Tag Archives: Life

No Fear: Spinach Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash and Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

10 Nov

squash 3

I do a lot of things even though I’m scared of them. I ride airplanes, even though I’m terrified of flying. I write this food blog even though I’m terrified of being judged negatively by my food. I got married even though I was terrified of marriage. I had a baby even though I was terrified of being tired all the time. On the other hand, I rarely drink because I have a fear of being out of control. I don’t break the rules because I have a fear of getting in trouble. But how much do we let fear manage what we do or don’t do?

So this thing happened about 6 weeks ago and it was/is a big thing. I’ve been keeping it to myself for a while but when the tech guy at school, who I’m not sure even knows my daughter’s name, came up to me to confirm the rumor of this big thing that happened 6 weeks ago, I think it’s safe to say that the ‘jig is up’. Six weeks ago, a professional opportunity dropped into my lap and I couldn’t ignore it. Try as I might, I just couldn’t ignore it. I wasn’t looking for a job. I have a job. I have a job I like that I think I’m pretty good at. I get to work with people I generally really like; who make me laugh out loud on a daily basis. But then I got a call offering me a huge professional opportunity, which would have been a no-brainer except for this one very big hiccup—the job is in LA. If you’ve been reading this blog at all, you’ll know my family and I live in Miami. We are here because my husband is in the middle of getting his PhD in Marine Biology from the University of Miami. We’ve been here almost 3 years. I like it enough. We’ve always said we didn’t want this to be our permanent place. Miami is nice and all but it’s not where we want to raise our children. Before this call, the only guarantee we had once my husband finished his PhD is that there is no guarantee. In the back of our minds, we always thought that we would go anywhere he got a post-doc or a job; be it Australia, Israel Hawaii or North Carolina. But we’re nearly 3 years into a 4.5 year PhD so we didn’t REALLY think about it but then this thing landed in my lap and then we were forced to think about it.

The job has all the things a person looks for in a job–prestigious school, giant promotion, room for growth, resources and is located in sunny LA. But there’s just this one thing. My husband can’t leave his PhD program. So the question came to be: How much are we willing to sacrifice for a job? How much are we willing to sacrifice for our family’s future? If I said ‘yes’, that meant that I would be in LA with Siona for a year without my partner; my love. If I said ‘no’, that meant that I was passing up a major opportunity for myself and also, a guaranteed future for my family. How does a person make that kind of decision?

First, you take a trip to LA. Who wouldn’t want to say ‘yes’ after an all-expense paid 4 days in Beverly Hills? Then you talk . . . and you talk . . . and you talk. Then you come to realize that the only reason you and your husband can come up with for NOT taking this opportunity is fear and damn it, I will not miss out on this opportunity of a lifetime because of fear. I refuse to live like that.

What will Shabbatot (shabbats) be like without my best friend for roughly a year? What will it be like in a new city and a new job without my partner? How will I be a ‘single’ parent for roughly a year? How will I do it? I’ve been asked these questions MULTIPLE times by MULTIPLE people and I don’t have any answer except, “It will be hard. It will be so. very. hard. But then, Gd willing, it won’t be. But in the meantime, I will need your support. I will need everything you’re willing to give.” I am terrified to start this new chapter without my partner standing beside me but the really incredible good news is that we will still be together, we just won’t be together all the time. I will need to remind myself of this on a constant basis.

So, in roughly 8 months time, at the end of June, we will pack up our Miami life, keep some of it here and ship some of it to LA. Then, we will load ourselves into an RV and drive across the country to LA (yes, we are driving cross-country to LA in an RV. Dreams really do come true. Those will be some fun posts, I hope.) because what the hell are we doing with this life if we’re not going to live it up, right?

Morning rituals with Dada.

Morning rituals with Dada.

Siona and JFK on our trip to LA (I did not mean for that to rhyme).

Siona and JFK on our trip to LA (I did not mean for that to rhyme).

So, with all that being said, life is going to get interesting and a bit tough around this time next year. I probably won’t have the time to make mini grain-free pies with mixed berries or Sriracha cheddar sauce but I will have time to make salads. I will probably live on salads. Why make life harder than it needs to be, right? Back in my single days, I lived on salads so I might need to bring out the old repertoire. But, I have to admit, the salads of my 20s were pretty boring and certainly would NEVER have contained roasted butternut squash or anything having to do with fruit. I also NEVER made my own salad dressings but now that I’m becoming more and more comfortable with my cooking skills, a salad dressing is a piece of cake.

