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 and White Noodles

Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 August 2011 08:01 Written by Flax Monday, 1 November 2010 01:32

ok, so there's some green also

The opposite of color is of course black and white. Think nothing of abandoning colors and going for an even more dramatic statement with a black and white dish. (Of course there is also seaweed in the dish but you can’t see it and you can’t taste it so if you don’t tell anyone than no-one will know.)
This recipe is simple, 10 minutes beginning to end. The “exotic” ingredients (available in health food stores and your regular supermarket) are what make this dish special.
The black noodles are made from black rice and I found them at Nizat Haduvdevan. The shimeji mushrooms are grown in Tekoa and I found them at Rami Levy. Not so complicated. The wakame seaweed I also found at Rami Levy, that’s how trendy a food it is, it was in the Asian section, not even in the health section!
The health benefits of this recipe are in basically all of the ingredients.
The rice noodles dry dampness and help us get away from our wheat dependency. The side affects of wheat dependency we see with the growing number of people who are diagnosed with celiac disease and wheat allergies.
The seaweed is what keeps us young, wrinkle free, fat free, and cancer free. Don’t forget to eat your 5 gr. of seaweed a day!
The mushrooms are good for you too, especially in the Autumn. They help to boost the immune system, rid the respiratory system of excess mucus and they help to remove toxins from the system. This is wonderful for the autumn when we need to have healthy lungs to get us through the winter (without needing a flu shot). Mushrooms, like seaweed are also known for their anti-carcenogenic properties and are recommended to be eaten daily as well.
Sesame oil, while not as good for you as flax oil and olive oil is still a cold pressed oil and it has healing properties for the skin .
Garlic and scallions, both members of the onion family, have anti-biotic and anti-viral properties and they also help to remove toxins from the body and to clear the lungs.

Don’t you feel healthy already?!?

Ingredients:

1 package black rice noodles
1/2 package shimeji mushrooms, broken into pieces
1/2 tsp wakame seaweed, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes
2 scallions, sliced on an angle into 2 cm pieces
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 tbsp sesame oil
soy sauce, to taste

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the package. Rinse well, drain and place in a serving bowl. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the mushrooms and garlic and saute for 1 minutes on a medium flame. Pour over the noodles. Squeeze the excess water from the wakame and sprinkle over the noodles. Add the scallions, mix well and serve.

Enjoy!

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