Author Archives: Rachel Saks

Rachel Saks

About Rachel Saks

Rachel Saks, M.S. R.D., has loved to cook ever since she was old enough to stand on a chair at the counter and wield a plastic knife. She has an M.S. in Education and is a Registered Dietitian. Rachel has taught cooking classes at JCC Manhattan and the Center for Kosher Culinary Arts. She developed and ran Healthy Living, a Ramah program for 8-16 year olds that combines nutrition education, mindful eating, cooking instruction and physical activity. Rachel is also the co-author of Jewish American Food Culture. She brings a unique, holistic philosophy to teaching nutrition and believes that a healthy lifestyle is built on making the right choices in the kitchen, at the supermarket, and at the table. Rachel spent a total of 13 summers at Camp Ramah in the Poconos (8 as a camper and 5 as a staff member) and met her husband there in 2000. She feels that a positive encounter with Jewish camp can be one of the most formative and important experiences in a child’s life.

Lessons from Camp and the High Holidays

7-11-14-684 cropThe buses have rolled away, the bags are unpacked, the phone calls between your campers and their friends are sending your phone bill sky high, and the countdown until next summer has already begun. As the days and weeks tick by, the Jewish calendar asks us to take pause and evaluate ourselves and account for our deeds. With Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur right around the corner we begin the process of looking at what we have done and how we have grown so we can do more and grow more. The High Holidays aren’t just about beating our chests in repentance; they are also about accepting responsibility for our individual and communal actions and learning from our past experiences.

With camp behind us and the holiday season ahead of us, now is the perfect time to talk with your kids about what they learned at camp and how they might grow and change in the months leading up to next summer. This sort of self-reflection isn’t easy for kids (or adults!) to do, but it can be very gratifying because it can make the whole family appreciate just how special camp is even more.

As you dip your apples in your honey (or your fresh fruit in silan and tehina, as in the recipe below) encourage conversation with your kids on what they learned over the summer. Self-reflection and growth is hard for all of us, but it is important to take the lessons from camp and talk about how they can be applied to challenges in the real world. How can the enjoyment of singing during Shabbat translate to finding meaning in Hebrew school? How can the tribulations of sleeping on a top bunk help you deal with a difficult math teacher? How can the creativity needed to design a cheer for color war help you discover what to write for your essay in English class? Discussing these types of situations with your kids can help them put their camp experience into context so that they can adapt, change, and grow into a better person.tehina pic

“Halvah” Fruit dip
Serves 8

Ingredients
½ cup tehina
½ cup silan (date honey)
¼ cup chopped pistachios
Large platter of fresh and dried fruits (strawberries, mango, apples, dried figs, dried apricots)

Instructions
1. With a tablespoon, scoop alternating spoons of tehina and silan onto a large platter.
2. Using a fork, swirl the tehin and silan together. Sprinkle with pistachios.
3. Serve with fruit platter.

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Posted on September 19, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Diary of a Camp Meal

food at a Jewish campIts ribs and wings night.  I’m with my husband and eight month old son for two weeks at the camp where my husband and I met and fell in love. He’s the rabbi in residence and I’m playing and relaxing for most of the day with the baby. Camp is peaceful and is mostly how I remember it. Except for ribs and wings night.

Campers are exiting the kitchen with trays laden with spicy buffalo wings and what, I must admit, are some of the best barbecue ribs I have ever eaten. Each time a camper reaches his or her table the entire bunk erupts in mad applause and then sets about the task of even more madly devouring the meat as fast as possible, only for the camper-waiter to return to the kitchen and start the process over again. The salad bar, roasted sweet potatoes and crispy fresh cabbage slaw are on the whole being ignored, and by the end of the night the bones strewn about the tables and heaped into trash cans make the dining hall looks somewhat like a very productive archeological dig.

