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(Black-Eyed) Peas + Love

15 Aug
Wedding  light

Wedding
light

The third in the Jewhungry August Love Stories come courtesy of one of the blog’s co-founders, Jeremy. Jeremy is an amazing storyteller and an incredibly creative soul. I wish we were next-door neighbors. We’d probably get fired from our jobs because we’d be on our porch swings sipping spiked Arnold Palmers all day. Sounds like heaven. I dare you not to fall in love with him through his word.

It was the black-eyed peas. Isn’t that where all great Southern Romances start? They should. I guess that isn’t really where it started. But that is definitely when I knew my life was about to change. Those black-eyed peas made me open up my eyes a little wider; they made me take notice. I mean come on, y’all. A man who will hand you a bowl of black-eyed peas and a slice of cornbread when the rest of the world looks at you like you’ve lost your mind? That’s a man you need to pay attention to, that is a man you should keep. If I were Scarlett O’Hara I would have required a fainting couch. Instead I grabbed my bowl of peas, took in a deep breath, gave a wry-smile and went on my lunch break.

Love is Funny

Love is Funny

Whitney's Wedding Weekend (say that 10 times fast)

Whitney’s Wedding Weekend (say that 10 times fast)

I started working in a restaurant during graduate school because that’s what graduate acting students are supposed to do. Actors work in restaurants. I guess actors are really supposed to be waiters, but I am far too clumsy to jump in the deep end like that. Honestly, I’m as likely to fall down as I am to take another breath. Volunteering to carry a tray full of drinks would be disastrous for everyone involved. I needed to work up to something like that, so I started out in the shallow end as a host.

Being a host at a busy downtown Chicago restaurant is not as glamorous as it may sound. Aside from looking up and having Maya Angelou or some hot baseball player in my face, there wasn’t a lot to brag about. Why do people act like fools when they go out to eat? Working at that welcome desk was like working in a pressure cooker. There was always a new drama, someone was always upset and everyone was hungry. It was pretty miserable.

When I look back on that time in my life it’s pretty clear to me that I had “dropped my basket.” Why did I stand at that desk night after night after night organizing a dining room for $12 an hour? Oh, right. It was so I could avoid thinking about how my life was in the toilet. I had moved to Chicago to study theatre. Exciting! I had arrived with a boyfriend and a plan. By the time I got out of school I had no boyfriend and my only plan was to not end up back in Arkansas with my parents. Everything had changed and it was not necessarily for the better. I should probably have been doing something more productive with my time than handing out menus and putting asses in chairs, but I couldn’t. I was stuck.

By the time Andy arrived I had almost given up. This was it. I would just be a host for the rest of my life. There are worse things. There are far worse jobs. I wasn’t a garbage man. Being a garbage man is worse than being a host, right?

I noticed Andy on his first day of training because I had never seen a restaurant manager smile so much. He was like a little miniature Sun. He was glowing. When you’re training to be a manager in a restaurant they make you work in all of the different departments. It’s supposed to help you become acquainted with how everything works. It’s mostly just low level torture.

His first week of training was in the kitchen. There he was behind the line in his little chef’s outfit smiling like a dang crazy person. No one has ever looked so happy standing in front of 1400 degree charcoal grills. No. One.

I was on my lunch break and was super excited because we had a new special. It was pork medallions over a bed of greens and black eyed peas. The only trouble was I didn’t want the pork. I just wanted a huge bowl of those black eyed peas and a slice of cornbread. It reminded me of home. I was willing to pay whatever I had to for those peas. I placed my order and waited.

The Chef came over to me.

You want the pork special without the meat?

Yep. I just want the black eyed peas.

Just black eyed peas? That doesn’t make any sense.

I’m from the South. That’s how we do. Is it a problem?

No.

Thank you.

I waited. My order did not come up. Finally I took matters into my own hands. I walked over to the only friendly face in the kitchen. I explained my order to Andy and explained the situation. I had paid for the peas, I just needed somebody to make them happen.

You just want a bowl of black eyed peas?

Yes, please.

Ummm. Okay.

I watched as he walked over to where the peas were kept. He took a bowl, filled it and handed it to me. I smiled and walked away.

I smiled because in that moment I knew that I had just met my husband. I know it sounds goofy, but it’s true. I knew when he handed me those black eyed peas that it was done. There were years between this moment and our first date. Years. I was not ready to be dating someone and he was in a relationship. That was…almost 10 years ago?

