♦ Traditions and Memorials

Dear Shaina,

Bubbe would be kvelling (bursting with pride), and so am I, at your adaptation of her much loved food memories. I can hear her tasting your radishes and onions and eggs and proclaiming that they are better than what she had as a child. She would declare you a Balabusta (a homemaker of the highest order) and if you attempted to credit her with the inspiration she would pooh-pooh you and exclaim that you were a much better cook than she ever was.

Esther 512Mb cf card 12 03 08 262I was lucky to grow up with a mother who took pride in my accomplishments rather than feeling threatened or competitive as some mothers are. Bubbe and Zayde called it naches fun di kinder (pleasure, pride from the children). It is what they lived for and what no material gift could ever equal. I completely get it! Of course, you actually are a better cook than me, not to mention all the other things you have accomplished that I am so very proud of!

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It’s hard to think about or prepare food without Bubbe’s presence hovering over my shoulder. Jews have always emphasized the remembrance of the dead. We observe annual anniversary prayers (Yahrsteit) and holiday memorial services (Yizkor), but nothing seems nearly as effective or enduring as food memorials. Yahrsteits can be forgotten. Yizkors can be skipped. But the smell of frying onions, the magic of butter-soft arthritically molded fingers stretching and rolling dough, the taste of a freshly fried blintz in too much butter, the insistent urging to eat and eat more and the inevitable question, “Are they edible?” , are indelible memories that make daily appearances. No wonder food is such a big deal forJews. At least in our family…

I am getting ready for Chanukah and your homecoming. I remember Bubbe grating potatoes with the classic box grater and straining her homemade applesauce through those hand grinders that look like a pot with holes in the bottom and a big handle that rotates large blades at the bottom pushing the mashed applesauce through the holes leaving the seeds and skins to be discarded. There was no fancy motorized equipment, just simple tools powered by the willingness of loving hands (not that she wasn’t amazed when we gave her a Cuisinart that could grind raw meat in 30 seconds and grate enough potatoes and onions for latkes for 20 in minutes without shedding a tear or losing a knuckle).IMG_1534

My applesauce is already done and in the freezer. I peel and core my apples before cooking so there is no need for straining. I am planning on making three varieties of latkes this year…traditional, sweet potato and corn-squash…all with the aid of my Cuisinart. I scheduled your hair appointment for Friday, the masseuse for Saturday (I am liking this new tradition) and leaving Sunday and Monday for any last minute preparations for your trip to Israel and to bake cheesecakes for the annual South Carolina Christmas pilgrimage.

The traditions have evolved, morphed and adapted for a new generation of memories…and memorials of the future.

By the way, LLOL may not be a thing right now, but new traditions are born everyday! Laughing Lots Out Loud!!

Love,
Mom
xoxoxoxooxoxoxxoox

 

Grilled Caesar Salad

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I have been wanting to make this salad since having it at a restaurant in a Casino in the middle of nowhere in northern California. I had never heard of grilling lettuce and to my surprise, it was the best Caesar salad I ever had! It was served with traditional Caesar dressing on the side (although it didn’t need any) along with crusty french bread croutons and shaved parmesan. I decided to make it last night before it got too cold outside to grill. It seemed the perfect accompaniment for filet mignon for Shabbat dinner with a couple of friends. I incorporated a ripe avocado and the seeds from a pomegranate that was close to the end of its viable use. I made a dressing in case anyone wanted it and improvised the rest. It was again, surprisingly, delicious and simple to prepare.

Yield: 4 servings

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Grilled Caesar Salad

  • 2 stalks of Romaine lettuce hearts cut in half lengthwise
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Garlic powder (optional)
  • Shaved or grated parmesan cheese
  • Sliced fresh avocado
  • Pomegranate seeds

 

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Dressing (optional)

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Juice from half lemon
  • 1 clove fresh garlic finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
With Dressing

With Dressing

Turn on a gas grill to the highest temperature or light up a charcoal grill.

Cut the romaine heart in half lengthwise keeping the stem of the stalk attached.
Brush olive oil lightly all over the cut edge of the lettuce.
Sprinkle salt, pepper and garlic powder over the oiled area.
Place the lettuce stalks on a very hot grill with the cut and seasoned side down. Grill for about a minute, uncovered, until slightly charred grill lines show on the cut side of the lettuce. The stalk should remain intact.

Remove from the grill and place grilled side up on individual plates.

Garnish with avocado, parmesan and pomegranate seeds or wherever your imagination takes you.

To make the dressing, blend all ingredients thoroughly adjusting seasonings to taste. Serve on the side.

This salad can also be served on a large platter. Cut the stalks diagonally in one inch strips to serve family style.

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◊ Perspective

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Dear mom,

Glad to see you’re learning internet lingo (ps. LLOL is not a thing).

Sweating the small stuff surely is a luxury. What’s more luxurious is the ability to recognize the small stuff as small, which can be hard until after the fact. Or until I’m outside of it. Puma sneakers were no small thing in that factory store in Manhattan – you can attest to that.

