Tag Archives: friendship

5 Tips on Being a Helpful House Guest for New Parents + Curried Roasted Butternut Squash Soup w/Coconut Milk

25 Nov
I heart Chicago.

I heart Chicago.

I took a couple of days off. My best friend had a baby several weeks ago and dang it, I wanted to meet her. It’s hard taking time off. I work more than full time. I’ve got my little critter plus the 150 students I attempt to take care of at work and on top of that, Thanksgiving is around the corner and we’re hosting again this year.  I was supposed to book this trip in December but then December’s proposed trip date turned into a proposed January trip date and it was beginning to feel like I would never really get there.  And yet, something happened while sitting in yet another meeting at work and I thought to myself, “I gotta get out of here”. And so, in less dramatic fashion than I’m making it seem, I booked my ticket and arrived in Chicago this past Wednesday night (Sidebar: Dressing for a November trip that departs from Miami but arrives in Chicago is really an art form I’ve come very close to mastering).

I thought maybe I would have forgotten what is was like to travel solo; it had been so long since I’d traveled without baby and husband in tow. I spent over a decade traveling all over the world by myself but since getting married, the traveling has become a partner-based endeavor. I wondered if I’d remember what it was like to not worry about things like when I’d be able to change Siona’s diaper next or if we factored enough time into our schedule to account for the ever-so-fun security line with a toddler. Turns out, I never lost my travel legs and to be perfectly honest, it felt great to fly alone. Folks, I don’t mean to alarm you but I read an ENTIRE magazine— cover to cover! I mean I savored every second of my uninterrupted magazine-reading and even read the silly ads in the back (Yes, it was an US Weekly and no, it turns out that I do not need a tank top that reads, “Team Peeta”).  Hell, i watched a whole movie on my iPad without interruption. I was not going to let this alone time go wasted. ‘Twas glorious.

My favorite cozy corner in Annie's place.

Cozy, comfort.

Hot coffee on a cold day . . . I think I remember what that was like.

Hot coffee on a cold day . . . I think I remember what that was like.

Glazed and Infused: All the hype was pretty much worth it.

Glazed and Infused: All the hype was pretty much worth it.

Daniel and his baby Judah.

Daniel and his baby Judah.

But I digress. This is a “how to” post. But I’m not writing it because I think I know it all. Oh no my friends. I’m writing this because my dear friend, Annie, knows it all. The four days I was in Chicago were spent repaying a favor. I needed to take care of my girl (and new mom), Jackie and her baby girl, Violet, the way she took care of me when Siona was born.  I was supposed to do this last year when Annie had her baby boy, Judah, since she had spent 5 days with Siona and me in all my post-partum glory.  But sadly, I got the flu and had to cancel my trip.  So, one year later, in Annie’s honor and with her by my side, I finally landed in Chicago to take care of Jackie and Violet.

When you’re a regular guest, it’s safe to say that there’s a level of comfort you look forward to or might even expect from your host/hostess (or maybe this is just me being SUPER Southern). But when you’re the houseguest of new parents, it’s your job and, in my opinion, your obligation to not just “pitch in” but to be altogether expendable to new parents.  And no one, I mean,  no one,  has mastered this art of being the perfect new parent houseguest than my girl, Annie.   She’s helpful in ways that might border on Saint-like status. So, the following list has been compiled from watching her at work in all her glory. For if you are of an age where your friends aren’t quite having babies yet, I promise you, one day they just might and you will need to be there for them as, Gd willing, they will be there for you. Or, you might find these tips helpful if you’re possibly in a stage in life like me where roughly 65% of your Facebook feed is purely pictures of your friends’ kids (the other 35% being BuzzFeed round-ups and cat memes). Or maybe, just maybe, you just had a baby and your in-laws are coming in for a stay and you want to be all, “Hey, Mom-in-law, isn’t this post about how to be a good houseguest to new parents funny? You should read it . . . carefully.”

1.  Take Care of the Animal – Your friends, new mom and dad, are exhausted.  They are knee-deep in care-giving for their tiny new human and sometimes, their first-born, the dog/cat/hamster/fish/etc., gets overlooked.  Pets aren’t overlooked because there’s a lack of love.  Pets in the homes of brand new parents are overlooked because new parents are experiencing an exhaustion that can’t be topped. They’re barely taking care of themselves, much less their beloved pet.  So, if there’s a pet in the house, clean the cage/litter box/tank or take it for a walk.  Fluffy will be very grateful.

