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Community Recipes is a recurring feature where I ask a community member  to share a vegan recipe with us. This week I’m featuring Joan Laguatan.  Joan is a Filipina-Jewish vegan mom and real estate broker.  She was born in the Philippines and grew up and lives in San Francisco. She became vegan eight years ago after watching the documentary “Earthlings” and learning more about the realities of factory farming.  She and her husband, Devin Benjamin had a vegan wedding in 2011 (you and look at the delicious vegan menu here).

Her favorite food to make for Shabbat is challah so she created a soft, fluffy and delicious vegan challah recipe.  One time her family hosted a blind taste test with a group of friends. The taste test compared her vegan eggless challah to one with eggs and everyone preferred her vegan challah.

Every Shabbat, she normally makes two, four-strand braided challah loaves. She learned how to make a for strand challah by watching this easy to follow youtube tutorial by NY Bakers.

How to Braid a High 4-Strand Challah - YouTube

On Sunday morning her husband uses the leftovers to make decadent cinnamon-french toast breakfasts for their children.

Joan’s Soft, Fluffy and Delicious Vegan Challah Recipe
Jewish Food Hero
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  • (Makes 2 large loaves):
  • 8 cups unbleached all purpose flour (use last cup towards kneading dough and lightly flouring surface)
  • 3/4 cup organic canola oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 1.25 cups ultrafine baker’s sugar
  • 2.5 cups warm water
  • 1.5 tablespoon salt
  • 3 packets yeast
  • Sweet soy milk or agave or maple syrup (either mixed with water)
  1. In a large bowl,
  2. combine sugar, water, yeast, and oil.
  3. Stir and allow yeast to work and bubble for 10 minutes.
  4. Add salt and 7 cups of flour.
  5. Stir and empty contents of bowl onto clean, lightly floured surface.
  6. Knead dough for 10 minutes gradually adding flour from 8th cup to make less sticky.
  7. Lightly oil a deep bowl, put the dough in it, turning to grease on all sides.
  8. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth.
  9. Allow to rise for about two hours or until doubled in bulk.
  10. Punch down and allow to rise a second time for about another hour.
  11. Remove dough from bowl onto lightly floured surface, divide into parts and roll into large strands.
  12. Baste challah with sweet soy milk or a mixture of agave syrup and water or maple syrup and water before putting in preheated oven.
  13. Bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
© JewishFoodHero - All Rights Reserved

Thank you Joan for sharing your vegan recipe with the Jewish Food Hero community!

Your turn:  Want to share a healthy vegan recipe with the Jewish Food Hero community?  Send your recipe submissions to hello@jewishfoodhero.com 

The post Joan’s Soft, Fluffy and Delicious Vegan Challah Recipe appeared first on Jewish Food Hero.

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What’s in Your Pantry? is a recurring feature where I ask women to tell us more about their food and eating habits by opening up their kitchen pantries to us. This week I’m featuring Lyndi Cohen. Lyndi is an Australian TV dietitian known as The Nude Nutritionist. When she quit dieting, she lost 20kg and it changed her life. Now, she helps people around the world eat healthily without obsessing via the advice on her blog, recipes and body positive message.

Let’s get to know Lyndi and learn from her.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Sydney, Australia and have always been really close with my family. I’ve been married for two years, to a lovely man who helped me be more accepting of my body. Growing up I was constantly trying to lose weight or ‘be good’. I was obsessed with food and my weight – it really controlled my life. Nowadays, I eat healthily without restricting or controlling myself. I am a really balanced eater. You bet I have challah on shabbas and never stress about sharing dessert with my family. My favourite food is chocolate – and at some point I realised that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life missing out on social occasions and my favourite foods. Luckily, I learned that you don’t need to cut out these foods to be healthy.

How do you typically feel, emotionally, when you open your kitchen pantry?

Hungry! But I also feel excited. Food used to make me feel anxious but I don’t stress about it anymore. I like to have a very well stocked pantry so now it makes me excited. A few years ago, I hated cooking and I wasn’t very good at it. I had to follow a recipe precisely because I didn’t have the confidence to play around. At one point I thought, “I’m going to have to cook for the rest of my life -whether I like it or not. I may as well get good at it!” Now, I’ve just written my first recipe book which is due January 2019.

