Having 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
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
- Dice the onion and mince the garlic.
- Heat the olive oil over high heat in a large sauce pot. Add the onions and cook until browned and softened, 5-7 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cumin and cook 1 minute longer.
- Add the stock and tomatoes and lentils and bring to a boil. Taste the broth and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook 20-30 minutes, or until the lentils have fully softened.
- Add the spinach and cook just until heated through.
As 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!
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat pasta
- Other favorite whole grains
- Wild rice pilaf
- Dried lentils
- Whole wheat bread
- Assortment of canned beans (black, chickpeas, kidney, white)
- Red wine vinegar
- Cider vinegar
- Balsamic vinegar
- Other flavored vinegar
- Frozen spinach
- Frozen peas
- Frozen artichoke hearts
- Frozen mixed vegetables
- Assortment of canned tomatoes
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Frozen berries
- Bread crumbs
- Veggie burgers
- Assorted nuts
- All-natural peanut butter
- Boxed vegetable/chicken stock
- Low-fat milk
- Cheese for snacking
- Parmesan cheese
- Low-fat/fat-free Greek yogurt
- Other cheeses
- Chicken cutlets
- Lean ground beef
- Ground turkey
- Other lean beef cuts
- Shrimp/other seafood
- Fish fillets
- Soy sauce
- Hot sauce
- Reduced fat mayonnaise
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
- Cooking spray
- Dark sesame oil
- Bay leaves, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, cumin, ground coriander, oregano, paprika, rosemary, thyme leaves, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, etc.
Last 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
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
- 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.
One 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
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
- Peel and thinly slice onion.
- Peel and cut apples into ½ inch slices.
- Mince garlic, thyme and rosemary.
- Heat olive oil in large sauté pain over high heat.
- Add onions and cook until they begin to soften.
- Add apples, garlic, rosemary and thyme and cook 5-8 minutes, until the apples onions are nicely browned.
- Remove from heat and season with lemon juice, salt and pepper.
- Top with cheese.
Spaghetti Squash with Mushrooms and Spinach
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
- 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.
- Meanwhile, thinly slice the mushrooms and mince the garlic.
- 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.
- 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.
- Add the balsamic vinegar to the pan and cook until all of the liquid cooks off.
- 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.
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
- Puree the tofu in a food processor until it is very smooth.
- 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.
- 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.
- Spoon the mousse into serving dishes and refrigerate at least 2 hours to allow the mousse to set.
By 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
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
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- 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.
- Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- 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.
- Using a pizza wheel or knife, cut the dough into 30 squares. Using a toothpick, prick a hole in the center of each square.
- Place the squares on the baking sheets, leaving about ½ an inch between crackers.
- Bake about 15 minutes until the crackers are just slightly brown around the edges.
- Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.
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
- 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.
As the camp season comes to a close, your camper is returning home with hundreds of amazing memories, an expanded sense of self, a deeper appreciation of Judaism and lots of smelly clothes. Although he likely had an incredible time, he has probably had enough of camp food and is counting the minutes until his first home cooked meal. August seems like an odd time to be discussing comfort food, but when you have a child who has seen too much peanut butter and jelly, frozen fish sticks and questionable spaghetti and meatballs it makes sense to be thinking of making your old, homey classics.
Comfort food is aptly named because of its ability to bring us a sense of calm, happiness and nostalgia. Often, however, comfort food is laden with unnecessary calories and is devoid of vegetables, whole grains or other foods that are comforting to our bodies rather than our souls. If we really want to bring ourselves and our children a full sense of comfort after a summer of bug bites, bug juice and stomach bugs we should meld soul-warming comfort classics with some new, healthy tips and tricks.
Try these “cleaned up” comfort classics to enjoy as a family. Over the meal you can find out what your camper learned about Judaism over the summer and you can share with her the Jewish reason for eating healthy: Shmirat HaGuf, or guarding one’s body because it came from God.
Crispy, Flavorful “Fried” Chicken
1 8-piece chicken cut up chicken, skin removed
2 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 ½ cups crushed cornflakes
1 cup crushed whole-wheat crackers
1 teaspoon smoked or hot paprika
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray.
- On a large plate combine flour, salt and pepper.
- Immediately next to the plate of flour, mix the egg, mustard and vinegar in a shallow bowl.
