Tag Archives: Life

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

Mommy Blogs and Meatballs: A Blogdentity Crisis

24 Aug

This week was an interesting one. A rollercoaster of emotions, if you will. It was the first week back at school with the kiddos so I was up at 6ish every morning and at work by 7ish, which meant I was gone before Siona was awake. I was exhausted but running on buckets of coffee and adrenaline. Though it’s my 3rd year in my job as a school counselor, this was my first time at the first week of school in my job. The first year I was still in my original position as Student Life Director and the second year I was on maternity leave. I was nervous and overwhelmed. I also took over as ‘senior’ school counselor in the Middle School, which didn’t help my anxiety. I was trying to train our new counselor while tending to the needs of my students and colleagues. And though this past week I survived on adrenaline, iced coffee and water, I thrived on being able to be there for my students; being able to be there for one of my new 6th graders who sobbed for over an hour in my office in fear of Middle School and my 8th graders who are already freaking out about high school and college.

One of the many ridiculous things I do for my students -- dressing up as Effie from the Hunger Games for Color War back when I was pregnant.

One of the many ridiculous things I do for my students — dressing up as Effie from the Hunger Games for Color War back when I was pregnant.

While I was kicking a** and taking names in my role as school counselor, this blog wasn’t fairing so well and it was bringing me down. This summer allowed me a bit more freedom to be present for this blog, which made me really happy. I finally was able to interview my friend, Zak the Baker. I made the fried chicken recipe that had been living in my head and I finally was able to write down my own love story. It felt wonderful to have the time to do all that. But this past week brought on the realization that, once again, my free time is extremely limited. And then, on Thursday morning, I received an email in my inbox from a blog I follow (or, now, used to follow). The blogger is an incredible writer and, in my estimation, would fall into the category of ‘mommy blogger’. She writes about her adventures with her young daughters set against the back drop of Montana. Her Instagram account should be sponsored by the visitors bureau of Montana, the pictures are that incredibly beautiful. But that’s besides the point. This post was about her living her dream of quitting her job so that she could be home with her girls. As beautiful and ethereal as this post was, it also enraged me a bit. I felt badly about having these feelings of anger. And, as I like to remind my students, no one can “make” a person feel anything. Instead, we allow these feelings to occur. We give them life and this post was bringing all sorts of life to some not-so-nice feelings for me that I really needed to get to the bottom of.

I don’t know this woman in the slightest. I follow her on Instagram and read her posts but I don’t know her. I don’t know her except what she wants me and the rest of the world to know about her. And please don’t misunderstand me, she seems like a lovely person. It’s not necessarily her that I take/took issue with. I think this post came at the wrong time for me, personally. I had barely seen my daughter all week. I only saw her for an hour on Wednesday, between coming home from work and then having to go back for a parent night. One hour out of 24. And here I was, reading a post about how this woman got to leave her day job and now spends her days going on adventures with her daughters. So yes, bad timing.

She gets me.

She gets me.

I ended up writing a comment about how I thought her post was beautiful but that it was also difficult to read as I too dream of being at home with my daughter but I can’t. She wrote back because that’s the type of blogger she is; always wanting to be there for her readers. But what she wrote back enraged me even more. She responded with all the write buzz words/phrases, ‘walking in the path of your dreams’, ‘walking with your heart and soul’, like a new Oprah for the hipster mommy-set.

And while I appreciate the conversation, what I realized this morning, after finally getting a solid 11 hours of sleep (Gd bless Shabbat), was that not anywhere in her post or in her response did she talk about the privilege of being able to stay at home and ‘live your dreams’. And then I realized that though this blog of mine is technically a food blog, I sometimes delve into the ‘mommy blog’ world, which, I now clearly understand, is not the place for me. My sister-in-law, Caitlin, of The Joy of Caitlin, had a very sweet post published by the Huffington Post this week. She worked really hard to get it out there—posting it all over the place, and she absolutely deserved to have it posted. So I thought, why not follow her lead and try to get more stuff out there. I tried posting the only post I could find in my blog archives that I though would fit into the ‘mommy blog’ or parenting category. I took 20 minutes out of my work day on Friday to post it on various parenting/mom pages and bloggers but it just didn’t fit. Hell, one of them flagged me for spam, which I thought hilarious. But with that notification that someone thought my post was ‘spam’ came the realization of what I was doing. I was trying to fit a pentagon into a round hole. This community is not for me. I love reading my food blogs and I am so appreciative of the community of food bloggers I’ve become close to via the Kosher Connection and Instagram but the circle on mommy/parent bloggers is another realm and though a lot of them speak of light and peace, the general feeling I have is that it’s a competition of who has the most hipster dressed kids and appearance of a near-perfect life. And if you’re thinking I sound a little angry or frustrated, I am. In all my mommy/parenting blog reading, I have not once read the term ‘privilege’. Not once has one of these bloggers spoken about the privilege of staying home; the privilege of breastfeeding; the privilege of eating organic or ‘clean’. Every time one of these parent bloggers posts a meme on their Facebook page about the evils of formula or GMOs or baby cereal or the like, I wonder if they’ve ever thought about the countless moms and dads who don’t have the privilege of buying GMO-free, or organic or whose breasts didn’t quite work out as expected; much less stay at home to be with their children, and what that must feel like for that parent on the other side of their meme. Have they ever thought about privilege? Thanks to social work school, I think about it all the time. It’s a privilege I have this computer so that I can write down my thoughts. It’s a privilege that I have amazing friends and family who support me. It’s a privilege I can afford daycare and still have enough cash to pay rent and occasionally shop at Whole Foods. People don’t like thinking about privilege because they feel they have to apologize for it, but that’s not how I see it. If you can acknowledge it and not take advantage of it or acknowledge it and be self-aware enough to recognize what it means for those who don’t have it, well then, that’s a different story. That I can support.