Imperfect yet perfect

Imperfect yet perfect

After the roast.

After the roast.

Getting everyone on board.

Getting everyone on board.

Up close and personal

Up close and personal

Reading for a healthy feast.

Reading for a healthy feast.

Spinach Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash and Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

Salad Ingredients:

1 bunch of fresh spinach
1 medium butternut squash, roasted and cubbed
1/2 small purple onion, diced small
1/2 honey crisp apple, diced small
1/2 cup white cheddar cheese, shredded
Walnuts

Maple Dijon Vinaigrette:

1/4 balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1/4 olive oil
Sea salt
Pepper

Roasted Squash How To:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. While oven is heating, cut butternut squash in half. Use a peeler to peel the skin from the squash. Scoop out innards of squash and throw away (or save seeds to roast later). Drizzle olive oil or coconut oil onto the inside flesh of the squash. Place squash flesh side down onto the baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes (give or take). You’ll know it’s done when you stick a fork into the flesh and it meets no resistance (see picture above for post-roast squash). Let squash cool while you make the vinaigrette.

Maple Dijon Vinaigrette How-To:

Place maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, mustard and dashes of the sea salt and pepper into a small bowl and whisk until combined. Slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl while whisking so that all ingredients combine. Taste and add additional seasoning to suit your taste buds.

Salad:

Once roasted squash is cool, cut into 1 inch thick horizontal strips leaving the ends for using in a soup or sauce for later. Cut the strips into cubes. Assemble all ingredients except walnuts into a bowl. Drizzle with vinaigrette and crumble walnuts on top before serving.

Enjoy!

*PS – You’ll noticed the pictures don’t include the purple onions. In my Sunday Funday mom-haze, I completely forgot to put them on the salad until AFTER I took the pictures. I took the hit.

What’s Your Kosher?

8 Nov
Truth

Truth

*This post originally appeared in The Times of Israel on Oct. 31, 2013

So there I was, in 2008, newly kosher and eating a meal with my vegan friend and trying to get her to understand my confusion regarding her question.  You’re a vegan.  To me, that seems difficult and requires quite a bit of discipline and creativity.  But from her lens, however, veganism was a no-brainer; something that came naturally to her.  At that point in my kosher-keeping journey, I was still craving the occasional cheeseburger so it wasn’t as natural to me as it is now.  We went back and forth on the differences and similarities of keeping both of these diets.  Eventually, the conversation naturally flowed to the challenges of starting a new diet; expense, limitations, family judgement, trying to get creative with cooking, etc., when it hit me.  Vegan is her kosher.

Kosher used to be exotic.  Having a specialized diet that required shopping at specialty grocery stores, declining dinner invitations to certain restaurants or other people’s homes due to dietary issues and budgeting to afford diet-specific items was considered strange and even too much work to consider.  But in 2013, everybody’s got their kosher.  With the rise of diets including, but not limited to, gluten-free, grain-free, vegan, paleo, strictly organic and/or only eating unpastruerized dairy products, etc., kosher just isn’t that strange anymore and I gotta say, I am a little relieved.  Heck, at this point, kosher is old news. So you can’t cook meat and milk together?  Big deal. Try going sugar-free, gluten-free and paleo.

Continuing reading at The Times of Israel

Potato Latkes with Sriracha Cheddar Sauce

3 Nov

latke 9I love Shabbat.  I love it so much.  With a job that requires A LOT of giving and taking care of others, my need for ‘me’ time and being able to be with my hubby and daughter is invaluable.  As a result, I get a little selfish with my Shabbat.  I don’t like sharing my Shabbat time.  I want to be able to sleep when I want, eat when I want and relax on my time-table (well, the time-table that is Siona’s time-table, but whatever).  I get kind of sweaty when a proposal is made to go out for Shabbat, even if the invitation is from a loved-one.  I can’t help it.  My first thought is generally whether or not the host will have coffee and then that thought is quickly followed by a frantic search for my ear plugs in case there is some sort of noise-issue that I’ll need to cancel out (I’ve mentioned my anxiety before, right?) Anywho, a happy compromise of my own selfish need to NEVER LEAVE THE HOUSE for one whole day has resulted in inviting our loved ones to us.  It works out perfectly.  I get to cook, sleep in my own bed and I KNOW there will be coffee. This Shabbat we hosted our dear friends, Zak and Batsheva (they happen to be bakers.  They happen to have brought AMAZING food with them).  It was a wonderful Shabbat.  I am so grateful.

