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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

The Eternal Summer

19 Sep

Oh, hi. My name is Whitney. I live in Miami where it’s still in the mid-90s in September. SEPTEMBER. I keep reading how friends in Chicago, including my beloved co-author, are breaking out their sweaters already and here I am shvitzing all day long in my flip flops. Now I realize I will be biting my tongue come December when our friends and family are huddled around a fire and we’re still hanging in our flip flops but I have to say, I miss fall. I love fall time. I mean, you get pumpkin lattes and pumpkin ales and cider mills and fresh donuts. But not for us down in the tropics. No sir. So because we’re missing out on delicious fall beverages I’m gonna live out loud with my summer beverages. My number one favorite summer beverage (well, favorite non-alcoholic summer beverage) is the iced coffee. And, can I be frank here people, I’m not talking about coffee that’s been brewed in the pot and then refrigerated nor am I talking about instant coffee that you add water and ice to. Oh no my friends. We are talking coffee that has been cold-brewed over night for at least 8 hours and then enjoyed over a cup of ice with a drop (or several) of half & half and agave. Oh friends, it is heaven and so so easy to make. I make a pitcher a week and I honestly look forward to my cup of iced coffee every morning. I have become mildly obsessed with this iced coffee. I haven’t yet decided if that’s a good thing or a bad thing but regardless, yum.

Step one: Grab a bag of delicious & strong coffee (Cafe Bustelo – kosher and only $4)

Pour about a little less than half the bag into a large pitcher

Pour in enough cold water so that the grounds reach the top of the pitcher

The grounds and water mixture will look a lot like the mud pies you may have made as a wee child.

Finally, cover the pitcher real nice and tight-like and place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours but you should feel free to leave it there for upwards of 12.

After the 8 hours of cold-brewing, place a cheesecloth in a mesh strainer over a second pitcher. Gently and as slowly as possible, pour the original picture of coffee into the mesh strainer fitted with the cheesecloth. The grounds will catch in the cheesecloth while the liquid soaks through into the second pitch. You may need to grab a spoon and help some of that liquid down into your second pitcher. Once you’ve finished the transferred all the clean, grind-free coffee over to the second pitcher you are ready to enjoy! Just grab a glass, fill it to the top with ice and pour in your coffee. If you’re like me and you enjoy a little half & half or milk in your iced coffee (i mean, the swirling effect of the half & half hitting the coffee alone makes the calories worth it) with a hint of sweetness, leave a little room at the top to do so. I also highly recommend grabbing some agave syrup to sweeten your coffee. You don’t get hit with chunks of sugar and instead get a nice, even sweetness.

White Trash Sangria!

1 Aug

WHAT?  What did he just call me?  Girl calm down.  It’s the name of a drink!

I have been so busy lately being a social butterfly that I haven’t had much time to focus on our lovely little blog.  Well, I’m coming back.  My social calendar is beginning to land the plane so to speak.  Last weekend I hosted a little get together for a group of friends.  We met at my house and ordered in Thai, had a few cocktails and tons of laughs.  I was a little worried.  I can cook but don’t ask me to tend bar.  It makes me nervous.  I wanted to have a refreshing summer cocktail that was new and different and none too threatening.  What I came up with was what I like to call White Trash Sangria.

A friend of mine told me about the drink a few years ago and while I was intrigued by the idea I didn’t really have an opportunity to give it a try.  This drink recipe, much like my last blog post is a little do it yourself.  There’s a basic guideline but how you make it happen is up to you.  If you’re feeling brave you can change-up the main ingredients.  There are only two.  When I share this with you you’re going to think I’m crazy.  You’re going to turn up your nose.  But!  I promise you if you give it a try you won’t be disappointed.  Not to mention you just have to make the stuff for a party and set it out for friends to enjoy…you don’t have to say what it’s made of.

What?

2 bottles of Red Wine

1 two litter bottle of Coke

How?

Here’s what I did.  I took a large plastic pitcher and poured in one bottle of cheap Cabernet.  I chose Cabernet because it’s a big, full-bodied red wine that I decided could stand up to the sweetness of Coke.  There were around 10 folks coming over so when I poured the wine into my pitcher it didn’t look like that would assure everyone a glass.  So…I poured in a second bottle of the Cabernet.  Then I added 3/4 of a 2 litter bottle of cherry coke.  Again…I figured that the Cherry Coke would kick this drink up a notch.  It totally did. Once you’ve poured both into a pitcher put the mix in the fridge and let it chill.

I looked around the internet for this recipe.  I found all sorts of variations.  White Wine with Sprite.  White Wine with Orange Soda.  Red Wine with Orange Soda.  Pick two flavors that you like and go to town.  It really is tasty.  It’s sangria!  You can use one bottle of wine and one bottle of Coke.  Give it a try, but please try this it’s amazing.  You could also add some fruit to add a little festive vibe.  Apples?  Limes?  Lemons?  Oranges.  You decide.  I was too lazy for all of that.  I served it over ice to the delight and fascination of my girlfriends.  Enjoy!

The Beverage

26 Feb

Prepping for shabbat in our household is almost as fun as shabbat itself.  Sure, there’s the normal mad dash to get everything done before shabbat comes in but we’ve split our duties up between household chores (the husband) and cooking (me).  The mad dash usually starts with some tunes put on the record player and each of us pouring ourselves a nice cold, adult beverage.  For me, its beer (I love beer).  For the husband, it’s a mint julip.  The man first fell in love with bourbon probably around the age of 5, when ever good Jewish boy takes a sip from his dad’s cup at kiddish, and he’s been in love with it ever since.  So much so that for his birthday this year, we toured bourbon county and enjoyed tastings at 5 of the biggest bourbon suppliers in the world. I still haven’t developed a taste for it even though I take the smallest sip every shabbat.  Luckily, my brother-in-law discovered sweet tea bourbon for the Southerner in me and now I can enjoy a little bourbon on my shabbat as well.

Mint Julip

Ingredients

  • 1  ounce simple syrup (or 1 heaping tablespoon sugar plus 1 tablespoon water)
  • 2 cups crushed ice
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • Fresh mint sprig, for garnish
Method:
1. In the bottom of the cup or glass, put a tablespoon of simple syrup (or one heaping tablespoon sugar drizzled with 1 tablespoon water). Use more if you prefer a sweeter julep. Add the mint leaves and press lightly with the back of a spoon.
2. Crush the ice cubes in a clean, non-terry dish towel, using a hammer. The ice should be finely crushed. Fill the cup with ice to the brim.
3. Pour over the bourbon. Add more ice to fill the cup, garnish with sprigs of mint and plunk in a short straw.

Note:
To make 1 cup simple syrup, bring one cup of water to a boil. Stir in 1 cup sugar and boil until the sugar has dissolved. Let cool before using.
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