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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Korean Sprout Soup

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 June 2011 11:49 Written by Flax Thursday, 30 June 2011 08:53

Kongnamulguk, or sprout soup as we say in English, is one of Korea’s national dishes.  It is a  a very healthy and nutritious soup that is really more of a meal than a first course. 

 Besides the fact that they are a great diet food, sprouts are also a really great energy food.  Sprouts represent a moment when a seed is in a state of transformation and  using a tremendous amount of energy.  When we eat sprouts we are consuming a tremendous gift of natural energy.  In addition, the transformation process basically means that nature is practically pre-digesting the food for you.  This is why sprouts give us more energy, and quicker energy, then any other food.   Try having a bowl of sprouts next time you are tired and see  what happens.  I personally think it works way better than a cup of coffee.

Sprouts are also extremely cooling.  The Asians often cook sprouts to avoid this problem.  This soup is great dish to eat all year round with the added advantage of being extremely simple.  It takes about five minutes of preparation time and another twenty minutes of cooking time.  It is served with brown rice and kimchee (spicy Korean pickles), both of which can be made ahead of time.  If  you are not a food perfectionist, you can replace the kimchee with sauerkraut or any pickled vegetables.  Just spice up whatever pickles you already have in the house, add some chilli peppers and ginger and call it kimchee.

Ingredients:

  • sesame oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 chilli pepper, finely chopped
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 package mung bean sprouts
  • 1 large piece of kombu (seaweed)
  • 3 scallions, sliced on an angle into small pieces
  • soy sauce
  • hot chilli flakes
  • 11/2 cups cooked brown rice

Saute the garlic, onion, and chilli pepper in the sesame oil.  Add the water and bring to a boil.  Simmer for five minutes.  Add the sprouts and simmer for fifteen minutes more.  Add the scallions and remove from the flame.

Place the rice, soy sauce, kimchee (pickles) and chilli pepper on the table.  Ladle the soup into bowls and add the remaining ingredients at the table.

Serves 6.

Enjoy!

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Black-eyed Peas Pate

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 December 2010 01:14 Written by Flax Thursday, 30 December 2010 01:11

Beans, beans, are good for your heart……..

Many people avoid eating beans for certain unspecified reasons. Here are a few tips to help you out. While there are arguments both ways for soaking or not soaking beans, here’s one argument. Soaking beans overnight, and then cooking them in fresh water helps to remove the phytic acid. Phytic acid is one of the main reasons for beans causing digestive issues. Be aware however that there are arguments the complete opposite of this one.

Another way to avoid problems with beans is to eat them in small amounts. Legumes are a protein. According to my food triangle, all proteins, animal or vegetable should be only 10% of the diet. Sticking to small amounts of beans might be another way to avoid digestive issues.

My favorite way to prevent this problem is by cooking beans with seaweed. Kombu is the seaweed that works best in this case. A number of spices also help to remove gases from the beans. These include; turmeric, cumin and bay leaf. If you notice, a lot of bean recipes will include these spices in the cooking water. Since however I am on a seaweed kick, I see using kombu here, as another opportunity to get in my seaweed RDA.

While I like to eat this bean spread throughout the year, it can also be made for Rosh Hashanah. The black-eyed peas are rubiya, one of the Rosh Hashanah simanim.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup black-eyed peas, soaked overnight
4 cups water
1 piece kombu
3 tbsp olive oil
cumin
turmeric
salt and pepper

Spill out the soaking water and drain the beans. Bring the fresh water to a boil and add the beans and the kombu. Cook for 1-1 1/2 hours until the beans are very soft. Drain the beans and remove the kombu. Puree the beans in a food processor along with the spices and oil.

Serve on garlic bread.

The pate can last refrigerated for up to a week.

Note: If you are accustomed to the taste of the kombu than puree it with the kombu. If you are not yet adjusted to the flavor, hold out on the kombu until you are more used to the flavor. You are getting the benefits of the kombu from the cooking itself.

Enjoy!

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