Obsessing over the small things… is it called tunnel vision?

Since my sneaker meltdown in 6th grade, I’ve had so many opportunities to step outside the tunnel that my ability to shift perspectives has grown markedly nimble.  This skill is one of the many gifts I’ve gotten from moving so far so much so fast. It is the most luxurious of all luxuries.

I’ve implemented it in the way I see big things (we don’t have to talk about Israel/Palestine again), and I can zoom-in:

Let’s talk about coming home for Thanksgiving.

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the farm

In grad school, my assignments can create a strong vacuum at the bottom of the tunnel. Reporting is time and emotion consuming; deadlines = anxiety dreams. Should I cut graf one? Which quote is more quotey? I agonize.

I have to physically switch it up to remind myself of the bigger world and make these things small again. I usually go to the kitchen. Once I’m behind a chopping board, my attachment to my homework loosens (still can’t figure out if this is a good or bad thing). I chop veggies into a salad and munch away for too much time than I should spare. Big salads are (more) important.

Physically removing myself from the North Side of campus for a solid 5 days last week sharpened this notion. Being home made me realize how silly it is to make anything more important than health, family and old friends. I didn’t do a lick of schoolwork when I was home and I was not worried.

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Women’s holiday sliv shots

Instead, I chatted with my cousins over popcorn and M&Ms til 2AM, went to the farm with the boys, picked radishes, ran my favorite nature trails, lost at mah jong, massaged a shit ton of kale, sat in the kitchen, dined and snacked and gorged with fam, and took long sits in your steam shower.

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I still get sucked into the tunnel – I worry about the insignificant and obsess over the small. Making a salad can pull me out. Physical movement – a change of scenery – melts the petty-worry-grip.

xo,

Shaina

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When I went to the farm, I snuck away from the boys and their antics to pick radishes (pronounced raydish in the country). I came home with two full grocery bags of spicy, dirty raydish. The Berkeley grocery store radishes weren’t nearly as spicy as the homegrown, so I compensated by garnishing the dish below with spicy arugula.


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Spicy Radish Egg Salad with Almonds

This is a classic Bubbe recipe (she used big black radishes and skipped the almonds). Her house consistently smelled of fried onions (pronounced hun-ions in Bubbe land). She used the same hunions in her knishes, brown potatoes, kreplach, chicken burgers and more.

  • 3 eggs, hardboiled
  • 1 tsp olive oil OR 1 tsp butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • One bunch radishes (5-7 medium radishes)
  • toasted almonds, chopped or slivered
  • salt
  • pepper
  • arugula for serving

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Dice onion. Coat the bottom of a deep skillet with olive oil, butter or a mix of both. Turn heat to medium, and add onions once oil is hot.  Stir to coat onions in oil and spread them evenly over the pan. Turn heat to low, cover pan and let cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. After about ten minutes, add salt and fresh black pepper. Continue to cook until onions are deeply browned.

*Side note: I learned from you who learned from Bubbe to go big or go home when it comes to fried onions. It’s just as easy to fry three as it is one, so just do em all! Put what you don’t use into a jar and store in the fridge – they will stay good for over a week and are a luxurious addition to omelets, veggies, sandwiches, salads, yogurt, etc.

In the meantime, use a large hole grater to grater radishes into wide shreds.

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Toast crushed or slivered almonds in a toaster or over a skillet until brown and fragrant. Peel the hardboiled eggs and mash them with the back of a fork. Combine radishes, almonds and eggs.

When onions have cooled to room tempurature, stir them into the egg mixture. Add plenty of salt and fresh black pepper. Serve over spicy arugula with a slice of good bread.

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♦ What A Luxury

Dear Shaina,
The first time I read your letter, I laughed out loud (LOL). The second time…I did it again! LLOL!!

I don’t know why it struck my funny bone…maybe your annoyance, maybe the memories of all those pursuits, maybe it’s the very clever way you deflect the conversation…

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You did fail to mention the nirvana-seeking college visits a mere five years after the Puma odyssey. I vividly remember the very long northeastern road trip to colleges big and small all of which you decided were not for you before you even stepped out of the car. No campus tours for you. You relied solely on your gut test…or was it the way they posted their school clubs, or that the gym was too nice, or that there was no campus life or too much campus life…?

Like the Pumas, you didn’t know what you were looking for, but you knew it wasn’t what was in front of you at that moment…so we kept on looking. Then there was the meltdown after visiting a school you got into that you so desperately wanted to go to…and then decided, maybe not so much.

I was patient. I soothed. I indulged. What was that all about? Whatever it was, we shared it. It was fun…and sometimes torturous. It is part of our mother-daughter memory bank. And I smile (actually LOL) thinking about it, grateful for the hours spent together in a mutual single-minded pursuit of something that was ultimately inconsequential. What a luxury!

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So now I am retired. I remember those days of back-to-back meetings, appointments and real obligations. My spare time was filled with thrown together dinners, bath and bed-time rituals and laundry and cooking when the house went dark. I was on a minute-to-minute schedule and I thrived on it to the point of exhaustion. I crashed, slept twelve hours and started all over again. Searching for Pumas with my daughter for three whole days was a luxury!