Late-night blogging.

Late-night blogging.

And so when this particular mommy blogger’s post landed in my inbox I thought if I calmly comment, maybe I’ll get over my feelings of frustration. But I didn’t. In fact, it got a little worse for me. When the blogger responded to my comment that she advocates for the ability to ‘change our minds’, I thought to myself, ‘wow, what a privilege it is to even think that that’s always an option’. I can change my mind until I’m blue in the face but the fact of the matter is that I can’t afford to stay at home with Siona. And what would I miss if I did (besides food, shelter, health insurance and the like)? I’d miss the amazing community of people I’m surrounded by at work. I’d miss learning from them and laughing with them. I’d miss the diversity of thoughts they bring to my life. Some of these people are women with children, some of them don’t have any children. Some are married and some are not. Some of these people are men. Some of these people are white, some black, some Jewish and some Catholic. Some or straight and some are gay and the majority of all these folks are humble and self-aware. And, just like in real, I crave that diversity of mind and spirit in my online world as well. So, I’m giving up on my attempt to fit into the mommy world and instead will just be whomever it is I am . . . just like in real life. I will give time to the blog and let it develop organically (no pun intended) into whatever category it fits into, if at all. I will stop following all these other mommy’s on Instgram whom I first started following way back in the depths of post-partum depression, when I needed reminding that children do eventually sleep and that parenthood can be fun. We just don’t seem to have anything in common anymore. I will stick to food and family and see what comes.

And as for the recipe? Well, these are my most favorite meatballs. They are not gluten-free, but could be. I sometimes make them with veal and sometimes a mixture of veal and ground beef but usually with ground turkey. They are kind of like Thanksgiving all rolled into a delicious ball. I hope you enjoy and I thank you for reading.

For her.

For her.

Thanksgiving Meatballs:

What

1 package of ground turkey
3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 pint of button mushrooms, diced
1 clove of garlic, diced
Dried bread crumbs, preferrably challah, diced into small chunks (should be bigger than store-bought bread crumbs but not bigger than croutons)
1 egg
Thyme
Sea Salt
Pepper
Rubbed Sage

For the Stove Top*

Vegetable or Coconut Oil
1/4 Cup all-purpose flour

*I go back and forth between frying and baking these meatballs . . . depending on my mood. If you do decide to bake rather than fry, bake on a greased baking sheet on 375 for roughly 20 minutes

Those Colors!

Those Colors!

Those Look Like Ping Pongs, right?

Those Look Like Ping Pongs, right?

How:

Pour the olive oil in a deep frying pan with a flat surface. Let sit on medium heat for a few seconds. Saute the onions until transparent. Add the carrots and stir, sauteeing until carrots are golden. Add the garlic and continue sauteeing for another minute. Finally, add the mushrooms an saute for another minute or two. Sprinkle the mixture with a dash or salt and pepper, stir and pour into a separate bowl and set aside.

Preparing for Frying or Baking

Preparing for Frying or Baking

In a large bowl, combine ground turkey with the vegetable saute mixture, bread crumbs, egg, a dash more salt, pepper, thyme and finally, the rubbed sage. Stir mixture until well-combined (I use my hands and really get into there). Meanwhile, pour your flour into a small bowl and set on the stove near your frying pan. Also, in preparation, set out a plate with a few layers of paper towels in order to soak up some of that yummy grease after frying. After setting up, roll your meatballs into balls the size of ping pongs and set on a plate.

Post-baking

Post-baking

Hello little friends.

Hello little friends.

Once done shaping your meatballs, place frying pan on the stove over medium-high heat and pour in enough vegetable (or frying oil of choice) oil to cover 1/2 inch of the bottom of the pan. Roll each meatball into the bowl of the all-purpose flour so that each meatball is lightly covered in a flour dusting. Place 5 – 6 meatballs in the pan for frying, making sure to cook evenly on each side, giving about 4 -5 minutes of cooking for each ball. Once done, place on paper towel for grease-soaking.

