Tag Archives: Parenthood

Kale & Butternut Squash Quesadilla? Yay! New Years? Meh.

29 Dec

quesadilla-kale-butternut-squash-jewhungry-blog

 

For the passed several years, New Years has been a weird time for me. It’s not for the regular, semi-cliched reasons either. I don’t get sad when I reflect and let it sink in that yet another year has come and gone, though I do get blown away by how quickly time truly does go by. Nope. New Years has become a weird, confusing time for me lately because, well, I already did New Years.

As observant Jews, my husband and I celebrate the new year in the Fall during Rosh Hashanah, known to the world as “Jewish New Year”. That’s the time of year that I get a bit more reflective and/or contemplative. That’s the time of year that I seek to change negative behaviors I see in myself while maintaining the good stuff I see in myself. It’s during this “New Years” that I reach out to old friends to tell them how much I miss them and to make promises to be in contact more often, though we both know it’s probably not going to happen. And because we read the same portion from the Torah every Rosh Hashanah, it’s so much easier to remember just where I was the year before, both spiritually and physically.

I’ll never forget Rosh Hashanah from three years ago. I sat in synagogue listening to the haftorah story of Hannah and her desperate want/pleads to have a child. I sat in that service and so identified with her. My husband and I desperately wanted to be pregnant. I don’t think I ever prayed so hard as I did that new year—begging Hashem to bless us with a child and asking Gd if he/she wouldn’t mind glossing over some questionable behaviors from my early 20s and maybe focusing more on my recent work to help up the blessing ‘ante’. Sure enough, one year later, we brought our 6 week-old baby with us to the very same synagogue to listen to the very same Torah portion and I truly never felt more grateful (or tired. She was only 6 weeks old, after all).

So, you see, this whole December 31st/January 1st thing isn’t such a big deal over here. Now, I’ll take any excuse to by champagne on sale and I do love the glitter that comes with this New Years (mental note: Find way to bring more glitter into Rosh Hashanah), but we already had our New Years’ time of intense reflection. We still do a little count down because we are citizens of this Earth and I do LOVE watching the ball drop from Time’s Square (mental note: Find way to bring a giant ball drop in Time’s Square into Rosh Hashanah) but we don’t go all out for New Years. Last year we started a little tradition of making homemade sushi and setting up the air mattress on the balcony for dinner and a movie al fresco but chances are, I’ll be asleep by 11.

Happy New Year.

There's no "i" in "Team", but there is kale.

There’s no “i” in “Team”, but there is kale.

 

Ok, I made this recipe last Tuesday and I have to say, it’s one of my new favorites. The crispness of a lightly buttered and fried tortilla mingled with the soft, sweetness of butternut squash and Monterrey Jack cheese just does good things to me. You don’t need a lot of spice to this recipe because the natural flavors of the veggies and cheese do it for you. Make sure your kale is chopped small so you can easily get a good bite out of it once it’s in the tortilla and enjoy!

As you can see by the pan, I really do cook these here recipes.

As you can see by the pan, I really do cook these here recipes.

 

Nerd alert: I honestly do pay close attention to what goes in which layer when I make a quesadilla.

Nerd alert: I honestly do pay close attention to what goes in which layer when I make a quesadilla.

 

 

Cheese: It's the glue that holds us (and this quesadilla) together.

Cheese: It’s the glue that holds us (and this quesadilla) together.

 

When it comes to quesadillas, it really is ALL about what's inside.

When it comes to quesadillas, it really is ALL about what’s inside.

Kale and Butternut Squash Quesadilla:

(Makes 3 – 4 Quesadillas)

What:

1 Cup of kale, destemmed and chopped small
1 Cup of roasted butternut squash (see roasting direction here)
2 Cloves of garlic, diced
1/2 Tbsp cumin
Salt
Pepper
3 Tbsp of oil – Coconut or olive works nicely
Flour or whole wheat tortillas
Butter – for pan
1/2 – 3/4 Cup shredded cheese (I recommend Monterrey Jack or white cheddar)

How:

Break out a sauté pan, turn the stove to medium, and put your oil of choice in the pan (coconut or olive are my go-to). Thrown in your kale and sauté for just 1 minute. Next, throw in the garlic and sauté for another minute or so or until kale is bright green. Remove for heat immediately, place in separate bowl and set aside.

