The 7 Essential Kosher Asian Ingredients That Are Trending Now

Kosher Asian ingredients can be hard to find. Jewish Food Hero to the rescue… here is a list of ueeven Kosher Asian key ingredients for your favorite Asian food dishes.

Fermented Hot Pepper Paste

This is an all natural, GMO and gluten free savory, spicy, and delicious fermented Korean condiment made from red chili, rice syrup, fermented soybeans, and salt.

It can be used to bring sweet heat to everything, from chicken to vegetables to salads, stews, soups and marinated meat dishes.

Fermented Miso

Miso is a fermented food which has many beneficial vitamins and minerals that retain their efficacy even after the paste is used in cooking. This Kyoto Shiro White Miso is typically made with 1.5 to 2 times as much white rice koji as cooked soybeans and has a lower salt ratio than other versions. It is known for its lighter color, smooth texture and milder flavor and is often thinned with sake and spread on fish to marinate prior to grilling. It’s certified Kosher OU and certified organic. Get some!

Low Sodium Tamari

Tamari is a soy sauce alternative made from just soybeans. It aids digestion of fruits and vegetables and is a good source of vitamin B3, protein, manganese, and tryptophan. You can use this in any type of cuisine: traditional asian dishes like stir fries and dipping sauces, but also great in casseroles and stews too.

Organic Nama Shoyu Sauce

Nama Shoyu is a raw, unpasteurized Japanese-style soy sauce.  This artisanal one is made from mountain spring water and aged over two years in 150 year old cedar kegs.  The flavor is full-bodied and delicate. Perfect for organic, macrobiotic, vegan, raw, and kosher cooking.

Gold’s Duck Sauce

I am pretty sure my grandparents ate this sweet and sour cantonese style duck sauce.  Who knew it was fat-free, gluten free and vegan. Plus it is kosher (even for Passover).  This might be a kosher cult item.  

Sweet Chili Sauce

This sweet + spicy dressing is an all purpose sauce that adds flavor to everything and anything. Thai sweet chili sauce is sweet and and mildly spicy with a full body garlic flavor. Sweetened with palm sugar, this is a great condiment to use in dipping sauces, asian dressings. I love this with baked french fries.

Korean Chili Flakes

An essential ingredient in authentic kimchi. This is certified kosher and is authorised by Sue Yoo for use in her healthier kimchi recipe.


Your turn:  Name your favorite Kosher Asian ingredient in the comments below.

The Top 5 Reasons You’re Not Eating Plant-Based Food for the Jewish Holidays

Since you’re already thinking about what you’re going to serve for Passover, why not include plant-based food in those pre-planning thoughts?

What I’ve heard from many people in the Jewish Food Hero community is that you would love to be able to serve healthier food, but you don’t feel empowered to do so because you feel beholden to traditional recipes or unsure of how to work with plant-based food ingredients or menus.

You’re not alone.

Let’s start with a definition. Plant-based eating is centered on minimally processed foods, which include vegetables, fruits, tubers, legumes, and whole grains (and excludes meat, dairy, eggs, and highly-processed foods).

The 5 most common obstacles to a plant-centered holiday meal:

“I have to follow tradition.”

Our traditions are so grounding and I’m grateful to how they shape our holiday experiences. And I also find that there is room for more personalization with menus than you may realize.

“It adds to my work during an already busy time.”

Actually, plant-based recipes and meals can be extremely simple, even more so than meat-based dishes. Can you think of one side dish for an upcoming holiday that you don’t look forward to making or often requires more time than the others? I bet that you can swap out a few ingredients to make it healthy, and simplify both the number of ingredients and labor involved.

“Unless I can make the entire meal plant-based/vegan/healthy, there’s no point.”

Having a plant-centered table for the holidays does not have to be an all-or-nothing approach. Rather, it’s easy to start experimenting in small ways that feel doable and exciting to you, like swapping out a single ingredient in your favorite dish or having one meal each day be plant based. Increasing health at your holiday table can be done one small ingredient or one small dish, at a time.

“My kids/husband/mother-in-law won’t like the food.”

Do you know this for sure, or is this simply your perception? I transitioned my own young daughter and meat-loving husband into eating mostly plant-based food, and they enjoy the taste of real food and ingredients in a whole new way now. Many of us are afraid or unsure about what’s not familiar to us. Start adding plant-based dishes into your meals before the holidays to smooth the transition.

 

“I don’t know where to start.”

I’ve got you covered for that. I’ve created a new resource for you: The Jewish Food Hero Cookbook: 50 Simple Plant-Based Recipes for Your Holiday Meals.

The cookbook goes on sale on March 12th 2019

Your takeaway for plant-centered holiday meals: Go at your pace, and follow what feels interesting or inspiring. The more you put on the table that’s healthy, the less room there is for food that isn’t.

