◊ A New Year


Dear mom,

Since my last letter about wanting to switch things up and your go-ahead to do so, I spent some time wracking my brain about what that can look like. What parts of my communication with you do I want to leave behind and what do I want more of?

More self-assuredness, less complaining. I’m doing X. Rather than I think I’m doing X, but it might be a bad idea and I have no idea if it will work out. More curiosity and less dismissiveness. Like, I should actually try your recipes! More gratitude, less worry. Even if I fail my Arabic midterm, I’ve learned a lot.

It’s a nice meditation for this time of year – the reflection period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur that encourages us to think about these things.

Here’s my first take:

I feel excited about school projects. I’m happily participating in the cleanse. My house threw a big party this weekend and no one called the cops or threw up on the floor. How are you doing? It sounds like you’re having fun in Portland – visiting your favorite book stores, cafes and happy hours.

The cleanse has been great for me this year. It always pushes me to be more creative with food. Now that we’ve incorporated a $$ challenge – to spend no more than $4.10, the national average food stamp benefit on food for each of the ten days of the cleanse – there’s an extra push. I’m cooking and thinking more.

Last Monday after Rosh Hashana services, I made a beeline for the grocery store. I had fun in there at first – hunting for sales, picking the least-bruised/mushy produce from the 99 cent bin in the back of the store, grabbing just a teeny bit of arugula instead of a huge bagful. I miraculously kept the bill under $30. But by the end I was tired. Out of all the food I bought, I didn’t even have a snack to munch on during my walk home.

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It took a lot of time. I spent almost 45 minutes in the grocery store! It was fun … but what if I had a job? The 99 cent bin at Berkeley Bowl was swarming with customers at only 2pm. If I had a job and couldn’t get to the store til 5 or 6, I wonder if there’d still be good food.

I concentrated really hard in the checkout process. I selected yogurt I thought was on sale, but it rung up as $7.50 (!!). I asked about the sale, and the guy said that the sale was on the regular yogurt, not the organic. So I put it back.

Once I got back to the house with bags and bags of “imperfect” 99 cent produce, I had to prep it right away. I was on my feet for almost three hours dissecting brown spots out of apples, scrubbing dirty potatoes, carving into squash. It was therapeutic – I listened to my favorite podcast and enjoyed washing, chopping and putting things into tupperwear. But I can’t imagine doing the same job with hungry kids and a long list of other priorities tugging at my sleeves.

Five days later, I’m sick of eating sweet potatoes, the thought of brussel sprouts makes me nauseous and I can’t do more lentils. The homemade soy milk endeavor was not worth it.

I’m sending you cleanse-friendly recipes with their cost breakdowns. The hardest part of this whole thing is the math.

Can’t wait to hear more about your Portland adventures and to see you in a week.

xo,

Shaina

Ps. To learn more about the cleanse, check out our site – 10yamimclean. We’re doing a big fundraiser for global food justice via AJWS. AJWS will match all donations made before Oct 2!

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Zucchini Noodles with Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Serves 5 – 7

Cost per serving: $1.55

Gluten free, vegan, tree nut free, grain free, paleo friendly

Sauce:

  • 1 jar roasted red peppers $2.85
  • 3 cloves garlic (no kissing tonight!) $0.20
  • 1 tbs flax meal (leftover from summer subletter)
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds $4.35
  • 1 tsp salt
  • black pepper to taste
Noodles:
  • 4-5 long green zucchini, zoodled, peeled or vegettied *see below (free from garden)
  • 1 tsp olive oil $0.17
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped $0.20

Total cost: $7.77

Per serving: $1.55

Sauce:

Combine all ingredients in food processors and puree until smooth. Keep refrigerated.

Noodles:

With “vegetti” (my fav new kitchen tool), peeler or mandolin, shave zucchini into strips aka noodles – #zoodles.

Heat pan in olive oil and add chopped onions. Cook on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes til transluscent. Add zoodles and cook for 7 – 10 minutes til soft (but not mush!).

Top with creamy sauce and garnish with pumpkin seeds.