Next, wipe the pan down with a paper towel and put a little bit of butter in it. Turn the heat to medium low and place one tortilla in the pan followed but a layer of shredded cheese. Next, add your sautéed kale/garlic mixture and top that with a heaping scoop of butternut squash. Smush the squash down a bit so it’s evenly spread out in the center of the tortilla. Next, add another layer of shredded cheese and the other tortilla. Once that final tortilla top is on, give the quesadilla a nice final smush so that everything gets nicely “stuck” together. Let tortilla sit on the heat for 2-3 minutes, checking a few times to make sure it’s not burning. The secret to the perfect golden and melted quesadilla is too cook it slow and low (heat). After you’ve checked and the bottom tortilla looks good and golden, carefully flip quesadilla over using a wide spatula. If you feel it necessary, and I ALWAYS feel it’s necessary, add a bit more butter to the pan and make sure it gets under the new bottom tortilla. Let sit another 2-3 minutes, checking for perfect golden-ness. Once done, remove and serve hot with favorite toppings (my go-to are sour cream, Sriracha and cilantro).

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

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

10 Nov

squash 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morning rituals with Dada.

Morning rituals with Dada.

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

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

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

Imperfect yet perfect

Imperfect yet perfect

After the roast.

After the roast.

Getting everyone on board.

Getting everyone on board.

Up close and personal

Up close and personal

Reading for a healthy feast.

Reading for a healthy feast.

Spinach Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash and Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

Salad Ingredients:

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

Maple Dijon Vinaigrette:

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

Roasted Squash How To:

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

Maple Dijon Vinaigrette How-To:

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

Salad:

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

Enjoy!

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

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!

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

A *Giveaway* because . . . Surprise! It’s My Kid’s Hebrew Birthday!

26 Jul
My sweet girl just one HOUR old.

My sweet girl just one HOUR old.

Today is my daughter’s first Hebrew birthday. I want to write something poetic about that fact. I’d like to connect the meaning of her Hebrew birthday with the meaning of her name, Siona, which happens to be the feminine form of Sion, Hebrew for Zion, but I can’t. I can’t do that because I have never celebrated a Hebrew birthday in my life; not even a little bit. In fact, I wouldn’t have even known that today is my daughter’s Hebrew birthday if it weren’t for my very sweet and dear friend, Sharona, who told me that today is the day. I had texted her to see if she wanted to go out on a lady-date next Wednesday but she declined because that’s HER daughter’s first Hebrew birthday, “So”, she texted me, “That means that Friday is Siona’s Hebrew birthday!” (insert cricket chirps here and blank staring at text message here).

To be honest, I didn’t text her back after receiving text. In fact, I let it sit for a day or so before responding because I felt like such a farce for not even knowing my kid’s Hebrew birthday. Hell, I don’t even know my own Hebrew birthday!

Siona's Simchat Bat - her Jewish life is beginning.

Siona’s Simchat Bat – her Jewish life is beginning.

