Dual Cultures, One Marriage

Thanksgiving is approaching quickly, and so is our upcoming trip to New York. We decided this summer that we’d go celebrate it with the American half of our family, and as much as it weighs on my climate conscience to be hopping on a flight across the Atlantic, I’m really looking forward to going. Before we get started, speaking of flying and living eco-consciously: you all know that we’re doing our very best to minimize our carbon footprint and live in harmony with nature as much as possible. We are both painfully aware of how detrimental air travel is for our climate, but opting out would mean we’d never see one of our families ever again (unless we jumped on a ship to America, I guess – what a journey back in time that would feel like!). Instead, we try to be smart about how we travel – or at least as smart as possible. We go for a longer period of time when we do go, we make sure to combine holidays/birthdays/important events to avoid “unnecessary” trips and we always fly direct. We usually go with Norwegian, knowing that their Boeing 787 (Dreamliner) is at least a tad better when it comes to fuel efficiency than other aircrafts. This Thanksgiving trip, we’re going for 15 days and will manage one wedding, Thanksgiving with the whole family, celebrating my father-in-law’s recent retirement, seeing plenty of friends (some even out of state) and checking out my brother-in-law’s new apartment he just moved into… among other things. I know this is just as much for myself as it is for you guys reading (and potentially judging us a little), but at least this makes me feel a tiny bit less burdened. Enough about that for now though.

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Vegetarian Lentil & Cashew Meatballs

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We’ve obviously all heard about Swedish meatballs, and I did have my fair share of those as a kid. But since going vegetarian about 18 years ago, I’ve – naturally – opted out. While there are a bunch of vegetarian ‘balls’ out there, none of them have really tickled my fancy. I tend to stay away from soy stuff, simply because of the environmental impact, and the ones we’ve tried making at home over the years have come out either a little dry and crumbly or just… plain. And then we took to experimenting a little. Thanks to some leftover raw cashews nuts that we stumbled upon when going through the cabinets, we came up with the idea of mixing those with chewy black lentils, and this combination turned out to be the winner.

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Carrot-Ginger Soup with Sweet Potatoes

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How many recipes for carrot-ginger soup do you think there are out there, spinning around in cyberspace? Many, for sure. Can we agree the reason probably is because it’s pretty darn delicious and everyone wants to take a stab at making their personal favorite? That’s what we’ve been thinking, at least, and here we are. Carrot soup is probably one of the lighter meals you’ll ever serve yourself (unless you add a generous amount of heavy cream, which some people do), and it sure doesn’t hold us over for very long. Therefore, we took it upon ourselves to make a little heartier of a version. Maybe not hearty enough to make up a full meal for the active person, or for the runner who just kicked off their wet shoes after hours worth of training in the November rain (we hear you), but enough to make up the base for a dinner (or lunch). We recommend serving this with pita wedges (which you can make from making this flatbread) and some sort of bean spread (such as the white bean “hummus”), or simply as a starter.

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About saying no (but really, more about saying yes)

I’ve had this blog post brewing in the back of my head for a while now. I wanted to share some thoughts on the theme of saying “no” – whether to the party one doesn’t want to go to, to stressing too much, to conforming to ideals or to any other thing that just doesn’t feel right. And as I set out to draft this piece, I started out by typing that I’m such a people pleaser and that I have an incredibly hard time saying no to stuff, no matter what they are. But then I realized – heck, I’ve changed! While that used to be my thing – being constantly buried in things I deeply dreaded but had committed to – I don’t think I live life that way anymore. I’m not sure I have the words to convey exactly how powerful this insight feels to me, to be honest. My almost compulsive, consuming yes-saying has certainly taken its toll on me over the years, and sitting here now, slowly realizing I’ve actually taken on a different behavior… that’s quite powerful in my world. And just so you know – if I could get my butt out of that pattern, you can. I used to be (until a few minutes ago, apparently) the indisputable superstar of saying yes to all things burdensome and no to all things enjoyable. I’ve chosen so many things over the years because I thought others expected it from me. I’ve made so many decisions based on what I thought others wanted. I’ve said yes to so many things I didn’t want to do and silenced my inner voice screaming so many times, I’m surprised it’s still talking to me. But it is (that in itself is a miracle, no?). They say you should treat yourself as if you were your own best friend, and in that case, I’ve been one shitty example of a friend. Somehow though, I’ve been able to reconnect with myself, reach out a hand and say ‘I’m sorry’.