As my son happily plays on the grass after dinner (after all, his tummy is filled with delicious wings and ribs as well) I ask myself: What’s with the meat mania?  There is meat almost every day at camp, and while the wings and ribs that the kitchen turns out are truly exceptional, they are no more so that the amazing roasted cauliflower or the Indian quinoa and tofu veggie meal from Friday night (yes, camp food really has improved!). Why does my otherwise peaceful camp go insane every time there are wings and ribs?

Like brisket, potato latkes, homemade birthday cake, fresh matzah brei and turkey with stuffing, the wings and ribs served at camp are delicious, eaten infrequently, and aren’t exactly the healthiest meal around. The combination of these three factors creates the aura of a superfood (different from the kale and blueberry type of superfood) that is the stuff of legends. There is nothing wrong with indulging in a rarely procured, fatty and entirely delicious food, but there is a way to do so that we don’t get carried away.

To take a line from Pirke Avot (The Ethics of our Fathers), “In a place where there are no men [human beings], strive to be a man [human].” (Pirke Avot 2:5)  In other words, enjoy the wings and ribs, but try to have some of the sweet potatoes and veggies with them. Check in with yourself every once in a while to see if you really are still hungry, and eat slowly, enjoying each delectable bite. In the end, there’s nothing wrong with applauding the arrival and consumption of a great plate of food, but I encourage you to do so with mindfulness of why and how the food attained such an elevated, important status.

Keep in mind as well that not all meals at camp (or elsewhere, for that matter) are as special as wings and ribs, but that they can be just as delicious and satisfying in their mundane-ity. The “profane” comforting breakfast of unsweetened oatmeal and banana I consume every morning at camp, including the morning after the “sacred” wing and rib night, reminds me to try to appreciate the continuum that is camp food.

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Posted on July 23, 2014

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How to Let Our Desserts (& Our Kids) Just BE What They Are

PB cookiesFat-free ice cream. Sugar free-candy. Low-carb apple pie. Are you salivating yet?  Probably not. Manufacturers and weight-conscious home chefs often try to make desserts “healthy” by removing one key unhealthy component. Unfortunately that single ingredient is usually the difference between a completely satisfying, delicious treat and a lackluster, mediocre letdown. Desserts just don’t feel like dessert if they are not able to be dessert, in all of their sugary, fatty, carby goodness. So how can the health conscious among us enjoy dessert responsibly? Just let desserts BE what they are!

What do I mean by this? Desserts that are packed with preservatives (like shelf-stable cookies) or have had the fat or sugar replaced are often just not satisfying. This leads us to eat more of them, hoping to find the satisfaction in the 20th bite that we weren’t able to find in bites 1-19. If we just let desserts BE and make and eat only those with wholesome, natural ingredients (like pure cane sugar, butter, whole grain and regular unbleached flours, high quality chocolate, all natural peanut butter, etc.) and consume no more than 150 calories of the sweet stuff a day we will be satisfied, happy, and believe it or not, probably healthier.

In our culture of instant gratification, convenience is everything, and the constant quest for improvement, kids can often get lost in what they “could” or “should be.” They remove parts of themselves to be more appealing to the masses (just like the low-fat cookies) and can often end up unsatisfied and unhappy, missing the truest version of themselves without even realizing it. One of the greatest values kids can learn at camp is how to just BE what they are. With the array of different activities, different types of staff and campers, and a whole bunch of fresh air, camp helps kids get rid of the preservatives and substitutions and be the truest, most delicious version of themselves. And when they come home, revealing an aspect of themselves you always suspected was there, go ahead and eat them up- no portion size is too big!

For one idea of a wholesome, simple and satisfying dessert, try the recipe for the peanut butter cookies below.

Ingredients
1 cup creamy, all-natural peanut butter
1 cup evaporated pure cane sugar, plus more for rolling the cookies in
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder

Instructions

  •  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  • Mix peanut butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon until well-blended.
  • Beat the egg and add it to the peanut butter, along with the vanilla and the baking powder. Mix well to combine.
  • Pour additional sugar onto a plate. Using a tablespoon, scoop balls of dough and lightly roll in the sugar. Place cookies on baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
  • Using a table fork, gently press the tines into each cookie, flattening them. Turn the cookies 90 degrees and press the tines into the cookies again, making a crosshatch pattern.
  • Bake the cookies 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes on cookie sheets.
  • Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.

