♦ At The Table

Dear Shaina,

I am in the throes of a kitchen-trashing cooking marathon for Passover. We got in Monday afternoon after a wedding in Chicago and I got right down to it and made another Chocolate Bomb (I already made two before I left last week). My strategy (I always have a cooking strategy) is to start with the sweets and move on to the sautéed onions and mushrooms while chopping and cooking the Gefilte fish. My strategy revolves around the progressive use of the food processor (from sweet to smelly) and the arrival of the cleaning people (tomorrow); trash the house today, clean tomorrow, fish smell gone by seder time.Image 4-20-16 at 9.59 PM.jpg

I was looking at all the Passover recipes and pictures on our blog; the table, the food, the people. Some of the guests are no longer with us, some will be going to other seders and you will be hosting a seder of your own. I can’t help but feel the void that you’re not being here will create. I remind myself that we will see you shortly, that we can FaceTime during the seder (maybe), that you will be celebrating with friends…blah, blah, blah…I am still and will be missing you at our seder.

Image 4-20-16 at 9.57 PM.jpgOne of the ways I am dealing with it is by cooking like a fiend…13 hours in the kitchen yesterday. I managed to produce one sponge cake, Nahum’s mother’s Poppy Seed Cake (yes, I said a remembrance prayer in her honor even though I never met her), Matza Caramel Chocolate brittle, a sugar free apple crisp, 6 pounds of chopped onions and three pounds of baby Portobello mushrooms sautéed and 85 pieces (yes, I count like Bubbe did) of Gefilte fish. IMG_7806

There were sticky fish pieces on every surface of the kitchen, every pot and bowl I own (almost) was dirty, the house smelled and my sciatica was throbbing. There is nothing that makes you feel more productive and takes you outside of yourself  like immersing yourself in a major cooking frenzy. I hardly even thought about missing you during those 13 hours…except when you texted me for the spinach kugel recipe. It actually made me feel better. There is something comforting about knowing that I will “be” at your seder in the same way that Bubbe continues to “be” at all of ours. Food is transcendent. I’m going to add those sundried tomatoes (per your modification) to my spinach kugel and transport you right into my kitchen.Image 4-20-16 at 10.02 PM.jpg

It is your birthday on the first night of Passover. I hope the Passover sponge cake makes it there in time. You were the only kid I knew who loved having your birthday on Passover…and you still do! You loved having a bunch of people over for dinner, you loved all the matzo delights and you loved the variety of amazing desserts. You actually once claimed (not so long ago) that Passover sponge cake was your favorite cake, any time of the year! Who says that!?

I will still miss you. Maybe you can send us a few seder tips, a relevant question or two, a sharing exercise to stimulate a more nuanced Passover discussion…like you always do. I might almost be able to imagine that you’re right here at the table with us.



Too much boiled chicken (from all that Chicken Soup)?

What’s for dinner the night before the Seder?

What’s in your last sandwich before Passover begins?

Chicken Salad!


This is my favorite thing to do with the boiled chicken from my Chicken Soup. I usually make Chicken Soup for Passover ahead of time and freeze it until the big day.  I make enough soup to supply two seders and leftover soup for the week.  We can’t possibly eat all that boiled chicken and it won’t hold until the holiday, so I freeze it and have it ready for chicken salad anytime I want some.

As soon as the soup is done, I remove the chicken, let it cool a bit and debone it while its still warm.  I freeze some of the chicken in the soup and save whatever I think we will eat in the next few days. I then divide the rest up into freezer bags that hold about a half of a deboned chicken. When I am ready for chicken salad, I just defrost a bag and make my favorite recipe.

Tarragon Chicken Salad

  • Deboned Cooked Chicken (whatever amount you have)
  • Mayonnaise (amount to taste)
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Tarragon (or to taste)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Optional: Toasted Pecans or slivered almonds, celery, black olives

Chop  Chicken in a food processor or cut up in small chunks. Add desired amount of mayonnaise, tarragon, salt and pepper and mix together.

Serve as a salad, sandwich or with crackers.

Good for lunch, dinner or appetizers. Also makes a great matzo sandwich.



◊ Poppy Seed Things


Dear mom,

You and dad are seriously inspiring. I only hope that I’ll be using my time with such competence when I’m your age.

I started this response a few weeks ago, right after your letter. I wrote that I’m questioning my time competency… I think I’m not as good as you and dad. Then school stuff stole me away and I forgot about the letter completely.

I’ve been spending most of my time around a big table in a room called B1, my school’s new media hole. It smells like dirty boy scalp, fries and cigarettes. My classmates and I sit there with our headphones on, hunched over computers, only looking up when an instructor walks into the room or when someone brings snacks. Zainab says it looks like the game hungry hungry hippos. It’s much more pathetic than that.

I was questioning my time competency because I feel like school is sucking time so so quickly. It’s like I enter a tunnel and all the sudden hours have gone by and it’s hard to get out. Even when I really have to pee. I dance in my chair making just one more edit until things become dire.

