◊ A Twist on Tradition

DSCF8387Dear mom,

I’m a rooted creature too. I’ve lived in exciting places. The feeling of curling up in my childhood bed under the same quilt that kept me warm twenty years ago, however, is just as appealing as the excitement of sleeping somewhere way cooler. Home is grounding – being there reminds me that I once had a place – and will always have one – outside the black hole of whatever currently consumes me.

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Right now that black hole is school and I like it and I’m not sorry for investing 100% of myself in it and in me. My brain is so squeezed for space that I’ve ignored whole categories on my to-do list (prioritizing?). #SorryNotSorry for eating Subway sandwiches, abandoning our blog and forgetting to shave my legs during the month of November. I’m done apologizing to myself for myself.

I haven’t been cooking much lately. My visit home for Thanksgiving, though, awoke my vegetable-chopping ambitions. Our traditions – the 10K run, shots of shlivovitz, lots of food – pulled me from the darkness of my hole and threw me back to moments much bigger than it.

Latkes are my favorite winter tradition. Four years ago (whoa!), I threw a Hanukah party in Bhuj, India. I grated potatoes with three friends, two knifes and one hand peeler. We poked holes into a bottlegourd for a menorah. We covered the floors with newspaper to soak up grease. We left the door open in my kitchen for ventilation and a cow wandered inside.

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For a day, I was pulled from my anxiety re living in a foreign place. I remembered that wherever I am – whatever consumes me – I’m always connected to something bigger.

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I might not have the wherewithal to make latkes + the necessary mess in my little Berkeley kitchen, but I’ve been invited to Hanukah parties where latkes will be plenty. I’ll bring curry cashew cream and hemp seed apple sauce scented with cardamom and orange blossom water as alternatives to usual fixings. Traditions are important… there’s also always room for creativity.

xo,

Shaina

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Cardamom, Orange Blossom, Hemp Seed Apple Sauce 

  • 5 – 7 medium McIntosh apples
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 7 pods of green cardamom, seeded and crushed
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 1tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tbs hemp seeds
  • juice of 1 fresh lemon
  • 1 tbs orange blossom water (can be purchased at middle eastern specialty store)

Peel and chop apples into 1 inch chunks. In medium saucepan, combine apples, water, cardamom, vanilla and cinnamon. Cover and cook until apples have turned to mush (15 – 20 minutes). Mash with fork or potato masher and stir in hemp seeds, lemon juice and orange blossom water.

It’s something a little different to dress your latkes in + a healthy snack + a filling breakfast stirred into yogurt.

Curry Cashew Cream

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  • 2 C raw cashews or cashew pieces soaked overnight
  • 1/3 C nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp good sea salt
  • 1 tbs yellow curry powder
  • pinch of cayenne powder to taste
  • 1/2 cup water… more as needed

To soak cashews, cover with water and leave for 6 hours or overnight. When ready, drain cashews and add them to food processor with other ingredients. Puree until creamy. The consistency should be like runny peanut butter — you can add water if you want it looser. Chill for four hours before serving on your favorite vegan latkes! It’s also good as a salad dressing.

 

◊ Raw

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Dear mom,

It’s already been a week since I was home for Passover? Yesterday was the weekend? I’ve been living in a computer screen vortex since I left home and every time I look up, I feel further from the world outside.

I’m in post-production mode of three different projects. This means I’m finished collecting puzzle pieces and I’m now ready to sort, order and put them together. Thinking about it makes me dizzy.

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They aren’t just any puzzle pieces. They’re heavy. They are other people’s stories, but putting them together comes from my own core. Schoolwork feels like therapy sometimes… My emotional state is raw and being home for Passover only intensified that feeling.

Along with the usual Passover routine – cooking, overeating, taking shots of slivovitz, leaning to the left from too much dessert/the Haggadah told us to – we dove into discussions that shook assumptions of my basic values.

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Dad asked me to come up with a discussion question for our Seder. Before we recited the ten plagues that Moses inflicted upon the Egyptians, he asked it:

Is inflicting hardship upon others in order to gain freedom justified? Is it always tit for tat? What about preemptory strikes? Blood, locusts, boils, wild beasts, death of the first-born…. Is it easier to commit acts of cruelty when god’s on your side?

I thought the questions would spark good debate, but for the first time in the history of our dinnertime discussions, you and Abe agreed – you and I agreed – Abe and dad agreed – we all agreed (whoa!) that we don’t know what we’re capable of until we’re fighting to survive. We don’t know the answer. We analyze risks and benefits, we act as efficiently as we can, and we don’t look back because we know that we made the most thoughtful, conscious decision possible.

When dad asked the question, I’m guessing that some people had ISIS or Israel and Gaza in mind. Initially, I was thinking about salads (duh) — about how every bite may enable slave labor in Florida’s tomato fields. I also thought about other circumstances  in which the stakes feel higher.

I’ve sort of always known that the answer is that we don’t have the answer … That the reason conflicts remain conflicts is that it’s damn easy to be convinced that god is on your side. I’m still fighting with this answer.

The flight is too big for the limited space in my brain right now.

Home already feels like worlds away.

xo,

Shaina

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After I left home, I stuck to a completely raw diet for the rest of Passover and LOVED it. It inspired me to play with new foods and I really needed the intestinal catharsis after all that sponge cake (it’s mostly air, it’s mostly air, it’s mostly air… yeah right). It was a good strategy to avoid matzah too.

Raw Chocolate Hazelnut Orange Chia Breakfast Bowl/Parfait

This recipe contains two components that can be eaten on their own or layered together.

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Cardamom Coconut Chia Pudding

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • dash of cardamom powder
  • honey, maple syrup, other sweetener to taste (optional)

Stir chia seeds into coconut milk and add cardamom. I didn’t add sweetener because I knew I’d be eating it with the plenty sweet chocolate pudding (recipe below). I also kept sweetener out of it so it would more versatile for later breakfasts and snacks. It was perfect topped with a sliced banana.

 Raw Orange Scented Chocolate pudding

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  • 1 medium avocado
  • ½ cup hazelnuts
  • juice of one orange
  • zest of one orange
  • ½ cup pitted dates
  • tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup almond (or coconut) milk
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cacao powder
  • dash of sea salt

A vitamix or other high powered food processor is necessary here. Dump all ingredients into food processor and puree until smooth. Add more nut milk if needed.

FINAL STEP:

Layer the puddings with orange wedges in bowl or jar.  Garnish with crushed hazelnuts and orange zest (and cacao nibs for extra luxury).

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Herbed Raw Almond CheeseIMG_7621

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 3 cups water
  • dash of smoked paprika
  • ¼ cup onions, finely chopped
  • dash dried basil
  • salt
  • fresh black pepper

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Soak almonds in water over night. When ready, drain water from almonds and place into food processor. Add another cup of water and puree until frothy and white.

Place cheese cloth over a bowl or jar, and drain the liquid from the almond meal to collect a nice jar of almond milk. Collect remaining almond meal in a separate dish. Stir herbs and spices into almond meal and store in fridge. Get creative with your herbs!

Yogurt, Apple, Sprouts and Nuts Breakfast Bowl:

(pictured below)

  • 1 apple, chopped
  • 3/4 cup plain organic yogurt
  • handful of cilantro sprouts
  • herbed almond cheese
  • curry cashew cream

Stir yogurt into chopped apples. Top with cilantro sprouts, herbed almond cheese and curry cashew cream.

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