Archive | June, 2013

Loosing My Hair + A Raw Banana Split Smoothie (together that’s just yum)

18 Jun

One day, in 2006, I was at my desk at work in Chicago, loving life and having fun when I got a phone call from my Dad. It’s rare that my dad calls me in the middle of the work day so I picked up to say “hi”. As soon as he said ‘hi’ back I knew something was up. He had that thing in his voice that lets me know that what he’s about to say is no joke. And, what he said was, unfortunately, no joke. He had called to tell me that his father, my Caw Caw, had died. It was sudden. He was dancing when it happened as he had gotten into ballroom dancing late in life. (He was also an avid cake-maker and took mile long walks every morning. He was amazing). Regardless, it was shocking and I wasn’t prepared. It just so happened to be the week of Thanksgiving and I had plans to drive to Louisville, KY with my cousins that week anyway, but unfortunately, the trip wouldn’t be as lighthearted as expected.

The thing is, I don’t have horrid memories of that week. In fact, I have some really lovely ones. I remember driving with my cousin, Mike, and his wonderful girlfriend (now wife), Dana and my dog, Ted, through a blizzard in order to get to Kentucky. I remember pulling into a Burger King in the midst of that snow storm to get something to eat (this is B. K. — Before Kosher). I remember asking if I could bring Ted in there so he could stay warm and I also remember feeding him chicken fries (sorry Ted) under the table. I remember joking with my step-mother about something that we thought was so funny it’s possible I may have tinkled my pants a little (I’m known to do this from time to time. I own it. What can I say? I’m a hardcore giggler). However, apparently, the stress of that week was more intense than I realized because several weeks later, while at the salon, my stylist noticed something. I had a few bald spots; spots that weren’t there 6 weeks before. This led me to make an appointment with a dermatologist, who subsequently diagnosed me with Alopecia Areata. Alopecia Areata is a common immune disorder that results in the loss of hair in various parts of the body, not just the head. However, for me, it’s the head. My mom, being the incredibly supportive mom that she is, found out everything she could about Alopecia. She also invested in all sorts of hair-growth products to help me get back on track.

Me with My Dad, Grandma Viv and Caw Caw circa 1988

Me with My Dad, Grandma Viv and Caw Caw circa 1988

The irony of an autoimmune disorder is that it gets exacerbated by stress. My dermatologist suspected that the stress of my grandfather’s death kicked my Alopecia into high gear. She told me I would need to be vigilante about my stress levels for the rest of my life while also keeping a close eye on my scalp to make sure I don’t have any bald spots. There’s really nothing I can do if there is one. It’s more like an indication to take a deep breath and slow down. Here’s the thing though, that’s like, really really really hard. I’ve been noticing a lot of hair loss lately and the even greater irony is, of course, that this stresses me out. It’s been really bad lately so I took this week off and have plans to get out of town for two days with a very dear friend. I’m so blessed with a wonderful family, fulfilling job, a creative outlet in my cooking and this blog, but it’s been hard to balance it all and I’m not sure I’ve been good at destressing lately. Part of that de-stressing also involves eating healthy and exercising. I’m also trying to be conscious of eating foods that supposedly help build healthy skin and hair. A lot of research shows that omegas and all those good fats are great for building healthy skin and hair and since it’s summer time and I’ve recently fallen back in love with my Vitamix again (shalom lover), I’m been getting those happy omegas through delicious smoothies. I’m also trying to balance sugar intake while still giving a little, ‘What’s up’ to my sweet tooth so there have been a lot of trial and errors with the sweet smoothie. Below is my ultimate, most favorite recipe so far. You don’t have to have a Vitamix to make — any blender will do. Enjoy!

Sweet Decadence

Sweet Decadence

Raw Banana Split Smoothie

Ingredients

1 Ripe Banana
1/2 Cup, Frozen Strawberries
3 Tbsp, Raw Cocoa Nibs
1/4 Cup, Raw Walnuts*
1 Cup, Almond Milk
1 Tsp, Vanilla Extract
Chia Seeds

Getting Started

Getting Started

This is Getting Good

This is Getting Good

How?