If my next UTI comes from homework, I’m going to feel really sad about my life. I only have two more years of my twenties! Why am I spending all my time hunched over a computer?

I don’t know. It’s fun?

But it is fun.

Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset

school peeps in Denver


Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

sometimes I get to go outside

I’m not in B1 right now. It’s spring break, so obviously I’m on a plane headed somewhere warm and sunny. I’m ready to work my ass off.


this is what every class looks like. all those tangerine peels…

Sorry I’m so intense. Next time I’m home I’ll try to find a grandkid you can rent.




Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Poppy seed cake

I wanted to save this recipe for Passover time, but at the current rate of our letter-writing, I figured that my next letter might not be until after the holiday.


I learned this recipe from Nahum in the last half of our fishballs lesson when I was in Jerusalem this winter. It’s his mom’s special cake. When you make it, you have to pray so her soul can be elevated. Or something. Nahum says it better:

This is one of my favorite cakes. It’s light and spongy and not super sweet. It also fits everyone’s weird dietary stuff – gluten free, grain-free, dairy free. Definitely try it for Passover… which will be here before we know it. Time goes crazy fast!



  • 1 1⁄2 cup poppy seeds, GROUND
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 6 eggs separated, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 7 stick of butter or canola oil, melted and cooled
  • 1/3 cup raisins and/or sliced almonds, optional



Grease a 9 inch pan and preheat oven to 300 F.

Grind the poppy seeds in food processor or coffee grinder until sticky. Combine with baking powder in large bowl.

Beat egg yolks until thick, slowly adding sugar, salt and vanilla. Add butter and poppy seeds and raisins/almonds. Mix until combined.

With a separate whisk (electric mixer is best) and clean bowl, beat egg whites until stiff (look for peaks). Gently fold the whites into the poppy batter and pour into pan. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the cake passes the clean toothpick test. Cool before serving and dust with powdered sugar if you wanna be fancy.



Meyer lemon poppy cashew cream

This is my weird vegan, paleo, raw take on the poppy theme. It’s a slightly sweet, ultra luxurious lemon poppy cream made with only four ingredients: cashews, lemon, raisins and poppy seeds.


  • 3 cups cashews, soaked in water overnight
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup – 1 cup raisins (I prefer less sweet, so I use ½ cup)
  • juice and zest of 1 meyer lemon
  • 1 cup poppy seeds, ground


Soak cashews in water for 5 hours or overnight. Rinse well and add to food processor with ½ cup water, dates, lemon juice and lemon zest. Puree until smooth and creamy. Add ground poppy seeds (use food processor or coffee grinder to grind seeds prior to this step) and mix into the cashew cream.


I layered it with overnight oats soaked in cinnamon and almond milk + green apple + raisins for a very luxurious breakfast. Almost better than eating cake!

It also works as filling for a raw poppy cheesecake with a cinnamon, walnut base. Also Passover friendly!

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

♦ Out of Our Minds

Dear Shaina,

My life is a blur! A month in Portland setting up a teeny condo in a 100 year old building, that we arrived at sight unseen, with a key, two suitcases full of dishes and an air mattress, a few towels, sheets and some forks (I forgot to pack the knives and spoons).


Late night arrival

Are we out of our minds? As dad says, “Taking risks and acting foolish are for the young…and the old!” We have arrived! Dad’s new guiding principle is “time competence”. Using your time competently translates into “do the things you want to do now”! There just isn’t enough time left to be wasteful of this precious commodity.


The air mattress from hell!

So, we did it! After a couple of rough nights on the air mattress, multiple visits to the thrift store, furniture stores and hours and days spent navigating the IKEA maze, we began to settle in. A comfy mattress arrived, a chair and table were picked up at the thrift store, a Murphy bed was ordered, the IKEA team delivered a truckload and in a blink of an eye we had a bed, night tables, quilts, pillows, a coffee table and lots of other goodies.


Our first chair…from the thrift store.

We worked tirelessly cleaning, putting together, hanging, organizing and walking back and forth to the hardware store enough times to become familiar faces. Our neighborhood offered us access to everything we needed on foot…a coffee shop across the street with wifi, numerous restaurants, bars and grocery stores, nail places, a barber shop, beauty salons, an independent movie theater, yoga studios, spas, a library, even a shoe repair place, and three synagogues all within blocks of our condo. We set out to explore all the neighborhood offerings and barely touched the surface. It was exciting and energizing and pleasantly exhausting.

Rainbows and raindrops

Portland’s charm…raindrops and rainbows

Then we took a break…Dad off to Park City with the boys and me off to Berkeley with my girl. It was a first for us in some ways; the first time I stayed in your home, the first time I slept in your bed with you, the first time you orchestrated a mini-vacation for me. We went to a yoga class, saw a movie, sat in on one of your classes and “played” mahjong with your friends. I walked your neighborhood and shopped your grocery stores. I stepped into the routine of your life for a few days in the midst of my own chaotic escapade. I slept really well in your bed! Thank you!

