Saturday, June 27, 2015

Same-Sex Marriage Announcement

My feelings on today's announcement by SCOTUS on same-sex marriage:

As a proud Orthodox Jew, confident in my choices and beliefs, I have to say that I'm happy to live in a country where two human beings, no matter their gender or preference in human partner, are finally allowed to sign a legal document that allows them to share insurance and other benefits, visit each other when sick in the hospital, immigrate, receive parenting rights, tax rights ... and so much more. 

Yes, love is important, but it isn't all there is when it comes to "marriage" in the U.S. 

So let's not go crazy talking about religion or what love is or who experiences it or what's right and wrong, mmk? Mmk.

Also, I really need to make this rainbow challah.

Note: This doesn't change anything for religious marriage, and I'm okay with that. If there are two Jews out there who want to get married and buy a house and adopt some kids or have kids or buy a burial plot together or whatever, I am happy and excited that they have that option. If they want to get married in an Orthodox shut under a 
chuppah, well, that's a completely different ball of wax that isn't going to melt any time soon or ever. Why? I'm a believer in the Torah, 613 mitzvot and all, as best as we can observe them. I fully support and respect everyone's right to who they marry, love, and choose to be with. That doesn't conflict with my belief in the Torah as truth, and the Torah as truth in a religious context isn't going to make religious marriage possible for a same-sex couple unless HaShem sends us a prophet after all these years to say otherwise. Mmk? Yeah. Mmk. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Time Flies When You're Eating, Right?

Is it just me or is 2015 flying by? I mean, I have reasons for not paying attention to the days or weeks or hours, but the truth is last week I completely lost half my week. I spent all of Thursday morning thinking it was Tuesday and debating whether to get a babysitter so I could go out and see a movie or just have a "me" night on Wednesday or Thursday. Talk about a shocker when I saw a news article referring to "Wednesday" and then suddenly realized it was Thursday. 

This week, I'm equally shocked that it's already Wednesday. How does it happen? Is it having kids that makes time fly? Is it being on a pretty strict and standard daily schedule that makes time fly? 

I never thought I'd be one of those people with a schedule that, when strayed from, feels like the end of the world. For me. For Asher. For everyone involved. 

Anyhow, with all of the busy that's involved, I'm cooking, baking, and enjoying raw goods. Here's what I've been working on:

Oh She Glows Chia Seed Donuts -- Except I do them muffin style!

Chia Seed Muffins

These Quinoa Pizza Bites are amazing, and next time I'm going to actually do them in a mini muffin pan because the large muffin pan didn't allow them to stay together well. 

Quinoa Pizza Bites

I'm stocking Raw Macaroons, which are basically 1 cup shredded coconut, 2/3 cup almond flour, 2 Tbls coconut oil, 2 Tbls maple syrup, and 1 tsp vanilla blended in a food chopper with chocolate chips mixed in and then rolled into balls, rolled in more coconut, then refrigerated to keep 'em solid. Yum!

Another yummy raw dish I'm making is a Raw Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls, which are a mix of a 14.5/15-ounce can of chickpeas, 1/2 cup peanut butter, 2 tsp vanilla, and 2 Tbls honey. 

And, lastly, the piece de resistance ... Pigs in a Blanket, gluten-free style! It's a genius take on one of my favorites from when I was a kid. It's just vegan hot dogs + some cheese on a corn tortilla, wrapped up and baked at 375 Fahrenheit for about 20-25 minutes. Enjoy!

What are you baking, cooking, or mixing up right now? I'm up for new recipes! In fact, I've got some Arnold Palmer Ice Pops in the works, not to mention these Chocolate Chip Mint Greek Yogurt Pops

Monday, June 15, 2015

Farmers' Market Sundays in Denver

I'm doing my best to not think about the craptitude that is the situation with Mr. T's immigration, so I'm drowning myself in food, Farmers' Markets, work, cooking, food. Are you catching the theme here?

(In short, Mr. T's UK visa was approved last month, and they asked him to bring his passport in, so he did, and then they said they didn't have it, and then they said "oops, we sent that in error" and now it's weeks later and we still don't have his UK passport or visa. Even though the giant, ridiculous technical outage with the U.S. Department of State supposedly only applies to those who interviewed or applied on or after June 9, 2015 and we applied last year and Mr. T's interview was on May 15, 2015 and ... well ... just another brick in this big, oppressive, miserable wall.)

So we started Sunday out at the Farmers' Market down on Old South Pearl Street, where I always pick up a $10 bag of vegetables from Miller Farms and Asher hangs out and listens to the local tunes while rearranging the chairs.

Today's vegetable take-away:
  • Red peppers
  • Green beans
  • Mushrooms
  • White and purple potatoes
  • Onions
  • Broccoli 
  • Spaghetti Squash
Then we ran a few errands (fish and fruit at the grocery store) and went to a birthday party, and by the time we got home around 5 p.m., Ash was pooped and I was poised to prep for the week. 