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Sweet and Salty Peanut Butter Jelly Bars

Makes 30-35 squares, about 15 servings

cost per serving: $0.61

Gluten free, vegan, tree nut free

I brought these to my Creative Non Fiction class and they went over well. I like bringing snacks to class/everywhere. I like to share. But it’s hard to budget snacks for the people when I’m struggling to budget snacks for myself. I figured that if I used basic ingredients (sorry friends, no almond-cocoa-date truffles this week), I could keep things relatively affordable. I feel very lucky that this is something I don’t have to worry about (too much) on the reg. What a gift!

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  • 2 cups puffed rice $1.5
  • 1/3 cup flax seeds((leftover from summer subletter)
  • 1/2 cup oat bran  $0.27
  • 1 cup oat meal $0.35
  • 3/4 cup unsweeteened coconut shreds $0.75
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins or other chopped fruit $1.15
  • 1 tbs salt
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened peanut butter (leftover from summer subletter)
  • 2.5 cup pitted prunes $3.75
  • 1/2 cup flax meal (leftover from summer subletter)
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk $0.75
  • 1tbs cinnamon powder
  • juice of one lemon (from tree)
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • 1 tbs coconut oil $0.20
  • dash of salt

(Added$0.40 for spices already in the house)

TOTAL cost: $9.12

cost per serving: $0.61

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Need to poop? Eat this.

Put peanut butter, prunes, dates, flax, cinnamon, lemon juice and vanilla into food processor. Blend until a sticky paste forms.

While the food processor is going at it, reserve 1/4 cup of coconut shreds and mix dry ingredients in your largest mixing bowl.

Heat oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix coconut oil with salt remaining shredded coconut and line parchment paper with oil mixture.

With a large spatula, your hands or both, work dry ingredients into wet ones. You may need to add a bit of hot water to the fruit paste to loosen it up. Do this with caution.

Once combined, press mixture onto parchment paper so that it’s evenly distrubuted about 1 1/2 inch thick across the baking sheet. Place in oven for ten minutes, just to crisp the edges. Remove and allow to cool before scoring.

Cut bars into small squares and keep remaining crumbled in a ziplock for yogurt toppings. Keep bars in airtight container in the fridge.

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Cleanse 5776

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Ok. It’s finally time to start prepping for the fourth annual CLEANSE — a mind/body/spirit reflection during the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. I can’t believe how fast our New Year is creeping up on us. 

Arielle and I decided to add a new element for year 5776. Along with the regular food rules (listed below and here), we’re asking people to spend no more than the national average food stamp benefit – $4.10 daily – on food for the ten days of the cleanse. We expect that nourishing our bodies with a whole foods, vegan diet (reminder of rules below) 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 the American Jewish World Service. We’ve built a donation page here.

Access to healthy food in America is a challenge that can be easy to ignore. It’s important to feed ourselves with nourishing foods, and we feel it’s  important to remember how difficult it can be for others to do the same .We hope that this cleanse will not only spark reflection on our own personal health, but also on how we can contribute to the health of others. I think that this challenge will inspire gratitude for the current abundance of resources in our lives. 

We know that this year will be more challenges than previous ones. Our blog, 10yamimclean, provides support and a forum for dialogue. On the blog, we’ll post recipes and resources that  related to food justice — we encourage you to do the same. Shoot us an email with a reflection, recipe or question, and we’ll through it up on the blog (and give you credit unless you specify otherwise). When you send recipes, please include a cost breakdown or rough estimate of cost. An example of what this looks like is below. 

Happy Cleansing!

 DSCF8300White Bean Kale Burgers

5-7 servings

$1.08 per serving

  • 2 cups white beans, dried ($1.30)
  • 4 cups kale, finely chopped (from garden)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped  (from garden)
  • 2 red onions ($0.55)
  • 3 cloves garlic ($0.25)
  • 2 eggs ($0.40)
  • 1/2 cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts, finely chopped ($2.00)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • dash of chipotle seasoning
  • fresh herbs on hand, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal ($0.30)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbs olive oil (0.17)

(+ roughly $1 for spices)

($1.30+$0.55+$0.25+$0.40+$2.00+$0.30+$0.17+$1 ) = $5.97.