There is something to be said about embarking on a new adventure…at any age. I got unstuck. I see new possibilities and options and opportunities. Living in a small space wasn’t confining. Using my feet to run errands, buy groceries, get my haircut, pick up a prescription or go to a yoga class made me feel more connected to my life and the people that I encountered along the way. I love the way Portland lives!

Feeling like home.

Feeling like home.

We are back in Bham and comfortably slipping into our usual routines. I love the spaciousness of our home and the closeness of family and good friends. Getting into the car to go wherever you want has its advantages. Shabbat dinners, Monday mahjong, Tuesday and Thursday minyan/walking group, Book Club, yoga and all the rest live fully in my Bham life. I am grateful to have so many options and to know that there is a lot of life to be enjoyed wherever I am.

Riced Cauliflower with Mushrooms and Herbs

Although I did entertain a few times in Portland (mostly wine and Trader Joes hors d’oeuvres), I never really cooked a full meal. That changed once we got back to Bham and Shabbat offered the opportunity to reunite with family and friends. I wanted to do something simple, but tasty and healthy. I had heard about substituting cauliflower for rice, but wasn’t sure exactly how that would work. I tried it and loved it! It is healthy and will work in any recipe that calls for rice. I happened to have some portobello mushrooms, so this recipe evolved from there.

IMG_7534 (1)

The “rice” can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until you need it.

Riced Cauliflower with Mushrooms and Herbs

  • 1 whole cauliflower
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic
  • 12 ounces portobello mushrooms
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3-4 green onions, cut uo in 1/4” pieces
  • fresh basil, chopped
  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/2 cup roasted cashews (optional)

Wash and core cauliflower and break up into large chunks no bigger than 2-3”. Fill food processor no more than 3/4 full with cauliflower chunks. Pulse processing blade to chop cauliflower into rice sized pieces. Set aside or store in the refrigerator in a covered bowl until ready to use.

Chop the onion into small pieces and drop into a large preheated sauté pan. Sear the onions over medium heat until the moisture from the onions cooks off. Add one tablespoon of oil and the garlic to the onions and continuing sautéing until they are cooked, but not overdone. Remove form the pan and set aside.

Cut up or chop the portobello mushrooms into small pieces and drop into the heated sauté pan and cook until tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from pan and mix together with onions and garlic.


Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan and add the “riced” cauliflower. Cook over medium flame, stirring frequently until tender, but a little chewy, about 5-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in mushroom and onion mixture and continue cooking for another 5-7 minutes. Add chopped green onions, fresh herbs to taste and mix together. Garnish with roasted cashews if desired.

Serve heated or at room temperature.

This dish tastes even better the next day after all the flavors have come together.IMG_7515

◊ Balls


Dear mom,

I’m writing from Ben Gurion airport snacking on Bamba about to board my flight home. Two weeks in Israel – my shortest trip yet! It’s a blur.

Also, this post has audio — here’s a preview: 

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Each time I’m in Jerusalem, I find a new pocket holding its own world. This time, that pocket was my project. It belonged to midwives, mothers-to-be and new mothers. Many of them were understandably reluctant to speak with me and, for the first time, I was asked to turn off my recorder right in the juicy middle of interviews. Figuring out the right balance of friendly and assertive + respectful and relentless is not an easy job.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

The takeaway: I want to be midwife when I grow up… Is it too late? What other work matches the satisfaction of bringing life into the world?

When I wasn’t in the magical world of childbirth, I was with the fam. In the past three years, I feel like I’ve seen more of the family in Israel than I’ve seen in Birmingham. So lucky!

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetI got my routine initiation into Israeli salads and time zone with Hanoch and Edna, ate kreplach and chulent with the whole 20-person Pardes Hanna crew and even caught up with Ran and Nurit.

Most of my family time, though, was with Tan and Nahum. I can’t tell you how stuck I would have been without them. They fed me, drove me places early in the morning and late at night, helped me (an understatement) with my project, entertained me, fed me, fed me and fed me. They are amazing and SO MUCH FUN.

I’ve wanted a cooking lesson from Nahum for years. Every Saturday he cooks elaborate meals for his family and during my last Shabbat in Jerusalem he let me tag along. He’s a serious foodie. 

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

I met Tan and Nahum in the Shuk with my microphone on Friday morning. I found Nahum around a table of men drinking Arak and smoking cigars. I used to live right outside the Shuk so I know it well. I have my nut person, my old/rotten veggies person, my natural foods person, my grain person.

Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset

But Nahum takes Shuk intimacy to a whole new level.


click on the audio below to hear this guy singing to us



The characters of Shuk are Nahum’s best friends. He only buys from the best and most expensive vendors.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetCLICK TO LISTEN ⇓


Afterwards, we cooked. Nahum showed me how to make fish balls – his own recipe inspired by his father’s gefilte fish + Jewish North African culinary traditions.



Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Now it’s back to reality. I’m sure there are just as many characters chilling in Berkeley Bowl as there are in the Jerusalem shuk, but it’s just not the same.


I’m including audio in this recipe, so don’t forget to click the play buttons!