What’s In Your Pantry, Jessica Halfin?


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
Jessica Halfin.  Jessica is an American-Israeli baker, food and culture writer, recipe developer, and food tour operator. She is a regular contributor to Israel21c.org, Hadassah Magazine, The Nosher, and other publications. She currently resides in Haifa, Israel with her three little boys and husband Eli, where she continues to learn, grow, and obsess about pushing the limits of the diy kitchen, and all things culinary.

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

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am currently married (we are having our 9th anniversary this month) with three little boys (ages 6, 4.5, and 2). I grew up in a small town in southern New Hampshire, studied for my first degree in Tucson, AZ, then moved to Israel immediately after college in August of 2006. I can’t go more than a day or so without cooking or baking something. My specialty is baking artisan breads, and most recently I have gotten into the art of cheese making. I love making my own Greek yogurt, and I try to make as much as possible from scratch so that my family eats as few preservatives and industrial chemicals as possible. I relish the sense of accomplishment that tearing into a loaf of amazing crusty bread gives you.

My absolute favorite meal right now is homemade fettuccine with a makeshift sauce of olive oil, a little pasta water, cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and a topping of fresh basil. I make a big batch of fresh pasta on the weekend with my kids (my machine comes with a fettuccine setting, so it’s easy to whip up), then I freeze it and take it out as needed. This way it makes for a meal that literally only takes a few minutes to pull together, and it’s so satisfying. Fresh basil is my favorite go-to herb for sprinkling on top of fresh baked pizza or pastas. It just feels so celebratory and special. I like to read cookbooks in bed before going to sleep at night, and I am always re-rotating through my old cookbook collection depending on my mood. Reading little snippets when you are not in the kitchen frantically following a recipe allows you to soak in all the little tidbits and extra info that authors provide in cookbooks. Right now I have had Nigella Lawson’s “How to Eat” on my nightstand for a good couple of months. I don’t have access to many of the ingredients, but I admire her spirit regarding food and eating.

How do you typically feel, emotionally, when you open your kitchen pantry?
I usually feel like I’m about to start a challenge. I think to myself, “Okay, what do I have to work with,” then the next thought is “what can I come up with for dinner tonight?” This is the eternal dilemma, even for food writers!

What’s inside your pantry right now?
I can’t live without high quality, local olive oil. We buy an 18 liter jug of dark green fresh oil right after the harvest each year from a village in the Galilee, and use it all year long in literally everything. I’ll even be sharing a recipe for an olive oil sugar scrub that I use in the shower this month in a Hadassah article. If I do run out and need to buy a bottle at the store, I would probably buy an organic one like this from Meshek Achiya.

Silan. I use one from Tamar Kinneret I use silan in place of recipes that call for molasses, since it has a very similar taste and texture to molasses, but is much more affordable for me here in Israel. I can also be drizzled over yogurt, and it’s a good vegan alternative to honey.

Baking soda. I use Sugat brand but you could use any brand you like. I use baking soda not only in my baking, but also just as is for exfoliating my face/lips, and every once in awhile as a teeth scrub to get rid of any surface stains on my teeth. I also use it in my DIY deodorant recipe. It is really a wonder product that can be so useful around the house.

Vinegar. I use Heinz, but again it could be any brand. I use regular 5% white vinegar for making homemade cheeses like ricotta/cottage cheese and mascarpone, and to create my own buttermilk in just a couple of minutes. I also reach for it to top off my salt brined dill pickles. It’s another must-have in the kitchen that can also be used around the house for, say cleaning out your washing machine, and even as an all-purpose cleaner when diluted with water and scented with essential oils.

Bulgur Wheat. I use a medium grain bulgur wheat when I want to stretch a simple chopped salad, or make it more festive. It is a great pantry staple because not only is it a healthy grain, but it requires only a soak in hot water for 10-15 minutes to be ready to eat. And a little bit expands to make a lot as it cools. You can make your salad (prepare veggies, feta cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs) while the bulgur soaks, then just drain off the excess water and mix for an amazing and healthy side dish or main.

What is your process for organizing your food pantry?
I have to admit that my pantry is not very organized, but I know where everything is. I do have it organized by sections though. I have my baking things in drawers under my burners, Spices and beans/grains in the cabinets above, and cans of crushed tomatoes, and my canned jams under the sink, for instance.

What’s the healthiest item that you keep in stock?
One of the healthiest items I keep in stock would probably be tahini paste made from whole (unhulled) sesame seeds. I like the Baracke brand. This is a darker sesame paste which is even more nutritious because they grind the whole sesame including its outer shell that is usually removed.

What about your guilty pleasure that you always have on hand?
My biggest guilty pleasure right now is Turkish coffee that I cold brew in the fridge for iced coffee at home. I buy the Nakhleh brand that is made in a village in the Galilee, and keep it in the freezer for freshness. Once “brewed” it tastes just like an espresso coffee used in coffee shops to make different coffee drinks. It’s amazing, and what I look forward to drinking when I’m writing at home.