I averaged this recipe for 5 1/2 servings… I eat a lot. It came down to $1.08 per serving. Not bad!

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Submerge beans in water and soak for 7 hours. Then, cook on high heat until tender. You can do this in bulk a few days before and use leftover beans for other recipes.
In large mixing bowl, combine kale and beans and mash until almost a paste. Add 2 tablespoons of the cornmeal and remaining ingredients except for olive oil. Refrigerate mix for at least 20 minute.
Preheat oven to 300 F.

Place remaining cornmeal on a plate. Coat hands in olive oil and form  5-8 patties about 1/2 inch thick.  Dredge both sides of the burgers in cornmeal. Transfer to non-stick or parchment covered baking sheet and bake until golden, about 25 minutes.

I (Shaina) just did my first cost-breakdown of a recipe. Ow, my brain!

It took a lot of time. It was boring. And tedious. I kept losing count.

Some people do this every day – every meal – every visit to the grocery store, pantry and kitchen shelve.

In asking you to calculate the cost of your food as you share recipes, we don’t want you to be overwhelmed or for you to be intimidated by the thought of this task. Rather, we want to encourage you to think about cost before consuming. It’s ok to post estimates. You can guess prices when you aren’t sure and round numbers as you wish. But also think.

Here’s a great resource on how to calculate recipe costs: http://www.budgetbytes.com/2013/07/how-to-calculate-recipe-costs/

Cleanse Rules:
For the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we will undertake an intensive reflection of the mind/body/spirit connection. We will only consume:
 

Vegan foods – no products derived from animals (no meat, eggs, dairy, honey, etc.)

Gluten-free foods – nothing made with wheat

Unprocessed foods – nothing packaged with more than three ingredients

Unsweetened foods – no added sugar, honey, agave, etc.

Alcohol-free beverages 

An exception to the above rules above is the inclusion of organic eggs and yogurt that is organic, plain, stabilizer- and additive-free. This is a personal choice.

◊ 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.

first day of school

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.

◊ Yeah

Dear mom,

Yeah. It’s all too much. I came to Israel for the summer to work on one story. Now I have four. I have hours and hours and hours – maybe days – of tape that I will have to trim down to max 15 minutes. And in my last week here, I’m running around like a madwoman collecting more. What am I thinking?

As usual, my eyes are too big for my stomach (and for my brain and hard drive). Too much is overwhelming, but usually I don’t regret going for it. Sure it was stressful for you to shuck all that corn the night before a big trip, but look at all those kernels you have in the freezer! The possibilities are endless. What a privilege!

Pre-Shababat, Mea Shearim

Privilege. I move across walls and worlds; I ask questions that many wouldn’t dare ask; I’m learning how to trust myself. My government and my family do not control what I choose to do or say. I was not born a refugee and I was not born into a climate in which my life was threatened daily. I am allowed and encouraged (!) to think critically. Feeling safe and free are the keys with which I access this world of too-muchness. I am grateful for these privileges. I try not to take them lightly and wow, the heaviness gets to me.

Laylat Al Qadr, Damascus Gate

I went to Gaza last week for interviews and came away with a positive impression of the people I spoke with. Afterwards, I spent the weekend with cousins in Israel. One of them, my age, said that she will always love me, but that she does not appreciate the way I see the circumstances. I told her that my empathy for people on the “other side” does not mean that I am critical of her or anything that she has done in the past. Still to her, my actions are a slap to her face. We talked it out and our relationship is closer than ever, but I still feel sad that despite my intentions, my actions can hurt the people I love.

Near the Erez border crossing, Gaza Strip

In Gaza City, graffiti messages cover almost every public surface. The graffitis include love notes, taxi numbers, reminders of 27 (years of Hamas), wedding announcements, religious verses, memories of catastrophe and war.

My privileges allow me to believe that basic human understanding can make the world a safer place. I think I can empathize with the reasons that people are critical of this, with how people can label it as childish, with attitudes of defense and anger towards it. For many, an attempt to understand “the other” can be scary and even life-threatening. My world is cushioned with clouds of security and safety… I know I am naive. But, in this climate of meaningless bloodshed and loss, I do not see a better option than to try to promote understanding.