These fish balls are inspired by Nahum’s father’s gefilte fish recipe:

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Fish Balls Chraime

Serves: many

Prep time: 1 hour

Fish Balls:

  • 1 lb. ground cod or haddock
  • 12 cup bread crumbs
  • 14 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 onion (shredded finely/juiced)
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and peper to taste

Pulse the fish ball ingredients in a food processor or mix with a wooden spoon.  Knead the mixture with your hands for a minute or so until the mixture binds together like dough.  Set in fridge.


  • 5-7 peppers, roasted
  • 5 – 7 dried sweet pepper, rehydrated
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 7 – 10 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes with juice
  • 1 cup water or stock
  • 1 tbs sweet paprika
  • 14 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • zest of one lemon
  • chili flakes

IMG_2634 (1)

Peel skins from roasted peppers and place dried peppers in water to rehydrate. Heat oil in a saucepan. Add garlic, roasted peppers, crushed tomatoes and water. Once rehydrated, add dried peppers.  Add the paprika, chili flakes and cilantro. Bring to boil, cover and cook for 25 minutes over medium heat.

About 10 minutes into the time the sauce is cooking, form the fish balls. The balls should be the size of ping-pong balls.


Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset 

Check the consistency of the sauce. If you want it thicker, cook it down some more. When the sauce is ready, place the fish balls into it and cook for 10- 12 minutes.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset 

When finished, serve fish balls over plenty of sauce with a chunk of white challah to soak it up.


Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Ps. Nahum’s thoughts on Judaism

♦ More than Just a Knish

Dear Shaina,
I saw Riva a few days ago and she still hadn’t seen or heard your post. I told her she was famous and she said, “for vat?” Sheryl promised to reveal her online debut to her that night. I wish I could’ve been there.


I love the way you and Rebecca brought Riva and Bubbe to life on the page and in the sound. I have seen Riva in action many times, but watching you and Rebecca exercise your respective tools (Rebecca with the rolling pin and you with the microphone) was the real show for me. Rebecca relinquished her assigned position on the couch and asserted her role as a true balabusta (competent woman of the home) and you, the shy quiet one, led the charge with the microphone-in-her-face interrogation. Riva was so proud of Rebecca’s dough rolling skills and assured me that you would get it with a little practice. There was little for me to do, but watch (and clean up the mess, of course).


And then there was the tasting…similar to Bubbe’s, but different. And the discussion of the potatoes…there is always a discussion of the potatoes; the kind I bought, the kind she uses, when I cooked them, when she cooks them, the color, the quality, the wateriness, the denseness… Bubbe was exactly the same about her potatoes. There is a right and a wrong potato for knishes. Even though Riva asserts that hers are the real potato knishes, they both agreed on the potato part.


All afternoon, Riva insisted that her recipe was a secret and that she was sharing it with us because we’re femily. The more she said it, the more nervous I got watching you with that microphone in her face, knowing where this recipe was going to end up. I nudged you. I whispered, you need to tell her. When you finally gently broached the subject and told her what you planned to do, she responded without skipping a beat, “Sure, go ahead and print it.” We were all speechless! “But Riva, you said it was a secret” you said. Her response…”Yes, it’s a secret, but I gave it to you. Now it’s yours, you can do what you want with it.” I only wish we had that on tape!

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Riva was in her glory. Bubbe was right there with us…I am sure in the fried onions and oil. I was proud to be the daughter and the mother at that very moment. The sticky dough, the savory filling, the delicate seasoning…more than just a knish…it’s femily, it’s tradition, it’s love.

Thank you Shaina and Rebecca! I am more than proud to be your mom and aunt!


P.S. Those leftover fried onions did not go to waste. In true Bubbe tradition, I just repurposed them. See recipe below.

Baked Brie with Caramelized* Onions


*Okay, Bubbe didn’t know a caramelized onion from caramel candied apple. It just sounds better than slowly sautéed sweet onions in oil.

This is hardly a recipe. It was an impulsive brainstorm that popped into my head as I was putting out the Brie cheese on New Years Eve and came across the leftover sautéed onions in the refrigerator. I was going to top the Brie with my usual Pesto, but when I saw the onions, I thought maybe…
This dish got rave reviews and is super simple to make.

  • 1-2 cups chopped sweet onion
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 round of Brie
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parsley for garnish
  • Crackers or apple slices for serving

Preheat oven to 350°
Sauté onions in olive oil until golden brown and caramelized.
Place Brie on an oven proof serving dish.
Spread caramelized onions over the top of the Brie.
Bake 20 minutes or until cheese is heated through.

Garnish with parsley and serve with crackers or apple slices.

Next time, I might even try adding some crushed pecans before baking for an added twist.


FEMILY- a very special guest post

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

The story goes: Bubbe and Zayde were new to Birmingham when Riva and Isaac came to town.  Zayde heard Riva’s maiden name was Schuster and arranged to meet at the Jewish Community Center. “He said he’s wearing a yellow shirt and I said I had white hair!” Riva said. “And I found a beautiful femily!”