Compared to your mother, how is your pantry the same or different than what you grew up with?
I would say that my pantry is probably completely different from my mother’s, simply because I live in a different part of the world. For instance, I hardly ever have peanut butter on hand, and my kids have never even eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. My mom is a hard working nurse practitioner, so growing up she integrated many convenience foods into her home cooking simply because she had to get dinner on the table. As a food writer, recipe developer, and professional baker I have the complete luxury to make most of my own things, which I know is not normal for most people, but I so appreciate. Therefore you’re more likely to find staples like bags of flour, yeast, and canned tomatoes in my pantry, as opposed to bagged breads, store bought cookies, or jarred sauces.

What are your go-to cookbooks?
I always refer back to Janna Gur’s The Book of New Israeli Food when I need inspiration, or confirmation that I am making an Israeli dish correctly. Another go-to for me is Ken Forkish’s Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast. It is my bread baking bible, and a book that has made me a better artisan bread baker, for which I am most thankful. Another great one that I can’t get enough of right now is The Perfect Cake by America’s Test Kitchen. It’s a book that anyone who wants to bake cakes should have on their shelf, and it is chock full of tips and good ideas.

If you could change anything about how your pantry is now, what would it be?
I would have it be organized, labelled, and everything in its own jar. Or I would kill for it to look like Khloe Kardashian’s famously pristine one.

Your turn: How does Jessica’s pantry inspire you?

*Photo of Jessica Halfin by Robert Seger

Sue Yoo’s Healthier Vegan Kosher Kimchi Recipe

Community Recipes is a recurring feature where I share another woman’s vegan recipe with the Jewish Food Hero community. This week I’m featuring Sue Yoo. Sue is Korean and lives in Cambodia with her husband, where she runs the Moringa Health Center. Sue provides acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, as well as making homemade cosmetics and soaps. She is in her 50s and is one of those positive, intelligent and interesting women that makes you feel hopeful about growing older.

I first met Sue Yoo when I went to her for acupuncture. As usual, I got talking about food and after I mentioned my love of fermented foods, naturally we started discussing kimchi. When I was leaving she gave me a gift of a large box of this delicious, Korean fermented favourite to share with my family. I ate the whole thing by myself with rice for lunch and then I immediately messaged her to invite myself over for a lesson.

Sue Yoo’s original kimchi recipe includes fish sauce so I adapted her recipe to make it vegan kosher.

Sue’s recipe is special for these reasons:

  • No refined sugar: Sue uses fresh pear juice and noni juice instead of refined sugar.
  • Rice flour to rice paste: Sue makes a rice paste to create a creamier base for her kimchi.
  • Tried and tested by somebody who really cares about health, this recipe has been refined and developed over decades.

I started making fermented sauerkraut a decade ago. When I moved to Asia, I tried making sauerkraut but it kept failing due to the extreme heat. So I moved on to kimchi. I  love both the taste and the process of making it and was inspired to interview a fermentation expert Sandor Katz about its benefits.  He said “fermented foods are so good for our bodies because bacterial fermentation populates foods with a vast communities of probiotic organisms which help restore biodiversity in our bodies and can help improve digestion, immune function, and may contribute to many other aspects of our well-being.”

It can be difficult to find kosher ingredients for Asian food, so I have sourced some of the key ingredients you will need for this recipe:

Kosher course mild chili powder

Noni Juice (or organic apple juice concentrate )

Rice flour

Vegan kosher fish sauce…  Unsurprisingly, this can be a complicated ingredient:

Making kimchi is therapeutic and fun. Enjoy Sue Yoo’s healthier kimchi recipe.

 

 

Sue Yoo’s Healthier Vegan Kosher Kimchi Recipe
Jewish Food Hero
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  • Tools:
  • Kitchen scale
  • Measuring cups
  • Tablespoon measure
  • Large Colander
  • Large metal kitchen prep bowl
  • Whisk
  • Small glass prep bowl
  • Cutting board
  • Good knife
  • Rubber spatula
  • Small strainer
  • Sesame seed grinder
  • Grater
  • Plastic cooking gloves
  • Large glass jar with lid
  • Ingredients:
  • 3 kg Chinese cabbage - thin is better
  • 1 cups of kosher salt
  • 1.5 tablespoons vegan fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons noni fruit juice / concentrated organic apple juice  
  • 1 pear - grate, squeeze and strain to yield ½ cup of pear juice
  • 3 fresh garlic bulbs, peeled and chopped to yield 6 tablespoons
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1-1.5 cups coarse ground chili powder (depending on how “spicy” you like your kimchi)
  • 200-300g green onion - halved widthways
  • 1 tablespoon ground sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole roasted sesame seeds