Combine all ingredients into your blender and blend away! I was a naughty girl and topped mine off with some whipped cream but come on guys, it was organic! And I topped it with chia seeds! And raw cocoa nibs! That’s super healthy, right?!

*If you are someone who does not like texture in your smoothies, feel free to omit the walnuts.

Bring It On

Bring It On

Miami and Her Flavors – Cilantro Lime Cauliflower “Couscous”

16 Jun

We moved to Miami in December of 2010. I graduated from the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work on a Sunday and we started our drive to Florida from Ann Arbor on the very next day. In my wildest dreams, I never thought I’d live in Miami or really any part of Florida. But I fell in love with a Marine Biologist and we had an agreement—16 months in Ann Arbor for my higher education degree and then I’d move anywhere he needed for his higher education degree. I mean granted, I made this agreement knowing that he would need to be near a beach for his PhD program so needless to say, it was an agreement I entered into without hesitation. So 16 months after we made our agreement (and one Master’s in Social Work later), we packed up our car and headed down South. Michigan to Miami is no small drive so we set out to make a few stops along the way. Because my man loves his bourbon, we made a detour to Bourbon County in Kentucky. It was a dream come true for him. My favorite part of this portion of the trip was our stay in a local Bed and Breakfast. It just so happened that we checked into our B & B on Christmas Eve. It was clear that this town and definitely this B & B hadn’t seen a tourist in quite a while. When we drove up, the proprietor turned on all her twinkling Christmas lights, pressed play on her Nat King Cole Christmas album and waited to turn on the main room’s large Christmas tree until we walked in to the room. My husband and I looked at each other thinking the same thing, this poor woman has no idea that her only two customers this holiday season are two big Jews. Oy.

Outside our apartment in Ann Arbor (with Judy Blue!) the day we moved, December 2010

Outside our apartment in Ann Arbor (with Judy Blue!) the day we moved, December 2010

 

Ann the Inn Keeper with her two undercover Jewish guests on Christmas day.

Ann the Inn Keeper with her two undercover Jewish guests on Christmas day.

 

Ann collected antiques.  She insisted we sit in this "courting" chair. We indulged her.  It was our Jewish guilt working over time.

Ann collected antiques. She insisted we sit in this “courting” chair. We indulged her. It was our Jewish guilt working over time.

 

Two days later, we arrived at my mom’s house in Asheville, NC just in time for the snow to start pouring down. Our trip got delayed a few days but we eventually took the risk and headed down to Miami. Watching the climate change from a winter wonderland by starting our journey in the mountains and ending 10 hours later in sunny Orlando, Florida was incredible. The next day we woke up and drove the remaining four hours to Miami. Now, I had only been in Miami once before this for about 8 hours and I had only been in South Beach. So armed with the memories of that day and one too many viewings of The Bird Cage, I was completely surprised to find out that not all of Miami is a sun-soaked, pastel, art-deco wonderland. In fact, that’s only a small portion of Miami. Miami is huge, and a bit beat-up in parts and then completely overly manicured in others. She holds hidden gems in the most random and unexpected places. I’m not in love with Miami but I try to love her for what she has to offer and when it comes to flavor, she has a lot to offer.

Father's Day in Miami.  Welcome to the good life!

Father’s Day in Miami. Welcome to the good life!

So on this beautiful evening on this hot, Miami day, that just also happened to be Father’s Day, I played with some of my favorite Miami flavors. Being that its Father’s Day, it’s hot out and my man loves the ocean, we went to the beach. We also grilled some meat because how else to you let the man you love know that he’s the greatest father on the planet but with some grilled meat?! To accompany our meat-fest, I made some cilantro lime cauliflower “couscous”. Since I now have 3 clients with varying diet restrictions, Im trying to play with alternatives. Yes, this meant saying “shalom” to my old friend, the cauliflower, but this was the perfect side dish to a heavy meal. I also think this would be beautiful as an accompaniment to fish, or maybe if you’re going paleo or grain-free, like some of my clients, this would be great with roasted veggies or in soup. You can play with the flavors if cilantro isn’t your thing. The cauliflower is extremely versatile. I hope you like!

