Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Introverted Mom with the Extroverted Child

I've been hustling hardcore to find work as a writer these days. It's what I love, it's what I'm best at, and it's what I should be doing with my life. Luckily, some brave souls are biting and taking me up on my writing chops.

Up today on MazelTogether:


Monday, June 5, 2017

Catastrophizing and the Sweat Lodge Cafe

I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Denver, Colorado. It's a coffee shop I frequent, although I haven't been here in a few weeks because I was in NYC for work and then the kids were scratching my ankles for a week while daycare was out of session for Memorial Day and Shavuot.

Now, I'm sitting here, watching the clock countdown because I've got to leave and get to a meeting at 10 a.m. The coffee shop is baking, and I probably shouldn't have even stayed because it's uncomfortably warm.

"It's a new thing we're trying," the barista jokes. "The big shvitz!"

I start conceptualizing. There are cat cafes and rat cafes and maybe there should be sweat lodge cafes.

I've been here about an hour after the longest daycare drop-off ever, and I've got basically two weeks of work to catch up on.

And now, there's someone, or something, tumbling around on the roof. Two of the baristas went outside about 20 minutes ago to try and figure out what it was.

"I don't see a ladder," one said. "So that's weird."

The tumbling and banging is right above my head, and I'm conceptualizing again. Or, rather, I'm catastrophizing.

I can't remember where I read the term, but I immediately realized that there's a name for what I've always called Sense of Impending Doom Syndrome, or SIDS for short. Yes, I know there's already a thing called SIDS, but there we are.

I have this ridiculous tendency, and I've been like this since I was a teenager. I might have started this even younger, but I remember it becoming somewhat debilitating as a teenager.

What I do, is I calculate and conceptualize every possible negative outcome of a situation. Some people do this with major things like skydiving or flying, but I do this with the every day, the minute moments that most people don't even think about. I do this walking down a sidewalk, where, for example, if I see a crack in the pavement I assess the options of what could happen.

  1. I could trip and fall flat on my face and chip my front teeth. Or they could fall out. 
  2. I could trip and fall and end up in the street, getting run over by a car. 
  3. I could trip and fall and break my wrist trying to break my fall. 
You get the gist. It's anxiety to the nth

So here I am, catastrophizing. Anticipating the inevitable reality that this person is probably working with heavy machinery right above me and will fall through the ceiling, crushing me, as I sit here narrating the entire incident. Will I be able to hit Publish before he hits me? Will I die? Will this be my last great gift to the world? 

Or will I make it to my 10 a.m. meeting?

Wherever I read this term, this concept of catastrophizing, there was another concept discussed. Instead of pondering all of the negative outcomes, consider the positive outcomes. 

Now, how exactly do I get myself in the headspace to do that. And if I were in that headspace, what would the outcome be? 

I'm seriously stream of conscious writing this here, and I just realized that the guy on the roof is probably fixing the A/C, which is probably why it's a million degrees in here, and if he fixes it, then I won't be baking and that would be awesome. Yay positive outcomes! On the other hand, by the time he gets it running I'm probably going to be out of here at my 10 a.m. meeting.

Either way, a sweat lodge cafe is a terrible idea. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Diving into Mrs. Beeton for a Questionable Chocolate Bundt Cake Recipe

I recently mentioned wanting to get a bundt pan to my husband. I don't remember why exactly, but it seemed like something I needed to do, especially after making the most epicly delicious Sweet Potato Cake from an old IKEA cookbook that I bought ages ago and never used until recently. It's actually less a cookbook and more of a guide to great kitchen living, with tips on using scraps and how to sort your produce. It's more of a coffee table book chock full of delicious, Nordic recipes. The Sweet Potato Cake recipe was a huge hit with my munchkins, even with my gluten-free substitute flour. 

But back to the bundt pan.

When I mentioned it, my husband said, "Oh, I have a great recipe!" He led me into the kitchen to his ancient copy of Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, a mainstay of the British world, and pulled out a barely legible chocolate bundt cake recipe written on a scrap of paper. 



We’re going out for Shabbat lunch, and I'd offered to make dessert, so make the cake I did. But not before calling and/or messaging him a half-dozen times to verify aspects of the recipe. 

"How much is in a 'packet of baking powder' exactly? We don't have packets of baking powder in America." 
“5 teaspoons of baking powder, seriously? But only 1.25 cups flour? Really?”

"The recipe says milk, but there's no milk listed in the ingredients!"  
"Really, only 1.25 cups flour, really?" 
I'll admit I fudged a bit and doubled the amount of cocoa powder it called for because it just didn't look chocolatey enough. After I got it into the bundt pan and into the oven, I made another half-batch of the batter because I didn't believe it was going to work. I put the half batch in some mini bundt pans I'd gotten and into the oven it all went. 

When I pulled them out, I was skeptical. I took a taste. It's not half bad, for being a questionable scrap-o-paper recipe made with gluten-free flour. It's not as sweet as American cakes, but honestly that's probably a good thing. 

"Let me make it," my husband says. "With real flour."

[Above written before Shabbat. Below written after.]

Luckily, the Shabbat guests loved the cake. It was different, but super tasty. We also checked in with his mum after Shabbat and found out that her packet of baking powder actually contains only 3 teaspoons of baking powder, so that might make a difference. 

