Tag Archives: Family

{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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Flooded.

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

Unloading us in our flood basement. Our hero.

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

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

Well, turns out, I’m wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Outside our window — a sweet Subaru flooded out,

Feeling Raw – Raw, vegan brownie bites

2 Jun
The Women

The Women (photo courtesy of Alex Berger)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chopped dates and walnuts

Chopped dates and walnuts

All the ingredients in the processor

All the ingredients in the processor

Raw Brownie Bites:

Ingredients:

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

The grind

The grind

Goodness

Goodness

The final product

The final product

The How:

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

Close up to the goodies

Close up to the goodies

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!

Comfort Food – The Best Thing I Ever Ate – Kosher Connection Monday Round-Up

15 Apr

This month’s theme for our Kosher Connection round-up is, as stated above, the best thing I ever ate.  This one was a doozie for me.  There’s so much associated with taste.  It goes beyond the texture, the flavor combination, the exotic-ness of the dish.  For me, it also has so much to do with positive memory.  I remember the first time I had a hot wing.  I remember mom coming home from dinner and giving me her leftover for me to taste even though I was supposed to be going to bed.  I remember sitting at the kitchen counter and taking my first bite and the subsequent burning sensation of my lips and tanginess on my tongue.  I remember thinking, “I need to eat this ALL THE TIME”.  I also remember the first time I had real Italian drinking chocolate while living in Milan in the summer of 1999 (I was supposed to be there to model but come on, who puts the modeling capital of the world in Italy for crying out loud!? More on that in a future post).  I remember the first time I had real Italian espresso and chocolate croissant (again, seriously, if we’re not supposed to eat then put the fashion capital of the world in like, I don’t know, NOT Italy).  I was living abroad for the first time, trying all the food I came into contact with—-tasting freedom and fresh, Italian cooking.  It was heaven. The first time I took a sip of that drinking chocolate I thought to myself, “Yes.  Just, yes.”

You can see it in my 19 year-old eyes.  I want a chocolate croissant and I want it now!  P.S. There was some serious air-brushing that went on here

You can see it in my 19 year-old eyes. I want a chocolate croissant and I want it now! P.S. There was some serious air-brushing that went on here

So for this round-up, I didn’t go complicated.  Instead, I went with a memory of a dish that was rich, creamy, delicious; all my favorites.  It combines my love of cheese, garlic and chicken—but kosher, of course.  This dish also sprung to mind because the memories associated with it are pretty yummy as well.  In 2001 I was a senior in college.  My boyfriend was studying abroad to get his Master’s degree, I was living in the dorm next door to some dudes who decided it would be OK to have band practice in their room at 11PM at night and I was itchin’ to get out of college.  I went to college in a small town in the middle of Ohio called The College of Wooster.  By the time I was a senior I believe there were roughly 1700 students on campus.  So yes, 3 years into that kind of smallness and you’re ready to get.  My senior year started out about 2 weeks before 9/11.  Everything that happened on that fateful day pretty much set the tone for the rest of my senior year.  We felt isolated and alone in the middle of nowhere Ohio.  We were partly chomping at the bit to get out of there and partly terrified to see what the ‘real world’ was like.  I was blessed to have a wonderful and loving group of girl friends, thank Gd, who did everything together.  One very cold winter day, our little group piled in our cars and headed to our girl, Kristen’s mom’s house.  Kristen lived the quintessential Ohio life.  She grew up on a farm and her neighbors, who were miles down the dirt road, were mostly her relatives.  It was a far cry from the suburban Atlanta neighborhood I grew up in.  Anyway, the plan was to get away for a bit and have a taste of home.  I remember that during this time I was especially feeling anxious and scared about the future so a little time at home, even someone else’s home, was exactly what I needed. The minute we walked in the front door, I didn’t want to leave.  The place smelled like everything ‘home’ should smell like.  For dinner that night, Kristen’s mom served us a classic “the college kids are coming to dinner” meal of stuffed chicken breast.  It was breaded, baked and stuffed with cream cheese and spinach.   Now, this was during my ‘BK’ years—-Before Kosher, so please don’t freak out here.  The following recipe includes Tofutti cream cheese.  Anyway, the point is that though it wasn’t culinary genius, it was perfection.  It was warmth and home and love served on an ooey, gooey plate.