I now live in time that is stretched and padded. Space between activities still feels oddly foreign and decadent to me. I am always surprised when I step into a grocery store in the middle of the day and there are other people there. I am discovering how much luxury can be found in moments of time; meticulously cleansing my face and putting lotion all over my body, luxuriating in a steam shower, hanging out with family and friends, doing nothing (yes, nothing is a thing).

Birthday Celebrations

Birthday Celebrations

There are an infinite number of small pleasures that can happily suck up time, including contemplating relationships.

Your life is a whirlwind of new activities and experiences. Your pace is fast and intense. I love watching you immerse yourself fully in the action of your life. I want to keep up with you…not in real time, but in connection.

Maybe we need to schedule a shoe or boot or backpack pursuit…or maybe a three day trip to a spa will do just as well. Either way, what a luxury it would be!

I am looking forward to indulging you over Thanksgiving!

Love, Mom
xoxoxooxoxo

 

Jean’s Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

This is one of the recipes I used for those little cakes I baked for Cari’s wedding. It’s Jean’s go-to recipe and a favorite of her friends and mine. I have made it a million times and have never gotten a complaint, except from people who don’t like bananas.

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It satisfies all my baking requirements. It’s easy to make, a great way to use up overripe bananas (I stick them in the freezer so they are there when I need them or have time to bake) and it satisfies the urge for chocolate without being overly unhealthy. It can be served as a breakfast bread, an after-dinner dessert or as a late-night treat with coffee. It freezes well and can be served anytime someone shows up and wants something sweet.

I have been known to double or triple this recipe depending on how many frozen bananas I have around and what party I am planning.

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Jeans Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

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Preheat oven to 350°

Beat sugar and butter together until blended.
Beat in eggs.
Add mashed bananas and mix thoroughly.
Mix together flour, salt and baking soda.
Add to the banana mixture and mix thoroughly.
Stir in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into a greased loaf pan or two small individual sized loaf pans.
Bake 45- 55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean for the standard loaf size.  30-40 minutes for individual sized loaves.

Let cool 15 minutes in pan. Remove from pan while still warm.

 

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No Effort Fig Snack

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This treat resulted from a failed attempt to create an original recipe using roasted eggplant strips wrapped around roasted figs with blue cheese. It just didn’t work, but the roasted figs turned out to be a surprisingly good treat…and very easy. I am going to have them sitting around the table to munch on before andIMG_5016 after Thanksgiving dinner. They are especially good served with roasted and spiced walnuts or pecans.

Dried Black Mission figs

Lightly drizzle with olive oil

Salt liberally with sea salt

Sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper (Chile powder or chipotle powder can be substituted for variation)

Place on parchment paper on a baking sheet and bake at 450° for about 15 minutes or until puffed up and browned a little. The browner they get the chewier they become, so don’t overcook.

Serve at room temperature with roasted and spiced nuts.

They can be stored in a plastic bag and they will soften up at room temperature.

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◊ One hundred percent

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Dear mom,

You abandon the blog for over a month. You call your Mahjong game an obligation. You amount your bathroom renovation to chaos.

Please.

It’s not hard to send me a recipe. Playing games with your friends isn’t a thing. Having a messy bedroom and beautiful bath does not = disaster. Why are these things consuming you?

I’m annoyed because what do you do?

(Laundry isn’t a thing.)

I’m annoyed because I get it and it worries me.

I think I was in 6th grade when I decided that I wanted Puma sneakers. We took a trip to New York to visit family, and you and I spent the first three days fiending for shoes. We mapped out every store in the city that carried Pumas and walked all of Manhattan. At the end of the three days, we found THE Puma factory store, which housed every model in every color. I cried there. The search commenced with a dark-grey suede pair of shoes with red stripes (not cute). They are still sitting in my closet… I maybe wore them twice.

It’s a good thing dad is tolerant of high levels of crazy.

You give 100% every time. It’s a trait that I admire, and a trait that, in my own life, I try to keep in check. It’s too easy to get sucked in – to be totally consumed — by the small things.

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classic family portrait

Pumas in New York, beads in Vancouver, hair-wraps in New Orleans, sweatshirts in San Fransisco, antiques in DC, textiles in India, hermit crabs at the beach. Our family vacations were driven by searches for things that we couldn’t find in Birmingham. My memories make me nervous that we … I… do not know how to enjoy time without something driving me towards an end goal (which has usually amounted to nothing).

Our search for Pumas was torture, but it was fun. The shoes were a catalyst of exploration and togetherness. We walked all of Manhattan and saw so many new things … together.

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Now that you’re retired, your vacation is permanent. Laundry is a thing; Majong is a thing; bathroom renovations are a thing. I ask for help making desserts for Cari’s wedding and you bake, decorate, wrap and deliver 100 individual cakes. It doesn’t surprise me. Even Bubbe, without child-rearing obligations or a proper job, found reasons to wake up at 4 AM. She had to bake hundreds of knishes for … you know …  people.

