Category Archives: Home and Family

Conscious Cooking With Gratitude

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Conscious Cooking With Gratitude

There was something different about the chocolate chip dot cookies this past week.

My husband does not have much of a sweet tooth. And, in general, the girls are more enamored with candy, and ice cream than homemade treats.

But, this time, my husband ate 5 cookies! More than once he remarked how wonderful they were. Raizel is still gushing, several days later: “these cookies are soooooo good!”

It has made me think: What was different this time? Was there a special secret ingredient?

The answer that I came to was: “Yes. There was a secret ingredient.”

They were baked while making lots of blessings and focusing on everything that we have to be grateful for. The cookies became infused with our positive intentions, which then elevated them from the mundane to the sublime.

Here is what happened:

On Sunday, before we started baking, I asked my girls: “what is the first thing that we need to do before we start?” Both girls answered: “wash your hands!”

Then, after we washed our hands, I asked: “what is the second thing that we need to do?

I got a few blank stares, and so I answered: “make a blessing!”

Although I did not want to sound pedantic, we then had an impromptu lesson on “why do we need to make blessings?”

The girls and I discussed how making a blessing reminds us to be grateful to God. We are allowed to eat, but, when we make a blessing, we are saying “thank you” to Hashem (God) for giving us such delicious food, that makes us happy and keeps our bodies strong.

Then, I told the girls, “We should just list all the things that we have to be grateful for to Hashem.”

 

So, as we were making the cookies, we had what I call a “radical gratitude session.” We shared every single thing that we had to be grateful for: eyes that see, glasses to help us see, the ability to read, a computer to find our recipes, legs that walk, a mouth that talks, ears that hear, mouths that can chew……

The whole time that we were baking the cookies, we were sharing on all the numerous things that we had to be grateful for.

The outcome were the delicious cookies.

Another time, while I was cooking for Shabbat, I kept repeating the phase, “this is in the honor of the holiness of Shabbat.” (L’kavod shabbas kodesh)

That night, as we were enjoying our Shabbat meal, I asked my husband, “how did you like the food?”

My husband, not knowing my intentions while cooking that morning replied, “Everything tastes like the holiness of Shabbat.”


I couldn’t help smiling when he said that. How could he have known what I was saying the whole time I was cooking?

So, our thoughts are very powerful, even to the point that they transform our food from ordinary into other worldly.

May we all be blessed to focus on everything we have to be grateful for and transform everything we do to bring more blessings and good into the world.

Semi-Off Topic: Shared Joy – Happy Mother’s Day, Lag B’Omer & The Egg

Shared Joy: Happy Mother’s Day, Lag B’Omer & The Egg

Recently, in addition to being time challenged, I have been life challenged.

I am always dispensing advice and providing comfort to people in distress who are suffering.

Unlike many of my patients, who have mood disorders, I am not an emotionally volatile person. If I am in a bad mood, then chances are, there is a specific reason. But, I also practice rigorous self-care. All of the tools and techniques that I provide to my patients, I practice myself. Coping and maintaining a positive attitude is a daily mental discipline.

I am grateful for the disciplines that I practice. This past year has been particularly stressful, and these past few months have been even more so.

One unfortunate side effect is that I have been unable to blog recently. I find blogging creative and fun. It is so nice to finally have this opportunity to connect and share with everyone again. I have missed it!

 

There are too many wonderful celebrations today for me not to post. Today is Mother’s Day, as well as the holiday, Lag B’Omer.

Lag B’Omer is a festive day, which celebrates the passing of the great sage and mystic, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, author of the Zohar. It also commemorates the end of a semi-mourning period. During the weeks between Passover (which just passed) and Shavuot (which will be occurring in about 2 weeks) there was a plague that occurred in which many of the students of Rabbi Akiva (teacher of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai) passed away. The reason for the plague was because “the students did not act respectfully towards each other.”

On Lag B’Omer, the deaths ceased, and the period of mourning ended.

 

LOL! On Lag BaOmer, we also light bonfires.

The theme of this holiday is about loving and respecting people — even if you do not agree with them. It highlights the destructiveness of having one’s ego invested in being right, at the expense of the relationship or preserving the dignity and honor of another person.

Since the mourning practices are suspended, Lag B’Omer also happens to be a very popular day to get married.  Unbelievably, today would have been my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary.

Today is Mother’s Day too. As I have shared in the past, my mother has always been very ambivalent about Mother’s Day.

This year, my mother called to thank us for the flowers we sent her. My mother yet again confirmed her ambivalence for what she calls a “Hallmark Holiday.” My mother said, “Everyday should be Mother’s Day. We should treat our loved ones nicely all of the time.”

I thought her comments dovetailed nicely with the theme of Lag B’Omer.

