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August Love Stories: Love Goes Gluten-Free

19 Aug
Getting goofy with my Misty Dawn.

Getting goofy with my Misty Dawn.

The third guest post in our August Love Stories comes from my beloved sister-in-law, Misty.  I honestly can’t remember a time in my life when Misty wasn’t there.  She’s been in my brother’s life since he was about 22 and I was 19.  She’s a constant in my life; I rely on her for every piece of advice I could ever need.  She’s my first call when I have a baby question.  I think I must have texted her about 20 times a week when my 1 year-old was first born.  Lucky for her, that’s gone down to at least five or six times a week now.  Her relationship with my brother was the first healthy relationship I ever really had the privilege of watching grow and mature.  Truth be told, I looked up to the relationship Misty shared with my big brother as something to aspire to.  It’s a relationship filled with love, communication, respect and loads of laughter.  Also, my brother is an entire foot taller than Misty.  Now that’s just too dang cute.

From Misty  . . .

I never said yes when he proposed.  I didn’t go wedding dress shopping.  Not even one time.   I was 24 years-old when my husband proposed and although we had been dating for three years at the time and I KNEW he was the ONE, it felt surreal.  I had just turned 21 when we met.  We had a very tumultuous dating relationship.  Now, if you go to “Uncle Google” you’ll see the definition of tumultuous is exciting, confusing, disorderly.  I can guarantee you our relationship was all three of those adjectives with a whole lot of love in between.

Five months before our engagement

Five months before our engagement

My husband, who also happens to be Whitney’s older brother, and I met in college.  But, of course we didn’t go to the same college.  That would be way too simple, and honestly we probably wouldn’t have stuck together if we did.  Our dating relationship was a long-distance one.  Our respective colleges were roughly a three-hour drive from one another.  This was also fourteen years ago, before the entire world thrived on cell phone usage and text messaging, so we actually had to really communicate with one another.  I would check my Hotmail account once a day praying an email from him would be there.  We would try and call each other as often as possible, but we were college students and long distance phone calls where you spent an hour on the phone weren’t cheap, ya’ll.  To say we had many ups and downs would be an understatement.  Long distance relationships are NOT easy, especially when you’re in college.  There were lots of road trips.   I honestly believe though, that because our relationship was long-distance and based on honest open communication while learning HOW to communicate with one another, we figured out some of the hardest parts of a partnership those first 3 years.

Eleven years later . . .

Eleven years later . . .

During one of those trips that he drove from Athens late at night, he started to run out of gas.  His car at the time constantly needed oil added, and he kept a case of oil in his trunk.  When he  realized he wasn’t going to make it all the way without adding fuel, he pulled in the gas station and quickly realized he didn’t have a single penny on him.  Luckily, he was in South Georgia and the gas station attendant let him trade the oil he had in the trunk of his car for gas!  When he finally arrived at my house, he retold the story with me laughing and feeling terrible all at the same time.  It was really late, even in college terms,  and we didn’t have a lot of food in the house. I knew he must have been hungry, so I went in the kitchen and made biscuits, he must have eaten four or five.

Our little family about 4 years ago (you can't see our baby girl.  She's strapped to my front).

Our little family about 4 years ago (you can’t see our baby girl. She’s strapped to my front).

When I graduated college I moved home to Atlanta and 5 months later he proposed.  We were engaged for exactly one year before we married.  Three years later we had a little boy, and two years after that a little girl.  Ten years of marriage and fourteen years after we met, life is wonderful, hard and busy.  Both of our kids have dietary restrictions, mainly gluten and dairy, so when it comes to cooking I have to get creative.  When we first went gluten free, the thought of not having biscuits terrified my husband.  One evening, I decided that we could have them and set out to make almond flour biscuits.  Now, these biscuits aren’t the biscuits my grandmother makes, but they are an amazing substitute for those with dietary restrictions and they are gluten and dairy free!  Every time I make biscuits, I think of my man and that long drive in the middle of the night.  It makes me smile and remember, just how far we’ve come.

