◊ A New Year


Dear mom,

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

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

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

Here’s my first take:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xo,

Shaina

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

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Zucchini Noodles with Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Serves 5 – 7

Cost per serving: $1.55

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

Sauce:

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

Total cost: $7.77

Per serving: $1.55

Sauce:

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

Noodles:

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

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

Top with creamy sauce and garnish with pumpkin seeds.

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Sweet and Salty Peanut Butter Jelly Bars

Makes 30-35 squares, about 15 servings

cost per serving: $0.61

Gluten free, vegan, tree nut free

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

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

(Added$0.40 for spices already in the house)

TOTAL cost: $9.12

cost per serving: $0.61

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Need to poop? Eat this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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◊ Your Sweet Life

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Dear mom,

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

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

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

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10 things children of diabetics learn early:

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

    SUGAR!

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

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

7. Health is everythingIMG_7127

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

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

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xo,

Shaina

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

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Kale Coconut Smoothies

Serves 2

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

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

Kale harvest at the farm

Kale harvest at the farm

◊ Raw

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Dear mom,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home already feels like worlds away.

xo,

Shaina

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

Raw Chocolate Hazelnut Orange Chia Breakfast Bowl/Parfait

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

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Cardamom Coconut Chia Pudding

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

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

 Raw Orange Scented Chocolate pudding

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

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

FINAL STEP:

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

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Herbed Raw Almond CheeseIMG_7621

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

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

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

Yogurt, Apple, Sprouts and Nuts Breakfast Bowl:

(pictured below)

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

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

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