What’s inside your pantry right now?

There are some ingredients I always have on hand.

Tinned chickpeas.

Pasta and tinned tomatoes are essentials for me. It’s an easy way to add another serve of veggies into my meals.

I love Sirena Tuna, the one in oil. I drain the oil a little before eating. I used to buy the tuna in brine when I was a dieter but I realised, I really much prefer the oil version! Life is too short to eat tuna in a brine

Balsamic glaze (if you are unfamiliar with this is is simply balsamic vinegar with a sweetener like honey or maple syrup that is reduced into a syrup), which I drizzle on salads. You can make one at home if you keep kosher.

Pickles and olives. They’re so good to add flavour to meals, or serve if guests turn up. Plus, pickles count as vegetables so I love to snack on them.

What is your process for organizing your food pantry?

I live in a small apartment with a tiny cupboard for my pantry, so it can be a jungle in there. I ran out of space for all my foodie bits so my husband installed a shelf above my sink where I now store my food in jars. It’s also great for preventing weevils from noshing on my food.

What’s the healthiest item that you keep in stock?  

I’m not sure I can define anything as the healthiest food because healthy eating is all about variety but I think legumes (beans) are totally underrated. Legumes are the one food eaten by people who live the longest. It’s super cheap, loaded with protein, slow burning carbs and fibre. They’re so versatile too, so I’m always adding them into a meals. It’s quick to make a dahl, add lentils into a soup or throw a tin of four bean mix into a salad. I try to eat legumes about four times a week. You can soak your own beans but I’m more of a throw-together-last-minute kinda girl so tinned suits me perfectly. If you want to be healthier, adding legumes into your diet is a simple way to boost your nutrition and support your gut health.

What about your guilty pleasure that you always have on hand?  

No food makes me feel guilty anymore so I don’t have guilty pleasures – only ‘pleasures’! Chocolate is my favourite so I tend to have a block in the pantry. The block is nestled on the side of the pantry so that it’s not the first thing I see when I open the door looking to satiate my hunger. Because I give myself permission to eat chocolate, I don’t binge on it any more like I used to. That’s been a big change for me.

Compared to your mother, how is your pantry the same or different than what you grew up with?

My family kitchen was always very healthy but there used to be a stash of chocolate and lollies. As a teenager, I would ask my mum to hide it from me. The trouble is, this made me feel deprived so I craved the treats even more. When I inevitably found the stash, I couldn’t stop eating. It took me a long time to learn that making someone else into the ‘food police’ isn’t a good idea. When you try and control food, food ends up controlling you. So in my house, I don’t keep a stash of chocolate and lollies but I give myself full permission to have them. I have dessert at Shabbat dinner and remind myself that any time I want chocolate, I can go out and buy it. But I also prefer not to keep a stash of chocolate and lollies as I feel better when I’m not always eating that food.

What are your 2-3 go-to cookbooks?

I love Jamie Oliver like 15-minute meals,

Monday Morning Cooking Club cookbooks:  It’s Always About the Food and Monday Morning Cooking Club and The Feast Goes On  (I have all the books) and anything by Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem and Simple.

If you could change anything about how your pantry is now, what would it be?

I would love a bigger pantry! One where I can see everything. I’m grateful for what I have now but in the meantime, I’ll keep my pantry dreams alive with help from Pinterest.

I am going to remember Lyndi’s words “When you try and control food, food ends up controlling you.”

Your turn:  Tell us in the comments what you remember from Lyndi’s interview?

The post What’s In Your Pantry, Lyndi Cohen? appeared first on Jewish Food Hero.

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Skin care is something that is an important self care activity.  Most of us have memories of our mothers and grandmothers doing something to their face: moisteristing, getting a facial, plucking out facial hair or putting off taking of make-up.  And personal memories of all the things we have done to our own skin over our lifetimes – some of it kind and some of it very misguided.

Skin care as self care is a concept that appeals to me because it deepens “taking care of my own skin” from superficial fear-based activity to something that nourishes me.

