A Healthier Take on Jewish Classics

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Alexandra Zohn
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Healthier Take on Jewish Foods

There are only a few things more confusing than advice on healthful eating: Paleoists, vegans, carb cyclers, ketone diet adepts, fructarians, vegetarians, flexitarians, doctors, dietitians, trainers, scientists, celebrities, coaches, chefs--and the list keeps going-- all state that they've found the perfect way to eat, but many of them give opposite recommendations. And then, if we were already confused, there's kashrut...However, if you look closely, there's something everyone--including kosher laws--agrees upon: plants are great for us, and they should be the core of our diets.

We don't normally think of Jewish dietary laws being plant based, however, they do give us plenty of freedom when it comes to the plant world. They also promote moderation with products from the animal kingdom; restricting us on how to obtain, combine and eat them. We do obsess with meat and dairy, however, maybe our eyes should be on the plants, which are pretty much free for all (except for checking them for insects, which are not plants!).

Adding more veggies into our dishes enriches them. Even the classics can benefit from the nutrients, phytochemicals (plant compounds), color, flavor, texture and fiber from roots, stems, florets, leaves, bulbs and even blossoms. Throw in more roots into your cholent, switch the bow ties in your kasha varenishkes for cruciferous vegetables to increase the dish's antioxidant and health protective compound content, while you add some color contrast, crunch and a subtle sweetness. Here are the recipes to get you started, but feel free to get creative with what you get in the produce aisle or in the farmer's market. Experiment with herbs, spices, and feel free to make substitutions. It's hard to go wrong!

Healthier Cholent1

My Root Vegetable Cholent is the perfect combination of healthy root vegetables, spices and beef stew meat, preferably pasture raised. The spices add lots of good-for-you compounds, like turmeric, which is a nutritional powerhouse and smoked paprika. The cholent should cook for a minimum of 8 hours but can also be set before shabbat and eaten at lunch.

Healthier Kasha Varnishkes

Kasha with Brassica Vegetables is twist on the traditional  Eastern European kasha dish made by toasting buckwheat. Some people find it a bit bitter. If you prefer, you can use buckwheat groats (untoasted) for a milder flavor.  Either way, it makes a delicious, nutrient loaded and gluten free option. Brassica vegetables, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts and turnips have amazing cancer protective compounds, and you can interchange members of brassica vegetable family in this recipe, as you please.