♦ My Sweet Life

Dear Shaina,

Don’t despair. There is hope for the burn-your-ass and keep-running-like-a-rat syndrome. Eventually you find your stride. Eventually you make your place and settle in. Eventually you realize that you don’t have to feel the burn in order to do some good.

I hate to acknowledge that you may have internalized this suffer-until-it-feels-good affliction from my side of the family. I think its about survival. The good news is we are all surviving. The tough part is that we all have to figure out how to do it on our own.

Speaking of survival tactics, I hear you’re doing a little yoga. Mahjong and yoga…hmmm…I won’t say a word. You are already 30 years ahead of where I was at your age!

In the meantime,I am celebrating my fiftieth year of living with Diabetes! Hard to believe…that fifty years have gone by…and that I am still here to write my daughter a letter about it. On June 6, 1965, the day I was diagnosed with what was then called Juvenile Diabetes, my odds for surviving another fifty years were slim.

46 years ago

46 years ago

The chatter I heard on the street as a 13 year old newly diagnosed diabetic was about a neighbor, an elderly grandfather, a long lost cousin…who lost a leg, went blind, died from kidney failure or heart disease. I chose to tune out most of that. I was instructed to never go barefoot, to not get upset, to eat the same thing at the same time every day, to stay away from sugar, to test my urine four times a day, and of course, to take insulin shots. I chose to ignore most of that too, except taking insulin and staying away from sugar. I knew I had to do those two things in order to survive.

I made the decision, early on, that I wanted to live and that Diabetes was just going to have to live in my life. I wasn’t going to live a life ruled by the fear and dogma that was the prevailing diabetic wisdom of the day. So I went barefoot outside in the summer, got mad when I was mad, stayed away from sweets, took my shots and avoided doctors as much as possible. I allowed myself to hate diabetes without having to hate myself or my life.

I live my life fully everyday; I work; I travel; I celebrate with friends and family; I love my family deeply. I cherish each day! Diabetes has been my constant, many times, unwelcome companion. Our relationship is based on mutual respect and acceptance…acceptance of our mutual goals and our individual needs…and the necessary compromises required for any relationship to succeed.

It is hard for me to believe I have reached this milestone. I am grateful for all the skilled doctors who have hung in there with me despite my stubbornness, for all the latest and greatest torture devices designed to help me manage this disease and for all the research that has enabled me to see the world through my own eyes, to walk as many miles as I feel like on my own two legs and to love with a heart that beats regularly and reliably.

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I am thankful for all the miracles in my life…especially for you and Dad…and hope that I have not overly burdened you.

I know I have been lucky, but I still hate diabetes…and I am ready for the cure! I wish I had a fairy godmother who could temporarily turn me into one of those lab rats at the UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center, www.uab.edu/diabetes, where they have been studying a drug that essentially cures diabetes in diabetic rats. I’m putting my hope on that research and I plan on spending this year prodding them along with a little fundraising support.

I have so many things to celebrate in my life. This year, my sweet life is at the top of the list!

Love,
Mom
xoxoxoxoxoxoxoox

Summer Kale and Pesto Pasta

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It’s summer time and the garden is rich with basil and kale. This meal is dedicated to you, Shaina. You and Dad went out to the farm and picked a garbage bag full of young tender kale…and you even washed out the dirt and most of the grass. We may overdose on kale this summer…kale smoothies, kale quiche, kale salads, kale burgers…but it’s all good! I am already seeing green!

Pasta

Small bow tie pasta, basil, olive oil chopped garlic dried or fresh good black olives sundries tomatoes pine nuts (optional) shaved Parmesan Cheese (optional)

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain. While the pasta is still hot, mix in basic basil pesto (fresh basil leaves, olive oil, fresh garlic, salt, pepper, all thrown into a food processor) to taste. Add olives and sun dried tomatoes. Set aside.IMG_6054 (1)

Kale

Fresh kale, as much kale as you have or want fresh chopped garlic, to taste olive oil salt pepper hot pepper sauce (optional)

Wash kale thoroughly. If kale is mature, remove thick stems and tear leaves into pieces. If the kale is young and tender, the stems do not need to be removed and you can use the whole leaf.

Heat a large sauté pan. Add a little olive oil and the chopped garlic and sauté lightly.
Add the fresh kale and salute until just cooked and tender. Add salt, pepper and more garlic to taste.
Place pesto pasta on a plate and top with the sautéed kale. Garnish with shaved parmesan cheese, pine nuts or pepper sauce, if desired.

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◊ Get a Grip

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Dear mom,

Get a grip. Seriously. If you’re going through life desperately worrying about the invasion of inexplicable life altering tragedies, then maybe you have… like… a problem.

I worry too, but, as I explained in my previous letter, I’m tryna stick with things that are productive. I worried about getting to the airport with enough time to go on a fancy lotion sampling tour at Duty Free after security. It was a productive worry – it made me wake up to my alarm (and every hour for 3 hours before it). Now I’m sitting on the floor, charging my computer and waiting to board my flight out of Israel. My skin is all greased up with an estimated $50 of moisturizer (does anyone actually buy such expensive lotions foreal?).

I’m about to board the plane, but it doesn’t feel like I’m leaving.  I’m at ease. Maybe it’s because I’m in denial, or maybe it’s because I know I’ll be back. Maybe I’m actually a little ready for a break from constantly untangling my brain from the mess it absorbs from media, friends, family, cab drivers, vegetable-sellers, professors, twitter.

