♦ Meant To Be

Dear Shaina,

So what, exactly, does switching it up look like?

You: I’m worried about you… Should you still be driving, is your house too big for you to take care of, why do you have so much stuff?!
Soon enough.

Me: Let’s travel to exotic places and spend all our money on extended VRBO rentals, new furniture, house remodeling projects, yoga classes, dental work, more stuff, etc…we’ll try to fit in a visit to you.
Working on it now.

No, you do not sound like a stressy 20-something deep in crisis. Who doesn’t need a bi-monthly pep talk?…I love you just the way you are and I think you’re great! Does that count for this month? That’s never gonna change.

Happy to switch it up. You go first!

I am enjoying a no Labor Day weekend with a stay-at-home cooking marathon in preparation for Rosh Hashanah. It is such a luxury to cook in advance and not have to fit all the holiday preparation details in between working hours. The chicken soup, brisket, honey cakes, apple cakes and potato blintzes (a first for me) are done.

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The potato blintzes are a hybrid recipe; crepe dough from Bubbe’s cheese blintzes and the potato filling from her knishes. I made the crepe batter in my Vita Mix and it took 30 seconds and not even one lump! My Cuisinart effortlessly chopped the onions and blended the potatoes and fried onions. I used all my pots and pans and extra large bowls to boil potatoes, sauté onions, mix the filling, make the crepes and flash freeze it all. I pretty much trashed the kitchen, overfilled all my freezers and sampled enough fried onions and potato filling to have attached them to my DNA… if that is possible.

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I love what you are doing with the cleanse this year. Although I am fortunate to not have to worry about how much I spend on groceries, I learned at the hands of a master who taught me how to love grocery shopping and create healthy, nourishing, satisfying and tasty meals on a very tight budget.

My mother (Bubbe) always researched the food specials of the week and bought whatever she could on sale. Even after she couldn’t go to the grocery store herself, she gave me a list of what to buy each week…and I did. She hand-picked each green bean, each apple, each cherry to make sure she got the freshest items (no wasteful rotten spots for her). She never spent money on plastic storage bags or containers (she reused the food containers and plastic bags that her purchases came packaged in) and she never, ever threw out food (leftovers are what you eat the next day). We never had soft drinks or chips or candy in our house unless their was a party. She bought very little processed food and made almost everything from scratch. The things we thought we were missing out on (Oreo cookies and Wonder Bread for me) turned out to be not so good for us anyway.

It’s Rosh Hashana. It’s Zayde’s yahrsteit. I’m cooking Bubbe’s food. You are promoting a cleanse that raises personal awareness and global consciousness about food justice. I’m thinking that things are just as they were meant to be.

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Wishing you the sweetest of New Years and may we all make it into the Big Book of Life for a safe, healthy and productive year to come!

Love,
Mom
xooxoxxoxoxo
Red Cabbage Slaw

I am serving this Red Cabbage Slaw at our erev Rosh Hashanah dinner this year. It has apples and honey in honor of the holiday and it’s an easy do-ahead dish that doesn’t require oven space. Other than the honey, it can be prepared Cleanse friendly and it is very cost efficient. A head of red cabbage makes a whole lot of slaw! And it gets better the longer it sits. If you are preparing this for the Cleanse, but want some additional sweetness, omit the honey and add a half cup of raisins ($.50).

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Yield – 20 servings
Total Cost: $8.35
Cost per serving: $.42

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil ($.50)
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice with the zest from the lemon used for the juice ($1.00)
  • 2 teaspoons honey (.20)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 head of red cabbage, thinly sliced ($1.50)
  • 2-3 large carrots, grated into thin strips ($.40)
  • 1 large apple, cut in small pieces ($.75)
  • 8-12 ounces of sugar snap peas, thinly sliced crosswise ($4.00)

Whisk oil, lemon juice and zest, honey and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss together. Adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight before serving.

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Cleanse 5776

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Ok. It’s finally time to start prepping for the fourth annual CLEANSE — a mind/body/spirit reflection during the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. I can’t believe how fast our New Year is creeping up on us. 

Arielle and I decided to add a new element for year 5776. Along with the regular food rules (listed below and here), we’re asking people to spend no more than the national average food stamp benefit – $4.10 daily – on food for the ten days of the cleanse. We expect that nourishing our bodies with a whole foods, vegan diet (reminder of rules below) will be nearly impossible on this budget. So, we’re be asking people to match the amount spent over the allotted budget in a charitable donation to the American Jewish World Service. We’ve built a donation page here.

Access to healthy food in America is a challenge that can be easy to ignore. It’s important to feed ourselves with nourishing foods, and we feel it’s  important to remember how difficult it can be for others to do the same .We hope that this cleanse will not only spark reflection on our own personal health, but also on how we can contribute to the health of others. I think that this challenge will inspire gratitude for the current abundance of resources in our lives. 

We know that this year will be more challenges than previous ones. Our blog, 10yamimclean, provides support and a forum for dialogue. On the blog, we’ll post recipes and resources that  related to food justice — we encourage you to do the same. Shoot us an email with a reflection, recipe or question, and we’ll through it up on the blog (and give you credit unless you specify otherwise). When you send recipes, please include a cost breakdown or rough estimate of cost. An example of what this looks like is below. 

Happy Cleansing!

 DSCF8300White Bean Kale Burgers

5-7 servings

$1.08 per serving

  • 2 cups white beans, dried ($1.30)
  • 4 cups kale, finely chopped (from garden)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped  (from garden)
  • 2 red onions ($0.55)
  • 3 cloves garlic ($0.25)
  • 2 eggs ($0.40)
  • 1/2 cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts, finely chopped ($2.00)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • dash of chipotle seasoning
  • fresh herbs on hand, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal ($0.30)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbs olive oil (0.17)

(+ roughly $1 for spices)

($1.30+$0.55+$0.25+$0.40+$2.00+$0.30+$0.17+$1 ) = $5.97.

I averaged this recipe for 5 1/2 servings… I eat a lot. It came down to $1.08 per serving. Not bad!

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Submerge beans in water and soak for 7 hours. Then, cook on high heat until tender. You can do this in bulk a few days before and use leftover beans for other recipes.
In large mixing bowl, combine kale and beans and mash until almost a paste. Add 2 tablespoons of the cornmeal and remaining ingredients except for olive oil. Refrigerate mix for at least 20 minute.
Preheat oven to 300 F.