My goal is definitely too much. So it’s only natural that I’m going for it.

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xo,

Shaina

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The recipe below is for the Palestinian version of dolmas. Najla, the star of the piece I wrote last winter, makes hundreds at a time, and (similar to the embroidery) she sells them to Israelis via Yael. Usually, it takes her 3 hours at a time to prepare 350-400 pieces.  I’m used to eating dolmas that are stuffed thick with one inch or more of rice. Najla’s leaves are much tastier – she rolls them thin like pencils so that they’re mostly leaf with only a hint of gooey rice in the middle.

I asked Najla to line up the spices so I could take a picture for memory. She laughed and said that it doesn’t really matter what spices I use. Whatever she has in the house, she said, is what she throws into the bowl (she also threw in a tsp of parve Osem soup powder, a staple in our kitchen). I told her that I cook the exact same way, but that I had to at least pretend to have exact recipes so I could post them to the blog.

Saturday lunch at Najla's daughter's house in Beit Sahour, Bethlehem

Saturday lunch at Najla’s daughter’s house in Beit Sahour, Bethlehem

The crucial spices and herbs include mint, parsley, nutmeg and garlic. GARLIC. When Najla sent me back to Jerusalem with a small pot of rolled leaves, I smelled so strongly of garlic that the officer at the checkpoint did not wait for me to dig around in my backpack for my passport. He let me go without even seeing it… That was a first!

*If you can’t pick em fresh like Najla does, you can buy canned or frozen grape leaves from a Middle Eastern specialty store.

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DSCF7737Najla’s Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves

Prep time: 1 ½ hours

Makes 40 – 50 stuffed grape leaves

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white rice, short grain
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed or shredded
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 Large tomato, diced
  • 1 tbs dried mint, crushed
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 handful (1/2 cup) fresh mint, chopped finely
  • 1 handful (1/2 cup) fresh parsely, chopped finely
  • pinch of nutmeg (fresh grated is best)
  • pinch of all-spice and/or 7-spice mix (optional)
  • 1 tsp veg boullion (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 40 -50 grape leaves, destemmed

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Rinse one cup of rice and place in large mixing bowl. Add oil, tomato, onion, garlic, herbs and spices. Mix together.

Lay grape leaves smooth side down. Sprinkle a pinch (really, a teeny amount! See picture) of rice in the bottom of each leaf. Roll the leaves from bottom up keeping the edges inside. Imagine you’re rolling a burrito for a Barbie doll. As you roll the leaves, try to keep the edges right. This may take practice.

Line the bottom of a small pot with 4 -5 unrolled, flat grape leaves. Stack the rolled grape leaves on top of one another in the pot. Add one tsp olive oil. When full, cover the rolled leaves with an additional 4 – 5 flat leaves. Add water until leaves are submerged at least one inch.

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Cover with lid, bring to boil and reduce to simmer for 45 minutes – 1 hour. Serve with tahini, labne or greek yogurt!

**next time I make these on my own, I will add some lentils into the rice mixture for extra protein

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Above: Najla’s husband gave me a sunflower with fresh seeds! She said to wash them with salt and put them in the sun to dry, but I ate most of them raw.

Below: Najla and the newest embroidered cushion covers from the Beit Sahour collective. The pieces are called “Magazine” because the women found the design in a magazine.

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◊ Hyper-nomadism

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Dear mom,

Soon after I wrote to you explaining why I spend much of my energy preparing healthy foods, my attention was diverted from health habits. I feel ok about it.

Right now, my life is about chasing stories and summer breeze. I find people and listen to their stories. If I have time, I jog to the ocean and go for a swim (or sneak into Naomi’s spin class or sit on the rocks by the sea and/or eat ice cream).

The chase has led me into a life of what I call hyper-nomadism. I’m used to normal nomadism: long-term living out of backpack and changing houses every few months or weeks. Hyper-nomadism is more intense and for a shorter time. Until a few nights ago, I hadn’t slept in the same city for over a week. Each city was like a different world with its own climate and culture. I’m chopping vegetables whenever I get a chance, but it’s hard to plan for salads when I have no base, no routine, no expectations of when or where I’ll find my next kitchen. It’s a good thing that Israeli restaurants are known for beautiful heaps of chopped vegetables.