I wanted to have a meaningful conversation about skin care as self care with another woman and the stars aligned for me to share this conversation with Ana Velouise.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ana, she is a witness writer and feminist activist.  She is a woman’s woman. She is on a mission to usher in a new era of humanity through helping women remember their divinity and elevating women’s stories. Her vision is justice and liberation for all people through the rise of awakened women. She writes literary fiction and contemplates what it means to be an awakened woman during this time in history. Ana is based in Los Angeles, California.

Tell us the story of how you developed the habit of attending to your skin in an intentional way.

It was only in my 30s that I started to attend to my skin in an intentional way by investing thought, time, and money into skin care. Before that, I didn’t have much of a routine beyond washing my face if I was wearing makeup! Everything changed for me when I started getting facials in my 30s. I had a patient esthetician who explained what my skin was craving (moisture! Which was a surprise as a combination/oily skin person) and introduced me to organic products and healthy routines. Now my skin care is my favorite part of my self care—it feels so good to slow down and be gentle with my face.

What is your skincare philosophy?

Do what feels good, follow your intuition, and less is more. (This is my life philosophy, too!) I also gravitate toward organic ingredients sourced sustainably with no animal testing. Bonus points if the company is a woman-owned business.

What is your skincare routine? (We love details!)

In the morning I wash my face with cold water. After patting my face dry, I spritz a gentle toner onto my face. Then I mix a Vitamin C serum into a moisturizer and apply to my face. After waiting about five minutes to let it soak into my skin, I apply sunscreen.

My night routine starts with double cleansing—an oil cleanser followed by a foaming cleanser. Next I run a cotton ball soaked in moisturizing toner over my face. I do an exfoliating mask or a sheet mask about twice a week. Then I put on my nighttime serum, let it soak into my skin, followed by moisturizer.

I also generously use a rosewater face mist whenever I crave more moisture.

How do you fit skin care into your busy life?

I build it into my morning and night routines. My skin care rituals don’t take more than 10 minutes each morning and night. Of course, I can take more time, and sometimes do. But I’m already at the sink to brush my teeth or in the bathroom to get ready for the day, so taking the time to perform my skin care rituals doesn’t feel like an extra step. Actually, it’s when I’m busy that I tend to spend more time on my skin care—making sure I lay down with a mask for 20 minutes in the evening. My favorite new thing is to put on a guided meditation and lay down while I’m using a face mask.

Do you view skin care as a way to chase away fears of not being young enough, beautiful enough or trendy enough, or as a way of supporting yourself as a woman?

Just like with any self-care routine, one brings their perspective into the activity performed. I view skin care as a way to signal to myself I’m worthy of being cared for, of spending time and money on. Skin care is not going to stop me from aging or change how I look. I don’t have misconceptions about that. Rather, it’s about the affect on my confidence and general outlook on life that comes from taking care of myself in ways that feel good—in this case, with serums.

Taking care of my skin has also positively influenced my other self-support activities. Once I started to take care of my face, it pushed through a block I had about skin care—and by extension, self care—being a waste of time and money, indulgent, and unnecessary. It has helped enhance my self-worth, feeling worthy of being taken care of.

Since you started on your skin care as self-care journey, what are the three top things you have learned that you can share with us?

The first would be to use your intuition. Your skin will tell you what it needs based on what’s happening with it. For example, acne along the chin is a hormonal issue, so instead of attacking it with drying products, visiting a doctor to speak about your hormones. What I eat affects my skin, so if I go through a period of consciously avoiding dairy, I notice my skin looks and feels more healthy.

Second, moisture moisture moisture. The skin is a living organ, and the majority of us could stand to give it more moisture. I always thought because I had combination/oily skin, along with cystic acne as a teenager, that moisture was my enemy. It’s completely the opposite!

Third, give each product time to do its job. Sometimes I’m impatient or in a hurry and can’t wait between layering products. But the more I let each product take the time it needs to soak into my skin (three to five minutes is fine), the more the product gets to “work” on my skin and deliver the necessary ingredients.

Have you discovered any standout products everyone should know about?

