Friday, March 30, 2018

The Beauty of Vegetables

I fell off the kugel wagon. In most cases, the vegetables have to be cooked, than baked again, doubling prep time. Whereas shoving them in the oven to roast and serving the results is prettier and less caloric. 

For Shabbos HaGadol I prepared my usual fare, which is actually perfect for Pesach; these veggies are beautifully colorful to boot, unlike the browns and beiges of cholent and potato kugel:

Red, orange, and yellow bell peppers, seasoned with garlic powder, sea salt, and pepper.
 Kabocha squash, seasoned with cinnamon and sea salt.
Red and sweet onions, seasoned with sea salt. 
Cauliflower, seasoned with paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. 

All were tossed in olive oil and baked at 350 degrees for differing times. Others roast their vegetables at higher heats.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

It's a Long Chol HaMoed

Long time readers know that I am a serious aunt. I've been in the trenches. I've been up at night with babies, been barfed and **** on, and read Harry Potter until I thought my throat would never be moist again. 

But reading a child a book can be a lovely experience, providing one overcomes one's initial reluctance. Kids will do anything to be read a book. It's the best form of bribery that doesn't involve cavities (candy), next-day exhaustion (later bedtime), or screen addiction (tv).
Mallia Wollian reminded me of this with "How to Read Aloud to Children." When the babies were old enough to be read to, I recalled the pitiful effort my siblings expended when they read to me. They would utilize flat monotones only, and rattle along at high speed. Plus there was always some form of quid-pro-quo. It wasn't enjoyable. Luckily I picked up reading skills quickly enough so I didn't have to rely on them. 

When I read to kids? The first time Han saw me smothered beneath children, holding up a Berenstain Bears so everyone could see the pictures, he cracked up. I go slowly and clearly. I do voices. I use inflection and nuance. 

Sometimes they do have to beg me, of which I am not proud. Then when I have that warm, trusting weight on my lap, eager to hear my take on Farmer Ben's southern accent . . . like I said, it's lovely. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Pesach Recipe Roundup II

First, note the original Pesach Recipe Roundup.  

As Han astutely observed, I pretty much cook Pesach-dik all year round; I try to keep Shabbos sides low- or no-carb so we can party with challah. My go-to side is roasted kobocha squash sprinkled with some sea salt and cinnamon, which is rather simple and gets fought over (bake the squash at 350 for 20-30 minutes to make it easier to cut).
Via seriouseats
Last week, some older kinfauna came for Shabbos. They brought along with them roasted red, orange, and yellow bell peppers with sweet potatoes, seasoned with salt and pepper. The pan arrived empty; they ate it all on the way over. 

I used to obsessively search for various new and exciting Pesach recipes. But it's one week. One can't do without some leavening or kitniyos for one week? OK, I can't make Han's favorite sugar snap peas. I don't make them every week anyway. 

The only Pesach-specific recipe I have are for cakes, and, well, we shouldn't need that many anyway. To quote Ma, "Cut up a cantaloupe." Tons of delicious fruit at our disposal, no prep required.

So as we exhale some terror, my ladies, my apologies for not yet posting how to make the full-proof year-round beloved paprikash. Because all roads lead to paprikash. 

The below are recipes that I make all year that happen to be Pesach-dik.
  • Lemony Coleslaw: 1 bag coleslaw mix + ¼ cup each lemon juice, mayo, and brown sugar + salt and pepper. Toss and chill. (Like a mouthful of sunshine.) 
  • Lecsó (I haven't found Pesachdik hot paprika, but red pepper flakes will do)

The Untried but Intriguing: 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Salmon-Veggie Mini Quiches

Years ago, I came across a Pesach recipe for a salmon loaf. I was smitten. But I never got around to actually making it. There is little time to experiment before yuntiff, and I had to prioritize actual favorites, like sponge cake and strawberry fluff. 

Yet some bee entered my bonnet a few months ago, and I attempted it. Here was the curious thing: Han, who officially does not like fish, loved them, and is so far not sick of them.

It took some time to perfect. The original recipe called for breadcrumbs, and I like to keep Shabbos meals low in carbs because of all that challah. Then the muffin tin was utilized. You can also chuck everything into a pan instead, though. It should stay nice and firm.

For the carrots and zucchini, which are shredded, I use the large hole side of a grater. It takes no time at all. 

Salmon-Veggie Mini Quiches
(makes approx. 18)

1 onion, finely diced 
3 stalks celery, finely diced
1 carrot, shredded
1 medium zucchini, shredded and squeezed of water
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 six oz. cans salmon, drained (a little more is fine)
1 tablespoon dried parsely 
dill, fresh or dried, amount based on preference (I love dill)
juice from half a lemon
generous squirt of mustard (for Pesach, make that ketchup or omit)
black pepper (I don't add salt since canned fish has plenty)
3 eggs

Heat a little oil and sauté the onion. When translucent or whatever, scooch it over to the side of the pan and add the celery in one end, carrots the other. Let them go a little. When sufficiently limp, shove everyone over, then add the zucchini. Make sure to cook out whatever residual liquid there is in the zucchini. Add the garlic last, not to the pan, but to the vegetables, and cook a few minutes more, just enough to take the sharpness out of it. 