Getting my daily kale juice at a Tel Aviv juice stand

It feels good to spend to spend energy on things that don’t fit into a routine. I’m making an effort to do fun things like go to music festivals and the beach. But, because I’m accountable only to myself regarding how I choose to spend my time, I always feel that I’m not doing enough work AND that I need to do more fun things AND that I need more me-time. It’s as stressful as it sounds. I worry that my whole life will be a constant feeling of needing to do more and less and something different, so I’m training myself to say SHUT UP to this feeling when it creeps up… And to do what I feel in the moment! (I don’t know when or how doing what I feel like doing became foreign to me.)

I have to admit that the kindness and hospitality of family here makes me I feel like a cheater among hardcore hyper-nomads. It’s much easier to go for days with only a couple pairs of underwear and innumerable unknowns when weekend retreats to family comfort, good food and fresh laundry are certain. I’m so grateful for my cousins and hope that I’ll be able to provide the same kind of stability for the future hyper-nomads of the world one day.

Xo,

Shaina

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Last week for Shabbat lunch, Nurit made tofu schnitzel. It was a perfect Shabbat with lots of rest and family time capped off with a sunset run with (behind) Naomi in Caesarea.

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Tofu Schnitzel

Prep time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4-5 people as main course

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  • 8 ounces (two blocks) of extra firm tofu
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • pinch of hot paprika (and/or chili flakes) to taste
  • Handful of finely chopped parsley
  • 2 eggs
  • vegetable oil for frying

Mix breadcrumbs, flour, spices, salt and pepper in one bowl. Whisk egg in separate bowl and add breadcrumb mixture until combined.

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Wash dry and cut tofu into 1inch thick slices. Submurge tofu slices, one by one, into egg. Then, dip into breadcrumb mixture to coat. Repear until all tofu slices are coated with breadcrumb mixture.

Heat oil in a medium sized saucepan on high (enough so that tofu can be submerged – about 2 inches). Place tofu into oil and fry for 2 – 4 minutes on each side until golden.

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Remove from oil and place on paper towel to remove excess oil.

Serve with plenty of salads, tahini, hummus and, of course, ketchup and mustard! Leftovers are great on a sandwich with onions, avocado and mustard… Or treat it like fried chicken and eat with slaw and greens.

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◊ Your Sweet Life

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Dear mom,

When I was young, I expected a diabetes diagnosis. Bubbe had it, you had it… it seemed only a matter of time before I’d be sticking needles in my tush too. To your credit, I was a-ok with this self-predicted future. Your health, fullness of life and energy levels were well above average – you worked and played harder than any of the moms I knew. Among all the possible illnesses out there, I thought, diabetes would be doable.

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I know better now. I no longer anticipate a diagnosis nor think about where I’d position an insulin pump when I dress up. I know that living with diabetes is not as painless as you make it seem.

People ask me how I got into food and if I’ve always eaten so healthily. I think I inherited my health awareness by watching you manage yours. Not everyone has the opportunity to see how powerful a half cup of juice can be on a person’s ability to function. The active role you took in your health rubbed off on me…  growing up, food in our house food was, literally, medicine.

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10 things children of diabetics learn early:

  1. Candy or juice? They’re pretty much the same.
  2. Always always always carry snacksIMG_7735
  3. Needles aren’t scary
  4. Vitamin-e oil is good for scars
  5. White and brown food is almost always mostly sugar

    SUGAR!

  6. Make a fuss at bars and restaurants – it’s worth it
mom martini

When you want a low-sugar margarita, don’t trust the bartender: order a shot of tequila, a shot of fresh lime juice, a shot of fresh orange juice and soda water to make a perfect drink

7. Health is everythingIMG_7127

It feels strange to celebrate this 50-years-with-diabetes thing. I know it’s a big deal to live for 50 healthy years with diabetes, but I never considered an alternative for you.

