Tag Archives: Love

Flourless Chunky Monkey Brownie Cookies – Bring. It.

29 Jan

cookies 9

There’s an understanding in the general outside world that Jews don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day.  Rather, religiously observant Jews don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day.  And this is true though, again, I’m speaking in general.  My husband and I aren’t big on it.  What with the whole “St.” Valentine thing and whatnot, it’s just generally accepted as something the ‘goyim’ do.  However, I grew up ‘celebrating’ and loving Valentine’s Day and to be honest, I still do.  I have rather fond memories from elementary school that have all kind of become jumbled in my head as one big heart-shaped, pink doily.  By the time I reached high school, being a nerd and all, I’m pretty sure Valentine’s Day was spent with my beloved girls friends.  We probably went to our local Chili’s and drowned our love-sorrows in sweet tea and queso dip all the while saying how we didn’t need a boyfriend but secretly wishing we could at least experience ONE Valentine’s Day with a boy.  I do have vivid memories of a Valentine’s Day spent during my senior year with my dear friend, Allison.  I believe we had dinner at La Madeleine (Do those still exist?!) followed by a romantic viewing of Lethal Weapon 4 (I had a thing for Mel Gibson in high school all thanks to a kilt, a Scottish accent and some blue face paint—shalom, Braveheart. Of course that crush was quickly squelched after the whole Passion of the Christ incident). What can I say? We lived large.

flourless brownie cookies kosher jewhungry

As high school came and went and I entered college, Valentine’s Day got kicked up a notch.  There was this one Valentine’s Day my Freshman year when I went to a fancy restaurant with a very sweet guy who proceeded to shower me with gifts so obviously I dropped him the next day.  Dating ineptitude-aside, I honestly have to say that my favorite Valentine’s Day memory involves my first real boyfriend.  We were together for 3 years and our first Valentine’s Day together he got me the usual–roses, chocolate, etc. But the piece de resistance came in the form of a homemade card that had pictures of my favorite neo-soul/hip-hop artists from that time on it (read: D’Angelo and Q-Tip) wishing me a happy Valentine’s Day.  I mean, he nailed it with that one.

flourless brownie cookies kosher jewhungry

But my husband didn’t grow up with Valentine’s Day and so we just don’t get on the Valentine’s Day-train.  Now, that being said, it doesn’t mean I still don’t love the hearts, the doilies and, of course, the fact that food plays a very big role in the celebration of the day.  It also doesn’t mean that, one day, if my beloved husband decided he wanted to come home with roses or, you know, diamonds on Valentine’s Day I’d turn them away.  It just means that we share our love for one another each and every day (OK, maybe not EACH and every day) and if it happens to be on a day dedicated to St. Valentine, then so be it.

Presto, change-o: 15 minutes later you have yumminess

Presto, change-o: 15 minutes later you have yumminess

flourless brownie cookies kosher jewhungry

Try them with some milk, perhaps?

Ok, this recipe. This recipe! It’s quick.  It’s flourless.  It’s easy.  That being said, because it’s flourless, they do become a bit crumbly over time so do try to eat them within a few days of baking, which shouldn’t be a problem because they are that good.

Just so we’re clear . . .

Flourless Chunky Monkey Brownie Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups powdered sugar (use gluten-free if you need)
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/8 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup crushed walnuts
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup banana chips

How:

1) Preheat to 350°. Whisk powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a large bowl, then whisk in egg whites and egg; fold in chocolate chips, banana chips, and walnuts. Spoon batter by the tablespoonful onto 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2” apart.

2) Bake, rotating sheets once, until cookies are puffed, cracked, and set just around the edges, 14–16 minutes.

3)Transfer baking sheets to wire racks and let cookies cool on pan (they’ll firm up).

