I recently started my second round with a diet/food-cleanse called Whole 30, in which you eat nothing but unprocessed, unrefined, sugar-free food, while also cutting out entire food groups such as dairy, soy, and grains (oh and booze too). I am sure to many it sounds a bit crazy, but I will share that throughout the 30 days I woke up easier and stayed awake throughout the day, my body felt physically and mentally alive in a way it had not in years past and I felt stronger when I worked out.
Cutting out dairy, sugar, grains and booze? Ok, I could do it. But I could never do without my coffee, which thankfully you are allowed. In order to enjoy my one permitted cup of coffee, I needed to make my own almond milk since almost all sold in stores contain added sugar. I also wanted to find a natural way to sweeten the almond milk to make my coffee a little more enjoyable. So I added 1 medjool date when making the almond milk for the sweetness I craved with my coffee, but without any sugar.
I have come to love making my own almond milk so much that I do it even when I am not on the diet. There is something gratifying about knowing exactly what is in your food and drink. If you are going to try your hand at this I highly recommend buying a nut milk bag, but if you have a cheesecloth available that will work fine.
Homemade almond milk is for more than just crazy diets: it is great for baking, especially when making nondairy desserts, for making smoothies, in your cereal or oatmeal or just drinking too.
For the almond milk:
1 cup raw almonds
3 cups water
1 pitted medjool date
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt
For the vanilla banana smoothie:
1 ¼ cup home made almond milk
1 ½ frozen banana
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp honey
To make the almond milk:
Soak the almonds in 3 cups of water for 12-24 hours. Drain the water from the almonds.
Place the almonds, 3 cups of water, the date, cinnamon and salt in a blender. Start on a low speed and quickly accelerate to high speed until all the nuts are completely pulverized. Pour the nut milk into the bag to strain.
Tip: Don’t waste the almond meal left after straining the liquid. Save it and dehydrate it. It becomes perfect almond flour.
To make the smoothie:
Place almond milk, frozen banana, cinnamon, vanilla and honey in the blender and pulse until smooth. Sprinkle some cinnamon or unsweetened cocoa powder on top.
Dreaming up crazy flavors of challah like pastrami sandwich challah, balsamic apple date challah or gruyere and pesto stuffed challah is one of my greatest joys as a baker. But sometimes I do long for a simpler challah, and have even been known to make whole wheat challah. Yes, it’s true. I hope you were sitting for that.
I use a half whole wheat, half all-purpose unbleached flour ratio when making my whole wheat challah. Yes, you could try to use all whole wheat flour, but challah is supposed to be light and fluffy, and whole wheat flour is simply more dense. Because the whole wheat flour is denser, I make sure to be particularly patient when letting it rise: for the first rise I allow 4 hours, and for the second rise another 1 1/2 hours. It may seem like a lot, but the result is worth it. My mother-in-law even commented about this challah, “this is sinful.” Whole wheat challah? Sinful? Well, I will take it. And especially from my mother-in-law!
I also like to add ground flax seed in the challah for a little extra dose of healthiness which is impossible to detect. And inspired by the beautiful, Israeli challot of Breads Bakery, I love to add pumpkin seeds, whole flax seeds, oats, sesame seeds, black sesame seeds and even sunflower seeds on top for a fun and healthy crunch.
This honey whole wheat challah is perfect for Rosh Hashanah. And instead of a savory topping like the ones I just mentioned, you could add a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar on top for an extra sweet, and healthy, new year ahead.
1 ¼ cups lukewarm water
1 ½ Tbsp dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 ½ cups all purpose unbleached flour
2-2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp ground flax seed
½ Tbsp salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
2 egg yolks + 1 tsp water + 1 tsp honey
Whole flax seed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds (optional)
Thick sea salt (optional)
In a small bowl, place yeast, 1 tsp sugar and lukewarm water. Allow to sit around 10 minutes, until it becomes foamy on top.
In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together ¾ cup whole wheat flour, ¾ cup all-purpose flour, salt and sugar. After the water-yeast mixture has become foamy, add to flour mixture along with oil and honey. Mix thoroughly. Pro tip: use the same cup to measure the honey as you used for the oil which will allow for easier clean-up of the sticky honey.
Add another ½ cup whole wheat flour, ½ cup regular flour and eggs and mix until smooth. Switch to the dough hook attachment if you are using a stand mixer.
Add another 1 ½- 2 cups of mixed flour, mixing thoroughly and then remove from bowl and place on a floured surface. Knead remaining ½ cup flour into dough, continuing to knead for around 10 minutes (or however long your hands will last).
Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with damp towel. Allow to rise at least 4 hours, punching down at least once if possible.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Braid challah into desired shape. Allow challah to rise another 90 minutes, or until you can see the size has grown and challah seems light. This step is very important to ensure a light and fluffy challah.
In a small bowl beat 2 egg yolks with 1 tsp water and 1 tsp honey.
Brush egg wash liberally over challah. Sprinkle with seeds and thick sea salt if desired.
If making one large challah, bake around 28 minutes; if making two smaller challahs, bake 24-26 minutes. When making round challot, make sure the middle has cooked through, which might require an extra 1-2 minutes baking time.
Holidays in general are not very easy on the dieting sector, but when you think about it, nothing beats Hanukkah. Basically we have eight days in a row where its traditional to eat fried foods. And so we start the meal with fried carbs, cap it off with deep fried dough, and probably spend weeks dreading the scale.
Tradition is great, and I am all for it, but there is also a mitzvah to take care of yourself, and I think that eating healthy is way up there on the list of ways to take care of yourself. And while I am not suggesting we all boycott every form of fried food this Hanukkah, a great way to stay healthy and eat healthy is to follow one of my most important dieting tricks: combat delicious and tempting food with delicious, but healthy food.
The challenge, for me, as a perpetual dieter as well as a cook, is to come up with a recipe that is within the spirit of Hanukkah, but won’t cause a bad case of “scale fear.” I think, if I do say so myself, that I succeeded amazingly with these spinach latkes. It’s pretty sad the way spinach gets such a bad rap among vegetables. I think it’s delicious, and I let it shine in this recipe.
This recipe comes together in a frying pan, but don’t let that fool you. This latke recipe is super healthy…and yet totally delicious. Make sure to have enough on hand for the non-dieters. They might just love them as much as I do!
Miriam Pascal blogs at Tales of an Overtime Cook.
spray oil, for frying
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lb bag frozen spinach, thawed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt, to taste
additional black pepper, to taste
Prepare sauteed spinach: sautee onions in spray oil on low to medium flame until translucent. Add minced garlic and sautee an additional couple of minutes. Add thawed spinach and stir to combine. Continue to cook over low to medium flame, stirring occasionally. Cook 20-30 minutes, until spinach is heated through and fully cooked. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice.
You can make the sauteed spinach in advance, and when you are ready to make the latkes, proceed with the following instructions:
In a large mixing bowl, combine sauteed spinach, eggs, breadcrumbs, oil and salt. Heat a frying pan and spray well with spray oil. Roll some of the batter in your hands to form a ball, then press between your palms to form a (relatively thin) patty. Fry on medium flame for 2-3 minutes per side, or until light brown. I like to taste the first latke to make sure I got the spices right, then fry the rest.
Notes: When spinach fries it turns brown and may look burnt, but it isn't!
Don't flip the latkes too soon, or they will fall apart. Make sure you allow them enough time to get cooked on the bottom before flipping.