I am always on a quest to add meaning to what is happening in my life. How did this happen? What does that mean? I really believe that Gd is sending us messages all the time. I’m constantly trying to figure out what they are. What is He trying to tell me? I ended up working in that restaurant for a lot of reasons. I met wonderful people, I had amazing experiences. I learned so much about myself and about how the world works. That restaurant helped me to become a grown up. When I really think about that place, what I know for sure is that it brought me my husband. Yeah. Gd works in mysterious ways.

Give Peas a Chance

Give Peas a Chance

Hoppin’s John

WHAT:

1 large yellow onion chopped (whatever kind of onion you love can be used)
3 carrots chopped
3 celery sticks chopped
2 15oz cans of black eyed peas
1 15oz can of whole kernel corn
2 10oz cans of Rotel (I’m from the South, ya’ll)
10 oz frozen Lima beans thawed (you can used canned if you like)
2 cups rice (I use brown rice because Dr. Oz says so…2 bags of Uncle Ben’s 90 second rice will do the trick)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste

HOW:

Whisk olive oil and vinegar together in a small bowl and set aside.

Everything good starts with a fried onion, y’all. Fry the onion, celery and carrots in olive oil until tender. You don’t want these veggies crunch and you don’t want them mushy. It’s a delicate balance. Do what’s right for you. I don’t think this takes more than 5ish minutes.

Hot and Fresh

Hot and Fresh

I use a lot of canned veggies because I’m always in a hurry. You can use frozen veggies if that’s your thing. The measurements aren’t hard and fast rules. Don’t be scared to experiment with the amounts of stuff you’ve got. Mix your fried onion/carrot/celery goodness with the black eyed peas and other veggies. Combine everything until you’ve got a real good distribution of all of the ingredients. Toss in the oil & vinegar mixture. Stir that around until everything is coated. Add salt and black pepper to your liking. This makes a really great vegetarian dinner or side dish. Enjoy!

Happy Anniversary Kosher Connection + A GIVEAWAY: Peas + Shells (and baby bellas!) with Vegan Alfredo Sauce

22 Jul
Cauliflower: My ultimate food frenemy

Cauliflower: My ultimate food frenemy

Happy anniversary Kosher Connection!  It’s been one year since a few kosher cooking blog folks decided to get together and create a connection; a place for kosher food writers/creators could get together to share ideas, recipes, mazal tovs on success and to gain advice.  Some of us are more ‘seasoned’ (please, pun COMPLETELY intended) than others (read: me).  I discovered the Connection late Fall.  At the time, I had just come back to work after 3 months of a very tough and emotional maternity leave.  I was battling undiagnosed (though I’ve diagnosed it) Post Partum Depression, lack of sleep and lots of stress.  I was trying to find my place in this new world of parenthood meets full-time employment and felt I needed something more.  Jewhungry had been on the back burner for roughly a year.  I stopped cooking when I got pregnant and the intense food aversions set in and just never got back into it.  But all those nights spent trying to keep myself awake by the light of my iPhone and the Pinterest app., while attempting to not-so-successfully breast feed, got my creative cooking juices flowing (again, pun COMPLETELY intended).  So I found this Connection, sent a few emails and then the next thing I know, I’m in.

I am so incredibly grateful for this group of people.  As a social worker with a concentration in community organizing, I believe in the power of connectivity.  I always have.  I have found incredibly support and advice from this Connection and though I have never met any of the members in person, some I feel like I’ve known for years (I’m talking to you Yosef, Hindy and Sarah).

In honor of this most auspicious occasion, we are giving away two beautiful prizes from Emile Henry: A Bread Cloche valued at $130 and a 4.2 qt Dutch Oven valued at $170! Use the Rafflecopter below to win- you can enter up to 23 ways! Two winners will be chosen at random. Click on the “A RAFFLECOPTER Giveaway” link below for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

It's a lot easier to cook when the little one has her bestie over to play.

It’s a lot easier to cook when the little one has her bestie over to play.