  1. Instructions:
  2. First, prepare cabbage
  3. Remove one leaf of cabbage a a time (like removing a rose petal)
  4. Chop cabbage one leaf at a time: cut it lengthwise vertically into big, long slices (do not chop horizontally, you’ll regret it).
  5. Wash once
  6. Pour ⅕  cup of good salt into a 1 cup measuring cup
  7. Spread one layer of cabbage into big metal prep bowl
  8. Sprinkle some salt
  9. Add another layer of cabbage
  10. Sprinkle some more salt
  11. Repeat until all the cabbage is layered into prep bowl and 1 cup of salt is all used up.
  12. Prepare hot salt water solution by dissolving ½  cup salt in 1 cup hot water.
  13. Now add 1 cup cold water to salty solution
  14. Pour the 2 cups of salty solution over cabbage until it is submerged.
  15. After 1 hour: rotate the cabbage so that the bottom layer goes to the top and the top layer becomes the bottom layer
  16. Allow to rest for one more hour
  17. Drain the cabbage
  18. Now gently wash the cabbage 2 or 3 times (making sure not to mush it)
  19. Place washed cabbage in a large colander over the sink or an empty bowl and allow it to  for 3 hours
  20. While the cabbage is sweating, make the rice paste
  21. Place 4 tablespoons of rice flour into soup pot
  22. Add 2 cups clean water
  23. Use a whisk and mix until smooth (i.e. no rice flour lumps are present)
  24. Put pot on the stove and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking the whole time
  25. Cook until it becomes a rice paste (i.e. looks a bit like glue)
  26. Take off heat and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes
  27. While the rice paste is cooling, prepare pear juice
  28. Peel the pear and then grate it
  29. Strain it over a small colander and set the ½ cup of pear juice into a prep bowl
  30. Place rice paste into large mixing bowl
  31. Add two cups of chili powder
  32. Mix chili and rice paste together using rubber spatula until completely smooth
  33. Add pear juice
  34. Add 2 tablespoons of noni juice (or organic apple juice concentrate)
  35. Add 1.5 tablespoons vegan fish sauce
  36. Add 6 tablespoons ground garlic (you can add less if you prefer less garlicky)
  37. Add 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  38. Mix to blend well - now you have your kimchi paste
  39. Put gloves on
  40. Add cabbage in batches and mix with the kimchi paste
  41. When all the cabbage is covered with kimchi paste
  42. Add green onion and fold together gently
  43. Season with roasted sesame seeds and ground sesame seeds
  44. Put in square or rectangular glass jar and press down so it is lightly packed so there is less air in the jar
  45. You may need put a weight onto the cabbage to ensure that is it submerged in the liquid while it ferments
  46. Leave outside to ferment for 6-18 hours (less time if you live in a warmer climate)
  47. Place in a fridge

 

Enjoy everyday with rice!

7 Good Reasons Not To Give Up Sugar This Year

It’s easy to think that cutting out sugar would be a good thing to do for your health.  Some people try to kick their sugar habit as a way to get healthy.

These days a lot of us hold on to the idea that sugar is really bad for us. We tell ourselves:

  • Sugar makes us fat
  • We should feel guilty about eating sugar
  • If we care about our health, we should cut sugar out of our diet

Where are these ideas coming from? I think they are mostly coming from our diet culture. As a result of these cultural ideas about sugar, we think that cutting or reducing all carbohydrates is a quick and effective way to lose weight. That’s the idea behind the keto and paleo diets that everybody cannot stop talking about. It’s true that isolating this food group will have drastic results on your waistline, but what’s going on on the inside might not be ideal for your health.

When I read the The Starch Solution by John McDougall and took this Plant Based Nutrition certification class, my mind was blown.

Here is what I learned:

Our bodies need carbohydrates
There are only three sources of calories – carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Sugar is a carbohydrate and is the primary source of energy for the cells in our bodies. We need carbohydrates to live and thrive. Most of our carbohydrates everyday should come from minimally processed carbohydrates like:

  • Tubers like sweet potatoes and potatoes
  • Fruits
  • Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, barley, oats, bulgar, etc.

All sugar is not equal
Yes, it is certainly true that simple sugars cause problems like tooth decay and elevated fat levels in the body (i.e. triglycerides). It is probably a good idea to shift away from habits like:

  • Drinking processed fruit juice
  • Eating canned fruit in syrup
  • Eating candy 
  • Eating processed junk foods that have a lot of white processed sugars such as cakes, cookies, candies and ice cream.

Sugar tastes good
Why do we eat sugar? Our palettes are naturally tuned to enjoy sweet things, from the first food of breastmilk to natural whole foods like pineapples and sweet potatoes. We are wired to enjoy sweet food.