Turns out the Hirschs are not related to our Schusters. But after surviving the Holocaust with few living blood relatives, makeshift familial attachments to other survivors was important for both couples. Riva and Bubbe kvelled and kvetched like sisters.



The letter below was written by my cousin Rebecca several years ago following the first Yom Kippur after Bubbe died. As we ate Riva’s knishes, so similar but different than the ones Bubbe fed us, we thought of Bubbe. We missed her schtink of fried onions and big hugs.  Last week, we finally got around to cooking with Riva. Bubbe was definitely “proud on us.”



** Click the play button for for short sounds of our knish adventure. ++ Be sure to scroll all the way to the recipe for a step-by-step sound guide on mixing, kneading and folding knishes.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Dear Esther and Shaina,

There is no tie that holds my family closer together than our love of food. Whether we are the ones that spend hours upon hours in the kitchen, or show up just in time to get that hot out of the oven knish, we simply love food. This love comes out even when we fast during Yom Kippur.

“Beckelah, did you try mine knishes? Dey different from Mamala’s. I put mine mit dill.” Those words mean one thing: it’s time to break the fast.

The Schuster-Shealy fam has been breaking the fast with our close friends: The Hirsch-Perlstein fam for almost 30 years. Or as their grandmother Riva likes to say “Of course you come break the fast mit us, ve are family!”

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

At each and every break fast, Riva is the one to greet you at the door and in the most loving way start demanding: “come, zit, eat mamaleh. You need to eat. Here come eat mine knishes.” Around the age of 7, I’m pretty sure I was able to respond with “yeah I know, they are different than Bubbe’s—you make them with dill.”

Despite the differences in the recipe, no knish will ever be as satisfying to me as those of my Bubbe or of Riva. As my dad likes to say “this is the food of our homeland.” The simplicity yet the complexity of potato mixed with garlic and honions (onions), wrapped up in an hoily (oily) dough and baked until golden perfection was and is such a formidable part of my childhood. I loved when my mom would get the phone call that it was time to come to Bubbe’s to pick up the knishes. And after stuffing our faces with them by the dozen, Bubbe would, without fail, ask “Tell me kids are dey edible?”

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

6 hands, 1 knish

Sometimes, I was even lucky enough to partake in the process of making the knishes. Nothing was more exciting than knish making time—when Bubbe would make 100s upon 100s of knishes.

Here are some of the important rules and memories from the times I spent “working” in Bubbe’s kitchen:

  • No fressing, no lessing, no shmecking (if you ever made it to my Bubbe’s house, you know about this sign)
  • You just need a little bit of hoil (translation: Bubbe’s version of a little bit of oil equaled about a gallon of it per batch of dough)
  • Speaking of dough: “You can use dis dough for anyting—kreplach, strudel, blintzes, knishes, anyting you want.”
  • Where is your shmata? (Head covering)
  • Mine Rebecelah, go rest, you young, I don’t want you to be tired. Let Bubbe make you someting to eat. You da baby of da family and you need to rest.

Sometimes, sometimes, if I was really lucky, I was deemed the brown paper bag girl. I had the critical role of unfolding brown grocery bags to place the finished knish on to soak up any hoil. After laying out a bag or two, I had to go back to resting on the couch and eating in case I was tired or hungry. That’s one thing I learned for sure—there was no one more important to Bubbe than her grandchildren. And she would be damned if anyone did anything to make our lives even the slightest bit difficult. Everything she did spoke unconditional love for “her seven grandchildren. Dey are the hair dat I breathe.”

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

While we often joke about her crazy kitchen routines, her hour long monologues about her grandchildren, and so many other “Bubbisms,” I am so thankful to have had a grandmother in my life who demonstrated each and every day what it looks like to love another person unconditionally. She was our biggest fan and protector, and we knew it with every bite of that knish that she spent hours making just right.


While Bubbe is no longer with us today, I know she is just as happy watching three of her grandchildren enjoying her best friend Riva’s knishes together just the other week at break fast. Whenever I get to spend time with my siblings and cousins, I smile just thinking of how Bubbe is kvelling. Especially when we are eating, because heaven forbid “you lost veight.”




Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Riva’s Knishes


Potato filling

  • 8 potatoes
  • 1 tbs margarine
  • two onions, finely chopped.
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Peel and boil potatoes in salter water until soft. In saucepan, melt margarine and sautee onions until translucent. In large bowl, mash potatoes with onions, salt and pepper until soft. NO CHUNKS! Use a stick blender if you have one (different from bubbe’s, Riva’s knish filling is smooth and fluffy).