Biscuits ready to be enjoyed

Biscuits ready to be enjoyed

Almond Flour Biscuits

adapted from Elana’s Pantry

What?

5 cups of blanched almond flour

1 tsp of celtic sea salt

1 tsp of baking soda

½ cup of Earth Balance natural buttery spread (soy free)

4 eggs

2 tbsp honey

How?

Preheat oven to 350.  In a medium bowl combine almond flour, salt and baking soda.  In a large bowl combine Earth Balance, eggs and honey. I found it easier to mix the wet ingredients if I melted the earth balance a little.  Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until a nice dough forms.  Line 2 baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper.  Proceed to drop biscuits onto baking sheets using a large spoon, mine are about 2 ½ inches wide and 1 ½ inches tall.  This gave me 17 biscuits total.  Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until biscuits are browned on the bottom edges.  Enjoy!

A biscuits best friend? Coconut-milk soaked fried chicken!

A biscuits best friend? Coconut-milk soaked fried chicken!

Flamingos + Pizza + Babies. Now That’s a Party

13 Aug
Someone was bound to get naked.  Oh, also celebrating one of the few pictures where I'm not DROWNING in sweat. Dang Miami.

Someone was bound to get naked. Oh, also celebrating one of the few pictures where I’m not DROWNING in sweat. Dang Miami.

I survived my child’s first birthday. I survived and I thrived. And let’s be honest, the only reason it was a little bit stressed was me. I can’t do ‘simple’. I really can’t. It’s not in my DNA. Gd bless you if you can do simple. I admire and salute you but I just can’t do it. I mean, you should have seen my Bat Mitzvah. Of course there was a theme (Hollywood). Of course there was a color scheme (black, silver and magenta) and of course, there was a DJ who dressed up like Michael Jackson and did an entire choreographed dance to a medley of Michael Jackson through the years. I mean, this was THE Bat Mitzvah to end all Bat Mitzvahs. So you see, the daughter raised by a mother who bought life-size cut-outs of movie stars and a hot pink sequenced top hats and feather boas as decoration for her daughter’s Jewish coming-of-age party wasn’t going to grow up to tread lightly into her own child’s birthday parties. Oh no. Not a chance.

Grain-free peppermint chocolate chip brownies. One of my most requested recipes.

Grain-free peppermint chocolate chip brownies. One of my most requested recipes.

There was a theme (retro-Palm-Springs-tacky-chic). There was kind of a color scheme (pink, yellow, green). I had made all the decorations, from the “Happy Birthday” sign to gluing about 50 individual sea horse cut out onto toothpicks for cupcake toppers. Part of the reason I made everything is because I can’t in good conscience pay $10 for a happy birthday sign when I can pay less to make my own. Same goes with the cupcake toppers. Paying for things I can make hurts my insides a little so, of course I had to make that stuff. And of course, I made the food. Oh the food. The baking/cooking started at 8:45 on Saturday night and didn’t stop until 1:55 on Sunday afternoon (the party started at 2PM). My husband and I went back and forth with what to serve folks for a late afternoon party — I wanted to go dairy so that I could do dairy cupcakes. We settled on homemade pizzas of varying fun flavors coupled with your usual hummus, veggies, fruit, etc. I also made mini strawberry cupcakes using the Sprinkles Cupcakes recipe, which I highly recommend. And since we have a few loved ones with a grain-free diet, I ended up making mini grain-free pizzas using roasted eggplant and zucchinis as the ‘crust’ as well as grain-free, vegan peppermint chocolate chip brownie bites (I used my own brownie bites recipe, found here, and took out the oats and added a few drops of peppermint oil and vegan chocolate chips). All-in-all, I felt really proud of the party we created to celebrate the first year of life of our sweet girl. But honestly, I do love the planning and the arts and crafts and whatnot but that’s not why I do it all. I go through all this big planning because I also want to celebrate the people who helped make her first year of life so frikkin’ wonderful. Yes, I do love a good theme party and yes, I love cooking for people but more than anything, I love showing the people in our lives my ever-lasting appreciation through food and through taking care of them, even if it is for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. My hope is that they walked away knowing that I love them for loving our girl. And if they happened to take a few dozen extra mini cupcakes away with them as well, that’d be OK too.