Cauliflower as couscous

Cauliflower as couscous

 

Chopped

Chopped

 

Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Couscous

Ingredients

1 Head of Cauliflower
3 Tbsp Coconut Oil
Sea salt
Pepper

1/2 Cup Cilantro
2 Cloves of Garlic
2 Tbsp Coconut oil
Juice of Half a Lime
Sea salt

Fresh

Fresh

How

Chop cauliflower into smaller florets for the processor. Place chopped cauliflower into a food processor and pulse until consistency resembles fluffy couscous. Heat coconut oil in a skillet or Dutch oven. Place processed cauliflower into the Dutch oven. Sauté for 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Turn heat to low, season with salt and pepper and cover. Let sit on low heat for 5-10 minutes while stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, place cilantro, garlic, salt, oil and lime juice in a clean food processor or blender. Pulse together until we’ll combined.

Once couscous is done (do a taste test for softness to let you know it’s done), turn off the heat, pour the cilantro sauce into the Dutch oven with the couscous and stir to combine. Serve hot.

 

Couscous complete

Couscous complete

Flooded.

7 Jun
Unloading us in our flood basement. Our hero.

Unloading us in our flood basement. Our hero.

This is Ray.  Ray is my angel.  Two hours ago, my dear friend, Dina, my sweet baby, Siona and I were in my 2001 Honda CRV on the way home from a celebratory lunch.  The school year was finally over.  Dina is just days away from running our school’s Summer Academy as it’s Director, a job she so deserves.  Sure, it was raining when I picked her up but I thought to myself, Judy Blue can handle this (Judy Blue is the name of my car—-she’s blue.  I’m clever).  We had a wonderful lunch together.  Siona tried tofu for the first time and loved it.  People were staring at her and waving at her and she smiled and waved and clapped back.  It was just what the doctor ordered after the year we’ve had.  And sure, we noticed that the weather had picked up but this is Miami and we’ve done this before so again, no sweat.  We got into the car, a little wet but no worse for the wear and started on our way back home—we’re just 7 short minutes from home. No big deal.

Then reality hit.  It’s raining.  Hard.  As we turned off of the highway onto our main drive home, Dina and I held hands as I squealed while holding my breath as we drove through puddles that looked like small rivers.  We saw smaller cars making it through and with my semi-SUV, we felt confident.  I’ve had Judy Blue for 12 years.  She’s taken me from Ann Arbor to Montreal and back . . . in the middle of January. . . in an ice storm.  She’s gotten me through blizzards in Chicago and tornado-like weather in Ohio.  There’s nothing she can’t do.

Well, turns out, I’m wrong.

As we made it through one light, I gripped Dina’s hand and plowed through yet another river-like puddle and that’s when it happened . . . Judy Blue stopped.  HOLY SH*T.  My baby.  Siona is in the back of the car.  It’s 3:00 in the afternoon, there’s a tropical storm outside all around us and we’re stranded 1 mile from my apartment and my poor sweet baby is in the back.  What the F*ck am I supposed to do.  Panic.  I called my husband immediately.  I don’t even remember what I said to him or what he said to me but I remember saying, “Oh my Gd.  Oh my Gd. Oh my Gd” over and over again.  I hung up from him and he called AAA while I called my big brother, who I firmly believe knows how to do EVERYTHING. He said that since my battery is still working, due to the fact that my wipers are going and my lights are on, that maybe my exhaust pipe is flooded and can’t release heat or something like that.  I don’t know.  I don’t speak car.  Where the HELL is Click and Clack when you need them!?!?  He advised that I get out and push.  So I did that.  With no raincoat, in sandals and linen pants, I got out of my car while it’s lightning out and started pushing my car.  And let me tell you, NO ONE stopped.  In fact, while I was pushing my car in a tropical storm with my baby and dear friend in the car taking care of said baby, the only person who seemed to acknowledge me was recording me push my car in the rain on her iPhone.  Way to go, Miami.