Almost bedtime

This picture has no context within this post. I just love that face.

Adjustments.

Sand check.

And yet, here it is, 2pm on Sunday and all that rest from Shabbat has gone out the window.  Thanks to the awesomeness that is the ending of Daylight Savings Time, Siona woke up at ‘new’ 5:30.  Rather than wallowing in being awake WAY too early, we decided to make some delicious lemonade out of extremely tired lemons and hit the beach for a sunrise picnic breakfast.  So yes, it’s 2pm, I’ve already lost any remaining ‘restful’ feeling I may have had from this past Shabbat but I’m already in love with this weekend so much.  And if an amazing picnic breakfast wasn’t enough, we topped this off with an insanely decadent lunch of latkes with Sriracha cheddar sauce.  I’m sure I’ve written about my insane love of cheese fries before, right?  Just as a recap, I love them.  I love them so much. If you’re thinking to yourself, “Well if you love them so much, why don’t you just marry them?”  I would.  I would so marry cheese fries.  It had been a while since I enjoyed a nice basket of cheese fry-glory and my craving was getting intense.  And then it hit me.  Holy crap.  Latkes.  Thanksgivukkah is just around the corner.  I need to get a latke recipe out there and latkes are basically Jewish French fries.  Might as well make some latkes and top them with a boat-load of cheddar sauce so, badda boom badda bing, latkes with cheddar sauce. And while I was on the subject, might as well throw some Sriracha in there and make it a party, right? Right.

Hello lemons, meet your lemonade.

Hello lemons, meet your lemonade.

And now for your latke-viewing pleasure . . .

The cold soak prevents browning -- it's a MUST.

The cold soak prevents browning — it’s a MUST.

Fried Friends

Fried Friends

Nothing left to say.

Nothing left to say.

latke 4

Bring it on.  Bring it ALL on.

Bring it on. Bring it ALL on.

We survived.  Let's get decadent.

We survived. Let’s get decadent.

Potato Latkes with Sriracha Cheddar Sauce (latke recipe adapted from The Shiksa )

Latke Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 large white onion
  • 3/4 cup matzo meal or bread crumbs
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbsp potato starch
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • Sunflower oil for frying (about 1 1/2 cups)

Latke Directions:

Peel the potatoes, then grate them using a hand grater or food processor shredding attachment with fine holes (small shreds). I really recommend using the food processor, it saves a ton of time and will help you avoid onion tears when grating the onion.  Place grated potato into a bowl and immediately cover with cold water.

Meanwhile, grate the onion using the same grater or attachment you used for the potatoes (fine holes for small shreds).  Drain the potato shreds in a colander. Rinse and dry the bowl used to soak the shreds and set aside.  Place drained potato shreds and grated onion in the center of a clean tea towel or multiple layers of cheesecloth. Wrap the shreds up in the cloth, twisting the cloth to secure the bundle, and squeeze firmly to remove excess liquid from the shreds.

Pour potato and onion into the clean dry bowl. Stir the shreds with a fork to make sure the grated onion is evenly mixed throughout the potato shreds.

Add oil to a large frying pan that reaches a depth of 1/8 inch. Heat slowly over medium to about 365 degrees F. While oil is heating, use the fork to stir the matzo meal, , beaten eggs, Sriracha, garlic powder, salt and pepper into the potato and onion shreds. You can add more seasoning as you go.  I find the oil over powers so I add more seasoning as I go. You can also sprinkle on more salt to taste after cooking, if desired. Take care to make sure the egg and seasonings are fully mixed throughout the potato shreds.

Scoop mixture out with large kitchen spoon (usually I loose the spoon after a while and just get in there with my hands). Squeeze the mixture firmly in your palm over an empty dish to remove any excess liquid. (If you squeezed the potatoes out thoroughly in the cloth, you may not have much excess liquid to squeeze out).  Shape the potato mixture into a tightly compacted disk.

Place the disk carefully into the hot oil. Latkes can break apart at this point, they’re very delicate. If you can get them into the hot oil in one piece, chances are they will stick together – frying them is like the “glue” that holds them together. It takes a gentle touch, and it may take you some practice to get the “feel” for it.

The oil should sizzle, but not pop when the latke hits it; if the oil jumps wildly or smokes, it is too hot. If it only bubbles weakly, the oil is not hot enough. Use the first latke to test the oil temperature, and don’t fry a whole batch until the temperature is right.