Sweet Potato + Black Bean {Beer} Chili

12 Jan

sweet potato black bean chili jewhungry blog

I’m writing this post from several thousand feet in the air as I am on a plane bound for LA, my family’s future home. This is just one of many little incidences that are screaming, “Sh*t’s getting real! Pay attention!” We are T minus 6 months away from our big family change and I’m really starting to feel it. I notice when I’m hanging with close friends or dear colleagues here in Miami, that I keep telling myself to soak it all in; pay attention to them as well and keep building these relationships. I tell myself that, no matter how overwhelmed or busy I might become once the move happens, I will need these faces and these friendships more than ever. It’s so hard to attempt to be present when half of me is already 8 months in the future wondering how I’m gonna do this.

So here I am, on a flight, which I’ve paid WAY too much money for internet usage on but I’m only 2 hours in with 3.5 hours to go so that $7 for one hour of Internet seemed worth it. Have I mentioned I hate flying? I LOVE travel. I hate flying. Maybe one day I’ll open that wound and talk about why I hate flying but for now I’m feeling way too vulnerable. Therefore, I will instead tryto focus on finding my “happy place”. I do this on every flight. If I can’t sleep or get lost in a book or there’s no movie playing, then it’s up to me to take my mind off the fact that I’m in the air, which , after ALL the dang travel I’ve done you’d think I’d be used to by now but I’m not. I once sobbed like a wee baby out of pure fear while flying over the Alps on my way to Italy (did I mention I was 19 at the time?). I’ve been known to grab onto the hands/arms of complete strangers while going through rough turbulence as my fear is that intense. For several days before a flight, I get into a bit of a dark place as my fear and anxiety start to take over a little bit. But, I’m proud to say, that even with all this fear of flying, I still get on the G. D. plane. What gets me through is a lot of praying and a lot of “happy” list making. My “happy” list is exactly as it sounds; a list of things, big or small, that make me happy. I don’t usually include the obvious things like my beloved daughter and husband because, well, if it’s not obvious by now that they are number one on that list I got some ‘splainin’ to do.

So here’s my latest list of the most recent top 6 items making it to my “happy” list. I hope y’all have a great week. Sending love and Bloody Mary’s from 10,000 feet. xox

Happy List:

1. Le Creuser/This American Bite/My first win – If you follow Jewhungry on Facebook, you might have seen that I won the 2013 Most Inspiring Recipe contest being hosted by Yosef over at This American Bite. I’m not sure who nominated me but it shockingly wasn’t myself and even more shocking? I won! I’ve never won anything before so that fact that I won a recipe contest still blows my mind PLUS the fact that I won a 5 qt. Le Creuset Dutch Oven! I’m still so grateful/excited I could pee a little.

2. The hubby and I saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty on my last day of winter break. We were exhausted and a little vulnerable due to the fact that the kiddo had a bout of sleep-regression, which I’m happy to report is no longer an issue. We were hoping to see a “feel good” movie and this one absolutely fulfilled our expectations. Go see it. You will not regret it.

3. It dipped down into the 40s last week in Miami. I made potato leek soup. We pulled out the down comforter, put on a movie and snuggled on a school night. ‘Twas awesome.

4. I signed on the dotted line and hired a real life designer, Sara Bee Jensen, to upgrade the blog. She’s super talented and inspiring. I “met” her through my girl Maggie over at The Rural Roost. Sara redesigned Maggie’s site and the work was so beautiful I knew I needed to get over myself and hire her. For inspiration, Sara asked me to make a board on Pinterest of colors, fonts, textures, styles that inspire me. I had so much fun with that I can’t even describe it. It was like a creativity high. It also is very clear to me that I shouldn’t fight it anymore, I love neon pink. Thank you Miami.

5. Collaborations are coming. More cooking. More opportunities. It’s such an honor and such a privilege. Gets me giddy just thinking about it.

6. Beer in food.

sweet potato black bean chili

Sweet potato black bean chili Jewhungry blog

sweet potato black bean chili jewhungry blog

Sweet Potato + Black Bean {Beer} Chili

Ingredients:
4 Tbsp of olive oil
2 Sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped small
1 Medium purple onion, chopped
3 Cloves of garlic, diced
1 Orange, yellow or red pepper, chopped
1 Bottle of beer
2 Cans of diced tomatoes
1 Can of black beans
1/2 a Cup of frozen corn
2 Tbsp Cumin
Kosher salt
Pepper
Sriracha
Juice of half a lime
Handful of cilantro. Chopped
Cheddar cheese
Sour cream

Before the toppings

Before the toppings

How

Place oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Place onions in pot and sauté for about 3 -4 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Next, add the peppers and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add sweet potatoes, cumin, salt and pepper and sauté for roughly 5 – 6 minutes or until sweet potatoes start to turn a bit golden.