The college crew.  I'm fairly confident I'm wearing overalls in this picture. #2002

The college crew. I’m fairly confident I’m wearing overalls in this picture. #2002

Cooking the Greens

Cooking the Greens

Chicken Breast Stuffed with Tofutti Cream ‘Cheese’, Spinach and Zucchini

Ingredients:

3 Chicken breasts, pounded flat
3 TBSP of Coconut Oil
1 Small yellow onion, diced
3 Cloves garlic OR 1 shallot, diced
1 Zucchini, diced
1 Big handful of spinach
1/2 Cup of Toffuti cream cheese
Handful of fresh dill and thyme, washed and cut small to be incorporated into cream cheese for added flavor

Additional Supplies:
Poultry twine
or
Toothpicks

Stuffing the Flattened Chicken

Stuffing the Flattened Chicken

How:

Put boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a large Ziploc freezer bag and seal it up tight. Using a mallet (or in my case the bottom of another cooking pan), pound those little breasts down until about 1/2 inch thick.  The thinner the better (but not too thin that the stuffing would seep through).  Once flattened, put to the side.  Using a large, deep skillet, about 2 -3 inches at the sides, heat your coconut oil on a medium high level.  Add your onions and sautee until transclucent, about 2 minutes.  Add garlic and sautee for another minute.  Next, add your zucchini and sautee until just beginning to brown. Finally, add your fresh spinach (you can use frozen as well just make sure everything else has browned by now as the moisture in the frozen spinach will stop the browning process).  Spinach wilts quickly so make sure not to overcook.  Add your spices while sauteeing and adjust to your liking.  Once spinach is nice and bright green and incorporated into the rest of the vegetables, turn the heat off.  At this point, add the toffuti cream cheese and herb mix to the pan and stir all together until you’ve got a nice, creamy mixture of cream cheese, herbs and vegetables.  Once that’s combined, dish out into a separate bowl and clean your pan out to be used to cook the chicken (why do MORE dishes, right?).

Little Chicken Packages of Love

So Close to Being Eaten!

Lay out chicken breasts on a flat surface.  Place a heaping spoonful of the cream cheese mixture onto a little left of the middle of each piece of chicken.  If you put it right in the middle, it’ll make the ‘sandwiching’ of the chicken a bit difficult.  Next, fold the chicken in half so that the cream cheese mixture is sandwiched between the same chicken (see image above).  Take your poultry twine and wrap the chicken up tight like a nice little chicken present so that the filling stays in while cooking (you can also use a toothpick at the ends of the chicken to hold it together but then it should be roasted).  After you’ve done that with all three, put 2 more TBSP of coconut oil into the pan at a medium high level.  Add the chicken to the pan and let brown on each side about 7 – 8 minutes or until the chicken juices run clean and enjoy.

Happy Little Chicken Campers

Happy Little Chicken Campers

A Taste of Comfort

 

 

Win a Whole Organic, Kosher Chicken – a KOL Foods Giveaway!

11 Apr
Special Delivery

Special Delivery

It wasn’t long ago that the majority of the food that I ate consisted of some kind of direction that involved, “add water, 1 TBSP of butter and stir”. Yep, if it was freeze-dried or loaded with preservatives, I was on it. It’s not like I didn’t always love food, I just was incredibly intimidated by cooking. I also never loved the idea of the cleaning up after the cooking. That part just seemed like a giant time suckage. Ugh. I was also single for the majority of my 20s and definitely had the whole, my-oven-is-used-for-storage-not-cooking thing down. It’s hard to cook for just one person. You end up throwing away leftovers and no one’s there to give you feedback so it was ready made meals and tofu hotdogs aplenty in my kitchen during those non-cooking years. One of my classic ‘dishes’ during this time in my life was the ‘just add frozen vegetables to Pasta-roni’ pasta. Again, and I know I’ve said this before, I have no idea how I’m not 500 pounds.

Fresh Turkey

Fresh Turkey

Things changed for me when I moved to Israel in 2008, lived close to the shuk and started seriously dating someone who was not only willing to eat my culinary experiments but also very patient with me as well. It’s no coincidence that during this same time in my life I decided to eat healthier. When you have so much fresh produce available to you why on Earth would you eat instant anything? I started reading about the benefits of whole grains, what the big fuss is over sugar and most importantly, what the big fuss is about organic.