I’m honored to celebrate your sweet life by supporting ‪‎UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center‘s search for a cure.  We’ll party hard when I get home, but for now let’s drink some kale to your health!

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xo,

Shaina

L’chaim – here’s to finding a CURE in your lifetime!

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Kale Coconut Smoothies

Serves 2

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  • 1/4 c unsweetened soy milk
  • 1/4 c light coconut milk
  • 1 tbs almond butter
  • 1 frozen banana, chopped
  • 1/4 c frozen mango (or pineapple, orange or other citrusy fruit)
  • 5 – 7 leaves of fresh dinosaur kale, trimmed
  • dash of vanilla
  • dash of salt

Place all ingredients into food processor in order listed (always put liquid in first to give the blades some room to work their magic). Blend until smooth. Add ice if you desire a thicker consistency.

Kale harvest at the farm

Kale harvest at the farm

◊ Halfway Where

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Dear Mom,

I’m done with my first year of my second round of grad school. “Halfway there!” and high-fives all around.

This year, I shot and edited video, produced an audio story, published long narratives and quick-turnaround pieces, sort of coded things, made a web site, learned some Arabic. I ran a half-marathon, moved (twice), saw waterfalls, played mah jong, built friendships, brewed Kombucha and made a lot of snacks. I worked on projects that made me cry. I left class with goose bumps and almost threw my computer on the floor more than once. I was overwhelmed with gratitude by the generosity and depth of guidance offered to me by mentors. I was humbled and inspired by the kindness and brilliance of my classmates.

This is what my computer screen looks like before I almost throw it on the flow. those red boxes... editing failure.

This is what my computer screen looks like before I almost throw it on the flow. Those red boxes … oy vey.

Now, at the end of this very full year, I’m halfway there. I feel no sense of accomplishment or relief. All of the things that happened this year inched the bar higher and higher so that each step I take toward there pushes there farther and farther away.

I’m scared that my whole life will be like this.

In your last letter, you said that life is “a series of intentional meanderings and instinctive pursuits of ever-evolving targets.” Do you mean that life’s a calculated chase? Do we ever make a catch? And what happens if we do?

I know how to celebrate the small victories and to live in the moment and blablabla be here now. Like, in my brain, I get it. And I AM grateful for finding a path to follow, surrounding myself with inspiring people, dumping my energy into meaningful stories. But I never feel full. I just keep pouring gasoline onto the fire under my ass until it burns so strong that I can’t think about where or why or how I’ll run. I just run and run and run like a lab rat on a treadmill toward what? You know?

my favorite running spot in Berkeley

my favorite running spot in Berkeley

Don’t tell me I need yoga.

xo,

Shaina

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The recipe I’m sending you is ambitious. It’s for a true adventurer. And (gluten free, paleo, vegan, grain-free) it’s oh so Berkeley.

I went through pounds and pounds of broccoli and several versions of this recipe to get these weird savory vegetable strips. At first I was going for crackers and was unsatisfied with the chewy outcome (the internet says that it’s possible to toast broccoli mush into a crisp, but I’m weary). The outcome of my labor was not successful until I reframed my expectations —  it sounds gross, but… JERKY!

Broccoli Jerky (or Chewy Broccoli Crackers)

  • 2 large heads of broccoli, steamed (4-5 cups chopped)
  • 5 tbs nutritional yeast
  • 2- 3 cloves fresh garlic
  • 2 tbs flax meal
  • 2/3 C pumpkin seeds
  • 1 bunch fresh basil (12-15 leaves)
  • 1 tbs mustard
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • juice of one lemon
  • zest of one lemon (about a tsp)
  • dash of cayenne powder, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • plenty of cracked black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbs flax seeds
  • 1/4 C sun dried tomatoes, chopped

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Set oven to lowest possible temperature. (A dehydrator is ideal for this recipe. I don’t have one, so I set my oven to its lowest temp – 200 degrees.)