Once you’ve sautéed your veggies and spices together and they’ve become nice and fragrant, add the entire contents of the beer (aside from the obvious sips you’ve taken to “test” it out. If you don’t want to include beer, feel free to deglaze with 2 cups of veggie broth instead). Stir the veggies and beer and let sit for a minute. Next, add your canned tomatoes and beans. I do not strain my beans but that’s up to you. Mix all together. If you want more of a “soupy” chili, add a cup of water. Let the chili simmer on low for about 10 – 12 minutes, stirring occasionally making sure to taste along the way to adjust seasoning to your liking. After 10 – 12 minutes, add your frozen corn and a hit of Sriracha, stir and continue to let simmer over low heat for another 10 – 12 minutes. After a total of 20 – 25 minutes of simmer time, check your sweet potatoes for softness. If potatoes are still a bit hard, let sit another 5 minutes or so until desired softness. This will vary depending on how small you chopped your potatoes.

Once chili is almost done, go ahead and squeeze the juice of half a lime in there to give it a hit of acid. Scoop completed chili into bowl and top with your favorite fixin’s (or “toppings” for you Yankees), which is my favorite part of chili.

Ahh yes, the fixin's.

Ahh yes, the fixin’s.

Shakshuka: Meal of my heart.

24 Dec

shakshuka title

So last night we had a heavy metal vomit party. What’s a heavy metal vomit party, you ask? A heavy metal vomit party is a party in which people drink a lot, listen to heavy metal, maybe they punch each other just for fun, etc. It’s what I picture an Anthrax after-party would look like. Only, we didn’t have any heavy metal and there were no dudes in leather and chains punching each other just for funsies,. We did, however, have lots of vomit as the kiddo had a bout of food poisoning. Why oh why are you talking about this on a food blog, you might find yourself asking? Because I’m in a weird place that can only be described as halfway between delirium and the twilight zone. Last night, I slept from 8:30 – 9:30pm, and then again from 12:30 – 1:30am. The rest of the time was spent snuggling with the kiddo and feeding her sips of water, of which she only calls ‘agua’, thank you Miami life and our Spanish-speaking daycare providers. I finally called in the big guns, a.k.a. Dada, at about 5:15 so that I could sleep for a few hours. It was such a shame because yesterday was the first day of my winter break and we had such a wonderful day with my husband’s parents. We drove the 45 minutes to the Bubbe-capitol of the world, also known as Boca Raton, Florida. We went to a science museum, rode a beautiful carousel and had overall joy and merriment. And then, in a classic parenting moment, things switched to disaster on a dime. We were not 5 minutes in the car for our 45 minute drive home when the kiddo let us have it (“it”being everything she had eaten for the past 3 hours). And then, because I’m the world’s greatest mom, when I finally calmed her down and was putting her back into her carseat, I pinched her tiny thigh skin with the seat buckle. That only escalated the crying and general discomfort of our poor kid. This discomfort and vomit continued for roughly 6 more hours from that point. Good times.