2.  Cook –  Make sure what you cook is healthy and will last at least a week or can be frozen. I spent all day on Thursday cooking for Jackie and her new family.  She requested homemade pasta sauce so, obviously, I complied.  I also made curried roasted butternut squash soup with coconut milk (recipe below) and mini zucchini muffins and homemade granola as Jackie expressed concern of her lack of eating in the morning (Jake and Jackie are foodies.  They went to El Buli for their honeymoon.  Cooking for them is very intimidating).

3. Don’t Leave the House Empty-Handed – Taking out the trash/recycling is obnoxious when you don’t have a new baby to take care of.  Plus, for some reason trash and recycling seems to pile up quicker when you’ve just had a baby then in your previous life.  So, after your visit of cleaning and cooking, make sure you don’t leave empty-handed and offer to take out the trash on your way out.

4. Address the Thank You Notes – My girl, Annie, actually offered to write Jackie’s Thank You notes.  I could see the temptation in Jackie’s eyes but ultimately, she wrote her own while the baby was napping.  However, the real time-suckage of Thank You notes is the addressing part.  If baby is sleeping or in someone else’s arms, ask for that address list and start writing.  You’ll rescue new mama from trying to find the time for addressing a sea of envelopes but also the inevitable guilt of being late on her notes (or that’s just us Jewish mama’s having to battle our guilt-complexes yet again).

5. Hold the Baby – Hold that baby for as long as your arms can stand it and give mama an opportunity to take a bath, take a nap or whatever else she’s been itching to get done.  Heck, even if it’s 15 minutes of Pinterest surfing, give her that opportunity.  It’s not for you to judge how she spends her time.  It’s for you to offer and allow her that sacred thing called, “free time”.

Annie, she can take care of people AND decorate.

The woman knows how to decorate.

Homemade tomato sauce on some crusty bread and some creamy cheese.

Homemade tomato sauce on some crusty bread and some creamy cheese.

The murals in Chicago

The murals in Chicago

Me and our sweet Violet.

Me and our sweet Violet.

Curried Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk:

Ingredients:
1 whole butternut squash – halved & peeled
Coconut oil
1 small onion – diced
2 cloves of garlic – diced
2 cups of veggie broth or water
Curry powder
Sea salt
Cayenne pepper
1 can coconut milk
1 bunch chopped fresh cilantro

Method:
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. After peeling and cutting in half length-wise, slather the inside of your squash with just enough coconut oil that is evenly covered but not “oily”. Place your halved and peeled squash oil side down on your baking sheet and roast for 40 – 45 minutes or until soft. Once it’s finished, let cool for about 10 minutes or so. Once cooled, chop your squash into small-ish pieces and set aside.

During the cooling phase, sauté your diced onion in a large stock pot using about 3 tbsp of coconut oil. Sauté for one minute and add garlic. Sauté for another 3 minutes or so or until onions are translucent. Add your seasoning – I go heavy on seasoning this so roughly 2 tbsp of curry or so. Then add a dash of the cayenne and salt. Stir all together and let sauté for another minute. Add the squash and stir. Add the stock or water and stir. Bring mixture to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Let simmer for about 10 -15 minutes, adding more stock or water along the way just so it stays since and moist but not overly “soupy”. After about 15 minute, remove from heat and, using a hand immersion blender, blend all ingredients until smooth. Add the coconut milk and stir. Season to your tastes. Top with fresh cilantro and enjoy.

Roasted Butternut Squash + Coconut Milk Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash + Coconut Milk Soup

A Spicy Tofu Eggplant Stir-Fry: A Meat-Eater Meets his Match

30 Aug

You know, I should really make a holiday to celebrate my dear friend, Jessie.  Upon reflection, I realized that without Jessie, I may not have met some really important and incredible people in my life.  One of these incredible people, besides my husband, is Stef, the guest author of this post.  Stef is one of those people who is the full package — outrageously funny, kind, smart, and beautiful.  I remember asking her years ago how she met her husband (at the time, they were just dating) and I remember loving this love story.   I’m sure you will too.  Shabbat shalom, Whit xoxox

P.S.  Follow Stef and Matt’s journey as new Israelis here.

