OyChicago blog

Home Sick

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10/21/2014

Home Sick photo

Well, one thing has stayed consistent at Soldier Field – the Chicago Blackhawks have still won more games on the lakefront in 2014 than the Bears.

The Bears’ inconsistent season continued as expected (or not) on Sunday with a pitiful 27-14 loss at home to the Dolphins. The Bears are 0-3 and minus 7 in the turnover battle at home this season, and 3-4 overall.

It was an overall lackluster effort on offense. For a group full of offensive weapons and firepower, it’s amazing to watch them consistently play with no urgency. They look relaxed out there, like they can just depend on their talent and assume everything else will just work out. Hell, we knew the defense wouldn’t be great this year, but at least they play with passion out there! I’d much rather watch a less talented group play with fire under their asses than a talented group play like they don’t need it – and that is exactly what the Bears have looked like on offense on multiple occasions this season.

Maybe we are starting to see that there is a reason Marc Trestman never got a head coaching job till now – like Thibs for the Bulls, sure he’s talented, but he’s close-minded. Yeah, Trestman is smart – the “Quarterback Whisperer,” maybe, but it seems he just can’t get it done, not as a head coach anyway. His game plans seem unprepared, he fails to make in-game adjustments, and he plays it safe, often to the Bears’ detriment.

I’ve asked all year for this team to define themselves, to create and harness an identity. But the truth is, this is who this team is – a middle-of-the-road, underachieving, .500 team. They’ll continue to give us false hope in certain games they aren’t supposed to win, (I’m predicting a win next week at New England) and let us down in easy ones like they have against Buffalo, Carolina and Miami.

They aren’t who we thought they were.

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Animals Don’t Lie

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10/20/2014

Animals Don’t Lie photo

My dogs Ozzie and Zorro. I cannot lie – they are adorable.

This weekend, we will read Noach, a Torah portion that is very dear to my heart because of its emphasis on animals. The people in the world became evil and G-d wanted to start anew, so he flooded the world leaving only Noah, his family, and two animals from each species (male and female) alive. More animals were saved than people because animals, unlike humans, can’t lie.  They aren’t evil. They might be animalistic when they are hungry, but animals just want to love and be loved.

I post articles about animals on my Facebook page every Sunday. Each post is called #AnimalSundays, and every article discusses the topic of animals receiving acupuncture. I have posted articles about a lion, elephant, dog, cat, camel, penguin, and even a komodo dragon receiving acupuncture. All of these animals get acupuncture regularly and are truly benefiting from each treatment. The lion was able to walk around without foot pain, the dogs and cats are living better lives with less pain, and the camel is living a longer life – all due to acupuncture.

But what’s most important is that these animals can’t lie about the results. They don’t feel better because someone told them they were going to feel better. They feel better because acupuncture works.

There are a lot of skeptics out there when it comes to acupuncture and I understand why. It’s because acupuncture is different. It’s because all we were taught our entire lives was Western science. In high school, we take biology, chemistry, and physics, not channel theory and acupuncture point location. It is very hard to think outside the box when we are taught one way our entire life. However, it is important to understand that biology, chemistry, and physics are all part of Chinese medicine too. We use biology to map out the human body and make sure that the channels flow correctly with their associated organ. Chemistry is used to examine Chinese herbs and figure out how they can help the body. Most importantly, we use physics to understand how our bodies should act in nature. Chinese medicine is also science; it is just viewed differently.

I often hear people say that they don’t believe in Chinese medicine or Western medicine. There is nothing to believe in; there is nothing mythical or spiritual about either medicine. Both medicines help people. Chinese medicine has helped thousands of people and animals for over 4,000 years. Western medicine is newer, but it has cured diseases and saved lives. We need both types of medicines to truly understand the human and animal bodies because we can help people with both types of medicines.

I am so happy G-d decided to save all the animals. They are adorable, loving, and sweet. My dogs will always tell me when they are happy, sad, or sick. As soon as they feel better, they get up and start running around again. They don’t milk or fake pain as a way to get what they want. Thankfully, that honesty helps prove the effectiveness of Chinese medicine.          

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Connecting in 5775

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10/15/2014

Neil Harris photo

As I inch further into 5775, my thoughts focus on relationships. Specifically, how I connect to my family, friends, my Creator, and myself.