I know this mess won’t go away once I’m out of Israel… that it will become more intense as I’m expected to answer questions about rockets, airstrikes, tunnels, Bibi, #IsraelUnderFire, #GazaUnderAttack, Palestinian identity, Jewish identity, Jerusalem clashes, UNRWA, Shujaiyya, Sderot, soldiers, sirens. I’m happy to share my reflections, but please know that I don’t know anything. My opinions are few and my certainty is limited.

My certainty is limited to my favorite hummus places (Blue Bus and the place off Agripas with bright colored plastic boxes for seats), where to buy the freshest nuts in the shuk (the guy after halva king and before the cheap herbs on the left if you’re walking towards Yaffo  in the covered side), the best jogs (Tel Aviv’s Tayelet, Jerusalem’s Tachanat Rishon and Har Eitan), the tastiest salads (Orna v’ Ella in Tel Aviv, Nodir near Bezalel), most beautiful hikes (haaj from Jerusalem to Jericho),  and which professors to avoid at Hebrew U (will remain unnamed).

A walk from Jerusalem to Jericho

A walk from Jerusalem to Jericho

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My nut guy

Blue Bus hummus, Pardes Hana

Blue Bus hummus, Pardes Hana

They make it in a blue bus

They make it in a blue bus

View from my favorite jogging site, Tel Aviv's Tayelet

View from my favorite jogging site, Tel Aviv’s Tayelet

Orna V Ella, Tel Aviv

Orna V Ella, Tel Aviv

I’m certain that my gratitude for family who allowed me to really be family will be forever; that roommates can be family too; that my classmates provided more education than my professors; that Jerusalem attracts straight-up weirdos (I like them anyways); that friends are important; that feeling Shabbat is a special thing; that Jerusalem, for better or worse, is much more than a city and place.

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It’s been quite a year. Thanks in advance for preparing for my return with my favorite foods and clean sheets… In that sense, I guess your worrying is productive (or it at least works out in my favor). Can’t wait for a haircut, massage, hot bath and all the things that will help me restore energy to dive into another intense year of unknowns. I’m just four take-offs and landings away! Til then, hold yourself together. 

xo,

Shaina

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Today I will post two recipes – one dedicated to family: Nurit’s Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Tart, the other dedicated to friends: Zesty Sorrel Pesto.

As you know, the last month or so was a bit stressful and weekend getaways to family saved me. For the past two months, Nurit and the rest of the Pardes Hana family has nourished my soul, beached my body and washed and folded my laundry almost every weekend.  Several Shabbats ago, Nurit made an incredible goat cheese tart. Eggs, cheese and carbs – the perfect comfort food.  I re-made it with rye flour for a Shabbat that I hosted before I moved out of my Nachlaot apartment. It was a much needed indulgence.

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Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Tart with a Rye Crust

Prep time: one hour

Makes two pies: serves 7 – 8

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Crust:

  • 1 /12 c all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 c rye flour
  • 1 cup butter, chilled and cubed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7 tbs ice water

Filling:IMG_3865 2

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small red onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 medium bell peppers (mix of yellow, red and orange), sliced vertically
  • 1 cup soft goat cheese
  • 1 cup cream
  • 3 medium eggs
  • tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped

Mix the flours and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until it crumblies to teeny balls. Add 4-5 tablespoons cold water and use your hands to mix it into a dough. Wrap and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the dough on a floured surface. With the dough, line a standard pie dish.  Press the pastry into the corners of the dish. Leave the excess overhanging the edge. Poke holes in the base with a fork, line with baking paper and fill with rice or beans to weigh down. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven and set aside. 

-OR BUY A PRE-MADE PIE CRUST-

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a pan. Sauté onions on low heat until fragrant. Add peppers and garlic and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.   Set aside to cool.

Whisk eggs, cream, salt and basil in a separate bowl. Spread cheese along bottom of pastry crust and layer with onions and peppers. Pour egg and cream mixture on top. Scatter with remaining peppers and onions, and bake for thirty minutes until top is golden. Allow to cool before serving.

Zesty Sorrel Pesto

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Last week, some of my friends and I organized a food party to learn how to make Chinese dumplings.  I learned how to prepare them, but didn’t want to eat the meat… It was one of the few times I’ve hated my vegetarianism. The other time involved Bubbe’s kreplach, which is basically the same food as Chinese dumplings minus the added ginger. I guess I have a thing for dumplings. 

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My lame contribution to our cross-cultural food exchange was toasted pita with sorrel pesto, parmesean and almond/cashew pieces. My original idea was to do buckwheat blinis with sorrel pesto, ricotta and crushed hazelnuts but I didn’t get it together in time. I still can’t stop thinking about it though, so it will definitely happen in the future.

I made a big batch of  sorrel pesto about two months ago and kept it in the freezer (removing small lbatches into jars that lved in the fridge about twice a week or so). I found a huge (HUGE!) box of what I thought was spinach for just ten shekels at Machane Yehuda, so I took it home. Turns out it was sorrel! Instead of hitting my books, I went straight to the kitchen to prepare a big tub of pesto. In additoin to my master blini plan, this pesto is the perfect quick fix to add zest and rich flavor to simple salad of chopped veggies. Really, it’s a game-changer… especially when in a time and resource crunch (story of my life).

Zesty Sorrel Pesto

Prep time: 20 minutes

Serves: A lot

  • 10 ounces of fresh sorrel
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 4 tbs tahini or almond butter
  • 1 tbs good olive oil
  • juice and zest of 2 medium lemons
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • generous dash of fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 cup walnuts

Wash sorrel and chop or tear into small pieces. Chop garlic roughly. Add spinach, garlic and remaining ingredients (except for walnuts) to food processor. Pulse until a thick, green puree forms. Once you have a paste, add walnuts and pulse until desired consistency. I like to leave the walnuts a little crunchy for added texture.