Prophecy and Politics

Did Prophet Muhammad Warn Us of ISIS 1,400 Years Ago?

I read and shared this post today about the Quran predicting the Islamic State. I don’t usually support using the biblical text to say that this or that particular event in modern times was prophesied. Similarly, I don’t support using the Quran that way.

The reason I like this article, though, is that it demonstrates prophets as what I DO think they are, not soothsayers but astute observers of politics and human nature who predict very well the way people will act based on their observations.

I don’t know the Quran as well as I know the Bible, but I do know the Bible says in many places and ways, valuing one part of creation over another, valuing one group over another, valuing one person over another, is the root of evil in the world and will lead to the downfall of a civilization. If the Quran predicted ISIS, what they predicted is that when one group thinks itself superior to others, it will bring evil to the world.

Similarly some say the Bible predicted the Holocaust, perpetrated in a Christian country by so-called “Christians”. It did in the same sense that the Quran predicts ISIS: when one group sees itself as superior to another, that path will culminate in evil.

Before we go too far in seeing even radical so-called “Muslims” as some species other than ourselves, it’s probably a good idea to look at ourselves and the ways we see ourselves, or our group, as better than others and the impact that has on the world.

I heard today that Illinois is among the states that are refusing to take in any Syrian immigrants. I kind of remember an Oklahoma City bombing conducted by bona fide Americans, not immigrants. And daily murders and mass shootings in cities all over this country by fellow Americans, not immigrants.

Does it make any sense at all to say these Syrian immigrants are so different from us, that we are better than they, that they are more likely than we to harbor evil-doers, people intent on killing us? Especially if we pause for a moment in the hysteria to consider the lengthy vetting process they will go through while living in a detention camp before they are admitted to this country.

The vast majority are middle class people like us, people forced to leave behind their homes and possessions and escape to find safety.

I shudder to think what would happen to the powers-that-be in Illinois who made this small-minded, fear-driven decision if they ended up in the same situation and the world responded to them as they are currently responding to others in the world less fortunate than they.

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Vegan Spinach Pesto

Vegan Spinach Pesto on Homemade Challah with Tuscan Bean Soup

OK, I’m in love. I made a Shabbat dinner for our scholar-in-residence weekend, and the visiting scholar was the first (and only) female rabbi in Italy. Of course I decided to make an Italian inspired dinner. Of course it had to include pesto.

Now I used to make a number of dishes with a delicious organic pesto I found at Costco. If you know me, you know I use almost no commercial food products, but this one passed muster with me since it was organic, had few ingredients, none that were unpronounceable and none that I didn’t recognize as real food. Then I started working on this vegan thing. Couldn’t use it.

In researching for this meal, I found the following recipe in Pinterest, provided by Baker by Nature.  I enjoyed the preview you see here — with a bit of my homemade Spelt Challah and some of the Tuscan Bean Soup I made for the dinner. The recipe didn’t use the requisite Parmesan cheese, and I was a little uncertain, but the result was, nonetheless, amazing. I couldn’t get enough. I hated to have to use the quart I made for the dinner and can’t wait to make my own quart to consume at home!  Oh, I doubled the recipe to get a quart.

It does occur to me that I didn’t miss the cheese partly because of the extra virgin olive oil (use a good one!) and partly because of the pine nuts, a traditional part of this recipe. Those pine nuts are ridiculously expensive, though. I may try it another time with peeled almonds or perhaps raw cashews (cashews because, like pine nuts, they are soft and rich). For now, tho, this is how I made it, and it’s wonderful!

Vegan Spinach Pesto

  • Spinach leaves, 2 very big handfuls
  • Basil leaves, 1 very big handful
  • Pine nuts, 1/3 cup
  • Garlic, 5 cloves
  • Salt, 1 tsp.
  • Pepper, 1/2 tsp.
  • Crushed red pepper, 1/2 tsp.
  • Lemon, juice of one small (about 1/8 cup)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 3/8 cup (max. 1/2 cup)

I rarely use black pepper in anything, and I usually opt for hot paprika over crushed red pepper. Honestly, I don’t remember for sure what I did in this case, but I would guess I did use the crushed red pepper, perhaps a little rounded, and skipped the black pepper.