You enter the most confusing stage of motherhood and ask questions that, in my opinion, are not worth thinking about. All I can say is that the situation is not so confusing. You have time to dwell, so you dwell. How much space defines a close mother-daughter relationship? Ain’t no one got time to decipher that. Except for you.

xo,

Shaina

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I just moved to a house closer to campus. In shifting pantries, I found one milllllion baggies of different seeds and nuts. Instead of re-organizing all the bits and pieces in my new house, I dumped them all into these biscotti and started fresh.

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Honey Orange Whole Wheat Biscotti with Dates and Almonds/Pumpkin seeds/Pistachios

Prep time: 1.5 hours

Makes 3 dozen cookies

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  • 3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Zest of two full oranges
  • juice of one orange
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c dates, finely chopped
  • 1/3 c slivered almonds
  • 1/2 c pumpkin seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 c shelled, raw (unsalted) pistachios (optional)

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Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  In a large bowl beat the honey, eggs, oil, zest, orange juice and vanilla until combined. In batches add the dry ingredients until the mixture forms a dough. Fold in the nuts (you do not have to use every variety of nut listed here – I suggest choosing one). Knead several times and then shape into a log (about a foot long, 3-4 in wide). Put log onto baking sheet and bake for 30 – 35 minutes until slightly brown and dry. Remove and allow to cool.

 

Once dough is cool, cut into 1/2 inch diagonal slices with a serrated knife (saw rather than chop – make sure not to push too hard). Arrange pieces on s baking sheet so they are facing up. Bake for ten minutes (shorter or longer depending on thickness of cookie) and flip. Bake for another ten minutes until hard and lightly browned. 

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Buckwheat and Rye Biscotti with Fig, Walnuts and Dark Chocolate Chunks

Prep time: 1.5 hours

makes 3 dozen cookies

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  • 1 c  dark rye flour
  • 2 c buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/4c olive oil
  • 1/2 c dired figs, finely chopped (8-10 figs)
  • 1/3 cup walnut pieces (small!)
  • 1/3 c good dark chocolate chunks/chips
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder and salt.  In a large bowl beat the sugar, eggs and oil until combined. In batches add the dry ingredients until the mixture forms a dough. Fold in the nuts, figs and chocolate. Knead several times and then shape into a log (about a foot long, 3-4 in wide). Put log onto baking sheet and bake for 30 – 35 minutes until slightly brown and dry. Remove and allow to cool.

Once dough is cool, cut into 1/2 inch diagonal slices with a serrated knife (saw rather than chop – make sure not to push too hard). Arrange pieces on s baking sheet so they are facing up. Bake for ten minutes (shorter or longer depending on thickness of cookie) and flip. Bake for another ten minutes until hard and lightly browned. 

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♦ On the Table

Dear Shaina,

I had no idea how long it’s been since the last time I wrote to you. Extended vacations have a way of transporting you to an alternate universe. I have no excuses… I simply have been out to lunch…and dinner and happy hour and airplanes and VRBOs and vintage shops and mahjong marathons and Pacific coasts and Gulf coasts and eastern mountains and…well, I’m just worn out!

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I have been trying to figure out why it is so hard for me to write these letters. I make excuses…I haven’t cooked anything (This is a cooking blog, isn’t it?)…I just saw you…I have nothing new to say and no clever way to say it…I’m on vacation. I promise to write. I procrastinate.

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Getting back into a routine is no easy feat for a retired person who operates on an as-desired basis with no demands and few obligations. The post-renovation mess and chaos that I left the house in over a month ago hasn’t budged a bit and is screaming loudly for my undivided attention while my body is wondering if it will ever see a downward dog again, let alone find the all consuming present in shavasana. I have yet to cook a real meal and the only consistent activity in my life is Monday Mahjong (one of my few obligations).

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So I set my alarm and declared today the day of return…I made my pre-dawn cup of coffee, went to minyan, walked three miles, came home, showered and got to work. I made the bed, put a dent in finding new homes for the accumulation of stuff stored in your bedroom and the basement, made a few phone calls and pulled out the computer to rewrite my earlier futile attempts to respond to your letter. The first part was easy, but the writing/communicating part is a little more challenging.

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I think being the mother of an almost-grown woman-child is the most confusing stage to date. How much space defines a close mother-daughter relationship? How much closeness creates the need for distance? Can a close mother and daughter ever be free of the restraints engendered by loving too much, protecting too much and worrying too much? Are we close? Are we too close? Do I want too much from you? Do I want to much for you, for me?

In the past month, I saw you easing into the beginnings of a new path in your life; a new school, new city, new home, new friends and new jars to be filled with the tastes and flavors that surround you . A few weeks later I watched you reminisce with your high school friends sharing the heretofore untold-to-me stories of your adolescent escapades. Sometimes I think I missed whole chunks of your life.

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I don’t worry about you. I mostly worry about me; about how to be a mother of an almost-grown daughter without being intrusive or clueless. I want to be close to you in a way that is enriching to both of us and not burdensome to either. I don’t even know what that means except that I didn’t have it with my mother. Maybe it’s an impossible ideal, but I’d like to leave it on the table anyway.

