Posted by Chava Tombosky
Unfortunately my whoopie pies tasted like two hockey pucks slathered with sweet melted slime. The realization that my dessert making technique needs some serious attention is becoming crystal clear. As for my other recipes, I knocked those out of the park. The pull-apart bbq brisket was sweet and savory as was the sweet and sour meatballs, which were completely finished after one meal. You know you’re doing well when leftovers are at a minimum. As for the Whoopie pies? We had every one of those left over. It was a sad and unfortunate dessert fiasco.
Being that the Jewish calendar is filled with holidays rotating across the year, have you ever wondered what the true nature of the holidays represent? For example, do you think it is an accident that Purim falls out a quarter of the way into the New Year? After we have worked on correcting our ways, asking for new things, begging for a turn around in September during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur the time when one might get frustrated or despondent would be around the end of February beginning of March.
It is this exact time of year we have tried our luck and might be feeling discouraged. Before the big win, we might be feeling like our prayers have gone to waste. But comes Purim to teach us that every single event that occurs in our lives is there to get us to a greater place and teach us the lesson of having ultimate faith. Just as Esther and Mordechai sat distressed wondering if their own self sacrifice was really getting them closer to their own demise or closer to their own refuge, I imagine many of us think around this time of year these questions: Are our efforts working? Is our hard work paying off? Is there a master plan to our work? When do we get to see the actual win? Or are we just forced to rotate in our daily grind without any meaning or positive results?
Purim is here to remind us that we can recreate our bad habits at any moment. We can take a look at our lives and find the joy and utter excitement. We can mix things up, get dressed in different costumes and try on a better attitude to push us to the next phase of life that we are all yearning for.
Take the time out of your Purim day to help a less fortunate person. Have a meal with friends and realize today is the day that you can change your life and recreate a totally new direction before we reach the middle of the year.
Purim is a time of self- reflection, and renewal. And even if the whoopie pies didn’t come out soft, light, and airy, there is always next week to try, try, try again.
Have a wonderful Purim! And a Freilichen Chag!
(Since today is the holiday of Purim where the commandment is to share a basket of two food groups to at least one person. As a result of understanding my inability to bake- I will be passing out personal pizza pies and beer. Take out rocks!)
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6.17.13 at 7:37 pm | A contorted branch determined to arch its back. . . (124)
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February 26, 2010 | 5:50 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
I’m still workin’ on getting my groove back in the kitchen. My new recipes for this weekend are: sweet and sour meatballs with a glazed sweet and sour sauce, brown rice with seaweed, shitake mushrooms (‘course I only have bella mushrooms- cause I can’t read) green onions and soy sauce, and my newest and greatest dessert??? Whoopie pie! Here’s the link to the Whoopie pie recipe:
I also made pull apart bbq brisket in the crock pot, mushroom barley soup with Kishka, home made Challah, asparagus, Chinese sweet and sour salmon with angel hair pasta, and garlic basil lemon chicken. And I’m proud to say, I got started cooking at 1:30 and it is only 3:45, and I am DONE. (Except for the whoopie pie cookies)
So, Who’s a comin over for dinner?? I swear if my kid complains this week and refuses to eat, I’m doing take-out from Pico Kosher Deli next week and the week after and the week after that…..
Have a great shabbat!
February 22, 2010 | 9:57 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
Friendship is a complex endeavor. Much like housework, it takes attention to detail, it needs a commitment of time, and you have to be committed to it all day, every day. Typically, women friendships are throttled with even more accessories, (shoes, spatulas, dress makers) dips, valleys, and sometimes mountains to climb then male relationships.
Generally speaking, male friendships are filled with collective grunts around a ball and a can of beer. They are simple and easy and hardly filled with drama. You rarely hear of a man having a falling out with a buddy (unless there is money involved). Women however, are doomed with drama within their triangles of social gatherings. We are groomed from kindergarten to forge relationships that can sometimes look like an ancient monarchy. Each woman takes her place in the female social circle that can escalate, irritate and desecrate if she is not suave at mediating and resolving. Especially if there are three women, then it can become a real Boston Tea Party fighting their way in the fierce female food chain.