I chopped the spinach and basil very slightly and put everything into a food processor, starting with the garlic and pine nuts, then the greens, and finally the seasonings. I pulsed it all a few times until it was evenly chopped, then ran the processor until everything was granular and even. I added the oil and lemon, then pulsed again. The original recipe called for more oil, but I like it better with a little less.

As I said, I’m in love! Can’t wait to make this again.

For more, visit my blog,, “Like” me onFaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter,@vegwithleslie.

Let’s Talk (No) Turkey

Vegan Stuffed Pumpkin -- happy for you and happy for our turkey friends!
Vegan Stuffed Pumpkin — happy for you and happy for our turkey friends!

“Thanksgiving dinner’s sad and thankless.
Christmas dinner’s dark and blue.
When you stop and try to see it
From the turkey’s point of view.” – Shel Silverstein

If you are vegetarian and the rest of your family and friends are not, you will likely come to that moment when you need to figure out how to serve an important . . . say, holiday . . . meal.

For many years, I prepared two meals. Difficult. I like to cook and take pride in good results. Cooking without tasting is like, well, driving a car with your eyes closed. Don’t much want to go there.

One year I decided to bite the proverbial bullet. I relented on my principle of no manufactured food and bought a soy “turkey”, a brand which will remain unnamed. Shaped like a ball with twine around it, it looked like a basketball. It even had its own little package of (no)turkey gravy.

I made everything else my family loved: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, cranberries, breads, desserts. Then there was the (no)turkey.

Back in the kitchen, I arranged my (no)turkey as nicely as one can arrange a basketball on a platter. It still had the appearance of a basketball but a nicely arranged and decorated one. Everyone was waiting. I brought it out and placed it on the table. Stunned silence. Finally one of my sons spoke. “Really, Mom?”

Another of my sons, old enough to know better, did what one usually does with a basketball. He “passed” it to his brother, who unfortunately missed it. It landed on the floor, and my beagles, who would eat anything without even sniffing, rushed toward it…stopped, sniffed, and walked away!

OK, so that didn’t work. After that year, though, I was determined to find a delicious, festive vegetarian Thanksgiving entree. These Stuffed Pumpkins sell out every year in my (former) cafe. The perfect entree for a veggie crowd, they are also an impressive side dish for people who require a real turkey.

Pumpkin and Stuffing (serves 4+ as a meal, many more as a side)

  • 1 Sugar Pumpkin
  • 2 Cups (Pre-cooked) Brown Basmati Rice
  • 2 Cups (Cooked) Chickpeas
  • 4 Cups Almonds/Raisins/Craisins/Apples
  • 4 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 TB + 2 tsp. Sugar
  • 2 tsp. Cinnamon
  • Pinch Hot Paprika

Cut off top of pumpkin. Cut stem to 2 inches. Scrape out seeds. Season inside of pumpkin with olive oil and honey (unfiltered sugar for vegans). Rub outside of pumpkin with olive oil. Roast one hour at 350.

Cook two cups brown rice. Set aside. Sauté almonds, raisins, craisins and apple slices with olive oil, sugar, cinnamon and a pinch hot paprika. Add to rice with chickpeas. Stir together and re-season. Set aside.

Apples and Cranberries

  • 3 Baking Apples
  • 6 Cloves
  • 1 LB Bag Cranberries
  • Pinch Cinnamon
  • Juice of 1 Oranges
  • 2 TB Honey (Unfiltered Sugar for Vegans)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 Cup White Sesame, Toasted

Halve and oil the apples. Bake with cinnamon and cloves.

For sauce, juice orange and add 2+ TB honey (or sugar). Reduce sauce. Add cranberries and cook very briefly. Remove cranberries. Reduce sauce further. Recombine sauce and berries.

Assembling Pumpkin Meal
Fill pumpkin loosely, replace pumpkin lid, wrap loosely in foil. Roast one hour at 325. Warm remaining stuffing and apples separately.

Plate pumpkin and surround with extra stuffing. Place roasted apples on stuffing around pumpkin. Top apples with cranberry sauce. Garnish with white sesame.

Healthy, happy Thanksgiving to you and to our turkey friends everywhere!

Slice from top to bottom of the Stuffed Pumpkin, and serve up this beautiful and delicious Thanksgiving meal.
Slice from top to bottom of the Stuffed Pumpkin, and serve up this beautiful and delicious Thanksgiving meal.

For more, visit my blog,, “Like” me onFaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter,@vegwithleslie.