And so, at 2:30am, when I was begging for sleep that couldn’t come because I was sharing a bed with a sweaty, uncomfortable toddler, I started thinking about the things you don’t realize you’re going to need when you agree to marry someone. Now bear with me, this has a connection. While I was snuggling with the above-mentioned sweaty toddler, my husband was in our room sleeping. We had agreed that he would sleep during the night and then he would cover me during the day so that I could sleep. When things went to hell earlier in the day, we went back and forth between cracking each other up over the ridiculousness of cleaning vomit off a carseat on the side of a highway off-ramp to biting at each other when she vomited for the 4th time in 3 hours and we had reached our new-parent point of ‘WHAT THE @#$* DO WE DO NOW!?”. But, we never once felt alone in our worried-parent ineptitude because we had each other. When my husband proposed to me in 2009 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, I immediately said ‘yes’. I had known I wanted to marry him from the moment we met. But a person has no idea what they’re going to need when they’re down in the fox-hole of food poisoning h*ll because you can’t possibly understand what that foxhole will be like. Heck, you don’t even know that foxhole exists. You just know you’re in love and you’ve really enjoyed life together so far so let’s keep this thing going. Therefore, at 2:30 in the morning, when I was feeding the little one her sips of water, I was thinking about my husband in the other room and how there would be no way in h*ll I would be able to get through any of it without him. Food poisoning comes and goes and it’s really not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. However, the way we work together in these situations is a big deal in the grand scheme of things. I’m not sure of anyone else who could have me laughing like he did at 11pm last night when we knew we had a looooooong sleepless night ahead of us. What I am sure of is that, thank Gd, the food poisoning seems to have come and gone from our home at this point while we remain, lovingly, whole (copious amounts of coffee helps too).

punk-jewhungry-blog

Watch out, she’ll get ya.

Oh, I finally had another post up on The Times of Israel. You can find it here. It’s about growing up and experiencing Christmas with my dad and his family, who just happen to not be Jewish (that should seem obvious, I hope). The following recipe, which was enjoyed yesterday before Food Poisoning 2013, is my interpretation of shakshuka, eggs poached in a delicious, spicy tomato sauce. I first had shakshuka in 2001 when I was studying abroad at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, Israel. I went over to a friend’s place for lunch and there she was, cracking eggs directly into what I thought was spaghetti sauce but what I later realized was so much more. Shakshuka can be intimidating if you’ve never had it before but truly, it does not require a lot of skill in the kitchen (this is according to me, at least). It does require patience though as the tomatoes and the peppers need time to get all sugary and flavorful as they sit on a low heat.

Not quite tall enough, but almost there.

Not quite tall enough, but almost there.

You can add anything you want to liven up your shakshuka but for me, I just can’t seem to depart from the addition of feta and cilantro. The flavors compliment each other so nicely. If you are looking for a healthy and flavorful dish for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner, this is it. Heck, some might think it’s even a nice dish for Christmas morning? Maybe?

One might say this would be a perfect Christmas morning breakfast, might one?

One might say this would be a perfect Christmas morning breakfast, might one?

A perfect pair.

A perfect pair.

It's about to get egg-y in here.

It’s about to get egg-y in here.

The following is a completely unnecessary but completely awesome action shot of the first egg being dropped into the shakshuka. Make sure you dig a little hole out for the egg to nestle into before cracking. Mad props to my hubby, who is also my hand model, for indulging me in this one.

Step 1

Step 1

Step Two

Step Two

Step Three

Step Three

Almost There

Almost There

So Close

So Close

Nailed It.

Nailed It.

Shakshuka with Feta and Cilantro

Ingredients:

5 tbsp Olive or Coconut Oil
1 Medium onion, diced
4 Cloves of garlic, diced
1 Red pepper, chopped
1 Green pepper, chopped
1 Can of whole tomatoes
1 Can of diced tomatoes
5 eggs
Kosher salt + pepper to taste
1 tsp, Cumin
Sriracha
Handful of cilantro leaves and stems, diced
Feta cheese (to your discretion)

How’s That Now?

Heat a deep, large skillet or sauté pan on medium. Slowly warm oil in the pan. Add chopped onion, sauté for a few minutes until the onion begin to become a little translucent. Add a dash of salt, pepper and cumin to the onions and stir. Finally, add the garlic and continue to sauté till mixture is fragrant. Next, add the bell peppers and continue sauteeing for another 6 – 8 minutes or until peppers are starting to brown.

Add both cans of tomatoes to pan, stir till blended. Throw in a bit more of the cumin and add some Sriracha to the pan of vegetables. Stir well, and allow mixture to simmer over medium heat for 6 – 8 minutes (you can break apart some of the whole tomatoes at this point too — just push down with a spoon to break them apart a bit). At this point, you can taste the mixture and spice it according to your preferences.