Two women can remain in tact, four women can stay a group forever, but three women is a dangerous mix. Because if ever two of the women have a falling out, then the third is forced to pick one over the other and she is usually going to lose a friend over her choice causing the threesome to turn into a two some which eventually leads to a lonesome. See? I told you we were complex creatures.
Years ago I heard a caller chime into the Dr. Laura program complaining about a girlfriend and wanting to cut her out of her life completely. Dr. Laura suggested, that maybe she should consider not cutting her out, since her complaint was not worthy of total isolation, but consider reinvention. If there are rough patches, there’s room to redesign this union on new terms.
I have a friend who is convinced there are three types of female behaviors categorized as Uppers, Downers, and Straighters. Uppers are friends that bring you up to a positive level; they are your cheerleaders with enthusiastic and cheerful dispositions. Downers are on the opposite scale, and can be people who have a pessimistic view on life. They can be draining and high drama. But they can also give a person a realistic look on life, which is why some people are drawn to them. And Straighters are those women who are driven, ambitious and determined to chase life with conviction. They typically like the uppers to keep them from overdoing it.
In the mix, I’d add four kinds of friends that can be any of the female behaviors discussed above:
Rockers, Keepers, Glee-ers, Scorners.
Rockers are friends you would not typically speak to on a daily basis, but should the need arise, they are there for you, picking up your kids from carpool, delivering a meal, or listening to your latest fight with your hair stylist without any judgment. They are women who are the boulders of our lives, the dependent forces we need when we can’t rely on anyone else to get the job done.
Keepers are the soul sisters that you see once in a while and tell your deepest secrets too. You don’t need much time with your Keeper, maybe a weekend a year to get caught up. (Preferably an all nighter) The bond of silence and the code of discretion is the utmost rule in this dynamic. Keepers are lifers, meaning they are in your life forever, and never ever remind you of the tales you told.
Glee-ers are the girlfriends who have no strings attached but can give you the best time you’ve ever had. They are those friends who are great vacation buddies, restaurant “dates”, or shopping pals who know how to just have fun. You wouldn’t confide in them or tell them your intimate stories, but that’s what’s nice about Glee-ers, cause you can be gleeful with them without any vulnerability, responsibility, or intimacy.
Scorners are those friends that typically never last. They are people who are jealous, angry and fraught with so much envy they can literally spend every day planning your demise. They can start off very charming. They can woo, pursue, and coax you into friendship and just when you think you have a legitimate bond they cut you off at the knees and sabotage other relationships you have built as well. Stay away from these, the Scorner is one to be reckoned with.
Although we are complex creatures filled with relationships that can cause us fierce obsessive thoughts, years of therapy, and lots of exhausting analysis, we are also creatures who can find comfort in knowing the power of a female bond is like no other. It should be cherished, and it should never be taken for granted. And so what if we can’t just find easy connection through a grunt, a ball, and a beer can, what we do have is everlasting, special and incredibly exceptional because when the right friend does come into our life at the right moment, it can be the greatest experience and gift.
February 19, 2010 | 10:43 am
Posted by Chava Tombosky
This week I dedicate Friday Food Days to all our Bubbie and Zadies who were the first to introduce us to most of the recipes hiding in our kitchens. Please allow me to wax lyrical over my favorite dishes that have been past down from previous generations. A few months ago I had the opportunity of sharing a weekend at my grandparents house. Bubby served her famous “Bubby Bessie” chicken, which was past down from her mother. Quite simply, a pan is lined with onions and potatoes, sprinkled with salt, pepper, and paprika, and the chicken is layered on top with a little “Mrs. Dash and more paprika, then covered and baked. This does sound like a boring dish, but when it comes out of the oven it is steaming with flavor and the best taste reminiscent of great family gatherings.
The following week, I came home and feeling the urge to recreate my previous week’s experience I of course made the same chicken. I hadn’t told anyone that I had visited my grandparents the weekend previous. Instead I thought, let’s see if anyone notices when I serve Bubby’s famous Friday night dinner. All of my siblings were over for Shabbat and without a beat, the moment I served it; they all perked up and said “Bubby Bessie Chicken”. Then I served my bubby’s famous salad. Simple. Iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and the piece le resistance, radishes with Pfeiffer Italian salad dressing. Again they perked up and said- “Bubby Bettie salad”. And finally I finished it off with homemade chocolate chip cookies, to which they all replied- “Ok somebody must have just visited the grandparents, either that, or you’re missing them terribly.”