Most will agree that it's way easier to make connections with others in today’s age. It's as easy as the swiping of a finger or the click of a button to link, friend, and follow someone. It's a way to connect. It's not how our parents did it, but it counts.

This ease of connecting is probably an attractive advantage to social network relationships. If you don't reach out and make an effort, that's ok because effort isn't expected. A simple "like" or "favorite" speaks digital volumes. It's a very low-maintenance situation and we need that once in a while. However, applying that minimal effort into other relationships isn't optimal.

The strength of any connection is really based on the effort exerted. I know from experience. There are times when I don't put as much effort as necessary into those that I love and the connection ends up becoming a barrier. Then – and this is the crazy part – I end up using twice as much energy to break down the barrier just to start over again with building that connection.

As we take our first steps into a new, fresh, and happy year, I hope that we are able to strengthen the connections that mean the most to us.

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Chayote Soup with Spiced Pepitas

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10/14/2014

Chayote Soup with Spiced Pepitas photo 1

So it’s fall. And everything is wonderful. You are wearing cute fashion boots and your lips are not yet cracked and bleeding from wind. You want to eat something cozy, but not insanely heavy like all of the casseroles and potato/cheese/cream-based dishes that are waiting for you right around the corner in winter vortex land. It needs to be hearty, but it also should be bright, relatively healthy, and it should include maximum condiment opportunity.

Here it is! It’s soup, which means it’s autumnal, but it’s squash without being orange. Never heard of chayote squash before? You’ve seen them. They look like little old green men hiding out in the produce section at the market. And they are delicious. And bonus, you don’t have to skin them like you do with other (totally over-played in my opinion) winter squash. Just make sure to remove the core!

Chayote Soup with Spiced Pepitas photo 2

Chayote squash have a core that must be removed before you add them to the soup.

And the pepitas (aka, pumpkin seeds), well those are the crunch-factor that all good soups need, and they are also a playful take on using squash in two ways. Clever, right? I thought so too. Enjoy!

Chayote Soup with Spiced Pepitas
Serves 4-6
Vegetarian (but easily made vegan)  

For the soup

oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
6 cloves of fresh garlic, chopped
4 chayotes, core removed and chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
3 tablespoons of salt
3 tablespoons of pepper
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of onion powder
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
2 boxes of stock (I use veggie, but chicken would work well here too)
½ stick of butter
Optional: sour cream. fresh cilantro, and lime wedges to garnish

Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a large stock pot. Throw in the onion, carrot, fresh garlic, and jalapeno and cook them until they begin to soften. Add the chayotes, all of the seasoning, enough stock to cover the ingredients by about an inch, and the butter. Cover the pot and allow to boil for 10 minutes, or until the veggies are soft.

Use an immersion blender to blend the soup in the pot until it gets totally smooth. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, allow the soup to cool and ladle it in batches into a regular blender. Please, for the love of God do not do this with hot soup. Third degree burns are not a cute look. Return the blended soup to the pot).

Bring the soup back up to high temperature, use more stock until you like the consistency, and taste it! Continue to season with salt, pepper, butter, or spices until you love the way it taste and feels. Garnish with sour cream, cilantro, and limes.

For the pepitas

2 cups of pumpkin seeds
4 tablespoons of canola oil
1 tablespoon dried chili powder
2 tablespoons of salt (ONLY if the pumpkin seeds are not pre-salted)
1 tablespoon black pepper
½ tablespoon garlic powder  

Turn your oven on to 375 degrees. Pour all of the ingredients into a bowl, mix them around until the pepitas are coated, and throw them onto a baking tray (preferably lined with parchment paper so you don’t have to worry about cleaning up later), and bake them for 5-7 minutes, or until you can smell how delicious they are and see how lovely brown and toasty they have become.      

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Shalom Bayit

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10/13/2014

Cindy Sher photo 2

With Sukkot here, and a chill settling into the air outside, we're reminded of the warmth and peace of home, and the Jewish concept of shalom bayit—peace in the home.

But as news of domestic violence captures our attention in the media, we know not all homes are peaceful.

October marks National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and ever since the second video tape surfaced of Ray Rice knocking out his future wife, Janay Palmer, in the elevator, as well as other allegations of abuse in the National Football League, our society seems to be finally focusing on intimate partner abuse. 