- Finally, combine the oats, cornflakes, crackers and paprika on a large plate next to the egg mixture.
- Dip the first piece of chicken in the flour and cover it completely and shake off any excess.
- Next, dip the chicken in the egg mixture and let any excess drip off.
- Last, cover the chicken in the crumb mixture and place it in the baking pan.
- Repeat with each piece of chicken, and to avoid breading your fingers, use one hand for dipping in the dry mixtures and the other hand for dipping in the egg.
- Once all of the chicken is coated bake for around 40 minutes, or until done.
- After removing from the oven let the chicken rest for 5-7 minutes to allow the seal in the juices and make sure the crispy coating stays on!
“Tastes like home” Green Bean Casserole
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 lbs green beans, ends removed and cut into 2-inch pieces
½ lb cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups natural, low fat cream of mushroom soup (ie- Imagine brand in a box)
2 tablespoons low fat sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in large non-stick sauté pan and add green beans, mushrooms and 1 onion.
- Cook until the vegetables are browned and fragrant, 7-9 minutes.
- Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more.
- Meanwhile, warm soup just to a simmer in a small saucepot, stirring occasionally.
- Melt butter and flour in a separate medium saucepot over medium heat. Whisk constantly, about 5-7 minutes, until the mixture turns a shade darker and begins to smell slightly nutty.
- Pour the soup into the flour and butter mixture, whisking continuously until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken, about 5 minutes.
- Add the sour cream and cook 1-2 minutes more.
- Combine the vegetables with the sauce in a large bowl and pour into a 8 x 8 baking dish.
- Sauté the remaining onion in the remaining oil over high heat until it is crispy and browned.
- Add the breadcrumbs and cook 30 seconds longer, then pour the onion-breadcrumb mixture over the green beans.
- Bake about 30 minutes, until the top is browned and crispy and the liquid is bubbling.
Spinach Artichoke Mac and Cheese
1 lb whole-wheat elbow macaroni
2 tsp canola oil
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 cups 1% milk
8 ounces shredded sharp low-fat cheddar cheese
1/3 cup low fat ricotta cheese
½ tsp granulated garlic
1 cup defrosted chopped frozen spinach
1 cup defrosted frozen artichoke hearts
Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray and set aside
- Bring water to a boil and cook pasta 1-2 minutes shorter than instructions on package
- While water is boiling and pasta is cooking warm milk just to a simmer in a small saucepot, stirring occasionally
- In a separate pot melt butter and flour in a medium saucepot over medium heat. Whisk constantly, about 5-7 minutes, until the mixture turns a shade darker and begins to smell slightly nutty
- Pour the milk into the flour and butter mixture, whisking continuously until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken, about 5 minutes
- Add the cheeses and garlic and continue to cook 1-2 minutes more
- When the pasta is cooked, drain, toss with oil, and set aside
- Roughly chop the artichokes and squeeze out the spinach until very little water comes out
- Mix the cheese sauce with the pasta, sauce and spinach and artichokes in a large bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper
- Pour the pasta into prepared pan and bake 25-30 minutes, until the top is crispy and golden.
Maybe healthy eating has been a struggle between you and your kids this year, or maybe they are happy to chow down on roasted broccoli, whole wheat pasta and grilled chicken. Either way, once the kids head off to camp you will no longer be able to guide them towards making healthy choices at meal and snack times. Camp is a time for kids to enjoy and let loose a little, but it’s also a time for them to assume some responsibility and assert some of that beautiful independence that is fighting to be set free. So, with that in mind, think about sharing these tips for healthy eating at camp with your camper (perhaps while you munch on the fabulous granola bar recipe below).
- When able, choose fruits, low fat milk, and whole grain cereals at breakfast. Try to avoid juice and sugary cereals.
- If there is a salad bar, have a green salad with lots of vegetables at lunch and dinner.
- If you get canteen on a daily basis or if you have snack food in your cabin, try to limit yourself to 1 item of junk food a day and try to avoid sugary drinks like soda, juices, sports drinks and iced teas.
- Try to be aware of how much you are eating and stop when you are full. If you rate how full you are on a scale of 1-5, and 1 is still hungry and 5 is OVER full, you should stop at a 3.
- If chicken has skin on in, remove before eating.
- Try to have fruit as a dessert or snack when and if you can.
- Try to have some protein with every meal. Foods high in protein are: Greek yogurt, eggs, tofu, beans, meat, chicken and fish.