Below is a photo journal of the party as well as a few recipes I created for our dear friends. I hope you enjoy!

Grain-free Pizzas

Ingredients:

1 large roasted eggplant OR 1 large, thick zucchini cut into 1.5 inch thick rounds
Marinara Sauce
Cheese of choice
Fresh basil
Oil for baking sheet

How:

Cut eggplants into 1.5 inch rounds and dust with coarse kosher salt. Leave on for an hour to draw out moisture. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Pat down with paper towel. Place on greased baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for roughly 30 minutes – keep eye out for over-browning. Once roasted, top with sauce and cheese — I used a standard marinara and topped some with sheep’s milk feta and some with mozzarella. Top with chopped fresh basil.

Out of the oven

Out of the oven

So. Much. Cooking.

So. Much. Cooking.

I made 3 different kinds of pizzas using puffed pastry dough as the crust — I couldn’t make the crust too. I wasn’t that much of a glutton for punishment. Anyway, the toppings were as follows:

1) Tomato sauce with mozzarella, roasted eggplant, roasted garlic and fresh basil

2) Tomato sauce with mozzarella, sheep’s milk feta and corn

3) BBQ Sauce, black peppercorn Monterrey Jack with caramelized purple onions

Roasted eggplant and garlic pizza.

Roasted eggplant and garlic pizza.

My 1 year old

My 1 year old

We still have 30 of these in our refrigerator

We still have 30 of these in our refrigerator

My Queen

My Queen

Just a bunch of moms being awesome by the pool

Just a bunch of moms being awesome by the pool

They really have no clue what's going on

They really have no clue what’s going on

Ice-cold beverage, anyone?

Ice-cold beverage, anyone?

After an hour in the pool, she was ready to party.

After an hour in the pool, she was ready to party.

Aunt Misty was there too! I bet she didn't even know it.

Aunt Misty was there too! I bet she didn’t even know it.

Seriously, Uncle Mo, do my shades make me look too ironic?

Seriously, Uncle Mo, do my shades make me look too ironic?

Cupcake ecstasy

Cupcake ecstasy

I'm not sure what it is, maybe it's the beard, but Siona is captivated by Zak.

I’m not sure what it is, maybe it’s the beard, but Siona is captivated by Zak.

One of those people I hope I can at least make half as happy as she makes me.

One of those people I hope I can at least make half as happy as she makes me.

{Guest Post} My Jewish Journey – The Joy of Caitlin

18 Jul

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Hi Lovely Readers,

I am currently enjoying a trip of a lifetime with my family in Blue Sky, Montana so I asked two trusted foodies to fill in for me while I’m gone. The first post is from my talented sister-in-law, Caitlin, author of the parenting blog, The Joy of Caitlin. The second will be from one of my most favorite people in the world, Jackie. Jackie is THE person who introduced me to the concept of food as art, as something more than just to eat but something you can be passionate about. I am so excited to reflect on this Montana experience next week (gang, there was a food festival. It was epic). In the meantime, please enjoy the guest posts and I wish you a wonderful shabbat,

Whitney

I was on a first date with Mo, the cute guy from my public speaking class. I had been working at a natural bakery in our college town and I was telling an anecdote about a customer asking for some challah. I pronounced it the proper way, with the hard “ch” from the back of my throat, and I think that’s when he knew I was the one. The blonde, Irish, hippie girl could stick around. In a funny way I think Mo’s reaction to the correct pronunciation was the very beginning of my Jewish food journey. I realized soon that the cute guy I was interested in wasn’t just casually or culturally Jewish like my other friends, he was “Orthodox,” raised in a fully observant home, he kept Kosher, and didn’t drive on Shabbat. Mo was fully engaged in the secular world, wore regular clothes, baseball caps, and went dancing in clubs. Yet beneath that surface was a deep faith and commitment to values that I had never experienced before.

