The recent chatty phone calls from you immediately filled the happy spaces in my brain. I can actually feel the buzz emanating from you over the phone. I don’t remember ever hearing you so excited about school and your life; your professors, your classmates, your project, your friends, your life! And, of course, my happiness is irrevocably linked with yours. Just can’t help it.

It’s not that I don’t have my own sources for happiness. You weren’t the only image that came to my mind. There are so many things in my life that bring me pleasure and comfort and contentment, all of them contributing to my state of happiness. Indulging in the brief happiness exercise reminded me that, like it or not, my happiness is intricately interwoven with the well-being of the people in my life who matter most to me. I like being reminded..and yoga does that for me. Yoga is one of the things on my happy list. It brings me to myself with undeniable honesty and inevitable acceptance…the ultimate happy place.


I realized this morning that many of the things that make me happy are things that I don’t necessarily indulge in easily or often. I routinely choose easy, convenient, immediately available quick fixes. It takes more effort to read a good book than to play solitaire on my iPad; to invite friends over than to just hang out at home; to research and try new recipes than to stick to the same old familiar dishes. I am not dissing my less effortful pleasures. I just feel like I am cheating myself by not pursuing more balance and happiness diversity.

Tax Trash...Almost Done!

Tax Trash…Almost Done!

I am also aware of what a luxury this pursuit is. I am immensely grateful. In the meantime, I am currently filling my leisure hours with the annual ritual tax preparation and household paper cleansing process. This actually brings both great pleasure and pain as I vow, each year, to do a better job keeping up with the monthly flow. I am making progress…slowly. IMG_5660Spring has arrived. The orchids are blooming. Dad is sprouting seeds for the garden. And Passover is coming. Passover, like childbirth, is one of those events that as time passes (10 or 11 months), the pleasures supersede the pain. I am about to order the fish for gefilte fish, despite the messy smelly ordeal. I bought the chickens for the soup and will set aside a day for that effort with visions beyond the slimy skinning and deboning to the aromatic comfort soup and endless tubs of chicken salad. I will clean the house and set the tables and make enough food to last for the week…and sit back and enjoy the Slivovitz!

Shaina, please keep all the stories coming. They just add to my happiness!


Mom xoxoxoxoxoxoxox

P.S. Shaina, I know you don’t eat meat, but I haven’t been cooking anything new lately and started looking back at recipes that haven’t yet made it into the blog. I hope you’re not too grossed out. This happens to be a very easy and delicious meat recipe when you’re cooking for a crowd. I always have fish and vegetarian options for people who don’t eat red meat, but every once in a while…there’s nothing like a good piece of steak!

Beef Tenders

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
Rest time: 15 minutes
Yield: 8-14 people depending on size of beef and other food options


Beef Tenders

  • 1 5-7 pound whole Beef Tender


  • 1/2 cup salad oilIMG_1853
  • 3/4 cups soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2T dry mustard
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 T coarsely ground pepper
  • 1T dry parsley
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced

Prepare marinade a day before you plan on serving. Mix all marinade ingredients and place whole Beef Tender and marinade into a ziplock bag and seal with ziplock. Marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Take Beef and marinade out of the refrigerator about 2- 3 hours before serving time and let the beef come to room temperature.

About 90 minutes before serving time, preheat the oven to 500°.

Remove the Beef Tender from the marinade and place on a broiling rack positioned on top of a baking sheet to catch the juices. Pour a little of the marinade over the meat (about a cup, more if you like a lot of au jus).

Place the Beef in the oven on the baking sheet, uncovered, and cook for 5 minutes and then turn the oven off. DO NOT OPEN the oven door. Leave in the oven for 45 minutes. If your Beef is very thick or you like it less rare, leave it on 500° for 6 or 7 minutes, but no longer.

After 45 minutes, open the oven door and remove the beef and let it rest for 15 minutes. Pour the juices in the bottom of the baking sheet into a bowl for au jus to be served with the meat.

IMG_3507 Slice the beef and place on a platter. The meat should be medium rare. Serve with au jus, spicy mustard or horseradish sauce.

♦ 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.


Vegetable Spaghetti Stir Fry

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.


