Coconut Cookies

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 February 2012 04:56 Written by Flax Wednesday, 15 February 2012 04:41

While I am not a big fan of baked desserts, there are times when they are appropriate.  While baking recipes will often call for butter, Jewish law prevents eating a dairy dessert after a meat meal.  Traditional Jewish dessert recipes, such as yeast cakes and kichelech,overcame this problem by creating desserts which technically did not need any fat.  Modern Jewish baking recipes have adapted dairy dessert recipes, replacing the butter with margarine.  Unfortunately, as many of us well know, margarine is extremely unhealthy.

Hydrogenated fat, margarine, or trans fat, is one of the worst things that a person can put in their body.  In addition to being linked to coronary heart disease, it also tastes terrible.  I personally can’t stand that scum that sticks to the tongue and the roof of the mouth after having (accidentally) eaten something with margarine.  Not only that, I know that the scum that is on my tongue is the same scum that is sticking to my intestinal wall as well as clogging up my arteries.  So, what are the options?  Many of us believe that canola oil provides a healthier alternative.  This is not necessarily the case, as the oil on supermarket shelves is refined.  The refining process depletes the oil of vital nutrients and, while it removes the taste of rancidity, the harmful effects of rancid oil remain behind.

The recipe below recommends using coconut oil.  While again, I think everyone is better off without cookies, I know that some of us, at least some of the time, might on occasion eat a cookie or two.  In which case, I try to make the baked goods as delicious, and as healthy as possible.  Coconut oil was not traditionally used in baking but rather as a skin moisturizer and a hair conditioner.   As a practitioner who bases her beliefs on proven ancient traditions, I still think that it is better not to bake with coconut oil, but rather to stay completely away from baked desserts.  Since I know that the vast majority of people won’t do that, I will have to say, that after butter, the best choice of fat to use in baking would be coconut oil.

The myth that coconut oil is bad for you is unfounded:

  • Coconut oil is beneficial for the heart. It contains about 50% lauric acid, which helps in preventing various heart problems including high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure and it does not lead to increase in LDL levels.
  • Coconut oil strengthens the immune system as it contains antimicrobial lipids, lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid which have antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties.
  • Coconut oil contains lesser calories than other oils, its fat content is easily converted into energy and it does not lead to accumulation of fat in the heart and arteries. Coconut oil helps in boosting energy and endurance, and enhances the performance of athletes.
  • Coconut oil is now shown to be helpful in treating Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Coconut oil stops tooth decay.  (I would still recommend brushing your teeth after a eating a cookie).

My daughter used the recipe below to make cookies for her brother’s bar-mitzvah.  They were so good that unfortunately there are none left.  I am hoping that we will get lucky and she will make us another batch.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 3 tbsp hot water
  • 8 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 cup whole spelt flour (or wheat)
  • 1 cup white spelt flour (or wheat)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 180 c (350 f).

Pour the hot water over the ground flax seed and allow to sit for five minutes.

Cream the sugar and the coconut oil.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix with an electric mixer until smooth.

Roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper to 1/2 cm thickness and use a cookie cutter to cut out desired shapes.

Place the cookies on a greased cookie sheet and decorate with the chocolate chips.

Bake in a preheated oven for 10 minutes.

Sima Herzfeld Navon is a nutritional healer and teaches healthy cooking classes.

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Crockpot Minestrone

Last Updated on Monday, 6 February 2012 12:44 Written by Flax Monday, 6 February 2012 12:44

I really do love using my crockpot in the winter.  Not only do I come home to a warm nourishing meal, I also come home to a house that smells great.  Crockpot cooking is also a much safer way to cook large beans as you don’t have to leave the stove on for long periods of time.  (Maybe it’s my own anxiety, but I’m always afraid that I will forget that the stove is on and accidentally burn down the house.)  Smaller beans, such as the adzuki beans and the mung bean are wonderful summer beans as they require under an hour cooking time.  Larger beans such as the kidney  bean, garbanzo bean,  and of course the fava bean require much longer cooking times and are much more appropriate for the winter where it is appropriate to keep a dish simmering for even an entire day.

Crockpot cooking also happens to provide an excellent solution for “working mom’s” who are sometimes the last ones to walk through the door.  Either prepare the food in the morning before leaving, or if your morning are just too busy, prepare all of the ingredients the night before and then just plug-in the crockpot the following morning.  It’s like magic!  Your family has a  healthy nourishing meal without your even being home!

