CHALLAH FOR BODY AND SOUL (OR YEAST MEETS WEST, FROM DAD)

Today's post is written by none other than Rina's amazing mama bear, Ruth! Welcome to the blog, Mama Gato.

Rina always stood on the little green stool.  I stood behind her, her crazy curls tickling my nose as she stretched her tiny fingers to reach the kneading bowl. My grown up hands guided her child hands.  Palm down, fold and turn, palm down, fold and turn, again and again. If the dough was too sticky Rina would make monster fingers with the tacky mess, and I would slowly add small pinches of flour to the bowl.  “Does it feel like an earlobe, yet?”  When Rina’s crazy curls bobbed up and down I would announce, “Then it’s done!”

That was how we made challah every Friday after nursery school.  I showed Rina how to check an egg for blood spots, how to wake up the yeast with warm water and feed it with sugar and then proof it— wait patiently (or not so patiently) for it to froth in the bowl.  This, Rina understood, was what it meant to “make Shabbos.”  The Sabbath did not come on it’s own—if we wanted Friday night to become Shabbos, then we had to make it so. We had to invite the guests, shop for groceries, prepare the meal and set the table.  In this way we transformed the mundane into the holy. A key step to turning an ordinary end-of-the-week dinner into a Shabbos feast was to bake the challah.

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POMEGRANATE PISTACHIO CHOCOLATE BARK

Inspiration is a funny thing. It comes and goes as it pleases, and like lightening it rarely strikes the same spot twice, so you have to make an extra effort to grab it while you can. The nice part about having a partner in crime is that inspiration rarely runs dry. Rina and I are constantly bouncing ideas off each other, swapping dream recipes, nostalgic eats and complimenting each other's ideas with embellishments and corrections. 

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CHOCOLATE MOUSSE

How good does chocolate mousse sound right now?

I mean, it always sounds good. Stupid question. But at this particular moment in time, all I can think about is how terribly I wish I had a bowl (read: vat) in front of me and en route to my face. I can't really think about anything else. Can I blame my uterus? Probably! But either way here we are.

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BUMPY CAKE

Have you ever tried explaining something to someone only to realize that that something is completely unknown beyond the confines of your childhood hometown?

It's like this earth-shattering moment of shock where you realize your Mitten State suburb is smaller than you think and that a whole chunk of the world has been deprived of one of your favorite birthday party desserts. It's a tragic moment of revelation, but thank god we have a blog to save everyone. 

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VEGETARIAN CHILI CHEESE FRIES

During my senior year of college, I noticed that I was peeing all of the time. Like, all of the time - upwards of 20 times a day. I couldn't sleep through the night without getting up to pee, and having to go up and down a lofted bed made it a whole ordeal. I drink a lot of water so I thought that was why, but something seemed amiss. I went to the doctor to get a check-up for my summer job and mentioned my issue. He sent me to a urologist, who sent me to get an ultrasound. It came back abnormal, so off to outpatient surgery I went.

To make a very long story short, it turned out there were cysts in my bladder. And they weren't even paying rent to live in there! The doctors had never seen anything like it before, which made me very special, but also made me very scared. When I woke up from the anesthesia I was crying because of how freaked out I was. I couldn't really see, so I can't picture this part very well, but one of the nurses gave me a bag of cheez-its to eat post-surgery, either because I asked for them or she intuited it because nurses are SAINTS, but then I started crying more because my mouth was so dry that I couldn't eat the cheez-its. It was a rough day.

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MAPLE CREAM SANDWICH COOKIES

Alyssa and I took our relationship to the next level and decided to share a winter CSA. I know, I know - things are getting serious. Lest you think a winter CSA would be filled with nothing but potatoes, some sad apples and more potatoes, it should be known that it is AWESOME. So far we've received varieties of squash, cooking and eating greens, maple syrup, popcorn, happy apples and more. It weighs like, 20 pounds, and getting it home is a fun game to play to test your muscular strength, but it's so worth it.

Our last box contained a surprise - maple cream. "The fuck?" we asked, to no one in particular. Maybe we directed it to the maple cream, but while it was a surprising addition, it wasn't sentient, so it didn't answer back.

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VEGAN MINESTRONE SOUP

Editor's note: Today, we have a very special guest blogger, Alyssa's mom! She's the brains behind this majestic soup, so we thought it was only appropriate that she share her inspiration with us. On a related note, give your mom a call today!

