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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Tu Be’shvat Pilaf

Last Updated on Monday, 23 January 2012 12:41 Written by Flax Thursday, 13 January 2011 01:27

quinoa with dried fruit and nuts

I ate this dish at  Rakel Berenbaum’s house last tu beshvat. Rakel Berenbaum is the author of Portion on the Portion, for Torah Tidbits and a highly acclaimed cook and torah scholar.   The platter that she served was gorgeous, delicious, and a conversation piece as well.

While I based my platter on her idea, I decided to do it a little bit differently. Rakel made her dish with white rice, reflecting upon the whiteness of the manna.  I chose to make my dish with quinoa instead.  If we were to follow the theme in Rakel’s dvar torah, we can say that the quinoa reflects the nutritional aspect of the manna.  Just as the manna supplied the Jewish people with all their nutritional needs in the desert, so quinoa can supply us with almost all of our nutritional needs today.  Quinoa was referred to as the “mother grain” by the Incas due to the fact that it is so high in nutrients.  Quinoa has the highest protein content of all the grains, it has more calcium than milk and it a  is a good source of iron, phosphorous, B vitamins and vitamin E.

Rice is sticky and is known for holding it’s shape.  In order for the quinoa to do this I needed to use ground  flax seed.  Flax seed works similarly to egg in that it can bind foods together and it really does work almost as well as the egg does.  It is also a much healthier alternative, cleansing the intestines and  lowering the risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancers.

Additionally, I cooked the quinoa together with spices.  Some people tell me that they do not like quinoa, often it is because they are not preparing it properly.  Here are a few tips to help improve the flavor of the quinoa.

  • Always rinse the quinoa before cooking to remove the bitter coating on the outside.
  • Remove the pot from the flame before the water is completely absorbed–if you wait until the water is all absorbed you will burn your pot.  Shut the flame when you see the holes made by the steam but there is still a drop of water at the bottom.
  • Quinoa doesn’t absorb flavor or liquid after it has been cooked.  If you want your quinoa to taste like something other than plain quinoa then add the desired flavors to the cooking water.

The recipe below contains a variety of flavors and spices.  The reason why I use such of large variety of spices in this dish is to help offset all the dried fruits and nuts.  Fruits are sweet in flavor and nuts are oily.  Sweet and oily foods cause expansion and dampness (mucus) and prevent our bodies from functioning at their maximum.  Oily foods cause our  energy levels to drop (slowing down and relaxing) and sweet foods induce weight gain.  In order to balance the fruits and nuts, and to help our bodies to better digest these foods, I use a combination of warming,  pungent, and bitter spices. These spices not only add another dimension to the flavor of the food, they also help our digestive systems to work better.

Ingredients:

Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1″ ginger, minced
1 fennel, chopped
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
2 tbsp ground flax seed
2 tbsp pistachio seeds
turmeric
allspice
5 cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed
salt and pepper
Variety of dried fruit, including: pineapple, apricots, prunes, craisins, figs, dates, etc.
pumpkin seeds

Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan. Sweat the onion, fennel and spices for 5 minutes, until the onion is soft.  Rinse the quinoa in a colander and add to the pot along with the remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, lower the flame and cook until the water is almost completely absorbed.  Remove from the flame and allow it to stand for 5 more minutes, until the water is completely absorbed.

Choose a bowl that will be completely filled by the quinoa. Brush the sides of the bowl with olive oil.

Place a dried pineapple at the bottom of the bowl and press down. Stick dried apricots in a circle around the pineapple. Put the quinoa in the bowl up to the level of the apricots and press down.

Stick a row of prunes and craisins around the bowl, cover with quinoa and press down.

Repeat the process. layering different colored fruits, (figs, dates, etc.) and pressing down on the quinoa, until the bowl is full.

Boil a cup of water in a pot. Carefully insert the bowl into the pot. Cover the pot and steam for 45 minutes. Remove the bowl from the pot and invert it onto a platter. The fruit should stick to the quinoa and you should have a beautifully decorated dome. Garnish with pumpkin seeds and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

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

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Quinoa-Veggie Bake

Last Updated on Thursday, 2 December 2010 03:34 Written by Flax Sunday, 21 November 2010 02:39

Seasonal cooking not only uses seasonal vegetables, it also uses seasonal methods. Autumn is the season for baking. Logically, this makes sense. Autumn is the time when the nights are getting colder and you want to slightly warm up your house. Having the oven on for an hour helps to take the chill out of the evening and to lightly warm us up as well. The longer food is cooked the “warmer” it is. Baked foods are more warming than a summer stir-fry, while they are not as warming as a winter stew which would cook on a low flame for hours.

Here I chose to use quinoa, not only because it is high in calcium and iron, but because I love the way it bakes, all soft and mushy, it kinds of melts in your mouth. You can just as easily substitute it with barley, rice, wild rice, or wheat berries, just adjust the amount of water accordingly.
Likewise with the vegetables. The vegetables I use are commonly found autumn vegetables but feel free to substitute any vegetables you wish. I use the color rule: orange vegetables, white vegetables and green vegetables. Orange vegetables are sweet, white vegetables are pungent and either bitter or sweet, while green vegetables are bitter and salty. When you look at the taste of the vegetables, it is easy to find a suitable alternative.

This recipe is one of my, all-in-one, make-it-easy, Shabbat dishes. You have a whole grain (the quinoa) your veggies, and the option of making it vegetarian or adding chicken or turkey. Plus, the fact that it is simple does not mean that it is not delicious. Another plus here, there is only one dirty pot at the end of the meal. 🙂

Ingredients:

olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 bunch beet leaves, chopped
3 jerusalem artichokes, chopped
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
2 branches thyme, stems discarded
1 1/2 cups quinoa (rinsed)
3 cups water
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin (optional)
salt and pepper

optional: 1 chicken, quartered, or 1 turkey roll

Preheat oven to 180c/350f.
Heat the oil in a large dutch oven. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 3 minutes. Add the remaining vegetables and saute for 10 more minutes. Remove from the flame and add the quinoa, water and spices. Cover and bake for 1 hour.
If you are using chicken or turkey, then put it on top of the quinoa and bake 1 1/2 -2 hours depending on the size of the turkey roll. If the chicken/turkey is skinned then brush with olive oil and paprika to give it color and prevent it from drying out.

Enjoy!

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