Place remaining cornmeal on a plate. Coat hands in olive oil and form  5-8 patties about 1/2 inch thick.  Dredge both sides of the burgers in cornmeal. Transfer to non-stick or parchment covered baking sheet and bake until golden, about 25 minutes.

I (Shaina) just did my first cost-breakdown of a recipe. Ow, my brain!

It took a lot of time. It was boring. And tedious. I kept losing count.

Some people do this every day – every meal – every visit to the grocery store, pantry and kitchen shelve.

In asking you to calculate the cost of your food as you share recipes, we don’t want you to be overwhelmed or for you to be intimidated by the thought of this task. Rather, we want to encourage you to think about cost before consuming. It’s ok to post estimates. You can guess prices when you aren’t sure and round numbers as you wish. But also think.

Here’s a great resource on how to calculate recipe costs: http://www.budgetbytes.com/2013/07/how-to-calculate-recipe-costs/

Cleanse Rules:
For the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we will undertake an intensive reflection of the mind/body/spirit connection. We will only consume:
 

Vegan foods – no products derived from animals (no meat, eggs, dairy, honey, etc.)

Gluten-free foods – nothing made with wheat

Unprocessed foods – nothing packaged with more than three ingredients

Unsweetened foods – no added sugar, honey, agave, etc.

Alcohol-free beverages 

An exception to the above rules above is the inclusion of organic eggs and yogurt that is organic, plain, stabilizer- and additive-free. This is a personal choice.

♦ I Worry

Dear Shaina,

I don’t even know where to begin…When you watch your child transform into the adult that they were always meant to be, it is awe-inspiring, humbling and terrifying all at once.

I started writing this weeks ago…after you told me you had been to Gaza and back…you hadn’t told me before you went to prevent me from worrying.

Dad and I met you en route to a scuba diving adventure the two of you had planned. Gaza barely registered a blip on my worry radar in the shadow of my scuba diving dread.

You survived both…a momentary comfort blunted by the understanding that I have no control over the ever-present lurking dangers in the world that you may encounter by chance or intention. Your beliefs, decisions and actions are beyond the purview of me or anyone else.

How did this happen; that you should own your life so completely, that you could transform your fearfulness into fearlessness, that you are able to trust and challenge your own voice?

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I guess there were clues all along the way. Before you were born I, with the naiveté of a first time mother-to-be, eagerly awaited the arrival of my “mini-me” daughter.

The first time I laid my eyes on you, you looked directly back into my eyes. I saw your father’s penetrating, but self-contained gaze and I knew in my gut you were not a “mini-me”.

You were a quiet and calm baby…some might say passive. I could put you on the carpet in the living room and you would amuse yourself by staring at the beams on the ceiling 20 feet above. You cried rarely, but let me know clearly if some need was not being met.

In preschool, you were shy, but attentive. Your cubby was always next to the most out-of-control child in the class…maybe because you had a calming  effect…maybe because you were tolerant…maybe because you never got caught up in the fracas.

A teacher gave all the children the same colored cut-out pieces of paper and instructed them to paste them onto their sheet of paper to create the shape of the flower she displayed. You placed your colored pieces of paper onto your sheet creating a flower design of your own making. Some of the other children liked your variations and tried their own. You led without intention or demand.

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At age 5, I enrolled you in soccer. You hated it. I made you go twice. You sat down in the middle of the field during a game. I took you home and we never went back. I signed you up for swimming and you swam almost everyday. You refused to participate in swim meets. I let you skip them.

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In your own unassuming way, you continued to assert yourself. I maintained the illusion that I was in charge, but I knew the truth early on. I learned to respect your needs, to trust your instincts and to understand that you knew better than I did what was best for you.

Bubbe used to say, “When you have little children, you have little worries. When you have big children, you have big worries.” So I’m a big worrier…a proud worrier. You are an amazing kid who is worth all the worry I withstand on your behalf. I may not own your life, but that doesn’t stop me from petitioning the universe daily…may you be safe and healthy and happy… and may the harshness you encounter on your life’s journey be minimal.

India Allen All 3 09 695 (1)Love,
Mom
xoxoxoxoxooxoxoo

Green Beans with Tomatoes and Chick Peas

There is no end to the excess of summertime garden veggies. This recipe accomplishes the goal of using up two surplus veggies (plus fresh basil which you can never have an excess of) in one easy-to-prepare dish. It can be served as a vegetarian meal over pasta or rice or as a side dish with any meal.  It can be prepared ahead of time, made in large quantities and served hot or at room temperature.  All measurements are flexible and subject to individual taste.

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  • 1 large onion, cut in thin wedges
  • Olive oil as needed
  • 5 garlic gloves (or to taste), coarsely minced
  • Green Beans – about a pound or as many as you have of any variety, ends cut off and strings removed
  • Tomatoes – about a pound or more of fresh tomatoes cut up or a couple boxes of processed chopped tomatoes
  • Fresh basil – a couple of handfuls chopped or a couple teaspoons of dried basil
  • 1 can of Chick peas
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Calmata olives (optional

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Heat a small amount of oil in a large skillet and add sliced onions.  Sauté until edges are lightly browned. Add minced garlic and continue sautéing for a few minutes.

Add green beans to onions and continue sautéing until green beans, onions and garlic are slightly browned and mixed together. Cover the skillet and continue cooking over medium heat until the beans are almost done.

Add the chopped tomatoes and half of the fresh basil or dried basil to the beans and continue cooking. I use about equal parts of tomatoes and green beans. If I want a more tomato based saucy dish, I add more tomatoes.

Continue cooking until liquid from tomatoes is reduced and thoroughly blended with the beans.

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Add the chick peas, salt and pepper and more basil and continue to cook until all flavors are blended together. Adjust seasonings to taste.  If desired, add calamata olives.

Garnish with fresh basil.

This dish gets better everytime you reheat it so make enough to have leftovers and don’t be afraid to add more tomatoes and basil.

◊ Yeah

Dear mom,

Yeah. It’s all too much. I came to Israel for the summer to work on one story. Now I have four. I have hours and hours and hours – maybe days – of tape that I will have to trim down to max 15 minutes. And in my last week here, I’m running around like a madwoman collecting more. What am I thinking?

As usual, my eyes are too big for my stomach (and for my brain and hard drive). Too much is overwhelming, but usually I don’t regret going for it. Sure it was stressful for you to shuck all that corn the night before a big trip, but look at all those kernels you have in the freezer! The possibilities are endless. What a privilege!