On our first road trip together, to visit my Grandpa in northern Vermont, Mo pulled over just as we left town. He had packed his siddur (prayer book) in the trunk and wanted to say the Tefilat HaDerech, “Wayfarer’s Blessing” as we embarked on our journey. I felt so special, so cozy in the thought that he had a blessing to say for this occasion. I looked through his bilingual prayer book to discover that there were blessings for literally everything. Every kind of food and drink had it’s own special words of gratitude. There were blessings for natural phenomena, for healing, I was amazed and smitten. I wanted these secret words woven in my life too. I began to learn about Judaism without discussing it with Mo, afraid he would be worried that I was just doing it because of him, unsure of what he would think.

I finally admitted to him that I was surreptitiously studying Judaism and he was both excited and wary. We went to a few Jewish Renewal services in New York together, and while I was enamored with the guitar playing and Bob Marley songs, he was a bit underwhelmed. We began to occasionally spend Shabbat together, and when Passover came I was sure that I needed to attend a seder. He still hadn’t told his family about our relationship, and to arrive in a car in the midst of the two day holiday would have been disruptive and fodder for much disapproval.

I went to a friend’s family’s seder instead, and I felt a deep sense of purpose, with an underlying sadness. I was sure that I belonged there, yet pained not to be with Mo. For some reason I decided that night to eat the chicken soup. I hadn’t had any meat in seven years, I had been raw vegan on and off for the past three. Something about the occasion, about my longing to belong, made me want to join in fully. It was the same cozy feeling I had experienced when I discovered all the blessings. That one bowl of matzoh ball soup brought me more into the world of Judaism through food, and kick started my interest in the possibility of really creating a Jewish life for myself.
A few months later Mo had decided to travel to Israel for a scholarship in a Masters program in Jerusalem. I was graduating with a degree in English literature and a major itch to get as far from New Jersey as possible. He left in July, I booked a ticket to visit him in October, and spent the summer roaming the east coast, visiting friends, preparing for my first trip overseas. When I finally boarded that plane I left my mom in the terminal with many tearful goodbyes, and set off for the unknown.

The first thing I saw in Israel were the orange trees, the first thing I felt was the heat as I walked through the bridge from the plane to the airport. I heard the guttural sounds of Hebrew and felt excited and lost. I found Mo outside of customs and we loaded my two bags with all my earthly belongings into the back of the airport shuttle. I felt nauseous on the winding ride, amazed at the sprawling rocky hills covered in gnarled olive trees and stone fences I imagined to be ancient. When the van dropped us off at Mo’s apartment I was surprised at the dirty dusty streets and the unfamiliar street signs, then felt nothing but gratitude as we descended into his tiny basement apartment where I collapsed on his futon bed and slept dreamlessly.

When I woke hours later it was the afternoon. I was hungry, thirsty, disoriented. I drank some water, threw on my sneakers and we headed out to meet Mo’s friend downtown to get something to eat. I will always remember my first meal in Israel, at a tiny cafe called Timol Shilshom (http://www.tmol-shilshom.co.il/en/home/default.aspx). We ordered bread with pesto, olives and labane, everything was fresh and bursting with flavor. Then came the shakshuka, the quintessential Israeli dish Mo and his friend decided I should try, eggs baked in a spicy tomato sauce, eaten with crusty bread. I had spent my college days eating out in Manhattan, trying all different ethnic cuisines from Thai to Ethiopian, but this was a brand new experience for me. It was homey, bright, filling, surprising, and comforting, all at once. From that moment on I was in love with Israeli food, and my Jewish food journey began in earnest.

Read more of my story soon on The Joy of Caitlin!