Scrape out the canned salmon into a bowl and mash 'em up. Add the vegetables, herbs, lemon juice, mustard, black pepper, mixing well. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl, then mix them in last.

Spoon mixture into muffin tins. I like silicone muffin liners even though they can be a pain to clean. If not, make sure tins are greased well. 

Place into 350 degree oven. 

Here, note the difference between actual muffin tins and disposable ones. Disposable tins will need an hour; actual muffin tins about 45 minutes. You can tell when the quiche are ready when they are firm to the touch.

Han likes them at room temp. Keeps very well in the fridge. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

How to Stay Sane While Dating: VI

I grew up in a house with plants. Not a jungle of plants, rather a scattering of plants. Babi had the jungle (which Zeidy tolerated, barely). 

I should note that I have murdered many plants in my time. During my teenage years I would water out of boredom, and drenching basil three times a day is really not a good idea. 

Then my dentist gave me a pothos, which are pretty much unkillable. It sits on my office desk, devoid of natural light; it hasn't stopped growing and remains a bright, vibrant green. As it thrived, I regained my confidence and began to buy plants again. 
Image result for pothos
Han, as it turned out, is a big pothos fan. His parents' house is smothered with them. It's awesome. 

So you can understand why I burst out laughing when I saw "Letter of Recommendation: Pothos" when we were dating. Jazmine Hughes fell for plants following a breakup. 
Every Tuesday morning, I fill up an old wine bottle with water and make the rounds, finding that my pothos have always survived. A pothos gives the gift of forgiveness: It grows so quickly that it seems almost regenerative. If you damage one vine, there’s another one already sprouting up — another chance to get it right.
During Ma's illness, I bought plants obsessively, plastering them not only over her hospital room, but around the house as well. There is something uplifting and soothing to the soul to be constantly greeted by flora. It's life—a lower form of life, but life. And where there's life, there's hope.

Friday, March 16, 2018


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"Religion as a Scapegoat"

I am not immune from using religion as a scapegoat, but I know now that if I hadn’t shown up to school in a hijab that day — or any other day, for that matter — the outcome would have probably been the same. Things do look so much more attainable on the side where the Lululemon leggings and crop tops are, where you can find your reflection in romantic comedies, and where it is possible to keep religion and politics out of it because your religion and politics are not wrapped around your head. Wearing a turban is almost like crossing over. It is unsettling that a reshifting of the same cloth on the same body can be so radical.
It strikes me one day that perhaps my transformation is a regression. Why else am I willing to overlook the real problem — that even liberal Americans tend to approve of Muslims on a case-by-case basis, tend to like their Muslims as non-Muslim as possible, tend to think themselves entitled to this choosiness? Why else does my compromise with God come so easy?
Partly because of peer pressure, I end up going to prom. I am without the heartthrob and with a hijab, but I make it. I remember the dance floor most clearly. Sometimes my classmates pull me into their dance circles; sometimes I allow it and sometimes I don’t. I am wearing a baby-pink dress from J.C. Penney and a matching full-sleeved undershirt because nothing is modest enough on its own. Standing almost straight in my too-tight heels, I am fully covered and fully there.


Monday, March 12, 2018

How to Stay Sane While Dating: V

"Do you have a tall brother?" she inquired hopefully.

"He's long married," I said apologetically. 

"Your husband, then? Does he have tall friends?" 

"Um, not available ones . . ."

"I know this girl," she said, "beautiful, from a good family, accomplished . . . but she's tall." 

Well, so am I.

She continued. "My son is tall, and he married a tall girl. They have two boys now, at the moment, but what if they have a daughter? She'll have such a hard time." 

When I grasped my power of speech again, I said, "In some ways, yes. But that just weeds out the incompatible ones. Instead of going on a hundred pointless dates, she'll go on fifty. But Hashem sends you the right one in the right time. He sent me mine." 

"It adds obstacles," she said furiously, ignoring my words. 

Raise of hands, single gals: How many of you are over 5'8"? Hm? Have any of you noticed that that only tall girls are single? No? Interesting

Don't buy into the blame game. A woman I know of gave a speech, claiming that because of her brothers' medical conditions, she was an "untouchable" in shidduchim. She later ventured away from the fold, and veered back at a later point.


I suppose it was validation for the unconventional path she took, but she is married today. Is she saying she would have preferred marrying someone who is not her husband? Hmmm. 