For this very special Monday Round-Up, every member of the Kosher Connection who decided to participate in this month’s ‘Round Up”, was randomly assigned the blog of another Connection member. We could pick ANY recipe from that blog to recreate in your own kitchen and most importantly, we needed to make the dish our own.  I was lucky to be assigned More Quiche, Please.  Tali, the adorable creator of More Quiche, Please, was born into a vegetarian family and is still (to my knowledge), a vegetarian so she has a lot of delicious recipes to choose from.  It was a little piece of heaven to go through her recipe index.  It was also really intimidating–there were so many amazing recipes to choose from!  In the end, I decided on pasta shells with peas in a creamy Alfredo sauce.  Now, since I cook for a Paleo and a vegan client, making it ‘my own’ meant making it so that it would roughly fit into their dietary needs, which means no dairy.  For the sake of maintaining the integrity of the dish, I kept the real pasta shells but if I was making it for my sweet little Paleo client, I would have substituted it for quinoa pasta.  The result was the creation of a vegan pasta shells with peas and because I had them on hand and I just love their flavor, I had to add baby bella mushrooms.  The dish is really flavorful but, I have to admit that because I boiled the cauliflower in vegetable broth, it doesn’t look like Alfredo.  It does however, look like a delicious cheddar sauce.  More than anything, it tastes delicious.  So, happy anniversary Kosher Connection and bitayavon!

Pasta + peas

Pasta + peas

My family is, in fact, NOT vegan so we added parmesan to our dish and it was phenomenal.

My family is, in fact, NOT vegan so we added parmesan to our dish and it was phenomenal.

 

Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower
Coconut oil
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carton of baby Portobello mushrooms, chopped
2 tbsp of white cooking wine
2.5 cups of vegetable broth
1 cup of frozen peas
1 carton of pasta shells
Sea salt
Pepper
Thyme
Juice of 1/2 of lemon
*Vegan, unsweetened almond milk

Can you smell the yumminess?

Can you smell the yumminess?

 

How:

Place 3 tbsp of coconut oil in a large frying pan.  Add the onions and most of the garlic to the pan and saute over medium heat until onions are translucent and garlic is smelling up your house nicely.  Remove from heat and place in a separate bowl.  In the same frying pan, add the rest of the garlic and saute for one minute.  Add the mushrooms and continue sauteing on medium low heat for an additional 3 -4 minutes. Add the white wine and 2 tsp of thyme.  Saute for an additional 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and place in a separate bowl from the onions and garlic.  Next, place the chopped cauliflower together with the vegetable in a large stock pot and bring to a boil.  Once the broth has come to a rapid boil, turn heat down to medium low and continue to boil until the cauliflower is tender.  Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the instruction on the packaging in a separate pot, careful not to over cook. With about 1 to 2 minutes left to cook, dump frozen peas into the boiling water with the pasta and stir.  Let cook for an extra minute or two and drain in a colander that will keep the peas in the colander and set aside.  Meanwhile, back to the cauliflower — once cauliflower is tender, add the onions and garlic to the cauliflower pot plus salt and pepper to your taste.  Using an immersion blender, blend the cauliflower, remaining broth (what hasn’t boiled out), onions, and garlic until smooth.  If you feel that you need a bit more liquid, add some almond milk to the mixture.  Make sure you taste along the way, regardless, and add spices to your liking. Combine the cauliflower alfredo with the noodles, add the peas and the mushrooms and stir a bit to combine (we added parmesan cheese to ours and it really kicked up the flavor).  Enjoy!

{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!

Desperately Seeking Self

12 Mar

I used to care waaaaaay too much about what people thought of me. I went through so many identities as a high schooler you’d think Madonna got her whole “reinventing of self” thing from me. Now this was 1994-1998 so I hit all the happening 90s genres. I was alterna-Whitney (dressed in my dad’s sweaters from when he was a TODDLER, oy), faux hippie-Whitney (wore tie-dyed Dead shirts but wasn’t really clear on who exactly Jerry Garcia was), grunge-Whitney (complete with over-sized plaid flannels and Doc Martens), and my all time favorite, random shiny mini-skirts with knee-highs a la early 90s Kate Moss-Whitney. There was also a very brief stint with Goth but I didn’t really have the skin tone for all that dark lipstick. But you know, that kind of experimenting is pretty par for the course for an awkward, not-so-confident teenage girl.  It’s also not atypical for an adolescent to have so many feelings of judgement and neediness.  I was so confused about who I wanted to be I forgot to focus on who I was right then and there.  I’m sure if Facebook were around when I was a teenager I would have taken an exorbitant amount of self-portraits in a desperate attempt for someone to tell me I’m pretty or validate whatever image I had carved our for myself that month.  Thank Gd Facebook didn’t exist then. Yikes.

Ah yes, Goth Whit. Nice 90s choker and ill-cut bangs.

Ah yes, Goth Whit. Nice 90s choker and ill-cut bangs.