Before cracking each egg into the pan, make a little divot in sauce for egg to go into. Crack the eggs, one at a time, directly over the tomato mixture, making sure to space them evenly over the sauce. It’s common shakshuka practice to place 4 eggs around the outer edge and 1 in the center. The eggs will cook “over easy” style on top of the tomato sauce.

Cover your pan and allow to cook on a simmer for an addition 10 – 15 minutes. Keep an on the eggs to make sure that the yolks remain ‘over easy’ to ‘over medium’. Add the feta, if using, halfway through your last 10 – 15 minutes of cooking. Once done, garnish with cilantro. Enjoy with a big piece of crusty bread.

Pretty, pretty shakshuka

Pretty, pretty shakshuka

Finally, we can eat.

Finally, we can eat.

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

25 Nov
I heart Chicago.

I heart Chicago.

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

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

My favorite cozy corner in Annie's place.

Cozy, comfort.

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

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

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

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

Daniel and his baby Judah.

Daniel and his baby Judah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Annie, she can take care of people AND decorate.

The woman knows how to decorate.

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

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

The murals in Chicago

The murals in Chicago

Me and our sweet Violet.

Me and our sweet Violet.

Curried Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk:

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

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

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

Roasted Butternut Squash + Coconut Milk Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash + Coconut Milk Soup

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.

Orange Peel + Poppy Seed Cookies: The Love Continues

3 Sep

I invite you to know Ali Brand Stern, today’s guest blogger for our Love Stories series, which, if you’ve been following the series, you are realizing has moved into September. Yep, forgot to account for the obligatory Rosh Hashanah posts so our Love Stories were interrupted. However, we are back and still in love.

I met Ali, whose love story is written below, and her husband at the same place I met the previous guest blogger, Stef. I met them all at the glory that is The Pardes Institute of Judaic Studies. I knew I wanted to be friends with Ali during the obligatory opening introductory ‘get to know you’ circle that opens every first year of school at Pardes. There were roughly 60 – 70 people in the room and everyone’s not-so-secretly trying to prove just how smart they are when they introduce themselves. And then it’s Ali’s turn. Ali stands up in the Beit MIdrash, introduces herself and proceeds to tell everyone she just got married and, rather than try to prove her brain power, which is pretty powerful, she continues, “So, sorry ladies and gents, but I’m taken”, and then proceeded to sit right back down as if she didn’t just tell a room full of rabbis, Torah scholars and the like that she’s off the market. Yes. Please. Ali is one of the funniest and most genuine people in the world. When I was trying to wrestle with leaving my single life behind and marrying my husband, it was Ali whose wisdom and open-mind I sought out. She is someone whom I believe truly lives her life to the fullest and I admire her so much. Ladies and gents, here’s Ali. xoxo, Whit

Ali and I representing our class at our friends' wedding.

Ali and I representing our class at our friends’ wedding.

Thirteen years. That’s how long my husband and I have been partners. When I tell people our dating history, I follow it up by saying that I met my husband, Noam, when I was a fetus. That’s not actually true, but it sometimes feels like it. I don’t know many other thirtysomethings who have been with their better half for the better half of their life.

Talking about the beginning of our “love story” is like talking about the day I realized I had a left arm. I can’t recall when, but I’m sure there was a day when I said to myself, “I have another arm? This is awesome! This will help me accomplish so many more things in my life!” That’s sort of how I feel about my husband. I can’t really remember a time when he wasn’t there.

I met Noam three weeks before my 17th birthday while we were attending a summer program at Brandeis University called Genesis, which was a glorified nerd camp for Jews. Are there summer camps for Jews that aren’t also nerd camps? No, probably not.

Noam was the first Orthodox Jew I ever really met. He was sweet (still is), short (still is) and wore an over-sized, severely faded Pearl Jam t-shirt (which I later made him burn for fashion reasons. I have nothing against Pearl or her delicious jams.) Noam sat down across from me during the first Shabbat dinner at Genesis. My actual thought when I saw him was, “That one. I want that one.” Although full disclosure, I thought the same thing when they brought out cake for dessert.