Sugar is a condiment
A healthier way to eat sugar is to first change your mindset about it.  Treat both natural (honey, maple syrup, brown sugar) and refined sugars as a condiment (rather than an ingredient). Season your food with a small amount of sugar (just like you do with salt) to get the biggest flavour impact.

Focus on healthier sugars
Instead of mindlessly eating large amounts of processed sugar, allow yourself to enjoy a teaspoon or two of naturally occuring sugars like:

  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Dates and date sugar

Sugar and starches with high GI help you maintain healthy weight
The Glycemic Index (GI) measures the rise in blood sugar after eating. Your blood sugar is supposed to rise after eating – in fact, it’s the whole point of eating. Good to know that technically, the GI of a slice of cheesey, oily pizza and a piece of chocolate cake is much lower than the GI of a bag of raw carrots and a bowl of boiled potatoes: which one will contribute more to your health?

Enjoy Moderation
Enjoying sugar in moderation will enhance your enjoyment of healthy foods and therefore help you maintain a healthy weight.

Here are a few recipes that will help you enjoy sugar this month:

Your turn: please share your favourite ways to enjoy sugar in the comments below.

18 Wise Yiddish Sayings On Friendship


Friendship is powerful. On one hand friendship is supportive, joyful and helps us to grow. On the other hand, it is complex and can be painful. As we grow from children to adults, the relationships we cultivate become increasingly complex.

There’s an aspect of this complexity which is to do with how we play out our unresolved emotional issues within the confines of friendship. Self-awareness can help us to make sure we can be our best selves in our friendships and avoid hurting our friends.

These Yiddish quotes are truthful and capture the emotional complexity of friendship.  They are grounding to read and offer us “food for thought” about our friendships.

Here are 18 Jewish sayings about friendship.

Your turn:  Which saying resonates the most with you?

Chag Notebook: Kristin Eriko Posner

Kristin Eriko Posner is a Japanese-American and Jewish recent bat mitzvah girl, student of tea ceremony, and founder of Nourish Co., an online sanctuary and resource for people and couples of mixed ethnicities.  I am honored she agreed to share her thoughts with us.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’ve lived in California almost all my life. I grew up in Los Angeles and now live in San Francisco. There was a two-year stint between LA and San Francisco, when I lived in the countryside of Southern Japan. I am lucky enough to run my lifestyle company, Nourish Co., as my full time gig. When I’m not working on Nourish Co., I’m at the stove cooking for family and friends, studying the way of tea, and going on fun adventures with my husband, Bryan. I always come back so inspired.

In what ways do you connect to Judaism?
Even though I grew up without religion, I’ve felt very deeply spiritual for as long as I can remember. I was introduced to Judaism at a young age by friends and was enchanted by all of the beautiful rituals. My husband Bryan is Jewish and very secular, so I know that when we have children one day, I’ll likely be the gatekeeper of our family’s traditions. The day of my conversion was one of the most meaningful days of my life.

After we got married, I found myself wanting to learn more. I am very lucky to be part of an incredibly open-minded Reform congregation. That being said, I look different from most people in our congregation. For a while, I quietly felt painfully self-conscious about it. Then one day, I saw a link in the newsletter for an Anshei Mitzvah course and signed up. Learning Hebrew and studying Torah was incredibly healing for me – it gave me a renewed sense of confidence and a sense of belonging in my community.

Last March, in front of family, friends, and my community, I became Bat Mitzvah at 33 at Congregation Emanu-el in San Francisco; the same synagogue where I converted and where Bryan and I were married. It was the coming of age ceremony I never had. Instead of becoming an adult, I vowed to become a Jewish leader.

How do you prepare to host people for a holiday meal or celebration?
My gameplan sounds intense but it’s not really. It’s spread out over a week, so I just chip away at it. I start brainstorming the menu a week or more in advance. To do this, I refer to a Google doc that lists anyone I’ve ever cooked for and their dietary restrictions and needs. I know this seems crazy but I mostly have this memorized. I grocery shop two to three days before and prep for the next two days. I try to spread it out so I’m not spending many hours in the kitchen at a time. My husband Bryan inevitably runs to the store to pick up things I forgot or herbs and things that need to be really fresh. Bryan is an amazing sous chef and my sister in law Rachel and brother in law Steve usually arrive early, roll up their sleeves and start helping. My family makes an amazing team! For my Bat Mitzvah celebration, we hired a bartender to serve drinks, replenish food and help with cleaning up. It was the best decision because I got to spend every second with my family and friends.