I steamed the broccoli and green beans, made a Corn and Peach salad, baked some salmon, sautéed mushrooms, and ... what else? Sundays are powerful in my house. It's a make or break for the rest of the week. I also spent motzei Shabbat (that's Saturday night) meal planning for the week. We've got fish dishes, pad thai peanut noodles, tofu sandwiches, buffalo tempeh, Chia Power Donuts from Oh She Glows, you name it. It's going to be a good, healthy, foodful week (I hope). 

How do you stay on track for the week to not fall utterly and desperately behind? Here's a bonus video review of two box-of-the-month club subscriptions (Bluum Baby and Citrus Lane): 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ask Chaviva Anything: That Question I Hate

Probably the most common question I got asked by guys on Frumster just came in to Ask Chaviva (Almost) Anything.

"Did you ever go to seminary?"

Short answer: no. 

Long answer: No, because I went through the conversion process, spent seven weeks at a Hebrew-only ulpan at Middleburg College, and received a master's in Judaic studies (focus on midrashic literature) resulting in a depth of information greater than many likely obtain in seminary. 

That leaves me with a question, however, which is: Aside from the social experiment of seminary, what else did I miss out on?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Ask Chaviva Anything: What's Your Skin Regimen?

This question is very flattering, which makes me feel a bit awkward, but ...
Whenever you post a picture or a video of yourself, I'm always in awe of your skin. You don't seem to wear a lot of makeup, so I assume it's just really beautiful. Therefore - and I know it's completely OOT - would you mind sharing how you keep it that pretty?
The funny thing is, the past few weeks I've had terrible woes with my skin. My whole life, I've had pretty clear skin. When I was in high school I had one friend who struggled with acne who used to comment to how much she hated how clear and pimple-free my skin was. Luckily, I managed puberty without any acne problems. 

That being said, I struggle greatly with skin woes when I'm stressed, and the past few weeks I've been particularly stressed. I'll get two to three terribly obnoxious and irritating skin woes that last for weeks because I suck at handling acne since I never had to deal with it before. I also have a few spots on my face where I have "pock marks" leftover from painful chicken pox when I was a child. You probably don't see them in my pictures, and I think I probably notice them more than anyone does.

So how do I keep my skin clear? I really ... honestly I don't do anything. I drink a lot of water, eat a largely plant-based and gluten-free diet with very little dairy intake. I don't have any creams or moisturizers I use, mostly because I'm lazy. I buy them and then never use them. I don't spend a ton of time in the sun, either.

I feel like that makes me sound like a jerk. Ooo look at me and my mostly clear skin and I don't do anything for it! But I really do believe that diet has a lot to do with skin health. So take it as you will! 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Ask Chaviva Anything: That's a Lot of Ice Cream, Isn't It?

I'm going nuts with the blogging this week. I've always been a big believer in the idea that if you have something to say, say it, but if you don't, then don't. This blog is a testament to that.

Ask Chaviva Almost Anything

Anyway, another video here, this time in response to a submission to the long-forgotten Ask Chaviva (Almost) Anything feature!

Ask your own:

I've Been Doing it Wrong: How to Pray

I receive a lot of books for review in the mail, most Jewish-themed, from a bevy of book publishers. Some of them I get to, some of them I start and set aside because they're trying too hard, and others I fall into with a heavy mixture of exhaustion and relief.

One of these books I'm only a few pages into, but it's a "lesson a day" kind of book, so that only makes sense. Normally I wouldn't even write about a book or review it until I'm practically finished, but I feel compelled to write something.

I've had a rough couple of years, and an even rougher past eight months. My experience is that my whole life has been one gigantic challenge, with very little coming easy and very little feeling like it makes sense or that I can take a few days to just relish in what I have. It's a thankless perspective to have on life, but when I'm low, it's how I feel. I have a beautiful child who is my reasoning for waking up every day, and that is what drives me even as I struggle in every other aspect of my existence.

And then I hear stories or read book introductions, and I feel like my pity party is disgusting, selfish, and unwarranted. Chin up, buck up, it could be worse. It could always be worse.

Turn Around: 180 Degrees in 180 Days was written by Orit Esther Riter, a woman who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis three months after the birth of her first child. Through relapses and other pitfalls, she's stayed forward-thinking, always looking at how good things are. I can only dream of having that perspective, the perspective that Mr. T so confidently holds, too.

The first day, "What Lies Deep Within Us?" has a very simple lesson about prayer, tefillah: "We should ask for our needs to be fulfilled because we want to use them to serve Him better."

Aha! Lightbulb.