In a world where we glorify celebrities for how far they throw a ball on the field or how big their star power is on the stage, it's about time we take this issue seriously and call out and punish the perpetrators of abuse.

I recall my stomach turning as I watched a massive crowd of fans at a televised performance cheer and practically bow down to musician Chris Brown not long after he punched his now ex-girlfriend, singer Rihanna, in the face.

And for decades, the public has paid a hero's welcome to Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist, whose ex-wife Robin Givens has alleged spousal abuse for years. The heavyweight champion of the world slugging his wife never seemed like a fair fight.

It's easy to wag our fingers at the NFL and other celebrities, famous for the wrong reasons, and yet the Jewish community doesn't get a pass on this one. As tough as it is to admit, intimate partner abuse is an equal-opportunity offender, happening just as often in the Jewish community as elsewhere in society.

Regardless of race, religion, education, or socio-economic status, a staggering one quarter of women in this country will be in abusive relationships during their lifetime, but only a tenth of men will be abusers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Why the discrepancy? Because the abuser does not see his or her behavior as the problem; it is the abused person's problem. Consequently, even if the relationship ends, the abusive person, often a serial abuser, continues abusive behavior with the next person he or she becomes involved with.

Jewish abuse was once hidden away, kept shrouded in darkness. Helping our community expose this secret is the mission of SHALVA—"giving voice to the unspeakable." SHALVA—which means "tranquility" in Hebrew and launched in 1986—is the oldest, independent U.S. Jewish services agency combatting domestic violence.

A beneficiary of the Federation, SHALVA aids abuse victims through advocacy, counseling, legal information, and other support services for no fee. Anyone who self-identifies with the Jewish community—even those who are not Jewish, but who have Jewish partners—may turn to SHALVA.

We're not just talking about physical abuse. Intimate partner abuse, according to Bobbie Gordon, SHALVA's director of Community Education, builds over time, but starts with controlling behavior—verbal, emotional, financial abuse, and/or isolation from family and friends. It's unlikely that the first sign of trouble between Rice and Palmer was a knockout punch in that now infamous elevator.

Why all the secrecy in our community? SHALVA says that, first, there's a positive stereotype that Jewish men make the best husbands. And in contrast, there's a negative stereotype that characterizes Jewish women as demanding and overbearing princesses. That's what makes some women hesitant to seek help, for fear of not being taken seriously. Plus, in a more tight-knit community like ours, women fear loss of privacy and confidentiality if they come forward. Some worry about creating a shonda, a scandal, if they disclose their abuse.

SHALVA not only helps victims of abuse, but it plays another key role. It empowers the Jewish community to combat intimate partner abuse through awareness, education, and prevention, teaching what healthy relationships ought to look like.

JCARES is another effort in the Federation system that educates and addresses abuse across the Jewish community. Rooted in Jewish values, the program offers a series of educational sessions for professionals and leaders to engage in conversations about abuse. JCARES also offers two other programs: Partnership for Safer Communities strives to build overall health and wellness in schools, synagogues, and camps, and Project Shield heightens awareness about child sexual abuse.

Whatever the program, we need to model healthy relationships for our kids from the time they're in diapers. Abuse is usually learned behavior-passed down through the generations-where abusers were once the abused.

If we can make our children feel empowered and loved, they will have taken the first step to peace in their own homes down the road.

Contact SHALVA at (773) 583-HOPE or email: info@shalvaonline.org. SHALVA is a partner in serving our community with-and a special grant recipient of-the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

To reach JCARES Partnership for Safer Communities, call Jessica Schaeffer at (847) 745-5450. JCARES is a program of the Jewish Child & Family Services and is supported by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, the Jewish Women's Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, Michael Reese Health Trust, and other generous donors.

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Things I don’t want to forget

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10/08/2014

Things I don’t want to forget photo 1

Graduations, recitals, and sporting events are big moments parents don’t forget, but there are so many little things you want to remember too. With another child about to join the Krit clan, I wanted to share a few of my favorite Henry moments.

Henry’s Girlfriend

Henry has a girlfriend. They have been together for a year, and it’s super cute to watch them interact. Henry even openly talks about her as his “girlfriend,” so he’s clearly not in the embarrassed phase, like he will be when he reads this article. When they meet, hugs and kisses on the lips are exchanged (we’ve tried to discourage the lip lock but it’s pretty awesome to watch). This sweet little blond-haired girl bear hugs Henry, picks him up (no idea how) and then they smooch. Her father jokes that one day she will carry him over the threshold.

