♦ Guts and Persistence

Dear Shaina,

I love your growing-up person! That is not to say that I don’t still adore your child-person and will never stop indulging your regression. We are in full collusion on that one. I am grateful for your optimism and energy and determination to make a difference…your way. The days of my youth were filled with war protests, burning bras and antiestablishment lifestyle alternatives. So much for peace, love and harmony. We morphed into greedy, materialistic, self-obsessed baby boomers, myself included. We wanted to change the world, but it was too big and too overwhelming, so we joined it…and some of us sought some small place in our little sphere where we might actually find a way to make a difference, at least to ourselves.

The whole world seems to be one big mess; too big for any simple solutions, too big for any one tactic. One idea, one story, one human being at a time seems a more reasonable, if not more manageable approach. I am in awe of your guts and persistence in pursuing the humanity of each person you encounter without assumptions, without intentions and without judgment. Your approach is more hopeful than my generation’s and much kinder.

I am overwhelmed by the hatred, injustice and sadness that seems to be flourishing everywhere. I am fearful and saddened when I think about the world that we are leaving you and your someday-children. My current efforts on behalf of the world amount to getting everyone I know to take yoga. It seems that if everyone inhaled the yogi consciousness, the world would be a happier and more peaceful place…one person at a time. That is all I seem capable of managing right now, in addition to cooking, of course.

My newest kitchen gadget...very low tech

My newest kitchen gadget…very low tech

Cooking seems to be a curative salve for both of us; a meaningful distraction, a tangible outcome, nourishment of the body and soul for ourselves and the beneficiaries of our efforts. I am making tubs of soup and sharing it with friends and family, in sickness and health… I am baking hundreds of hamentaschen to be shared with family, friends and community… I am stocking the freezer with sweets, soups and casseroles to be pulled out on a moments notice for an impromptu dinner or to send visiting friends on their way with a sweet treat for the road. It doesn’t seem like much for a world that is in as bad a shape as ours, but it is what I can do. A little nourishment thrown out into the universe can’t hurt.

At it again...

At it again…

I have eased back into my yoga routine and finally feeling at one with my body despite the torn meniscus and screaming hips. I am learning to be more accepting of my limitations and kinder to my body. I am trying to find my own peacefulness and send it out into the universe that is so in need of positive energy. And I am putting my faith in you and your generation to lead the way to a more humane and tolerant world.


P.S. So excited that you pulled together a mahjong group! What could be better…mahjong and food…may the mahjong angels be with you!

Indian Pea and Lentil Soup


This soup is very aromatic and full of flavor. The yellow peas and orange lentils give it a lighter feel than traditional pea soup. I usually double the recipe. As long as I am chopping and messing up a pot, I might as well make enough to enjoy now and later and share with friends. It freezes well. Be sure to taste while cooking and adjust spices to taste.

  • 2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 sweet pepper, red, yellow or green, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
  • 1-2 teaspoons minced small green chiles
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 9-10 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1 full cup dried yellow split peas (soaked in water for a few hours and drained)
  • 1 full cup dried red lentils (soaked in water for a few hours and drained)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon or lime juice, plus zest
  • 1 tablespoon agave, honey or brown sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric 2 teaspoons sea salt or to taste
  • Ground black pepper to taste

Spice Blend:IMG_5210

  • 1 tablespoons butter or oil
  • 2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds or 1/8 teaspoon ground fenugreek

Chopped cilantro, parsley or green onions for garnish.

Melt butter in a large soup pot. Add chopped onions, carrots, celery and pepper and sauté until softened. I chop everything together in the food processor. Add the garlic, ginger, chiles and coriander and continue sautéing for a minute.

Add the stock and partially softened or cooked peas and lentils, lemon or lime juice, agave, bay leaves, turmeric, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, entitle peas and lentils are very tender. Add water if soup is too thick.

Prepare the spice mixture and add to the soup. Melt the butter or heat the oil in a small saucepan on medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and heat until they begin to pop, about 30 seconds. Add the cumin and fenugreek and fry until golden, about 1-3 minutes. Stir into the soup mixture and simmer for 15 minutes or until flavors blend.

Serve warm and top with garnish of cilantro, parsley or green onions. It is also tasty with a dollop of sour cream or greek yogurt.

More Indian Pea and Lentil Soup

More Indian Pea and Lentil Soup

◊ No


Dear mom,

Is it insensitive to say it’s your own damn fault?

We only-children have a lot of psychological barriers to conquer. The most important one for me is recognizing that having all of your eggs in one basket is not my problem. I’ve got my own eggs to carry  (totally NOT in a reproductive sense  – keep dreaming).

Plus… kids drop out of school, do drugs and things with strangers, try heroine. I board airplanes and buses. Should we start the would-you-rather-I game?


Asking me to tailor my needs, ambitions and desires to curb your delusional neuroses is  the opposite of promoting psychological well-being. And it’s rude. As your brother Abe says, stop putting me back in the womb.