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Posted on June 17, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Freedom from Matzah

shutterstock_164494856In its simplest form, Passover is a holiday that commemorates the Israelites’ journey from slavery to freedom. During the seder we do things that indicate how we were slaves in the land of Egypt and also how now we are free. For instance, we eat matzah (the bread of affliction) and bitter herbs to signify our slavery, yet we eat them while reclining during a lavish and festive meal that is a privilege of our freedom. From this we can learn that while we should remember our people’s past as if it was our own, we should not become so mired in their despair that we forget our wonderful, thriving lives.

This lesson of experiencing the pain of our ancestors without taking on too much of their pain applies perfectly to how we eat on Passover. Most of us only tolerate matzah, and we make matzah kugel, matzah pizza, and matzah lasagna because that’s what we’ve always made…and we’re supposed to eat a lot of matzah, right? Well, not necessarily.

Although it can be fine to include matzah in some things over the holiday, we don’t necessarily have to overly oppress ourselves with its dry texture and flavorless taste (or the tummy troubles that result in the over-consumption of matzah). We can look at the Passover food guidelines as an opportunity to recognize the oppression of the Israelites (by not using certain items) to come up with new, interesting foods to eat. Instead of matzah meal cookies, try some flourless chocolate and walnut cookies (recipes are everywhere). Instead of matzah kugel, why not try a sweet potato soufflé?  Instead of matzah pizza, try eggplant parmesan (breaded with ground walnuts and almonds). And instead of matzah brie or Passover cereal for breakfast, try the idea below for an amazing hot breakfast quinoa (like steel cut oats, but better!).

If you and your kids need more clarity on how to simultaneously experience freedom and slavery in your Passover food, just look to camp. Counselors and staff members know that one of the most amazing and challenging parts of camp is coming up with creative and interesting programming under the constraints of rules, schedules, resources and space. Often, the most innovative and fun programs at camp are borne under those constraints, and it is in that space that we can learn the most about slavery and freedom and how to dance between the two. Perhaps as you sit over your bowl of hot quinoa with your kids you can discuss the essence of this interesting aspect of both camp and Passover- that often it is in the times of our greatest oppression or constraints that we are able to break through and come up with new, innovative, and freeing (and delicious!) ideas.

Breakfast Quinoa
Serves 4

Ingredients
3 cups 1% milk
1 cup quinoa
¼ teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons honey
4 teaspoons dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup mixed dried fruit and nuts

Instructions

  • Bring milk to a boil over medium high heat- be careful not to let it boil over!
  • Add the quinoa the salt, stir once, cover and turn the heat down to very low.
  • Simmer about 15 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed, then stir in the remaining ingredients and re-cover for 1 minute.
  • Serve hot or put in refrigerator for up to 1 week and reheat.

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Posted on April 17, 2014

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Homemade Pantry Snacks

shutterstock_73654063One of the greatest things that kids learn at camp is how to do things for themselves, from scratch. Campers learn how to build a fire, make a pottery bowl, shoot a basket, pitch a tent, and maybe even to tie tzittzit on a tallit. By creating something from nothing kids are better able to understand what goes into a final product and how something works. They are able to better appreciate the final product because they had a hand in making it possible.  In the hustle and bustle of the school year we often forgo the experience of creating items from scratch for the easier path of ready-made items. Pre-tied shoelaces, pre-made meals, and most likely a fire that starts with an electric starter on the stove make our lives easier, but we miss out on the novelty of enjoying something we have created from nothing.

When it comes to stocking your pantry with snack foods, you can (and often should) take the easy road of buying pre-made foods, but every once in a while it can be such a valuable experience to take the time with your kids to make some favorite snack foods. Kids often don’t give much thought to the type of flour used to make their favorite crackers or whether or not there are preservatives in their favorite candy (there probably are), so making these foods from scratch gives them an opportunity to engage with their foods in a new way and gives you an opportunity to get some healthy “grow food” in their bodies.