Mispronunciation

You want your child to speak well, you want to understand what they are saying, but when your child takes the word “truck,” like my nephew did, and turns it into a swear word, it’s hilarious. Henry never did that but he had a few cute speech mishaps. The best are not exactly appropriate for a blog, but it warms my heart when he says, “lello” for yellow and refers to superheroes as “superherlos.”

Expressions and Singing

Out of nowhere Henry sounded Canadian and I loved it. He would turn to you and say, “Here ja go.” I have no idea where he got that from but it always put a smile on my face and I of course adopted the phrase myself. At many meals, he looks at the table and his little face lights up and he says, “I love this,” even though he hasn’t taken a bite of his food. After tasting a nasty thai chili bar once, he curled up his nose and looked like he was about to puke, then said, “I love this,” and declined another bite. This happens with movies he’s never seen, toys he’s yet to play with, and exercise equipment the moment Amazon drops it off.

You have to be careful with kid expressions. It’s like a song; after a while it molds to you and all the sudden you are telling your coworker, “I not know,” which is not so cute coming from an adult.

Speaking of songs, it’s amazing how children remember lyrics. Henry comes home with a new song all the time. Hearing a little voice carry a tune, even off-key, is priceless. The other day I sang, “Steal My Kisses” by Ben Harper, and then I kissed Henry. After that, he started singing it and kissing me. We were in the grocery store, and he kept doing it – laughing, singing and smooching. I hope that lasts another few years.

Things I don’t want to forget photo 2

Naming his Brother

Henry has been really excited for a sibling. When we told him that we were going to have a boy he asked, “and then a girl?” Eventually, he decided a boy would be great, and he informed us, “I will feed him with my muscles.”

He even named his brother. My wife was explaining to Henry that she was reading a book of names, to figure out what we’ll call the baby. Without much hesitation, Henry announced, “The baby’s name is Crocodile, or Crocodile Krit.” And because Henry has been so excited for his brother to arrive, he shared the name with his friends. Fast forward a few weeks, and Erika is picking up Henry from school, and his “best buddy” starts rubbing her belly and says, “You got a baby croc in there!”

We are looking forward to Crocodile Krit, interactions between the boys, and the crazy things that pop out of Croc’s mouth. 

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A sweet alternative for the holidays

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10/07/2014

A sweet alternative for the holidays photo

Who doesn’t love that first smear of honey dripping slowly off a crisp apple slice? Well, this year I am saying, ‘Put down the Honey Bear and try the honey from Israel.’ I am not talking about honey from bees; I am referring to Silan or date-honey.

Biblical foodies and Torah scholars that have bandied about the notion that the land flowing with milk and honey refers to date honey, though beekeeping was an ancient practice.

Either way, I am in love with the rich sweetness and sophisticated, dried fruit flavor of date-honey.

While in Chicago, I can be in touch with my Israeli spirit by using some Israeli ingredients, and my favorite right now is Silan.  

Date-honey is a puree of dates and water. Easy to purchase at kosher stores and those that carry Mediterranean foods, I prefer to make my own. Sometimes the store bought products have added sugar which, in my mind defeats the point of date-honey. I am looking for the natural sweetness from the fruit and not from sugar. My son Jonah calls dates “nature’s candy.” He is right! And the puree is a perfect natural sweetener that is perfect for most recipes where sugar, maple syrup or honey is added.

Date-honey is commonly used in Israel and if I can’t be in Israel for the holidays, I can use the exclusive and delicious sweetener for my apple-dipping, cooking and baking.

 

Sweet and Sour Meatballs with Date-Honey

These are not your mother’s meatballs! Skip the cloying, overly sweet sauce and use subtle and stylish date-honey.

Date-honey adds a sophisticated sweetness that is rich and earthy.

This recipe is modern with no added sugar and you can easily substitute the ground chuck for turkey.

