Vegetables and Fruits

Hidden Benefits

Can you actually eat more, eat healthier and still lose weight? Does it sound too good to be true?

It’s not a “miracle” diet or a weight-loss pill.

It’s a matter of eating more vegetables and fruits. I often suggest starting a meal with a vegetable salad or soup. Research shows that this simple step curbs your appetite, so you end up eating fewer calories over all.

Earlier this year, a small but intriguing study found another way that vegetables can be used to reduce your total caloric intake.

Researchers added vegetable purees to main course casseroles and desserts. The purees added additional bulk to the food, while reducing the total amount of calories per serving.

Participants who ate the “manipulated” food ate 200 to 350 fewer calories per meal than those who ate the same food minus the vegetable puree. Their daily vegetable consumption also increased significantly. None of the research subjects were told about the added vegetables. They didn’t notice a significant difference in taste or satiation when they were finished eating.

Should you cut calories by adding pureed zucchini and cauliflower to your favorite macaroni and cheese recipe? It’s not a bad idea. It may even help get finicky youngsters (and adults!) to eat vegetables that they might otherwise spurn. (On the other hand, you’ll want to introduce whole “real” vegetables to your children so they’ll develop a liking for them at an early age.)

I suggest serving as many whole vegetables as possible, and adding vegetable purees when you think it might be helpful to your family’s diet. If you’re trying to lose weight, adding purees to casseroles, soups and desserts is certainly a good strategy.

It’s easiest to add vegetable purees that will either appear “hidden” or will enhance your favorite foods. Spicy dishes like chili and hearty pasta casseroles take well to added vegetable purees. Tomato puree adds a rosy touch to macaroni and cheese (see my recipe), while cauliflower puree blends in with the color of the cheese sauce. Pureed squash, pumpkin, applesauce, bananas, carrots, zucchini and pineapple all work well in baked goods, especially cakes, quick breads and muffins using cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and other hearty spices.

Here’s a delicious cupcake recipe chock full of vegetables and fruit:

Carrot Cupcakes (Parve)

1 can (8 oz/227 gm) juice-packed crushed pineapple*
1 cup grated carrots
½ cup pitted prunes
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 whole egg
1 egg white
½ cup sugar
¼ cup canola or light olive oil

Preheat the oven to 325F/165C. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

Drain the pineapple in a strainer and reserve ¼ cup of the juice. Heat this reserved juice until it’s hot.

Using a food processor, grate the carrots and measure 1 cup. Remove them from the processor and set aside. Put the prunes and the hot pineapple juice in the processor and process until smooth.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger in a small bowl and set aside.

Whisk together the egg, egg white, sugar and oil. Whisk in the prune puree. Add the dry ingredients and then the pineapple and carrots.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 20-30 minutes, until they spring back when lightly pressed. Let them sit in the pan for a few minutes, then cool completely on a cooling rack.

Makes 12

* I’ve never found crushed pineapple in Israel. (Even though Dole brand is sold here, they seem to just bring over slices and tidbits.) I use whatever is available, drain it and puree it in the food processor after I’ve grated the carrots.

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Stamps of Israel – Nutrition Smart!

I couldn’t resist posting an image of these Israeli stamps.

And not just because they’re so pretty to look at. When you’re done peeling off the stamps (local postage rate only), there’s nutrition information printed on the back that’s yours to keep. Vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and their health benefits are listed for grapes, oranges, lemons, avocados and pomegranates. Grown in Israel, of course.
So run down to your local post office and ask for the fruit stamps. Tell them you just want to brush up on your nutrition!
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Winter Squash in Summer

Making aliyah has its challenges – language, culture, manners (or lack of) all require getting used to – or not. Even the food takes getting used to. Although Israel has modern grocery stores and an abundance of locally grown produce, food elicits nostalgia, and most olim (new immigrants) want at least a little “taste of home” once in awhile.

For me, that nostalgia hits once a year, at Thanksgiving. Turkey, stuffing, wild rice, cranberries and pumpkin pie, which I can easily do without all year round, start to make my mouth water. So I roast a turkey breast, bake cornbread and make stuffing. I cook wild rice with dried cranberries. But American-style pie pumpkins aren’t grown here.