  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • pinch of salt

Beat one egg in large bowl. Add oil, baking soda and lukewarm water in that order. Mix well. Add two cups flour and a pinch of salt and knead into dough.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Assembly instructions:

Preheat over to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Separate dough into three parts and roll into pickle/hot dog shaped logs. Cover with towel to keep moist.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Roll one section of dough into elongated oval shape on floured surface. Brush dough with melted margarine. Cut dough in half. Pile a thick 1/2 inch of potato mixture onto each cut of dough. Stretch dough over the filling and press edges together.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

After edges are tucked in and there are no holes, flip over onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Again, brush top of dough with margarine and generously sprinkle will dried dill. Bake for 35 minutes until top is golden. Once cool, slice into two inch pieces for individual knishes. Serve as forshpeiz or hearty nosh in between meals.


Riva likes to make potato salad out of leftover potato filling. She mixes it with mayo and hardboiled eggs. She’s definitely from the old country.

◊ Elderly

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Dear mom,

My letter was a commitment to not saying sorry and you came back with a whole apology manifesto. You’re old. For someone who still caters meals for 25+ people, still stays up past midnight, still goes to loud concerts, still walks miles at 6 am, still carries vodka miniatures around in your purse, you’re old. You’re allowed to complain about it.

Maybe all your complaining is coming out now because you held it in for so long. I feel like during your working life, you were too busy to pay attention to your feelings. When you slowed down, you learned how to stretch and sense your muscles and realized they hurt? I don’t know. My muscles hurt often. I think I act the most elderly between the both of us.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

You and dad having more stamina than I do when it comes to staying out late partying. I get sleepy. Or worried. Either I’m too lame for my age or you’re too wild for your age.

Health is tricky. I want to preserve my body and enjoy my life without becoming too nutty. I want to run long distances + I want my knees to work for a long time. I want to eat everything + I want my body to be able to do everything. I want to have fun all the time + I want to be functional and productive all the time. Balance isn’t really my thing though.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

I’m in the airport on my way home for a quick visit before heading out of the country again. I’m way unprepared and still have a long list of to-do’s trailing me from this past semester. So feel free to complain all you want… I’ll have my headphones on in the other room hunched over my computer like a normal super cool 27-year-old on vacation. Going wild.




Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Speaking of health and balance and that thing you call moderation, here’s a recipe that meets all the requirements: vegan, gluten free, paleo, grain free and completely raw. I made it as a healthy alternative to sticky holiday sweets…  in reality it functioned as a good addition to them. #yolo

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Raw Pumpkin Pie Puree

  • 1 ½ cup pumpkin seeds, soakedProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 preset
  • ½ cup almonds, soaked
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut (shreds/chips)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 – 7 dates depending on desired sweetness (I go with less sweet)
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger (more if you like a little kick)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • generous dash of nutmeg
  • generous pinch (or 2 or 3) of good salt

Immerse nuts and seeds in water and let soak for at least 7 hours (or overnight). Drain and rinse well. Add all ingredients to food processor and blend until creamy. It takes time to break up the coconut, so keep pureeing until you get a creamy consistency. Add more water if the mixture gets stuck.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetI made a ton of this stuff toward the end of the semester. I brought it to class as a dip with sweet potato chips, and then to friends with chopped apples. My roommate stirred it into oats for a creamy, spunky porridge. One friend said she ate it with a spoon like cookie dough. I enjoyed it with sweet persimmons, blended into my spinach smoothies and, as always, a garnish atop my yogurt bowl.

♦ Forgive Me

Dear Shaina,
I am out of words. The year has flown by and I can’t seem to catch the days. I find myself spending more and more time in doctor’s offices and wondering if it’s because I have the luxury of time to pay attention to my aches and pains or because my increasingly aching joints are urgently demanding my attention. My braces are finally off, but now the real work on my teeth begins. It turns out that the orthodonture expense was only a small down payment for what comes next… a lot more time in the dental chair. I joked with Dad that we’re going to be one of those couples where the wife’s body falls apart and the husband loses his mind. Fortunately, Dad’s body and mind both seem to be holding out better than mine.


I don’t want to be one of those old people who is always talking about their most current physical imposition. I don’t want to be one of those people spending all their time and money on procedures and tests and therapies. I am way too young to be that old. Despite myself, I am holding onto, sometimes by a thread, my good attitude, positive outlook and enduring gratitude for my body and its steadfast and loyal performance all these years. My most recent new doctor told me that she couldn’t remember if she had ever known anyone who had lived with diabetes for fifty years.


I am grateful…and I am scared. I’m not ready for my luck to run out. I want more years, more good years! My body doesn’t owe me anything, but I will keep pushing and stretching the limits of its capacity for as long as I am able and keep hoping that it enjoys the ride enough to stay right with me.


So forgive me if I bore you with my recent test results or whining complaints about some ache or pain. I will try not to act my old age. Know that I can be easily diverted and engaged in conversation or mutual activities, especially when they involve you.

Can’t wait until you get here!



Butter Lettuce Salad with Sweet Potato Croutons and Pomegranate Seeds


This has become one of our favorite salads to serve when we have company or just for us. Butter lettuce is a refreshing treat (especially after some hard core dental work) and a good change of pace from our usual romaine or field greens. It is light, tasty and easy to prepare. The sweet potato croutons were such a hit that I have started making them just to have around to snack on. Eggplant croutons would work just as well. Use Japanese eggplants to avoid any bitterness and prepare the same way as sweet potato croutons.