There is a Jewish concept that there are certain mitzvot (commandments) that we are unable to appoint someone else to perform in our place; we must do them for ourselves. This is quite similar to why it can be so valuable to create handmade, homemade item. When we engage with our food and our surroundings in an organic, hands-on, ground-up sort of way we see everything in a whole new light. Check out this recipe for homemade cheese crackers to begin to open yourself up to a whole new world of from-the-pantry snacking!

Homemade Cheese Crackers
Makes about 30 crackers

Ingredients
4 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cups whole grain spelt flour or while whole wheat flour
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon onion or garlic powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons milk, plus more for brushing

Instructions

  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Combine the cheese, butter, flours, onion or garlic powder, salt and 2 tablespoons of milk into the bowl of a food processor or mixer.  Pulse or mix until the dough forms a ball.
  3. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface.  Roll it out until it is a square about 1/8 of an inch thick (or a bit thinner).
  5. Brush the dough with additional milk.
  6. Using a pizza wheel or knife, cut the dough into 30 squares.  Using a toothpick, prick a hole in the center of each square.
  7. Place the squares on the baking sheets, leaving about ½ an inch between crackers
  8. Bake about 15 minutes until the crackers are just slightly brown around the edges.
  9. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

 

Posted on March 18, 2014

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Camp Style Winter Pantry Basics: Part 2

shutterstock_170767379Having a well-stocked pantry means being prepared for the unexpected, being organized, and giving yourself the best possible tools to make the best possible decisions. This is what healthy eating is all about. Most of the time we know what the healthiest choices are, but don’t make them because it’s not convenient or easy for us. When potato chips are the only thing available, potato chips are what we have for a snack. If we are ready with frozen veggies, a jar of tomato sauce, lean ground beef and whole wheat pasta we enable ourselves to easily make a healthy dinner rather than taking out from a local Italian restaurant because the cupboard is bare. If we provide ourselves with the right tools just at our fingertips, we will be more likely to make healthy eating choices.

Judaism is big on preparation, and kids learn that first hand at Jewish summer camps. Most notably, there is an important Jewish concept of Hachana l’shabat, or preparing for the Sabbath. At camp, kids do all sorts of things to prepare for Shabbat. They clean up their bunks, pick out (and usually trade) clothes and learn new songs and prayers. At home, other Shabbat preparation occurs, usually in the form of cooking and cleaning. In both settings, Judaism teaches that another type of preparation should occur- a spiritual preparation that entails readying one’s mind for resting from the craziness of the week and allowing oneself to stop for long enough to appreciate the joy in quiet, community, restfulness and some extra-delicious food.

With our busy lives it can sometimes be hard to find the time to prepare ourselves, whether that preparation be the kind of nuts and bolts actions of organizing a pantry, or the more spiritual actions needed to prepare for Shabbat. But, the reason preparation is so difficult to do is exactly the reason its so important to do- once you perform a few simple “preparatory actions” you are literally set-to-go with the ability to make healthier decisions and find spiritual rest and quiet. If you take the time to organize and prepare ahead of time, the actual work will be short and you can spend more time reaping the rewards of delicious food and the joys that Shabbat can provide. In that spirit, try this delicious from-the-pantry lentil soup recipe for your next Shabbat meal!

Straight from the Pantry Lentil Soup
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
1 large yellow onion
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 cups vegetable stock
1 14 ounce can small diced tomatoes
1 cup brown or green lentils
10 ounce box frozen whole leaf spinach
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Dice the onion and mince the garlic.
  2. Heat the olive oil over high heat in a large sauce pot.  Add the onions and cook until browned and softened, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cumin and cook 1 minute longer.
  4. Add the stock and tomatoes and lentils and bring to a boil.  Taste the broth and add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover.  Cook 20-30 minutes, or until the lentils have fully softened.
  6. Add the spinach and cook just until heated through.

