Dear mom, I’m back out on a lam and it’s time to start writing again. This is the longest I’ve neglected our blog since we started writing over 4 (FOUR!!) years ago. Living at home made this back-and-forth seem pointless. What … Continue reading
Since my last letter about wanting to switch things up and your go-ahead to do so, I spent some time wracking my brain about what that can look like. What parts of my communication with you do I want to leave behind and what do I want more of?
More self-assuredness, less complaining. I’m doing X. Rather than I think I’m doing X, but it might be a bad idea and I have no idea if it will work out. More curiosity and less dismissiveness. Like, I should actually try your recipes! More gratitude, less worry. Even if I fail my Arabic midterm, I’ve learned a lot.
It’s a nice meditation for this time of year – the reflection period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur that encourages us to think about these things.
Here’s my first take:
I feel excited about school projects. I’m happily participating in the cleanse. My house threw a big party this weekend and no one called the cops or threw up on the floor. How are you doing? It sounds like you’re having fun in Portland – visiting your favorite book stores, cafes and happy hours.
The cleanse has been great for me this year. It always pushes me to be more creative with food. Now that we’ve incorporated a $$ challenge – to spend no more than $4.10, the national average food stamp benefit on food for each of the ten days of the cleanse – there’s an extra push. I’m cooking and thinking more.
Last Monday after Rosh Hashana services, I made a beeline for the grocery store. I had fun in there at first – hunting for sales, picking the least-bruised/mushy produce from the 99 cent bin in the back of the store, grabbing just a teeny bit of arugula instead of a huge bagful. I miraculously kept the bill under $30. But by the end I was tired. Out of all the food I bought, I didn’t even have a snack to munch on during my walk home.
It took a lot of time. I spent almost 45 minutes in the grocery store! It was fun … but what if I had a job? The 99 cent bin at Berkeley Bowl was swarming with customers at only 2pm. If I had a job and couldn’t get to the store til 5 or 6, I wonder if there’d still be good food.
I concentrated really hard in the checkout process. I selected yogurt I thought was on sale, but it rung up as $7.50 (!!). I asked about the sale, and the guy said that the sale was on the regular yogurt, not the organic. So I put it back.
Once I got back to the house with bags and bags of “imperfect” 99 cent produce, I had to prep it right away. I was on my feet for almost three hours dissecting brown spots out of apples, scrubbing dirty potatoes, carving into squash. It was therapeutic – I listened to my favorite podcast and enjoyed washing, chopping and putting things into tupperwear. But I can’t imagine doing the same job with hungry kids and a long list of other priorities tugging at my sleeves.
Five days later, I’m sick of eating sweet potatoes, the thought of brussel sprouts makes me nauseous and I can’t do more lentils. The homemade soy milk endeavor was not worth it.
I’m sending you cleanse-friendly recipes with their cost breakdowns. The hardest part of this whole thing is the math.
Can’t wait to hear more about your Portland adventures and to see you in a week.
Zucchini Noodles with Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Serves 5 – 7
Cost per serving: $1.55
Gluten free, vegan, tree nut free, grain free, paleo friendly
- 1 jar roasted red peppers $2.85
- 3 cloves garlic (no kissing tonight!) $0.20
- 1 tbs flax meal (leftover from summer subletter)
- 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds $4.35
- 1 tsp salt
- black pepper to taste
- 4-5 long green zucchini, zoodled, peeled or vegettied *see below (free from garden)
- 1 tsp olive oil $0.17
- 1 yellow onion, chopped $0.20
Total cost: $7.77
Per serving: $1.55
Combine all ingredients in food processors and puree until smooth. Keep refrigerated.
With “vegetti” (my fav new kitchen tool), peeler or mandolin, shave zucchini into strips aka noodles – #zoodles.
Heat pan in olive oil and add chopped onions. Cook on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes til transluscent. Add zoodles and cook for 7 – 10 minutes til soft (but not mush!).
Top with creamy sauce and garnish with pumpkin seeds.
Sweet and Salty Peanut Butter Jelly Bars
I brought these to my Creative Non Fiction class and they went over well. I like bringing snacks to class/everywhere. I like to share. But it’s hard to budget snacks for the people when I’m struggling to budget snacks for myself. I figured that if I used basic ingredients (sorry friends, no almond-cocoa-date truffles this week), I could keep things relatively affordable. I feel very lucky that this is something I don’t have to worry about (too much) on the reg. What a gift!