Irrational fears. Your heart is eased when you see that I’ve been with family. Statistically, this is when you should be MOST afraid. The only times I’m in a car is when I’m with family… There’s a much higher risk of danger as a passenger on a highway anywhere than receiving a body-scrub at an all-female spa in Ramallah. Just saying.


Don’t worry no cars were involved when Naomi and I hosted family for Shabbat. It was very safe :).

Alas, the psychoanalytical intuition I inherited from you and dad forces me to question my curtness in this letter. There’s a reason — an admission that I’m embarrassed to share: I’m still in the process of convincing myself that my eggs (ieech I hate this metaphor) are my own.  What does this process look like? A 19 year old in Uganda by herself; bare shoulders and midriff smack-dab in the middle of 100,000 ultra-orthodox men protesting; a Jew in Ramallah; a not-nice letter from daughter to mother. This is the manifestation of my only-child syndrome. 

(All that insight without therapy! I deserve a cookie… good thing there are hamantaschen in the freezer.)

I do what I want.


There are so many other forces (such as personal values) that drive me to do what I want, but I also need to know my eggs are mine. To reemphasize: I’m going to keep doing my darndest NOT to remember that all of your eggs are in one basket. Sorry I’m not sorry ok I am sorry clearly not sorry enough.




I’m eager to start prepping for our Birmingham-in-Israel Shabbat cross-continental Shabbats even though it’s weeks away. I’ve already started to plan a menu so I’ll share two recipes that I’ll definitely include at the table. You can make both or either for your guests, though you’ll probably only make the first, Mujadra. You may hold off on the second recipe because I feel like grown-ups don’t eat vegan cookies.


Mejadra is a  Middle Eastern dish that Arabs and Israelis share. It’s economical, healthy, quick, tasty and found on almost every Middle Eastern menu. I make it all the time – the flavors blend well with most foods I eat here – tahini, crisp persian cucumbers, labneh, hummus blablabla. In the version below, it’s made with wild rice instead of traditional basmati. I’ve also thrown in a cup or two of quinoa to mix things up. This is the kind of dish that’s always a hit with guests.


Wild Rice Mujadra

  • 1 tsp olive oilIMG_1343
  • 4 white onions, chopped
  • 5-8 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 2/3 cup brown or green lentils
  • 1 2/3 cup wild rice
  • 4 cups water
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • handful of parsley, chopped

Heat olive oil in pan and add onion and garlic. Sautee until onions are brown. Add spices and stir until fragrant. Add lentils and rice and stir for 2 – 5 minutes. Add water and bring to boil. Simmer for 20 – 30 minutes until lentils are tender. Garnish with parsley. Serve as a side dish to meet or veggies, dollop with yogurt and chopped cucumbers, top it with a fried egg.


About my previous idea that grown-ups don’t eat vegan cookies. I don’t know. I have an idea in my head that my demographic is the only one that doesn’t have an activity more satisfying than constructing bulk fiberous, nutrient-dense ingredients into something delicious. We work stupid jobs or do meaningless homework and “fun” is sitting at a bar trying to connect with dumb boys. We’re all trying to build something new and unique and great and sometimes the only place that happens is in the kitchen… at least it’s a start? Who avoids butter when they have careers and kids and cars and stuff? Maybe it’s just in my head.


Anyway: these cookies are loaded with all sorts of chocolate and weird grains. It did the trick this time – I created something great and unique foreal.

Triple Dark Chocolate Rye (Vegan, Wheat-Free) Cookies

  • 0.75 oz good dark chocolate (about half a chocolate bar)
  • 1 1/2 c rye fl
  • 1 c rolled oats
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 c dark, vegan cocoa powder (I use Ghiradeli)
  • 2/3 c dark chocolate chips (I use Ghiradeli)
  • 4 tbs coconut oil
  • 4 oz full fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 c sugar

Preheat over to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Shred or take a hammer to a good chocolate bar (I did the latter) to break it into small pieces.

Taking a hammer to chocolate = satisfaction

Taking a hammer to chocolate = satisfaction

Mix with remaining dry ingredients. Set aside. In a separate bowl, add coconut milk, oil, chocolate chips and vanilla. Heat in microwave or over stove just until chocolate is melted (about 45 seconds). Be careful not to burn chocolate! Stir to combine ingredients and then add sugar. Before it cools completely, mix with dry ingredients.

Scoop 1 tbs full of cookie dough onto parchment-lined baking sheet. The cookies do not expand much, but be sure to leave about one inch of space in between them just in case. Bake for 12 – 18 minutes and allow to cool. Serve with a full glass of cold soy milk (ew just kidding). I don’t what vegans drink with their chocolate cookies.


To emphasize the message of my letter, here’s what I did this week:

IMG_4146 2I prayed with Women of the Wall on Rosh Chodesh with women who desire to express their Judaism out loud at the Kotel.

IMG_4181I went to Ramallah on a girls spa trip and saw what a ballagan check-points can be



I ventured to the city center to be surrounded by hundreds of thousands of religious men protesting the government’s mandatory military draft


IMG_3885 IMG_3918IMG_3952