Your first semester has flown by. Thanksgiving is around the corner and the kitchen frenzy will soon begin. Aside from the Big Bird and the other Thanksgiving standards, there’s no telling what may end up on the table this year! I can’t wait!!

Love, Mom
xooxoxoxoxoxox

It’s that Soup time of year again…

Fresh Butternut Squash and Corn Soup

IMG_4940Our neighbor brought over some home-grown organic Butternut squash. We had a day at home between trips and I decided to make soup. I looked around my food-depleted home and tried to use up any remaining edibles before we left again. This sweet and savory soup turned out to be very tasty and satisfying. Feel free to add or subtract or substitute any part of this recipe to suit you own tastes.

  • 2 medium sized butternut squash
  • 1 -2 medium sized purple or yellow onion
  • 1 small garlic bulb
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups water
  • 2-3 carrots, cut in chunks
  • 2-3 stalks of celery, cut in chunks
  • 3-5 dried figs cut-up
  • 2-4 teaspoons sea salt or to taste
  • black and red pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cumin or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon za’atar or to taste
  • 12 ounce bag of frozen corn or kernels from 3-5 ears of fresh or frozen corn

Preheat oven to 375°

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray

Rub the outside of the butternut squash with a little olive oil and salt.
Peel the onions and cut in quarters. Sprinkle with a little olive oil and salt.
Removes the thin paper-like skin of the garlic bulb and slice off the tip of the pointed edge of the bulb. Rub the outside of the garlic bulb with a little olive oil and salt and set it upright on the baking sheet with the cut edge up.

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Place squash and onions on the baking sheet with the garlic and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the edges of the garlic and onion are browned and the squash is slightly tender.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool enough to be able to handle.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff and discard. Scoop out the remaining squash down to the outer skin and place in a large pot with the water.

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Squeeze the insides of the roasted garlic into the pot with the squash and add the roasted onions. Add the carrots, celery, figs and spices. Cook over a low flame, adding water as needed, until all vegetables are tender and cooked through (about 20 minutes).

Remove the pot from the heat and blend all the ingredients with an immersion blender until your desired consistency.

Return the pot to the stove and continue cooking over a low flame. Taste for seasoning and adjust as desired. Add more water if the soup is too thick. For added sweetness, add another fig or two or a little honey.

Add the corn kernels and cook until heated through and tender.

This soup tastes better the next day…and the next as the flavors blend together.

A dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt make a great garnish.

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◊ Cleanse 5775

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Dear mom,

I am writing out of turn to share my cleanse experience and recipes while they’re fresh … I know you won’t have a chance to write before you get back from Portland next week.

Many of our readers know about the annual Cleanse, where a group of us adhere to special dietary restrictions during the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur to deepen mind/body/spirit connection.

I broke my Yom Kippur fast and cleanse last night on bagels and chocolate chip cookies. I have been noshing refined sugary gluten all morning and I miss the cleanse.

The diet itself isn’t so remarkable to me. I basically eat according cleanse rules always. But the cleanse was particularly meaningful this year because of all of the people who contributed their thoughts and recipes. It’s fun to share this experience and to be part of a group aiming toward introspection and healing. Three friends (two of whom live on separate continents) wrote personal letters to me re their cleanses. I was moved by their thoughts and realized how grateful I am A.) for the internet B.) for the friendships that remain across far distance and C.) for having an idea that was taken seriously (it’s been awhile).

The cleanse Shabbat that we were able to prepare together during your visit was also special. It was nice to introduce you to my life and friends here!

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I added a ten-minute daily meditation to my cleanse this year. I did it but couldn’t really do it. I followed the rules of the meditation app I downloaded, but couldn’t quiet my mind from thoughts of almond butter, school assignments and dinner party planning. I don’t get the point of a blank mind for a whole ten minutes every day. Meditation did not change my life – it just annoyed me.

I am thinking about doing a cleanse each month for a week around Rosh Chodesh (the start of new moon cycles and Jewish months). It’s a nice way to start new periods of time – to re-set my body and mind.

I know your cleanse was a little different this year since you were traveling, but I’m still looking forward to hearing about it. Below are my star recipes from Cleanse 5775.

xo,

Shaina

 

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Roasted tahini-miso tzimmes over creamy Kamut berries

Serves: 7-10

Prep time: 50 minutes

Roasted tahini-miso tzimmes:

  • 3 tbs miso
  • 3 tbs tahini
  • 2 tbs honey (optional)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • zest and juice of 2 navel oranges
  • 1/3 c sesame seeds
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 4 c acorn squash, chopped into 2 in pieces
  • 2 c butternut squash, chopped into 2 in pieces
  • 4 medium carrots, sliced in half and quartered
  • 2 c fresh figs, sliced in half
  • 1 red onion, sliced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine miso, tahini, olive oil, orange juice, sesame seeds and spices into a thick paste. Then, toss with squash, carrots, onions and figs. Lay flat on a baking sheet and bake for 25 – 40 minutes until golden brown on the edges. Stick a fork in the squash to make sure it’s all the way cooked through. Squash should be tender on the inside and golden on the outside.