Mo’s Famous Real Israeli Humus

Anyone who has joined us at the Shabbat table has savored the delicious, authentic humus that Mo makes every week. He developed this recipe after extensive tasting in Israel, and testing here in the states. It is one of the few dishes when I willingly give over the kitchen, and just get to enjoy. I hope you like it too!

Ingredients:
3 cups cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup Israeli tehina (can be found at Kosher stores or use regular tahini from any supermarket)
1/2 cup cold water
1-2 cloves garlic
2 tbs olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Salt to taste
Cumin if you like!

How?
Place garlic in bowl of food processor, followed by chickpeas (reserve a handful to put on top at the end) and the rest of the ingredients. Process until very smooth, adding a little more olive oil or water if needed, and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve topped with chickpeas, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of paprika. It makes a great dip for pitas or fresh veggies. B’teyavon!

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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

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

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

The Mother of Days

12 May
Wynwood Walls decorated for Mother's Day.  Can you spot me and my girl?

Wynwood Walls decorated for Mother’s Day. Can you spot me and my girl?

I like to to fight the establishment. I do. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to be a social worker and why my focus in social work school was community outreach. I’ve participated in many the protest and spent a decent amount of time on a picket line. And while I really wanted to jump on board my husband’s cry of ‘down with all Hallmark holidays”, this time I could not. And no, before you jump to conclusions, it’s not because I wanted a new, shiny present (we decided to make a donation to a children’s organization on Mother’s and Father’s Day instead of doing gifts). It’s because in this day and age, when work and other people’s needs take precedent over our own, having a day here and there when you can say, without apologies or guilt, “I can’t work today or I can’t do ____ for you today, it’s Mother’s Day and I’m spending time with my family” and actually have folks accept that and back off, well, it’s nice and I’ll take it when I can get it. Sure, there are actual holidays but as Jews, I feel like our extensive holiday list kinda starts cancelling out the “I’m with my family now. I’ll get back to you later.” Especially when we start rolling into the High Holiday time period and you’re having to take off day after day for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, etc. You try explaining Shemini Atzeret to your boss. I dare you to try to ignore the, ‘I’m so not buying this as a holiday’ look from her eyes. For sure your boss thinks you just made that word up. Seriously? Shemini Atzeret!? So, when it’s a nationally agreed upon, bi-partisan holiday that affords me unapologetic time with my family, I’m on board.

Something for Everyone.

Something for Everyone.

"You Can't Tell Now, But I'm Gonna Give My Parents Hell When They Try to Put Me to Sleep in an Hour".

“You Can’t Tell Now, But I’m Gonna Give My Parents Hell When They Try to Put Me to Sleep in an Hour”.

See, the hubby and I were chatting last night and we realized something, In the chaos of Siona’s first 2 weeks of life, people backed off. People forgive you for forgetting them or for putting them lower on the priority list than usual. Work lets you not return phone calls and emails and text messages go unanswered with no apology needed. People give you that time and it’s really, really nice. In fact, it’s kind of the nicest gift anyone can give—–space and time. As I’ve been back at work for about 6 months now, I’ve really had to fight for my time with my family. I let so much take priority over my time with them and it’s no one else’s fault but mine but it’s really hard work trying to lay those boundaries. One is so available with Smart Phones that there really isn’t an excuse as to why you didn’t answer an email or text right away. I love my job but I don’t have a lot of role models there when it comes to work/life balance. So when there’s a day on the calendar that’s kind of, “national-take-a-breath-and-hang-with-the-people-who-love-you-unconditionally-day”, I’m gonna go ahead and celebrate that and even be thankful for it.