Posted on January 23, 2014

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Camp-Style Winter Pantry Basics

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pantryAs winter sets in, you probably don’t feel like making as many trips to the grocery store and are getting sick of the question, “What’s for dinner?” Just like you will be packing your camper’s bags in only 6 short months in the hopes that they will be prepared for what is to come, you should be packing your kitchen for the winter and preparing yourself for the meals, snacks and holidays to come by stocking your pantry.

My friends and family often laugh when they look at my pantry. “There’s nothing to eat!” they inevitably exclaim. Other than pretzels, cereal and some nuts, they’re right — I don’t generally keep a lot of ready-to-eat food around. Even my fridge and freezer are packed with raw ingredients rather than bags and packages of snacks and meals. This isn’t just because I love to cook. Having a pantry stocked with raw ingredients and not pre-made foods can not only save money, but can also help you eat healthier by cutting out on preservatives and calories. See the “recipe” for a healthy pantry below and make sure to check back in the next few months for a new 3-part recipe series on recipes straight from the pantry!

Starches

  • Brown rice
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Quinoa
  • Other favorite whole grains
  • Wild rice pilaf
  • Dried lentils
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Assortment of canned beans (black, chickpeas, kidney, white)

Vinegars

  • Red wine vinegar
  • Cider vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Other flavored vinegar

Vegetables

  • Frozen spinach
  • Frozen peas
  • Frozen artichoke hearts
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Frozen mixed vegetables
  • Assortment of canned tomatoes
  • Capers/olives
  • Sun-dried tomatoes

Fruits

  • Lemons/limes
  • Frozen berries
  • Apples

Miscellaneous

  • Bread crumbs
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Veggie burgers
  • Assorted nuts
  • All-natural peanut butter
  • Boxed vegetable/chicken stock

Dairy

  • Low-fat milk
  • Cheese for snacking
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Low-fat/fat-free Greek yogurt
  • Other cheeses

Meat (frozen)

  • Chicken cutlets
  • Lean ground beef
  • Ground turkey
  • Other lean beef cuts
  • Shrimp/other seafood
  • Fish fillets

Condiments

  • Soy sauce
  • Hot sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Reduced fat mayonnaise
  • Mustard 

Oils

  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Cooking spray
  • Dark sesame oil

Spices

  • Bay leaves, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, cumin, ground coriander, oregano, paprika, rosemary, thyme leaves, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, etc.

 

Posted on December 25, 2013

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Creating New Traditions (and Recipes!) for Thanksgivukkah

cranberry glazed donutsLast month I wrote about new ways of looking at the same old foods as a way to take an important camp value and bring it home. In general, this speaks to the greater lesson of creativity and ingenuity that kids often learn at camp. It may sound odd at first to say this, but creativity is so important in Jewish tradition. The Israelites had to find innovative ways to sleep and eat while wandering in the desert for 40 years, the rabbis of the Talmud constantly had to find interesting solutions to complex legal problems, the Jews of the Inquisition had to find new ways of secretly practicing Judaism, and many of the modern Jews of our time have found unique paths that bridge the religious and the secular in a seamless and meaningful manner.

The confluence of creativity and tradition could not be more relevant than this month, when the first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving fall on the same night. Here is an opportunity to be creative with our Jewish tradition and to create new secular traditions. It’s an opportunity not only to make some interesting Hanukkah-Thanksgiving fusion dishes (see recipe below!) but to talk as a family about the meaning of both holidays and how we can integrate them in our minds and at our tables in order to understand and appreciate both in new and meaningful ways.

As a means of getting you started, try out these delicious low fat cranberry pecan sufganiyot (Israeli donuts traditionally eaten on Hanukkah) in muffin form- what could be a newer, more interesting pairing of cultures?!

