Monday, May 31, 2010

To bless the world...

I haven't written a blog here in a long time. I had a reader tell me she missed my blogging, so I though perhaps I'd try to write a bit more here. And then I spent a while thinking about what I should blog about. Most often, I've blogged here about things like cooking, and crafts. I've not done any craftwork except making a few granny squares, and a stocking for J last christmas, in months, really. J has been cooking most of our dinners, and there haven't been that many new ones. I suppose that's not true, we've discovered plenty of favorites since I last blogged.

Maybe the change is that I'm starting to make friends (here/locally/irl, whatever you like to call it.) I've not had friends like that in a long time. Maybe it's just been really busy here. Which it has. It's been a period of great growth, but those are always challenging periods as well.

I thought a lot about what to write about. I wasn't feeling all that inspired to write here.

And then, along came a day like to day. A day full of first fruits. A day full of shehechiyanu. I said shehechiyanu three times today. First at tea time over apricots (I realized tonight I have had dried apricots this year so I don't know if it *counts* but I think it might. plus, I realized that tonight, but I said it this morning.) Then over watermelon before dinner. Then over peaches at dinner. I haven't said shehechiyanu this much, ever.

It got me thinking. Somehow, eating three new fruits (new this year) and saying shehechiyanu seems very different than eating three new fruits and not saying it. I think if I hadn't stopped to think about the fact that I'm eating a new fruit and say a blessing each time it wouldn't have struck me as such a big thing. I had THREE new summer fruits today. That's pretty big.

I guess I'm not making a coherant point because I'm not sure exactly what it is I want to say. I just wanted to talk about what it's life to go through life making blessings. I wouldn't say I go through my life making blessings, I don't make that many blessings right now. I'm trying to get into the habit of saying the bedtime shema. I like saying it, but I keep forgetting because it's so long and I don't know it well, and my tongue trips over it. Maybe for a while, I'll just say the first line, or the first paragraph of something. But I always say that. Once I'm started, I might as well say the whole thing it seems. It's just matter of remembering.

I'd really like to introduce some other shorter blessings into my life. I love when J and I bless eachother on shabbat. I love saying kiddish, and motzi, and the blessing over handwashing. I think that saying a blessing fills moments with purpose, and thought and kavanah, and I love the idea of so many little moments being filled with kavanah.

I loved stopping to acknowledge that this is the first time I've eaten an apricot, watermelon, or peach ALL YEAR. It's been 3 full seasons since I last ate this fruit. It's a kind of big thing, when you think about it, and it's nice to stop, and reflect on it for even just a moment. (In all honesty, today, it was very rushed moments, and muttered under my breath, because I didn't want to seem tooo weird, however it still was meaningful.)

Sorry to ramble on. I guess my point it, I don't have one. I just like this journey I'm on, my path of moving into jewish observance, and I really like adding blessings to my daily life. I hope to add more.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Channukah!

Happy Channukah! Enjoy latkes, candles lights, and blessings, my friends.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


I'm sorry I haven't been here so much. I know I say that a lot. What can I say, my life has been very full and stressful lately. full in good and bad ways. I'm just trying to focus on the good. Including my wonderful job which I must do in the morning and thus go to sleep for, so this will be sadly brief.

Pizza. What is it to you? J and I have the most interesting ongoing... debate about pizza and its nature. Now, being a couple, and preferring to eat the same dinner/at the same restaurant, the definition of pizza is of great importance.

I beleive our debate might be summed up in our conversation tonight.
Me: "This isn't pizza. This is bread with stuff on it. Amazing bread with stuff on it, but bread with stuff on it none the less."
J: "What you make and eat isn't pizza. This is pizza. That is cracker's with stuff on it. Good crackers with stuff on it, but crackers none the less."

So my readers. Do you think pizza should be bread with stuff on it or crackers with stuff on it? :D

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Limed Buttermilk Skillet Cornbread

So, after my earlier post about the benefits of liming or nixtamalizing your corn, here my progress so far on this great limed cornbread experiment. (I'm sorry it won't be done in time for Thanksgiving likely. But in time for plenty of chili this year!)

I'll update this post as I finish it.

To start, I took 2 c. of cornmeal, and 1.5 c. of limed water, and let it sit on the counter. (to make lime water, just add lime, pickling lime, or cal to a jar, fill it with water, lid it, shake it up, and let it settle the cloudy water is lime water, leave the sediment in the jar. Then refill with water, shake again, let settle again, and it is ready for your next corn dish. The way it works is that each time, you are disolving lime in water to its (very low) saturation point. Because so little can disolve, it takes a long time to use up the cal in the water. That's fine, it will keep.)