When my daughter, Alyssa, was little she loved to help cook in the kitchen. Being the neat freak I am, and hating a mess, I was always reluctant to let her help. Alyssa takes after her Maga (grandmother and my mother). Translation: both are a tornado in the kitchen.

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ISRAELI HUMMUS + BABA GHANOUSH

I've been on a travel high for the past week. Ten days in Israel will do that to you. A country seen too-often for for the bad press it gets and conflict it seems to sustain, it's not until you travel there that you realize how truly magnificent the place is.

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ZA'ATAR POPCORN

There is a bakery on the corner of Dizengoff and Hamelekh George in Tel Aviv that I am convinced is run by wizards. It is nothing more than a bakery case and a counter at which to order, super easy to miss, which would be a shame because it houses some of the most amazing baked goods in the area. I used to live 45 seconds away from this place, and the day my roommates discovered it was a blessed day.

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CAT OF THE WEEK: MAMI

Welcome to Cat of the Week! This week we are graced by the presence of Mami, a former feral cat who now lives with her mama, Sinead, and fur sibling, Morty, in San Jose, CA. Mami may look like she's always sad, but she's actually a totally happy cat! I bet she gets all of the extra treats with that face. You can see what I'm talking about by going to her Instagram, @mami_and_morty, and by reading down below!

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PAN-FRIED CHICKPEA + HALLOUMI SALAD

In my dream world, Rina and I work in a light filled studio with professional equipment. Our kitchen is white and full of state-of-the-art stainless steel appliances and large windows. Our counters are covered with fresh flowers; our workplace filled with props and kitchenware that photograph wonderfully. Jon Hamm makes frequent visits and Ina Garten does cooking demos for us. It's a pretty damn great place to be.

But, sadly, my magical powers haven't kicked in yet, so we have to work with what we have on hand. If that means shooting in Rina's bedroom, where the sunlight is, or doing dishes every six minutes to keep her tiny sink from overflowing, then so be it. It's all part of the process that hopefully one day we can look back and laugh at. Anyone who's stopped by or been privy to the tornado that is our recipe testing and shooting days (hi, Cornelia!) knows that's it's basically a hot mess. But it's something we love nonetheless. 

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CAT OF THE WEEK: ATHENS

Welcome to Cat of the Week! This week we are graced by the presence of Athens, a food-stealing rescue tabby who lives with her humans, Mollie and Seth, in Massachusetts. Mollie and Seth run a killer food blog dedicated to gluten-free food, including recipes, food reviews and lifestyle posts, called Gluten Free Mollie D. She also has an Instagram, @glutenfreemollied. Go follow them!

"Ahem, I thought this post was about me? I have an Instagram too, you know."

Oof, sorry Athens! Of course you do. Follow Athens' adventures @athensthefluff.

Hit the "Read More" button to learn all about Athens.

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TOASTED CASHEW MARZIPAN BLONDIES

I am a marzipan FIEND. I am truly obsessed. I'm sure my Eastern European heritage has a lot to do with it, but whatever the case, it is one of my favorite things in the world. Visiting Austria a couple of months ago to meet my partner's family was a dream come true for many reasons - one of which being the opportunity to pull a Julie Andrews and sing on a mountaintop with copious twirling. I didn't end up singing on the apex of an alp, but I did sing loudly at 11:00 PM on a street in Salzburg, and I wasn't wearing a dirndl but I saw like, 15 in a shop so that counts, right? 

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CAT OF THE WEEK: LIBBY

Welcome to Cat of the Week! This week we have Liberty, AKA Libby, who lives with her humans, Ronni and David, and dog-sibling, Powder, in Philly. Libby's mama is a superb artist who fossilizes flowers and plants in materials like cement. They are gorgeous - check out her website and Instagram.

Libby, a now wonderful, snuggly cat, was a proper nightmare when she was first adopted.

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MAPLE PECAN POPCORN

If you haven't had a chance to swing by our About Us Page, you might not know that Rina and I are high school musical dorks. And, no, that's not High School Musical with capital letters (though I do love me some Getcha Head In The Game), rather, high school musical, as in our high school's musical theater department. That's where our friendship first blossomed. It was my freshman year, her sophomore year, and she was the Marty to my Rizzo in Grease. 

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