Sup on Soup

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 October 2011 12:04 Written by Flax Tuesday, 25 October 2011 11:35

Personally, after a month of holidays, I feel the need to lighten up the meals and drop off some of that extra weight.  One statistic claims that the average Israeli manages to gain 2.5 kilo (5 lbs.) over the month of Tishrei!  Perhaps what we really mean by mar-Chesvan is diet-Cheshvan.   Ironically enough, some of the best foods to assist in weight loss are bitter foods, examples of which include, radish and celery.  While eating a radish a day is beneficial for anyone trying to lose weight,  one of the best ways to feel full while shedding some weight is with a hearty vegetable soup.  Soup is a water based food that is extremely filling while also being low in calories.  To turn a vegetable soup into a full meal I add whole grains to the soup as a thickener while simultaneously adding nutritional value.  I also tend to puree my soups so that the individual ingredients become unidentifiable.  This trick is especially helpful with picky eaters who are afraid of new foods.

This recipe below is a healthier version of a Russian Spinach Soup. While the real Russian would use potatoes, I try to avoid that.  Potatoes happen to be one of the most fattening foods around, not a good choice for anyone wanting to lose weight.  Instead of using a potato, I use both millet and quinoa.  The grains thicken the soup in the same manner as a potato would, but they are a whole lot healthier.  While really any grain can be used here, I chose to use quinoa, for its nutritional value and millet as a wonderful way to balance the spinach.

Quinoa, considered only a few years ago to be exotic, is now a popular food.  The rise in popularity of quinoa  is due to its wonderful nutritional value.  Quinoa has the highest protein content of any grain, has more calcium than milk and is a very good source of iron, phosphorous, and vitamins B and E.  Millet on the other hand, might be one of the least used grains.

Millet is also high in protein and it has a rich silicon content.  Millet is a great food to eat while pregnant and it is helpful in preventing miscarriage. Millet is also used in  treating candida, this is due to its anti-fungal properties. Millet is  the most drying of the grains and is beneficial to a state of excess.  Eating millet during the month of  Cheshvan will help us to lose weight by restoring our normal balance after a month of feasting.  Combining spinach and millet is a very good practice.  While millet is very drying, spinach is very slippery.  The two foods harmonize each other both in flavor and by nature.

Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 bunches spinach, washed well
  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • 5 sprigs dill
  • 2 liters water
  • 2 cups oat milk (optional)
  • 1/4 cup millet
  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Saute the onion until they soften. Add the carrots and celery and continue to saute for five minutes more. Add the water and the oat milk and bring to a boil. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer on a low flame for one hour.  Remove from the flame and puree.

Serve hot.  Serves 6

Note: Adding a little bit of hiziki (seaweed) to your bowl of soup will add nutritional value as well as promote weight loss.

Sima Herzfeld Navon has a clinic for holistic medicine and nutritional counseling.  She also teaches healthy cooking.

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Hints for an Easier Fast

Last Updated on Monday, 3 October 2011 01:33 Written by Flax Monday, 3 October 2011 01:33

Yom Kippur is approaching and we are preparing for this wonderous day through a process of spiritual awareness and cleansing.   On Yom Kippur itself our cleansing of the spirit extends even to the physical level, where we fast and deny ourselves the most mundane and basic needs of our material existense.   Not-withstanding our spiritual needs, I offer a few tips to prepare for Yom Kippur on a purely physical level:

  • Drink at least two liters (eight cups) of water on the days leading up to the fast.  Hunger is often confused with thirst and it is easy to dehydrate on a fast.  Making sure that we drink enough on the days before the fast can help minimize both our hunger and our thirst on the actual fast day. 
  • Eat whole grains before the fast. Whole grains provide us with more energy over longer periods of time.
  • Avoid sugar and fruits.  Sugar highs and lows can cause headaches and the body also requires extra fluid to remove the sugar from the system.
  • Eat a lot of vegetables.  Vegetables are a great source of both energy and fluid. 

Fasting is a way of cleansing, both physically and spiritually.  While fasting, we rise above the physical needs of this world and we are able to connect to G-d on a more spiritual level.  Our bodies are given a much deserved rest, and like our souls, they devote themselves to releasing stored toxins.  The purpose of the fast is renewal, where we start of the new year with a clean slate, or old misdeeds having been forgiven.  As with our souls that have been cleansed to a point where small transgressions cause us regret, likewise, eating badly or overeating after a fast can make us sick.

The best way to break a fast is to slowly rehydrate the body while allowing the digestive channels to open.  One of the best ways to do this is with a hot drink that requires small sips.  Dandelion tea or chamomile tea, (sweetened with stevia or raw honey) is a great way to help cleanse the body of stored toxins. 