Anything from the Eminence Organics skin care line is amazing. I particularly love their Stone Crop toner, Facial Recovery Oil, and Arctic Berry moisturizer, but you can’t go wrong with any of their products. I love the smell and texture of the Klavuu Pure Pearlsation Cleansing Oil. I use Missha Waterproof Sun Milk SPF 50+ and my skin always feels super soft and matte. As a Vitamin C convert, I use the COSRX Triple C Lightning Liquid. I carry small bottles of rosewater spray in every bag and even stock one in my fridge during the summer, and love the Heritage Store Rosewater Spray (here is a place to purchase it wholesale).

If I want to learn more, what places would you recommend?

Gothamista has an amazing YouTube channel where she does all kinds of reviews. I like organic, natural products, so the Natch Beaut podcast is fun, along with shopping products (skin care and makeup) at Credo. The Forever35 podcast is my current obsession—it was everything I didn’t know I needed to hear about skin care and self care. Finally, while I don’t do the full Korean skin care routine, I do incorporate aspects of it and find Korean products to be very reasonable price-wise. My favorite websites for Korean skin care are Soko Glam and Ohlolly.


I also use rosewater to hydrate and refresh my face.  I buy organic rosewater mist in bulk wholesale here

It really struck a chord with me when Ana said, “Skin care is not going to stop me from aging or change how I look.” Women are constantly given the message that the way our faces age is a problem that we have a responsibility to resolve. It feels like radical honesty to accept aging and I feel empowered by viewing taking care of my skin as a way of showing myself love, rather than trying to prevent something.

How about you: What did you learn from Ana’s interview?

The post How Skin Care Can Increase Your Self Care appeared first on Jewish Food Hero.

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My maternal grandmother used to make these from day old mashed potatoes.  Her recipe included milk, eggs and butter. I used to love them! In the cookbook The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York there is a related recipe called “Sfongo”.  Sfongo that is a potato and spinach layered pie (rather than a patty) that is served as a dairy meal during the week of Passover.  That recipe, like my grandmother’s is filled with milk, eggs and butter.

I wanted a healthier potato and spinach patty recipe so I’ve adapted my grandmother’s  traditional recipe with healthy ingredients that are all plant based.

These healthier potato spinach patties are:

  • Just as delicious as the dairy heavy version and feel a lot better in our bodies
  • Creamy on the inside and crunchy on the outside (from the bread crumb crust)
  • Pareve- dairy, egg and margarine free
  • Satiating because potatoes (without all the dairy) are a healthy carb for our bodies
  • Perfect the day you make them and the next day if you warm them up
  • A modern update of a Jewish food favorite
From the Jewish Food Hero Kitchen: Vegan Potato and Spinach Patties
Jewish Food Hero
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  • Yield: Makes 14 patties
  • Tools:
  • Large soup pot
  • Good knife
  • Cutting board
  • Prep bowl
  • Potato masher
  • 2 cookie baking sheet, non stick
  • Spatula
  • Ingredients:
  • 3.5 lbs (1.6 kg) potatoes, peeled and diced small
  • 1 large onion, diced small
  • 3 cups of good water (you do not drain it afterwards so the water stays in the recipe)
  • 2 cups chopped raw spinach
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp pepper
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  1. Dice the potatoes into medium sized cubes
  2. Dice the onion super tiny
  3. Place potatoes, onion, water, salt and pepper into large soup pot and simmer until potatoes are well down and mushy and the water is absorbed, approximately 30 min. (Make sure the the bottom does not burn as the water absorbs)
  4. Remove from potatoes from the heat and use the potato masher to mash completely
  5. Preheat the oven 400°F
  6. Chop spinach and measure out 4 cups
  7. Add spinach to mashed potatoes and mix evenly
  8. Taste it! Its yummy! Verify that the salt and pepper levels are right for you.
  9. Form the potato mixture into patties - approximately 2.5in diameter and 3.5 oz. (100 grams)
  10. Coat lightly with bread crumbs on both sides
  11. Place on a non stick cookie baking tray lightly
  12. Bake at for 10 minutes or until the bread crumbs are slightly brown and then flip with a spatula
  13. Bake for another 10 minutes or until the bread crumbs are slightly brown
  14. Serve warm
© JewishFoodHero - All Rights Reserved

If you like this recipe, you’ll love The Jewish Food Hero Cookbook: 50 Simple Plant Based Recipes For Your Holiday Meals

The post From the Jewish Food Hero Kitchen: Vegan Potato and Spinach Patties appeared first on Jewish Food Hero.

