All Posts for May 2009

Kosher by Design Lightens Up by Susie Fishbein

Sunday, May 31st, 2009


Susie Fishbein has done it again! Last April (2008) I reviewed her book, Passover by Design, which actually can be used all year ’round. This year Susie has produced a lighter version of her recipes, which means I can use more of them in my own kitchen. Because kosher cookbooks keep meat and dairy recipes separate, I just focus on the meatless dishes, which are many, and skim over the other recipes to see if there are any in which I can substitute tofu or tempeh, instead of meat, poultry, or fish.

The first two pages set the tone for the book. First, Susie discusses what a kosher kitchen consists of, listing about eight items. (Those who do not keep kosher can use these or not.) For example, one requirement is that produce must be washed well and checked for insects. Not a bad idea for all of us! But cooking meat and dairy separately might be something you don’t want to do, so if you serve a meat dish from the cookbook and want to use cream in your coffee at the end of the meal, that’s your choice, unless you are kosher.

The “Lighten Up” page notes that the recipes are not about numbers or nutritional analysis, but rather about becoming a more “educated eater.“ I like that term. It does not take away from good tasting food. In fact, the author’s words are very clear. “I hope this book demonstrates that ‘delicious’ and ‘nutritious’ can coexist harmoniously on your plate. Healthy eating begins with healthy choices.” (p. 9) This statement echoes my own motto of “The Good Taste of Health” recipes that I post in Kitchen Nutrition.

Susie also includes a handy Supermarket Savvy section, listing what to avoid: high fructose corn syrup, saturated fat, trans fats, enriched flour, artificial coloring, monosodium glutamate, and nitrates. She notes one item to keep: resistant starch, a new term for me, defined as a fiber found in many carbohydrates such as barley, beans, and bananas, formed when foods are cooked and cooled. Because it resists digestion, it may be significant in weight loss by helping to allay hunger pangs because resistant starch gives a feeling of fullness.

These two pages are followed by three pages of helpful food and health definitions, one page on superfoods (Ex. dark chocolate with its flavenoids and antioxidants that have health benefits) and two pages to help you read labels or understand new terms, such as” locavore,” who is someone who eats only foods grown within a certain distance of his/her home. Then, starting on page 18, the author discusses in great detail the different kinds of flours used in healthy cooking, an explanantion of whole grains, oils, sweeteners, seeds and nuts, gadgets, and great ideas for entertaining. All of these sections are peppered with gorgeous color photos covering the entire page.

The first 40 pages are therefore a whole foods primer, something that has been the norm for natural foods cookbooks in the past, but a pleasant addition to mainstream cookbooks such as this. The information is easy-to-read, not intimidating, and user-friendly. Susie partnered with Bonnie Taub-Dix, spokesperson the American Dietetic Association, for much of this “technical” information.

Now to the cooking part of the book. As the back cover indicates, there are 145 new recipes with 175 full-color photos, as well as a cross-referenced index. The recipes start with Appetizers and conclude with desserts. What I like about Susie’s recipes is that she makes them personal, with mini-anecdotes about how a particular recipe came about or with information on the main ingredient itself.

My favorite section is the one entitled Side Dishes. For me, these approximately 40 pages are worth the entire cost of the book, because these are the ones that reflect more of my ideas about health and taste. Susie has a flair with her dishes that pushes my standards up a notch or two. While some of the recipes are more “busy” than my style, I am encouraged to try them because they sound delicious!

Kosher by Design Lightens Up is available in book stores for $35.99. Its subtitle: “Fabulous Food for a Healthier Lifestyle” makes it a perfect gift for yourself or for someone who wants to eat more healthfully and doesn’t know where to start. Start with this book!

Note: I will feature one or two of Susie’s recipe in one of my June Kitchen Nutrition with Recipes posting. I believe it will be either Portobello Asparagus Salad or Summer Harvest Quinoa, because I love asparagus and I also love quinoa (Keen-wa). If you use chicken stock and not the water for the liquid, it has to be served with a meat meal, if you are kosher. Watch for one or both recipes soon.

Take Time to Smell the Roses—-and Honor Fallen Soldiers

Monday, May 25th, 2009

My older daughter and grandson sent me a lovely bouquet for Mother’s Day. (See photo below.) The flowers came as buds and have begun to open. The fragrance from these lillies is so strong that within three feet of the vase, I begin to be seduced by their “perfume.” It reminded of the saying about taking time to smell the roses, because too often we are so busy in our lives that we don’t stop to savor the moments of special significance or even everyday significance.


In the book I reviewed last week (see Book Reviews), The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices, there is a long epilogue that tackles the topic: “From Walden to Wal-Mart: Consumers and Their Critics.” The article notes that the thread that runs through Thoreau’s critique is, “that we not only don’t need all the stuff we have but it actually gets in the way of living the good life….” (p. 180.) To me, flowers are integral to the “good life.”


(As the daffodils and tulips wane, azaleas come into bloom. Mother Nature has a great sense of timing!)

Maybe taking time to smell the roses can also mean literally focusing on flowers for the beauty and fragrance they emit as you plant them, cut them for your vase, or just go to gardens and take pictures, as I do on vacations or when I walk around the neighborhood. By focusing on the beauty of the flowers, I am taking a step back from the hectic schedule I sometimes create, and I surrender to the fact that flowers are here for us to enjoy, with no hidden agenda. Or as this quote states, “Flowers… are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1844.


Once the azaleas fade, the rhodendruns take their turn at dazzling us!

One way to step away from some of the minutia of everyday life is actually taking the time to smell the flowers by keeping them close at hand. When I lived in Israel for one year, every Friday before Shabbat, members of the kibbutz would pick flowers from their gardens and bring them to the dinner table. It was called “Prachot beshvil Shabbat,” or Flowers for the Sabbath. It was a small gesture packed with so much meaning for the Israelis that I often buy flowers “just because.” Flowers in my apartment, along with the plants along our long, low windowsills in the living room and dining room make me feel that even though we live in an urban setting, we are surrounded by natural beauty. They feed my soul and are a feast for my eyes and nose.


While you cannot smell the flowers here, hopefully you will enjoy them visually and run right out and pick or buy your own bouquet to smell! Even though buying flowers might seem like a “frill” in these difficult economic times, the lift they give, starting at less than $10.00 a bunch, seems like a positive mental health act that helps counteract some of the “gloom and doom” we read about or see in the media.

Finally, while taking time to smell the roses, take some time to remember those who have fallen in all the wars that “civilized people” can’t seem to avoid. While you may not support the war, you can remember the troops who have fought and fallen in previous wars and are now fighting in Iraq. The photos below are from the cemetery up the street from our condo, and my husband says that the dozens of flags next to the flowers each represent a soldier who has died in Iraq, and sadly, the number of flags grows larger each year.


This final photo is also from the local cemetery and is my commemoration to Memorial Day. While many of us, including myself, use this day to have a picnic, visit friends, or even shop, let’s not forget what Memorial Day really means—a tribute to soldiers from all the wars.