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Nov 15 2012

A Cheap Person’s Guiltiest Secrets

By at 3:01 pm
first day of school

First day of school!

In August, I confessed to being cheap, and wondered if it was messing up my kids.

I followed that up in October with Five Easy Ways to Save Money for Your Family.

But, now comes the deepest darkest confession that an out and proud cheap person like me can make. I am going to talk about the things that I actually will–unashamedly–spend money on:

Item #1: Hebrew School/Jewish Day School Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 8 2012

I’m Not Going to Make My Kids Weight Crazy

By at 5:35 pm

Last week my mother came to visit us for the first time in almost a year. Because my kids know my father and his wife (who I lovingly refer to as my second mom) so well, I was very excited for them to get to know my other mom, too.

She got off the plane, jumped in the car, and immediately began talking about her weight.

It didn’t take long for me to remember what I thought I’d forgotten. My life, for the first 18-20 years, had been consumed and terrorized by weight.

My mom never called me fat. She always said that I was “perfect.” She never criticized me at all.

She criticized herself endlessly. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 25 2012

Repairing the World, Starting With Your Snack Bags

By at 1:44 pm

So my daughter is in school now, which is a topic unto itself that I promise to address another day, and every day she needs to bring lunch.

Lunch!

I grew up in the day of brown bag lunches. You’d sit in the cafeteria and everyone had a brown paper bag, with plastic bags inside that were filled with their assorted foods, from sandwiches to Doritos and Oreos.

Except for me. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 7 2012

Food Challenges: My Husband’s a Vegan & My Son’s Hooked on Pouches

By at 10:27 am

fruit juicerThere’s an old saying that you can put three Jews together and get four opinions. Well, that’s the way it is with diets in my family. My husband is a vegan, my son is a vegetarian, and I am an omnivore who is abstaining from meat and poultry for the summer. I am going crazy trying to figure out how to feed everyone.

My husband has never tried to veganize me. He has encouraged me to be more informed about my food choices, but until recently I resisted. I was so overwhelmed with learning a new way to cook for him that I couldn’t stomach any more education. Tempeh? Soy? Seitan? I can make chicken soup so good you can taste it in your soul and roast chicken, briskets, and noodle kugels that practically forced me to start a waiting list for Shabbos dinners at my place. I used to pride myself on being a fabulous Jewish cook. Now it feels like I have to start all over and it is very, very hard at times. Read the rest of this entry →

May 17 2012

The Day to Day Woes of Food Allergies

By at 12:03 pm

peanut allergyI never thought my diaper bag would save a life. But the EpiPen that I carry in that diaper bag serves as a reminder that my child’s life could be in danger at any time, in any place. I need to be prepared to recognize his allergic reaction, stab him in the leg with the EpiPen for 10 seconds while holding him down, and get emergency help ASAP. All while keeping his 16 -month-old twin brother safe, too.

The challenge of food allergies hasn’t been the countless trips to the dermatologist when my son’s face, legs, ankles and diaper area were weeping, seeping, and raw. It wasn’t the day my mother held him down while a nurse drew blood from his tiny veins and I paced the hallway holding his brother, waiting for his screams to erupt the silence. It wasn’t giving up dairy and eggs while breastfeeding. It wasn’t even the morning my husband awakened to find the baby’s entire face swollen so severely that we couldn’t see the whites of his eyes–and within minutes we were on our first ambulance ride. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 9 2012

Organic is the New Kosher

By at 2:11 pm

organic now logoLike another Kveller blogger, my husband and I are getting back to the land. It’s not something we set out to do–when we met, we both worked for large corporations, me as a freelance journalist and sometime marketing writer, him as a video-game producer. Then 2008 happened, and suddenly our cushy corporate jobs wanted nothing to do with us. There we were, with first one kid and then two (thanks to a careless nap-time nooner to “celebrate” my layoff), with no more savings and increasingly impatient parents. What were we to do?

Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 20 2012

On the Farm: Adventures in Pickling

By at 12:30 pm

I love the taste of naturally fermented sour dill pickles. Since I don’t live anywhere near a Jewish deli and I have lots of fresh vegetables on hand from the farm, I really want to learn to make my own. But my initial attempts at pickling have not been a success.

Natural fermentation is the traditional way of making pickles taste like they are fresh from the barrel at a Jewish deli rather than fished out of a jar from the supermarket. They are not packed with any vinegar and not refrigerated, giving them the amazing taste and some say great health benefits. I put off trying my own naturally fermented pickles for years, using the excuse of being pregnant and nursing young children. It seemed to me that if you can’t eat feta, you should think twice about eating food left soaking on your counter for a week or more. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 29 2011

Coming Off The Sugar High

By at 3:08 pm

sugar cookiesLittle kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems. I remember the early days of motherhood when this was new information to me.