 

Creamy Kamut Berries

  • 5 c prepared Kamut Berries
  • 1/3 c golden raisins
  • 1/3 c toasted pistachios
  • 1/3 c toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 3 tbs tahini
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c chopped fresh basil (reserve some for garnish)

 

Toss all ingredients together – the tahini will make the Kamut berries nutty and creamy!

Serve the tzimmes over warm Kamut and garnish with chopped basil.

 

 

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Pink Bean Dip
  • 3 c white beans
  • 3 roasted beets, peeled
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg powder
  • 1/ 2 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 3/4 c very toasted walnut pieces
  • drizzle of olive oil for garnish
Put all ingredients except for walnut pieces into food processor and pulse for a minute. Add walnut pieces and pulse for another 1/2 minute. All ingredients should be incorporated into a rough, chunky puree – some nuts pieces should remain. Add salt and pepper as needed and drizzle with olive oil before serving. Can be served with apple slices, celery sticks, carrots, etc.

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◊ Filling space

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Dear mom,

I don’t want you to feel responsible for me feeling responsible for your worry. I’m not blaming you for it either. I’m just telling you how I feel. Isn’t that what you want? Such mixed messages! …  And more mother-induced trauma.

Just kidding. I’m over it. Glad that you and your chaise finally found homes.

Home. Some people seem to slide in easily. They appear comfortable in their space no matter what surrounds them. I am not one of those people. I’ve re-made home enough to know that I must put deliberate effort into feeling oriented and grounded. The process is always slow and harrowing.IMG_6234

I try to expedite it by walking around aimlessly (usually in the direction of a grocery store) to learn the grounds. I mark new territory with familiar scents  – I burn candles, incense, cookies. I fill new space with things that mark my permanence – glass containers of grains and spices, tubs of tea, jars of oils and lotions, bottles of nail polish.  Also rituals. Tea in the morning; Shabbat dinner; roasting vegetables Sunday afternoon; long runs on the weekend.

One of my favorite time and space-marking rituals is our annual Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur Cleanse. It helps me understand the passage of time, connect with my body and reflect. This year’s cleanse seems particularly important.

As is, the cleanse dietary rituals are easy for me. I want an additional mind-body challenge.

Rebecca inspired me to consider meditation as a daily practice. I do not have patience for stillness. Thus, I will be incorporating 10 minutes of daily meditation in my 10 day cleanse. I’m already annoyed by the time commitment, but I need to be forced to take a pause. For the past year, I have been moving at lightening speed, and I need processing time in order to feel oriented.

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In the spirit of the cleanse, below are two cleanse appropriate, Rosh Hashana inspired recipes. You will be here in three days to see my home firsthand! I’m really looking forward to shlepping you to Berkeley Bowl and making Rosh Hashana meals together.

Xo,

Shaina

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For most people, the high holidays smell like warm chunks of meet and heavy kugels. My High Holiday food memories are decorated with colorful salads. Our post-service lunches always contain a large variety of salads – big bowls of kale with avocado, pomegranate studded tabouleh, etc – for starving guests to nosh when they first arrive from after never-ending morning services. My new salad idea is just sweet enough to be Rosh Hashana appropriate: chopped apples, arugula and celery in a creamy honey- tahini dressing.

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Chopped Apples, Arugula and Celery with Creamy Honey-Tahini Dressing

Serves: 5 – 10 depending on portion size

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes

Dressing:

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 garlic gloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 tbs honey (nix it for the cleanse)
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vingegar
  • 1/3 cup crude tahini
  • plenty of fresh black pepper

Salad:

  • 4 celery stalks, sliced thinly
  • 3 – 4 good, sweet, crunchy apples, sliced thinly
  • 3 cups arugula, chopped
  • 2 medium stalks of spring onions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup toasted walnuts

First, make the dressing. Make sure your garlic is crushed well and herbs are finely chopped. Add all ingredients to a jar or bowl. Stir well, until all ingredients are combined and smooth. Add black pepper as desired. Let sit for at least one hour before use.

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No more than one hour before serving, chop celery, apples, arugula and spring onions. Toast and crush walnuts and allow to cool. Pile all ingredients in a bowl, add 1/3 c dressing and toss until apples, arugula and celery pieces are coated. Serve immediately.

 

Green Goddess Tahini Dressing

Serves: many, many salads

Prep time: 15 minutes

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This dressing livens up any salad. It’s grain mixed into grain bowls, slathered over roasted veggies or tossed into simple lettuce salads.

  • 1 bunch fresh chives
  • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh tarragon
  • 1 bunch fresh scallions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbs tahini
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tbs lemon zest
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

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Simply place all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth liquid consistency is formed. Add salt and pepper too taste. If too pungent, add additional yogurt.

In the salad pictured, I topped a salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, celery, roasted beets and chopped arugula with swirls of Green Goddess dressing, tahini, a drizzle of olive oil and fresh ground black pepper.