Pre-Shababat, Mea Shearim

Privilege. I move across walls and worlds; I ask questions that many wouldn’t dare ask; I’m learning how to trust myself. My government and my family do not control what I choose to do or say. I was not born a refugee and I was not born into a climate in which my life was threatened daily. I am allowed and encouraged (!) to think critically. Feeling safe and free are the keys with which I access this world of too-muchness. I am grateful for these privileges. I try not to take them lightly and wow, the heaviness gets to me.

Laylat Al Qadr, Damascus Gate

I went to Gaza last week for interviews and came away with a positive impression of the people I spoke with. Afterwards, I spent the weekend with cousins in Israel. One of them, my age, said that she will always love me, but that she does not appreciate the way I see the circumstances. I told her that my empathy for people on the “other side” does not mean that I am critical of her or anything that she has done in the past. Still to her, my actions are a slap to her face. We talked it out and our relationship is closer than ever, but I still feel sad that despite my intentions, my actions can hurt the people I love.

Near the Erez border crossing, Gaza Strip

In Gaza City, graffiti messages cover almost every public surface. The graffitis include love notes, taxi numbers, reminders of 27 (years of Hamas), wedding announcements, religious verses, memories of catastrophe and war.

My privileges allow me to believe that basic human understanding can make the world a safer place. I think I can empathize with the reasons that people are critical of this, with how people can label it as childish, with attitudes of defense and anger towards it. For many, an attempt to understand “the other” can be scary and even life-threatening. My world is cushioned with clouds of security and safety… I know I am naive. But, in this climate of meaningless bloodshed and loss, I do not see a better option than to try to promote understanding.

My goal is definitely too much. So it’s only natural that I’m going for it.

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xo,

Shaina

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The recipe below is for the Palestinian version of dolmas. Najla, the star of the piece I wrote last winter, makes hundreds at a time, and (similar to the embroidery) she sells them to Israelis via Yael. Usually, it takes her 3 hours at a time to prepare 350-400 pieces.  I’m used to eating dolmas that are stuffed thick with one inch or more of rice. Najla’s leaves are much tastier – she rolls them thin like pencils so that they’re mostly leaf with only a hint of gooey rice in the middle.

I asked Najla to line up the spices so I could take a picture for memory. She laughed and said that it doesn’t really matter what spices I use. Whatever she has in the house, she said, is what she throws into the bowl (she also threw in a tsp of parve Osem soup powder, a staple in our kitchen). I told her that I cook the exact same way, but that I had to at least pretend to have exact recipes so I could post them to the blog.

Saturday lunch at Najla's daughter's house in Beit Sahour, Bethlehem

Saturday lunch at Najla’s daughter’s house in Beit Sahour, Bethlehem

The crucial spices and herbs include mint, parsley, nutmeg and garlic. GARLIC. When Najla sent me back to Jerusalem with a small pot of rolled leaves, I smelled so strongly of garlic that the officer at the checkpoint did not wait for me to dig around in my backpack for my passport. He let me go without even seeing it… That was a first!

*If you can’t pick em fresh like Najla does, you can buy canned or frozen grape leaves from a Middle Eastern specialty store.

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DSCF7737Najla’s Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves

Prep time: 1 ½ hours

Makes 40 – 50 stuffed grape leaves

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white rice, short grain
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed or shredded
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 Large tomato, diced
  • 1 tbs dried mint, crushed
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 handful (1/2 cup) fresh mint, chopped finely
  • 1 handful (1/2 cup) fresh parsely, chopped finely
  • pinch of nutmeg (fresh grated is best)
  • pinch of all-spice and/or 7-spice mix (optional)
  • 1 tsp veg boullion (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 40 -50 grape leaves, destemmed

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Rinse one cup of rice and place in large mixing bowl. Add oil, tomato, onion, garlic, herbs and spices. Mix together.

Lay grape leaves smooth side down. Sprinkle a pinch (really, a teeny amount! See picture) of rice in the bottom of each leaf. Roll the leaves from bottom up keeping the edges inside. Imagine you’re rolling a burrito for a Barbie doll. As you roll the leaves, try to keep the edges right. This may take practice.

Line the bottom of a small pot with 4 -5 unrolled, flat grape leaves. Stack the rolled grape leaves on top of one another in the pot. Add one tsp olive oil. When full, cover the rolled leaves with an additional 4 – 5 flat leaves. Add water until leaves are submerged at least one inch.

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Cover with lid, bring to boil and reduce to simmer for 45 minutes – 1 hour. Serve with tahini, labne or greek yogurt!

**next time I make these on my own, I will add some lentils into the rice mixture for extra protein

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Above: Najla’s husband gave me a sunflower with fresh seeds! She said to wash them with salt and put them in the sun to dry, but I ate most of them raw.

Below: Najla and the newest embroidered cushion covers from the Beit Sahour collective. The pieces are called “Magazine” because the women found the design in a magazine.

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◊ Hyper-nomadism

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Dear mom,

Soon after I wrote to you explaining why I spend much of my energy preparing healthy foods, my attention was diverted from health habits. I feel ok about it.

Right now, my life is about chasing stories and summer breeze. I find people and listen to their stories. If I have time, I jog to the ocean and go for a swim (or sneak into Naomi’s spin class or sit on the rocks by the sea and/or eat ice cream).

The chase has led me into a life of what I call hyper-nomadism. I’m used to normal nomadism: long-term living out of backpack and changing houses every few months or weeks. Hyper-nomadism is more intense and for a shorter time. Until a few nights ago, I hadn’t slept in the same city for over a week. Each city was like a different world with its own climate and culture. I’m chopping vegetables whenever I get a chance, but it’s hard to plan for salads when I have no base, no routine, no expectations of when or where I’ll find my next kitchen. It’s a good thing that Israeli restaurants are known for beautiful heaps of chopped vegetables.

Getting my daily kale juice at a Tel Aviv juice stand

It feels good to spend to spend energy on things that don’t fit into a routine. I’m making an effort to do fun things like go to music festivals and the beach. But, because I’m accountable only to myself regarding how I choose to spend my time, I always feel that I’m not doing enough work AND that I need to do more fun things AND that I need more me-time. It’s as stressful as it sounds. I worry that my whole life will be a constant feeling of needing to do more and less and something different, so I’m training myself to say SHUT UP to this feeling when it creeps up… And to do what I feel in the moment! (I don’t know when or how doing what I feel like doing became foreign to me.)