- When possible, choose whole wheat bread over white bread.
- Only drink water at meals.
- Eating isn’t a race! Remember to eat slowly so you can appreciate and digest your food.
Sweet n’ Nutty Granola Bars
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup chopped dried apricots
1/3 cup chopped pistachios
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line an 8-by-11-inch pan with parchment paper. Whisk egg, egg white, sugar, oil, cinnamon, ginger salt and vanilla in a large bowl. Stir in oats, pistachios, apricots and flour. Spread in prepared pan. Bake until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool; cut into 15 bars with a lightly oiled knife.
Camp is almost here. As you pack the duffel bags, label the underwear, and organize the toiletries you have to remind the kids that camp hasn’t yet started and that they need to continue to do their school work…you must be tired! Your kids, on the other hand, have never had more energy. You want to plan a festive meal to give them an extra warm memory of home (even though they will likely forget all about you the minute they find their bunk bed and hug their best friend from last summer), but you just don’t know if you have the energy for it!
This scenario can be replaced with any of a hundred others at any time during the year. Meetings, sports games, activities, errands, play dates, doctor’s appointments and more seem to crowd our calendars, and often healthy food is one of the casualties. Instead of dinners full of whole grains, lean protein and ample fresh veggies, many of us opt for convenience foods like frozen meals and fast food. I promise- life doesn’t have to be this way! Take a look at some of these tips for quick, healthy cooking and try out the recipe below for a delicious meal that promises tasty, easy and healthy leftovers.
- Look for one pot meals and recipes
- Purchase pre-prepped veggies- the extra cost is worth your time!
- Purchase frozen veggies to use in soups and casseroles- they have just as much, if not more, nutrition as fresh veggies
- Raid the salad bar to make a salad for your family
- Train yourself to have better knife skills
- Prepare things according to the time it takes to cook them- start the foods that take the longest first!
- Purchase and cook foods with other meals in mind- cook chicken once for two different meals
- Use a crock pot
- Use recipes with fewer ingredients
- Pre-read the recipe
- Keep food in the house! Chicken and meat in the freezer and a stocked pantry mean less trips to the store
- Get older kids to help
Black Bean Edamame Pasta Salad
8 ounces soba noodles
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp teriyaki sauce
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp dark sesame oil
¼-½ tsp sriracha sauce or other Southeast Asia chili sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 garlic clove
1 x 1 inch piece ginger
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 can black beans
1 bunch scallions
1 ½ cups sugar snap peas
1 small head bok choy
1 red pepper
1 cup frozen edamame
- Boil the water for the soba noodles and cook them according to the package instructions
- Whisk the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, teriyaki sauce, canola oil, sesame oil, Sriracha sauce and brown sugar in the bottom of a large mixing bowl
- Mince the garlic and ginger together on the cutting board with the kosher salt until they release their juices and form a paste
- Whisk this into the soy sauce dressing at the bottom of the bowl
- Drain and rinse the black beans and partially mash them with a fork
- Thinly slice the scallions and add them to the mixture. Set aside
- Remove the ends from the snap peas and cut them in half
- Thinly slice the carrot and bok choy and dice the red pepper
- Spray a large sauté pan with cooking spray and sauté the sugar snap peas, bok choy, carrots, red pepper and edamame over high heat until the leafy parts of the bok choy are just wilted and the rest of the vegetables are still crispy
- Add the vegetables to the noodles and serve while still warm, or refrigerate and eat cold
Shavuot is a holiday often easily overlooked- many of us may not even realize that it has already passed! Shavuot commonly falls after the Hebrew School year has ended, and many of us associate it only with Confirmation ceremonies. In the most basic sense, Shavuot is the holiday that commemorates God giving the Torah to the Israelites. However, Shavuot is also ripe (pun intended) with significance for today on many other levels.
After the Land of Israel was conquered and divided, the nations of Israel established an agricultural society. In order to show gratitude to God, they were commanded to bring the first fruits of their harvest to the Temple as a sacrifice on Shavuot. Each family brought a basket of the seven species described in the Torah: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. In fact, one of the many names for Shavuot is hag ha bikkurim, The Festival of the First Fruits.