A Shabbat staple

A Shabbat staple

(Black-Eyed) Peas + Love

15 Aug
Wedding  light

Wedding
light

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

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

Love is Funny

Love is Funny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Chef came over to me.

You want the pork special without the meat?

Yep. I just want the black eyed peas.

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

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

No.

Thank you.

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

You just want a bowl of black eyed peas?

Yes, please.

Ummm. Okay.

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

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

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

Give Peas a Chance

Give Peas a Chance

Hoppin’s John

WHAT:

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

HOW:

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

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

Hot and Fresh

Hot and Fresh

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

Flamingos + Pizza + Babies. Now That’s a Party

13 Aug
Someone was bound to get naked.  Oh, also celebrating one of the few pictures where I'm not DROWNING in sweat. Dang Miami.

Someone was bound to get naked. Oh, also celebrating one of the few pictures where I’m not DROWNING in sweat. Dang Miami.

I survived my child’s first birthday. I survived and I thrived. And let’s be honest, the only reason it was a little bit stressed was me. I can’t do ‘simple’. I really can’t. It’s not in my DNA. Gd bless you if you can do simple. I admire and salute you but I just can’t do it. I mean, you should have seen my Bat Mitzvah. Of course there was a theme (Hollywood). Of course there was a color scheme (black, silver and magenta) and of course, there was a DJ who dressed up like Michael Jackson and did an entire choreographed dance to a medley of Michael Jackson through the years. I mean, this was THE Bat Mitzvah to end all Bat Mitzvahs. So you see, the daughter raised by a mother who bought life-size cut-outs of movie stars and a hot pink sequenced top hats and feather boas as decoration for her daughter’s Jewish coming-of-age party wasn’t going to grow up to tread lightly into her own child’s birthday parties. Oh no. Not a chance.

Grain-free peppermint chocolate chip brownies. One of my most requested recipes.

Grain-free peppermint chocolate chip brownies. One of my most requested recipes.

There was a theme (retro-Palm-Springs-tacky-chic). There was kind of a color scheme (pink, yellow, green). I had made all the decorations, from the “Happy Birthday” sign to gluing about 50 individual sea horse cut out onto toothpicks for cupcake toppers. Part of the reason I made everything is because I can’t in good conscience pay $10 for a happy birthday sign when I can pay less to make my own. Same goes with the cupcake toppers. Paying for things I can make hurts my insides a little so, of course I had to make that stuff. And of course, I made the food. Oh the food. The baking/cooking started at 8:45 on Saturday night and didn’t stop until 1:55 on Sunday afternoon (the party started at 2PM). My husband and I went back and forth with what to serve folks for a late afternoon party — I wanted to go dairy so that I could do dairy cupcakes. We settled on homemade pizzas of varying fun flavors coupled with your usual hummus, veggies, fruit, etc. I also made mini strawberry cupcakes using the Sprinkles Cupcakes recipe, which I highly recommend. And since we have a few loved ones with a grain-free diet, I ended up making mini grain-free pizzas using roasted eggplant and zucchinis as the ‘crust’ as well as grain-free, vegan peppermint chocolate chip brownie bites (I used my own brownie bites recipe, found here, and took out the oats and added a few drops of peppermint oil and vegan chocolate chips). All-in-all, I felt really proud of the party we created to celebrate the first year of life of our sweet girl. But honestly, I do love the planning and the arts and crafts and whatnot but that’s not why I do it all. I go through all this big planning because I also want to celebrate the people who helped make her first year of life so frikkin’ wonderful. Yes, I do love a good theme party and yes, I love cooking for people but more than anything, I love showing the people in our lives my ever-lasting appreciation through food and through taking care of them, even if it is for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. My hope is that they walked away knowing that I love them for loving our girl. And if they happened to take a few dozen extra mini cupcakes away with them as well, that’d be OK too.

Below is a photo journal of the party as well as a few recipes I created for our dear friends. I hope you enjoy!

Grain-free Pizzas

Ingredients:

1 large roasted eggplant OR 1 large, thick zucchini cut into 1.5 inch thick rounds
Marinara Sauce
Cheese of choice
Fresh basil
Oil for baking sheet

How:

Cut eggplants into 1.5 inch rounds and dust with coarse kosher salt. Leave on for an hour to draw out moisture. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Pat down with paper towel. Place on greased baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for roughly 30 minutes – keep eye out for over-browning. Once roasted, top with sauce and cheese — I used a standard marinara and topped some with sheep’s milk feta and some with mozzarella. Top with chopped fresh basil.

Out of the oven

Out of the oven

So. Much. Cooking.