 

Yaffa is a happy camper. The words mean “like 1 person with 1 heart.” Meaning, we are all united and share each other’s joys and sorrows.

 

In keeping with her iconoclastic ideas, my mother has also informed me that she no longer wants to receive flowers for Mother’s Day. Instead, she is requesting that the money spent on flowers should be donated to a charity of our choice. What a nice idea!  I just had to share it with everyone!

Yaffa ate a hard-boiled egg for the first time!

However, the coup de grace for today is that Yaffa ate a hard-boiled egg for the first time. It took a lot of cajoling and effort, but she did it!  We are so proud!

So, happy Mother’s Day to everyone, Happy Lag B’Omer, and congratulations Yaffa!

It is good to be back.

Off Topic: Snow In The City

Today was a snow day. We all stayed home and had a bonding experience.

My friend Mindy’s husband took this video of the streets of New York “aka the city” today. His commentary is hilarious. I just had to share it!

I have never tried to post a video before, so I hope it works!

Spring is around the corner!

I am trying to think warm thoughts and visualize the positive.

Enjoy!

Off Topic: Snow Falling On Roses

Off Topic: Snow Falling On Roses

This blog is my creative outlet for what is otherwise a very hectic and intense life. I consider it to be an open miracle that I am able to juggle so many responsibilities and still maintain it.

To cope with my many challenges, I have been attempting to spend 1 hour a day thanking God for every difficulty that I have, rather than complaining and feeling sorry for myself.

 

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My efforts have been bearing fruit. I find myself feeling more optimistic and better able to cope. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is really the most healing and healthy thing that one can do to cope when challenged.


As part of this effort, I try to spend time each day truly appreciating and being in the moment.

Yesterday was a wonderful opportunity to practice this habit.

It snowed throughout the day beautiful light and fluffy snowflakes.

The snow covered rose bushes in front of our house.

The snow covered rose bushes in front of our house.

 

Growing up in Canada, we really enjoyed the snow. We always appreciated the wonder and purity of snow as it falls. I love when the ice and snow freeze over the branches of the trees and they make beautiful lacy patterns on the windows. Each snowflake is so unique and beautiful!

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When I think about snowflakes, they remind me of life. I can try to reach out and touch a snowflake. But, when I do, it is lost. The snowflake melts and is gone.

The snow covered tree in front of our house.

A snow covered tree in front of our house.

My father was fond of saying, “In life, you need to stop and smell the roses.”

There are no roses blooming during the winter. However, I thought our bushes in front looked very pretty with the snow. I loved seeing how the snow gently piled up on their branches.

I think that my father would be happy to have me stop and notice the beautiful snow falling on the rosebushes, even without any roses blooming.

So, as Raizel and I were driving home at dusk, I took pictures of them and thought I would share them on the blog.

I never thought that blogging could be so much fun!

This was one of my father's favorite poets.

This was one of my father’s favorite poets.

 

 

 

Happy New Year & Happy Chanukah 

Today is the first day of 2017 and the last day of Chanukah.

Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

 

 

This year, my husband and I had a very funny experience with our candles for Chanukah. I am sure there is a hidden symbolism, but, as of yet, any possible deeper significance is eluding me.

For whatever reasons, we were gifted with several boxes of candles this year. However, when we really needed some to light the menorah last night, we had misplaced them all.

Scrounging around, we were blessed to find exactly nine candles to light — 8 for each day, and one for the “Shamash” (“attendant”) candle. Our own little Chanukah miracle!

In the Jewish tradition, the number 8 is seen as above nature. Therefore, the last day of Chanukah is a very auspicious time to pray for personal requests.

My prayer is for the supernal light of Chanukah to bless us with the clarity to see the miraculous within every aspect of our lives.

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Many blessings to everyone!

Love,

 

Carol and family.

Fantastic Glazed Doughnuts 

Fantastic Glazed Doughnuts

Every year we go to visit my sister for Chanukah. My sister, Raizel, is really a lot of fun. Aside from my mother, and my Aunt Perel (A”H), my sister is also one of the best cooks I know.

By training, Raizel is actually a chef. However, once she got married, she transferred her cooking skills to being a “Baal Chessed.” For those who may not already know, “chessed” translates as “loving kindness.” It is an action, as well as a character trait. So, if someone is a “Baal Chessed,” they are a charitable person who is constantly engaged in acts of kindness.  That is my sister, to a “T.”

In addition, my sister is also a Baal Hachnasat Orchim.”  “Hachnasat Orchim,” is the Hebrew word for “hospitality” or “welcoming guests.”  This mitzvah, in its purest form, consists of hosting and serving the needs of those who are destitute and have no place to eat or sleep.