♦ Home

Dear Shaina,

I never intended you to feel responsible for my worry. In turn, I don’t want to take responsibility for your annoyance or have to censor my feelings. I remind myself daily that it is not my job to make your life OK. You are very capable of doing that yourself. That doesn’t stop me from feeling your angst or wanting to hear about it. A final note on worry and then I hope we can move on…a Bubbe quote…The bigger the child, the bigger the worries. That’s just the way it is!

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I am sitting on my chaise lounge in our newly redone bedroom. The same chaise lounge that has been with me since my early adulthood in Cleveland. It was the first real piece of furniture I ever bought and was a major splurge at the time. It has lived in all my homes, has been transformed by new upholstery and has traveled from living room to bedroom to basement den and now to its new place in our bedroom. I think it has finally found its home…after 30 + years. I am sitting on it, beside a window with my computer and a mug of coffee on a side table. I am also finally at home in this room.

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It think finding home takes longer than we think. It’s not that I wasn’t at home in this house that we have lived in for thirty years. It’s just that the gradual tweaking and adjusting evolves over time. Kind of like getting into bed at night…you plop down and then you adjust your pillow because it doesn’t feel like its in exactly the right spot and you move your body around until you get into a comfortable position and you’re still not done. The process continues as you adjust your environment, almost unconsciously, in response to the cues your body is sending…that is, if you’re listening. The knowing and blending and balancing of the internal and external is forever.

Dad's work!

Dad’s work!

You have the gift of both listening and responding to your comfort cues. Berkeley may not be the perfect home for you forever, but I know you will tweak all that can be tweaked to make it as much home for you as possible for now.

We will be there in a week and I have already started gathering your stuff to bring to you. I am looking forward to seeing you and doing my part to help you settle in.

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I have been doing some baking for the upcoming weddings and decided to make Naomi’s Chocolate Streusel Bars. As always, they turned out great and everybody loves them. I am sharing the recipe here because people keep asking for it. I won’t have room to bring them to you, but we can always make some in your kitchen.

I am so looking forward to being with you in a week!

Love,
Mom
xoooxoxoxoxxoxo

Naomi’s Chocolate Streusel Bars

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  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Cocoa
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
  • 1 egg
  • 1 can(14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
  • 2 cups(12-oz. pkg.) HERSHEY’S Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips, divided
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped nuts

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1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 13x9x2-inch baking pan.
2. Stir together flour, sugar and cocoa in large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg; mix well. Set aside 1-1/2 cups mixture. Press remaining mixture onto bottom of prepared pan.
3. Bake 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in medium microwave-safe bowl, place sweetened condensed milk and 1 cup chocolate chips; stir. Microwave at MEDIUM (50%) 1 to 1-1/2 minutes or until chips are melted and mixture is smooth when stirred; pour over crust. Add nuts and remaining chips to reserved crumb mixture. Sprinkle over top.
4. Bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes 24 to 36 bars.

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◊ Slowly Slowly

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Dear mom,

I get it. Mothers worry. I want to be less annoyed.

Were you always like this?

I don’t remember feeling the weight of your worry as a kid – you definitely were not one of those moms concerned with what I watched on TV, food regulations, where and with whom I played, bed-times, homework, germs …

Dealing with your all-consuming worry feels new to me. Maybe the difference is that now my own plate of worries is full. It’s hard to move when I’m balancing your stack on top of my own. Unless you hanker after a messy spill, get it under control or keep it to yourself.

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I worry that I’m not in the right place even though people keep telling me that Berkeley is so me. I miss Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv. I miss people who speak with aggression and move with intensity and smile only when it’s real. I’m in shock from all the health food, health centers and health activities. I want Bamba. Why is no one blowing smoke in my face or coughing on me or cursing at me because of how I’m dressed? What is a co-op, exactly? Why are people out and about 7 days a week? Strangers here don’t ask about what I’m doing or push me out of the way or try to set me up with their neighbor’s son’s friend… but it feels like they’re always staring if I use the trash bin instead of compost.  Why are bus drivers nice to me? Does it mean that I have to be nice back?

View of the bay from my new home

view from my new home

I worry that I won’t get it, but I know that it takes time to feel comfortable in any new place. So I’ll carry on, integrating pieces of Berkeley into my life slowly, slowly (shwai shwai ). I’ll wait patiently for things to feel right. This recipe is part of the effort: vegetarian, organic, spicy, probiotic, omega fatty acids — so Berkeley.

Xo,

Shaina

Ps. Thanks for washing and folding my loads and loads of very dirty clothes. I don’t think I had so many pieces of underwear to choose from since high school.

Pps. This recipe is also prep for our third Esrei Yamim Cleanse, starting September 26th! I can’t wait.

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Roasted Moroccan Spiced Carrots

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  • 7 medium carrots, cut diagonally in 1 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs Moroccan spice blend*
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbs sesame seeds
  • ½ c golden raisins

Coat carrot slices in olive oil, Moroccan spices and salt. Roast in a 350 degree oven for 40-minutes, stirring them halfway through the cooking time to distribute the heat.