So. Much. Cooking.

I made 3 different kinds of pizzas using puffed pastry dough as the crust — I couldn’t make the crust too. I wasn’t that much of a glutton for punishment. Anyway, the toppings were as follows:

1) Tomato sauce with mozzarella, roasted eggplant, roasted garlic and fresh basil

2) Tomato sauce with mozzarella, sheep’s milk feta and corn

3) BBQ Sauce, black peppercorn Monterrey Jack with caramelized purple onions

Roasted eggplant and garlic pizza.

Roasted eggplant and garlic pizza.

My 1 year old

My 1 year old

We still have 30 of these in our refrigerator

We still have 30 of these in our refrigerator

My Queen

My Queen

Just a bunch of moms being awesome by the pool

Just a bunch of moms being awesome by the pool

They really have no clue what's going on

They really have no clue what’s going on

Ice-cold beverage, anyone?

Ice-cold beverage, anyone?

After an hour in the pool, she was ready to party.

After an hour in the pool, she was ready to party.

Aunt Misty was there too! I bet she didn't even know it.

Aunt Misty was there too! I bet she didn’t even know it.

Seriously, Uncle Mo, do my shades make me look too ironic?

Seriously, Uncle Mo, do my shades make me look too ironic?

Cupcake ecstasy

Cupcake ecstasy

I'm not sure what it is, maybe it's the beard, but Siona is captivated by Zak.

I’m not sure what it is, maybe it’s the beard, but Siona is captivated by Zak.

One of those people I hope I can at least make half as happy as she makes me.

One of those people I hope I can at least make half as happy as she makes me.

Life Buoy: Love + Venetian Pizza

8 Aug

The second in our August Love Stories comes from Katia Bishops, the incredibly talented creator and blogger of IAMTHEMILK. I was blessed to discover Katia through several avenues, one being that of fellow blogger and my sister-in-law, The Joy of Caitlin. Katia speaks from the soul and does so with humor and authenticity. She doesn’t try to push any agenda but rather, wants to tell a story; her story.

Katia is a mother of two boys, 4 Year Old and 11 Month Old, currently on mat leave, fulfilling a lifelong dream of writing and making people laugh. And cry, which was not her dream nor intention. Katia writes about her children and occasionally about her husband, 37 Year Old. The serious stuff she writes about includes infertility, miscarriage and immigration. You can find her blogging at IAMTHEMILK (http://iamthemilk.wordpress.com) and on Twitter @KatiaDBE.

When I emailed Katia to ask her if she’d write for the series, I never thought she’d say ‘yes’. Not because she doesn’t seem incredibly kind in her writing, but because she’s like, famous and stuff in the blogging world. I admire her honesty and where she’s taken her blog so for her to agree to contribute and to add a recipe, well, we’re in for a treat folks.

Katia and Husband

Katia and Husband

A Life Buoy

A life buoy thrown to me in moments of deep all encompassing darkness. Moments that represented my ultimate failure. Moments that represented my ultimate vulnerability. Moments when I felt most exposed to the elements, usually in the form of people, were cushioned by you.

I’m sure you know by now that my Achilles Heel is the need to avoid conflict and to please all in the name of being accepted, being embraced. Some of the worst moments in my life were when I failed at that. Like the time when I lost that opportunity in London after much abuse from my millionaire brat of a boss. You know what I’m talking about. Failure at excelling, failure at independence, failure at the hopes built around this. I felt like I was quickly falling into a dark and very deep and wide pit. I’m not sure that you know that it was your life buoy that pulled me out.

I’m sure you remember October 2011 when we’ve received the devastating news about my second pregnancy, the one we were fighting so hard for. You drove home from work and we sat side by side on the sofa. I was sobbing, no – bawling, and you were comforting me, us. In a sea of comforting words from everyone who knew, words that failed to achieve their purpose, you told me that night that you’ve already spoken to him. We knew it was him. And that you’ve asked him to come back strong and healthy. I’m not sure that you know that it was your life buoy that I put my head on, rested for a while and then kept swimming.

I know you know how much I like food and travelling. I’m not sure you know my favourite trip was the one we took back in the year 2000 to Italy. I know you remember Venice, wandering around for a while in search of where we would eat lunch. You probably remember walking into that busy restaurant that felt more like a huge, noisy dining room, the mature waiter running around like a headless chicken and seeming bothered by the fact that the patrons were interfering with his work. Remember how we walked back out into the rain and decided to look for some place else? You remember the little “hidden cove” of a restaurant under the tiny bridge, I know you do. It looked more like a room in somebody’s home with two tiny tables and it probably was. We sat down at one of them and the server came up to us and instead of handing us menus she said “Pizza. With everything”. Half asking, half confirming. I know that you know how much I appreciate important decisions being made by someone else. I know you remember that we agreed. I’m not sure that you know that pizza was the best meal I ever had.