While bagels, lox, and cream cheese are pretty much standard after the fast, try instead to open up  the meal with a light vegetable soup.  A great soup to eat after fasting is miso soup.  This is not only because Chinese tradition holds that miso promotes long life and good health, but also because miso is a live food that contains lactobacillus, (the same as in yogurt) which helps in the digestion and assimilation of food.  Another bonus to eating miso soup after the fast is that on the purely practical level, it is quick.  Prepare the vegetables before the fast and then just add the boiling water and miso after the fast is over.  The soup requires only two minutes of cooking time so it will be ready to serve by the time the men come home from shul.

Note:  The soup calls for kombu.  Kombu is a seaweed, that like all seaweeds, is high in vitamins and minerals.   Kombu is not an essential ingredient and the soup is tasty (some might say even more so) without it.  Look for miso and kombube either in health food stores or in the health food sections of your local market.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 leek, diced
  • 1 cup mung bean sprouts
  • 1 small piece of kombu (optional)
  • 4 cups water or dashi (Japanese soup stock)
  • 2-3 tbsp miso paste
  • 2 scallions, sliced on angle, for garnish
  • soy sauce, to taste

Saute the vegetable, add the water/stock and bring to a boil.  Simmer for two minutes.  Remove from the flame, cream the miso in a little bit of the broth and return to the soup.  Use the soy sauce to adjust the flavor, garnish with scallions and serve. 

Serves 4-6

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Crock pot Recipe-Split Pea Soup

Last Updated on Monday, 13 December 2010 11:53 Written by Flax Monday, 13 December 2010 11:34

Yay! Winter is here! We are finally cold!

Seasonal cooking calls for soups and stews. The longer you cook a food, the more warming it is, and no soup needs to cook for longer than a split pea soup. I like to do this soup in a crock pot. I throw the peas in first thing in the morning and then forget about them for the rest of the day. They spend all day cooking and I think just the smell of cooking food heats up the house.
There are two ways of making this soup. Either throw everything in right in the beginning, or else add the vegetables 3-4 hours before eating. It depends on your schedule. Both ways work, but, if I’m around throughout the day, I prefer to do the vegetables later in the day-it really doesn’t make a difference though.

Every crock pot is different, I will tell you my method but keep in mind that your crock pot might cook faster or slower than mine. A trick that I use with my crock pot is that I start off with boiling water. This cuts hours off of my crock pots cooking time. When preparing split peas, I find it important to make sure that the peas cook for long enough. Since this is a soup recipe and extra cooking time won’t hurt it, it’s preferable to have it cook for longer rather than to under-cook the peas which can cause indigestion.

Notice that I use an interesting combination of spices in this soup. The spices are part North African and part Germanic. Turmeric and cumin are more North African and Asian while bay leaf and caraway seed are more German in flavor. While it is a strange combination, I find that they work well together. What is interesting for me is the similar and yet different roles these spices play.
Turmeric and bay leaf are very common spices used in foods as they both help with the digestion. They are used when cooking legumes to prevent flatulence and to promote proper digestion.
Turmeric however is a liver cleansing spice that helps with the digestion of fats and oils. Turmeric should be eaten every day, it prevents Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and helps to have healthy skin. It is also a natural anti-viral and anti-biotic and this means that it keeps food as well as our bodies healthy by fighting the pathogens.
Bay leaf while also a digestive aid works more on the lungs. It is a pulmonary antiseptic and an expectorant and is wonderful someone who has a cold or who is congested.
Both caraway and cumin are warming spices, while caraway is more sour and thus works more on the liver, cumin is more pungent in flavor and thus works more on the lungs. All in all, an interesting combination.

Ingredients:

olive oil
1/2 kilo split peas, (better if soaked overnight)
4 liters boiling water
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed
4 carrots, sliced into rounds
1 kohlrabi or turnip, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
salt and pepper

Croutons and hot dog slices for garnish. (Your hot dog slices-your decision if you want meat, chicken or tofu dogs)

To make this dish all at once, put everything except for the olive oil, onion and salt in the crock pot. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, saute the onions for 2 minutes and then add to the crock pot as well. Cook on high for a minimum of eight hours. Add the salt before you serve the soup.
If you are doing the soup in two steps than put 1/2 the water and the peas in a crock pot and cook them on high for around 4 hours. At a convenient point mid-day, saute the onion and add it along with the remaining ingredients. Continue to cook on high for at least 4 more hours.

Garnish with croutons and hot dog slices (big hit with the kids!)

Enjoy!

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