When I was a kid my Bubby Shirley used to come over and visit with her little red suitcase. She always stayed in my room. I used to love snuggling up next to her and watching her breathe at night. Mostly because I was afraid she might stop. Her visits were the greatest moments for me as a kid. And to this day, I have tried over and over to recreate her “Chulent Potatoes”. I’ve done the recipe many times, and each time they have never ever come out the way Bubby Shirley made them. She would take little round potatoes douse them in tons of oil, salt, pepper, and lots of paprika and bake them. The thing about these potatoes was they always managed to come out super soft and steamy on the inside and crispy on the outside. And of course, you could never call them Cholent potatoes- they were Chulent Potatoes- emphasis on the “U”. But when I make them they are leathery, too overdone, or too greasy. And yet, I will for the rest of my days, make this recipe over and over, because the smell of them roasting in my oven reminds me of her sweet hugs and that little red suitcase.
To everyone out there enjoying their grandparent’s recipes this Shabbat, may you all have a happy and healthy Shabbat meal, and for those who have not had the chance to cook their grandparent’s recipes, just try it, there’s truly nothing like it.
Please feel free to share your grandparents’ recipes in the comments below. I am always interested in hearing other people’s experiences when it comes to their savored dishes passed down from the chain of tradition.
February 15, 2010 | 1:49 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
My latest conversations with my youngest hypochondriac actor of a son (He’s in 2nd grade)…
This was a conversation after a whole day of him complaining about his tummy hurting. After conning me into staying home, receiving two helpings of jello, a free blockbuster Disney movie, and extra TLC that had me hanging out with him all day on the sofa we had this conversation:
Son: Good news, my tummy is better- I’m not gonna die. Probably just gas.
Me: Well no one ever died from gas.
Son: Of course they have- if your stomach fills up with gas and it has nowhere for it to go you could explode and die!
We then had a lengthy discussion about his fear of death. It went like this:
Son:I’m afraid of dying.
Son: Shhh don’t say it.
Me: We all die, but not till we’re like 90.
Son: I know. Which is why I never want to grow up, then I won’t die. You- you’re closer to ninety- you’ll probably die first.
Me: Does that scare you?
Son: a little.
Me: Let’s make a pack that we’ll never age.
Son: mommy, you know we can’t do that. But I do plan on growing up and becoming very very rich.
Me: why do you want to be rich?
Son: So I can come up with a cure to keep you alive forever. Plus I want to buy a lot of candy.
Me: What else would you do with a lot of money?
Son: Remember when we were in New York, and I gave a dollar to a poor person on the street?
Son: that felt important, that’s what I want to do, make a difference.
Me: As long as you spend your life making a difference to others, you never really ever die because your deeds will live on for eternity.
Son: That’s cool. Can we have ice cream now?
Me: Are you still afraid of dying?
Son: not as much, but I am afraid of having more gas.
This next little conversation was my way of infusing art and culture into my child which proved futile.
Me: I’m going to a concert- wanna come?
Son: What is a concert?
Me: A performance with singers and dancers.
Son: Will I be able to sing and dance too?
Me: No, you watch others perform using song and dance.
Son: Is there a dance floor?
Son: Well what’s the fun in that? Nope. I don’t want to go.
February 12, 2010 | 6:28 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
Most of my essays have been introspective this week. So to give my readers a little relief, I have composed a list of the top ten mistakes I have made in my kitchen:
1. Added a cup a salt instead of a cup of sugar. This isn’t so bad, but I was making chocolate chip cookies- ya I know. (And yes, this mistake runs in the family)
2. First week I was married, I made 3 boxes of spaghetti and 4 pounds of meat sauce. I was so accustomed to cooking for 7 siblings and 2 parents, that I had no idea how to cut down my portions for only 2. We ate spaghetti for a loooong time.
3. Left to carpool with the broiler on. When I came back the house was filled with smoke. The alarm was blasting. I would have been disappointed that my grilled eggplant was now charred ash, but we got a visit from the fire department. The good-looking ones so it was a wash. My sisters and I now regularly “broil” things with lipstick on and a good-looking apron.