It takes a lot for me to feel self-conscious about something; I consider myself pretty confident in most of the important areas (i.e. competency as a wife, in my job, healthy sense of self) but my confidence levels in my Judaism have always yo-yoed. I mean, I’ve worked in Jewish organizations for the majority of my professional life. I’ve been to Israel more times than I can count. I sent myself to Yeshiva for a year when I was 28. I named my kid Siona, for crying out loud!  But I didn’t learn the full Birkat Hamazon until I was 29. I’m pretty sure it’s been 5771 for like, 5 years now and I often get our forefathers, Joseph and Isaac confused (thank Gd for the musical, ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolored Dream Coat’ because seriously, that’s what I use to remember who is whom when I’m occasionally sitting with a student and walking them through Judaics homework; “Give Mrs. Fisch a moment, honey. I’m trying to recall which one had the fabulous coat.”). All those gaps in my Jewish knowledge coupled with an expectation that, as a Jewish professional who keeps Shabbat and kosher and has a daughter named Siona, sometimes accumulates to me feeling “less than”. “Less than” whom?  I’m not sure (p.s. Gang, are you picking up how many times I used ‘whom’ in this post?! I’m hoping all the English majors in my life will be proud). But when I was standing there on the other end of that text, receiving the information of the fact that my daughter’s Hebrew birthday is upon me from another mom, I felt like an idiot. And let me just state that later that night, when I told my husband that Siona’s Hebrew birthday was 2 days away he responded, “Cool”, and went about his business.  Ahhh, how much simpler life might occasionally be if I were man.

Two weeks old

What? Me worry? (2 weeks old)

Playing in the sand in Montana - 11 1/2 months old.  Where does the time go!?

Playing in the sand in Montanan- 11 1/2 months old. Where does the time go!?

I’m not sure what we’ll do to celebrate our daughter’s day, if anything. I’ve been eyes-deep in Pinterest, doing menu -planning and decoration-planning for her 1st English birthday. But I’ve come up with nothing to celebrate today or to make it something special for her or for us as a family.  But, she’ll be one so she will have the same memories of this birthday as she will have of her English birthday, which is to say she’ll have no memories. Yet, I’m huge into positive family traditions of all kinds so I’d like to do something. I’m very curious as to what you have done to celebrate your or your child’s Hebrew birthday? What are some traditions you’ve incorporated into your family to celebrate this day?  I’d really love to hear from you so if you don’t mind taking the time and jotting down a few ideas/traditions in the comments portion of this post, I’d be very grateful.

I’m not sure if our child will attend Jewish Day School but I do know that whatever we can do in the home to build positive associations/feelings/connection to our children’s Judaism will do more for them than anything else done Jewishly outside of the home. Plus, I mean, I am deeply obsessed with like birthdays so any excuse to celebrate a loved one’s birthday more than once is always a good thing in my book.

A free trip to Israel via the pages of this gorgeous book.

A free trip to Israel via the pages of this gorgeous book.

Orly'z traditional shakshuka -- my idea of Sunday morning brunch heaven.

Orly’z traditional shakshuka — my idea of Sunday morning brunch heaven.

So, because its my daughter’s surprise Hebrew birthday, I’d thought I’d give YOU, my dear readers, a chance at receiving a beautiful gift. I was blessed to have Orly Ziv’s stunning new Israeli cookbook, Cook in Israel: Home Cooking Inspiration, sent to me by the cookbook’s talented photographer, Katherine Martinelli. Orly is a talented nutritionist, cooking instructor, and culinary tour guide in Israel. Cook in Israel, her first cookbook, is filled with 100 kosher, mostly vegetarian recipes accompanied by beautiful color photographs (including many step-by-step illustrations). The cookbook shows that healthy and delicious home cooking doesn’t need to be time-consuming or complicated. Flipping through the pages of this cookbook is like being transported to Jerusalem’s famous shuk (market). I swear, all it needs is a scratch-and-sniff za’atar sticker and you are IN Israel. The book is available for $35 plus shipping OR you could simply click on the Rafflecopter link below for up to 6 ways to up your chances of winning your own copy. The giveaway will run until, Friday, August 9th, at midnight and the winner will be announced on Monday, August 12th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Go to Cook In Israel to find out more about Orly, her culinary tours, cooking classes and how to purchase this book, which you can do here. BUT, if you want to SAVE yourself $35 plus shipping, enter into the giveaway via the link above and remember, some options you can do daily so come back often.  Also, note that this giveaway is open to those living in Israel too!!!

Good luck and . . . Yom Huledet Sameach, Siona!

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