Soup Season

Yesterday was our first day of winter.

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Here in Beer Sheva winter can come suddenly, without much of an autumn to prepare us. In the morning, a balmy sand storm blanketed the city in dust. By afternoon it was cold and raining. (A rocket from Gaza came our way during this change of weather. Fortunately it was intercepted, though other southern towns haven’t been as lucky. We all pray for a rainy and quiet winter.)

 I put away  summer dresses, brought out
winter ones and dug out my fleece slippers. We drank the last of our cold green tea and brought out winter mugs. And we started taking “Soup Season” seriously.

 During the hot summer, we eat a lot of main-course salads. And during the winter, we really enjoy our soup. Most of my soups are vegetarian. I use seasonal vegetables, grains, pasta and beans. We love Indian-spiced red lentil soup and Moroccan vegetable soup with chickpeas. I make Italian tomato soup with farro, French potato-leek soup, and soothing split pea soup. There’s black bean, lentil, miso soup and creamy sweet potato soup.

 Along with winter came the first crop of organic cauliflower – big beautiful heads of it, ready for roasting, steaming or soup.

 This recipe is one of our favorites – delicious, easy and quick. Just put everything into a pot and cook for half an hour. If you’re not a big cauliflower fan, this soup may just fool you into thinking it’s made with something else. It’s Indian-inspired, though not spicy hot unless you want it to be. If you have an extra minute, dry roast some pumpkin seeds in a small pan over low heat. Shake or stir until they start popping and sprinkle over each bowl of soup for garnish.

CREAMY CAULIFLOWER SOUP

 1 large cauliflower (about a kilo or 2 pounds total), washed and cut into florets

1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed

¼ cup white basmati rice

1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander

¼ teaspoon tumeric

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

A pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

7 cups water

Salt and pepper to taste

 ¼ cup minced fresh cilantro

Put all of the ingredients except the cilantro into a large pot. Bring to a boil, cover and cook until the vegetables are very soft, about 30 minutes.

 Remove from the heat and puree the soup with an immersion blender until smooth. Mix in the fresh cilantro and serve.

 Approximately 6 servings

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Welcome Back to My Blog!

The address is new and the look has changed, but the food and nutrition news that you’ve enjoyed for years is still here for you. You’ll find all of my previous posts, plus new ones with the latest nutrition news, food tips and healthy kosher recipes.

 A Happy and Healthy New Year to Everyone!

An Apple a Day …

A recent study suggests that women may be able to lower their blood cholesterol levels by eating apples daily. The study was small – only 100 post-menopausal women took part. Half of them ate 75 grams (2 ½ ounces) of dried apples (the equivalent of two average sized fresh apples) every day. The other women ate a similar amount of dried prunes every day. The study lasted for a year.

After six months, the dried apple eaters saw a drop of 13% in their total cholesterol levels. Their LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) dropped by 24%. Those who ate prunes saw no change in their total cholesterol. At the end of the year, both groups had similar reductions in LDL cholesterol while the apple eater’s total cholesterol remained lower.

Because the study did not include a control group and was very small, we can’t draw scientific conclusions quite yet. But we do know that apples contain pectin, a water-soluble fiber that can help lower cholesterol. And they’re full of other delicious nutrients as well.

So, with apple season beginning, dip your apples in honey now to welcome a sweet new year. And then keep eating them all year round.

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Do You Have a Sweet Tooth?

If so, you’re in good company! Half of all Israelis say that they eat at least one sweet food every day. And they’re probably not counting sweetened beverages.

Israel ranked the third highest in consumption of sweets among OECD* countries recently surveyed. (Fortunately, we also ranked third in the amount of vegetables we eat.) The average Israeli eats nearly 40 kilos (18 pounds) of sweets each year. The amount of sweets eaten in the US is even higher.

Women report eating more sweets than men and claim that sweets help improve their mood and increase their energy. Women tend to eat sweets in the afternoon, while men prefer them in the evening.

We all know that sweets are a big contributor to expanding waistlines. They’re often called “empty calories” – filling us up so we aren’t as likely to eat the food that’s good for us. But obviously, most of us aren’t going to give them up so soon.

To cut back on the sugar in your diet, drink water, sparkling water, and unsweetened herbal, green or regular tea instead of sweetened sodas, high calorie iced coffee and tea and fruit drinks.

Satisfy your sweet tooth with nutrient rich sweets like these:

Natural peanut butter and pure-fruit preserves on a rice cracker
An ounce (28 grams) of dark chocolate
Low-fat or fat-free yogurt
Fresh, frozen or dried fruit
Low-fat pudding try my recipe for homemade chocolate pudding
A small handful of sweetened nuts (see the following recipe)

* Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, consisting of 34 countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the Americas.

Cinnamon Walnuts

I especially like walnuts, but you can use any other nut, or a combination of nuts. Double the recipe if you’d like, and store half of these in the freezer.
Stick to a heaping ¼ cup serving of these, as nuts are high in (healthy) fat.

1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
½-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar (I use demarara sugar for these)
2 ½ cups walnuts

Preheat the oven to 300 F (150 C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, sugar and vanilla. Add the nuts to this mixture, and mix to coat them completely. Spread the nuts in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Mix the nuts around on the baking tray and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool completely. Store in an air-tight container.

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A Gluten-Free Pesach

By the end of Pesach, I sometimes envy people who eat a very simple diet of matzah, boiled chicken, potatoes and carrots during most of the holiday. But then I realize how boring it would be. I’m much too used to a wide variety of food and new recipes. Besides, my family would rebel if they had to eat boiled chicken all week long!

Fortunately, I’m one of those women who enjoy cooking for Passover. Really now – it’s only a week, and there’s plenty of fresh produce to choose from. Here in Israel we’re lucky to have hormone-free kosher chicken and many varieties of fresh fish. If the weather’s still chilly, I make vegetable soups like sweet potato, potato-leek, asparagus and zucchini. In warmer weather I prepare salads with lots of vegetables or fruits (fresh or dried) and nuts.

Special diets can add to the challenge of Pesach cooking, but they shouldn’t keep anyone from eating healthy and tasty meals. If you’re gluten intolerant (unable to fully digest gluten – a component of wheat, rye, barley and other grains), you’ll have to forgo matzah balls as well as baked goods and kugels made with matzah meal. Forget most of those store-bought cakes and cookies.

Passover noodles and soup almonds made with potato starch are usually fine for a gluten-free diet, but check labels carefully. Many macaroons are made without matzah or cake meal, and they should be allright as well.

What about matzah? That’s certainly a challenge if you can’t eat gluten. For the seder, try gluten-free oat matzah. Very expensive, but as far as I know, they are the only ones acceptable for fulfilling the mitzvah of eating matzah at the seder.

After the seder, I suggest Gluten Free Matzo – an Israeli product produced by the Yehuda company. It’s made from tapioca and potato starch, palm oil (not great, but you’re only eating it once a year), egg yolks and honey. I gave out samples to several people – some gluten-intolerant, others not. Everyone found them crisp, flaky and very tasty. In fact, their taste is closer to potato chips than regular wheat matzah. They are certified Gluten-Free and O-U parve. (The brachah is “shehakol”.) If you can’t find them locally, order them on line at GlutenFreeMatzo.com. Use their code GFM979 to receive a free box of matzah with your order.

Gluten Free or not, enjoy a happy, healthy and kosher Pesach!

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Chana Rubin, RD

Food for the Soul

Traditional Jewish Wisdom for Healthy Eating
By Chana Rubin, RD

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