♦ 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…

IMG_4853

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!

IMG_4414

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.

IMG_4851

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.

IMG_1942

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

IMG_1950

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.

 

IMG_1947

 

No Effort Fig Snack

IMG_4990

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.

IMG_5020

 

♦ Comings and Goings

Dear Shaina,

Please let Naomi know how much I enjoyed her guest post. Bubbe would be so proud! Bubbe’s immortality is clearly evident in both of you. Sharing the gifts of food, family and fun wrapped in love are surely the path to immortality for all of us.

Speaking of fun (again), Shaina, certainly you know that it’s not the quality of alcohol, nor the quantity, that makes the fun! Fun is in your DNA. It’s about your spirit and desire to taste the many flavors of experience that life has to offer. It is about the ability to enjoy what is pleasurable and to endure what is challenging and to not run from either. You have mastered that ability so well that you have a tendency to gorge on the massive array of offerings at life’s all-inclusive buffet.

I know you’re exhausted. You set yourself up for an all-the-time, on-the-go, pressure-packed last few months in Israel. I am not surprised by any of it. I have to remind myself not to worry. I know that you will manage it, as you always do. You will let go of those things that matter less. You will successfully accomplish your goals and you will be sad to leave it all. After a brief break in the home-nest, you will regain your equilibrium, go off to Berkeley and start all over again. We all have our coming and going and being patterns. I am impressed that you recognize them at such a young age. I look forward to the day when you are in one place for more than one year. Maybe even long enough for us to gather all your stuff currently scattered from coast to coast and deliver it to a place that you might consider home, for at least awhile.

Cleaning Out

Cleaning Out

Your pictures from Israel are beautiful and comforting to me. They provide a small window into your life so far away. They are reassuring, affirming and ease my worry a bit. I am cleaning out our bedroom in preparation for our master bath renovation (it begins Monday!) and encountering mountains of old pictures. It’s getting easier to get rid of clothes and stuff than I ever thought imaginable.

The Many Faces of Shaina

The Many Faces of Shaina

But the pictures have a deep hold on me…and there are so many of them. There is nothing in my life that is so tangible and yet inextricably intertwined with intangible feelings and memories than these pictures. It feels sacrilegious to throw any picture away. They warm my heart with joy and love and raise new doubts and questions. Was I a good mother? Did I neglect my family? Do you ever really know what’s going on behind a smiling face? I found high school pictures of me and baby pictures of you. How can so many picture-years accumulate in such a short time? I can’t let them go. So back into the boxes. Someday, they’ll be your problem.

IMG_4071

Despite your stress, you seem happy and healthy and very active. I hope your final papers and exam cramming will slow you down in these last months. I seem to worry less when you move more slowly. Slower is always better for enjoying the moment and keeping you from smashing into boulders. I hope Naomi’s head is healed and that she is moving at a more moderate pace also. I am sending prayers and angels to watch over your every move especially on those across-the-country hikes and jogging escapades.

Love,
Mom
xooxoxoxoxoxooxoxo

P.S. Thanks for getting Dad a Fitbit. After years of trying to get him to go for a walk with me, now he’s asking me to go for a walk with him because he hasn’t met his Fitbit goal. It’s amazing how an inanimate digital object can so quickly and easily direct a human being’s habits. I am reminded of the tamagotchi of your childhood.

 

Almond Fig Fruit and Nut Bars
Any kind of fruit…any kind of nut!

I was cleaning out the freezers and came upon some frozen fresh figs which had been there for longer than I care to recall. I remember your dad picking them and how delicious they were fresh off the tree. I decided to defrost them and cook them and see if I could make something out of them. Once I started, there was no stopping me. I found leftover bits of weird flours, dried fruits and organic nuts (remnants of your visit) in the freezer. I decided to make some kind of fig bar and committed to try and use up as many little bits of leftover stuff I could find. The results were a pretty tasty and healthy Almond Fig Fruit and Nut Bar. Really almost any fruit will do and certainly any kind of nut, so feel free to experiment.

IMG_1892

Fruit Filling

  • 1 gallon bag of fresh frozen figs (this could be made with fresh figs)
  • 1 cup of dried fruit, any kind (apricots, prunes, raisins, dates or a mixture of all)
  • 1 orange, juice and zest
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • lightly sweeten to taste with agave, honey, Splenda or sugar (optional)

Bring fruit, juice and zest to a boil in a large pot. Reduce heat and cook over a low flame, stirring periodically, until mixture has reduced and thickened.

Add spices, extracts and sweetener if desired. Adjust to taste. Continue cooking until mixture is thickened but can still be poured. Any leftover fresh fruits you have around can be thrown in; bananas, peaches, grapes, etc. More lemon or orange juice can be added based on your taste preferences.

Dough

  • 1 1/2 cups of any flour or mixture of flours
  • 1 1/2 cups regular oats, uncooked
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar or Splenda (optional)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter (12 tablespoons), room temperature
  • 1/2 cup kefir, plain yogurt or buttermilk
  • 2 cups crushed nuts, any kind

IMG_1889

Combine the first seven ingredients and then cut in the butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles a course meal.
Add 1 1/4 cup of the chopped nuts to the flour-butter mixture, reserving 3/4 cup nuts for the topping.

Divide the mixture in half and set aside half for the topping. Do not mix with the extra nuts.

Add the kefir or yogurt or any kind of sour milk to the remaining flour-butter mixture and mix thoroughly until it takes on a doughy texture. Add more milk or yogurt if it is still too crumbly.

Press doughy mixture into a greased 9” x 13” baking dish covering the bottom of the baking dish.

Bake in a 350° oven for 20-30 minutes or until bottom crust is lightly browned.

Remove from the oven and spread fig-nut mixture thickly covering the entire bottom crust.

Top with remaining crumbly dough mixture and sprinkle remaining nuts over dough crumbles.
Sprinkle a little cinnamon over the top if desired.

Continue baking in a 350° oven until the top has browned and the filling is bubbly, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Cool and cut into bars. To cut in diamond shapes, start at the upper right corner and cut from the top to the side on an angle, making your first piece a triangle. Cut the remaining pieces on the same angle all the way down the length of the pan. Then go back to the top of the pan and begin making horizontal cuts across the pan starting about an inch and a half from the top and continue making horizontal cuts all the way down the pan. Hope this makes sense.

IMG_1886

This makes a great pre or post exercise energy bar and an easy nutritious breakfast bar, not to mention all the added fiber benefits.

 

Another variation…

This recipe comes from one of my yoga teachers who also happens to be a fabulous cook. It’s a South African recipe called Farfel Cake, although I am not sure why. It doesn’t have all the energy boosting nuts and healthy oats and flours, but makes a delicious dessert nonetheless. I made the dough with Splenda and used the same fig/fruit mixture as above and added some sliced almonds to the top instead of powdered sugar. It is beautiful and absolutely delicious when made just as the recipe describes.

IMG_1907Farfel Cake

  • 10 tablespoons of butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • pinch salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • smooth apricot jam

Method (I use a food processor for making dough)
Cream butter, sugar and oil. Add unbeaten egg and process. Add flour and rest of ingredients (except jam) to mixture. Make a firm dough. Grate half of
the mixture into a well-buttered pie dish or springform pan. Put a layer
of jam over it – I use most of a small bottle; then grate rest of dough over the jam and bake at 350° for about one hour. When cool, sprinkle with confectioners sugar. Cut and serve.