I have to admit that the kindness and hospitality of family here makes me I feel like a cheater among hardcore hyper-nomads. It’s much easier to go for days with only a couple pairs of underwear and innumerable unknowns when weekend retreats to family comfort, good food and fresh laundry are certain. I’m so grateful for my cousins and hope that I’ll be able to provide the same kind of stability for the future hyper-nomads of the world one day.

Xo,

Shaina

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Last week for Shabbat lunch, Nurit made tofu schnitzel. It was a perfect Shabbat with lots of rest and family time capped off with a sunset run with (behind) Naomi in Caesarea.

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Tofu Schnitzel

Prep time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4-5 people as main course

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  • 8 ounces (two blocks) of extra firm tofu
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • pinch of hot paprika (and/or chili flakes) to taste
  • Handful of finely chopped parsley
  • 2 eggs
  • vegetable oil for frying

Mix breadcrumbs, flour, spices, salt and pepper in one bowl. Whisk egg in separate bowl and add breadcrumb mixture until combined.

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Wash dry and cut tofu into 1inch thick slices. Submurge tofu slices, one by one, into egg. Then, dip into breadcrumb mixture to coat. Repear until all tofu slices are coated with breadcrumb mixture.

Heat oil in a medium sized saucepan on high (enough so that tofu can be submerged – about 2 inches). Place tofu into oil and fry for 2 – 4 minutes on each side until golden.

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Remove from oil and place on paper towel to remove excess oil.

Serve with plenty of salads, tahini, hummus and, of course, ketchup and mustard! Leftovers are great on a sandwich with onions, avocado and mustard… Or treat it like fried chicken and eat with slaw and greens.

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◊ One-Year Trap

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Dear mom,

I know, I know… You and dad are always having more fun than me. I feel lame when people ask me what my parents are like and I tell them stories about your partying/party-throwing. I can’t keep up. Maybe when I have the resources to buy better alcohol I’ll be better at drinking it.

In my last letter, I told you about my self-induced pressure to do a million things. It’s happening. And the exhaustion is catching up with me.

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View from the road to Jericho

Yesterday, I met Ayla in Tel Aviv and had a nice beach day visiting friends. The day before that was Student Day, which I celebrated at a huge outdoor concert festival until sunrise. Last weekend, after another beach day in Tel Aviv, Naomi came to Jerusalem and we walked from here to Jericho… over 30 kilometers! The weekend before that, I went to Hebron to collect embroidery from craftswomen with Najla, a woman from Bethlehem who has been teaching me about Palestinian embroidery. Then, Arielle arrived and we hosted Shabbat dinner and hiked Wadi Qelt. On top of all the adventures, I signed up for two additional intensive courses. So right now I’m taking 9 classes plus 12 hours of Arabic a week. 


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My goal for this weekend is to relax and recover. Shanti. 

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goats!

Also, I made the decision that I will never again live somewhere for only one year. Two years is the minimum (unless something/someone convinces me otherwise… it happens sometimes).

I haven’t lived in the same place for more than one consecutive year since I was a sophomore in college (2007), and I’m not sure if it counts since I went home during summers. Since high school my life has been Alabama → DC → Uganda/Bolivia/Netherlands → DC → India → DC → India → Alabama → Israel. 

I’m so familiar with the one-year thing that I’ve traced a predictable pattern. The first three months are uncomfortable: I work hard to learn the ropes, navigate life and develop relationships (I’m slow). I buy things from the market that I don’t recognize (like sumac) and try to figure how to incorporate them into my salads. The 2nd three months are bliss: I’ve established a routine, have friends and am in the thick of exploration and excitement. I buy things from the market that I’ve learned to love like wine soaked olives. The third three months are weird: I realize that goodbyes are approaching, but it’s not time yet. I buy only fresh produce from the market because I know I have a drawer full of weird spices and dried beans that I need to use before departing. The last weeks are a whirlwind: celebrations, goodbyes and preparations. I only buy easy street food like falafel. 

Now, in the mid-third-three-months-stage, I prioritize my activities and question their worthiness of my time. Does this Arabic article translation deserve three hours of my Wednesday night? No.  

By now, I’ve established relationships and identified meaningful projects, but it’s too late to invest new energy in them. I know it’s wrong, but in the back of my head all I can think of is how leaving will disrupt everything. And then I turn into a crazy person trying to fit all of the little pieces in. One year is the worst.

xo,

Shaina

Cucumber Feta Walnut Salad

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  • 5-7 small persian cucumbers, sliced into matchstick pieces
  • half cup crumbled feta
  • 1/2 cup (handful) fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (handful) fresh parsely, chopped
  • 1/3 cup currants or golden raisins
  • 1 tbs good olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 tbs powdered soumac
  • sea salt to taste
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, broken

Gently throw sliced cucumbers, herbs, currants/raisins and feta into a bowl. Mix olive oil, lemon juice and zest, soumac, salt and pepper in separate vessel. Pour oil mixture over the salad and gently toss. Top with walnuts and serve immediately. Or place in the fridge and serve chilled on a hot summer day.

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This salad was an attempt to use some of the weird spices sitting in my drawer since the first three months. It’s the perfect summer salad – cool and refreshing with lively herbs.

See more things I’ve been doing:

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Shesh Besh in the shuk

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Cardboard in the shuk

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Remembering the Nakba

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Hiking in Wadi Qelt

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Najla finishing a pencil case embroidered by artisans from Bethlehem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

◊ Blast From Your Past

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Dear mom,

It’s fun to hear about all the snow in Birmingham while it’s a sunny 65 degrees here. I went on a run in Tel Aviv and came home sun-burnt! This is global-weirding for sure.

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Your yoga practice is good. I’ve tried so many times to appreciate its slow stretching and meditative intent … but I can’t. I’d rather feel sweat burning my eyeballs during a long run or step off a spinning bike with wobbly legs, gasping for air. Yoga would be good for me, but I don’t wanna.

Another thing I don’t wanna…. SCHOOL.

Spring semester starts on Sunday and I can’t bear the thought. This break has been wonderful. I climbed out of the classroom hole to experience the things I came here for. I hosted dinners in Jerusalem, reunited with old friends in Tel Aviv, spent Shabbat with family in Pardes Hana, ate goat cheese from a farm in the Jerusalem forest, baked and cooked and baked, ventured to a women’s embroidery cooperative in Bethlehem, decorated my new room and cooked Yemini food in Rosh Haayin.

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Lessons from textbooks are limited. The academic abyss that I will return to on Sunday feels soul-sucking and I think I’m much better at learning outside of it. I’m practicing to balance both worlds and must remember not to get stuck in either. One of these days I’ll start doing yoga… and my homework.

