◊ Switching it up

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Dear mom,

It sure is nice to have someone believe in me.

Dear Internet,

This must be weird for you.

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

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

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

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

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

And on and on and on and on.

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

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

first day of school

first day of school

Yeah, I’m switching it up.

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

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

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

xo,

Shaina

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

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

Thyme Marinated Beets with Crushed Hazelnuts 

Serves 5-8 as appetizer

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

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

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

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

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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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♦ Tzereis Gezundereit…or Carpe Diem

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Dear Shaina,

What a role reversal for you to be driving us to the airport to send us off on an adventure!  No guilt or fear…maybe a little worry…worry that you might get lonely or scared, especially since you’re still afraid to go into the basement alone! But you sound good and I am thrilled for you…not even the slightest bit concerned about the state of the kitchen.  Out of sight, out of mind!

I am happy for your comfort in cooking and sharing with friends and using the house for what it is meant for: a place to enjoy, to eat and drink and be with friends and family.  As Bubbe used to say, Tzereis Gezundereit: tear it up in good health!  Not literally, of course.

She  meant that the things we have shouldn’t be saved and preserved for some later pleasure…use what you have, enjoy it today and share it with the people in your life.  It was the Bubbe version of Carpe Diem, plus the acknowledgement that most of our stuff will outlast us, hence, tear it up while you can.

picking peaches on the streets of our neighborhood

picking peaches on the streets of our neighborhood

We all seem to have taken that message to heart.  Here we are in Portland indulging in food, wine, and the distinctive sights and sounds that live in an environment that seems to be fearless when it comes to the expression of individual style, creativity and preference for just about anything…as long as it doesn’t hurt your neighbor or the environment.  We are drinking ( we are tasting a lot of wine) this city in like parched nomads emerging from the desert…and it is delicious!

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There are hundreds of neighborhoods (and we have hit many of them on this trip) each boasting unique flavors and personalities.  The walkable streets, lined with bike lanes and crosswalks and closely packed craftsman style homes are lushly adorned with Portland greenery and fruit trees… small independently owned coffee shops, French bakeries and taquerias, bars and ice cream parlors, vintage stores and shops displaying the work of artisans of every talent and skill (dress shops complete with sewing machine and seamstress, old fashioned barber shops, weavers, painters and jewelers) are everywhere. The costumes on the street are wide open…from biking shorts to hiking boots to retro flowered dresses to…well, anything goes in this town, really.  The tattoos are  bold and sported by people of all ages and lifestyles. Freedom and independence feeds the creative spirit…and the entrepreneur.

We followed a llama into a jewellery boutique

We followed a llama into a jewellery boutique

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We have shared  good wine, food and conversation with our new dear friends from Portland and look forward to showing them Portland’s polar opposite twin city in the South when they visit us.  We’ll try to break them in slowly.

Today we drove to Ashland, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Theater and saw a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream set in 1964 at a Catholic Parochial School. Tomorrow on to Napa.

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The luxury of our trip reminds me that now is our time.  Even old couples need some time alone in a fresh space every now and then to remind them of who they are…separately and together. We are seizing the day…and hope to continue to do so together for a very long time.

Breakfast on our porch

Breakfast on our porch

Soon it will be the holidays. I saw your post for the cleanse.  Although I haven’t done much cooking (not that I haven’t been eating), the one thing I did make is cleanse-friendly.  I tried to replicate a beet dish that we had at a Peruvian restaurant in Portland.  I thought mine tasted good, but definitely didn’t have quite the same visual appeal.

Everyday there are new places and sites and experiences I want to share, but enough is enough! I am looking forward to coming home and returning to the normal order of things…me doting on you for the last few weeks of your home-stay…you preparing to leave and being annoyed with my stickiness.

I miss you already. Even though I know its not easy for us to live in the same house.  I still miss being around you…being a part of the moments of your every day.  I know these days are short-lived and that soon, I will be hearing about your life through the wonders of technology, again.

We’re off for a wine tour in Napa, so I better send this now because I am sure I won’t feel much like focusing after we return.

Love,
Mom
xoxoxoxoxoxooxoxo

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Beet Salad with Cilantro Chimichurri Sauce
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  • 2 Red Beets, medium sized
  • 2 Golden Beets, medium sized

Wrap beets in aluminum foil and roast in a 375° oven for 30 -45 minutes or until done (able to be pierced easily with a knife)
Slice thinly, keeping red and yellow beets in separate bowls

Beet Dressing

  • 2 limes, juice and zest
  • 1 Tblsp olive oil
  • A few drops of sesame oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together and adjust to taste.

Cilantro Chimichurri Sauce

  • 1 cup (packed) fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup (packed) fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Jalapeno or habanero pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Process all ingredients in a food processor.  Adjust seasonings to taste.

The restaurant version

The restaurant version

Arrange thinly sliced beets in alternating layers of red, golden, red beets on a platter. Pour lime sesame dressing over beets.
Drip Cilantro Chimichurri sauce along edges or center of beets.

Garnish with fresh cucumber , cut in thin julienne strips and fresh chopped cilantro or parsley.  Serve cold or at room temperature as an appetizer with a fresh baguette or on a bed of arugula as a salad with dinner.