Close Up at Wynwood Walls

Close Up at Wynwood Walls

Family Photo

Family Photo

Now, because I’m a big lover of food, today’s day revolved around just that—-food. We started the day at my most favorite coffee shop in the whole world, Panther Coffee. It’s located in the very trendy, very hipster-heavy neightborhood of Wynwood in Midtown, Miami. So, suffice-it-to-say, the people watching does not disappoint. Not only is Wynwood known for it’s hipsters and eateries but it’s also known for it’s amazing art and graffiti (see pictures before). Next on the agenda was a visit to the Pinecrest Gardens Farmer’s Market to visit our dear friend, Zak the Baker, who is a bit of a bread celebrity (look for an interview with Zak in a forth-coming post). Zak’s sourdough is the stuff of legends and as soon as we got home, the multigrain loaf he gave us sandwiched a delectable grilled cheese made with sharp white cheddar, balsamic carmelized purple onions and avocado. We also picked up some limes, which I used in a cheesecake recipe I made later in the day while the little one napped. We’re finishing this beautiful Sunday with some sushi and a movie and a dessert of warm fuzzies**. What blessings. Happy Mother’s Day!

**Quick Update: Warm fuzzies and sushi were put on hold as baby girl spent a solid hour and a half fighting sleep. That a’girl.

Oh! Before I forget! I made some quinoa ‘meatballs’ last week for a customer. I made them sort of off-the-cuff and didn’t take a lot of pictures (and the ones I did take aren’t that spectacular). I was just going to do a practice round but they came out so nicely I saved myself another go round and sacrificed the pictures. Sorry ’bout that. Anyway, I wanted to share. See below.

Quinoa Balls - Wish I Took More Pictures!

Quinoa Balls – Wish I Took More Pictures!

Baby Bella Quinoa “Meatballs”

What!?

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 3 tsp. coconut oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 baby portobella
  • 1 zucchini, finely chopped (skin off)
  • 1 tsp. basil or oregano
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste*
  • 1/2 cup matzoh meal, bread crumbs (if going gluten free or paleo, try 1/2 – 3/4 cup almond meal)
  • Sea salt and pepper

How’s That Now?!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Heat the coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots saute for about 3 minutes or until a transparent. Next, add the zucchini and garlic and saute for another several minutes or until fragrant (you may need to add a bit more coconut oil at this point). Next, add the mushrooms and saute for another 3 – 4 minutes. (The mushrooms naturally have a little more moisture in them then the zucchini so it will soften the other ingredients as it cooks. I like my zucchini a little brown so that is why I add it first). Finally, add the oregano, tomato paste, sea salt, and pepper. Cook another several minutes until all ingredients are well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Add to a bowl with the quinoa and stir to combine. Add the whole wheat bread crumbs and continue mixing until completely combined. Roll into 12 – 14 meatballs, each about the size of a ping pong ball, and place on the baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes on the first side. Flip over and bake for 12 more minutes.

*Because I made these vegan I omitted any egg that could have been used as a binding agent. The tomato paste coupled with the bread crumbs worked out perfectly and I didn’t see a need for the egg but if you do, please feel free to add one.

What to REALLY Expect When You’re Expecting (plus cauliflower crust pizza!).

24 Apr
"Listen up mama.  Gimme all your milk and no one gets hurt."

“Listen up mama. Gimme all your milk and no one gets hurt.”

Spring has sprung down here in Miami and by that, I mean it’s already 90 degrees some days and there are pregnant women every where. Every day I walk by my sweet friend and co-worker, Tara, who is 7 months pregnant and trying her darndest not to melt in this heat and I can’t help but reminisce to where I was this time last year, which was 7 months pregnant and trying my darndest not to melt in this heat. Every time I see her I get transported back in time to being large and in charge with that baby in my belly and it just blows my mind that she’s here now. She’s here now and she’s already old enough to have a couple teeth and to start crawling. Oy, blows. My. Mind. Due to this transport back in to time I also can’t help but remember how stinkin’ happy I was this time last year and how I didn’t know what the h*ll was about to happen to me. I also can’t help but remember of all the unsolicited advice complete strangers would give me at all turns. I mean truly, the best conversations usually started out as, “Let me tell you about my wife’s birth experience! It was crazy! She was in labor for 30 hours!!” Ummm, no buddy. I don’t wanna hear that. Not even a little bit. Of all the things I was told that scared the sh*t outta me (‘Don’t get an epideral! You’ll end up in a C-Section!” or “Don’t feed your baby formula! She’ll be obese and dumb the rest of her life!”), no one told me the things that I really really really wanted to know. Those things that, sure, might be hard to hear, but I would have appreciated knowing. Kind of the “What to REALLY Expect When You’re Expecting”. There were things I never expected—-some of which no one could have predicted but some of which I think, on the whole, there could have been a little ‘heads up’ about. So for the sake of all those women out there experiencing their first pregnancy who could use that ‘heads up’, the following is my list of things I never would have expected. Warning: the following is not ‘touchy feely’, but it is honest so if you like honest, keep reading.

