♦ It’s All OK

Dear Shaina,

I’m good with the topic change. The parents and child are clearly OK. But your shamelessness about poop is the result of neither good nor bad parenting, simply genetics.

Dad and I are cleaning out the attic and I came upon reams of your journals and “All About Me” books from Kindergarten on. You may not have talked much, but you sure did write and tell. You wrote about friends and family, sleepovers and seders and doing stuff with Dad and me. Those pages brought back neglected memories and allowed me a peek into your eight year old world. You seemed pretty happy. Clearly OK. I am grateful to you for your writing, now and then.

Your visit home flew by. Things were easy. Maybe we are mastering our new roles in this phase of your transient life. Mother: let go of household order, pick up (clothes, tea bags, mason jars), clean up (kitchen counters, floors, tabletops) buy food, put child to bed, enjoy the moments. Visiting daughter: mark your territory (foyer, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom), cook, buy food and tea, eat, drink tea (in large mason jars left in marked territories), run, spin, do homework, say good night. It all goes very smoothly once everyone knows their place.

It wasn’t all mundane. Thirty minutes before I was having people over I got a call from you to pick you up because you had a nasty fall while out on a run and couldn’t walk home…but you were OK!  So what’s a little oozing blood running down your leg a week before you are in a wedding wearing a short dress! Just another little activity for us to focus on; wound care, dressings, antibacterial ointments, non-stick pads, adhesive tape.  Amazingly, you made it to the wedding with only a little clear oozing and zero impact on your dancing ability.

Shaina skinned knee

Then there was that little weather incident the night before you left…a tornado headed right our way.  Down to the basement bathroom outfitted with blankets, pillows, water, iPad and disaster head gear. The tornado changed its mind and lost its steam. We got another chance to cuddle up in close quarters… and everything turned out OK.


And the excitement goes on… We were having a little drainage problem in the kitchen and your Dad decided that he could easily handle a simple sluggish kitchen drain. I wish I had pictures. It was right out of central casting; balding man sitting on the the floor hunched over, head under the sink, butt crack showing, tools in hand. Three failed attempts later, accompanied by three major floods of gushing foul smelling, black crud laden water all over the hardwood (now slightly warped) floors requiring every last towel in the house to sop up all the water, he slips in the laundry room on the wet tile and smashes his elbow. I’m OK, he says.


Towels & elbow

A real plumber arrived this morning. Dad’s elbow looks a lot better and thankfully, nothing is broken. Except, after clearing the clog, the main drain collapsed only to produce the fourth kitchen flood complete with bits of rusted pipe metal. They are replacing the main line tomorrow.

Dad and I are going to New Orleans for a long weekend to celebrate Mother’s Day and our 30th anniversary. Hard to believe. Despite the bumps and bruises along the way, we are all more than OK and that is a blessing!


Miss you so much!


Stuffed Portobello MushroomsIMG_3636

Dad and I were at Whole Foods (a habit we picked up from you) and got mesmerized by the multitude of exotic rice varieties in the bulk section. We bought some of each of our favorite colors and ended up with a lot of interesting looking rice. I pulled out my never-used rice cooker and decided to test it out. I made a lot of multicolored rice! My first plan was stir-fried veggies over rice. That was a great meal, but I got left with a whole bunch of cooked rice.

You know I am the queen of leftovers. I can’t bear to throw out good food. This turned out be a good week to test my leftover re-invention skills. I happened upon some incredibly large fresh portobello mushrooms and knew exactly where I wanted to go. They turned out to be a real treat and an opportunity to use lots of leftover bits and pieces including the rice. Anything goes in this recipe, so look to your fridge for leftover inspiration.

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms (Phase I)


  • 4 large Portobello Mushrooms
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil for brushing and sautéing
  • 1 onion, chopped (leeks, green onions or shallots can also be used)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 3/4 cups pumpkin seeds (or sunflower or pine nuts or cashew pieces or any other nut)
  • 3-4 Cups cooked rice (any variety)
  • 3/4 cups craisins (or currants or raisins)
  • Liberal amounts of fresh or dried herbs (basil, dill, tarragon, thyme, whatever you like) and spices
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons Tahini
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup shredded Jarlsburg Cheese
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Lightly brush mushrooms with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.

Place face down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Sauté chopped onion and fresh garlic in olive oil.

Lightly roast pumpkin seeds or other nuts in a toaster oven or dry frying pan.

Place rice in a large bowl and mix in onions, garlic, pumpkin seeds, craisins, herbs and spices and salt and pepper to taste. Rice can take a lot of flavor so don’t be skimpy with the spices. I threw in some leftover pesto, fresh dill and thyme that were sitting in the refrigerator and lots of sea salt and black pepper.
IMG_3685Mix the tahini and lemon juice and a little water to make a tahini sauce and blend into the rice mixture. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Spoon a large mound of the rice mixture onto each mushroom.

Place in the oven pre-heated to 375° and bake for about 10-15 minutes until heated through and the mushroom is cooked through. This may take more or less time depending on the size of the mushrooms and the amount of rice.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle 1/4 cup of shredded cheese over the top of each stuffed mushroom. Top with toasted sesame seeds and return baking sheet to oven.IMG_3630

Bake another 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. If you like your cheese a little more well done, you can turn on the broiler for a few minutes.