How does the ideal Jewish holiday celebration look and feel to you?
I have two ideal holiday celebrations. One is a full house with all my favorite people, where it’s so loud with people chatting that you can’t even hear the music anymore. My other ideal holiday celebration is an intimate group of loved ones gathered around our dining table for a simple but festive meal. My last job was as a residential interior designer, so lighting is everything to me. We dim all the lights and light lots of candles which makes everything feel really cozy. I like to make a blend of classic Japanese or Ashkenazi Jewish dishes, plus a couple of unexpected takes on them. Often, I make Japanese and Jewish blended dishes like mochi latkes and brisket braised in a homemade Japanese barbecue sauce. I also try to incorporate an element of surprise such as a special ingredient we picked up on our most recent trip or a gorgeous whole roasted fish. My hope is that when each person walks into our home, they feel like they are walking into a giant, comforting hug, knowing that they will be taken care of for a few hours.

Leading up to, during, and after the holidays, how do you reconnect with yourself?
Before everyone comes over, I get ready at my vanity table and sit for a few extra moments with some photos of my grandparents. There is a photo of my paternal grandmother that hangs on my wall that I love. In it, she’s wearing a haori (Japanese-style silk jacket) in front of this incredible spread of Japanese-Hawaiian food she’s prepared for a holiday. Her hair is perfectly coiffed, lips painted her favorite Shiseido pink, and she looks so happy. When I prepare a meal, I am honoring her, my Mom and my aunt: the women who have nourished my generation. Oh and I try to take a hot bath before everyone comes over! The Japanese girl in me loves a nice, long bath.

What is one of your most memorable Jewish holiday experiences?
My most memorable holiday experience is Japanese New Year. Even as an adult, it just feels so magical and special to me. After all the housework is done, my family gathers around the table to make nigiri sushi together. When no one is looking, we put a giant piece of wasabi under some of the sushi. The problem is, everyone does this, so we end up with quite a few very spicy pieces. In Japan, we watch my favorite show ever, which is about all of the different New Year’s food traditions in different regions in Japan. Then, around 11, we bundle up and head over to the neighborhood temple and get in line to ring the bell at midnight. My Mom gets her favorite cup of hot amazake, which warms up our hands. She would always give us a small sip, during which you get a whiff of sweet, fermented rice wine. Whenever I have it, it takes me back to standing in that line at the temple with my family. The next morning, we eat traditional New Year foods and a steaming hot bowl of ozoni, with big gooey pieces of mochi, handmade by my Mom.

What’s your absolute favorite Jewish holiday dish?
Nothing beats a beautiful loaf of challah. Especially if it is homemade! I know for some, Jewish food in America hasn’t always been great, but I think everything can be reinvented to be delicious. My favorite Japanese holiday dish is a Tokyo-style ozoni on New Year’s morning.

Do you have any non traditional Jewish holiday rituals or habits?
All of the holidays in the Posner household are pretty non-traditional. It’s important to us to update rituals that don’t resonate with us. I believe this is what all of our ancestors have done since the beginning of time. While some of our rituals don’t seem traditional to our parents our even us, I hope they will be for our children and future generations (and of course, they can do some of their own updating!)

What was something that your mother (or another influential figure) shared with you about the holidays that has stuck with you?
Some of the most influential figures in my Jewish life are people I’ve never met in real life! I was so lucky to begin my Jewish journey during a time when we have access to so much via the Internet. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked to Joan Nathan, Anita Diamant, Tori Avey, Molly Yeh, ARQ and Jewish Food Hero for advice and inspiration!

What’s your number one tip or trick you’ve discovered that makes the holidays smoother, more positive and meaningful for you?
Things can get really hectic leading up to a big holiday meal. During the week before, I try to take some time to reflect on the purpose behind the meal. I find it helpful to think about how I want people to feel when they walk through the door, and why I am hosting. I think about who I am remembering or thinking of, and if it’s an intimate group, I share this with them. I try to think of everything I do as an act of service, and each dish I prepare, an edible prayer. I think cooking for people you love can be a deeply spiritual experience – similar to how preparing a cup of tea for someone in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony is. When this is my lens, it’s impossible for things not to be smooth, positive and meaningful.

Kristin, thank you for sharing. I love how you have found such positive ways of integrating and honouring your Japanese heritage and your Jewish faith.

This post is part of our Chag Notebook series where we interview inspiring women and men about their approach to the holidays. What did you take from Kristin’s notebook? Tell us what you enjoyed in the comments below.

8 Satisfying Salad Recipes for Hanukkah

Adding salad dishes to your holiday table is a great way of incorporating raw and minimally processed vegetables to your diet. Uncooked foods maintain their nutrient profiles and their vibrant colours appeal to children and adults alike. There is no need to drench a healthy dish in an oil-heavy dressing. Instead, keep things light and fragrant by making simple dressings from lemon juice, mustard, tahini or even blended corn for a creamier but light dressing.

 

Gone are the days when salad means a chunk of floppy old iceberg with a fridge-burnt tomato and a sorry old slice of cucumber. A good salad can easily be ramped up to a showstopper with just a minimal amount of effort put into slicing, grating, roasting and layering. Get children involved with washing, chopping and mixing ingredients and you can be sure they’ll sneak a few nibbles of the raw ingredients as they go.