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The highlight of these two weeks in Israel was cooking Yemeni food with Dvora and her mother in Rosh Haayin. When Dvora picked me up from the bus stop the first thing she said to me was that she remembered two things from visiting our house over 20 years ago: that you made an amazing hummus she still thinks about and that dad sent her home with bluegrass tapes. I assured her 20 years later things are the same. If a stranger were to visit our house tomorrow, she would probably leave with the same memories – that you stuffed her with incredible food and dad shared his favorite music.

Dvora and I chatted about Birmingham as she showed me Rosh Haayin. It was great to hear her stories of all the people and places that I know.

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After a visit to the local jeweler and her family’s synagogue, we made lunch with her mother. Dvora spoke to her mother in Hebrew and her mother spoke back in a Yemeni version of Yiddish or Ladino… a mix between Arabic and Hebrew. Her wrinkled, tenacious hands reminded me of Bubbe’s… especially when she stuck them in hot oil without flinching. Together, Dvora, her mother and I made two types of Yemeni bread with vegetable stew and Hilbeh, a spicy chutney. Before I left Rosh Haayin, Dvora helped me pick out Yemeni spices at a local spice shop. The smells reminded me of India. When I mentioned this, Dvora reminded me of the spice trail… that India and Yemen’s culinary similarities are a result of their historic trade partnership.

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I documented the recipes for the dishes we made, but like Bubbe, Dvora’s mother doesn’t use measuring cups. She relies on her hands. The dough is right when it feels right… sticky and stretchy.

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IMG_1513Throughout the day, Dvora listed tons of recipes  I can’t wait to try –  Yemeni charozeth, homemade grape juice… You were right, she’s amazing! This was definitely not my last visit to Rosh Haayin.

Dvora and I share the same culinary philosophy – that you can’t be afraid of food; that it’s silly to fret over a recipe when you have your own capable nose and tastebuds. She sent me home with neatly packed Hilbeh and Khubaneh, her family’s Shabbat bread, that I’ll serve at my own Shabbat meal this weekend.

Stay warm!

xo,

Shaina

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Khubaneh (Yemeni Shabbat bread) and Glub (Yemeni fried bread)

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Prep time: 1 hour and 45 minutes include time for dough to rise

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yields: two dozen rolls

Dough:

  • 1 egg
  • 1Tsp of salt
  • 1 Tsp of sugar
  • 1Tsp dry yeast
  • 2 cup warm water (you add when mix dough)
  • 4 c white flour
  • 2 c whole wheat flour

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Mix egg with salt, sugar and yeast until yeast is dissolved. Add warm water just before sifting in dough. Work the dough with your hands until sticky and pliable. Cover with towel and let rise for just one hour (do not let rise too much).

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Khubaneh

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Khubaneh tin

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Kubaneh is a special Yemeni Shabbat bread. It is made in a metal tin over the stove. If you do not have one of these, you can use a steel baking pan or baking tin.

Pour one inch of olive oil into Kubaneh dish. Separate dough into five balls and place into dish, leaving one inch at the top. Cover dough in olive oil. Place top on Kubaneh dish and place over a low flame on the stove for 30 minutes. Once cooled, removed from Kubaneh dish. Before serving, brown top and sides of Kubaneh on a Shabbat hot-plate or a frying pan over low heat.

Glub

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Fill pan with two inches of oil and heat until bubbles form. Stretch dough into flat, palm size circles and drop into hot oil. Fry until golden brown and drain on paper towels. Eat immediately with Hilbeh and vegetable stew.

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Hilbeh (Yemeni Chutney)

    • 2 tablespoons fenugreek seeds, soaked for at least 24 hours
    • leaves of 1 leek stalk
    • 3 clove garlic
    • 1 green chili
    • 1 stalk fresh coriander
    • juice of 2 lemons
    • salt
    • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Soak  fenugreek seeds in a cup of water for at least 24 hours. Drain the water and blend the seeds with the remaining ingredients until a water salsa is formed. Eat with breads and veggies.

Yemeni Vegetable Stew

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prep time: 40 minutes

Yields: lunch for 3 or 4

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  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 white onions, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, chopped into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 medium zuchini, chopped into 1 inch cubes
  • 4 ounces tomato paste
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cayenne powder
  • handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Saute onions and carrots of medium heat until onions are translucent. Add one cup of water and remaining vegetables. Bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes. When carrots are soft add tomato paste and spices. Stir, cover pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Add coriander and allow to cook for five more minutes.  When vegetables are soft, serve piping hot with bread or rice.

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♦ Indulgence

Dear Shaina,

Thank you for the compliment.  It is comforting to know that I haven’t lost my touch completely … if only, to make you call home.

Time does fly.  It’s bad enough when its my life, but at least I can review the markers in real time.  As far as your life goes, it’s harder to track.  Whole chunks of space go missing…and the moments of missing are sharp and ever present. Talking with you helps calm my anxieties and gives me enough tidbits of your daily doings to activate my vicarious pleasure (or angst). So, thanks for indulging me.

Mazel Tov on your success in Arabic.  I know how much time and effort you sweated over it.  And congratulations on allowing yourself an indulgent vacation.  I have yet to regret any of my indulgences and only wish I had allowed myself more over the years.  I am making up for it.

Yoga is my current indulgence. I am surprised by how much pleasure I am experiencing in practicing yoga.  Five days this week…I have never in my life done any physical activity five days a week! It’s not that it’s easy and I fully understand why its called a practice.  There’s just something about the physicality and the restoration, the striving and the serenity and the total focus on…my breathing, my heartbeat, my sore joints and stiff muscles, my body’s imperfect capacity, my gratitude for my strength…and my life…and the stilling of my mind.  I am fully indulging myself in this pursuit of balance, acceptance and peace. I feel good! Maybe it’s just all that seratonin leeching out into my brain…whatever!

Dad and I spent four days iced in at our winter chalet at the top of the hill.  I didn’t want to leave.  We were very comfortable being holed up together, safe and warm with plenty of good food and books…and no obligations or commitments. Having always been so outwardly driven and people-needy, it was a sweet surprise to experience another part of myself.

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Being home put me into full blown cooking mode. My super sized pots have been getting a workout.  Pea Soup, chicken soup and, this week, an actual red-meat chili!  Dad always brings home the Wednesday NY Times from the office and gives me the Dining Section. This week it had a recipe for Chinese Chili that intrigued  both of us. It’s made with brisket cut up in chunks…I haven’t made a red meat dish for as long as I can remember, especially a chili.  It was delicious! I made enough to bring to the Hirsch’s (he’s still in the hospital) and for Shabbat dinner with family and friends.