*Chef’s tip – I use a panade in my ground meat dishes. A panade is a starch and liquid mixture that adds moisture to meatballs, meatloaf and other dishes. It is not a way to “stretching” the meat. It is there because meat shrinks as it cooks, and ground meat, more so, and squeezes out moisture in the process. The panade is a moist “place holder” and keeps the meat from contracting so much as to be dry and flavorless. A panade can be made with soft bread crumbs, oats, cooked rice, barley or other cooked grains. The liquid can be wine, stock, beer, water or any flavorful liquid.

For the sweet and sour sauce

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, grated on a box grater
2 garlic cloves, grated on a box grater
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce or 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup Silan (date honey)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the meatballs

1 cup soft bread crumbs (leftover challah works well for this)
1/2 cup chicken stock, white wine or water
2 pounds ground beef chuck
2 eggs
1 small onion, grated on a box grater
2 garlic cloves, grated
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper

1. Heat a medium sauce pan, with the olive oil, over medium heat. Add the grated onion and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is very fragrant and beginning to caramelize. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

2. Decrease the heat to low and simmer the mixture for 15 minutes.

3. Place the bread crumbs in a small bowl and add the stock or other liquid. Stir to combine.

4. Squeeze an excess liquid out of the bread crumbs. Transfer the breadcrumbs to another bowl and discard the liquid.

5. Add the remaining ingredients for the meatballs and gently mix together. With light and slightly wet hands form the meatballs. You can also use an ice cream scoop for this and then all the meatballs will be the same size.

6. Heat a sauté pan, lightly coated with olive oil, over medium heat. Brown the meatballs in batches until caramelized.

7. Transfer the meatballs to the sauce and continue cooking in the sauce.

8. Serve the meatballs with rice, potatoes, or favorite vegetable. Garnish with chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds.

 

Homemade Date-Honey

Homemade date-honey is easy and fast to make. Sometimes I keep it neutral without spices, but I like the added OOMPH of flavor cinnamon brings to it.

20 Medjool dates, pitted
1 cup very hot water
Pinch of cinnamon (optional)

1. Combine the dates, hot water and cinnamon, if using, and steep for 1 hour.

2. Puree the mixture in a blender or food processor until very creamy and thick.

3. Store the date honey, covered in the refrigerator for 1 month.

 

Root Vegetable Tzimmes with Date-Honey

This stylish version of the classic side dish takes center stage with rich fall root veggies and warm toasty spices. The date-honey compliments the vegetables without being too sweet. I serve this as a side for my favorite Pomegranate Chicken Recipe (my own recipe of course!), or with a large salad as a vegetarian meal.

Extra virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, sliced thinly
1 medium sweet potato, unpeeled, cut into large dice
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into large dice
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into large dice
2 medium red beets, peeled and cut into wedges about 1/2 inch thick
1 medium gold beet, peeled and cut into wedges about 1/2 inch thick
4 garlic cloves
1/2 cup date honey
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 cup water
1 cinnamon stick, or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 star anise
1/8  teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 325

1. Place a large Dutch oven or sauté pan, lightly coated with EVOO, over medium heat.

2. Sauté the root vegetables, in batches, until they are browned on all sides. BE SURE TO SEASON EACH BATCH WITH SALT AND PEPPER!

3. Add back all the vegetables to the Dutch oven or to a pan with a tight fitting lid. Add the date-honey, raisins, water, spices and salt and pepper.

4. Cover the pan and roast the vegetables about 45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Uncover the pan and continue cooking until all the liquid has evaporated and the vegetables are browned, caramelized and gooey!

5. Serve with chicken, brisket, fish, or as an entrée.

6. Garnish with fresh parsley, pomegranate seeds, and chopped dates

 

Crustless Pumpkin Custard with Date-Honey 

Special equipment – 8 3/4 cup ramekins
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
4 large eggs
2 1/2 cups coconut milk, or whole milk for dairy recipes
3/4 cup date-honey
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350

1. Heat a tea kettle with water.

2. Whisk all the ingredients together and divide the custard into 8 ramekins.

3. Place the ramekins in a pan with high sides. Pour the hot water into the pan so the water level comes up about halfway up the ramekins.

4. Bake the custard for 45-555 minutes or until it is set but still jiggly in the center.

5. Remove the whole set up from the oven and allow the custards to cool for 30 minutes in the water before refrigerating.

6. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight before serving.

7. Garnish with pumpkin seeds, chopped dates, and pomegranate seeds.      

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