♦ Guts and Persistence

Dear Shaina,

I love your growing-up person! That is not to say that I don’t still adore your child-person and will never stop indulging your regression. We are in full collusion on that one. I am grateful for your optimism and energy and determination to make a difference…your way. The days of my youth were filled with war protests, burning bras and antiestablishment lifestyle alternatives. So much for peace, love and harmony. We morphed into greedy, materialistic, self-obsessed baby boomers, myself included. We wanted to change the world, but it was too big and too overwhelming, so we joined it…and some of us sought some small place in our little sphere where we might actually find a way to make a difference, at least to ourselves.

The whole world seems to be one big mess; too big for any simple solutions, too big for any one tactic. One idea, one story, one human being at a time seems a more reasonable, if not more manageable approach. I am in awe of your guts and persistence in pursuing the humanity of each person you encounter without assumptions, without intentions and without judgment. Your approach is more hopeful than my generation’s and much kinder.

I am overwhelmed by the hatred, injustice and sadness that seems to be flourishing everywhere. I am fearful and saddened when I think about the world that we are leaving you and your someday-children. My current efforts on behalf of the world amount to getting everyone I know to take yoga. It seems that if everyone inhaled the yogi consciousness, the world would be a happier and more peaceful place…one person at a time. That is all I seem capable of managing right now, in addition to cooking, of course.

My newest kitchen gadget...very low tech

My newest kitchen gadget…very low tech

Cooking seems to be a curative salve for both of us; a meaningful distraction, a tangible outcome, nourishment of the body and soul for ourselves and the beneficiaries of our efforts. I am making tubs of soup and sharing it with friends and family, in sickness and health… I am baking hundreds of hamentaschen to be shared with family, friends and community… I am stocking the freezer with sweets, soups and casseroles to be pulled out on a moments notice for an impromptu dinner or to send visiting friends on their way with a sweet treat for the road. It doesn’t seem like much for a world that is in as bad a shape as ours, but it is what I can do. A little nourishment thrown out into the universe can’t hurt.

At it again...

At it again…

I have eased back into my yoga routine and finally feeling at one with my body despite the torn meniscus and screaming hips. I am learning to be more accepting of my limitations and kinder to my body. I am trying to find my own peacefulness and send it out into the universe that is so in need of positive energy. And I am putting my faith in you and your generation to lead the way to a more humane and tolerant world.


P.S. So excited that you pulled together a mahjong group! What could be better…mahjong and food…may the mahjong angels be with you!

Indian Pea and Lentil Soup


This soup is very aromatic and full of flavor. The yellow peas and orange lentils give it a lighter feel than traditional pea soup. I usually double the recipe. As long as I am chopping and messing up a pot, I might as well make enough to enjoy now and later and share with friends. It freezes well. Be sure to taste while cooking and adjust spices to taste.

  • 2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 sweet pepper, red, yellow or green, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
  • 1-2 teaspoons minced small green chiles
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 9-10 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1 full cup dried yellow split peas (soaked in water for a few hours and drained)
  • 1 full cup dried red lentils (soaked in water for a few hours and drained)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon or lime juice, plus zest
  • 1 tablespoon agave, honey or brown sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric 2 teaspoons sea salt or to taste
  • Ground black pepper to taste

Spice Blend:IMG_5210

  • 1 tablespoons butter or oil
  • 2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds or 1/8 teaspoon ground fenugreek

Chopped cilantro, parsley or green onions for garnish.

Melt butter in a large soup pot. Add chopped onions, carrots, celery and pepper and sauté until softened. I chop everything together in the food processor. Add the garlic, ginger, chiles and coriander and continue sautéing for a minute.

Add the stock and partially softened or cooked peas and lentils, lemon or lime juice, agave, bay leaves, turmeric, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, entitle peas and lentils are very tender. Add water if soup is too thick.

Prepare the spice mixture and add to the soup. Melt the butter or heat the oil in a small saucepan on medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and heat until they begin to pop, about 30 seconds. Add the cumin and fenugreek and fry until golden, about 1-3 minutes. Stir into the soup mixture and simmer for 15 minutes or until flavors blend.

Serve warm and top with garnish of cilantro, parsley or green onions. It is also tasty with a dollop of sour cream or greek yogurt.

More Indian Pea and Lentil Soup

More Indian Pea and Lentil Soup