Also, over Shabbat, there was discussion about the name of the pan used to make the bundt cake, and Mr. T swore up and down that there was a different name the this mom used for the pan. After Shabbat, he asked, and lo and behold, he wasn't making it all up:


So here's the recipe transcribed, in case you want to make it yourself in a gugelhupf or bundt pan:

"Choc Cake"

Ingredients
1 1/4 cup flour
2 Tbls cocoa powder (original recipe called for 2 tsp, but we asked; it's Tbls)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs (possibly 3, we still aren't sure)
1 packet baking powder (in UK, and the note says, "if not self raising" ... this = 3 tsp baking powder)

Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. Grease tin.
  3. Mix flour, sugar.
  4. Add mix, oil, and eggs.
  5. Bake for 35 min approx.
Notes: 
  • It turns out self-rising flour is preferred in the UK, but whatever you have should work.
  • I used Cup4Cup Wholesome Flour for this recipe. 

IKEA Sweet Potato Muffin Recipe


Once up on a time, I loved eating at the IKEA cafe. When I went kosher, this was no longer a possibility, until I lived in Israel, where, you guessed it, the cafe is kosher! I miss those inexpensive meals of salmon, green beans, and french fries ... ah, those were the days.

Now, my only peace of mind comes from being able to use the IKEA Cookbook to craft some delicious nosh that, honestly, you'd never find in their cafes anyway.

But, to be honest, this isn't necessarily a cookbook. It's more of a "how to have an amazing kitchen and respect the planet, yourself, and your kitchen" book. The tips in this tome are impressive, thoughtful, and universal.


The bummer is that it seems this book -- Our Food, Naturally -- is no longer available, and for that, I apologize to you, because you're missing out. The photography just jumps off the page at you, too.


And now? On to the recipe simply called ...

"Muffins"

Ingredients
7 oz roasted yams
1 cup soft butter (room temperature)
1/3 cup strained yogurt 10%
1 1/4 cup plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
3 oz coarsely grated apple with peel
1/2 cup white sugar
3 eggs, whisked
melted butter for the cups

Directions
Put the yam flesh, butter, and yogurt into a food processor and blend. Put the mixture in a bowl and sieve in the flour and baking powder. Mix together and whisk the grated apple, sugar, and eggs into the dough. Divide the muffin mixture into cups (roughly 1/2 cup) greased with a little melted butter. Fill with mixture to 1/2 inch from the edge. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until they feel firm and are golden on top.

Notes:
  • I ended up roasting two medium-sized sweet potatoes, which was actually enough to double the recipe. So one medium sweet potato should do the trick. 
  • I used Greek yogurt in this recipe. 
  • For the flour, I used Cup4Cup as a gluten-free replacement. 
  • I very rarely mix ingredients separately, because I'm a lazy cook. I just there everything into the KitchenAid mixer and let the whisk attachment do the rest. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Back in NYC: This City Isn't What I Used to Be

Being back in NYC for the first time in ... something like five years, but really we'll say six years because the truth is the last time I was here I was in a hotel at JFK passing through on my way to Israel, feels like a dream.

Six years ago I was living in New Jersey and commuting in to NYC every day to attend NYU, where I was pursuing my second and third master's degrees in Judaic Studies and Jewish Education. It feels like a million years ago, honestly. And being back here is just surreal. I forgot what life was like "in the city" and I'm only here for 24 hours for work.

It's possible that my entire experience is probably grumpily painted by the fact that my flight was delayed twice and ended up getting in more than three hours later than anticipated. It's also probable that the fact that I arrived in the city close to 10 pm and nearly every kosher restaurant was closed or closing plays into my annoyance at the city. And then when the food I did order showed up it was breaded instead of gluten free, leaving me food-less and hungry after being in airports all day with nothing by nuts and hardboiled eggs.

But I digress.

The noise, the hectic bustle of these streets is something I'd forgot about. Or, it's possible, the noise is less aggressive down south near NYU where I spent most of my time. Up here, near Times Square where I stayed, it was an overnight constant of car horns and garbage trucks and police cars and music. This morning around 5 a.m. it was jackhammers and yelling. And I heard it all as if it were happening next to me in bed ... from the 15th floor of my hotel.

Awake, showered, hopeful, I stepped outside into the swamp. I don't mind an 80 degree day or a 100 degree day, as long as it isn't humid. I don't do humidity. I don't do sweating and sticky grossness. It's one of the reasons I truly love living in Denver. I walked a few blocks, shoving my way through vendors attempting to get people onto bus tours and to shows they don't want to see, and it was funny because not a single one of them even attempted to talk to me. Suitcase in tow, is there something about me that says, "I'm not a tourist"? Something determined or focused on my face?

I'm seriously narrating to myself as I walk. All of this. Then I hit this place called Greggory's Coffee, and here I sit, waiting for a 2:30 pm meeting that was supposed to be a noon meeting. And then off to the airport to fly back home. But this time? I'm flying out of JFK and not the ramshackle, looks-like-it-was-set-up-overnight-in-a-mad-dash LGA.

I don't know if/when I'll be back in NYC. Something about the hecticness of the city makes my social anxiety activate. My typically confident and determined personality feels confused, rushed, out of sorts. There's something about the noise and the dirt and the people ...

I didn't used to be like this. I can't imagine brining kids into the city. I'd fall apart.

Honestly? I can't wait to get back to Denver. It's clean, crisp, quiet(er). I've aged, obviously. I've gotten older. I'm only 33, but feeling this way about a city I once thought would be my long-term home makes me feel ancient.