But something happened right around Junior or Senior year of college.  I’m not sure exactly what ‘it’ was.  I had traveled a bit, gotten out and seen some of the world and slowly I got to know myself and the next thing I knew, I wasn’t so concerned about what others thought about me but instead, about what I thought about me (and the occasional cute boy, but come on, nobody’s perfect).  It’s funny.  My mom used to try so hard to knock some confidence in me as a kid.  She used to tell me that I had to “walk around like your sh*t don’t stink” and as a 10 year-old, I had no idea what that meant. As an adult, I do and I’m hoping that’s not the message folks read when they tell me I appear to be very confident.  Regardless, it’s been a looooooooooooong time since I spent so much time wondering what others think about me but then I took this job at as a school counselor and then I had a daughter and bam! I’m all up in my own business again.

I recently had two conversations in one week with co-workers who told me that they assume I’ve always got my stuff together. Not only that, but that they are one of several who feel I give off a very ‘mother of the Earth’ vibe.  This was SHOCKING news to me. SHOCKING.  First off, though the following recipe is very vegan and might be filed under “Stuff hippies might eat”, I still have boxed mac n’ cheese in my house because you just never know when it’s going to be one of those nights.  Also?  There’s a skirt policy at school and I happen to like my skirts long and Anthropologie-like so don’t let the long, ethereal skirt fool you.  I’d be here in jeans if they let me.  And finally, and most shocking of all, is the assumption that I have my stuff together.  No comment needed. If you’ve read this blog before you know that not to be true. I try. It doesn’t always work. But I try.

But these conversations led me to one I’ve been having with myself lately and that’s this over-arching question of, “I wonder what my daughter will think of me?”  Seriously, what’s that like? To see yourself through your child’s eyes?  And as a mom, through your daughter’s eyes?  Will she not only think I don’t have my sh*t together but wonder how in the world we managed to keep her alive and healthy all this time? Will she think me a confusing mess of  Southern Jewishness?  Ultimately, I think (hope) you become so busy being a mom, wife, sister, friend, employee, daughter, you forget to think about it and you just ‘be’ but at this stage of the game, when I’m rocking her to sleep, it’s on my mind.

Yep.  She'll eventually think I'm a crazy person

Yep. She’ll eventually think I’m a crazy person

OK, so this week’s recipe was made an hour ago and it was delicious!  I’d been reading a lot about the use of cashews instead of creamer and was first introduced to the idea by my fellow Kosher Connection blogger, Hindy, over at Confident Cook.  I was hesitant but then a dear friend at work, Ilana, said she tried the recipe and loved it so with cash in hand (seriously, cashews are not called ‘cashews’ for nothing. Those nuts are expensive, y’all), I purchased some in bulk and saddled up to make ‘cream’ of tomato and basil soup.  The result was surprising.  Even the hubby is a believer now and you should have seen his face when I told him what I was making.  “You’re making what now?”

The Final Product

The Final Product

“Cream” of Tomato and Basil Soup

What!?

2 Cups of cashews
2 Cups of water
2 Cups of vegetable broth
3 Tbsp Coconut oil
1 Onion, diced
7 Plum tomatoes, chopped roughly OR 2 cans of diced tomatoes
2 Cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 Cup of carrots, cut into thin rounds
Sea salt
Black pepper
Smoked Spanish paprika
Fresh basil

Floating Cashews

Floating Cashews

How’s That Now!?

In a blender (I used the Vitamix) blend the cashews and water until smooth.  Your mixture will appear to be ‘milky’. Set aside.

In a large sauce pan, heat the coconut oil, and add the onion, carrots and sea salt. Cook slowly, partially covered. Stir occasionally. When onions are soft and translucent, add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add remaining spices and continue to cook another few minutes.  Add tomatoes and basil sautee 3 – 5 minutes.

Once tomatoes have boiled down, add the cashew milk, and stir. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until soup begins to thicken slightly, about 10 minutes.  At this point, if you feel like your soup is getting too thick or it’s starting to burn on the bottom, add your vegetable broth, about 1/4 cup at a time.  I found mine to be a bit thick for my taste so I added broth little by little until desired consistency.  Blend using an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender until soup is smooth. Return to pot, taste for seasoning. Reheat gently, watching carefully as it’s easy to scorch the bottom.  Top with fresh basil.