Continue shaping the latkes in this way, using 2 tablespoons of potato mixture for each latke. Fry in batches of 4-5 latkes at a time (no more than that – don’t crowd the pan) for 2-3 minutes per side until brown and crispy. Note: If your latkes aren’t holding together, stir more matzo meal into the mixture, 2 teaspoons at a time, until the batter “holds”. You can also add another egg, if needed.  Remove the latkes from the frying pan and let oil soak on paper towel.

Sriracha Cheddar Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 tbsp Sriracha (add more as needed)

How:

Melt the butter in a 4-quart sauce pan over medium heat.  When the butter has melted and has started to bubble, whisk in the flour; whisk continuously until smooth, about 1 minute.  Gradually whisk in the milk until no lumps remain.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook milk mixture, whisking frequently, until it thickens and bubbles, about 3  minutes.

Remove sauce pan from the heat and by the handful, stir in the cheeses allowing all of the cheese to melt into the sauce before adding more.  Stir in the Sriracha until well combined.  Taste and add more Sriracha as needed.

Pancakes and Problems: Things get spiced . . . vanilla chai-spiced.

16 Oct

Hello!  It has been AGES since my last post and if you follow this blog, you might be wondering to yourself, “Ummmm, Whit, didn’t you like, make a big deal about unveiling a new and improved, self-hosted blog?”  Yes! I sure did.  Here’s the long of the short of it:  I hired a designer via Etsy.  The designer was less than awesome.  I got my buddy, Yosef from This American Bite on the case but he’s super swamped and I’m anxious to get back to blogging, especially with Thanksgivukkah just around the corner so I made an executive decision to take a step back and hold off until after the holiday season.  Here’s hoping . . .

In the meantime, I’m back to posting and it feels so right.  Since I last posted to this blog, a lot of fun things have happened.  I was asked to become a permanent blogger for the Times of Israel (posts can be found here and here).  I also had another post over at Kveller.com (find it here), was interviewed by the Huffington Post for an article on meditation (that can be found here) and I’ve been asked to do my very first cooking demo for a synagogue here in North Miami Beach (details to follow).  I’ve also been swamped at work, took the family and went to LA for 3 days and hosted our very first Simchat Torah Wing Ding (9 lbs. of wings, 4 different kinds of flavors, and lots of hungry friends.  It’s how we Southern Jews celebrate the completion of reading the Torah).  Life has been lovely and chaotic, to say the least.

In all the time since I last posted, I’ve also been doing a lot of reading and of course, a lot of thinking.  Before I stepped off-line for a bit, I wrote a post that sparked a lot of debate/comments/criticism/assumptions.  I had been having a lot of mixed feelings and confusion over my voice as a writer as well as my place on the blogosphere.  The post (found here) was supposed to be about just that–reflections on where I fit in as a blogger as well as a space to vent some frustrations about what can happen when folks make assumptions on the choices other people make or rather, the assumption that other people even HAVE a choice.  Of course, the irony is that it was completely misread as a judgement piece on other people’s choices as well as a knock to mothers who stay at home.  It was celebrated by mama’s who work out of the home and ripped apart by mama’s who work in the home. I was accused of being ‘intense’ (as if that’s a bad thing?).  I was accused of judging people’s choices (an act of which is against everything I believe to be whole and true, both as a social worker and a human being, though I do not claim to be void of the fault of judgement from time to time).  It was rough y’all.

