♦ I Worry

Dear Shaina,

I don’t even know where to begin…When you watch your child transform into the adult that they were always meant to be, it is awe-inspiring, humbling and terrifying all at once.

I started writing this weeks ago…after you told me you had been to Gaza and back…you hadn’t told me before you went to prevent me from worrying.

Dad and I met you en route to a scuba diving adventure the two of you had planned. Gaza barely registered a blip on my worry radar in the shadow of my scuba diving dread.

You survived both…a momentary comfort blunted by the understanding that I have no control over the ever-present lurking dangers in the world that you may encounter by chance or intention. Your beliefs, decisions and actions are beyond the purview of me or anyone else.

How did this happen; that you should own your life so completely, that you could transform your fearfulness into fearlessness, that you are able to trust and challenge your own voice?

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I guess there were clues all along the way. Before you were born I, with the naiveté of a first time mother-to-be, eagerly awaited the arrival of my “mini-me” daughter.

The first time I laid my eyes on you, you looked directly back into my eyes. I saw your father’s penetrating, but self-contained gaze and I knew in my gut you were not a “mini-me”.

You were a quiet and calm baby…some might say passive. I could put you on the carpet in the living room and you would amuse yourself by staring at the beams on the ceiling 20 feet above. You cried rarely, but let me know clearly if some need was not being met.

In preschool, you were shy, but attentive. Your cubby was always next to the most out-of-control child in the class…maybe because you had a calming  effect…maybe because you were tolerant…maybe because you never got caught up in the fracas.

A teacher gave all the children the same colored cut-out pieces of paper and instructed them to paste them onto their sheet of paper to create the shape of the flower she displayed. You placed your colored pieces of paper onto your sheet creating a flower design of your own making. Some of the other children liked your variations and tried their own. You led without intention or demand.

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At age 5, I enrolled you in soccer. You hated it. I made you go twice. You sat down in the middle of the field during a game. I took you home and we never went back. I signed you up for swimming and you swam almost everyday. You refused to participate in swim meets. I let you skip them.

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In your own unassuming way, you continued to assert yourself. I maintained the illusion that I was in charge, but I knew the truth early on. I learned to respect your needs, to trust your instincts and to understand that you knew better than I did what was best for you.

Bubbe used to say, “When you have little children, you have little worries. When you have big children, you have big worries.” So I’m a big worrier…a proud worrier. You are an amazing kid who is worth all the worry I withstand on your behalf. I may not own your life, but that doesn’t stop me from petitioning the universe daily…may you be safe and healthy and happy… and may the harshness you encounter on your life’s journey be minimal.

India Allen All 3 09 695 (1)Love,
Mom
xoxoxoxoxooxoxoo

Green Beans with Tomatoes and Chick Peas

There is no end to the excess of summertime garden veggies. This recipe accomplishes the goal of using up two surplus veggies (plus fresh basil which you can never have an excess of) in one easy-to-prepare dish. It can be served as a vegetarian meal over pasta or rice or as a side dish with any meal.  It can be prepared ahead of time, made in large quantities and served hot or at room temperature.  All measurements are flexible and subject to individual taste.

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  • 1 large onion, cut in thin wedges
  • Olive oil as needed
  • 5 garlic gloves (or to taste), coarsely minced
  • Green Beans – about a pound or as many as you have of any variety, ends cut off and strings removed
  • Tomatoes – about a pound or more of fresh tomatoes cut up or a couple boxes of processed chopped tomatoes
  • Fresh basil – a couple of handfuls chopped or a couple teaspoons of dried basil
  • 1 can of Chick peas
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Calmata olives (optional

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Heat a small amount of oil in a large skillet and add sliced onions.  Sauté until edges are lightly browned. Add minced garlic and continue sautéing for a few minutes.

Add green beans to onions and continue sautéing until green beans, onions and garlic are slightly browned and mixed together. Cover the skillet and continue cooking over medium heat until the beans are almost done.

Add the chopped tomatoes and half of the fresh basil or dried basil to the beans and continue cooking. I use about equal parts of tomatoes and green beans. If I want a more tomato based saucy dish, I add more tomatoes.

Continue cooking until liquid from tomatoes is reduced and thoroughly blended with the beans.

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Add the chick peas, salt and pepper and more basil and continue to cook until all flavors are blended together. Adjust seasonings to taste.  If desired, add calamata olives.

Garnish with fresh basil.

This dish gets better everytime you reheat it so make enough to have leftovers and don’t be afraid to add more tomatoes and basil.

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◊ I’m Back

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Dear mom,

I don’t have much to say. Being back home is weird. I dither around preparations towards next steps, and my friends from high school are doctors and lawyers and married. I returned from a time warp – why do things progress without me? – and I am nothing.

My job-for-now is my saving grace (though it seems just opposite for you). I prepare meals for a friend braving chemotherapy. Her dietary shift omits dairy, processed foods, soy, various legumes, cruciferous vegetables, etc, and she only eats organic. I drift through my days assembling creative menus and exploring new ingredients that yield foods tasty and healthy. It’s indispensably meditative as I mull over how I’ll get to where I need to be next (on time) and what that means exactly.