Quatro Formaggi Venetian Pizza with Everything Recreated by me For New Year’s Eve When Ben Was 7 Months Old

Ingredients:

Sauce: Instead of tomato paste I use one of the pasta sauces you can find at grocery stores- Marinara, Bolognese – you can go as fancy or simple as you like. I usually go for the tomato basil one.

Cheeses: I always use more than one. Grated Parmesan (I prefer an actual slice of Italian Parmigiano cheese to the pre grated ones you buy at stores), mozzarella, feta and/or blue (don’t overdo it, they are both pretty salty).

Egg: One of my favourite things about the Italian pizza was the sunny side up. Add the egg 5-6 minutes before you finish baking.

Herbs: Parsley and Basil. I sprinkle them at the very end, about 3 minutes before you take the pizza out of the oven.

Quatro Formaggi with eggs

How:

I know you know how to make pizza and I don’t need to tell you the order in which you put the ingredients on. Make sure to preheat the oven to 450°F for at least 30 minutes.

Before the pizza goes in the oven, lightly sprinkle it with olive oil.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust is browned and the cheese is golden.

Coconut Milk-Soaked Southern Fried Chicken: A Kosher Love Story

2 Aug
Wedding day

Wedding day

As mentioned in my previous post, it was 2002 and I was fresh outta college and outta my first real relationship. The relationship was lovely and sweet and I’m blessed to have had it. It lasted nearly 3 years, which is like 10 years in college time. So when I awoke one morning in Washington, DC, where I was living (and finally in my own apartment. I was staying with my boyfriend when we broke up because my apartment wasn’t ready, which meant I had to live with my ex for the first 3 days of our break up. I do NOT recommend that), newly single, what I didn’t realize is that I was starting the journey of real world singlehood. Oh. Sh*t. Here’s the thing, common sense and ‘street smarts’, I had a plenty. I had buckets of it. I had traveled to Italy and lived on my own for a summer when I was 19. I had lived and worked in DC when I was 20 and I had studied abroad in Israel and traveled throughout Europe during my Junior year in college. I knew how to live in the world and not only survive, but do it pretty decently. These experiences taught me an immense amount about life. However, during about 2/3 of this time, I had a boyfriend so dating ‘common sense’, well, I didn’t even have a little sand bucket full of it.

These women are the reason I survived my 20s

These women are the reason I survived my 20s

And this woman - my Jackie - I spent a large amount of time in my 20s, on the dance floor with Jackie.  It was our cardio.

And this woman – my Jackie – I spent a large amount of time in my 20s, on the dance floor with Jackie. It was our cardio. (Montreal circa 2007)

When single and 'fabulous', always make sure you travel with a "Jessi(e)".  This is one of mine. I love her.

When single and ‘fabulous’, always make sure you travel with a “Jessi(e)”. This is one of mine. I love her (Chicago circa 2006).

Thus started roughly 6 years of dating the same dude, different name. I mean, to say I had a ‘type’ would have been too easy. I was an obvious open book. If you were tall, dark in features and in mood, worked in a nonprofit organization that didn’t afford you the time to date and freshly out of a relationship and so obviously not wanting a commitment it was almost painful? Well then, I was in love. There were, of course, special added bonus points for guys who worked in bars and guys who were Jewish but didn’t want to have anything to do with their Judaism. And tortured artist? Please, I could spot an unavailable, tortured artist from miles away and once spotted, chase the crap outta him and force him to date me. Around 2004, I had decided to only date Jewish guys after the break up of first love, who happened to not be Jewish. How not Jewish was he? He sometimes wore a t-shirt that read, “Presbyterians Do It Better”. And how could I forget that one time I was once called in to help out his sister who was doing a project on “the Jews” for a high school report. Bless her heart, the only visual she had was of a Hasidic man swinging a chicken over his head during the ritual Yom Kippur kaparah. “Just so you know”, I casually mentioned, “Not all Jews swing chickens over their heads in an effort for that chicken to pick up their cast-off sins”. Oy.

I tell you all this because when I met my husband, the only criteria he met off my checklist of dating doom was that he was tall and Jewish. But when a person spends 6 years unsuccessfully dating, there is a point where that person (read: me) has to recognize that maybe it was me. Maybe I was choosing the wrong type of guy. Could I have a future with the Jehovah’s Witness bar-back of the bar I worked night shifts at who couldn’t afford a phone? No. Was this because I was an elitist? Possibly. But it was most likely because we had nothing in common whatsoever. But then, when I was 28 and he was 22, I met my husband.