However, I didn’t think I’d experience addiction issues with my child – if at all – until she became a teenager. Instead, this past week she has bounced from party to party, including three yesterday. “Slash” couldn’t keep her eyes open or her head up, under the influence of the parties’ libations. She still insisted we drag her to the last party. She had to take a disco nap just to go. But once we got there, we were barely able to get her out of there over an hour after we had initially planned to leave.

Then today, when I wouldn’t let her party in the house, she asked who else was having a party today so she could go get her fix there. That’s it. I put my foot down. No more parties. And she is going into Detox this week whether she likes it or not.

Worst of all, I knew she’d hit bottom this morning when she picked up a quarter and asked me to peel it for her! I explained that it wasn’t chocolate. It was a real quarter. I refused to feed her chocolate craving, no matter how loud she screamed. She’d already lied and manipulated me twice that morning to get the goods behind my back. She was becoming more brazen by the minute and even stealing in front of us!

Yes, my 3-year-old has become a sugar addict in one short week. Although Hanukkah is over, I’m quite worried for her immediate future. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 19 2011

Setting the Table

By at 9:43 am

Cooking together is such a luxury.

The kitchen table is a lot more than just a few planks of wood. It’s where memories are made, traditions are continued, and families spend time together. It’s actually one of the most important pieces of furniture in your house.

And, if you’re anything like me, getting dinner on that table can be difficult. Balancing taking care of my daughter with wanting to cook healthy, local, affordable food that everyone wants to eat (including the picky toddler) is really hard. I’ve been trying lots of different techniques–from using the slow cooker to making lots of food on Sunday to eat throughout the week–but sometimes I wish I had someone to tell me exactly what and how to make it all happen.

And sometimes, wishes come true. Enter Hazon‘s Setting the Table, a new program happening here in Brooklyn (again, our apologies to those who don’t live in our esteemed borough). If you’re an expectant parent or have a child ages 0-2, you’re eligible for this awesome series. It’s four cooking classes taught by experienced chef (and local mom), Molly Weingrod. They’ll teach you how to think about cooking for your family, how to cook together, and even what kind of food to buy. You’ll think about what it means to cook sustainable and healthy food, and learn about how that can have a positive impact on your family. You’ll make meals to eat that night at class, and have leftovers to take home and freeze for when you need them. And if you’re a parent, you know that having ready-to-go food in the freezer is key.

There’s a November session and a December session, but the spots are filling up quickly, so sign up now! Families who took the class this past spring were surprised by how amazing it was to actually cook together–they’d cooked for each other, but never with each other. Turns out it’s pretty special. Look at how happy that real-life couple in the photo is!

After I learned about this program, they’d totally convinced me to sign up. Who’s with me?

Aug 24 2011

Packing Lunch: In Search of Authentic Culinary Heritage

By at 12:49 pm

Palak paneer/Shutterstock

Yesterday we asked about packing lunch for your kids. Here’s one mother’s struggle.

An Indian family I know gives there 11-month-old baby Indian food—lentils, palak paneer—every day for lunch. It’s what we had every day for lunch, they say, and it’s chock full of antioxidants and other healthy things for the baby.

Now, I’m a Jew of Eastern European descent, and I love that culinary heritage. When Shabbat rolls around I’m a sucker for a baked chicken and a succulent kugel. I’ll knock an old man to the ground to snag the last piece of pickled herring at kiddush. As a kid I savored a nice bowl of borscht at the dinner table from time to time. But when it comes to passing on my foodways to my children, I wonder if I’m falling short.

Our Shabbats are steeped in tradition, but our weekdays are a mishmash of Italian-Indian-Mexican-Asian-middle American whoosy-whatsy. From PB&J sandwiches to stir fry to pizza to taco night, we’re a virtual Ellis Island of culinary traditions. Everywhere they’ve lived, Jews have taken on the food stylings of the people around them—in America’s vast melting pot/salad bowl, this translates into massive food schizophrenia.

What if I wanted to offer the little ones some authentic Eastern European cuisine in their daily lunches? What would this look like? Obviously not even the old world Eastern European Jews had rich foods every day—these were Sabbath luxuries! So…Sunday potatoes, Monday potatoes, Tuesday potatoes? Or would I rather my 5-year-old become known as the stinky herring kid?

Black bread and vodka?

This is where I honestly hit a wall. I sometimes think that the answer is to leave my Polish/Russian roots behind…to dig deeper into my husband’s Hungarian and Romanian heritage, Sephardic traditions or modern Israeli cuisine. After all, those are all authentically part of the Jewish tradition.

But not my Jewish tradition.

In the end, I find some solace in the humble bagel. Authentically Eastern European, it’s our contribution to the melting pot, and occasionally takes the place of actual Jewish religious experience. (A good shmear can be transcendent.) Our children eat bagels before they even have teeth.

But beyond the bagel, what Eastern Europe Jewish foods deserve a daily appearance in my children’s lunchboxes? Are there any? Or should I just get back to work kosher-izing the latest ethnic fad cuisine? Perhaps that will be my true culinary legacy. Palak paneer, anyone?

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