The recipe below is for minestrone.  Minestrone is a hearty Italian vegetable soup which is essentially a whole meal.  The soup has red kidney beans which are a wonderful winter food as they nourish the kidneys, the organ that should be strengthened in the winter.  Please note how the recipe includes, white, orange, and  green vegetables.  When all  three colors of  vegetables are in a dish, you can be sure that the dishl will be balanced, both with regard to nutrition, as well as with regard to flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/4 cup kidney beans, soaked overnight
  • 1/4 cup lentils
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 2 parsnips, diced
  • 1 celeriac (celery root), diced
  • 1 broccoli stalk, peeled and diced
  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 4 liters water
  • 1/8 cup brown rice
  • turmeric
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt
  • pepper

Pesto:

  • 1 bunch basil
  • 2 tbsp roasted pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

To prepare the soup, place all of the soup ingredients, other than the salt, in a crockpot.  Set the crockpot to  low and allow to cook for 8-12 hours.

Prepare the pesto by pureeing all of the ingredients together in a food processor until you have a smooth paste .  Set aside.

Add the salt and the pesto to the soup a few minutes before serving.

Serve hot.  Serves 6-8.

Note:  When beans are cooked with salt the skin doesn’t soften and they remain hard.  It is preferable to add the salt only after they are at least slightly cooked.

Sima Herzfeld Navon is a Nutritional Healer and teaches Healthy Cooking Classes.

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Nutty Apples

Last Updated on Wednesday, 1 February 2012 12:04 Written by Flax Wednesday, 1 February 2012 11:50

Diabetes is on the rise, growing to epidemic proportions.  The number of Israelis with diabetes – today there are 500,000 diagnosed and an equal number as yet undiagnosed or with pre-diabetes – is estimated to double to two million by 2025.  Medical professionals are aware that the best way to treat diabetes is through prevention methods.  This includes educating awareness towards the importance of a healthy lifestyle.  To show the significance of lifestyle and diet one only has to look at the statistics.  Jews who made aliya from Ethiopia have seen a rise in the rate of diabetes from 0.4% to 16% due to significant lifestyle and dietary changes.  Those who do not suffer from diabetes are still impacted by the disease through our health insurance plan, the economic cost of diabetes in Israel is around 10,000,000 NIS,  about 20% of the total national health expenditure.

Israel is not alone.  Globally,  the number of diabetics, the majority suffering from Type II diabetes,  has risen from 153 million in 1980 to 347 million in 2008; the figure is expected to rise to 472 million in 2030.  Complications from diabetes affect the kidneys, eyes, nervous system, blood vessels, heart and lower limbs.

While eating refined grains is directly linked to diabetes as it causes blood sugar levels to soar which in turn stresses the pancreas and causes it to fail to produce enough insulin, a more holistic approach is to view all aspects of the diet.  Chinese medicine sees the over consumption of animal products as leading to a protein carbohydrate imbalance which then leads to a desire for refined grains and sugars.  While it is easy to scoff at this notion which is contrary to popular Western beliefs, sometimes seeing (or rather feeling) is believing.  Try eating one meal of brown rice and vegetables and a second meal of steak and salad.  After the steak and salad most people will crave a sweet either immediately after the meal or certainly within an hour or two of eating when a feeling of fatigue hits.  On the contrary, the lighter meal of brown rice and vegetables can sustain for hours, keeping our blood sugar level, without a dip in energy, loss of focus, signs of fatigue, or sugar cravings.

With all that said and done, sweet foods are wonderful.  Healthy sweet foods energize and relax the body, the nerves, and the brain.  A celebration is not a celebration without something sweet.  The question is, what is a healthy sweet.  The healthiest sweeteners to use in desserts are stevia (which actually balances blood sugar), rice syrup, and barley malt.  Both the rice syrup and the barley malt, (products found in your local health food store) are naturally processed sweeteners which are 50% maltose as opposed to the high sucrose sweeteners which disrupt our blood sugar levels.

The recipe below, in honor of the celebration of tu be’shvat.  The celebration of the renewal of life in nature should remind us that our bodies are not meant to be taken for granted.  Each and every day is a renewal of life.  Our gratitude for the miracle of life should extend to what we allow to enter our bodies and our souls on all levels.

Ingredients:

  • 4 golden apples
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp rice syrup/barley malt
  • 2 tbsp ground almonds
  • lemon juice

Pre-heat oven to 180 C

Core the apples and coat the hollow with the lemon juice to prevent the flesh from turning brown.  Place in a baking dish

Mix together the cinnamon, almonds,  and the rice syrup/barley malt.  Generously fill the apples with the mixture and then place in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until the apples are completely soft.

Serve warm.

Serves 4.

Sima Herzfeld Navon is a Nutritional Healer and teaches healthy cooking classes.

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