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For Rosh Hashanah this year, I wanted to make a donation to an Israeli focused on alleviating hunger for Israel’s most vulnerable.  I did a search online and very quickly found Yad Ezra V’Shulamit. a humanitarian organization in Israel which helps needy families overcome poverty.  

I wanted to learn more about hunger in Israel so I reached out to Rabbi Aryeh Lurie, the founder and director of Yad Ezra V’Shulamit,

Tell us about yourself.

I grew up very poor in Israel.  My mother used to take cucumbers that were about to be thrown away and would pick one of them and that would be our lunch.

Every Shabbat my mother prepared a hot stew in our cold, damp house.  The first portion was given to families in need, to lonely people who waited for a warm meal. The primary concern was to give to neighbors who had nothing to eat.  I said when I grow up that I will act for the benefit of the people of Israel; For the good of Am Yisrael – the people of Israel.

How many hungry people are there in Israel? Why are so many people living in poverty?

Here are 7 facts about hunger and poverty in Israel:

  • 1.8 million people living under the poverty line
  • 842,000 children are living in poverty   
  • One out of every three children in Israel  goes to bed hungry.
  • Over 53% of children in Jerusalem are living in poverty 
  • The cost of living in Israel is very high, and the wages are low. 
  • Poverty is a real struggle for many:  
    • Seniors, including Holocaust survivors.
    • Single parent families  
    • Working families 
  • Unfortunately, today’s socio-economic environment in Israel poses many challenges in the day-to-day lives of many struggling families. It can even be difficult for middle class families to manage their basic expenditures.

While the Israeli government has several programs that assist those living below the poverty line, it is still not sufficient to ensure that all Israeli families have the food, clothing and education they need. Naturally, the consequences of this reality are devastating.

Our food distribution project serves over 3,000 needy families who all are classify as living below the poverty line according to Israel’s Ministry of Social Services and Affairs. The households include widows, orphans, holocaust survivors, handicapped, elderly, young families with children, single parents, lone soldiers, new immigrants, and families with ill, unemployed, or deceased parents.

What does Judaism say about the importance of helping the poor, specifically through food distribution?

“There will always be poor in Israel”, the sages tell us.  Why?  “So others will learn to care”.   G-d can provide everyone with everything.  However, I understand that G-d wants us to develop our ability to relate to our fellow Jew as a brother/sister and really care enough to make a difference.  If your brother/sister was hungry, you would make sure he had food. That is how we are supposed to feel about every Jewish person in need.

Another famous excerpt from the Torah in Leviticus 19:9 and 10: “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest . . . thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger”.

There are countless of other places in the Torah which are directly related to the act of feeding the poor.  We see here, the Mitzvah to leave a “corner” of a harvested field crop for the poor person.  Today, many farmers in Israel have taken upon themselves to fulfill this very important mitzvah which has aided in Yad Ezra V’Shulamit’s food distribution project. 

What are the Jewish social action values which drive and motivate you to do this work?

I can’t sleep at night knowing there are children who are hungry.  My hope is that everyone can make an effort – make it a priority to help feed Jewish children in Israel. These are all our children, our future and the future of Israel.

The mitzvah to give tzedakah (charity) requires every Jewish person to donate 10% of his/her income. G-d tells us, “Take care of Mine, and I will take care of yours.” Rashi explains, “You take care of Mine – the widow, the orphan, and the stranger, and I will take care of yours, your sons and your daughters.” It is as though G-d gives us 10% more money than is due to us, and that extra 10% should be shared with the poor.

How is Yad Ezra V’Shulamit taking care to provide families with healthy food, such as fresh food, fruit, vegetables, grains, tubers and beans?