 

 

When I asked my husband which food he thought most represented our love, he answered without hesitation: tofu.

On Our Wedding Day in Jerusalem

On Our Wedding Day in Jerusalem

Like Whitney, I met my husband, Matt, in the holy city of Jerusalem, but it took us a bit longer to realize we were meant to be. On my first day at the Pardes Institute in 2006, where I planned to study for 3 years, my closest friend turned to me and asked me who I thought was cute. I immediately picked out my future husband, despite the fact that he was wearing cut-off hospital pants, a “wife-beater” tank-top, and mismatched red and blue converse high tops. It took us a few weeks to actually have a conversation (although my husband doesn’t remember it) and a couple months until we became friends. Since he was in a relationship with someone else at the time and I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship myself, we continued to be just friends for the remainder of the year. In the first days of our friendship, Matt came over to my apartment for dinner. That year also happened to be the year I reintroduced meat into my diet after many year of vegetarianism. While I had begun eating some meat, I still preferred to (and generally still do) cook vegetarian. When Matt came over for dinner that night early on in our friendship, I told him I was making tofu. A look of uncertainty and fear washed over his face. He admitted to not having a lot of “experience” eating tofu and to not liking it so much, but agreed to try it nonetheless. I don’t think I could truthfully say that fell in love with tofu that night, but he did eat it and that’s a good first step.
At our LA Wedding Reception

At our LA Wedding Reception

Fast-forward to today: we have been married for four years and tofu is a still a staple part of our diet. How did that happen? The simple answer (to both the questions of marriage and tofu) is love.
After our year of friendship, Matt moved back to the US and I began my second year of school in Jerusalem. Now, with both of us available and thousands of miles between us, we decided it was the right time to start dating. This was confirmed the week I came back to the States for a friend’s wedding. We knew we wanted to see each other before committing to a long-distance relationship, so I planned a detour on my trip to meet him for a weekend. Unfortunately, the only time such a visit could be arranged was over the holiday of Yom Kippur, a 25-hour fast day where we are meant to focus on repentance and atonement. It would have to do. Even though we spent much of the visit davening (praying) in shul (synagogue) on separate sides of the mehitzah, it was enough for us to know that we were ready to do this. We survived the distance and the following year Matt got a job in Israel so we could spend my 3rd year of school together.
Finally in the same place, we began to share many more meals together and I began to learn about all the foods Matt did or did not like. On the list of “not-likes” was, you guessed it, tofu. To add insult to injury, he also claimed to not like spicy food, something that characterized almost everything I ate. Here’s where love comes into play. Despite his specific dislikes (those previously mentioned, among others), Matt always tried every single dish I cooked. And to both our surprise, he liked more things than he thought he did. If you ask him, Matt will still claim that anything I make with tofu would taste better with chicken, but he eats it and, dare I say, he enjoys it. At the end of my final year of school, we got married in Jerusalem (at a vegetarian restaurant) on Tu B’Av, the Jewish day of love, and the rest is history.
Falling in Love in Jerusalem

Falling in Love in Jerusalem

Over the course of our marriage, my husband has grown to like other previously disliked foods as well, including spicy food. I still prefer to cook vegetarian during the week (we save the meat for Shabbat) and this Spicy Tofu Eggplant Stir-fry is one of our go-to meals. If you don’t like spicy food, heads up, this is a real mouth burner.

Spicy Tofu Eggplant Stir-fry (adapted from a “learn to cook vegetarian” book I had in college)

What

2 Tbsp Cooking Oil (you can choose: canola, olive, coconut, etc.)
2-3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tbsp (or more) Fresh Ginger, minced
1-2 Tbsp Chinese Chili Garlic Sauce (the hero of this dish)
1 block of Tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes, drained
1 small or 1/2 large Eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes, pre-steamed if you like softer eggplant
Any other vegetable of your choice: red pepper cut into strips, mushrooms, zucchinni, spinach, water chestnuts, etc.
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
2 Tsp Corn Starch
1/2 cup water
2-3 Green Onions, diced

How

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok, add garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute. Add Chinese chili sauce (adjust for taste) and simmer for another minute. Add the drained tofu cubes and cook for a few minutes until the tofu absorbs the garlic mixture. Add the eggplant and stir-fry until cooked through.
Working with Tofu