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Spiced Pear Cake

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Sometimes Michael disappears into the kitchen without telling me what he’s up to. I hear cabinet doors open and close, I hear bowls being taken out – and I know immediately that something yummy is coming up. See, he’s got a sweet tooth, this one. And a bread tooth, if that’s even a thing. Point is, Michael is behind most things baked in this household, and it’s quite lovely. This one particular afternoon, we’d been pear picking at a neighbor’s house and M mentioned he’d want to bake something with some of our haul. Sure, I said, and continued working on whatever I was doing. It didn’t take many minutes before he was happily whisking and sifting and slicing away, all the while I could just sit back and wait for the wonderful smells to hit – and boy, they did. There’s just something about those cinnamon and allspice flavored baked goods, wouldn’t you say? They fill up the house like nothing else, and warm you up inside out even before you’ve had a bite.

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Kichadi (Vegan Indian Stew)

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Kichadi – sometimes spelled e.g. khichdi or kitchari – is a well-known Indian stew, cooked with plenty of spices and said to possess purifying and detoxing properties according to Ayurvedic traditions. There’s no 100% set formula, it seems like, but most versions come with mung beans, rice and a variety of vegetables, in addition to e.g. mustard seeds, cumin, ginger etc. Kichadi is sometimes used as a reset button for the digestive system, and some people eat it solely for a few days in order to give the body a fresh new start. We’ve never tried doing something like that (nor have we ever tried fasting), but this dish does feel very warming, nourishing and overall grounding. The fact that you only have to get one pot dirty is also a huge bonus! Once you’ve chopped up all the veggies (you can go for a rough chop here, nothing needs to be too small), your work is more or less done, and you’ll end up with a good chunk of leftovers too. It reheats very well, even after some time in the freezer.

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Kale Salad with Butternut Squash and Tahini Dressing

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Does the world really need another kale salad, you might wonder? Well, that can indeed be debated. But it seems we just have to share the one that we return to time upon time – the one that manages to satisfy all (ok, most) food cravings, whether you’re longing for greens and vegetables or something filling, scrumptious and creamy. Making this salad will get all those boxes checked! Green curly kale is a staple around here, and I must say it’s our favorite kale variety for this type of salad. When we lived in NYC, we bought all of our produce at the Union Square Farmers Market and the one thing that ALWAYS found its way into my backpack (yep, I packed up everything in my backpack because schlepping a whole week’s worth of fruit and veggies 12 street blocks and 5 avenues would literally make my arms fall off) was green curly kale. In the midst of winter and crazy storms (fellow New Yorkers, you know what I’m talking about), I’d dig out the bunches from underneath the snow and they’d be as tasty as ever. I know there’s a lot of kale talk (heck, even kale sweaters), but I do love it. How could you not adore something so pretty, easy to grow (well, if you keep checking for cabbage worms) and mind-blowingly nutritious? While declaring your love for kale has ‘pretentious’ written all over it… I just can’t help myself. It’s awesome.

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Vegetarian Borscht

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Before moving to NYC, I thought maybe I’d find an awesome bagel spot that I’d make “mine”. Or a pizza place, or a coffee shop. I wasn’t expecting becoming a regular at a Ukrainian/American eatery serving up pierogi, borscht and blintzes next to eggs Benedict and chocolate chip pancakes as if the most natural thing in the world, but I did. And while Veselka, as this cultural landmark is called, was a favorite of Michael’s too, I’m proud to say I’d been there multiple times already, when meeting him! (I believe this scored me some extra points there, early on you know) We’ve enjoyed more delicious meals at Veselka than we can count – for example, the thought of a large plate of potato pierogi was the only thing that could get Michael out of fetal position and up from the couch after his first half marathon distance run. It was also the place I took my parents for brunch when they came to New York for the first time, and they did in fact order said chocolate chip pancakes… Whenever we go back to visit these days, a dinner there beats any temptations the fancy restaurants throw at us – and we’re lucky that our brother/brother-in-law doesn’t turn down an opportunity to get his Ukrainian food fix, so we can combine seeing Max AND eating potato pancakes with apple sauce and sour cream. Win-win.

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