As the weather gets warmer and camp gets closer, farmers markets will likely start to pop up in your community. Depending on where in the country you live, the first fruits of your local harvest will be different. However, as a general rule, asparagus, strawberries, lettuces and peas are commonly among the first things to pop out of the soil in most of the Northeast. Consider using the concept of the first fruits of the festival of Shavuot as an inspiration for your own first fruits celebration. Make a trip to the farmers market with your kids before camp and plan a menu based on the first fruits you find in the market. Speak with one another about the benefits of local produce (hint: it’s fresher, more nutritious and better for the environment) and talk about how we can connect to our local agriculture just as the Israelites did thousands of years ago.
Here’s one recipe to get you started, but don’t feel limited- let the market speak to you and enjoy the kitchen creations that result!
Whole Wheat Linguini with Mint Pesto and 3 types of peas
1 lb whole wheat linguini
1 cup snow peas
1 cup sugar snap peas
½ cup frozen peas
¾ cup packed fresh mint leaves
¾ cup packed fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove
2 ½ tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup roasted unsalted pistachios
¼ cup shredded Parmesan
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- Fill a large pot ¾ of the way with heavily salted water and bring to a boil. Cook linguini according to package directions
- While the water is boiling and the pasta is cooking, take the ends off the sugar snap peas and snow peas and cut them in half
- Chop the mint, basil, and garlic in food processor until finely chopped
- Add the pistachios and pulse until they are well chopped, but not powdery
- Slowly stream in the olive oil
- Set aside in a small bowl and mix in the Parmesan by hand
- 2 minutes before the pasta is done add the snow peas, sugar snap peas, and frozen peas
- Drain the pasta, reserving 3 tablespoons of the cooking water
- Combine the herb mixture with the cooked pasta and peas and reserved pasta water. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately
One of the most life-changing lessons a child can learn at camp is how to overcome fears. Whether your camper is afraid of the lake, is worried about making friends, or can’t stand the thought of being near bugs, a nonthreatening camp environment allows kids to independently push the boundaries of their comfort levels in order to have new and exciting experiences. As a parent, you may revel in your child’s growth over the summer, yet you may simultaneously wonder why he refuses to partake in any new experiences at home for the other 10 months of the year. This is sometimes most true at the dinner table. For example, perhaps last summer your 5th grader came home loving salad with carrots, but now you can’t seem to get her to even taste cooked carrots. The reason for this may be relatively simple – over the summer your camper is in a foreign environment, is highly impressionable and is eager to please both counselors and bunkmates. At home, your child may be more focused on being adversarial and may not be as willing to explore areas outside of his/her comfort zone.
While you can’t replicate the adventuresome camp atmosphere at home, there are definitely things that you can do to get your camper to try new and interesting foods that will support her health. Check out some of the following tips and try the AMAZING roasted vegetable recipe below (it will turn any veggie-hater into a veggie LOVER). By the time your child is packing his bags for camp, he may have even overcome his fear of broccoli!
1. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and TRY again
A child could hate something today but LOVE it a year from today. This is because children’s taste buds are constantly developing and changing, so keep trying! Also, keep in mind that there could be a lot of reasons that your child may not like the new food she just tried. Maybe she’s not in the mood for it, maybe she doesn’t like the way it was cooked, maybe the sauce is too spicy, or maybe she would like brown basmati rice but doesn’t like brown jasmine rice.
2. Don’t battle over food
The more you fight with your kids about food, the more they will fight back. Try not to battle with them about eating just two more string beans or another bite of chicken. If you’re more laid back, you will create an environment in which your children can explore on their own terms.
3. Don’t hide vegetables
If all you’re doing is hiding some spinach in a brownie, you’re not teaching your children to love vegetables for what they are; rather, you’re teaching them that vegetables are disgusting and need to be hidden!
4. Lead by example
If you don’t try new foods and new ways of cooking old foods, your children will never try new things either. You may surprise yourself by what you like!
5. Highlight the food you are trying to get your kids to like
If you want your child to start liking spinach, don’t just steam some frozen spinach. Buy fresh spinach from the farmer’s market and sauté it with olive oil and garlic and top it with a bit of your child’s favorite cheese.
For amazing roasted vegetables:
Toss any combination of cut up broccoli, asparagus, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, string beans, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, or beets with a small amount of olive oil, coarse salt and black pepper. Place on a large metal cookie sheet (not glass or foil!) and roast in a 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until veggies are browned, caramelized and delicious!