Working with Tofu

Mix together soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, corn starch and water in a separate bowl. At this point add any additional vegetables and then the sauce mixture to the pan. Cook until vegetables reach desired tenderness. In the last minute, add green onion.
DSCF2872
Serve over brown rice and enjoy!
Spicy Love

Spicy Love

{Guest Post} Leaning on Others – A Post by Jackie

19 Jul

Hi Again,

Below is the second guest post for this week that I’m away on vacation and this one is from my dear friend, Jackie. Before you read a bit about her story, I wanted to share a bit about who she is to me. Jackie and I met while I was working at the University of Michigan Hillel. We met at a happy hour. We started chatting about who knows what and then she asked if I like to dance and well, the rest is a very sweet history. We spent 8 months going dancing, drinking tons of coffee, laughing until the point of tears and almost piddling our pants, supporting each other through the hell that is dating and, of course, eating. I went to live in Israel within a year of us meeting and yet, our friendship deepened even though we were several time zones away. Her ability to give advice and listen without judgement is so frikkin’ rare and I’m grateful for it. So, please do enjoy her story and recipe and note that this woman has eaten in the finest restaurants in the world so hers is a palate to trust. Shabbat shalom, Whitney

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My girl, Jackie, giving me blessings at my wedding.

Thank you to my dear friend Whitney for letting me share my story and recipe on this amazing site. It is both her tomato salad recipe and endless advice that have inspired this post.

I’m just about the last of my married friends to get pregnant. During the year I was trying to conceive I struggled with this fact, and was often filled with feelings of jealousy and anger. It seemed the whole world was fertile including all of my lovely girlfriends. It took a lot of personal work to get to a place where I could truly be happy for my friends and right around that point I finally got my double line.

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Pregnant at last after a year of heartache

Now that I am pregnant (thank you G-d!) I am thrilled to have this wealth of knowledge and support from friends. For every question, concern and query I have a variety of mom-friends to turn to. I never feel alone and am thankful for this team of women behind me. I’ve found the silver lining in being the last to be pregnant and the advice is already priceless.

20130719-150404.jpg
Jackie and I doing what we do best, dancing up a storm (circa 2007).

Just like in cooking, I am taking a little bit of this and a little bit of that from each of my friends. Some moms have been instrumental in building my registry. Other moms have shared with me their breast feeding stories and have helped me to be aware of future issues. Several moms have loaned me maternity clothes and my closet is full of fun outfits to wear. And every single mom friend has been willing to share her journey and hear mine. Thank you ladies for every text, gchat and phone call.

Being pregnant in the summer means trying to find light dishes that are filling and nutritious which is just what this salad is. I remember visiting my girl, Whitney, when she first moved to Miami. She told me she was hungry for a snack and I expected her to pull out a granola bar or maybe a few pretzels. Instead she diced a tomato, red onion, avocado and added feta cheese and olive oil. Delicious. To fill out this salad I add toasted Israeli couscous and some other tasty treats. It’s the perfect summer picnic salad, pregnant or not!

Jackie’s Couscous Salad inspired by Whitney’s snack salad

Ingredients
Israeli cous cous, 2 cups (for a party)
Water, 2 ¼ cups
Pad of Butter
Almond slivers, ⅓ cup
Tomatoes, diced
Seedless cucumber, diced
Avocado, diced
Yellow bell pepper, diced
Feta (pasteurized if you are pregnant)
Parsley, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Lemons
Olive Oil

How
1. Heat pan and add cous cous, shaking pan frequently until cous cous takes on a golden brown color.
2. Add water and salt and bring to a boil. Cover and turn to simmer until all liquid has absorbed. (Tip: You can also use veggie broth, or chicken broth and omit cheese to add additional flavor to your cous cous).
3. While the pearls are cooking, dice all your veggies. Add as much or as little as you want!
4. Toast almonds in a pad of butter. Enjoy the smell of melting butter.
5. When cous cous has cooled mix together with veggies, feta, toasted almonds. Now it’s time to grab a fork. Top with olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt, pepper and chopped parsley. Taste. Decide what you need more of (usually for me it’s lemon and salt). Adjust. Taste. Adjust. Etc.

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