The rarity of my making a recipe with meat made me realize how much of our eating is influenced by your vegetarianism. I shop and cook as if you live around the corner and might drop in for dinner at any moment.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not about to start serving meat at every meal.  Dad and I still enjoy eating vegetarian style most nights.  But maybe this Chinese Brisket Chili is a sign of reality seeping into my pots affirming the separation of our lives…as it should be.

That doesn’t mean I’ll stop missing you anytime soon.

Love, Mom

xooxoxoxoxoxox

Easy Low-Fat Eggplant Parmesan (Lasagna Style)
Vegetarian, Gluten Free

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I promised you my eggplant parmesan recipe this week…the perfect meal to pull out of the freezer when it’s freezing outside. I love eggplant parmesan and I love vegetarian lasagna.  I don’t love all the breading and frying in traditional eggplant parmesans and I don’t love the heavy pasta load in traditional lasagnas. So I made up this recipe,taking the best of both dishes and eliminating the high calorie elements. You can make your own sauce or buy your favorite ready-made spaghetti sauce or combine the two. Surprisingly, this satisfies all my Italian cravings without leaving me feeling one little bit deprived.

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I made these in late fall when the last harvest of eggplants and basil abounded. My measurements are imprecise, so if you end up with extra of one of the components, not to worry.  It can be reused for something else.  Extra roasted eggplant makes a great side vegetable or can be used in a stir-fry dish.  Extra sauce can be used on pasta or frozen for later use.  Extra ricotta with spinach is perfect for stuffing manicotti and rebaking smothered in tomato sauce. All good in these cold winter months!

Preheat oven to 375° convection bake or 425° on regular bake setting

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Japanese Eggplant

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Traditional Eggplant

Eggplant

  • 3-6 medium sized eggplants or the equivalent amount of Japanese eggplants (long thin eggplants)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Cheese Filling

  • 1 pound low fat Ricotta Cheese
  • Basil, Oregano and any other favorite Italian seasonings, fresh or dried
  • 16 oz package chopped frozen spinach defrosted or fresh spinach sautéed and chopped

Tomato Sauce

  • 2 – 3 quarts Tomato sauce
  • 2 large onions
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Boxed or canned plum or diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar or agave
  • Salt, Pepper and Italian seasonings ( basil, oregano, parsley)
  • (Your favorite store bought tomato sauce is a great timesaving alternative)

Topping

  •  1 pound low fat mozzarella cheese, grated


Eggplant

Slice eggplant in 1/2 inch horizontal slices.  If using regular eggplants, lay out on a sheet pan and sprinkle with salt. Let sit about 30 minutes.  Salt removes the bitterness and excess water.  After 30 minutes, rinse in cold water and pat dry.  If using Japanese eggplants, you can skip the salt step and just slice 1/2 inch round slices.

Place up eggplant in a large bowl and lightly drizzle with EVOO (olive oil).  Lightly salt and pepper.  Stir eggplant around in bowl until lightly oiled and seasoned. Place parchment paper on a large baking sheet and arrange prepared eggplant in a single layer on the sheet. Place in pre-heated oven for 15 to 25 minutes until lightly browned and slightly crisp, but not burned. It may take several baking sheets to bake all the eggplant. The roasted eggplant at this stage is delicious as it is!  When roasting eggplant to use as a side vegetable I just cut the eggplant in chunks and bake it the same way.

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Tomato Sauce
In the meantime, if you are making your own sauce or doing some combo of homemade and store bought, you can prepare it now.  I usually sauté onions and garlic in a little olive oil, add a jar of store bought vegetarian tomato sauce and a couple boxes or cans of plum or diced tomatoes. I season with salt, pepper, a tad of sugar or agave if needed, basil and oregano and simmer over low heat until it tastes like I like it. Set aside when done.

Cheese/Spinach Mixture
Drain the liquid from the defrosted spinach or cook (sauté or microwave) the fresh spinach and drain off any liquid.  Mix the drained spinach into the ricotta cheese.  Add pepper and basil to taste. Set aside.

Assembly
Spray casserole dishes with a non-stick spray.  I use pyrex loaf pans or casserole dishes at least 3 inches deep.

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Cover the bottom of the casserole with tomato sauce and layer the eggplant on the bottom of the dish. Cover with a thin layer of tomato sauce.  Sprinkle a light amount of grated mozzarella over the eggplant layer.  Spread a 1/2 – 3/4 inch layer of the ricotta cheese/spinach mixture over that.  Continue to layer tomato sauce, eggplant and tomato sauce and end with a generous topping of grated mozzarella cheese.

To Bake and serve immediately:

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Place loosely covered (aluminum foil) casserole on a cookie sheet and place in a 350° preheated oven.  Bake about 30 minutes or until bubbly.  Remove foil covering and continue baking another five or ten minutes until cheese topping is browned lightly or the way you like it.  Remove from oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes.  Serve with extra tomato sauce, a fresh green salad and some garlic bread.

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To Freeze:

Finish assembly and wrap tightly in freezer wrap and plastic freezer bags.  Freeze immediately.  Thaw when ready to use and bake according to instructions.

♦ Puzzles

Dear Shaina,

One of my friends read your letter and told me it made her sad. Dad acknowledged the Shealy thread. I continue to be perplexed at how you evolved into adopting the Schuster avoidance method of perpetual motion…and I just wanted to fix it…right away.

None of us come with all the puzzle pieces put together.  Maybe it’s enough to know that there are pieces missing and that it’s our job to look for them and try them on…like a jig-saw puzzle. I was 36 when you were born…and Dad was 45.  The seeds we planted in our twenties and thirties and forties gave no clue of what was to come. The puzzle pieces only made sense in retrospect.

At 62 and 70, our conjoined jigsaw puzzles are filling up nicely. The depth and expansiveness of our lives would not be the same without you. The pieces that you have added to the tapestry of our lives go far beyond rain forests in Bolivia and salt deserts in India. You pushed the boundaries of our capacity to love in a way that neither of us thought possible. You stretched the edges of our individual puzzles into new-found spaces filled with curiosity and color and joy. That doesn’t mean that we have no empty holes, no spaces yet to be filled, no angst still to be felt, even at our age.  I am still trying to find the balance between action and stillness, acceptance and striving.