Now listen, I am a school counselor. The hubby is a PhD student. We do not have an expendable income, however, in our house there are some nonnegotiables. At this point, I almost primarily cook with coconut oil. I only buy non-GMO, organic cheese. We never have sodas and if we’re eating anything with sugar or bake anything requiring sugar, we generally use maple syrup or pure sugar. I also almost always purchase organic meats. Thankfully, several years ago, a dear friend of mine and fellow foodie, Annie (heck, she’s been my cooking inspiration for years! I wonder if she knows that? hmmm . . .), purchased a KOL Foods turkey for Thanksgiving. With this one purchase she opened my eyes to a whole world of conscious kosher. If you haven’t heard of KOL Foods before, then sit back, relax and let me drop some knowledge on ya.

Founded in 2008 by Devora Kimelman-Block, KOL Foods is the only kosher meat company that exclusively sources 100% grass-fed meat in the United States. Before this time, if you were kosher and wanted to eat sustainable, ethically-raised meat you basically had to become vegetarian. KOL Foods allowed the kosher consumer with conscience a way to bridge their beliefs with their wallet—but purchasing from KOL Foods you’re not only supporting a more ethical kosher, you’re also supporting local, small business. Today, KOL Foods offers glatt-kosher, organic-raised, grass-fed beef, lamb and no-nitrate deli; pastured chicken, turkey and duck; wild caught Alaskan salmon and other specialty goods. They ship frozen via FedEx nationwide or via buying clubs in select cities.

We Love Lime in Miami

We Love Lime in Miami

Coconut Oil is My New Life Source

Coconut Oil is My New Life Source

As a self-taught cook who now has a client with a requirement for Paleo-diet menu items, a diet that only allows for grass-fed meat, I was excited when KOL Foods reached out for a potential partnership. I believe in their product and in their mission and I wanted a chance to delve into some of their products. And delve I did! I was sent some delicious turkey legs that my hubby wanted to simply roast up and eat Medieval like but I wanted to get a bit more creative and play the flavors that are coming in season in Miami. I also didn’t want to work with the same ol’ expected turkey flavors—-sage, marjoram, thyme, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE all those flavors but again, I wanted to experiment.  The following is my experiment and it.was.delicious! The flavors of the salsa are strong but mix well with the natural light flavors of the turkey and I’m ALWAYS a suckers for turkey drippings mixed with honey marinade.

After the Marinating Time

After the Marinating Time

Once you tempt yourself with the following recipe, make sure to click on “A Rafflecopter Giveaway”, high-lighted below, to be entered to win a KOL Foods 3 lb. roaster chicken! You can enter every day for the next 2 weeks via multiple avenues (such as liking Jewhungry on Facebook or Tweeting about the giveaway–all done through the rafflecopter link) but make sure you click on the link to be entered and connected.  And don’t forget to share this post with friends so they can get in on the action too! Enjoy and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can also enter via our Facebook page. Click here.

The Colors of Miami

The Colors of Miami

Turkey Ready for the Taking

Turkey Ready for the Taking

Roast Organic Turkey Legs with Mango Salsa

For Marinade:

3 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
2 Cloves of Garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon of Honey
Juice of half a lime
Sea Salt
Pepper
Dash of Cayenne

For Salsa:

1/2 Mango, diced
1 Small Purple Onion, diced
1 Jalapeno, diced
1 Bunch of Cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1/2 of lime (add more if you need)
Dash of Sea Salt
Dash of Garlic Powder

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the ingredients for the marinade in a small bowl.  Place turkey legs in a roasting dish. Using a basting brush, slather marinade on turkey legs, cover dish and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  At this point, the coconut oil in the marinade with harden a bit but this is typical.  Once the turkey legs have marinated for at least 30 minutes, uncover and place in the oven.  Make sure you baste constantly.  In my mind, you can not over baste.  Turkey legs will take about an hour to cook, maybe more, depending on how often you baste.

While turkey is cooking, combine salsa ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Once turkey is complete, top turkey with salsa.