1. You will sweat like John Goodman on a hot summer’s day. It’s the hormones. They are coming out of you postpartum for about 2 weeks after you give birth. It’s natural. There’s no deodorant that can stop it, but it’s natural.

2 weeks old. She’s in there somewhere (and so are my sweaty pits)!

2. Maternity leave is not a vacation leave. It is maternity leave. This is the first 3 months of yours and your baby’s life together, which means you are both getting to know each other while battling it out over who gets to sleep when and trying to figure out when you’ll actually eat again. I don’t know about you but that’s not how I like to vacation.

3. Your boobs might not ‘work’. I never expected to not be able to breast feed. It was in my plan. It never entered my mind that it wouldn’t be how I fed my baby. But, I breast-fed for as long as I could, which was about 9 weeks. And guess what? My baby is a straight up formula baby and she’s doing OK. I’ll let you know if all that propaganda about formula being the devil is true in a year or so (spoiler alert: it’s not).

4. I never expected memes on Facebook about breast-feeding toddlers and baby cereal would make me wanna cry

5. I never expected those memes to be posted by other women

6. I never expected to get more emotional while watching movies/TV shows involving children. For example, my husband and I were watching a rerun of Lost where a supposed 6 week old baby is involved in a helicopter crash and miraculously suffers no injuries and the whole time I’m thinking, “wait, that baby hasn’t been around its mother in days. Who’s feeding it? How is he surviving!? How did he survive a helicopter crash!? What if that was my baby!?” And then I remember we’re talking about an island that can travel through time so I got over it . . . kinda.

7. You will get blankets and socks (especially if you have a girl). People LOVE to give you blankets and socks as baby gifts. It’s very sweet.

8. You might not ‘fall in love’ with your baby right away. It might take a couple days or even weeks. But when you do, oh boy, it is all-consuming.

9. Make sure you have a Smart Phone or something because you will need it to help stay awake in the wee hours while you’re doing a feeding. I suggest creating a Pinterest account now if you haven’t already. I love you Pinterest.

10. It’s possible most or all of your family members will see your boobs at one point or another during those first couple weeks. My husband has 3 brothers, all of whom visited within the first 4 weeks of Siona’s life and all of whom saw my boobs at some point during their visit. I even remember spending several hours one day with some of his family members only to discover, once they left, that I had spent the whole time with my tank top around my waste and nursing bra exposed a la Madonna on her Blond Ambition tour.

11. I never expected to want to punch a sweet British nanny in the throat (this lady gets me). Listen, the Baby Whisperer seems really nice and she’s clearly got a handle on this whole ‘baby’ thing. However, on one incredibly frustrating day during those first couple weeks of parenthood something dawned on me. The majority of these ‘experts’, whether via their books or blogs, had a lot of ‘no’ going on. There was a lot of ‘Don’t do this and for heavens sake, definitely don’t do that!” It was stressful and honestly, not helpful for ME (again, everyone is different. It could totally have helped you and to that I say, “mazal tov sister!” ). Ultimately, it’s ALWAYS about finding what works for you and your family and if you start tracking your anxiety levels and realize that they go up every time you open one of these ‘parenting’ books or blogs it might be time to close up shop.

12. Edit your advice —When we first brought Siona home from the hospital I was texting and calling every mom I knew for advice. Then after a while I started editing. It was clear to me who was giving advice with an agenda and who was giving me advice based on what they know about me and my family. My unsolicited advice? Find a 2 or 3 women whose parenting style, outlook on life, and life style in general match yours and make those your mommy brain trust.