24 hours later, I added about 3-5 T whole milk (unhomogenized). I just poured, and forgot to measure, sorry, but thats my estimate, and 2 T cultured buttermilk. I set the cornmeal on top of my stove with pilot light, to keep it warm, which is where I normally culture my buttermilk.

Tomarrow morning or evening, I plan on adding salt, butter, eggs, and baking soda, then popping it in a hot oiled skillet, and baking until done. hopefully it turns out.

(And if it doesn't, I've got enough buttermilk culturing on the stove to make a batch of unsoaked cornbread. Hey, I need the cornbread for t-day, and its still healthier than boxed.)

As I promised, I will update this post with news as I have it. It may flop. It may fly. But its sure to be exciting!

So it turns out that Nourishing Traditions has a recipe for limed cornbread.... oops lol. Anyways, from sheer stubbornness, I winged it a little bit, but partially followed the recipe. I added more buttermilk (totally about 1 c. dairy), half a stick of melted butter, 3 eggs, 1 tsp salt, and then mixed. when it was all mixed, I added 2 tsp baking soda, popped it in the hot, buttered cast iron skillets in the 350 preheated oven, and baked it until I remembered I had cornbread in the oven.

The results: all cornbread in our house will be limed. Its easy peasy. However, I would recomend something a little finer than cornmeal. Cornmeal is a bit... grainy. It will be great in stuffing, all covered in stock (yikes, I hope I have enough, I only have 4 c. concentrated chicken stock!!! I thought I had more. should have made some with that carcass rather than freezing it. oh well, I'll make some when we get home.)

I highly recomend giving the NT recipe a try (though I might cut back a tiny bit on the baking soda. It does taste a little baking soda-y. maybe 1.75 tsp baking soda?

Corn Bread Recipe:
Day 1: Soak 2 c. corn flour and 1.5 c. lime water.
Day 2: Add 1 c. buttermilk.
Day 3: Preheat oven and cast iron skillet to 350. Add 3 eggs, 1/8 lb butter, 1 tsp salt, 1.75 tsp baking soda, mix. Oil skillet. Bake until done maybe 45 min-1 hour.

Happy thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

I found cal!

*Does a happy dance*

Cal, also known as lime. (not the citrus, lime the mineral. As in limestone.)

Why am I happy-dancing about having found some lime? Do you remember my rant/rave/long winded speech about nixtamalization? I touched on the subject at the bottom of that post.

If you would like to know even more about nixtamalization, and making the nutrients in corn more bioavailable, The Nourishing Gourmet has a lovely in depth post on it, here.

Now, I was searching out cal, lime or pickling lime, because my traditional stuffing for thanksgiving calls for cornbread. I've come a long way, from jiffy in a box (of course that has geletin anyways, so thats been out for a long time) to geletin free boxed, to homemade throughout this year, to an attempt at homemade, limed cornbread.

I promise, I'll tell you all about my experiment as it unfolds. I'm definitely experimenting here, because I think the best way to have done this would have been to soak the corn in lime, and then dry it and then grind it. Alas, the masa harina (limed cornmeal/flour) was noway nohow suitable in terms of size of the grains. Cornmeal was what we desired. Nixtamalization traditionally used lime as well as several other alkaline substances. So my thought is thus: Soak the cornmeal in just enough limewater to soak it. Then mix in buttermilk the next day, and other ingrediants to make cornbread, right before I bake it. I'm hoping it works... I did buy enough cornmeal for two cornbreads, but it also involves fat, and buttermilk and other expensive ingrediants and I always hate to waste food.

I'll report back.

And if you would like to purchase your own cal or lime locally to you? Turn no further than your local mexican or other south american grocery store. In with the other spices, you will likely find Cal, or lime. (or maybe pickling lime). I'm sure it can also be had online, but it is so important to support your local economy, as much as possible. Plus, it was very interesting, my first foray into what has always been in my life, but sort of a scary unknown. Was it like china town with unknown smelly things like seahorses for sale? who knew what lay inside the mexican grocery store. Turns out, its amazingly normal, just lots of cool stuff (lots of dried chilis, and other fun unusual produce, your average amount of processed foods, and more tortillas and hot sauce and salsa than average.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


How do you pick a menorah you like? I googled it, and it didn't help, other than saying something like "this is usually a family heirloom, but if you want a new one, you can choose candle or oil". Gosh, thanks.

I went to Afikomen, our local judaica store, today, to search for one. They had the most incredible selection of menorahs along with everything else jewish, it just wasn't what I was looking for. (Ok, not what I wanted in my price range). J loved this one, but to me it is totally... ugg. Its two dimensional! And its PAINTED BLUE! It's PAINTED!!!!! It's one sided. It looks cheap. Can you tell I hate it? It is nothing like my idea of what a menorah or channukia IS. He also liked these little tiny ones, which seemed so... small.