When I was little I'd pray with a bargaining chip. "If you do this, G-d, I'll do or be that." If you make such and such happen, I'll be good, I'll pray every night, I'll help more. When I was a kid, I was doing it right.

At some point, the more I prayed, the more I learned, the less I held to this. In the past eight months, I've spent a lot of time talking to G-d. I've asked for my husband back, because I cannot, should not be alone. Because a son needs a father. But I've been doing it wrong. Because I've had such a hard time already, enough is enough.
"We ask for wisdom to understand the Torah. Give us health, so we can perform the mitzvos (commandments)." 
Aha! That's it. That's. It. Thank you, Orit.

When I read this I realized that my formula has been wrong. I'm should pray for my husband to return so that I can observe the mitzvah (commandment) of taharat ha'mishpacha (family purity, loosely going to mikvah). For my husband to return so that I can have the time, energy, and capacity to study and understand the Torah. I should pray for my husband to return so we can fulfill the commandment to be fruitful and multiply.

You get the drift. It's about recognizing that everything comes from HaShem (G-d). All roads lead there. It's about having emunah -- a term that is difficult to translate into English. It's typically translated as "faith" or "belief" and first appears in the Torah with Abraham. After leaving the land of his father, Abraham and Sarah go through a lot, after which he challenges G-d. Then, G-d promises that Abraham and his seed will be as numerous as the stars in the sky, and at last he says,
“And he believed (vehe’emin) in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15: 1‑6).
But it isn't belief as we understand it today. No, as Dr. Menachem Kellner explains, Abraham finally truly trusted HaShem. Emunah is ultimate trust. 

The truth is, being a cerebral person, this is the most difficult aspect of my Orthodox Jewish life to put into words or feelings. It's something so internal, so deeply embedded in me, that it's difficult to vocalize. I've always trusted. At the same time, it's so entrenched within me that it also gets covered up and forgotten about when things get hard. I forget how to trust because I take for granted that it's there.

B'ezrat HaShem (with the help of G-d), this book will help me, day by day, to rebuild my relationship with G-d, to pray with conviction and understanding of why I'm praying and how it connects me to HaShem. 

Heaven knows I need it. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Hop Into My Kitchen: Cooking with Chavi

It's only appropriate that I follow a post about body image and being overweight by writing about ... food! You see, I spend my Sundays when Ash is napping cooking for the week, or at least for the next few days. So here's what I was up to.

First thing I did was put the laundry in the wash throw together some Baked Salmon Cups. Basically, they're salmon cakes but made the lazy easy way in a muffin pan. The recipe I use is sort of "choose your own adventure," but I know they're done when they're crisp around the edges.

3 cans salmon (~18 oz)
1 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs
3 Tbls mayo
1 Tbls lemon juice
1/2 cup egg white replacer (you can use regular eggs)
dried parsley, salt, pepper, garlic powder + whatever else you want

Directions: Mix it all up. Make sure the mixture isn't too dry, and place in a 12-cup muffin tin. Flatten the tops a bit and throw on some more gluten-free breadcrumbs. I baked these for about 12 minutes at 350 Fahrenheit and wasn't happy with the progress, so I bumped it up to 425 Fahrenheit for another 7 minutes or so and they got crispy. As I said, I take a very "choose your own adventure" approach to cooking.

They make great finger food for toddlers. If you want, mix some mayo with sriracha or with dijon for a nice sauce to have with them.

Then I threw together some Corn Salad (corn, mayo sour pickles, dill, salt, and pepper) and Dijon Hearts of Palm and Tomato Salad (red wine vinegar, dijon, olive oil).

And then? Then the easy stuff. I trimmed and steamed some green beans I picked up at the Farmers' Market this morning. Love the farm-to-table life.

Then, my life was made a bit easier thanks to an awesome package from the kind folks at CookSimple with oodles of goodies to try and coupons to share and buy more, too. The great thing? All I did was write about how easy they'd made my life and how I would have been better off had I discovered them eight months ago (no, seriously). It's healthy, few-ingredient meal aids and meals in a box that are gluten free and kosher. A girl grown up on Hamburger Helper, I'm elated to find something that tastes better that fits my diet.

On the menu for this round of cooking was the Chipotle Sorghum Pilaf. It smelled like Autumn and tasted even better. Ash enjoyed it, despite my worries that the chipotle would have too much kick for a 17 month old, but he is his father's son. It was so tasty and easy. Check out this video for a bit more on it (and the bit in the video about the box + confusion has to do with using the bag as a measuring cup):

And lastly, I made two things at the end of last week that are particularly delicious that I'm quite proud of, although the recipes are completely not my own. The first is Breakfast Yogurt Pops, which Asher absolutely LOVES and the second is Peanut Butter & Jelly Muffins, which I love.

What are you making/baking/cooking these days? Share your favorite go-to recipe with me, please!