4. Boiled a bunch of eggs. This would have been a normal thing to do, but I had re-boiled my already boiled eggs. Funny how boiled and raw eggs look exactly alike. Thanks to my kid’s science fair project I found out the trick, something about spinning them clues you in to the raw vs boiled egg.
5. On Passover I was on the phone and began peeling potatoes. The recipe only called for six. I peeled thirty. It didn’t go to waste, but I did need to get creative.
6. Hammered my chicken fillets using a frying pan. Seems like a good idea, but I had managed to spray salmonella all over the kitchen. No amount of bleach could possibly prepare me for this experiment. Next time I was smart and put my chicken fillets in a plastic bag before going to town on them.
7. Made a milkshake in the blender. Without the lid on. Need I say more?
8. Accidentally added caraway seeds to the top of my challah dough since I ran out of poppies. This turned out to be one mistake that was ingenious! Now I put caraway seeds on my challah every week and everyone comments on how incredible the taste is.
9. Put my ice cream in the fridge. We refroze it, but it was never the same.
10. Asked my family what they wanted for dinner. Number one mistake. Never ask anyone what they want you to make them or you wind up being a short order cook with a dozen orders.
February 12, 2010 | 5:59 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
I am convinced that G-d has a mischievous sense of humor. It is based on scientific fact. Well not science, but I’m pretty sure the observations that I have had in my lifetime would prove this theory beyond a shadow of a doubt. How else can you explain G-d’s decision to put difficult people in our lives which potentially cause us myriads amount of grief that can challenge our emotional well being, creating so much havoc that we have three choices with how to cope?
2. Stay in conflict and become a drama addict.
3. Or find a way to turn it around. Learn from the very person who has been thrust on you by forces of nature that seem to be beyond playful comprehension and then find compassion for yourself and the person who is causing you pain.
See? This just screams mischievous sense of humor. But I also believe, this sense of humor is there to teach us a valuable lesson.
When you are standing at the edge of your bottom looking into your abyss as a result of the very human being who has caused you to stand there, it can become a fortuitous moment for you to learn true enlightenment and self- refinement. And you’ll have no choice but to believe G-d’s sense of humor is at its best. For how else can we make sense of the challenging personalities that has been our source of therapy, avoidance, or chronic drugs, alcohol, food or sleep- then with the theory that G-d must have the best sense of humor EVER by giving us the exact person at inconvenient moments with highly difficult agendas to torment us beyond recognition?
But, if you take the time to examine those difficult personalities that you spend much time being frustrated by, you will ultimately come to notice those personalities are the very ones you need the most, for they are the very personalities that have the ability to shape your greatest moments of triumph. It might not seem funny to us, but G-d is probably having a hay day watching from above and laughing at how silly we are for not realizing his genius!
This week in my ongoing Torah class…..
(Yes, I really do have one of those. I think it might be a law that if one marries a Rabbi you automatically are given a classroom with your name on it. Like if you marry a doctor you are automatically handed a swivel chair behind the desk of a doctor’s office that starts your day with “Hello, Dr. So and So’s office please hold”. )
……. we discussed the fact that our greatest conflicts can be the window into the greatest lessons of our lives. I had asked each person to look at a recent conflict and then put themselves and their latest adversary in a glass room. Become the host of their own show. Leave the room. Watch the conflict detached. (I hope you are all doing this in your own minds right now.) Try to mix it up by finding clear compassion and empathy for your adversary. Now take the side of yourself and find a way to have compassion and empathy for the person sitting in the chair that looks like you. It is not you, remember, you are the host. Before you know it, you will have the opportunity to see that the very person causing this pain has been planted in your life for an opportune purpose. The purpose of allowing you to grow and to reveal something about yourself you never thought you knew. Most probably the person causing you this pain is a reincarnation of previous personalities you have dealt with many times in the past but G-d has a sense of humor and felt the need to repeat this personality in your life yet again.
Maybe this person is there to remind you of how not to be, or how to find patience, or to seek forgiveness for yourself, or to impart the lesson of how not to be vain or petty.
Personally, I’d like to thank G-d for his constant ha ha in planting the difficult personalities that I have had to learn from at the most relevant yet inconvenient moments. And I will spend the rest of my week pondering on how funny it must be for G-d when I don’t take these experiences as the gifts that they are. Maybe if I realize the lesson in it once and for all, I won’t get a revisit of it later. Although sometimes, I would just rather complain about those difficult people then learn from it all, but where’s the humor in that?