After 40 minutes, add the golden raisins and and sesame seeds. Mix in and leave in the oven for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven, stir again and let cool.

*See below for Moroccan spice recipe

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Moroccan Carrot, Yogurt and Avocado Bowl

  • Generous scoop of greek or plain yogurt
  • ½ cup roasted Moroccan spiced carrots
  • ½ avocado, sliced
  • handful of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc for garnish
  • Salt and black pepper as desired

Pile carrots on top of  of yogurt in a bowl. Top with ½ cup of roasted carrots, avocado and pumpkin/sunflower seeds. Add salt and fresh black pepper as desired.

Moroccan Spice Blend

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

♦ Stuff

Dear Shaina,
From bombs to earthquakes … a 100 pounds of the past year of your life dumped onto the living room floor exchanged for 100 pounds of clean neatly folded clothing and stuff, a wedding, a haircut, a massage, five filled cavities, three finished papers, two shabbats and only a few minor mother-daughter skirmishes (that I have completely forgotten although I am sure they happened) all squeezed into eight harried days and nine nighttime ritual tuck-ins. Your time at home was a blur, a treasured blur.

And then came the inevitable crash…the wandering through the quiet house, the gathering up of cast away clothing and unfinished jars of tea, the search for the reset button that would push me back into my daily routine…and let’s not forget the crash that shook the earth beneath you a mere nine hours after you arrived in the San Francisco area. There is no end for us weary worriers.

Fortunately for my mental health, the mothers are on my side. They get it. They all know and assured me that someday, you will too. It’s just what mothers do, no matter where their kids are, what they’re doing or how old they are. We worry. It’s not a problem. I feel fortunate to have the privilege of having someone to worry about. And like the other mothers, I have a perverse sense of anticipation, hope and glee at the prospect of you having the very same experience. So cut me some slack.

Progress...slowly but surely!

Progress…slowly but surely!

This moment in time feels like a major transitional period for all of us. Yours is more obvious; moving to a new city, honing in on a career path, forging a new life. Dad and I are just renovating a bedroom and bathroom. I was caught off guard by how jarring this would be; sifting through all our stuff, reading letters and papers, looking at pictures and mementos, deciding what is trash and what is treasure. This stuff prods us relentlessly to evaluate, to question, to take charge, to accept.

Dad and I have spent hours sitting on the deck at the end of the day, a glass of wine in hand, talking about stuff; how to become free of the unimportant stuff, how to translate our good fortune into what is meaningful and pleasurable to us and mostly, to know the difference. We are working on spending your inheritance while insuring that we can be cared for when the time comes.

My old vanity finding a place in our new bathroom.

My old vanity finding a place in our new bathroom.

This phase of our lives will be shorter than the ones that came before and that is more freeing and motivating than scary. We know that today may be the best day of our lives and we are trying to make each one count. In the meantime, if there is anything you need or want, now’s the time. We’re in the final quarter of the game and pulling out all the stops.

I am looking forward to our trip to the west coast and can’t wait to see you in your new home and hear all about your new ramped up life as a journalism student.

Love, Mom
xoxooxoxoxoxoo

Garden Herbed Meatballs

I know you don’t eat meat, but I had to figure out a last minute appetizer for Shabbat and I had some ground tenderloin in the freezer and lots of herbs in the garden and…well, it just happened. You could probably adapt this for some veggie variety. I served them with hummus. They would have been great with some tahini sauce, but I’m out. Gail and Abe promised to bring some back from Israel. Next time.

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2 large chopped onions
2 – 4 teaspoons chopped fresh garlic
olive oil
1- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
2 eggs
1/2 cup matzoh meal or bread crumbs
1 squirt of hot chili sauce to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Fresh chopped tarragon, basil, oregano, thyme and lots of mint or whatever you can find in the garden
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon allspice
black pepper to taste
1 cup sundried tomatoes or oven roasted tomatoes
Fresh parsley for garnish

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Place onions and garlic in a food processor and chop into small coarse chunks. Remove half of the chopped onion and garlic and place it in a large sauté plan with a very small amount of olive oil and sauté lightly.

Place ground beef in a large bowl and add two eggs, matzoh meal and chili sauce. Mix together.

Add fresh herbs to the remaining chopped onion and garlic mixture in the food processor and chop together until finely chopped. Add all of the remaining chopped mixture to the ground beef. Add remaining spices and mix the beef mixture thoroughly.

Add the sundried tomatoes or oven roasted tomatoes to the lightly sautéed onion and garlic in the large sauté pan and cook over medium heat for a few minutes until blended.

Make small bite sized meatballs and sauté in the onion-garlic-tomato mixture until browned on all sides. Continue until all meatballs are cooked. Drain meatballs on paper towel if needed.

The onion and tomato mixture will become very browned and crispy and can be used to top the meatballs when serving.

Top with fresh parsley and crispy onion-tomato mixture and serve warm. They go great with hummus or tahini sauce.