This recipe will serve 8-10 people.

Sweet Potato Croutons

  • 2-3 Sweet potatoes, diced into 1/2” to 3/4” cubes
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil salt and pepper to taste

Cut up sweet potatoes into chunks. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper in one layer and roast in a 400° oven for 15-20 minutes or until edges are slightly browned and crisped. Remove from oven and cool.



  • 3 heads of Butter lettuce washed and dried
  • 1-2 avocados sliced
  • 1 cup *fresh pomegranate seeds
  • 1/2-3/4 cup roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • chives, cut up for garnish

*clementine or tangerine wedges can be substituted for pomegranate seedsIMG_7159

Salad components can be prepared a day ahead and arranged on a platter before serving.

Wash and dry lettuce and arrange on a platter or in a bowl. Distribute sweet potato chunks over lettuce. Slice avocados and arrange on the salad. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over the salad and top with pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and cut up chives.


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • zest from 1 fresh lemon
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

To prepare dressing, whisk together all ingredients and let sit overnight. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve dressing on the side or drizzle over salad right before serving.

◊ A Twist on Tradition

DSCF8387Dear mom,

I’m a rooted creature too. I’ve lived in exciting places. The feeling of curling up in my childhood bed under the same quilt that kept me warm twenty years ago, however, is just as appealing as the excitement of sleeping somewhere way cooler. Home is grounding – being there reminds me that I once had a place – and will always have one – outside the black hole of whatever currently consumes me.

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 12.02.33 PM

Right now that black hole is school and I like it and I’m not sorry for investing 100% of myself in it and in me. My brain is so squeezed for space that I’ve ignored whole categories on my to-do list (prioritizing?). #SorryNotSorry for eating Subway sandwiches, abandoning our blog and forgetting to shave my legs during the month of November. I’m done apologizing to myself for myself.

I haven’t been cooking much lately. My visit home for Thanksgiving, though, awoke my vegetable-chopping ambitions. Our traditions – the 10K run, shots of shlivovitz, lots of food – pulled me from the darkness of my hole and threw me back to moments much bigger than it.

Latkes are my favorite winter tradition. Four years ago (whoa!), I threw a Hanukah party in Bhuj, India. I grated potatoes with three friends, two knifes and one hand peeler. We poked holes into a bottlegourd for a menorah. We covered the floors with newspaper to soak up grease. We left the door open in my kitchen for ventilation and a cow wandered inside.

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 12.00.21 PM

For a day, I was pulled from my anxiety re living in a foreign place. I remembered that wherever I am – whatever consumes me – I’m always connected to something bigger.

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 12.00.44 PM
Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 12.00.31 PM

I might not have the wherewithal to make latkes + the necessary mess in my little Berkeley kitchen, but I’ve been invited to Hanukah parties where latkes will be plenty. I’ll bring curry cashew cream and hemp seed apple sauce scented with cardamom and orange blossom water as alternatives to usual fixings. Traditions are important… there’s also always room for creativity.




Cardamom, Orange Blossom, Hemp Seed Apple Sauce 

  • 5 – 7 medium McIntosh apples
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 7 pods of green cardamom, seeded and crushed
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 1tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tbs hemp seeds
  • juice of 1 fresh lemon
  • 1 tbs orange blossom water (can be purchased at middle eastern specialty store)

Peel and chop apples into 1 inch chunks. In medium saucepan, combine apples, water, cardamom, vanilla and cinnamon. Cover and cook until apples have turned to mush (15 – 20 minutes). Mash with fork or potato masher and stir in hemp seeds, lemon juice and orange blossom water.

It’s something a little different to dress your latkes in + a healthy snack + a filling breakfast stirred into yogurt.

Curry Cashew Cream

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 12.06.48 PM

  • 2 C raw cashews or cashew pieces soaked overnight
  • 1/3 C nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp good sea salt
  • 1 tbs yellow curry powder
  • pinch of cayenne powder to taste
  • 1/2 cup water… more as needed

To soak cashews, cover with water and leave for 6 hours or overnight. When ready, drain cashews and add them to food processor with other ingredients. Puree until creamy. The consistency should be like runny peanut butter — you can add water if you want it looser. Chill for four hours before serving on your favorite vegan latkes! It’s also good as a salad dressing.


♦ For Now

Dear Shaina,
Vacation has taken over my life!


A month in Portland and now Destin…the city, the mountains, the beach…different scenery, different rain clouds, different mattresses! We walked a lot. We ate a lot. We used public transportation…a lot. We shared our dollars and our candy with the homeless.


We heard music, went to bars (even saw a comedy show in one) and meandered through vintage stores. We were entertained everywhere we went.


Dad getting ready for Halloween…or whatever.

Tossing aside your everyday routine allows you a sneak peek into your core nature.

  • I can be pretty lazy…and enjoy it…up to a point.