Once steamed, chop broccoli (including stem) into 2 inch pieces. Add broccoli with remaining ingredients (except for the flax seeds and sun dried tomatoes) into food processor. Pulse for 2 -5 minutes until all ingredients are combined into a thick paste. If needed, add a tsp of apple cider vinegar. Once the ingredients form a thick puree with a consistency similar to a dough, stir in sun dried tomatoes and flax seeds. Get creative here! You can also add other seeds – think chia, sesame and hemp seeds.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or your other favorite non-stick baking tool. Spread broccoli “dough” in a thin layer across entire baking sheet. Start with your hands and then switch to a spatula to make sure all area of the dough are spread to the same thinness. Insert into oven and leave for 1 – 2 hours (but check frequently to make sure nothing is burning!) until the dough has dried – the corners of the baking sheet may be dry or crisp at this point. Remove from oven and score into squares with a sharp knife immediately. Allow to cool and remove from pan. Store in air-tight container. For a more crispy version, place in oven or toaster oven at 300 degrees for 10-15 minutes before serving.

◊ Raw

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Dear mom,

It’s already been a week since I was home for Passover? Yesterday was the weekend? I’ve been living in a computer screen vortex since I left home and every time I look up, I feel further from the world outside.

I’m in post-production mode of three different projects. This means I’m finished collecting puzzle pieces and I’m now ready to sort, order and put them together. Thinking about it makes me dizzy.

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They aren’t just any puzzle pieces. They’re heavy. They are other people’s stories, but putting them together comes from my own core. Schoolwork feels like therapy sometimes… My emotional state is raw and being home for Passover only intensified that feeling.

Along with the usual Passover routine – cooking, overeating, taking shots of slivovitz, leaning to the left from too much dessert/the Haggadah told us to – we dove into discussions that shook assumptions of my basic values.

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Dad asked me to come up with a discussion question for our Seder. Before we recited the ten plagues that Moses inflicted upon the Egyptians, he asked it:

Is inflicting hardship upon others in order to gain freedom justified? Is it always tit for tat? What about preemptory strikes? Blood, locusts, boils, wild beasts, death of the first-born…. Is it easier to commit acts of cruelty when god’s on your side?

I thought the questions would spark good debate, but for the first time in the history of our dinnertime discussions, you and Abe agreed – you and I agreed – Abe and dad agreed – we all agreed (whoa!) that we don’t know what we’re capable of until we’re fighting to survive. We don’t know the answer. We analyze risks and benefits, we act as efficiently as we can, and we don’t look back because we know that we made the most thoughtful, conscious decision possible.

When dad asked the question, I’m guessing that some people had ISIS or Israel and Gaza in mind. Initially, I was thinking about salads (duh) — about how every bite may enable slave labor in Florida’s tomato fields. I also thought about other circumstances  in which the stakes feel higher.

I’ve sort of always known that the answer is that we don’t have the answer … That the reason conflicts remain conflicts is that it’s damn easy to be convinced that god is on your side. I’m still fighting with this answer.

The flight is too big for the limited space in my brain right now.

Home already feels like worlds away.

xo,

Shaina

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After I left home, I stuck to a completely raw diet for the rest of Passover and LOVED it. It inspired me to play with new foods and I really needed the intestinal catharsis after all that sponge cake (it’s mostly air, it’s mostly air, it’s mostly air… yeah right). It was a good strategy to avoid matzah too.

Raw Chocolate Hazelnut Orange Chia Breakfast Bowl/Parfait

This recipe contains two components that can be eaten on their own or layered together.

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Cardamom Coconut Chia Pudding

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • dash of cardamom powder
  • honey, maple syrup, other sweetener to taste (optional)

Stir chia seeds into coconut milk and add cardamom. I didn’t add sweetener because I knew I’d be eating it with the plenty sweet chocolate pudding (recipe below). I also kept sweetener out of it so it would more versatile for later breakfasts and snacks. It was perfect topped with a sliced banana.

 Raw Orange Scented Chocolate pudding

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  • 1 medium avocado
  • ½ cup hazelnuts
  • juice of one orange
  • zest of one orange
  • ½ cup pitted dates
  • tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup almond (or coconut) milk
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cacao powder
  • dash of sea salt

A vitamix or other high powered food processor is necessary here. Dump all ingredients into food processor and puree until smooth. Add more nut milk if needed.