 

 

Here are 8 salad recipes you can prepare over Hannukah. Each could be a side dish as part of a meal, or the star of the show itself.

 

Beet, Fennel and Orange Salad with Maple Mustard Dressing

This salad is filled with winter vegetables.  It has a crunch from the cucumber and fennel and sweetness from the beets and  oranges. The maple-mustard salad dressing is delicious and oil free. Serve it over fresh green salad leaves for lunch or as a side, or with steamed kale or chard for a warm supper.

 

Cauliflower Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing

Cauliflower is naturally juicy, and boiling it is an effective method of pumping it full of excess moisture and removing all the flavour. Instead, here it is baked to a smokey deliciousness full of bite and depth. Served with spiced chickpeas and plenty of fresh herbs, this middle-eastern warm salad would make an ideal main dish, or accompaniment to simple steamed new potatoes.

 

 

Georgian Beet and Chickpea Walnut Salad

I created this Beet Walnut Salad for Hanukkah after reading about the Georgian Jewish community recipes (Georgia the country, not the state in the USA) in Gil Mark’s cookbook, Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World. You can boil your own beets and dried chickpeas for this recipe, or use vacuum packed and canned versions if you’re short on time. If you like things sour, you could also use pickled beets.

 

Roast Pumpkin Salad

Nothing says hearty, winter veg quite like a pumpkin. The good news is that cutting the oil in this recipe won’t cut the flavour, as the natural sugars in pumpkin turn to sweet sticky caramel in the oven. Rocket would make a peppery, light addition to this rich, earthy base.

 

Toasted Almond Brown Rice Salad

 

Simple switches of white to whole grain carbs can massively increase the nutrient profiles of our meals, without any extra hassle. Brown rice has a nutty richness which pairs perfectly with the almonds and sweet, chewy dried cherries in this recipe.

 

Vegan Summer Rolls

If it was in a bowl you’d happily accept this as a salad. However, here it’s rolled into rice paper wraps. Packed full of raw, shredded and sliced veggies, along with strips of baked tofu for a satisfying meat-free protein punch. Prepare the fillings and dips in advance but keep the stuffing and rolling for the dinner table, for an interactive and fun meal children will love!

Carrot and Cashew Salad

This is a classic staple in the Jewish Food Hero household. Children are often branded picky-eaters when it comes to salad, but really they just have a very understandable dislike for the texture of large soggy leaves. Grated carrot is sweet and easy to chew, making this dish a big hit with kids.

 

Mango Salad with Peanut Dressing

Who said fruits have to stay in the sweet course? The intense sweet-sour flavor of mango pairs perfectly with the creamy peanut dressing in this Asian-inspired recipe.

 

Your Turn: Please share your go-to salad recipes for every day and special occasions in the comments below!

 

8 Nourishing Vegan Soups For Chanukah

Why is vegan soup so good for us? We cannot just eat sufganiyot doughnuts and latkes for eight nights! Soup is a practical family meal which can be cooked ahead of time and left on the stovetop. You can adapt it to suit all the family by stirring in different combinations of herbs, topping with sprinkled seeds or crunchy croutons. Children of all ages love to dip bread into soup and then spill soup all over themselves and the floor. What are you waiting for?!

Soup is an ideal no-oil food. I don’t use oil in any of my cooking, because it is calorie-rich and nutrient-poor. Watch this video to find out more about why cutting, or at least reducing, the quantity of oil we eat is a good idea.

Here are 8 healthy and satisfying soups to serve and enjoy this Chanukah.

 

Vegan Corn Chowder

Creamy and comforting but without the use of heavy butter or oil, this coconut cream plant-based soup will fill even the hungriest of tummies on a winter’s evening. Children will love the sweetness of the corn, why not get them involved with helping you pop the kernels off the cob? (Or pouring the frozen sweetcorn from the bag…) 

 

Gazpacho

This cold, Spanish tomato soup would make a perfect meal to lighten the load of heavy holiday eating. You can make this in any blender and, because it’s served cold, it retains all of the nutrients of the raw vegetable ingredients. Make it a couple of hours ahead of time and get kids involved with cutting or ripping vegetables to chuck into the blender.

 

Jamie Oliver’s Super Leek and Potato Soup

Who doesn’t love a hearty, potato and leek soup? This version is packed full of iron rich kale, too. Instead of frying the vegetables in oil, use vegetable broth to gently sweat them for 10 minutes. Switch out Parmesan for nutritional yeast to make the herb toast.

 

Oil Free Red Lentil Soup

Lentils provide bulk, fiber and plant-based protein, as well as being a simple and staple store cupboard ingredient. This is the Jewish Food Hero recipe for a bare-bones lentil soup which you can adapt, adjust and embellish to suit your family’s tastes and whatever you have in the fridge.

