The Joy of Cookbooks

Post by Melissa

In the age of the internet, it is so easy to just search for a recipe and leave the cookbooks on their shelf.  So much so, that its what I’ve been doing for far too long.

I recently received my copy of Jamie Geller’s Quick and Kosher: Meals in Minutes and looking through it took me to a happy place.

On Thursday I sat on my couch, surrounded by my favorite cookbooks and poured through them for Shabbat ideas, as well as recipes to use up some blueberries and zucchini that needed to be baked. (Well, I’m sure I could have found another use for it, but I’m a baker – so baked goods are what I think of when things need to be consumed.)

There was something uniquely satisfying about looking through the books and putting little pieces of paper in the pages to mark what I wanted to come back to.  Something about putting my cookbook in the stand amidst the flying flour that made my heart happy.  Something more mouthwatering about photos on a page than on the internet.

I took a photo of the stack I was working from, but want to know what your go-to cookbooks are too!


Sorry for the brevity of this post, but I’m in a baking spree today! Sweet zucchini bread (from a friend),  Harvest Bread (KBD: lighten’s up), and Black & Blue Muffins (The Kosher Baker).


The Absence of Low-Fat Cheese and Other Stories

post by Jessica

Being the daughter of a doctor and a psychologist, I was taught from an early age to be aware of what I put in my mouth. At a meal, eat your protein first, then the vegetables, then the starch. Two cookies at a time for a snack. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full.

Still, there were some adjustments to be made when I started keeping kosher and that sometimes, Judaism’s culture of food is hard on our health.

I made adjustments for keeping kosher. Because a smaller portion of the food out there has a kosher label, it sometimes means choosing something different that I might have previously. My favorite example of this is low-fat cheese. While low-fat cheese exists in abundance in the non-kosher cheese world, around here, the only low-fat cheese you can find around here is of various soft, white kinds: cottage cheese, cream cheese, etc. Make it a lot harder to enjoy cheese responsibly – especially since dairy products are one of the few kinds of food that when fat is taken out, they tend to not put too much fake stuff back in.

Probably harder to deal with is Judaism’s constant focus on food. On Shabbat, you celebrate by eating – holidays have special foods and special meals too. The Passover seder, one of the most widely celebrated rituals in Judaism, centers on a meal. There’s also the pressure of going to others homes and inviting others to your homes. We have a culture where there is never too much food on the table, even if it is only just the six of us.

So how do we deal with it? Once we realized we needed to, we changed our eating during the week to something like the South Beach Diet model (my father’s recommended diet). There are special challenges to being on South Beach and being Jewishly observant. We eat challah & dessert on Shabbat, maybe a little more than we should, but less than we used to. We remember, especially when it’s just the two of us at a Shabbat meal that Shabbat comes every week, so maybe we don’t eat a huge meal every week. A celebratory meal, sure, but something lighter. We eat until we’re full, not until we’ve made a good show of it or we’ve stuff ourselves into a stupor. And we sleep just fine during our Shabbat naps anyway.

We’ve always been big on meal planning, mostly because we hate grocery shopping (seriously, we shop every two weeks), but we also find that we have a much better idea of what we’re putting into our bodies if we have it on paper. We even started this healthy kick right around Purim, which is a festival of low fiber carbs and giving and receiving seriously sweet foods. So, we took everything, laid it all out, took the stuff we really wanted and gave the rest away. It all has to be eaten by Passover anyway, so we rationed ourselves to one or two pieces a day, and then got rid of the rest.

Traditional Judaism tries to be about moderation (i.e. Enjoy eating, but not everything). So we try to work with that in mind.

Kashrut and Health – Are they mutually exclusive?

It often seems that to those who keep kosher, healthy eating is left to slide.  Meanwhile, those on the outside, often think that Kashrut (the practice of keeping kosher) is inherently healthy.  So which is right? Can both be accurate?  I like to think so….

I have long been interested in the melding of kashrut and healthy eating.  I think that Judaism places such an emphasis on the value of human health, and too often we forget that when it comes to our food.  The laws of kashrut are so specific, that it is easy to follow them to the letter and ignore the fatty way in which we are preparing them. There are plenty of seasonings which are not high in sodium or fat, which can still make a mean chicken soup, brisket, and kugel – I promise!

I think the essential component is to admit this, and to take a step back and really look at our diet.  The catch phrase of late “don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food” is just the start.  Even my grandparents ate a lot of processed food, and I like to hope that I am a catalyst for changing the diets of those around me as they adapt to what I am willing to cook and serve in my home, and what I will eat in other people’s homes.  While of course I do not make anyone else cook the way I do, I can be selective in what I eat anywhere.

You are the only person who can take responsibility for the food you eat.  So if you care enough to uphold the laws of kashrut, why not hold yourself to a higher health standard?  Make a more conscious effort to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables instead of canned ones which no longer resemble their original form.  Select brown rice and whole grain breads and pastas instead of their white counterparts. These small differences in your diet, can make a huge difference in your health!