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But I know my presence in your kitchen has totally rocked your boat: you take every opportunity to complain about me completely trashing your house and destroying your kitchen. I leave my sneakers and gym bag in the hallway; plates and jars are out of place; my clothes are on the bathroom floor; there is crusted yogurt on the fridge door-handle and drops of almond butter in hard to reach places; the salt is in the wrong cubby. There’s a reason that our site’s tagline ends with the word distance.

It’s usually my job to initiate distance, but you stole away on your West Coast adventure yesterday. How does it feel? I perceived some guilt (or fear?) as you left me to man the kitchen all by myself. But that’s your problem. For me, it’s a dream come true. Even though I’m weary about navigating your kitchen drawers without you (it took me 30 minutes to find the box grater this morning!), the space is welcomed. Please, conquer your retirement unsullied by guilt, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I won’t have to go to the basement while you’re away (still the scariest place I’ve ever been).

Back to the kitchen! I’ll try to minimize the havoc as much as possible.

xo,
Shaina
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Roasted Cherry Almond Millet Mini Muffins (gluten and dairy free!)
Prep time: 45 minutes
Serves 10 – 15

  • 1  cup almond mealIMG_8751_Fotor
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal (i like to use blue cornmeal)
  • 1/2 c flax meal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp (sea) salt
  • 1/3 c molasses
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 c almond milk
  • 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup millet, lightly toasted*
  • 1 cup roasted cherries*

Last time I wrecked the kitchen, these crunchy, gluten-free Roasted Cherry Almond Millet Muffins were born –slightly sweet and perfect for a filling breakfast or a satisfying midday snack, they were inspired by a search for a healthy treat that I could make for my new “client.”  Now I’m hooked on millet! A crunchy muffin is like ice cream with sprinkles.. eating it is just more fun! Top these gems with almond butter or yogurt in the morning for a healthy, fiber-full, protein-packed start to the day.

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Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the almond meal, cornmeal, flax meal, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, molasses, olive oil, almond milk, honey, almond and vanilla extracts together.  Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until loose batter is formed. Gently fold in the millet and cherries until combined. Fill the muffin liners and bake on middle rack for 15 – 20 minutes. Let cool before serving.

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*Roasted Cherries: Toss 2 cups of halved and pitted cherries with a pinch of salt, 2 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp honey and splash of lemon. Spread them evenly on parchment paper and roast for 20 – 25 minutes on 350 degrees. For the purpose of this recipe, feel free to substitute strawberries, peaches or other summer fruits for cherries.
*Toasted millet: Spread millet evenly on baking sheet and stick in oven or toaster oven at 350 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes. To make sure your millet muffins are perfectly crunchy, toast it half an hour (at least) before using it for baking so that it can cool… It becomes more firm once it’s cool.

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Blueberry Almond Galette
Serves 6
Prep time: 40 min
Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen’s Cherry Almond Galette

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Ingredients for Dough:

  • 3/4 cup red hard wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup rye flour
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 4 oz. / 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut in cubes
  • 2 tsp. lemon juicephoto 2(6)
  • 2 Tbsp. yogurt
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 3 Tbsp. ice water

Ingredients for Filling:

  • 3 cups blueberries
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp. corn starch, almond flour or wheat flour
  • dash fresh grated nutmeg
  • dash cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup raw sugar
  • 1 egg
  • splash of water
  • turbinado sugar, optional

Our blueberry picking venture was pathetic… My memories of bushes generously bearing cloyingly sweet, plump blueberries were tainted by this season’s scarce branches. I blame this season’s monsoon-like weather for our meager bucket of water-logged, almost rotting berries. Usually, I’d season freshly picked berries with lemon juice and spices and bake them under a simple oat crumble.

But this summer’s berry batch needed hardcore TLC. I was drawn to a galette recipe on Sprouted Kitchen because of the almond extract in the dough recipe. So I substituted rye and hard red wheat flour for their spelt and white flour combo, and, duh, blueberries + appropriate spices instead of cherries.
The dough turned out delish and, served with ice cream, the galette eased my distress over this summer’s wretched crop. But I still prefer my berries sweetened by the earth and sun – simple, ample, untouched and undoctored. Oh well.. there’s always next summer.

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First, mix all dry ingredients. Second, quickly work the cold butter into the flour mixture. One tip that my mom taught me is to shred the frozen butter into the flour with a cheese grater. It makes it easier to combine in with the flour. Smush the butter into the flour with your fingers, making small pea-sized clumps. In a separate dish, mix lemon juice, yogurt, almond extract and water, and add it to the dough mixture until combined. Do not over-mix! Form a ball and wrap it up – chill in the fridge for at least an hour or a day or two in advance.
Heat the oven to 400′ and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash blueberries and mix with spices, salt, lemon juice, flour and sugar.

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On a floured surface, roll out the tough to a a 12 inch circle (doesn’t have to be perfect… clearly). Put the dough on a baking sheet and pile the blueberries in the center (leave roughly 2-3 inches of the outer dough empty). Fold the dough towards the center, pinching it together to make it stick. Pull it tight and thin.
Mix egg and brush it on the outside of the dough. Then sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake on the middle rack for 40 – 45 minutes until browned. Serve with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of almond butter.

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