Each food basket contains grains; fresh fruits and vegetables; and staples like flour, canned goods, oil, and other basics.   For holidays baskets have more, Rosh HaShana we provide honey and grape juice, Passover we give Matza and potatoes.   

The food baskets are delivered on Thursday afternoons, in preparation for Shabbat.

How does having plentiful and healthful food affect other aspects of a family’s life?

The food basket makes a great difference to the lives of these families. It relieves the parental stress of not knowing where the next meal will come from. Adequate nutrition is essential for a child’s success in school and in life. No one can focus on learning when their stomach is growling from hunger. A healthy diet will keep a children strong and in school.  Just meet Leah…

Leah Rivoni’s teacher was concerned.  The seven year olds lunch box never contained very much – usually a packet of potato chips and a cheap, sugary drink. Leah’s teacher began making an extra sandwich and brought fresh fruit to school for Leah. The teacher observed Leah hungrily devouring the food and knew it was time to speak to Rina, Leah’s mother.  Rina began to sob and explained to the teacher that she was a single mother with two daughters, Leah and her infant sister. Rina cleaned houses but did not make enough money to feed both daughters and herself adequately. Fortunately, the teacher knew about Yad Ezra V’Shulamit. The family signed up for weekly and holiday food baskets and an additional weekly infant basket containing formula, diapers and baby wipes. Leah is now on the waiting list for the Yad Ezra V’Shulamit’s after-school program where she will receive a hot meal once a day and academic and emotional support. We are hoping a place will open up for her at the start of the school year. 

Hundreds of thousands of children and families go without eating three proper meals per day. Hunger leads to depression, anxiety and puts kids at risk.  It is a yearlong, daily problem.  That is where Yad Ezra V’Shulamit steps in. We make sure needy children and families have enough to eat so they can function properly and break out of the cycle of poverty.

How is Yad Ezra V’Shulamit working to break the cycle of poverty, beyond food distribution?

Yad Ezra V’Shulamit is a humanitarian organization that works to provide nutritional security, educational enrichment, and social support to impoverished children, youth of immigrant families throughout Israel. The organization’s approach to combating poverty is to intervene not only on a material level (with food, money, etc.), but more importantly, to provide the tools indigent families need to break out of the cycle of poverty in which they are trapped, sometimes for generations.

We understand that poverty does not exist in a vacuum. Through our various programs, (weekly and holiday food baskets, children’s centers, feed-a baby program, assistance to single-parent families and job desk) we help more than 100,000 people annually. 

Our Food Distribution program provides needy families with an immediate solution to hunger. But that is just the beginning. Yad Ezra V’Shulamit deals with the ripple effects of poverty through various intervention and empowerment initiatives. 

The Food Distribution program is just one initiative of the many that provide immediate food relief. Nourishing, satiating sustenance is the first step in restoring health and dignity and helping families break free from the cycle of poverty.

How can people get involved and/or make a donation to your organization?

Donations can be made on our website, www.yadezra.net , by phone 1-866-978-5049 or by mail, Friends of Yad Ezra V’Shulamit 3470 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1020 Los Angeles, CA 90010 (501 C3- #46 0477228).  For donations in other countries, such as Canada or the UK, please visit our website. 

Whether it is a Jewish holiday, your birthday, wedding, anniversary or another milestone, you can include Yad Ezra V’Shulamit in your celebrations and give back to hungry children and families.

The post 7 Facts That Nobody Told You About Hunger in Israel appeared first on Jewish Food Hero.

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One of my goals with the Chag Notebook series is to tell stories from our global female Jewish community.

To help me reach this goal, I contacted the Joint Distribution Committee, which works to help build Jewish life and leadership all over the world. They connected me with Danielle Flug Capalino a Registered Dietitian, Author, Consultant, Wife, Daughter, and new Mother living in Manhattan.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a born and raised New Yorker. I work as a registered dietitian, consultant and author. I specialize in helping people with digestive issues so my friends joke that I help people with “Jewish guts”. I have a private practice, and also offer an online program called WTFodmap. I have written two books –Healthy Gut, Flat Stomach and the Microbiome Diet – with a third on the way.