February 11, 2010 | 6:29 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
“Mommy, what does G-d look like?” My six year old asked me one day.
“G-d looks like the best most wonderful encounter you’ve ever had,” I responded. “What’s a wonderful encounter?” he continued. “It’s like a grand moment you experience that leaves a warm feeling in your heart that you know is true, everlasting, and holy.”
“I know, like the smell of my daddy,” he answered.
An innocent yet profound response, if only it was that easy for adults to tap into the “scent” of the Divine as with the ease that innocent children can. How do kids know this and where, when, and how did us adults forget how to savor the aroma of Holy matter?
Do you ever feel the urge to find meaning, seek truth, or belong to a collective consciousness? These urges stem from your Divine place, the Neshama (soul), part of your being. Ignoring a soul’s whisper could be a recipe for disaster.
A friend recently complained of having anxiety. When I inquired where she thought her apprehension came from, she mentioned the discontent in her life due to the economy. Her worries were keeping her up at night leading to an all night trip to the hospital prompted by terrible chest pain.
“Why am I so lost?” she asked me. “You have defined your life by your income, you are unsettled, your soul is finding a way to grab your attention. Stop and listen to it.” I responded.
The next day, after pondering my words, this friend came to me with a different kind of composure. It was like she had received a revelation that made her recognize that divine “scent”. “I am unsettled!” she said.
This friend thought her chest pain was due to the economy, but really, it was a bigger issue. She was lacking spirituality and “soul-growth”. She needed a tune up, and fast.
But what sort of tune up would help her anxiety subside and make her feel less empty and paralyzed from focusing on the economic crisis? There are many remedies to a “broken” soul. Prayer, creativity, learning, teshuvah (returning or making amends), and of course the big Kahuna- charity.
When we become caught up with any one of those experiences, we become connected to our inner core, our soul begins to take flight and we become our true selves, images of a more divine consciousness that gives us purpose and meaning. We get out of ourselves and stop thinking about the “I”, the ego, and begin to think about the “bigger picture”.
While on a field trip with my daughter’s class to a Chumash Indian reservation, I learned about their fascinating culture. They are a people of the earth. They once lived in large tribes. Before the European explorations they would spend their evenings chanting to ONE God and spend their days crafting jewelry, hunting, and building aps (Aps are huts made out of branches. Bulrush was added in layers starting at the bottom with each row overlapping the one below. I know, complicated, yet the Chumash managed to build these aps in an hour. Today it takes man two weeks to figure it out.)
They all needed the unique skills of one another. They were one, a collective people. They had a chief who helped to maintain everyone’s participation in the tribe, who was a voted member. Women were revered, (that was the part I liked of course) and all men were created equal.
I was astounded by their way of life. “I don’t get it, wasn’t there ever a time someone would rebel against this way of life and leave?” I asked our tour guide, Graywolf. (of course that is the little rebel in me.) He explained, “They would be foolish to leave for they would be risking their lives. We are a people who realize, WE are the temporary ones on THIS Earth, and it is our job to make it a holy place by serving it as its guests as a productive and collective group.”
All of this I learned while huddled in a primitive cave about a quarter of a mile away from the camp where the tribe had lived. To get to this cave, one would have to hike down a dirt path, up a hill, and cross a river, (only to have to) then climb steep rocky terrain. We nestled in the cool embracing cave and Greywolf explained it was this very cave that was known as the “birthing cave”. This was the place that women traveled to in order to give birth to their young. The cave looked like an indentation of the earth, and the women felt it was the best place to be when experiencing new life, the inside of the earth’s womb.
Never mind the primitive conditions this was a spiritual experience for the Chumash. What made the Chumash people so interesting was, they never found a way to allow their ego to overtake their existence. Allowing their ego to get in the way would counteract their survival. They were equal beings with equal duties, a utopian society.
These Chumash Indian people were very much like- Chassidim. Men who understood the purpose of creating light in the world through doing kind deeds and finding ways to embrace their survival with honor and dignity, and asserting themselves using material earth to further express their spirituality. The Chumash spent every day fine tuning their thoughts and ways of life to “Smell” the scent of G-d. I bet they never had any anxiety at all.