♦ 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.

Love,
Mom

xooxoxoxooxoxoxoxoxoxoxo
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

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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

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♦ Hearing Your Voice

Dear Shaina,

It seems like I haven’t heard your voice in weeks.  We have been in touch by email and text…you in Portugal, us in Park City…but it’s just not enough for me. I start to worry and wonder what I’m missing by not hearing the tones beneath your spoken words. Mother’s believe they can hear the unsaid and feel the unseeable.  I am a firm believer.  I have to hear your voice…

We had to return from Utah (Park City was warm and sunny- ideal for the Sundance Film Festival) to Birmingham to see some real snow falling from the skies and experience the frigid temperatures that you expect at a ski resort in Utah in the middle of January.

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The snow and rapidly forming ice sheet came on suddenly and unexpectedly in Birmingham.  If I had come home 30 minutes later, I probably would have been stranded on the road like thousands of other drivers who abandoned their cars on highways and streets throughout the city.  People walked miles to get home or slept in offices, schools, public buildings or at homes of friends who were within reach. Two inches of snow blanketing a thin layer of ice maintained by temperatures in the teens stopped this city in its tracks. Amazingly, there were no power outages.

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By the time I got home, Dad had cancelled his appointments and was gathering wood from his ever-ready wood pile to stoke the fire he was tending in the wood stove. The perfect day for us!

I put on a big pot of pea soup (soup is always good) and pulled an eggplant parmigiano (I’ll send that recipe next week) out of the freezer from some I had made in the fall. With plenty of cold-weather food, a cozy fire and an abundance of vacation laundry, Dad and I settled into an afternoon of domestic tranquility. Dad filled the bird feeders while I sliced and diced the veggies for my soup. We sat by the fire with some hot cocoa and watched the birds nibbling at their treats.

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Dad took his traditional orchid with a backdrop of snow pictures and even got a little workout on his new drum set.

Even though all my days are, technically, days off, this day felt like a gift…no where to be, nothing to do, no expectations or demands, no schedule.  We were stuck at home.  The world was on a time-out.  We were warm and safe…and together.  What more could we want?!… Other than a phone call from you, of course.

I suppose I could call you, but I pride myself in being able to trust you to set the frequency and level of communication based on your needs, not mine. So, why am I so whiny…just the mother in me I guess. I know you’re fine.  And I know we’ll talk soon…and my heart will be eased.  I just want to hear your voice!

Congrats on your Arabic exam. Enjoy the rest of your break. Talk to you soon!

Love, Mom

xoxooxoxxoxooox

Basic Pea Soup

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Vegan and gluten-free
Makes enough for a crowd and some for the freezer

  • 1 pound split yellow peas
  • 1 pound split green peas
  • 3-4 quarts of water (more as needed)
  • 3-4 Bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard or mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 6 carrots, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 6 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 6-8 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup white wine (optional)

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To vary the taste, add cumin or other spices you like
Garnish with fresh chopped tomatoes, fresh parsley or a dollop of sour cream
Small cooked pastas can be added if desired for a heartier and even thicker soup

Start with a large 8-10 quart soup pot.  Put water, peas, bay leaves, mustard and salt in the pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Add carrots, onions, celery, sweet potato and garlic and simmer at least 40 additional minutes, adding water as needed.  Add salt and pepper to taste and white wine if desired. Cook until all vegetables are soft and well blended. Adjust spices to taste.

Soup generally tastes even better the next day.  Can be frozen.

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◊ I Say Soup

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Dear Mom,

You say puzzle, I say soup. Ok it’s a little forced, but I made a special lentil soup last week and I need to make it fit.

But really. You suggest existing outlines of my puzzle –  pieces of it already in place –  shapes that will come together. What. I relate my story more to a murky stew… a big pot set on simmer to soften the random chunks I throw into it. Today, I feel ok about this.

I experienced my first successful attempt to communicate in Arabic this afternoon. An Arab women who cleans the pool locker-room asked me (in Hebrew) about the lotion I was using and I told her (in Arabic! And some hand-flinging) that it was a special product made in France that my mom bought for me in America.  I wrote down the brand on a piece of paper. In her language she thanked me and told me I was a good girl and I understood her. W’allah!

In soup-making, many cooks stick with a meat, a veggie, a grain, 3 or 4 spices max. They might look up a recipe or rely on tried flavor pairings or shoot for a trusted theme: warm spices with root vegetables… chicken stock with bright herbs. Cooking with conventions usually bears good food.

I don’t know what f**ing flavor my soup is. I have no vision about what I’ll sprinkle/pour/throw into it next. I want to trust that the chunks will blend into something palatable. I’ll keep stirring, hoping for healthy digestion, tasty sips and that others might enjoy a taste too.

xo,

Shaina

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Pumpkin Lentil Soup 

  • 1 tsp olive oil20131228_0320 (1)
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped fresh pumpkin (or butternut squash)
  • 2 large carrots
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 sprigs of fresh or dried sage or 1 tsp dried sage
  • 4 sprigs of fresh or dried rosemary or 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 5 cups water/vegetable stock/chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups small, dry green lentils
  • 4 bay leaves
  • salt and good black pepper
  • 4 tbs red wine vinegar
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • handful of chopped parsley

Heat olive oil in the base of a large pot. Add onions, carrots and pumpkin and sautee until onions  begin to turn golden (5 – 8 minutes). Add garlic, sage, rosemary and thyme and stir for a few more minutes. When fragrant, add four cups of water/stock, lentils, bay leaves, salt and black pepper to the pot. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer until veggies are soft (about 30 min).

Remove from heat and add vinegar and lemon juice and zest. Allow to cool (because it’s easier) and with an immersion blender or food processor, blend into a thick puree. Add more water for a thinner soup. Garnish with parsley and serve with good bread or rice.

I enjoyed it topped with a fried egg once… another time with sunflower seeds… another time with a dollop of yogurt. Yogurt always wins in my book, but the egg was a satisfying touch.

Soup session with a special visitor

Soup session with a special visitor