This makes a great vegetarian, gluten free lunch or dinner served with a hearty green salad and avocado slices. Very tasty and filling. It would also make a great side dish for a meat or fish dinner.



Esther’s Portobello Rice  & Eggs Benedict (Phase II)


This dish reminded Dad of Eggs Benedict (the structure, not the taste) so we tried it for brunch one day adding fried eggs and a tahini sour cream sauce…and we finally finished that rice!


Tahini Sour Cream SauceIMG_3684

  • 2 tablespoons Tahini
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon water ( or enough to make it a sauce consistency)
  • 2 tablespoons light sour cream
  • Garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste
  • Parsley or Cilantro for garnish



Add chopped spinach, black olives and sun-dried tomatoes with some oregano and basil to the rice for a different taste. Top with Feta cheese.
Throw in leftover grilled vegetables and add tarragon and parsley.  Top with sharp cheddar cheese.
Try an Indian theme with Greek yogurt, curry, ginger, cinnamon, raisins
and cardamom. Top with a curried lentil sauce.



◊ Wary But Ready


Dear mom,

Tomorrow I leave home again. My direction is just as unclear as the last time I left (and the time before that)… the difference is that I’ve become more comfortable with not knowing things. This time, there’s less fear, less adrenaline, less newness attached to stuffing suitcases with this-and-that for life with clouded purpose in a foreign country. A sack of my favorite teas, a quick-dry towel, sneakers and good socks, a down pillow, four cameras (yes I need them all), ear plugs, chocolate chips for the plane, etc, etc… I know what I need.

From the front yard

From the front yard

Living with you and dad has been (uhh… how can a 25 year old with overbearing/hysterical parents word this kindly?)… motivating… but I will miss the small life I’ve rebuilt in Birmingham during these 3 months.  I’m already waxing nostalgic over my cooking-gig guided by “clients’” health needs, luxurious ingredients and big counter space along with all the other stuff: family and old friends, long runs through wooded trails, the first ever AL organic cotton, this company. Yes, pour-over coffee joints, Villager Yoga and hipster popsicles (requisite to any urban wannabe) are proof that Birmingham is rising.


Thank you for the luxury to return home and recharge. Each time I leave home I feel sort of like I need to resume fight-mode… Tomorrow I’ll muster a new energy and the next day I’ll turn it up a notch to navigate a new place, new language, new people, new foods (!), new projects.  What am I getting into?

Tomorrow opens a new chapter. When I sound ambivalent about the direction of my life, others assure me that I’ll figure it out soon. I’m 99.5% sure that I won’t because what does that even mean?

I’m wary of veering from the path I’ve built to move to Jerusalem because why?  But I’m ready… at least for some good hummus.




Right: not edible
Left:  will make you see funny things


best purchase of the summer: a shitake sprouting log

These recipes honor the luxury of home-life. I was never able to afford porcini or any other fancy mushrooms when I was out on my own (well… my priorities weren’t right) so I did some mega experimentation at home. I made two dishes with a variety of dried mushrooms (chanterelle, cremini, shitake…) – both vegan and both satisfying: Vegan Mushroom Risotto and Hearty Mushroom Farro. Porcini and chanterelle mushrooms were my fav with intensely earthy, deep meaty flavors. The farro was the best dish of the summer… hearty and toothsome (Arielle taught me that word, isn’t it good?). It’s even better topped with creamy cashew cheese, a rich vegan treat. A pairing of the two = the most luxurious meal ever.


Mushroom Farro

  • 1 cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 6 cups salted water (or vegetable stock)
  • 1 1/2 cups farro
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1 lb fresh portabello, shitake, cremini or baby bella mushrooms
  • Salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • good black pepper, freshly ground
  • Parsley, chopped


Put mushrooms in water and bring to boil. As soon as water boils, lower heat to simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large skillet. Add the onions and cook until translucent about 2-4 minutes. Add the garlic, fresh mushrooms (not the porcinis), salt and thyme. Cooking (stir often) about 8-15 minutes, until mushrooms are tender and onions are brown.
On a separate skillet, heat a drop of olive oil. Cook farro in olive oil until fragrant (about 3 minutes) while stirring.
Remove porcini mushrooms from water with a strainer, rinse, chop, and add to mushroom and onion mix.

Add farro to mushroom broth (you should have about 5 cups) and bring to simmer for about 45 minutes or until tender. The grains should be chewy and splayed. If water remains, continue to cook until grain is splayed. When ready, combine mushroom/onion mixture with farro. Remove thyme sprigs and add plenty of fresh ground black pepper.  Garnish with parsley (thanks for the idea, mom) and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if you please. Stir and serve warm!


Creamy Vegan Cashew Cheese


  • 2 C raw (unsalted) cashews or cashew pieces (pieces are usually cheaper), soaked overnight, then drained
  • 1/3 C nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp good sea salt
  • spices (you can do ANYTHING! For the mushroom farro, I’d stick with black pepper, but I’ve used a variety of herbs to liven things up in the past. Last time I put in a spicy smoked flavoring… delish!)
  • 1/2 cup water… more as needed

To soak cashews, cover with water and leave for 6 hours or overnight. When ready, drain cashews from water and add cashews and other ingredients to food processor. Puree all ingredients until creamy. The consistency should be like peanut butter, but add water if you want it looser. Chill for four hours before serving. If you like a firmer cashew cheese, strain pureed mixture in a cheese cloth overnight. Discard extra liquid and serve cold.