I was sick. I was so so so so so sick and dehydrated that I couldn’t cry tears because my body couldn’t produce the tears. I had landed in Israel a week before, ready for a year of living my own version of “Eat, Pray, Love”, when I contracted something that I have since diagnosed in all my medical expertise as dysentery (if this is sounding familiar, it’s because I wrote about that here). One day, my sweet friend, Jessie, had come to take me on a walk so I could buy water. On this walk, Jessie waved to a guy from across the street and called out to him, “Hey Yoni”. I thought to myself, “Girl, seriously? I can’t function. Let’s keep moving”. Except we didn’t keep moving because the next thing I knew, this Yoni character was crossing the street on the way to say “hello”. Ugh. I was in no mood to kibbitz (chitchat). I was in no mood for anything other than lying in bed, writhing around in self-pity and watching National Treasure for the 8th time (it was the only movie I had access to). But then, in an instant, Yoni was there and Jessie introduced us. Now, I know this is going to sound cheesy and dangerously close to my own Nicholas Sparks-moment, but please believe me when I tell you that in the moment we said “hello” to each other, I knew this was my man. It wasn’t the 101 fever or my extreme malnourishment or dehydration talking. It was Gd. I was meeting my besheret (soulmate) on the sidewalks of Jerusalem. Gd hand-delivered me my partner. “Pay attention”, I thought to myself, “This is your moment. This is the first time in your life when you can say in absolute certainty that Gd is talking to you. Listen up, honey”

Jessie and Yoni (a.k.a. Yonz) at his nephew's Pidyon HaBen, the week we met

Jessie and Yoni (a.k.a. Yonz) at his nephew’s Pidyon HaBen, the week we met

Because Yonz was studying in Eilat and I was in Jerusalem, we traveled back and forth every shabbat - sometimes alone but sometimes together.  Or, something together but alone. Sleepy head (Eilat - Jerusalem circa 2008)

Because Yonz was studying in Eilat and I was in Jerusalem, we traveled back and forth every shabbat – sometimes alone but sometimes together. Or, something together but alone. Sleepy head (Eilat – Jerusalem circa 2008)

He was 22. I was 28. He was from New Jersey and I from Georgia. He was raised in a Modern Orthodox family and I was the daughter of a non-Jewish dad and a Jewish mom; raised in a Reform Jewish household. He was in Israel studying to get his Master’s degree in Marine Sciences. I was contemplating becoming a Rabbi (that still cracks me up. I became a social worker instead. Close enough). Within roughly 2 weeks of that moment, we were inseparable.

These limbs are the reason our nearly 1 year old can reach the 3rd shelf of our bookshelf already.  (Jumping off the pier in Eilat circa 2008.  Don't we look like elegant reindeer?)

These limbs are the reason our nearly 1 year old can reach the 3rd shelf of our bookshelf already. (Jumping off the pier in Eilat circa 2008. Don’t we look like elegant reindeer?)

After he introduced himself, he helped us carry all our bottles of water back to my apartment, which was in the opposite direction of where he was going. The next day I casually mentioned to Jessie that if he might ask for my number, you know, it’d be cool if like maybe you wanted to, I don’t know, give it to him? The day after that, he did ask her for my number. Before he actually called though, I ran into him on my way to meet some ladies for a night out. He was eating ice cream with his dad and brother. When I stopped to say “hi”, he winked at me. I distinctly remember meeting up with my girls a few minutes later and telling them, “Ummm, that boy had the nerve to wink at me. I think I’m OK with that. Why am I OK with that?” Even they knew it was only a matter of time. Soon after that encounter he did call me and asked me if I wanted to go out for ice cream (he has since learned that this question need not be asked. The answer will always be ‘yes’), and the rest, as they say, is history.

He makes me laugh out loud ALL THE TIME.  Who wouldn't love that.

He makes me laugh out loud ALL THE TIME. Who wouldn’t love that.

There were a few, mainly on his side, who assumed that I, being the older woman, forced him into this relationship. There were definitely many who thought I pressured him to get married. But this is most certainly not the case and is, in fact, a complete misunderstanding of who we are as a couple and why I knew, after years of dating the wrong person, that this was the right person. Roughly 10 days after we met, my future husband looked at me and with all the confidence in the world, told me that he doesn’t date casually. In fact, when he dates its with an eye to the future. When he told me that, I spent about 2 minutes panicking and then got over myself. The panic was of the unknown; I was the child of divorce. I had only one long-term relationship. The only thing I knew was being alone (note: NOT lonely. Those are two very different things. I was never lonely while single and I have my wonderful female friends and family to thank for that) and here was this guy telling me he would be in it for the long haul if I was on board.

Needless to say, I was on board.