Of course, I haven't got any idea what it is. I only know what it isn't. I don't even know if I want oil or candles. I've never seen an oil menorah lit. After looking at a lot of pictures, I do think I want a candle one.... plus then you have the fun of picking out nice candles. This shape without the thorns IS a menorah to me. But I'm having a hard time finding exactly the one I want. Which I suppose in some ways resembles the menorah of my childhood. And is affordable. And ideally is solid silver... ok, I'll ditch the silver for pewter or brass. Though I seriously have a thing about silver judaica. An OBSESSION about finding the PERFECT pair of silver shabbat candlesticks. The PERFECT kiddish cup (though I've learned that having many kiddish cups is a good idea.) Now is this my biggest obsession. I would say my future babies, getting married, becoming/being pregnant, becoming a midwife, other people's babies, and food, about in that order, would be my strongest obsessions at the moment. Just ask J. Still, brass or bronze or pewter feel "traditional" enough for me.

So apparently, I know exactly what kind of menorah I want, I just haven't found it yet. Much less in a brick and mortar locally owned independant store near me. *sighs.*

We did, however, pick up a kippah for J (he decided upon a larger flat black velvet 4 peice kippah. yes, I explained the... conotations. I admit, it did look very nice. And was very affordable/inexpensive). We also bought 2 benchers (b'kol echad). YAY. I will learn birkat hamazon, gosh dang it. Will J sing it with me? I don't know. We both enjoyed singing shalom aleichem together for the first time on shabbat last shabbat. It will also be fun to be able to practice saying the words so I learn it faster at other people's houses. (any good recordings to practice along with?) Also, are you supposed to say it after all meals? after shabbat and chag meals? after shabbat and yom tov meals?

I just learned the difference between chag and yom tov in my holidays class today. very fun. I'm looking forward to the class on pesach, sukkot and shavuot. Of the three, I've only really celebrated pesach, going to dinner in a few other people's sukkots this year nothing more. And pesach always always falls flat for me. I desperately want to have one of those seders that goes on all night, (in a good intellectally and spiritually stimulating way), and either I can't seem to orchestrate that, or my family isn't interested. I'm definitely looking forward to TWO seders this year, even though I haven't celebrated two days of any other holidays. One with family, and one lingering one with friends.

I may be going back to afikomen to pick up a book or two for the reading for my holiday class. (the jewish way, which I've read from the library and want a copy of my own for the class and rereading. I also really want to get seasons of our joy. It sounded really interesting as side reading though I may see if the library has it first, see if I like it.) I also want to get chanukah candles while they're still on sale. If only I knew what size I needed for my menorah. maybe they'll have some different ones then, or I'll be less overwhelmed by the LARGEST selection of judaica and jewish books I've ever seen in my ENTIRE life. It was very overwhelming. I mean, choices. Seriously? Choices? In a judaica shop? And not just 3, but 15? 40+ mezzuzahs? Overwhelming.

And yet, sometimes I felt like they didn't have what I wanted. Which admitedly, might not exist. The menorah, didn't have. I didn't fall in love with any of the prayer books that they had. (What do I want? A woman's prayerbook, with all the traditional prayers, space for writing in new ones that I invent/hear, Hebrew, transliteration, and good english translations that feel like prayer in english, but stay true to the meaning. Synogogue prayers, but also a LOT of home prayers, traditional ones for shabbat and festivals, all those blessings for various moments, and more. Not line by line translation, (since then you have to read the english backwards...!) a paperback sized or smaller hardcover, small print is ok, and only small amounts of commentary about each prayer. And instructions like "it is traditional to bow NOW in the amidah". Is that too much to ask? I'd settle for a siddur like the new machzor for the conservative movement. Have you seen it? I feel like it is the culmination of what a machzor can be. I'm in love with it. Anyways...) It was overwhelming to have so much choice. Nice, but overwhelming. And cool to see all the tallit. I look forward to picking the perfect one out when I convert (dad's jewish, ma isn't, attending a conservative synagogue, and my own choice, I will wait until I have finished my conversion to don a tallit for services. I know what I want though...).

Ok, seriously, I'm not this material minded. I could tell you all about the wonderful interesting learning filled first class in the holidays series I'm taking at shul. I have cramps and J wants to watch a movie, so I won't though.

Take care dear friend.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Grateful umm Sunday?

It's sunday and I'm grateful!!! I am grateful for community, at shul and at work, I feel like I'm developing friends and community and I love it.

I'm grateful for amazing food, and friends who love food just as much as I do.

I'm grateful for work I love, I'm grateful for people to laugh with, I'm grateful for the sun, and the earth, and the food I eat, and G-d's blessings. I'm grateful for the blessings of others, I'm grateful for the ability to bless.

I'm just very grateful today.

Bay you come in peace, go in peace, and be blessed upon your way.