Lazy Sundays

Lazy Sundays

I’ve been reflecting on this piece off and on since I posted it all those months ago.  I take full responsibility for my part in it’s misinterpretation and have been questioning how it was written ever since–was I inarticulate? Could I have been more clear in defining ‘privilege’ as I see it? Should I have even used that word?  And while I was trying to find clarity in the piece by owning it and moving forward, I read two blog posts from two separate bloggers that I felt brought me right back to square one.  The first was from fellow Kveller.com writer, Tamara Reese entitled, “Tell a Friend: You’re a Good Mama” (found here) and “You’re a stay-at-home mom? What do you DO all day?” by Matt Walsh (found here).  The first post was a gorgeous and emotional story about the author’s observations of new parents and how she looked at the mother, who was apologizing to folks in a restaurant for the fact that her newborn was crying, and told her “You’re a good mom”.  Tamara goes on to tell the story of how someone did that for her once and it was all she could do to not break down when she heard it; not realizing she needed to hear it so badly.   Matt Walsh on the other hand, wrote a post proclaiming his love and admiration for his wife, who works in the home as a stay-at-home-mom.  His tone was harsh (that’s OK, it’s his blog. He gets to do that) in that he supports the hell outta his wife and in making the statement that as an employee,we are all just a number.  I don’t disagree with him.  It’s harsh, but I completely agree.  I feel that daily.  But that’s beside the point.  Both of these bloggers mentioned ‘mommy wars’.  Both of these bloggers felt the need to uplift mamas.  They put themselves out there to speak on behalf of an entire population of people who, on the day-to-day basis, feel completely vulnerable and I thought to myself, well, why? Not, ‘Why do women feel vulnerable’.  I get that.  I completely get that.  But why are there ‘mommy wars’ (man, that term makes me want to vomit)?  Why do so many of us bloggers feel the need to go on a rant (me included and yes, I get the irony of this post)? Why do so many of us bloggers feel the need to support or to criticize in the name of mommyhood?  And then I wondered if it was all a vicious cycle. By blogging about parenting and our own experiences with it, in an effort to connect to like-minded parents, do we run the risk of alienating other parents who feel like they don’t fit in line to exactly what it is you’re blogging about.  Meaning, if I blog as a mom who has a full-time job outside of the home as well, is it assumed that I don’t support moms who work full-time inside the home?  Am I aligning myself I didn’t even know it?

I HIGHLY doubt that when my mom was raising two kids in the 80s and 90s she gave two poops about what style of parenting she ascribed to or whether or not she would be ridiculed if she bottle-fed or if co-slept with her baby or not.  Her network of moms were not online but in her community or within her family and when she had a question about something baby-related, she didn’t type it into ‘Google’ and have a million and one confusing and potentially alienating ‘answers’ or blogs pop up touting the benefits of this sleep method or this parenting style.  She was just trying to do the best she could and survive. Dude, that’s what we’re all trying to do, right?

They take self-portraits

They take self-portraits

I worry that, as a blogger, I might be part of the problem.  I might be putting something out there that’s causing the escalation of vulnerability do to the assumption that I know what the hell I’m doing.  I blog about my family and the trials and tribulations I go through as a parent who works outside the home because it’s an outlet but I realize that I have not been clear, and I mean CRYSTAL clear, about one thing—I am not an expert at parenting nor do I claim to be.  I studied early childhood development in social work school but I promise you this, the only thing I’m remotely close to being an expert in when it comes to parenting is parenting my own child and I’m fairly certain that I’m only about 70% expert on that.  I worry that all us bloggers, well, we might be exacerbating an already vulnerable situation—parenting.  I post pictures of my child on Instagram and those pictures are generally of her smiling and being happy.  I don’t post pictures of her when she’s awake at 2AM with a fever or when she’s having a meltdown for some reason because well, a) I don’t have that kind of time and b) I don’t want to post pictures of her in that state.  And yet, I do worry that by only posting us in the golden sunlight of Miami or hipster-ed out in our local coffee shop, I might be exacerbating that thing that might be sparking all these rants or  ‘mommy wars’—- that I’ve got it right and you should be me or that you should at least strive to be as seemingly cool, calm and collected as I am as a parent.

And thus, back to the original point and post.  Folks knee-jerk reacted to that first post.  Folks assumed because I write through one lens that I must be attacking or at least ridiculing the other.  I can’t promise I don’t have a little bit more sympathy for working moms because I can relate more and I don’t fault anyone for assuming that because it’s true and that’s OK. I think we all have junk.  I think we all have guilt; such nasty, nasty guilt, and it makes us vulnerable and it makes us feel like we have to defend our choices.  I also think we are all just trying to do what’s best for the ones we love and are trying to survive.

Sometimes we do a little better than survive :)

Sometimes we do a little better than survive 🙂

Whole Wheat Chai-Spiced Vanilla Pancakes

The players

The players

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1-2 Tbsp honey (you can also use regular ol’ sugar)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp (and a bit) of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 egg
  • ½  Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp ground all spice
Hello lovers

Hello lovers

How:

Whisk together flour, honey, baking powder, salt  and spices in a small bowl.   Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together almond milk, oil, vanilla and egg.  Add flour mixture to liquid mixture and stir just to moisten.  It’s OK if there are a few lumps.  Scoop out pancake batter using an ice scream scoop and pour out onto griddle or large frying pan.  Cook pancakes on a griddle over medium heat.  Pancakes are ready to flip once they start to bubble on top.  Serve hot with big slap of butter.