Love

Love

When I decided to keep kosher, I catalogued in my head all the meals I would miss because they couldn’t be kosher. Of the many items on that list, the top three were as follows:

1. Hot wings dipped in blue cheese dressing
2. Southern fried chicken soaked overnight in buttermilk
3. Chicken Philly cheese steaks

So, OK, the 1st and 3rd items I could get around but how in the world would I make a delicious and juicy fried chicken without the buttermilk!? If I could find the solution, I figured, it would be the perfect representation of my life in one not-so-healthy but not-so-unhealthy dish. And then it hit me. Coconut milk. If I soaked chicken overnight in coconut milk, would there be the same delicious juiciness? The answer was absolutely yes.

Coconut Milk Southern Fried Chicken

Ingredients:

2 Cans of coconut milk
2 Cut up chickens on the bone
Paprika
Garlic powder
Cumin
Black Pepper
Frank’s Red Hot sauce
A bunch of cilantro for garnish

*You will need a large brown paper bag for this recipe

For the Frying:
Vegetable, Canola or Peanut oil (pick your poison)
6 Cups of flour

How:

In a medium bowl, mix all of the dry spices (amount is to your discretion. I do not use measurements here but I would say heavier on the paprika, garlic and cumin). Add chicken and toss until well coated. Let the mixture stand at room temp (if cooking within 4 hours) or refrigerated in a large bowl for one hour. Pour enough coconut milk over the chicken to cover completely and stir in the hot sauce. Refrigerate up to 24 hours. Pour chicken into colander and allow excess coconut to drain.

After an overnight coconut milk soak

After an overnight coconut milk soak

Gold

Gold

Lay out several paper towel-lined plates to the side of your stove top. In a large brown bag, mix the flour with the same seasoning mixture used for the marinade– season well. One-by-one add the chicken pieces to the bag and shake, making sure they are thoroughly coated with flour on all sides.

The bag of goodness.  Every true Southerner shakes her chicken in the bag.

The bag of goodness. Every true Southerner shakes her chicken in the bag.

Fill a very large pot or Dutch oven 4-6 inches deep with oil (if you are blessed to have one of those thermometers, my research shows that the temp. should read 325 degrees. I went by dropping a little water droplet in the oil and seeing if it would sizzle).

Pure Gold

Pure Gold

I used a baking sheet lined with paper towels to soak up excess oil

I used a baking sheet lined with paper towels to soak up excess oil

With chopped cilantro for added flavor and flare

With chopped cilantro for added flavor and flare

Using tongs, grab each piece of chicken carefully and slip it into the oil making sure to shake off an excess flour. Make sure to keep the oil at a high temperature while cooking as adding the chicken brings down the heat level. Cook anywhere from 10 – 15 minutes for smaller pieces and 15 – 18 for larger or until golden brown and no redness at the bone, Remove to plate lined with paper towels to absorb the oil. Once all chicken is done, evenly combine your marinade spices, adding a tiny bit of salt to the mixture, into a small pinch bowl. Once evenly tossed, add the spice mixture to the finished chicken and garnish with chopped cilantro.

Isn't it pretty?

Isn’t it pretty?

*I enjoy my fried chicken with extra hot sauce while eating. You might too.

I could seriously look at pictures of fried chicken all day

I could seriously look at pictures of fried chicken all day

August Storytellers: 8 Love Stories, 8 Recipes, 1 Month.

1 Aug
Image

A ‘leaf’ designed by my sister, Heather, for my chuppah.

Around about two weeks ago, my sister-in-law, Caitlin, wrote a guest post for Jewhungry.  The post told the story of her journey to Judaism through food.  It also told the story of how she and her husband, my husband’s brother, met and fell in love (they are too dang cute, by the by).  It received a wonderful response; partly due to her ability to tell a great story but also because people loved the love story. I realized, also, that I had been posting a lot about love.  I posted Zak the Baker’s love story here.  And then there was the guest post from my bestie, Jackie, who wrote about her love and appreciation of her friends here.  There was a trend happening on Jewhungry and that trend was love.

The world needs a hug y’all.  The world needs a nice long, hard cry and then a big giant bear hug.  In the past several months there have been deadly forest fires, train crashes, plane crashes, celebrity drug overdoses and a whole host of really sad and heartbreaking events that are draining to the soul.  It’s too much.  Sometimes it’s just too damn much.  Ok, so maybe I need a nice long, hard cry and a big, giant bear hug.  Regardless, that post and the response got me thinking about how much people love a good love story.  I mean, think about it.  Nicholas Sparks is not the modern-day Hemingway, but he’s incredibly successful because the man knows how to tell a love story.  After every heartbreak in my teens and 20s, I would be devestated for a bit but then I would pick myself up and believe once again in love.  But I’m not just talking about romantic love.  It’s my love of adventure, travel and learning that pushed me to leave everything I knew and move to Israel for the year to study.   It’s my love of food that pushes me to continue experimenting in the kitchen and writing this blog even though I have an incredibly draining full time day job and my family to take care.  But love and passion are incredibly powerful emotions and they can push us to do amazing things (see examples above) but, also, admittedly, not-so-amazing things (oh my sweet, sweet 20s).