And then, out of the darkness came an angel in the form of a 6’2″, balding gentleman in his early 50s with a Boston accent so thick he could easily be cast in Ben Affleck’s next movie, which will inevitably be about Boston.  He pulled up in front of us, got out of the car and just sprung into action.  I don’t know how he knew what to do, but he knew what to do.  We called the cops.  We reported the car.  We called AAAA.  We transferred Siona, all our stuff and ourselves into Ray’s Ford.  He pushed my car to the side of the road while I steered it.  He drove us home.  He was calm.  He was awesome.

Siona is asleep now.  I’m in my jammies. My husband, who works about 45 minutes away in Key Biscayne, is waiting it out as there is still a flash flood warning going on.  In fact, I just got off the phone with him, had a mini melt-down and decided to write this because I can’t believe that just happened.  Thank Gd Dina was there, watching Siona and making her laugh and taking care of her while I’m pushing them in a car during a tropical storm.  And thank Gd for Ray, who, just when I was about to lose hope that NO ONE in Miami is willing to sacrifice for the sake of helping someone else, was sent from Gd to rescue a bunch couple of ladies who just wanted to go to lunch.  Kindness.  It goes a long way.  Thank you, Ray.

P.S.  If you see this guy during your life, go ahead and give him a hug.

P.S. (again) – I generally like when people share Jewhungry posts because it means more readership and exposure.  This time, I’m hoping it’s shared because dear Lord people, we need more Rays a maybe a story will help.  Also, I find it no small coincidence that this gentleman’s name is Ray . . . as in sunshine.

 

**Fore more stories on kindness, check out my girl, Katie’s blog, Kindness Matters.

20130607-173150.jpg

Outside our window — a sweet Subaru flooded out,

Feeling Raw – Raw, vegan brownie bites

2 Jun
The Women

The Women (photo courtesy of Alex Berger)

This past week has been a rollercoaster. It started out wonderfully. The whole family on my mom’s side met in Louisville, Ky for a mini family reunion to honor my grandmother on her 90th birthday. We are a crazy lot. I don’t know how we did it, but the four of us; my brother, myself, my cousin, Ayelet and my cousin, Mike, managed to marry people who are just as nutty and just as entertaining as we are. Aside from nutty, ours is also a small lot. I’m not sure if it’s the many potential cousins and auntie and uncles who might have been but who never were because of the Holocaust or because my grandmother, who is British and met my grandfather in England during the war, came over to settle in the States and, as a result, we weren’t able to be as involved with my British family as we would have liked to have been. Whatever the reasons, as far as cousins go, I only have 2 first cousins but luckily, they are the bee’s knees! They are like siblings and I truly hope our children continue to have a similar close relationship. And as for grandma, well, she is sassy, tiny, hilarious and awesome. My grandmother has twin sisters, Doreen and June, who look exactly like the Gabor sisters and don’t you think for one second that they don’t know it either. As the story goes, my grandfather met one of my grandmother’s sisters first and asked her out on a date. As was their habit, one would make a date and then if she decided she didn’t really want to go out on that date, the other would step in (they are that identical). In the case of my grandfather, neither wanted to keep the date (I’m not sure why but it all worked out in the end) so my grandmother stepped in. And the rest, as they say, is history. It was often the case, in terms of marriages between American soldiers and a local girl abroad, that marriages happened quickly and without much planning. My grandpa submitted a request for a weekend leave so he could finally marry my grandmother. But the Army wasn’t so in to giving a person advanced noticed so Thursday or Friday, while my grandfather was stationed in France, he received the news that he was granted his leave for that very weekend and that very weekend only, so he hopped a train, made his way to England and they were married to very minimal fanfare that very weekend. Ahhhh . . . romance.