Don't be afraid to sprinkle that glorious stack of pancakes with a dash of cinnamon.

Don’t be afraid to sprinkle that glorious stack of pancakes with a dash of cinnamon.

I’m Dating a Holiday.

11 Sep

How can it be that it’s only Wednesday? Working at a school and having a schedule that is consistently packed makes the days fly by but for some reason, this week is dragging on. I guess I should celebrate this fact as I am very very very nervous about Yom Kippur this year. Am I allowed to admit that? Eh, who cares. I just admitted it. Yes, I’m extremely nervous about it this year. You see, I did not fast last year. Last year’s chagim (holiday), which occurred roughly 2 months after giving birth, were kind of like that ‘chagim that never were’ for me. I was so sleep deprived and so wrapped up in my own depressive, post-partum state that the chagim seemed to just fly by. When Yom Kippur came, my husband went to synagogue and I stayed home with our smooshy baby. And, truth time, I strapped that baby to me and watched TV and made myself a tofu dog with cheese and mustard on a whole wheat bun. In fact, I made two of them. I’m not proud of this. I’m really and truly not proud of it. I look back at where I was emotionally and mentally just one year ago and my stomach starts to do flips. Rosh Hashanah used to be my favorite holiday of all time but when I realized that Rosh Hashanah and truly, all of the chagim, would look and feel different in this new role as ‘parent’, I kinda let it over take me and I just let the whole thing fly by last year. I gave myself excuses like, “I’m too tired”, or “I have nothing left to give this year”. You know, the things we say to ourselves when we’re feeling guilty about something and what we really mean to say is, “I don’t want to.”

So this year, I need to rekindle the flame; to get to know the chagim through my new lens/identity. It’s kind of like when therapists recommend ‘dating’ a partner again if you feel like your marriage is struggling or a romantic spark needs to be rekindled. I’m going to start dating the chagim because we need some rekindling and well, I’m nervous. What if the holidays and I don’t mesh like we used to? And how does one rekindle the spark with a holiday? It’s not like I can take Yom Kippur out for a romantic dinner cause, well, it’s Yom Kippur and that’d just be wrong. So instead of the traditional ‘wining and dining’ I’m doing a lot of reading, a lot of reflection and a lot of forgiving myself for watching Bravo and eating a tofu dogs on Yom Kippur.

She's stealing my brunch!

She’s stealing my brunch!

Gluten-free mac n' cheese for my nephew.  Delicious.  Just don't overfeed it to your baby. #oops

Gluten-free mac n’ cheese for my nephew. Delicious. Just don’t overfeed it to your baby. #oops

Rosh Hashanah prep

Rosh Hashanah prep

We got our hair did.

New year. New do.

Therefore, I begin anew this year. I’m allowing myself to wipe the slate clean. I seek permission from no one but myself and I gave myself the ‘go ahead’ to move on from the tofu dog incident of 5773.

Rosh Hashanah was once again spent in Asheville, North Carolina with my mom as well as my brother and his glorious family. I did the majority of the cooking, which was very new. Usually, it’s mom’s house, mom’s food. But I think she was happy to let someone else take over for once in a while. There was a lot of beer drinking, a bit of sleeping and a lot of giggling, which helps when you need to rekindle an old flame. Oh, I have to give a big shout out of love to Bubbe Carol, my first official “fan”. I met Carol during Rosh Hashanah services when she leaned over to me and said, “it’s too bad it’s a holiday otherwise I would ask for your autograph.”. It was a very sweet moment for me and I want to publicly thank her for her support.

Anyway, the kiddo and I landed in Asheville a few days prior to everyone else so we had some time to explore the city and talk computer-talk with my mom, who is a wiz on the computer.

Therefore, the really nerdy, exciting news is that in about a week or so, this blog will look brand spanking new! As a result, I’ve got to go offline for a bit so we can transfer all of the content from this blog to it’s new home. But before we say ‘good-bye’ to http://www.jewhungry.wordpress.com forever, I wanted to give you, the reader, a GIANT shout-out for all your support, your patience, your feedback and, of course, your reading! I hope you please do comeback and keep reading. Thank you!

She eventually got up the nerve to actually pet him.

She eventually got up the nerve to actually pet him.

We visited our wedding Venue 3 years after the wedding -- with our plus 1.

We visited our wedding Venue 3 years after the wedding — with our plus 1.

Chocolate chip skillet cookie with pecan prailine ice cream and candied ginger from Wicked Weed Brewery.