Late night TV, Solitaire on my iPad, hours of sitting and knitting hats I don’t need (I couldn’t resist all the unique yarn shops in Portland including the one at the Alpaca Farm near Mt Hood), sleeping in later than you think possible, having no daily obligations or agenda. It’s both luxurious and unsettling.

Image 10-28-15 at 11.43 AM

  • I function best with some structure, however minimal it may be.

Dad and I signed up for weekly Pilates, drank coffee every morning, ate steel cut oatmeal and apples and cottage cheese for breakfast on most days, went to Powell Books to hear authors, planned our days around restaurants, music and local events, walked for miles and miles everywhere, and did laundry on Sundays.

Image 10-28-15 at 11.30 AM (1)

  • Grocery stores and markets are my art galleries.

I went to a grocery store (there was one two short blocks from our apartment) or market almost every day to buy the best honeycrisp apples we ever tasted or more bulk oatmeal or just to see the stunning fresh produce displays. The farmers market offered up 20 varieties of small batch freshly smoked salmon and sable and raw locally harvested honey and gluten free baked goods in addition to rows and rows of locally grown apples and raspberries and lettuces…and wine, coffee and bread, of course.

Edible Art Everywhere

Edible Art Everywhere

  • There are only so many fabulous restaurant meals I can have before my kitchen starts calling me.

We explored the happy hour scene and ate artfully crafted small plates and drinks unique to the ambiance of the restaurant.

Image 10-28-15 at 12.08 PM

We ate at rooftop bars overlooking the city, downtown establishments sporting their original 50’s decor, food trucks offering vegetarian thai cuisine in our neighborhood and highly polished converted warehouses that had been invaded by nouveau chefs and patrons, young and old, sipping on fancy drinks and Pinot Noir.

Image 10-28-15 at 12.13 PM

Still, my kitchen was calling. I was inspired by some friends we visited for a weekend on the river near Mt Hood to bake my first baguette from scratch. Despite the fact that I bought the wrong yeast and didn’t have the right size bowl for the rising process, I loved messing around in my little rented kitchen. I even prepared fresh cod for dinner to accompany the freshly baked bread.

Image 10-28-15 at 11.55 AM

Fresh Cod

  • Cooking is my craft, my therapy, my antidote to laziness…it feeds my soul and my need to accomplish something.
  • I love living in a neighborhood where I can walk a few blocks and get everything I need.
  • I love being in a climate where the air smells green and everyone is required to compost as much of their garbage as possible.


  • I love living in a town where women wear their gray hair proudly and you can go into the most exclusive restaurant in hiking boots and shorts.
  • I love accessible city parks, patient bus drivers and all kinds of service employees who love their jobs and are genuinely helpful.


  • I am a rooted creature.

I miss the predictability of routine, the comfort of community, the embrace of my home and the familiarity of the life I have known for over thirty years.

  • For now, home is still home.

Vacation is a lovely respite from the everyday routine, but for now, your childhood bedroom is still where it always was.

See you soon!

Love, Mom

Easy French Baguette

Baked by our friends...my inspiration.

How it should look…baked by our friends…my inspiration.

  • Rapid Rise yeast (use amount according to package instructions)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups warm tap water
  • 3 1/2 -4 cups all purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • Vegetable oil for greasing bowl
  • 1/2 cup ice cubes


  • cornmeal for lining bottom of baking sheet
  • sesame seeds, salt, poppy seeds or herbs for topping if desired

Dissolve rapid rise yeast in 1 1/2 cups warm water in a large bowl; let sit until yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes.

Add 3 1/2 cups flour, and stir with a spatula until a soft dough forms and all flour is absorbed; adding a little flour as needed if dough is sticky. Let sit for about 10 minutes.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle evenly with salt. Knead until the salt is incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Add a small amount of flour as needed to prevent dough from sticking to hands. The dough should feel slightly sticky, but elastic. Knead into a ball.

Transfer dough ball to a lightly greased bowl; cover bowl with plastic wrap, and place bowl in a cold oven or warm room. Let dough rest until doubled in size, about 45-60 minutes. Gently press two fingers into dough. If an indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.


My first attempt.

Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Divide in half. Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), roll each portion on a floured surface into a 12-inch rope, slightly tapered at ends. Place ropes on large baking sheet (covered in parchment paper to make clean up easier) sprinkled with flour or cornmeal.

Cover lightly with a dish towel and let rise again for 30-40 minutes or until doubled in size.

Heat oven to 450°. Place an iron skillet on a lower rack or the floor of the oven.

Uncover the dough. Using a sharp knife, slash the top of each baguette at a 30–degree angle across the loaf about 3” apart. Dust top lightly with flour. Sprinkle with optional seeds or toppings if desired .

Place ice cubes in skillet (this produces steam that lets the loaves rise fully before a crust forms) right before putting the loaves into the oven.

I'll keep trying!

I’ll keep trying!

Bake at 450° for 20-30 minutes or until browned on bottom and sounds hollow when tapped.
Allow breads to rest for thirty minutes after they are removed from the oven before serving.