This is me and Dana, my cousin Mike's wife.  We both lucked out when he found this one.

This is me and Dana, my cousin Mike’s wife. We both lucked out when he found this one.

Picture courtesy of my cousin shown here, helping Grandma blow out her candles.

Picture courtesy of my cousin shown here, helping Grandma blow out her candles.

Anyway, all that is to say that it was a lovely weekend and was especially lovely to get away from the stress of work. I came back from the reunion feeling refreshed (not so much energized) but more prepared to get back into things at work. However, on Wednesday night, just as I was beginning to celebrate the fact that there have about 8 days left of the school year, I received word of the devastating loss of one of our students who had just graduated the week before. The circumstances surrounding the death are a bit hazy and quite frankly, I don’t need to know them. All I needed to know was that I was needed on campus in a way I hadn’t been needed before. The following day was the hardest of my professional career. I’m not trained in grief counseling. I’m not even trained in counseling. I’m a social worker with a concentration in community organizing so my on-the-job skills were tested every second of this past Thursday and Friday. I came home on Thursday completed gutted. So much so that at 9 o’clock at night I made the decision to go get some comfort in the form of frozen yogurt. I went to one of those places that measures by the weight, you know, with all the topping options. I mean yes, I may have chosen the healthier flavor in that plain yogurt with all the active, live cultures, but I killed those cultures something fierce when I topped them with Reese’s peanut butter cups and chocolate sauce. And let me tell you, as a personal chef to people with an eye on health (I added to my client list—got me a vegan!), I’m sure I should tell you, heck, you might want me to tell you, that after eating that gargantuan cup of frozen yogurt topped with Reese’s cups and chocolate sauce that I didn’t feel comforted or better but worse because of all that sugar, but I can’t. I can’t tell you that, dear reader, because I would be lying to you and I don’t condone lying. Not one bit. That froyo was absolutely delicious and I felt completely fine afterwards.

The hubby capturing some wildflowers on the side of the road in Kentucky

The hubby capturing some wildflowers on the side of the road in Kentucky

I did however, decide the next day that I needed a healthier pick me up and I wanted to make a treat for my new client for this week’s delivery so I decided on raw brownie bites. Guys, seriously, if you’ve skimmed this entire post up until this point, PAY ATTENTION NOW. The following is a recipe for what is, up to this point, one of my most favorite recipe developments yet. I started out following a recipe from the Simple Veganista and then abandoned it completely to go with my gut and apparently my gut was still hungry for the taste of comfort food but this time around, that comfort food would be healthy. So, grab your food processor and bookmark this page. I feel very strongly that you’ll be glad that you did. (P.S. this is so easy and would be great as a healthy snack for kids. I’m excited to let Siona try it once we clear that 1 year mark).

Chopped dates and walnuts

Chopped dates and walnuts

All the ingredients in the processor

All the ingredients in the processor

Raw Brownie Bites:

Ingredients:

10 – 12 dates, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup oats (I used gluten free)
1/4 – 1/2 cup walnuts
2 tbsp milled flaxseed
3 tbsp vegan cocoa powder
3/4 tbsp vanilla extract
1 – 2 tbsp organic maple syrup (depending upon your taste—start with 1 and if you make it again, up to 2 if it wasn’t sweet enough for you)
**Extra cocoa for rolling the bites in afterwards if want an extra chocolate punch.

The grind

The grind

Goodness

Goodness

The final product

The final product

The How:

Place all ingredients in a food processor. Process until well combined—to about the count of 30 or until the ingredients have a dough-like consistency. If you feel like it’s a bit dry due to too many walnuts or oats, just add a bit of water, about 1 tbsp at a time, until you get that doughy consistency. Once you’ve attained your desired consistency, roll into 1 inch balls. You can add fun little powder extras after rolling, like more cocoa or a combo of cocoa and cinnamon, if you want a little extra flavor. Keep refrigerated.

Close up to the goodies

Close up to the goodies

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