Tag Archives: counseling

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

Sex with a Side of Roasted Carrot Soup w/Coconut Milk (Kosher Connections Link Up, Jan., 2013)

20 Jan

Sex was brought up a lot at work this week. Let me explain. I am a middle school counselor. That’s right. I get paid in nickles and warm fuzzies the big bucks to be emotionally and physically available to middle school-aged children 9 hours a day, 5 days a week (well, I get out early on Friday for Shabbat). It’s not a job I EVER, I repeat, EVER thought I would do much less love but I do love it. I was originally hired at the school as a co-director of student life and then 2 weeks after school started I walked into a meeting I thought was about our kosher food bank program and it turned out to be a “how’d you like to be a school counselor” conversation. I am a trained social worker so it’s not far off. I also love working with youth, which was my concentration in social work school but my focus was in community organizing, not in individual practice (IP). In fact, I distinctly remember somewhat tuning out in the mandatory IP courses thinking, “There’s no way in H*LL I’m ever going to do this.” Ha. Jokes on me. So here I am, a school counselor—–for middle school students. I mean, the apex of awkwardness, ‘drama’, emotions, depression, everything in a child’s developmental life. I have learned so much about young people through this job. Heck, I’ve been asked parenting advice and that was before I had a child. Parents come to me desperate for advice or an explanation as to why their child is behaving the way they are and often I bring up the frontal-lobe/brain development stuff but mostly I tell them that this is normal. Your child is going through a change that is so intense the only ages that match it’s intensity of development is 0-2. It’s amazing the sigh of relief I see when parents hear, “You’re not alone.” Of course, the other side of the job is occasionally recommending continual outside therapy and let me tell you, NO ONE likes the person in the room who is recommending therapy.

Mommy, where do babies come from? Ummmm . . .

Mommy, where do babies come from? Ummmm . . .

So why sex? Well, I run a girls group—-a small group ‘lunch bunch’ of 6th grade girls. Working with girls in helping them feel confident, understood, and healthy is a passion of mine, especially in Miami where the exposure to weight-loss ads, Botox, and the expectation of beauty is so overwhelming I have 6th graders telling me they want to be ‘skinny’ when they grow up. It’s heartbreaking. I had the first two sessions of my two 6th grade girls group this past week and during this time I always ask them what they want to talk/learn about. I get the usual–gossip, cliques, parents, peer pressure, etc. But this time around, someone in both groups said puberty. Last year I ended up teaching ‘unofficial’ sex education when it became very clear that my girls had no idea what their periods are and what happens to their bodies during puberty. I closed the shades, told them that I reserved the right to not answer a question they might ask and then let them ask me any question they ever had about the issue (within reason, of course). It was very “Reading Lolita in Tehran”, except this was “Learning about My Uterus in Jewish Day School” (remember people, its uterUS not uterU). Could I have gotten fired? I’m not sure. But dang it, it’s too important that our girls are educated about their bodies so that they can make educated decisions about what happens to it as they grow up. So now I’m getting permission to officially talk about it in girls group plus I’ve been asked to teach sex ed. in health class. It’s intense but it’s all in a day’s work.

On top of all that sex talk, I was asked to compile a list of resources for a mom who wants to talk about sex with her eleven year-old son but is terrified to do so. And then it dawned on me, ‘Holy shit, I’m gonna have to do this with Siona one day”. And then another thing dawned on me. As a relatively observant Jewish woman, my husband and I practice Taharat Hamishpacha, The Laws of Family Purity, part of which is going to the mikveh every month for a ritual cleansing. One day Siona is going to realize that mom leaves the house once a month all showered, no make up, hair wet, and is gone for about 20 minutes (Gd bless those mikvot that take reservations) and then comes back all hair still wet. She’s going to want to know what’s up with that and eventually I’ll need to be honest about what it is and why mommy does it. It’s kind of a beautiful way to explain the birds and the bees to a child. It certainly beats learning about it from your awkward Math teacher when you’re 10 years-old. I’m still debating whether that was a good thing or a bad thing as in the end, I was terrified of sex for quite a long time. Thanks Mr. H. Maybe that’s why I hate Math so much.

Carrots: Pre-roasting

Carrots: Pre-roasting

This week’s recipe is soup. I’ve started cooking 3-4 dinners/week for a dear friend/co-worker who wants to go semi-Paleo and doesn’t want to cook for herself. It’s such a great opportunity because it challenges me in the kitchen and I get paid. Holler! I was craving roasted carrot soup for myself so went ahead and made it for Dana and then saved some for me. I hope she likes it (and you too)!

Carrots: Post-roast

Carrots: Post-roast

Roasted Carrot Soup with Coconut Milk and Cilantro

What?!

8-10 carrots cut in 1/2 in. rounds
Olive oil for drizzle
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 can coconut milk
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tbsp ground coriander
4 cups of water or vegetable broth
Sea salt
Pepper
1 bunch of cilantro

How?!

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Place cut-up carrots spread out on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and place in oven for about 30 minutes. About 15 minutes into the roasting, coarsely chop onions and mince the garlic. Place a stock pot on the stove with the flame on medium-high heat. Put coconut oil in pot. Let sit for a minute and then add onions. Sauté until clear, about 4-5 minutes. Turn down flame and add minced garlic. Sauté with onions for another minute or so. Add carrots to the mix once they are done (they should be nicely browned and soft). Add the ground coriander. Sauté for another minute. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the water to simmer and let sit, covered, for about 10-15 minutes.

One Big Happy Soup Family

One Big Happy Soup Family

At this point you can either blend in batches in a food processor or, if you’re really good, you have a hand blender and just blend the crap outta it. I LOVE the hand blender. It’s the easiest way to make any soup. Just roast vegetables, add water or broth and then blend. Once it’s smoothly blended, add the coconut milk and stir. This part is up to you. Taste and if you like the consistency, keep it as is. If you want it richer, then add more. Add a bit more sea salt and pepper to your taste. Top with bunch of fresh cilantro and serve.

This soup is delicious. I’m pretty proud of myself for this recipe. I may or may not have high-fived myself after eating.



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