If you make something an issue, it becomes an issue, because you gave it mamashus. If you refuse to feed into it, it fades away. God doesn't know the situation He put you in? He has someone lined up for you, not "despite" it. "It" is one thing. Your bashert is another. Hashem is there for both. 

Blame also creates bitterness and envy, enemy of happiness and joy. One cannot be happy and play the blame game. It's impossible. How can one serve Hashem without simcha? 

I hope this grandmother will be able to rejoice when she has a granddaughter, instead of worrying that the infant might be tall and that could mess with her marriage prospects (Good Lord). The One who brought her into the world has her future taken care of. 

And imagine my annoyance when I found out her eligible bachelorette was the unfortunate age of . . . 22.   

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Things People Say

"Your mother was a mailitz yosheir for you!" 

That line makes me cringe. 

(a) My mother was still very much alive when I was dating Han. Doesn't the phrase apply after the supposed "intervener" has passed?

(b) If my mother had to die in order for me to marry, I would rather have preferred, no matter how happy I am now, that she didn't die. It's not very comforting to think one's marriage required dead bodies in one's wake. 

(c) Ma spent her whole life worrying about her family. I'm hoping she can rest in peace, wherever she is, and breathe easy for once. 

Give it a think, please.  

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

How to Stay Sane While Dating: IV

Embrace happiness. Does anyone remember it is a mitzvah to be happy? We sang the songs as kids and everything. Yet many of us falsely associate importance with crabbiness, or allow whatever difficulties we have to suck away all vestiges of joy.

I watched the Israeli mini-series "Mekimi," which is about an anti-religious secular Israeli who becomes religious. SPOILER: She was unhappy and unfulfilled in her life and career, and despite her initial resistance to frumkeit, she eventually succumbs because it is a mitzvah to be happy. The end of the series shows a blissfully glowing woman who chose to embrace joy.  


I made a mistake. Previously, whilst still single, I refused to acknowledge the feelings singles can experience—that I experienced—finding them frivolous and ungrateful in a world that gave us central air conditioning. 

There a gamut of emotions when dating. Shadchanim elicit plenty (annoyance, frustration, anger, in most of my cases). Dates themselves do too (anxiety, worry, nervousness). Sometimes both can summon intense homicidal tendencies. Then there is another emotion. 

We aren't "supposed to be" single, right? We are waiting for another puzzle piece to render us complete, we are told. We feel a yearning, a desire for our other half. It's not about societal expectations. We want, for ourselves, someone special of our own. 

I am not saying that singles should put on a happy face over their angst. Negative emotions should be recognized and named. But they should not be allowed to consume us
What separates us from the animals is that we can choose not to succumb to emotion and behave badly, or lose our faith. We have values, Jewish and moral. 

I was once, um, "complimented" that I am delightfully upbeat and cheerful despite my, you know, being unmarried. I wasn't masking my pain. I had decided some time previously that yes, on the one hand, I am dealing with all the fraught emotions that come with dating, but that is not all what I feel. I also feel gratitude in my family, my comforts, my shoes, and I have my God.  

*Bless TYTT for sending me the above. 

Friday, March 2, 2018


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Sugar, with Boundaries

Due to a calamity that devolved following a bout of antibiotics, I find it difficult to consume sugar. Not just added, processed sugar, but natural sugars too. I can't have fruit every day, or else my stomach complains. It's very very sad. 

I've been off regular consumption for nearly two years. It sucks. Loving sweet used be part of my identity. Now sweet spurns my adoration, and gives a kick to the gut to boot. 

When I think I can handle it, I'll have a piece of bundtcake on Shabbos. Now, you'll have to understand that I waited all week for that freakin' bundtcake (made with whole wheat pastry flour), before my stomach went to pot. No sugar during the week, only on Shabbos, and it was bundtcake.
I would carve myself a generous slice and enjoy. Now, I carve myself a tiny slice. I savor it. Then I "straighten out" the cake and have another bite. But then it's too much sweet. I have to pack it away. I pack it away. Mind boggling. 

David Leonhardt advocates a month without sugar. The problem with sugar that is ubiquitous in nearly all processed foods is that it messes with the palate. The tongue has high expectations of food, demanding an uber-shot of sugar. But when the brain is starved of such sugar levels, the palate reboots. It requires less to be satisfied. 

I would like to remind my audience, again, that I love sugar. It has been good to me when I needed a pick-me-up. My love goes hand in hand with Paul Rudnick's, who is well aware of the dangers of sugar but, quite simply, doesn't care. 

I am not advocating leaving it completely, forever. I can't even recommend quitting it for a month; unless galvanized by snarling intestines, I don't see that happening. 

It's your call how to limit it. Drink only water. Analyze nutrition facts and opt for a less-sugar cereal. Keep chocolate and cake to Shabbos.