 Cranberry Pecan Pie Sufganiyot
Makes 24 mini doughnut-muffins

Ingredients
1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons plus ¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup buttermilk
½ cup dark molasses
3 large egg whites
3 tablespoons canola oil
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
2-3 tablespoons cranberry juice
¼ cup roasted pecans

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Spray 2 mini-muffin tins generously with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar to coat, then tap out the excess.
  • Whisk flour, the remaining 3/4 cup granulated sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  • Make a well in the dry ingredients and set aside.
  • Whisk buttermilk, molasses, egg whites and oil in another bowl.
  • Fold the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula just until blended, taking care not to over-mix.
  • Spoon about 1 generous tablespoon of batter into each muffin cup, smoothing the tops.
  • Bake until the tops spring back when touched lightly, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Loosen edges and turn the doughnuts out onto a wire rack to cool. Whisk confectioners’ sugar and cranberry juice in a bowl to make a smooth, thick glaze.  Pour onto a small plate.
  • Chop the pecans into small pieces.
  • When the doughnuts are completely cool dip the tops in the glaze and place them on a wire rack (place wax paper or paper towels under the rack to make clean up easier!) to allow the excess glaze to drip off.
  • Sprinkle the chopped nuts over and enjoy.

Posted on November 19, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

New Ways of Looking at the Same Old Foods

mocha-mousseOne of the most amazing lessons kids can learn at camp is how to look at the world with a different perspective. The boys who are “dorky” during the school year become cool because of their ability to win an eating contest or go the longest without changing their socks, the absence of TV and other electronic distractions opens a world of imagination and interpersonal connectedness, and living in a Jewish environment allows campers to bond with their tradition on a meaningful, intense, and personalized level. Camp opens possibilities for campers in ways that would otherwise not be possible.

When kids view the world through a new lens they are awakened to opportunities of change, renewal, and deeper connections to their surroundings. However, this ability to see differently often ends when the last bus pulls away from camp. How can we keep this profoundly important thought process alive between summers in a way that feels both authentic and important?  One way can be through food, and another through creating new traditions. Let’s talk about the food first, and next month I’ll share my thoughts on what is now widely known as “Thanksgivukah.”

One thing that is most amazing about healthy eating is that there are always new ways of understanding food, new possibilities for how to understand the taste, flavor, texture, and composition of foods. Although your campers have likely been home from the eye-opening world of camp for many weeks now, they are likely left with the desire to continue to see and understand their world in new ways. So, this month I encourage you to open your kids’ eyes to some surprising, exciting and interesting ways of looking at common foods. Hopefully in the process you will give them a new understanding of spaghetti (or spaghetti squash!), apples, or tofu, to name a few.

Savory Sautéed Apples
Serves 8

1 large yellow onion
4 medium sweet, crisp apples, such as fuji
2 cloves garlic
3 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese

  1. Peel and thinly slice onion.
  2. Peel and cut apples into ½ inch slices.
  3. Mince garlic, thyme and rosemary.
  4. Heat olive oil in large sauté pain over high heat.
  5. Add onions and cook until they begin to soften.
  6. Add apples, garlic, rosemary and thyme and cook 5-8 minutes, until the apples onions are nicely browned.
  7. Remove from heat and season with lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  8. Top with cheese.

Spaghetti Squash with Mushrooms and Spinach
Serves 6-8

1 spaghetti squash (3-4 pounds)
8 ounces cremini mushrooms
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ pound baby spinach

  1. Prick squash all over with a fork or knife, like you would a potato.  Microwave on high for 5-8 minutes, depending on the power of your microwave. Turn over and microwave another 5-8 minutes or until the squash feels tender to the touch. Alternatively, roast the squash in the oven at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until soft.
  2. Meanwhile, thinly slice the mushrooms and mince the garlic.
  3. When the squash is done, cut it in half and gently scoop out the seeds. Scrape out the strings of squash into a bowl with a fork.
  4. Heat olive oil over high heat in a large sauté pan.  Add the mushrooms and sauté until browned and almost fully cooked, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook 2 more minutes, or until garlic is lightly browned.
  5. Add the balsamic vinegar to the pan and cook until all of the liquid cooks off.
  6. Add in the spinach and cook until it wilts, about 1 minute.  Combine the mixture with the spaghetti squash, season with additional salt and pepper if needed, and serve.

