♦ 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

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.


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


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.

♦ Indulgence

Dear Shaina,

Thank you for the compliment.  It is comforting to know that I haven’t lost my touch completely … if only, to make you call home.

Time does fly.  It’s bad enough when its my life, but at least I can review the markers in real time.  As far as your life goes, it’s harder to track.  Whole chunks of space go missing…and the moments of missing are sharp and ever present. Talking with you helps calm my anxieties and gives me enough tidbits of your daily doings to activate my vicarious pleasure (or angst). So, thanks for indulging me.

Mazel Tov on your success in Arabic.  I know how much time and effort you sweated over it.  And congratulations on allowing yourself an indulgent vacation.  I have yet to regret any of my indulgences and only wish I had allowed myself more over the years.  I am making up for it.

Yoga is my current indulgence. I am surprised by how much pleasure I am experiencing in practicing yoga.  Five days this week…I have never in my life done any physical activity five days a week! It’s not that it’s easy and I fully understand why its called a practice.  There’s just something about the physicality and the restoration, the striving and the serenity and the total focus on…my breathing, my heartbeat, my sore joints and stiff muscles, my body’s imperfect capacity, my gratitude for my strength…and my life…and the stilling of my mind.  I am fully indulging myself in this pursuit of balance, acceptance and peace. I feel good! Maybe it’s just all that seratonin leeching out into my brain…whatever!

Dad and I spent four days iced in at our winter chalet at the top of the hill.  I didn’t want to leave.  We were very comfortable being holed up together, safe and warm with plenty of good food and books…and no obligations or commitments. Having always been so outwardly driven and people-needy, it was a sweet surprise to experience another part of myself.


Being home put me into full blown cooking mode. My super sized pots have been getting a workout.  Pea Soup, chicken soup and, this week, an actual red-meat chili!  Dad always brings home the Wednesday NY Times from the office and gives me the Dining Section. This week it had a recipe for Chinese Chili that intrigued  both of us. It’s made with brisket cut up in chunks…I haven’t made a red meat dish for as long as I can remember, especially a chili.  It was delicious! I made enough to bring to the Hirsch’s (he’s still in the hospital) and for Shabbat dinner with family and friends.

The rarity of my making a recipe with meat made me realize how much of our eating is influenced by your vegetarianism. I shop and cook as if you live around the corner and might drop in for dinner at any moment.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not about to start serving meat at every meal.  Dad and I still enjoy eating vegetarian style most nights.  But maybe this Chinese Brisket Chili is a sign of reality seeping into my pots affirming the separation of our lives…as it should be.

That doesn’t mean I’ll stop missing you anytime soon.

Love, Mom


Easy Low-Fat Eggplant Parmesan (Lasagna Style)
Vegetarian, Gluten Free


I promised you my eggplant parmesan recipe this week…the perfect meal to pull out of the freezer when it’s freezing outside. I love eggplant parmesan and I love vegetarian lasagna.  I don’t love all the breading and frying in traditional eggplant parmesans and I don’t love the heavy pasta load in traditional lasagnas. So I made up this recipe,taking the best of both dishes and eliminating the high calorie elements. You can make your own sauce or buy your favorite ready-made spaghetti sauce or combine the two. Surprisingly, this satisfies all my Italian cravings without leaving me feeling one little bit deprived.


I made these in late fall when the last harvest of eggplants and basil abounded. My measurements are imprecise, so if you end up with extra of one of the components, not to worry.  It can be reused for something else.  Extra roasted eggplant makes a great side vegetable or can be used in a stir-fry dish.  Extra sauce can be used on pasta or frozen for later use.  Extra ricotta with spinach is perfect for stuffing manicotti and rebaking smothered in tomato sauce. All good in these cold winter months!

Preheat oven to 375° convection bake or 425° on regular bake setting


Japanese Eggplant


Traditional Eggplant


  • 3-6 medium sized eggplants or the equivalent amount of Japanese eggplants (long thin eggplants)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Cheese Filling

  • 1 pound low fat Ricotta Cheese
  • Basil, Oregano and any other favorite Italian seasonings, fresh or dried
  • 16 oz package chopped frozen spinach defrosted or fresh spinach sautéed and chopped

Tomato Sauce

  • 2 – 3 quarts Tomato sauce
  • 2 large onions
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Boxed or canned plum or diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar or agave
  • Salt, Pepper and Italian seasonings ( basil, oregano, parsley)
  • (Your favorite store bought tomato sauce is a great timesaving alternative)


  •  1 pound low fat mozzarella cheese, grated


Slice eggplant in 1/2 inch horizontal slices.  If using regular eggplants, lay out on a sheet pan and sprinkle with salt. Let sit about 30 minutes.  Salt removes the bitterness and excess water.  After 30 minutes, rinse in cold water and pat dry.  If using Japanese eggplants, you can skip the salt step and just slice 1/2 inch round slices.

Place up eggplant in a large bowl and lightly drizzle with EVOO (olive oil).  Lightly salt and pepper.  Stir eggplant around in bowl until lightly oiled and seasoned. Place parchment paper on a large baking sheet and arrange prepared eggplant in a single layer on the sheet. Place in pre-heated oven for 15 to 25 minutes until lightly browned and slightly crisp, but not burned. It may take several baking sheets to bake all the eggplant. The roasted eggplant at this stage is delicious as it is!  When roasting eggplant to use as a side vegetable I just cut the eggplant in chunks and bake it the same way.


Tomato Sauce
In the meantime, if you are making your own sauce or doing some combo of homemade and store bought, you can prepare it now.  I usually sauté onions and garlic in a little olive oil, add a jar of store bought vegetarian tomato sauce and a couple boxes or cans of plum or diced tomatoes. I season with salt, pepper, a tad of sugar or agave if needed, basil and oregano and simmer over low heat until it tastes like I like it. Set aside when done.

Cheese/Spinach Mixture
Drain the liquid from the defrosted spinach or cook (sauté or microwave) the fresh spinach and drain off any liquid.  Mix the drained spinach into the ricotta cheese.  Add pepper and basil to taste. Set aside.

Spray casserole dishes with a non-stick spray.  I use pyrex loaf pans or casserole dishes at least 3 inches deep.


Cover the bottom of the casserole with tomato sauce and layer the eggplant on the bottom of the dish. Cover with a thin layer of tomato sauce.  Sprinkle a light amount of grated mozzarella over the eggplant layer.  Spread a 1/2 – 3/4 inch layer of the ricotta cheese/spinach mixture over that.  Continue to layer tomato sauce, eggplant and tomato sauce and end with a generous topping of grated mozzarella cheese.

To Bake and serve immediately:



Place loosely covered (aluminum foil) casserole on a cookie sheet and place in a 350° preheated oven.  Bake about 30 minutes or until bubbly.  Remove foil covering and continue baking another five or ten minutes until cheese topping is browned lightly or the way you like it.  Remove from oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes.  Serve with extra tomato sauce, a fresh green salad and some garlic bread.


To Freeze:

Finish assembly and wrap tightly in freezer wrap and plastic freezer bags.  Freeze immediately.  Thaw when ready to use and bake according to instructions.