Easy Minestrone Soup

Imagine a situation where you can throw all your vegetables into one pot and it turns into a delicious, filling Italian soup. You’ve just imagined this minestrone. The inclusion of whole beans gives this dish a filling protein punch. Simply sweat the vegetables in stock rather than oil to cut the unnecessary calories.

 

French Onion Soup

The simple swap of vegetable for beef stock makes this vegan version of a soup classic. You can use any onions in any combination, they all turn to sweet sticky gorgeousness when they’re cooked down with the balsamic vinegar.

 

Sweet Potato Coconut Soup

Children love the smooth sweetness of this vibrant orange soup. Perfectly good just as it is, you could also sprinkle on some pumpkin seeds, spice it up with a pinch of chili flakes, or add crunchy oven baked croutons (no need for oil, just put diced bread into the oven on high until they brown).

 

Vegan Borscht

As soups go, it’s hard to find a more vibrant visual feast than this fuschia beauty. Root vegetables are satiating and provide a solid basis for our meals, and beetroot is no exception. This recipe calls for a vegan yogurt or vegan cream cheese topping, although I think it tastes just as good with a side of plain crusty white bread for dipping.

Your turn: Please share your go-to soup recipes for every day and special occasions in the comments below!

8 Perfect Baked Doughnuts For A Healthier Hanukkah

A sufganiyot is a round, fried donut which is eaten around the world at Chanukah. Sufganiyah are most commonly filled with jam or custard and covered in powdered sugar, but the possibilities for this versatile and adaptable food are endless.

Jewish people traditionally eat fried foods at Chanukah as a way of commemorating the miracle of the temple oil. I prefer to light an oil candle to commemorate the miracle rather than use my body to connect with the holiday (i.e. to eat the oil) and here is why. Eating large amounts of oil makes me feel sluggish and today there are many healthier ways to enjoy doughnuts.

Here are 8 recipes for healthier doughnuts that we can enjoy this year.

Vegan Raspberry Donuts

These pretty pink baked donuts are completely oil free. They have a creamy richness from light coconut milk, and the tart freshness of raspberry taste runs through the whole batter. Although you will need fresh raspberries if you want to decorate them, the recipe itself uses frozen berries, so these can be made from all store cupboard ingredients. Make them today!

Baked Strawberry-Glazed Sufganiyot (GF options)

These baked sufganiyot are a re-make of the traditional strawberry classic. These are just as delicious but lighter tasting and they are so better for us  than the traditional deep-fried ones. There is a tiny bit of oil in this recipe. These easy baked doughnuts avoid all the traditional mess of deep-frying. Glistening with strawberry glaze, these doughnuts will delight you and your guests.

Vegan Mini Powdered Donuts

The creator of these beauties describes them as “very unorthodox”, but don’t let that put you off. These baked mini donuts are sweetened with dates and there are suggestions for more than 10 different powdered toppings, to recreate the texture without the sugar-crash of traditional icing-coated donuts. Powdered peanut butter, anyone?

Vegan Baked Savory Donuts

You heard me right. Savoury baked donuts. An unusual proposition but if you think about it it’s kind of like a savoury scone, right? These are filled with fragrant herbs and would be great as an accompaniment to a soup for a satisfying but light evening Hanukkah meal.

Baked Vegan Apple Cider Doughnuts

Hearty, spiced and sweet, these cider-infused donuts are coated with delicious cinnamon sugar. Your house will be filled with gorgeous aromas. If you don’t have a donut pan, why not bake these in a muffin tin, scoop out the middle and fill with applesauce and chopped walnuts?

Baked jelly filled donuts

I love the idea of a baked filled donut as a non-fried alternative to the traditional Sufganiyot. The recipe here calls for butter, milk and egg. Try substituting

  • the butter with applesauce,
  • the milk with plant-based milk,
  • the egg with this egg replacer. 

Cinnamon Chai Baked Red Lentil Doughnuts

Get. Out. Of. Town. Lentil flour, mashed banana, chai tea, vanilla bean paste? Frost them with cashew cream? Oh go on then. Did you know that you can make lentil flour easily by pulsing lentils in a food processor? Serve them with strong black coffee or a hot, sweet tea.

Raw Red Velvet Donuts

Vegan and gluten free, not only are these not fried, they’re not even cooked! The only elbow work involved is the strength to press pulse on your food processor. The healthy, satisfying nut oils are a way to honour Chanukah traditions without filling our bodies with extra oil from frying. You can even shape these in your hands, so there’s no need for a donut pan for this recipe.

If you are looking for a good quality non-stick donut baking pan, here is one that I recommend.

Your turn:  Place your favorite healthier doughnut recipe in the comments below.