Mocha Mousse
Serves 4

1 (12.3 ounce) package silken tofu
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
¼ cup Dutch process cocoa
¼ cup strong coffee
1 tablespoon soy milk
½ cup sugar

  1. Puree the tofu in a food processor until it is very smooth.
  2. Fill a small saucepot with 1 inch of water and bring to a simmer.  Put the chocolate chips, cocoa, coffee, and soy milk in a bowl that fits in the pot of water but does not touch the water.  Stir continuously until the chocolate chips are melted.
  3. Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat and slowly add the sugar, mixing well.  Add to the pureed tofu and puree until smooth and well blended.
  4. Spoon the mousse into serving dishes and refrigerate at least 2 hours to allow the mousse to set.

Posted on October 22, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Recipes & Discussion for Sukkot

Camp_Ramah_0120_IMG_8760By now you’ve hopefully  eaten a good Rosh Hashana meal, had a meaningful Yom Kippur fast, looked at your watch countless times in services, and found numerous ways to entertain the kids throughout this marathon of Jewish practice.  Now its time for some good old-fashioned fun- Sukkot!  On Sukkot we literally pitch a tent in which we are supposed to eat and sleep for eight days.  If that doesn’t bring up thoughts of Jewish camp, I don’t know what does. 

There are two main reasons given for why we are commanded to sleep and eat in the sukkah.  One reason is that the sukkah reminds us about the time the Israelites spent wandering in the desert, sleeping in temporary dwellings like sukkot.  The sukkah also serves to remind us of the rich, agricultural history of the Israelites.  Sukkot is a harvest holiday, and in Ancient Israel the people would build huts similar to sukkot at the edges of the field in order to maximize their work time (and minimize their commute!).   On Sukkot we have the chance to give up some of the comforts of heated homes and cushiony beds to live like the Israelites lived.  In many cases, this is similar to how the less fortunate, particularly farm workers, live in our country today.  Sukkot is the perfect opportunity to discuss the less fortunate among us.  More specifically, you can educate yourself and your family on the treatment of farm workers in America to truly bring new meaning to an ancient tradition.

Try this:  Build a sukkah and chose one night to both eat and sleep under the stars.  Make one of the tasty recipes below, bring out some sleeping bags, ask your kids to teach you a few camp songs, and have a dialogue about the treatment of farm workers in this country and how it relates Sukkot and to you and your family.

For midnight snack…
Homemade Cheese Crackers
Makes about 30 crackers

Ingredients
4 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cups whole grain spelt flour or while whole wheat flour
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon onion or garlic powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons milk, plus more for brushing

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Combine the cheese, butter, flours, onion or garlic powder, salt and 2 tablespoons of milk into the bowl of a food processor or mixer. Pulse or mix until the dough forms a ball.
  4. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface. Roll it out until it is a square about 1/8 of an inch thick (or a bit thinner). Brush the dough with additional milk.
  6. Using a pizza wheel or knife, cut the dough into 30 squares. Using a toothpick, prick a hole in the center of each square.
  7. Place the squares on the baking sheets, leaving about ½ an inch between crackers.
  8. Bake about 15 minutes until the crackers are just slightly brown around the edges.
  9. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

For breakfast…
Breakfast Quinoa
Serves 2

Ingredients
1 ½ cups skim or 1% milk
½ cup quinoa
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons amber agave nectar
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup dried fruit and nuts 

Instructions

  1. Bring milk to a boil over medium high heat- be careful not to let it boil over!
  2. Add the quinoa the salt, stir once, cover and turn the heat down to very low.
  3. Simmer about 15 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed, then stir in the remaining ingredients and re-cover for 1 minute.
  4. Serve hot or put in refrigerator for up to 1 week and reheat.

Posted on September 16, 2013

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