13. I never expected to be back in the kitchen as soon as I was. Thanks be to my best friend, the Ergo, I was cooking again several weeks after I gave birth and it felt great. It felt so good that when I went back to work, I took on the extra challenge of cooking for a co-worker. She wanted a specialized, Paleo menu and I wanted a challenge (and some extra cash to cover daycare). It was a match made in heaven.

5 weeks old! Our first Starbucks run.  It was so freeing to get out (I had to document that glorious moment).

5 weeks old! Our first Starbucks run. It was so freeing to get out (I had to document that glorious moment).

This list could go on and on but I’ll stop now so I can leave space for the recipe! The recipe! The following recipe is a dish I made for the previously mentioned co-worker. It can be Paleo, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian or whatever you want it to be. I wanted some pizza dang it but didn’t want the bread so I experimented with cauliflower instead and it really turned out nicely. Honestly, this would have been amazing for Passover so maybe next year. Anywho, see below for the recipe and thanks for reading.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Homemade Tomato Sauce, Ricotta, Roasted Eggplant and Arugula

For the Sauce – check out the sauce I made on a previous post. Just omit the cream cheese.

For the Crust (adapted from The Lucky Penny):

2 small heads of cauliflower, processed
1 TBSP sea salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup Daiya cheddar cheese (or mozzarella cheese)
1 egg

For the Eggplant:

1 medium eggplant, sliced in thin rounds
Coconut Oil
Seasalt
Garlic powder

Place thinly slice eggplant rounds on paper towel. Pour sea salt onto each slice and let sit for 30 minutes. This will draw out excess moisture and help decrease eggplant mush. After 30 minutes, place on oiled parchment paper and top each slice with a bit more coconut oil and garlic powder. Roast in oven for about 20 – 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Keep close eye to make sure they don’t burn.

Making the Crust and Assembling the Pizza:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. On a cutting board, place a large piece of parchment paper and spray it with nonstick cooking oil.

Soak your cauliflower in a bowl of salted hot water for several hours. Dry thoroughly and cut up the florets into small chunks and discard the stems. Pulse florets in food processor for about 20 – 30 seconds until cauliflowers resembles flour. This should yield you about 2 – 3 cups of cauliflower. Place the flour in a microwave safe bowl and cover. Microwave for 4 minutes. Dump cooked cauliflower onto a clean dish towel and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before you will need to wring out the moisture. If you are antsy, put dish gloves on before wringing out—you will burn your hand otherwise.

cauliflower snow

Cauliflower Snow

Once cauliflower is cool enough to handle, wrap it up in the dish towel (do not use paper towel. It will seep through) and wring it out. You want to squeeze out as much moisture out as possible. I cannot stress this enough. The more moisture you squeeze out, the crisper the crust will be.

Yum! Cauliflower Juice

Yum! Cauliflower Juice

Once you’ve wrung out as much water as possible, dumped cauliflower into a bowl and add your seasonings plus cheese. Finally, add egg and mix with spatula or wooden spoon.

Once mixture is evenly combined, wet hands and place mixture on well-oiled parchment paper. Pat it into a nice round crust that is about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. I think the thinner the better as it allows it to crisp up. Spread a little more oil onto the top of the final crust and slide the paper onto a pizza pan and put in preheated oven. Bake for 15 minutes or until edges and center brown. Once it’s down, let it cool and top with an even spread of riccotta cheese, then a layer of the tomato sauce and roasted eggplant. Bake all together for another 8 – 10 minutes. Once done, let cool for a couple of minutes and then top with arugala and some sea salt.

Crust – Phase One

Crust – Phase 2 + 3 (Ricotta + Tomato Sauce)

Crust - Phase 4 (Eggplant)

Crust – Phase 4 (Eggplant)

The Final Phase – Arugula. Delicioso!

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