You try NOT thinking about love with this kind of scenery all around.

You try NOT thinking about love with this kind of scenery all around.

Just your average walk -- don't mind the baby on your back.

Just your average walk — don’t mind the baby on your back.

It also just so happened to be that love was weighing heavily on my mind at that time Caitlin’s post was published.  When that particular post was out, I was in Big Sky, Montana with my husband and our baby and I have to tell you, even with all the chaos of the world around us, waking up every morning to the stillness of the mountains and sipping coffee while watching the sunrise, I mean, how could one NOT think about love?  The warm fuzzies were alive and kicking in Montana.   Plus, this vacation was kind of an anniversary gift to ourselves and a birthday gift to our baby, who will be turning 1 in August, just 8 days before our 3rd wedding anniversary.

The picture my husband drew of us from about 2 years ago.  He draws like a 7 year old and yet, he's getting his PhD from University of Miami.  Go figure.

The picture my husband drew of us from about 2 years ago. He draws like a 7 year old and yet, he’s getting his PhD from University of Miami. Go figure.

He took me snorkeling when we were first falling in love.  (Gulf of Eilat in the Red Sea)

He took me snorkeling when we were first falling in love (Gulf of Eilat in the Red Sea circa 2008)

And, 5 years after that snorkeling picture we are married, we have our little girl and we are surrounded by wildflowers.  Not bad.

And, 5 years after that snorkeling picture we are married, we have our little girl and we are surrounded by wildflowers. Not bad.

So you see, love was just all around me and I wanted to do something with it.  The idea was thus:  Contact some amazing story tellers and ask them if they wouldn’t mind sharing their greatest love story.  Oh, and don’t forget to include a recipe that reminds you of your love story.  All these posts will be posted through the month of August, since that’s my month o’ love and well, it’s my blog, dang it!  Your incredible storytellers are as follows:

1.  Jeremy Owens:  Co-founder of Jewhungry, contributor for Oy! Chicago and creator/director/storyteller for You’re Being Ridiculous.

2.  Misty Dawn Lacefield:  Sister-in-law extraordinnaire.  I could listen to the story of how she and my brother fell in love over and over and over again.  Ahhh, young Southern, hippie love.

3.  Katie Bishop:  Creator/blogger at iamthemilk.com.  Katia is funny, honest, frikkin’ talented and she actually said ‘yes’ when I asked her if she wouldn’t mind contributing to this little blog.  I’m still in a state of shock and awe.  Lucky us y’all, for serious.

4. Ali Brand Stern:  Ali is funny. Ali is incredibly funny.  Ali might be one of funniest people I know.

5.  Ayelet Blumberg:  My sweet cousin.  Never have I ever met someone who went after a dream like Ayelet did and accepted nothing less than exactly what she wanted.

6.  Laurel Snyder:  Published poet and celebrated children’s author.  Homegirl knows her way around words.

7.  Stef Jadd:  My first impression of Stef, when I met her and had a real conversation with her, was, “this lady has passion for everything she does”.  Stef and her husband recently made aliyah and write about their aliyah experience here.

To get things started, I wanted to start off with my own story, of which I will post in full tomorrow. But, in the meantime, let me set the scene for you so you have an idea of what you’re about to get into.

This story starts in 2002.  It starts with an extremely tall and extremely naive girl, fresh out of college and fresh out of her first relationship, which happened to be with her first love.  As mentioned above, its 2002, which means that Sex and the City was taking over our culture and convinced us all (read: tall naive girls in their early 20s fresh from college and relationships) that it’s totally realistic to go out several times a week and ‘date’ lots of guy without any emotional/financial consequences).  So, we have ‘Cosmos’, we have girls nights and we have an unrealistic understanding of what dating is like in the real world.  Trust, things get good.  They get awkward, funny and good.

Until tomorrow . . .

Wait! I wanted to tell you that tomorrow’s recipe is coconut milk-soaked fried chicken with ‘Israeli’ seasonings.

(and from the photo archives . . . )

Someone tell that big mouth girl down below that she better buckle up because the real world ain't nothing like college (The College of Wooster, circa 2002).

Someone tell that big mouth girl down below that she better buckle up because the real world ain’t nothing like college (The College of Wooster, circa 2002).

I spent the majority of my 20s have intense crushes on completely unavailable dudes -- like this one, Season 2 Top Chef winner, Ilan Hall.  (yes, that really is him and he cooked my bestie, Jackie, and I wild mushroom risotto. Heaven).

I spent the majority of my 20s have intense crushes on completely unavailable dudes — like this one, Season 2 Top Chef winner, Ilan Hall. (yes, that really is him and he cooked my bestie, Jackie, and I wild mushroom risotto. Heaven).

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