To Peel or Not to Peel

Getting ready to make latkes? Think twice before you peel those potatoes. Peels add a lot more than flavor and texture.

When you toss potato peels, you’re tossing a significant amount of fiber, potassium, vitamins and phytochemicals.

It’s true with other vegetables as well. The skin of sweet potatoes and eggplant, for instance, contain vitamins, minerals and the potent antioxidant quercetin. Most of the fiber in apples and pears is in the skin.

What about pesticide residue?

Organically grown is your best choice, especially with apples, pears and potatoes, which can be heavily sprayed. If conventionally grown produce is your only choice, be sure to wash it carefully. (Organically grown produce should also be washed to get rid of the dirt.)

So when you make latkes this Chanukah, save yourself the time and energy of peeling potatoes. You’ll be saving some valuable nutrients at the same time.

Chag Sameach! Happy Chanukah!

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Baked or Fried? The Latke Conundrum

What makes latkes so appealing?

Potatoes, salt and fat!

That’s why French fries are America’s favorite vegetable.

And that’s why Americans are so fat.

So what are we supposed to eat on Chanukah? You could go the way of The New York Time’s food section with Apple-Gruyere-French-Toast-And-Red-Onions-Sandwich, lightly sautéed in olive oil.

But let’s be honest. We’re Jews. We want latkes on Chanukah.

Here’s what I suggest.

Baked latkes are not bad. But they’re not nearly as tasty as their fried cousins. Besides, when you bake them, you’re entitled to eat more. Because they’re better for you, right?

I’d rather fry them and eat a few less.

Start by cooking your latkes in a non-stick pan. You’ll use less oil right there. Think shallow rather than deep frying. Drain your latkes on several layers of paper towel to absorb any extra oil.

Make latkes once during Chanukah. Serve them as a side dish. They’re great with fish, poultry, a hearty soup, or a main-course salad.

Fill your plate with vegetables. Salad counts. Leave room for one or two latkes (ok, three if they’re really small).

Research shows that people eat less when their plate is small. So serve latkes on a salad plate. Not a dinner plate.

Did you know that the first bite or two (of any food) is the most satisfying? That’s why it’s more enjoyable to eat two delicious latkes than a whole plate of latkes that are just so-so. And that way, you won’t end up feeling stuffed. You may even feel energetic enough for a brisk walk to help burn off those extra calories!

Have a happy and healthy Chanukah!

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Too Many Latkes?

Have you had your fill of latkes? Can’t bear to see another jelly donut?

Do you feel like you’ve put on weight since the start of Chanukah?

How about planning a simple and healthy Shabbat dinner this week? Here’s a menu idea: salmon, steamed broccoli, quinoa pilaf and a green salad. And for dessert, baked apples.

My greengrocer recently introduced me to Pink Lady Apples. First he had big shiny ones with stickers in English – obviously for export. Now he has smaller, un-waxed Ladies – export rejects! These apples are sweet and crisp. They’re great for eating raw. And they don’t fall apart during baking.

Here’s an easy recipe for baked apples that uses heart healthy walnuts and oatmeal and a minimum amount of sugar and fat.

Shabbat Shalom, Chanukah Sameach and Chodesh Tov!

Apple-Crisp Baked Apples (Parve)

¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup rolled oats
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup apple juice or cider
6 medium or 8 small firm baking apples

Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). Spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine the brown sugar, rolled oats, walnuts and cinnamon in a small bowl. Add the oil and stir to combine.

Peel the top third of each apple. Use an apple corer or a melon scoop to remove the core of the apple. Leave the bottom of the apple intact, so the filling won’t leak out.

Fill each apple generously with the nut filling. Spoon any extra filling on top. Arrange the apples in the baking dish and pour the apple juice around the apples.

Cover the dish tightly and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the cover and continue to bake for about 30 minutes, basting the apples with the juice in the dish. The apples are done when you can easily cut them with a sharp knife.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6-8

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Vegetarian Chanukah Menu

How about an Indian-inspired vegetarian meal this Chanukah?

Fragrant spices and frozen peas take traditional latkes to another level.

As an accompanyment, red lentil dal. In India, the word dal is used loosely for legumes, which provide the major source of protein for vegetarians there.

To make this meal even easier, cook the dal ahead of time and re-heat it in the microwave. A simple green salad or chopped Israeli-style salad would work well to complete this meal.

Indian-Style Latkes

These green-flecked, delicately spiced potato pancakes remind me of Indian dosas – crispy thin pancakes filled with spiced potatoes and peas.

2 ½ pounds (1 kilo) potatoes
1 large onion
2 eggs
2 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
3 tablespoons fresh chopped coriander
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
½ -1 teaspoon salt
½ cup frozen peas, defrosted
Vegetable oil for sautéing
Low-fat yogurt for serving

If the potatoes are organic, scrub them well and leave the peels on. Conventionally-grown potatoes should be washed and peeled.

Coarsely grate the potatoes and onion in a food processor. Transfer to a colander to drain.

Mix the eggs with the flour, all of the spices and the salt. Squeeze the potatoes and onions to extract any liquid and add them to the egg mixture. Gently mix in the peas.

In a large non-stick skillet, heat two tablespoons of oil until hot. Cook the latkes, using about ¼ cup of the potato mixture per pancake. Flatten each pancake and cook until browned on each side. Drain on a paper-towel lined plate.

To keep the latkes warm until serving time, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in a 250 F (120 C) oven.

Serve with low-fat yogurt.

Makes about 24 latkes

Red Lentil Dal

Red lentils are a healthy convenience food. They don’t require pre-soaking and are done cooking in half an hour or less. They’ll break down into a puree and turn golden yellow while they’re cooking.

1 cup red lentils, sorted and rinsed well
3 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
¼ teaspoon black mustard seed
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

Bring the lentils to a boil with the water and salt. Reduce the heat and cook, partially covered over low heat, for 20-30 minutes, until the lentils soft and completely broken down. Add more water if necessary, to keep the lentils from sticking.

Heat the oil in a separate small skillet. Add the mustard seeds and cook until they turn gray and start to pop. Add the rest of the spices and cook for another minute. Add this mixture to the cooked lentils and serve.

Serves 4-6

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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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