- 2 cups puffed rice $1.5
- 1/3 cup flax seeds((leftover from summer subletter)
- 1/2 cup oat bran $0.27
- 1 cup oat meal $0.35
- 3/4 cup unsweeteened coconut shreds $0.75
- 3/4 cup golden raisins or other chopped fruit $1.15
- 1 tbs salt
- 3/4 cup unsweetened peanut butter (leftover from summer subletter)
- 2.5 cup pitted prunes $3.75
- 1/2 cup flax meal (leftover from summer subletter)
- 1/3 cup coconut milk $0.75
- 1tbs cinnamon powder
- juice of one lemon (from tree)
- dash of vanilla extract
- 1 tbs coconut oil $0.20
- dash of salt
(Added$0.40 for spices already in the house)
TOTAL cost: $9.12
cost per serving: $0.61
Need to poop? Eat this.
Put peanut butter, prunes, dates, flax, cinnamon, lemon juice and vanilla into food processor. Blend until a sticky paste forms.
While the food processor is going at it, reserve 1/4 cup of coconut shreds and mix dry ingredients in your largest mixing bowl.
Heat oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix coconut oil with salt remaining shredded coconut and line parchment paper with oil mixture.
With a large spatula, your hands or both, work dry ingredients into wet ones. You may need to add a bit of hot water to the fruit paste to loosen it up. Do this with caution.
Once combined, press mixture onto parchment paper so that it’s evenly distrubuted about 1 1/2 inch thick across the baking sheet. Place in oven for ten minutes, just to crisp the edges. Remove and allow to cool before scoring.
Cut bars into small squares and keep remaining crumbled in a ziplock for yogurt toppings. Keep bars in airtight container in the fridge.
I’m done with my first year of my second round of grad school. “Halfway there!” and high-fives all around.
This year, I shot and edited video, produced an audio story, published long narratives and quick-turnaround pieces, sort of coded things, made a web site, learned some Arabic. I ran a half-marathon, moved (twice), saw waterfalls, played mah jong, built friendships, brewed Kombucha and made a lot of snacks. I worked on projects that made me cry. I left class with goose bumps and almost threw my computer on the floor more than once. I was overwhelmed with gratitude by the generosity and depth of guidance offered to me by mentors. I was humbled and inspired by the kindness and brilliance of my classmates.
Now, at the end of this very full year, I’m halfway there. I feel no sense of accomplishment or relief. All of the things that happened this year inched the bar higher and higher so that each step I take toward there pushes there farther and farther away.
I’m scared that my whole life will be like this.
In your last letter, you said that life is “a series of intentional meanderings and instinctive pursuits of ever-evolving targets.” Do you mean that life’s a calculated chase? Do we ever make a catch? And what happens if we do?
I know how to celebrate the small victories and to live in the moment and blablabla be here now. Like, in my brain, I get it. And I AM grateful for finding a path to follow, surrounding myself with inspiring people, dumping my energy into meaningful stories. But I never feel full. I just keep pouring gasoline onto the fire under my ass until it burns so strong that I can’t think about where or why or how I’ll run. I just run and run and run like a lab rat on a treadmill toward what? You know?
Don’t tell me I need yoga.
The recipe I’m sending you is ambitious. It’s for a true adventurer. And (gluten free, paleo, vegan, grain-free) it’s oh so Berkeley.
I went through pounds and pounds of broccoli and several versions of this recipe to get these weird savory vegetable strips. At first I was going for crackers and was unsatisfied with the chewy outcome (the internet says that it’s possible to toast broccoli mush into a crisp, but I’m weary). The outcome of my labor was not successful until I reframed my expectations — it sounds gross, but… JERKY!