Reflection Eternal

4 Apr
Paw Paw

Paw Paw

This past week has brought on a lot of reflection.  Sure, it was Passover and I couldn’t help but think that this time last year I was pregnant and now I’ve got an 8 month old and boy, how time flies.  But with Passover comes my grandfather, my mom’s father’s, yarteitz, the anniversary of his death.  Paw Paw passed away on the last day of Passover two years ago.  My mom likes to light-heartedly joke that he passed away on the last day of Passover so no one will forget the anniversary of his death.  But to  live 31 years with grandparents is a blessing so, quite obviously, we would never forget regardless.  When Paw Paw was in hospice, I was able to spend some alone time with him.  He wasn’t conscious and it was near the end but I made a promise to him that my husband and I would name our first born after him, which we did.  Siona, the feminine version of Sion or Tzion (Zion, a term synonymous to Jerusalem.  Paw Paw’s Hebrew name was Yisrael), was born about a year and a half after Paw Paw passed away.  My poor Southern family could not quite wrap their accents around the name, Siona.  So much so that for about an hour, my brother thought her name was Fiona (this story will go down in family folklore).  Oh how my brother and sister-in-law smiled and nodded and indulged me when they thought her name was Fiona.  It was very, “Ohhh, um, how nice” but in their heads I’m pretty sure they were thinking, “What the h*ll!?  What’s a Southern Jewish baby girl doing with the name Fiona?!”.

Paw Paw and my husband embracing on our wedding day

Paw Paw and my husband embracing on our wedding day

My cousin, Ayelet, walking our grandparents down the aisle at our wedding

My cousin, Ayelet, walking our grandparents down the aisle at our wedding

In the mix of Passover and my grandfather’s yarzeit is my birthday.  Talk about a mixture of emotions.  Yowsa.  I’m two days away from 33.   I can’t believe how much time has flown by.  I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since my Bat Mitzvah! I can’t believe Siona is closer to 1 then not.  It’s all so surreal.   But anyway, what I really wanted to do for this post is to share the speech I gave at Siona’s Simchat Bat.  We were blessed to have so many friends and family present to celebrate her birth so I wanted to explain, on the day we celebrated her arrival, my relationship with not only my Paw Paw, but also my father’s father.  I worry that my kid won’t know how lucky she is to come from such a diverse background; that she won’t fully realize how her cultural background shaped who I am and how grateful I am for it.

Getting some love from Paw Paw and Grandma

Getting some love from Paw Paw and Grandma

This is the original speech.  Please excuse typos.  It was written to help with the whole ‘public speaking while emotional’ thing. 

As many of you know, I come from an inter religious background, it’s the only way you could explain a 5’10” Jewish girl named Whitney Dyan Lacefield, now Fisch. As a kid it was a bit hard having one parent who was one religion and the other another but as an adult I’ve come to truly value the dichotomy that is my background and no one quit emphasizes this than my two grandfathers My Ca Ca, my dad’s dad, represents that Southern side of me that I’m so proud of. He was one of the kindest men I’ve ever met. He was always active, whether tending to his tomatoes or making or building something; you couldn’t slow him down. He said thing like “daggumit” and dagnabit when he was upset. When he died my brother inherited his shot guns, like any good Southern grandson would do. He passed in 2005 and if you think a week has gone by since when I haven’t thought of him or his wife, my grandma Viv, you’d be very wrong. The other side of me is quite obviously my Jewish side and no one represents this part of me than my Paw Paw, whom Siona is named after. I don’t know who my paw paw was as a young man or a father but as a grandfather he was lovely. My paw paw is the reason I fell in love with music and theater. He’s the reason my first celebrity crush wasn’t some boy found on teen beat magazine but Mandy Patinkin (he’d shown Sunday in the Park with George in 1987 and I was hooked). He’s the reason I had any connection or interest in Israel way before I finally went when I was 20. He indulged my love of dining out and cultivated by love of live theater. He loved teasing us grandkids with little jokes and then following up with, “would I kid you”? Most importantly, he loved family. When he got into framing and wallpapered the house in Louisville with beautifully frames pictures of relatives—-some lost  in the Holocaust, others still with us today, thank Gd, I think each of us grandchildren learned a lesson in informal education. How could you not want to know the stories of all those people posing in the frame? As much as we joke about paw paw’s talent for telling and retelling a story, I am most grateful for the familial history I now take with me and will share with Siona one day, Gd willing. I was 31 when my paw paw passed.  To get to spend 31 years with a grandparent is a blessing, to get to spend any time with a grandparent is a blessing. It’s an honor to carry on paw paw’s spirit within our little family. Thank you.

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