Soup Season

Yesterday was our first day of winter.

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.


 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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After-Pesach Muffins

I’m a big muffin fan.
Muffins are an easy way to pack fruit, nuts and fiber into a few easy-to-make delicious bites. They make a quick snack and are perfect with fresh fruit and tea on Shabbat morning.
How did I end up with muffins after Passover this year? Normally we eat home-made granola for breakfast. But immediately after Pesach, that’s a problem. I usually make granola in large quantities – enough to last a month or so, and who has time and energy to do that right after Passover?
So we bought a box of muesli to tide us over. Muesli is the unbaked version of granola, without sweetener and oil. Ours had rolled oats, wheat, bran and lots of raisins.  It was fine for a few days, until I was ready to make my own granola. Then I was left with almost a full box of muesli. Here’s what I made:
Muesli Muffins (Dairy)
1¼ cups muesli
1¼ cups low-fat buttermilk
¾ cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup canola oil
1 egg
1/3 cup brown sugar
Combine the muesli and buttermilk in a bowl and set aside for 30 minutes.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C) and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
After the muesli has softened in the buttermilk for 30 minutes, add the oil, egg, brown sugar and flour mixture and gently mix everything together. Don’t over mix.
Spoon the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. These do not rise much.
Remove to a baking rack to cool.
Makes 12 muffins
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Pre-Pesach Leftovers: Turn (some of) them into Granola Bars

After Purim, many of us start thinking about Pesach. I’m not the “Spring Cleaning” type, but I have started going through my pantry and refrigerator. I actually enjoy the challenge of using up leftovers. I just tried this recipe, using some of my own leftovers. I’m not a big granola bar fan, but these are yummy. Soft, not too sweet and certainly healthier than most anything you can buy. And …they don’t even need to be baked. Just mix, refrigerate and cut them up!
There’s plenty of room for variations: Use any chopped dried fruit instead of raisins; or peanut butter chips instead of chocolate chips; Double or halve the recipe.
No-Bake Granola Bars
1 cup granola (homemade or store bought)
½ cup raw oatmeal (regular or quick-cooking)
½ cup chocolate chips or raisins
¼ cup finely chopped walnuts or almonds
¼ cup honey or date syrup (silan)
1 cup natural peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
Mix granola, oatmeal chocolate chips and walnuts in a bowl. Stir in the honey and peanut butter. Mix well. Spray an 8-inch (20-cm) square baking pan with non-stick spray. Spread the mixture evenly in the pan and refrigerate for an hour or so.
Turn the pan upside down on a cutting board and cut into bars or squares. Wrap each bar in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you’re ready for a little snack.
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Purim – Mishloach Manot Ideas

I don’t go all out with mishloach manot (Purim food gifts). Maybe it’s because I packed thousands of them during 12 years of running a kosher gift business. I just remember the shipping boxes stacked up along walls and under the tables. By time I got to the synagogue to hear the Megillah reading, I was barely awake.
In our neighborhood, people have pared way back on Purim gifts. Cards to one’s favorite charity are more common, especially when extra calories are not always appreciated (at least by us older folks!)
But one must still satisfy the mitzvah of giving edible Purim gifts to at least two people. And children do enjoy the thrill of getting goodie packages.

This year I found decorative but inexpensive 5-inch (13 cm) square metal containers at a local cosmetics/jewelry shop. Earlier in the month I made half a batch of lemon poppy seed cake, baked it in cupcake tins and froze them. I’ll stuff dates with marzipan – both in the refrigerator and needing to be gone before Pesach. We’ll buy a bag of juicy tangerines to include in our gifts.

As a finishing touch, I’ll add a few chocolate-dipped pretzel sticks that my granddaughter Karen just made with me. It’s an easy, fun (and messy!) project that your children or grandchildren will enjoy doing with you.
Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Sticks

Pretzel sticks – I found whole-wheat pretzels made with liquid vegetable oil and covered with sesame seeds.
Chocolate – We used a bar of parve bittersweet chocolate. You can use chocolate chips too.
Canola oil
Candy sprinkles – Optional; Karen decided not to dip all of the sticks in sprinkles.
Washcloth for wiping chocolate from hands, face and clothing.
Break up the chocolate in a pyrex measuring cup (this just makes it easier for children to hold the container). Add a teaspoon or so of canola oil. Microwave it on low power, stirring occasionally, until it’s melted.
Lay out wax, parchment or sandwich paper on cookie sheets (for the finished sticks). Lay another piece on the counter or table and pour some of the sprinkles on it.
Dip half of each pretzel stick into the chocolate (a spoon helps spread and catch the drips). Roll the chocolate in the sprinkles and place on the paper-lined cookie sheet. Either set the finished sticks aside to harden, or refrigerate them for a short time. Store them in an air-tight container at room temperature.
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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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