FINAL STEP:

Layer the puddings with orange wedges in bowl or jar.  Garnish with crushed hazelnuts and orange zest (and cacao nibs for extra luxury).

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Herbed Raw Almond CheeseIMG_7621

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 3 cups water
  • dash of smoked paprika
  • ¼ cup onions, finely chopped
  • dash dried basil
  • salt
  • fresh black pepper

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Soak almonds in water over night. When ready, drain water from almonds and place into food processor. Add another cup of water and puree until frothy and white.

Place cheese cloth over a bowl or jar, and drain the liquid from the almond meal to collect a nice jar of almond milk. Collect remaining almond meal in a separate dish. Stir herbs and spices into almond meal and store in fridge. Get creative with your herbs!

Yogurt, Apple, Sprouts and Nuts Breakfast Bowl:

(pictured below)

  • 1 apple, chopped
  • 3/4 cup plain organic yogurt
  • handful of cilantro sprouts
  • herbed almond cheese
  • curry cashew cream

Stir yogurt into chopped apples. Top with cilantro sprouts, herbed almond cheese and curry cashew cream.

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◊ Berkeley Breakfast

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Dear mom,

Beef tenders. Ok. I can handle it. But those photos…

The content of your prep photo could have come out of my intestines. Really mom. How is that food? I’m nauseated at the thought of putting it in my mouth.

I find it strange that you hear happiness in my voice. Excitement, stress, anxiety, nerves, struggle, exhaustion… these are the things I feel.

I don’t think they’re the usual indicators of happiness.

Happiness. What a weird thing to calculate. I think I’m annoyed with it. I’m annoyed with smiling Berkley flowy pants and flower-hat wearing vegan yogis who give big hugs. Are you turning into one of them? It sounds like it. (I’d rather you make beef tenders.)

I’m working really hard at school. My chronic eye twitch is still chronic. If I’m not hunched over my computer, I’m hunched over a camera or notes or a big salad. I attempt a work-life balance with hikes and cooking, but I feel stressed and nervous and pressed for time all of the time. But I’m choosing this life and am (weirdly) excited about it.

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The work I’m doing is hard, time-consuming, confusing and emotionally draining. But I feel that it’s important. And yes, it’s stressful, but feeling that I’m doing something important is thrilling.

Is this what happiness looks like for me? I’m scared.

best served with a cold glass of kombucha, duh

best served with a cold glass of kombucha, duh

One thing that makes me happy is my new favorite breakfast inspired by one of my favorite outside of school friends (here’s her food site): sautéed dino kale, baked sweet potato, sauerkraut and a boiled egg sprinkled with sunflower seeds. It’s a meal that will help you understand how your beef pics conjure up images of things that come out of my intestines.

Crossing the line? You asked for it.

xo

Shaina

I usually prep the kale, egg and potato the night before so that it takes 5 minutes to throw it together in the morning.  Gluten free, paleo and perfect for Passover (also a good way to use leftover Seder eggs and will definitely cure a matzah belly).

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Kale and Sweet Potato Breakfast

Makes 3-4 breakfasts

  • 1 head of dino (lacinato) kale, de-stemmed and cut horizontally into 3 inch strips
  • drop of olive or coconut oil
  • 1 tbs grated ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 4 eggs, boiled
  • 1 cup sauerkraut (can be purchased at most grocery stores)
  • 3-4 tbs sunflower seeds
  • salt and black pepper

*Part 1: Heat oven to 400 degrees and wrap whole sweet potato in foil. Place on baking sheet and place in oven for 30-45 minutes, until soft.

Meanwhile, heat oil in sautee pan and add ginger, turmeric, kale and salt. Cook for 5 -7 minutes until kale is just wilted.

Part 2: Chop sweet potato into one inch chunks. Top with sauteed kale, sauerkraut and boiled egg, and sprinkle with sunflower seeds. Add plenty of salt and black pepper to taste.

*To make my mornings less overwhelming, I do part 1 the night before and part 2 in the morning.

breakfast on the go

breakfast on the go

◊ #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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