Bon Appetit!

My step-mom is a fabulous cook. We visited recently and in addition to returning home with a very happy tummy, I am sharing below three great recipes that I used to make our first Shabbat dinner with friends since last year. Serendipitously, the beet soup matched the table settings, making the meal a feast for the eyes as well as body and soul. The Texas Caviar and the Beet Gazpacho are from my step-mom Lynn Berkowitz.

The menu:
Texas Caviar
Beet Gazpacho
Baked Tilapia with Spinach Pecan Pesto
Steamed broccoli
Trader Joe’s Dairy Free Chocolate Ice Cream
Ginger Snaps

Beet Gazpacho
5 medium fresh beets
(2 pounds w/o tops)
(Better idea is to use Trader Joe’s ready-cooked beets)
2 cups chicken or veggie stock (I used veggie)
16 ounces sour cream (I used Fage yogurt)
1/2 cup plain yogurt (ditto)
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp champagne vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cup medium dice English cucumber with seeds
scooped out.
1/2 cup chopped scallions, green and white parts
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill with extra for serving

If you’re not using Trader Joe’s beets, place fresh beets in large pot of boiling waterand cool uncovered for 30 – 40 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Strain cooking liquid through fine sieve and also set aside to cool. If you’re using Trader Joe’s beets, you won’t have much liquid so add more of your stock to make the full 1 1/2 cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the beet cooking liquid (or less beet liquid and your stock), the veggie/chickent stock, yogurt, sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Peel the cooled beets with a small paring life or rub the skin off with your hands. Cut the beets in a small to medium dice. (Or use a Vidalia Chop Wizard™ and be done easy peasy.)

Add the beets, cucumber, scallions and dill to the soup. Cover and chill for four hours or over night. Season to taste and serve with dollop of yogurt and an extra sprig of fresh dill.

This soup is so refreshing, I could eat it every day. And besides, what other pink food can you eat that is this healthy?

Texas Caviar
2 cans black-eyed peas
1 can white shoe peg corn, drained
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped (I used red)
1/2 cup olive oil (less is OK)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (I used a bit more)
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro (I despise cilantro. Didn’t use.)
2 Tbsp French’s honey mustard
1 tsp each salt and pepper
dash cayenne petter

Mix all ingredients and marinate in fridge 4 hours or overnight.
Lasts 1 week.
Serve with Frito Scoops. (I ditched the chips and served this as our salad.)

It’s Not Spring Without This Poem

Sharing a poem in the Head-to-Toe drawer of the curio cabinet might seem, well, curious. But Robert Frost’s poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay, has been a part of my and my children’s spring experience for decades. I would recite it to them each spring when that delicious shade of newborn green appeared on winter-weary branches. Over the years, the poem has become a talisman of sorts, reminding us of Nature’s cycles and the gift of noticing them. In a way, the poem is a perfect specimen to share here because it indeed touches all parts of us: mind, heart, soul.

Nothing Gold Can Stay
by Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

photo courtesy of Debra Darvick

Drink Up!

My dad sent me the following from Arnaldo Liechtenstein, a physician at the University of Sao Paolo. It’s something we all know and do with varying degrees of success. I didn’t realize that the sense of thirst diminishes by age 60. Sheesh. A word to the wise—stay well-watered.

“Whenever I teach clinical medicine to students in the fourth year of medicine, I ask the following question:
What are the causes of mental confusion in the elderly?
Some offer: “Tumors in the head”.  I answer: No!
Others suggest: “Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s”.  I answer again: No!
With each rejection of their answers, their responses dry up.

They are even more open-mouthed when I list the three most common causes [of mental confusion]: uncontrolled diabetes, urinary infections, dehydration.
It may sound like a joke, but it isn’t.  People over 60 generally stop feeling thirsty and consequently stop drinking fluids.
When no one is around to remind them to drink fluids, they quickly dehydrate.  Dehydration is severe and affects the entire body  It may cause abrupt mental confusion, a drop in blood pressure, increased heart palpitations, angina (chest pain), coma and even death. But there are more complications.  Although they are dehydrated, they don’t feel like drinking water, because their internal balance mechanisms don’t work very well.

People over 60 have a lower water reserve. This is part of the natural aging process. People over 60 years old dehydrate easily, not only because they have a smaller water supply, but also because they do not feel the lack of water in the body. Although people over 60 may look healthy, the performance of reactions and chemical functions can damage their entire body.

So here are two alerts:
1) Get into the habit of drinking liquids.  Liquids include water, juices, teas, coconut water, milk, soups, and water-rich fruits, such as watermelon, melon, peaches and pineapple;  Oranges and tangerines also work.  The important thing is that, every two hours, you must drink some liquid.  Remember this!

2) Alert for family members: constantly offer fluids to people over 60.  At the same time, observe them. If you realize that they are rejecting liquids and, from one day to the next, they are irritable, breathless or display a lack of attention, these are almost certainly recurrent symptoms of dehydration.”

 

Now, go get a glass of water.  Drink up!

 

How to Meditate

 

This is the most compassionate and most forgiving meditation instruction I have ever received:

Catch your mind wandering.
Bring your attention back to the breath.
Catch your mind wandering.
Bring your attention back to the breath.
Catch your mind wandering.
Bring your attention back to the breath.

This is most challenging  meditation instruction I have ever received:

Show up every day. 
Yes, every day.
Even if it’s just for five minutes.
Show up every day.

They call it meditation practice because that’s exactly what it. Like any practice, the more you do it the more familiar it becomes. The more familiar it becomes the more eager you are to practice. And so on.

 

photo courtesty of Martin Darvick.

Pasta alla Stanchezza (Weariness)

I can follow a recipe with the best of them, but when it comes to day-to-day cooking, especially through a year of day-to-day cooking, I’m more prone to open the fridge and look for what I can throw together into a quick, tasty and novel meal.  A week or so ago I sauteed some chopped onions, threw in half a jar or so of kalamata olives and a jar of  TJ’s marinated artichokes (setting aside the marinade for another night), swirled in some pasta sauce and let it all come to a bubble while I boiled water for the pasta.  A shave or two of Romano and we were set.  Buono appetito!

(Stanchezza — weariness)

 

Women’s Anatomy of Arousal

Sheri Winston’s Women’s Anatomy of Arousal picks up where Our Bodies Ourselves left off and carries it way past any goalpost you might dream up.

OK, what do I say next? This isn’t a family magazine but given the trolls out there I don’t want to invite unwanted attention.

So here’s what I have to say. Get this book.  Read it.  Give a copy to your daughter. Share it with your significant other whether male or female or non-binary. Learn about all the layers of pleasure sources we cisgendered women have right in our own bodies that we sure weren’t taught in Health Ed.

Winston’s language is frank, funny, factual. Did you know a woman’s clitoris is actually over 7 cm (over 2″ in length), most of it hidden within? Or that women have “herections?” Well, I actually did know that but I love her word. At times, the author’s language also made me uncomfortable; some diagrams made me squirm. Both reactions merit pause and consideration.

By this time in our lives, our bodies have prevailed over decades of change, trauma, miracles, and medical intervention.  Sheri Winston offers compassion for what has been lost and urges us to realize that it’s never too late to reclaim, or even claim for the first time, the wonder and power of our female body.