Having never attended Jew camp before, I didn’t know any of the songs that everyone else started to sing at the end of the Shabbat meal. Actually, I could barely read Hebrew. I felt like an idiot. And there is nothing more painful than being a 16-year-old girl sitting across from a super cute little yid and feeling like an idiot. But because Noam is who he is, he quickly caught on that I was just silently mouthing the world “watermelon” over and over again, trying to look like I belonged. Noam got everyone to sing the only song I knew (which could very well have been Dayenu, complete with hand gestures. I don’t remember.) Noam stuck by me the rest of the night. And that was it. That was the night I met my left arm.

Ali and Noam in Jerusalem, 2013

Ali and Noam in Jerusalem, 2013

We fell for each other quickly, in a totally PG-summer camp sort of way. During one of our many night walks through the deserted college campus, Noam asked me if I was a fruit, what kind of fruit I would be. I told him I would probably be an orange because I have a layer that you need to get past in order to really know me (Leave me alone. I just finished reading Ralph Waldo Emerson that summer and had even underlined a few passages in a vintage fountain pen, so clearly, I was really, really deep.)

A few days later, on my 17th birthday, Noam gave me a gift. It was an orange, partially peeled. He told me that he hoped he had gotten past part of my “layer”, and was looking forward to getting to know more about me.

At the end of the summer, I went back to Boulder, CO and Noam went back home to Maryland. We said our goodbyes and left our relationship as “two people who cared a lot about each other, but lived super far away.” We didn’t want to label ourselves and what we had. Dan Savage would have been proud. I never thought I would hear from Noam again. I cried a lot. Had there been Facebook when I was 17, I’d like to believe that I wouldn’t have posted thousands of very meaningful and totally poignant song lyrics from all of the Lilith Fair albums. But I would have. Because I was that awesome.

Fast forward 8 years. Fast forward through hundreds of long distance phone calls and emails. Fast forward through my parents flying Noam out to be my high school prom date. Fast forward through that time when I was a freshman in college in Seattle and Noam was studying in Israel during the height of the Second Intifada, and he called to tell me that the café across the street just blew up, and it was terrible, but he was okay and he loved me. Fast forward through me not being able to tolerate the long distance anymore and finally transferring colleges to be with Noam at Brandeis.

Fast forward 8 years to the afternoon at Walden Pond when Noam got down on one knee and took out an orange, almost entirely peeled. Fast forward to when he told me that he wanted us to spend the rest of our lives getting to know each other better.

Newly engaged; peeled orange and all.

Newly engaged; peeled orange and all.

Two weeks after our wedding, we ran away together to Israel, where I met Whitney. Our year-long-honeymoon-adventure in Jerusalem turned into five years living in Israel. Living abroad was the greatest gift to our marriage. We dodged rockets and killed cockroaches. We walked towards each other religiously and spiritually and built ourselves a happy little home somewhere in the middle. We made each other laugh, and we drove each other completely insane in ways that only your partner can. We helped each other up when we fell down. In 2011 when I lost my dad to cancer, Noam stayed at my father’s bedside reciting Psalms, serving as my father’s spiritual guardian. Noam is so much more than my left hand; he is my spare soul.

Noam and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary this July. On our wedding day, we stood in front of our family and friends and pledged to spend the rest of our lives helping each other peel back our layers. I think we’re off to a good start.

Ali's Orange Peel and Poppy Seed Cookies.

Ali’s Orange Peel and Poppy Seed Cookies.

Ali’s Orange Peel and Poppy Seed Cookies:

Ingredients

– 1 tbsp orange zest

– 1 egg (room temperature)

– 2/3 cup sugar

– 1/2 cup butter/margarine

– 1 tbsp poppy seeds

– 1 1/4 cup flour

– 1/2 tsp baking soda

Directions

Blend butter and sugar. Add egg and orange zest. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients (except seeds). Slowly add dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg/zest mixture. Add poppy seeds. Bake at 360F for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.

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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