Chocolate chip skillet cookie with pecan prailine ice cream and candied ginger from Wicked Weed Brewery.

Wise advice from the Well-Bred Bakery in Weaverville, NC where we stopped for cookies and coffee before heading home.

Wise advice from the Well-Bred Bakery in Weaverville, NC where we stopped for cookies and coffee before heading home.

The drive from Weaverville back to Asheville.  Hello trees!

The drive from Weaverville back to Asheville. Hello trees!

Mexican Quinoa Salad: A Recipe for Love from a Non-Cook

9 Sep

Hello Dear Readers,

Shanah Tovah, happy new year and happy Monday.  I hope everyone is feeling well.  Today’s guest post in the Love Series comes from a tiny bundle of energy and talent all rolled up into a Sarah Jessica Parker look-alike package known to me as my cousin, Ayelet.   I have two cousins, many distant cousins, but two first cousins—-Ayelet and her brother, Michael.  Ayelet and Michael (known to the family as Micki) grew up in Israel and emigrated to the US in 1989 to live their American dreams, which at the time, consisted of listening to Billy Joel and Vanilla Ice on rotation while wearing an obscene amount of neon.  Ayelet is one of the most passionate people I know, who about 3 years ago, left everything she knew to fulfill her dreams of becoming a certified dog trainer.  Below is the story of how she met her partner, Alex, and how, thank Gd, they finally wised up to decide to share their lives together, which works out really nicely for me because now we have another incredibly talented musician in the family.  Enjoy. Love, Whit xoxo

P.S. For a sample of Alex’s music and for purchasing information after you fall in love with his music, go here.

My husband and I met in 2006, but the stars took a few years to finally align for us.

On Our Wedding Day

On Our Wedding Day

In 2006, Alex and I were cast opposite each other in a 10-minute, 2-person play as a couple who lived together. At the time I was in a serious relationship so I just thought of him as a sweet guy from London. Once the play ended we loosely kept in touch for a few months and because he only had a Visa to stay in New York for a year he eventually moved back home.

However, while he lived in London, he was always coming back to New York for visits, and about every 6 months I would run into him on the street in random places. It was as if [insert your preferred Higher Power here] kept putting him in my path saying “What about this guy?,” “Hey, remember this guy?,” “HELLO! THIS is the guy.” But I was still in that relationship and so would say a quick hello and keep walking, never giving it a second thought. The last time we happened to run into each other was in the fall of 2009 when I was with said boyfriend and he was with his producer. After introductions the conversation went a little bit like this:

Me: What are you up to these days?

Alex: I’m recording an album and playing a lot of shows in this neighborhood. You should come some time.

Me: Sure! We’d love to!

When we parted ways I said to my boyfriend “We’re not going to see his shows. Everyone’s a musician or an actor here. Between all of the friends I go to support and my own stuff I don’t have time to start supporting someone else.” It was callous, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I said that, but there it is. We did, however, become Facebook friends.

Loving Life

Loving Life

A few months after that I broke up with the boyfriend, moved out and starting living the proper single New York City life. A few weeks into my Singledom I got a Facebook invite from Alex to a benefit concert for Haiti Relief. Since it was a fundraiser I knew I should go and support the cause, but before confirming that I would come I decided to check out his music to make sure I wasn’t committing to a night of terrible music. I found his MySpace page (remember those days?) and was blown away. I felt like such an ass for not supporting his music before. His music was brilliant. I was transfixed. A few weeks later I showed up to the show and it was sold out! I was so disappointed. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel. He had also invited me to his first record release show, which was a couple of weeks later, on Valentine’s Day. I got my dear friend Hannah to go with me and that’s when everything changed.

That night, as I was listening to him sing, I was blown away. Not just by his talent (of which there is an endless supply), but by his honesty. Besides my brother and father I had never met a man who was emotionally expressive. And here was Alex, pouring his heart out in the most beautiful way. It was like finding the holy grail y’all. Hannah looked at me, watching him perform, and she said “You like him!” to which I promptly and maturely answered “Shut up, no I don’t.” But she knew better and so did I.

That's my awesome cousin, smack in the middle, leading a flash mob at my wedding.

That’s my awesome cousin, smack in the middle, leading a flash mob at my wedding.

After the show we went to his after-party and briefly caught up. He asked me if I was married yet to which I said, “no, quite the opposite. I’m single.”