My sister and her husband used to host up to 20 people per meal for Shabbat and holiday meals. All of their guests were treated to homemade, all natural, healthy, kosher food. Many of them  were people who genuinely needed a place to eat.

It was a delicate balancing act. Yet, my sister and her husband excelled at this mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim (welcoming guests), all while raising 6 beautiful children, 3 of whom are now married. One of my wonderful nieces, Eli, shared this recipe for doughnuts.

Fantastic Glazed Doughnuts

Ingredients

2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast

2 tablespoons warm water

3/4 cup warm milk

Alternative: use water, coconut or nut milk instead

2 1/2 tablespoons butter

Alternative: use coconut oil or palm shortening instead

1 egg

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoons salt

2 3/4 cup flour

Instructions:

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in a small amount of warm water. Add the milk (or substitute), butter, egg, sugar and salt. Blend this until its smooth.

Add the remaining flour and knead until the dough is smooth. Cover the dough with a plastic bag and leave the dough to rise, until the dough has doubled, about 1/2 – 1 hour.

Punch the dough down and roll out a half inch thick.

Using a cup or biscuit cutter (or even a dry empty can to cut out the doughnuts. If you want to make the doughnuts with the traditional hole in the middle, use a shot glass or similar sized object to cut out the holes. (The holes will later become doughnut holes)

Place these on cookie sheets and let them rise for about 30 to 60 minutes.

Heat oil in a pot, and then fry the doughnuts, approximately, 30 seconds on each side. Once the oil becomes hot, this process is very quick.

The trick is to have the oil hot, but not too hot. Our friend, Judith, said that in the days before there were thermometers, you knew the oil was hot enough when it would take 1 minute to cook a piece of bread. I thought that was a nice trick!

My sister simply put in one of the doughnut holes, and waited until it started to brown nicely.

Regulating the temperature correctly is critical to making doughnuts successfully. If the oil is too hot, the outside will burn but the inside will be too raw. If that happens, bake the doughnuts in the oven so that they will cook nicely.

Remove from oil and place in pot of sugar syrup and coat on each side.

Sugar Glaze

The trick to making doughnuts taste completely awesome is to dip the doughnuts into the glaze right after they have been fried. Unfortunately, my sister is an intuitive cook, and she does not need to follow recipes. So, this an approximation of what she did.

Ingredients

Equal amounts of water and sugar, i.e. ½ water and ½ cup sugar.

Instructions:

To make a glaze using granulated sugar, place equal amounts of sugar and water to a cooking pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook the sugar and water over high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is completely dissolved.

If you want a thicker glaze, continue to cook the glaze and stir occasionally until it reduces to a thicker consistency, or add more sugar.

Once the doughnuts are cooked, quickly drop them into the simmering glaze, and turn to coat both sides and then remove and place on plate.

Decorate as desired.

Here are the pictures. My sister laughs at me that I need things explained so exactly. But, that is why I am writing this blog in the first place.  I am so grateful that I have her and my mother to learn from.

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First step.


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Kneaded into dough and read to rise.


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Cut into doughnut shape. The secret is to roll thin and use a good cookie cutter shape.


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First side cooking


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Flipping them over.


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Dipping into sugar glaze syrup.


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Final product. A work of art!

The final outcome was a work of art. The downside of doughnuts is that they are only good fresh. So, make sure you invite lots of people over to share them with you! You can tell them it’s a mitzvah.

My sister tells me that the reason why she is able to make these so well is that she is not afraid of making a mistake, and every year she keeps on trying to improve. So, now you know why she is not only an awesome cook, but an awesome person as well. She is truly our family tzedakis (righteous soul).

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Happy Holidays Everyone!

This year, for the first time in many years, Chanukah and Christmas both coincide with each other.

Today is the first day of Chanukah and it is also Christmas Day.

 

Originally, this was going to be the Chanukah holiday greeting for my blog:

Yaffa's art project.

Yaffa’s art project.

However, last night, we went to visit my sister, Raizel. We celebrated the first night of Chanukah together — we lite the candles, made doughnuts, sang songs and played with dreidels.

Traditionally, this holiday is celebrated by eating foods cooked in oil to celebrate the miracle of the oil which lasted for 8 days.  My sister is a fabulous cook and baker. She can pretty well do anything in the kitchen! I am hoping to post her recipe and the pictures later.

My sister’s neighborhood is a mix of many faiths and people from all over the world. Since it was also Christmas Eve, and she lives near a Church, everyone, Jewish and Christian, was out celebrating and immersed in the holiness of their celebration.

Just for fun, I thought I would post a few pictures.

Beautiful lights!

A view from the street.

Outside of a local church.

A different view from the inside.

 

Happy holidays everyone!