I am proud to be a board member at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), which I joined as part of JDC Entwine’s innovative Global Leaders Initiative. “GLI”, as we call it, takes passionate and talented young Jewish adults, trains them to help respond to a myriad of global issues, and places them on JDC’s board of directors to ensure the organization can benefit from their expertise. Since then, I have increased my involvement even further. My family’s foundation is helping support Tikkun Olam Ventures (TOV), a groundbreaking new JDC project to help fight poverty among rural farmers. The organisation matches the farmers with Israeli agricultural technology, a philanthropic loan fund, and untapped markets. Vegetables have sprouted in Ethiopia and we have issued loans, deployed the Israeli drip irrigation systems, and some produce is already at market. I am also co-chairing a JDC food circle where we learn about and taste different ethnic Jewish cuisines.

How do you connect to Judaism?

I connect to Judaism through philanthropy and through food. I have been very lucky that the idea of Jewish philanthropy was imprinted on me at a very young age by my grandfather Joseph Gurwin. My mother and I are honored to continue his legacy now through a foundation he established. Upon coming to the United States at the age of 16 on his own and losing his parents in the Holocaust, his major passion in life was helping Jewish people.

On the other side of my family, my grandmother, Fortune Flug was an incredible cook who introduced me to Syrian flavors. I have Syrian cousins who I love to visit – they make the most delicious food! I feel like I can connect with my heritage through food and it is a connection that I want to pass along to my son.

On the days leading up to my son’s birth, I participated in a guided mikvah session with a family friend through Immerse NYC. It was such an impactful experience, connecting me to Judaism and my son. I baked challah using a 5-pound bag of flour and recited prayers as I burned a piece of dough over a flame. My Syrian cousin gave me the idea to perform the ritual and it really showed me how much family, food, and religion are connected.

How do you prepare to host people for a holiday meal or celebration?

I started preparing for the major holidays on my own about four years ago. That first year I went to Kitchen Arts and Letters and asked for a Jewish cookbook. They responded and asked “what region of Jewish food?” as they had an extensive selection. My grandmother was from Aleppo and she was a fabulous cook so I am drawn to more Sephardic flavors (though I love pretty much all Jewish food). The first Jewish cookbook I bought was Jayne Cohen’s book Jewish Holiday Cooking. I have used the book for the past few holidays as the recipes are phenomenal!

The recipes I remember making the first year were – a Moroccan brisket that was a 3-day process, Egyptian beans, and potato leek matzah balls. I had never made a brisket before and I was doing this by myself. I prepared it in a ceramic roasting pan and heated it on the stove (don’t try that at home). Once I realized the pan cracked in half, I had to think on my feet!

How does the ideal holiday celebration look and feel to you?

Passover is my favorite holiday. I am in charge of the food and my husband is in charge of the Seder readings. We try to incorporate more modern songs and readings in addition to our Haggadah. I think any meal that is cooked from scratch has beauty and meaning. The food is infused with love and tradition.

Leading up to, during, and after the holidays, how do you reconnect with yourself?

Personally, I reconnect with myself 100% through cooking. Every year now, I will take one full day before Hanukkah, Passover, and Rosh Hashanah, and cook by myself. It is a meditative experience and it makes me feel proud that I can carry on Jewish traditions. This year it is even more special, because it will be my son’s first time experiencing the Jewish holidays.

What is one of your most memorable holiday experiences?

The first year I made Passover I was nervous that my matzah balls were not going to work out (they did even though I chose an insanely ambitious recipe from Jayne Cohen’s book Jewish Holiday Cooking). I went to Russ & Daughters to buy some backups just in case, and while I was there I bought some gefilte fish. The night before my husband was hungry and I told him to have a matzah ball because we would have mine at the Seder. He gobbled away right in the kitchen and said how delicious they were. Well, my husband who claims to hate gefilte fish, totally ate gefilte fish thinking they were matzah balls. So – don’t write off any food based on what you think they might taste like!

What’s your absolute favorite holiday dish?

I love the Moroccan Brisket from Jayne Cohen’s book Jewish Holiday Cooking. I’ve gotten better at making it after a few years so now it is not as intimidating.

Do you have any non-traditional holiday rituals or habits?