“In that case,” he said “I’ll be back in New York in October. We should go on a date then.” “Sounds good” I answered, totally blown away by the lack of games; and then late into the night, as I was leaving, he kissed me.

I was almost relieved he was leaving New York the next day because I was in no place to get into a relationship so soon after a serious one ended. The problem was, I couldn’t stop thinking about him. Constantly. Being with him felt like I was home. I was so thrown by this that I actually started practicing yoga to find my center. (For those of you who don’t know me, I really don’t like yoga, but I was desperate).

About a month after his departure I got a call from an international number. My family is all over the map so I thought it could be one of them. But the second I heard his voice say “hi” I knew it was him and my heart soared. He said he had been thinking about me. That was the first of many long conversations we’d have over the next year and a half.

He would come back to visit every now and then, but we both knew he didn’t have his Visa to stay, and we didn’t know when that would happen. Though we spoke a lot and we’d see each other when he was in New York, we both wanted totally different things. I was coming to the point where I was ready to date, settle down, and as I put it “find my person and make little people together.”

Alex was not there at all. On New Years Eve of 2010/2011 we had a frank conversation in which I told him it was clear we wanted different things, and that I would never ask him nor expect him to change, so we should call a spade and spade and stop pretending that this was going to be a relationship. I had joined J-Date to find the person I was going to marry and he was seeing someone casually back home because his plans were so up in the air, so why draw this out? I had no idea that being so bold, honest and willing to walk away would result in us actually becoming closer.

You know the whole “if you love someone let them go…” saying. Well I’m here to tell you it’s true. The phone calls started coming more frequently and the conversations became longer. I remained guarded and continued to date, but there was this inexplicable thing that was happening. It took a hold of me. Getting to know him was magical. He would listen and care about everything that was going on in my world. He would text me “Shabbat Shalom” on Fridays (something I discovered his mother does too, which I love so much). He loved his family and friends unabashedly. He was hilarious. He was honest.

It was a difficult balancing act: I couldn’t stop getting to know him, but I couldn’t allow myself to be drawn in if he didn’t want what I wanted. On his end, without my knowledge, he had been doing some serious soul-searching. He later told me that he wasn’t prepared to lose me and started talking to his friends in successful relationships to get advice. Then one late night he told me he loved me. I told him I loved him too.

A few months after that he came back to New York and we went on our first official date. That was October of 2011. In February of 2012 I went to London to meet his family. A few months later, in April, I went back again for another visit, during which time he got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife. Seven months after that we were married.

Celebrating Alex's Album Release

Celebrating Alex’s Album Release

I wake up every day thanking G-d for bringing me the most caring, loving, kind, generous, understanding, supportive man I have ever met. I have no idea what I ever did to deserve such love but I am thankful for it with every breath I take. I had no idea that love could be this good and that true partnership was a real thing.

The recipe I’m sharing with you is the first dish I ever made for Alex. In February of 2012, I turned 30.  Alex knows I like a good party and he went all out. The entire weekend was full of celebrations and surprises. I had never felt more loved. As a “thank you”, I wanted to give him something extra special. I decided the most special things are the ones that take time, effort and thought. For me, that was cooking. From the beginning of our relationship I told him I don’t cook and never will. I am terrible at cooking and I don’t enjoy it. He said that was fine because he would cook but I could see a tiny light go out in his eyes. So as a special thank you, what better way to show my appreciation than going out on a limb and cooking?!

This recipe is SUPER easy and so delicious. I hope you enjoy!

Quinoa from the "non-cook".  Looks good to me!

Quinoa from the “non-cook”. Looks good to me!

Mexican Quinoa Salad (Vegan/Parve)

What:

1 cup quinoa (I use multi color or red or a combination of whatever is around)

2 cups water

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

juice of 2 fresh limes (3 if they are small)

3/4 tsp cumin

pinch of red pepper flakes (optional – I don’t use them but it’s great for a kick)

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters

5 green onions, finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 avocado, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

The 'Players'

The ‘Players’

How:

Add quinoa to a saucepan with the water, cover, bring to boil and reduce to simmer – cook until all water is absorbed. 10-15 min.

Turn off the heat and leave it alone for 10-15 minutes. Remove lid, fluff with a fork and pour into a large bowl. Add black beans,tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and avocado. Separately, whisk together extra virgin olive oil, lime juice, cumin and red pepper flakes. Add salt and pepper. Toss dressing with quinoa mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

This salad can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two because the lime juice will preseve the avocado.

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

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