I know how hard it is to be 25…all the pieces dumped out in a random pile on the floor with just barely an outline formed by the edge pieces…a few double and triple rows and some random blobs of color and texture where the pieces all happened to find each other…and all that empty space…anxiously waiting to be filled…

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Sometimes, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees… Every once in a while, it’s a good idea to step back and look at all the pieces that have been filled in…to see beyond the pieces…to marvel at the big picture and appreciate the themes and beauty that have already begun to take shape. And then to examine the empty spaces and begin again. This is as much a reminder for me as it is for you.

I wish, for you, that there was an easy answer, a straight line, a clear vision.  I know there is not…

I do know that I trust your ability to know when the puzzle pieces truly fit…and when they don’t.  The right pieces are there and you will persist in finding them, trying them on, choosing the right fit and discarding the rest.  Awareness and patience…and trust in yourself…you have the rest of your life.

We are on our way to South Carolina.  Soup, turkey and cheesecakes in hand. It’s part of our DNA. We cook and feed and nurture. It’s the antidote for the life search…grounding and connecting us to those people and places most important to us. And it keeps our hands and minds occupied, distracted and temporarily oblivious.

Poker in SC i The next generation!

Poker in SC … The next generation!

I love you and miss you.

Love, Mom

xooxxooxoxoxoxoxoxo

 

Shirly’s Corn Pudding

I have been cooking like crazy lately.  This recipe that our Israeli cousin Shirly made for our family reunion was another favorite of mine. It was perfect for a dairy meal I made for a Meet ’n Greet with the new Rabbi and his wife and some friends.  It’s really easy to make and goes well with salads and soups for a light dinner. I also varied it by substituting other veggies for the corn. It is like a lighter version of a crustless quiche. I even like the leftovers for breakfast.

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  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels , thawed and drained (1 Package)*
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 cup aged cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 3 eggs
  • One cup plain regular or Greek yogurt (I used no fat Greek)
  • 1 tablespoon onion soup mix (other spices of your choice can be substituted)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup grated cheese for topping
  • Butter, margarine or cooking spray for greasing the pan

* Sauteed mushrooms and onions or chopped drained spinach and onions can be substituted for the corn to vary this recipe. Jarlsburg or other cheeses of you choice can be substituted. I added a little freshly ground nutmeg, salt and pepper and left off the onion soup.

Preheat oven to 350°

In a large bowl place the corn, cottage cheese, cheese, cornmeal, eggs, yogurt and soup mix and any additional seasonings to taste.
Mix into a smooth mixture .
Pour mixture into preheated and greased loaf pan.
Top with remaining grated cheese and bake about 50 minutes or until cheese melts and is bubbling and top is lightly browned

 

Vegetarian Chili Casserole (for a crowd…and then some)

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No matter how I start out, this chili always ends up making enough for a huge crowd with leftovers to be shared with friends or frozen for later use.  This combination of vegetables reflects what I had in my refrigerator plus a few things I picked up at the grocery store.  The recipe and quantities are very flexible and accommodating to individual tastes and desires, so don’t feel like you have to follow this recipe precisely.  The secret is in the spicing.  Taste frequently and adjust the seasonings to suit  your tastes.  It is best if it is cooked at least one day before you plan on serving it to give the flavors a chance to blend together. Get out your biggest soup pot (6-8 quarts) and start creating!

Yield: 6 – 8 quarts

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 2- 3 hours to be done
45 minutes to reheat as a casserole

  • IMG_28762 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 package tofu ground “beef”, regular or taco flavored
  • 2-3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, cut up
  • 1-2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 fresh peppers, green, red, yellow or orange, cut up
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 5-6 cans (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes
  • 4 zucchinis, cut up
  • 4 yellow crookneck squash, cut up
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 1/2 pound baby portabello mushrooms, cut up (optional)
  • 2 cans black beans, drained (or you can cook your own dried beans, any kind you like)
  • 2 cans red kidney beans, drained
  • Cumin, Chili powder, garlic, coriander and salt to taste ( a good taco or chili seasoning mix can be used)
  • Aged Cheddar Cheese for topping (optional)

Cut up all vegetables in small or bite sized chunks.
Heat oil in a large 6-8 quart soup pot. Sauté tofu, onions, carrots, celery, peppers and garlic in olive oil.
Add canned diced tomatoes and remaining vegetables and beans and cook at medium heat until thoroughly heated.  Add spices to taste. Lower the heat and cook until liquids are reduced and mixture is thickened. This could take a couple hours.  Taste and adjust seasoning frequently.

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This chili can be eaten as a thick soup or placed in a casserole and topped with cheese and rebaked in the oven at 350° for about 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

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Serve with fresh cornbread and your favorite green salad and you have a hearty winter meal.

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◊ Unloading

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Dear mom,

Home after 6 months of wandering… It’s finally time to unload! My closet shelves seem wider and your kitchen appliances shinier and I am SO done with my freakin humongous backpack.

I still need to process it all as I recover from the exhaustion that comes with the bag-lady package, and I can’t stop thinking about Israel. My role as birthright staff was a success and I enjoyed the days with our distant but familiar family in Israel after the trip.

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My group watching the sunrise from Masada

During my first few days in Israel, I laughed a lot in my head. A simple “Shalom” slammed me back to the pit of my childhood… Hebrew words were throwbacks that roped chants from the Jewish Day School back into my brain. Every Israeli situation was a novelty.

I know that a visit to the Western Wall is supposed to be emotional and that I’m supposed to cry when I touch it and blablabla. But during our visit to the Old City, all I could think of was my 4th grade art project, when my classmates and I each reported on one of the city’s landmarks. I was in charge of Sha’ar Ha’ashpot, the Dung Gate, where Jersulamites chucked their trash. I presented it with an intricate drawing of an old relic surrounded by diapers, banana peels and flies.

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prayers shoved into cracks of the wall

And when I opened my mouth to speak Hebrew, I only thought of Carl’s made-up song to the tune of Kool and the Gang’s Celebration, which helped me remember Hebrew grammar rules… “Conjugate the verbs, come on!”  followed by a quick rap of  the actual conjugations, ani ahavti, ata ahavta, hoo ahav, etc…

Most embarrassing was my response to Sivan (our group’s medic and my roomate) when she introduced herself to me. Instead of introducing myself back like a normal person, I sang to her. The chant that Mrs. Posner sang to help us remember the months of the Jewish calendar just slipped off my tongue…  Sivan, Iyar, Tamuz, Av…

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Sharing a camel with our bus driver, David

From that moment on, Sivan made a rule that I couldn’t call her name unless I sang it.