We try to incorporate some contemporary music so I have a playlist including Louis Armstrong “Go down, Moses.”

What was something that your mother (or another influential figure) shared with you about the holidays that has stuck with you?

“Perfect is the enemy of good” – so I try to just go for it and not worry too much if what I make is not “perfect.”

What’s your number one tip or trick you’ve discovered that makes the holidays smoother, more positive and meaningful for you?

Cook! I am not a professional chef and I taught myself how to make holiday food from a book with no pictures in it. The experience of preparing an entire meal from scratch has connected me to Judaism.

Your turn:  What will you remember from Danielle’s interview?

The post Chag Notebook: Danielle Flug Capalino appeared first on Jewish Food Hero.

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Outside of the synagogue, the Jewish holidays are celebrated in large part by enjoying communal meals and eating (too much) special food. For many of us, these special meals are meat or dairy rich.

When I last checked, most Jewish people do not want to celebrate the holidays with 100% vegan or vegetarian meals because it does not feel right. Unfortunately many view diet, and specifically meat and dairy eating, as a black and white issue. Either you eat meat and dairy or you don’t. Either you serve meat or dairy or you don’t. What if we could drop this all-or-nothing idea and take a middle way during the Jewish holidays (and the rest of our lives)?

Meat and Dairy Reductionism Explained

For many people, meat/dairy reductionism is a more reasonable moderate approach that feels less extreme and therefore more possible. Reductionism means that you are committed to eating less red meat, poultry and fish, and less dairy and eggs in your diet for health and/or environmental reasons.

Here are 7 simple ways to reduce your meat and dairy consumption during the Jewish holidays.

Serve more fresh vegetables and fruits

Add delicious fresh vegetable salads and fresh whole fruits to your menu. Here are 17 plant- based recipes that your eyes, mouth and gut will love.

Serve more tubers, whole grains, and legumes.

Tubers, whole grains and legumes are satiating and give us the feeling of being full. And no, they will not make you fat! We cannot live on vegetables and fruit alone. Here are three recipes:

Serve less meat and dairy

If you want to prepare your favorite meat and dairy recipes for the holidays, you can simply focus on reducing the amount of meat, fish, dairy, eggs on your table. This means that you can reduce the amount of meat or dairy in the recipe or look for vegetarian substitutes for your recipes. For example:

  • If your recipe calls for beef, you might reduce the meat in half and add mushrooms to the recipe
  • If your recipe calls for a yogurt or a milk based ingredient you might use plant milks and yogurts instead.

Ethical Animal Products

If you are going to eat meat and dairy during the holidays, you can serve ethical less kosher meat and dairy products. Yes, these higher quality and ethical animal products are more expensive but they are also healthier for our bodies and the environment.

Serve Once

Serve animal protein in only one course at each community meal. In today’s world, there is no need to have an animal protein appetizer and an animal product based soup and then an animal protein main course.

Serve smaller portions of meat

If we focus on meat, fish, and dairy as condiments, not the focal point of the meal, we can serve smaller portions of animal products. As a guideline, no more than 4 oz (113 g) or less per meal.

1 Vegan/Vegetarian Meal

Consider preparing and hosting 1 vegan/vegetarian holiday meal during the holidays .

I am proposing meat and dairy reductionism as an approach for the Jewish holidays.

Here are some benefits to eating more plant-based foods:

Benefit #1: Mood and Energy Levels

Ever notice how a few hours after you eat that cookie, your energy plummets and your mood worsens? Eating plant-based food can stabilize your mood and energy levels throughout the day.

Benefit #2: Environmental  

Food consumption and agricultural practices impact the health of our environment, too. In particular, factory farming and other large-scale meat and dairy production contribute to climate change.

Benefit #3: Disease Prevention

Here’s a sample of the common health problems that can be prevented or improved when you eat a plant-based diet:

diabetes, heart disease, obesity, acne, intestinal diseases, depression, fatigue, liver disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and more.

Your turn:  Of the 7 tips, which one seems the most possible?

The post 7 Simple Ways To Reduce Your Meat and Dairy Consumption During the Jewish appeared first on Jewish Food Hero.

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