There’s another problem with winter squash (that’s what pumpkins are) in Israel – they come to market in the middle of summer! Right now, in July, we’re eating the most delicious squash of the season – and I don’t mean zucchini, which haven’t been offered for months by our organic subscription farm. The fresh picked butternut squash is wonderful. Acorn squash – new in the Israeli market, is small, sweet and nutty tasting.

Here’s a very easy way to cook winter squash: Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the stem and cut the squash in half lengthwise, from the stem end to the bottom. Take out the seeds. (A grapefruit spoon makes it easy.) With your fingers or a brush, rub the cut edges and the inside of the squash with olive oil. Sprinkle the surfaces with salt and pepper and bake, cut side down on the baking sheet until the edges begin to brown and the squash is soft.

With the abundance of delicious winter squash throughout the summer, I really don’t miss it during the winter. What do I make for dessert on Thanksgiving? I use what’s readily available at that time of year and make sweet potato pie!

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Apricot Jam – Easy on the Sugar and Easy on You

Between the fruit trees in our yard and the nearby orchards (now subdivisions), there was always a surplus of summer fruit when I was growing up. First my mother made pies, and then jelly and jam. I remember pouring a layer of melted wax over the jelly – an old (and not very safe) method for sealing.

Now I still enjoy making jam, but usually in small batches. Last year I made cardamom fig preserves and apricot jam. When this year’s crop of berries arrived from the Golan, I made blackberry jelly, raspberry preserves with berry liqueur and cherry jam.

Making jam does take time and effort. Between standing over the stove and stirring, cleaning jars and processing them in a water bath, it’s definitely a project. And then there’s the sugar. Jam takes a huge amount of sugar – most recipes call for equal weights of fruit and sugar.

Then I found a recipe for apricot jam that I had cut from a magazine ten years ago. (Yes, in addition to keeping recipes on my computer, I still clip and file.) It’s nearly effortless and it uses just a little sugar and no pectin. (That’s also good, because pectin isn’t available in Israel.)

Pit and cut up the apricots. Add a small amount of sugar and lemon juice. Microwave.

Between cooking for a few minutes in the microwave, the jam cools for up to 3 hours before getting zapped a few more times. That’s about it. There’s no water-bath processing, so you’ll have to store this jam in the refrigerator. It should last for several weeks.

Of course, I had to play around with the recipe. I used demerara sugar instead of white and added Amaretto to the first batch. The second batch has chopped candied ginger (I’m sure I used too much – but that just means more for me!) and a splash of orange juice.

Apricot season just ended here, but next week I’m hoping to try the recipe with plums.

PS We’re not big jam eaters, but I still find plenty of uses for it. A small spoonful is wonderful with plain or frozen yogurt. I recently used homemade blackberry jam to fill two layers of a very simple birthday cake. I’m thinking of some apricot jam, white wine and herbs for this Shabbat’s roast chicken. I also like to pour the jam into small glass jars and give them as gifts.


Microwave Apricot Jam (adapted from Sunset Magazine)

1 ¼ pounds (½ kilo) fresh apricots

2 tablespoons lemon juice

½ cup sugar (white or demerara)

2 tablespoons Amaretto, orange-flavored liqueur or orange juice

Wash and pit the apricots. Cut them into quarters and put them into a large microwave-safe bowl. (I use an 8-cup Pyrex measuring cup.) Add the sugar and lemon juice to the apricots and mix.

Heat the mixture in the microwave, on full power, for 6 to 8 minutes, until it boils. Take it out, stir gently and let it sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours.

Microwave the mixture again for 5 or 6 minutes, or until it comes to a full boil. Take it out, stir and let sit again for 1-3 hours.

Now stir in the liqueur or juice and microwave for 12-15 minutes, stirring every 4 minutes. You should see lots of big bubbles. Pour the jam into clean jars (I pour boiling water into them so they’re sparkling clean.) Cover, cool and store in the refrigerator.

Makes 2 cups

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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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