My American Jewish education prepared me for a visit to my homeland with Israeli songs, folk dances and silly games that seemed irrelevant to any real situation. And as I toured ancient sites and tested memories in my head, the nostalgia for Israel that I was trained to feel possessed me… it was creepy.

But after ten days of touring ancient sites with other American Jews (Jewish Americans?), I relocated to the homes of  our Israeli family members. I met Chana for the first time, your Israeli replica. After showing off each room in her home (including a whole room just for kitchen appliances), she force fed me for hours… Israeli salads and hummus and a spongy orange cake that tasted exactly like one Bubbe used to make I couldn’t believe it. I observed personalities so clearly unique to our family’s gene pool… the force feeding, the loud talking all at once… that at times I thought I was back in Birmingham.

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Chana with her cake and cool glasses

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I heard stories of how Zayde’s brothers and sisters landed in Israel, and how we have cousins in Russia who are rediscovering their Jewish heritage right now preparing to make Aliyah. Sitting around a table of aunts and uncles, baby cousins and plates and plates of food, I saw, firsthand, the joyous outcome of a country that prioritizes the provision of a safe haven for Jews seeking refuge. The songs and dances that I learned at summer camp and school provided the initial backdrop of familiarity… but with the family, the sense of belonging that I learned about at summer camp and youth group and Jewish Day School finally unfurled.

I know it’s all a cliche and I’m surprised by my reaction to Israel… it wasn’t my first time there but it was the first time I’ve felt this way.

I think my emotional experience was shaped by the juxtaposition of my itinerary: I headed to Israel from India. In India, my outsider perspective was extreme and the “welcome” limited. The religious and societal structures create a barrier that makes integration into Indian culture impossible for a white American like me. The newness, surprise and unfamiliarity of everything around me in India was acutely opposite of the nostalgic comforts in Israel. So of course the “welcome home” from the Israeli customs officer in the airport elicited a heightened reaction.

I don’t really know… I have a lot to unload.

love,
Shaina

In Israel, the breakfast spread is glorious: dozens of fresh salads, salty cheeses, creamy tahini and thick yogurt. The participants on my trip stared at my plates piled high with crunchy veggies at 7 AM each day, How can you eat vegetables so early in the morning?

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Post breakfast bliss with Naomi!

The Zucchini and Tomato Salad recipe below is adapted from my favorite cookbook right now, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem,  and the carrot salad is one that I made up to commemorate my moment of glory as a Birthright staff, which happened in the morning of our last day of the trip. I complimented the quantity of veggies on a participant’s breakfast plate and his response to my comment was, “ You know I started eating vegetables in the morning because you told me to.”

Wow. I’m not sure I’ve ever had such a positive influence on a young person’s life. Salads in the morning are where it’s at.

I also included a recipe for hummus because it’s just so basic… I’m shocked that we don’t have it in our recipe index yet!

Chunky Zucchini and Tomato Salad

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Serves 8-12 people as a side dish
IMG_1248Prep time: 30 minutes

  • 8 green zucchini
  • 5 large tomatoes
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cups greek yogurt
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 red chiles, crushed or 1 tsp red chili flakes
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 handful of fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/2 C chopped parsley
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 tbs date syrup, agave or honey

*Note that I modified the original recipe for this dish for American convenience and ease. So if you want the real thing, pick up a copy of Jerusalem. You won’t be disappointed!

Preheat the oven to 425 F and cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Trim the zucchini and cut lengthwise into thin 3/4 inch pieces. Halve the tomatoes. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place zucchini and tomatoes cut side down on separate pans. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes until browned on the tops and edges. The veggies should be tender in the middle and crisp on the edges.

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Remove from oven and allow to cool. Meanwhile, mix all remaining ingredients (except for honey/date syrup) together and hold some parsley for garnish. Once cool, chop zucchini and tomatoes coarsely. Gently fold into mixture and spread over large, shallow bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and date syrup/honey, and garnish with parsley. Serve with warm pita, couscous or your favorite bread.

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Chopped Carrot, Beet and Tahini salad

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Serves 10 – 12 people as side dish
IMG_8589prep time:

15 – 20 minutes

  • 1 lb of carrots
  • 2 medium beets
  • 2/3 c walnuts
  • 6 medium dates
  • 4 tbs tahini paste
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs water
  • 2 tbs lemon zest
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 tbs sesame seeds
  • 4 tbs zatar
  • salt

To roast beets and walnuts, preheat the oven to 350. Wrap the beets in foil, place them on a pan, and keep them in the oven for 15-25 minutes until soft. Place walnuts on a pan and keep them in the oven for 7-10 minutes until brown and fragrant. Allow to cool. *This can be done the night/day before.

*You can also opt to leave the beets and walnuts raw for a crunchier, earthier dish.

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Chop raw carrots, roasted beets, walnuts and dates into small 1/4 inch chunks (you can do this in a food processor for ease, but make sure that you don’t pulverize too much) and mix. In a separate bowl, mix tahini paste, olive oil, water, lemon zest, lemon juice and sesame seeds into a fluid paste. Combine all ingredients and add zatar and salt to taste. Eat as a crunchy, healthy breakfast salad on its own, top with plain yogurt, or use as an accompaniment in sandwiches and pitas.  The possibilities are endless.

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Hummus

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  • 4 C chickpeas (canned will work, but it’s much better if you cook them yourself)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 c tahini
  • juice from 2 lemons
  • 1/3 c water
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • salt to taste

Optional additions

  • turmeric
  • roasted red pepper
  • more garlic
  • spinach
  • chili powder/hot sauce
  • black pepper
  • olive oil, zatar, parsley, cilantro, tahini for garnish

Puree all ingredients in food processor until smooth and creamy. Play around with optional additions and garishes. Serve with warm pita, french fries :), roasted veggies, salads, chips… anything!

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See what I did:

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Sivan and I always held up the caboose… I the sheep herder and she the body guard. Here, we rest at Masada while waiting for kids in the bathroom. Always in the freakin bathroom.

Even the foods were familar

Rugelach yum… even the foods were familiar and comforting

IMG_2095Shabbat din!

IMG_2188Herzliya with Ron, Nurit and the kids

IMG_2182In the mornings Hanoch showed me the agriculture fields near his house. He rode his bike and I jogged after him.

IMG_2171Reunited with a long lost friend in Tel Aviv with shakshuka yum!

IMG_1959So much grafitti in Tel Aviv… the most colorful Bubbe I’ve seen