Broccoli Jerky (or Chewy Broccoli Crackers)
- 2 large heads of broccoli, steamed (4-5 cups chopped)
- 5 tbs nutritional yeast
- 2- 3 cloves fresh garlic
- 2 tbs flax meal
- 2/3 C pumpkin seeds
- 1 bunch fresh basil (12-15 leaves)
- 1 tbs mustard
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- juice of one lemon
- zest of one lemon (about a tsp)
- dash of cayenne powder, to taste
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp sea salt
- plenty of cracked black pepper to taste
- 2 tbs flax seeds
- 1/4 C sun dried tomatoes, chopped
Set oven to lowest possible temperature. (A dehydrator is ideal for this recipe. I don’t have one, so I set my oven to its lowest temp – 200 degrees.)
Once steamed, chop broccoli (including stem) into 2 inch pieces. Add broccoli with remaining ingredients (except for the flax seeds and sun dried tomatoes) into food processor. Pulse for 2 -5 minutes until all ingredients are combined into a thick paste. If needed, add a tsp of apple cider vinegar. Once the ingredients form a thick puree with a consistency similar to a dough, stir in sun dried tomatoes and flax seeds. Get creative here! You can also add other seeds – think chia, sesame and hemp seeds.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or your other favorite non-stick baking tool. Spread broccoli “dough” in a thin layer across entire baking sheet. Start with your hands and then switch to a spatula to make sure all area of the dough are spread to the same thinness. Insert into oven and leave for 1 – 2 hours (but check frequently to make sure nothing is burning!) until the dough has dried – the corners of the baking sheet may be dry or crisp at this point. Remove from oven and score into squares with a sharp knife immediately. Allow to cool and remove from pan. Store in air-tight container. For a more crispy version, place in oven or toaster oven at 300 degrees for 10-15 minutes before serving.
Beef tenders. Ok. I can handle it. But those photos…
The content of your prep photo could have come out of my intestines. Really mom. How is that food? I’m nauseated at the thought of putting it in my mouth.
I find it strange that you hear happiness in my voice. Excitement, stress, anxiety, nerves, struggle, exhaustion… these are the things I feel.
I don’t think they’re the usual indicators of happiness.
Happiness. What a weird thing to calculate. I think I’m annoyed with it. I’m annoyed with smiling Berkley flowy pants and flower-hat wearing vegan yogis who give big hugs. Are you turning into one of them? It sounds like it. (I’d rather you make beef tenders.)
I’m working really hard at school. My chronic eye twitch is still chronic. If I’m not hunched over my computer, I’m hunched over a camera or notes or a big salad. I attempt a work-life balance with hikes and cooking, but I feel stressed and nervous and pressed for time all of the time. But I’m choosing this life and am (weirdly) excited about it.
The work I’m doing is hard, time-consuming, confusing and emotionally draining. But I feel that it’s important. And yes, it’s stressful, but feeling that I’m doing something important is thrilling.
Is this what happiness looks like for me? I’m scared.
One thing that makes me happy is my new favorite breakfast inspired by one of my favorite outside of school friends (here’s her food site): sautéed dino kale, baked sweet potato, sauerkraut and a boiled egg sprinkled with sunflower seeds. It’s a meal that will help you understand how your beef pics conjure up images of things that come out of my intestines.
Crossing the line? You asked for it.
I usually prep the kale, egg and potato the night before so that it takes 5 minutes to throw it together in the morning. Gluten free, paleo and perfect for Passover (also a good way to use leftover Seder eggs and will definitely cure a matzah belly).
Kale and Sweet Potato Breakfast
Makes 3-4 breakfasts
- 1 head of dino (lacinato) kale, de-stemmed and cut horizontally into 3 inch strips
- drop of olive or coconut oil
- 1 tbs grated ginger
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 medium sweet potato
- 4 eggs, boiled
- 1 cup sauerkraut (can be purchased at most grocery stores)
- 3-4 tbs sunflower seeds
- salt and black pepper
*Part 1: Heat oven to 400 degrees and wrap whole sweet potato in foil. Place on baking sheet and place in oven for 30-45 minutes, until soft.
Meanwhile, heat oil in sautee pan and add ginger, turmeric, kale and salt. Cook for 5 -7 minutes until kale is just wilted.
Part 2: Chop sweet potato into one inch chunks. Top with sauteed kale, sauerkraut and boiled egg, and sprinkle with sunflower seeds. Add plenty of salt and black pepper to taste.
*To make my mornings less overwhelming, I do part 1 the night before and part 2 in the morning.