Before the Blend

Before the Blend

After the Blend

After the Blend

Balance

25 Feb

Self-care can be a tricky thing. It can be a tricky thing but I believe in it so much. As a new mom, a wife, a full-time school counselor and taking on cooking 3 meals a week for someone, I can leave “me” behind from time to time. Even this blog, which I love so much, can become just one more thing I “HAVE” to do. People continuously say, “You have to learn to find a balance.” I get that, I do, but ummmm, how does one do that and how does one know when you’ve reach ‘balance’ because, and I don’t know, this might be a new idea for ya, but life changes—constantly. As a result of this awesome constant change, it seems like once you find a balance something new comes along and you gotta start looking for that balance again. So the balance and the change? That stuff I can’t really control but boundaries. Oh man, I loooove me some boundaries. I still get excited when I pass into a new state and you see the, “You’re Now Leaving . . . ” and then immediately afterwards, “Welcome to . . . .! We’re happy to have you!” so of course I’m gonna love personal boundaries! I like making them and I certainly like keeping them. Thank Gd because I think my personal boundaries are the only reason I can function in society, much less function as a wife, mother, friend, school counselor, daughter, etc.

I’m very strict when it comes to boundaries and do a pretty good job of keeping work at work but of course, there are those nights when I’m on my iPhone checking email and dang it, I reply! NO!! Oy. I actually pride myself on not saying , ‘how high?’ when my supervisor or a parent says, ‘jump’ and I kinda feel like it’s part of my job to set up those boundaries because if you’ve ever worked at a private school, you know that pushing boundaries is a constant, every second occurrence happens sometimes. I say all of this because last week I was feeling like my cup runneth over with well, everything. I got sick for the third time in 6 weeks and I NEVER get sick that much. Yes, we have day care germs running rampant in this apartment and it’s possible that that’s why I keep getting sick. But I’ve also decided that I keep getting sick for another reason; actually 2 reasons. Now, I’m no medical doctor but I’m thinking I keep getting sick because a) my gossiping is out of control and I need to keep that in check more and b) stress. It’s ridiculous how the body holds onto stress in ways we aren’t cognizant of and how that stress can manifest itself in the body in pretty negative ways. So last Monday I made two decisions; 1) to cut out the gossiping or at least keep it to a very respectable minimum and 2) make an appointment with your therapist. I did both and saw my therapist 2 days later (I also got on antibiotics, but whatever) and I’ve felt a lot better this past week. I feel less pissed off and feel like I’m able to connect to my husband and daughter on a much more loving basis. I mean things aren’t perfect but they’re getting there. It’s a balance 😉

So this happened this past Purim--she's either a pirate, hippie or Johnny Depp. We're still not sure

So this happened this past Purim–she’s either a pirate, hippie or Johnny Depp. We’re still not sure

And then this -- Carrie Bradshaw, circa 2003/2004, Season 2.  I'm a really really good mom.

And then this — Carrie Bradshaw, circa 2003/2004, Season 2. I’m a really really good mom.

OK, since we’re on the topic of balance there really is no other way to showcase balance in cooking besides soup (in my humble opinion). Soup used to be incredibly intimidating to me and then one day, when my husband and I were first falling in love in Jerusalem, he made me chicken soup. He used the freshest ingredients available at the shuk, added a dash of love and the result was the greatest chicken soup I’ve ever tasted. Now, I’m not gonna post that recipe but I am gonna post a roasted eggplant and tomato soup that made my heart sing when we ate it. I hope you find it delicious as well.

Delicious food porn

Delicious food porn

Pre-roasting

Pre-roasting

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

What!?

2 eggplants cut in half4 tomatoes – varied is your option but plums could be nice
4 large garlic cloves
1 medium onion , chopped
Coconut oil
4 cups vegetable broth
Sea salt
Pepper
Sour cream
Parmesan
Italian parsley, chopped

How’s That Now!?

Pre-heat oven to 425. Cut the eggplants length-wise. Spread coconut oil over eggplants and place face down on a baking pan. Cut tomatoes length-wise as well and put to the side. Put eggplant in oven for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, put tomatoes and garlic on the same baking pan and place back in the oven for another 25 – 30 minutes keeping an eye on the garlic that it doesn’t burn. After a total of about 45 minutes, pull the baking pan out of the oven and let cool. Using a pair of tongues, flip the eggplants over and scoop the meat out of the middle until on the skin is left. Pour about 3 tbsp of coconut oil in a large stock pot and heat for a minute. Once hot enough, sautee the onions in the coconut oil until translucent. Add the eggplant meat, tomatoes and garlic to the pot and sautee for another few minutes. Add the vegetable broth and let simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes. Take pot off the heat. Using our favorite immersion hand blender, blend all the ingredients together until smoother. Top with a dollop of sour cream, parmesan and the parsley. Enjoy!

(This was one of those cooking experiences where the soup finished right before shabbat so there is no picture of the final outcome but trust when I say, ’twas delicious).

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