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What Constitutes a “Healthy Diet”?

What Constitutes a “Healthy Diet”?

Recently I was asked, “What do you consider a healthy diet?” A “healthy diet” will look slightly different for each person, but as a general rule: A healthy diet is one that provides adequate nutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fluids) needed not 

Alternatives to TMJ Treatments

Alternatives to TMJ Treatments

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction impacts over 10 million Americans, causing pain, popping, or clicking in the joint; face and neck pain; headaches; difficulty chewing; irregularly worn down teeth; and constricted mouth opening. What causes TMJ? TMJ can be caused by several factors, or a combination 

Welcoming a Stranger in a Strange Land

Welcoming a Stranger in a Strange Land

Fulfilling the Jewish obligation to “welcome a stranger in a strange land,” I recently had the privilege and honor of leading a volunteer group that welcomed a refugee family of 8 from Afghanistan. With 6 children under age 13 in tow, the family traveled for 2 days to get to the US: Kabul-Dubai-Frankfurt-Houston-Dallas. One of just several suitcases with all of their belongings got lost in Frankfurt. In Houston the airline discovered one of their tickets had a name misspelled by one letter and they missed their flight to Dallas. Just one member speaks limited English, which I am sure contributed to feelings of inefficacy and fear: Before the ticketing issue was resolved, they panicked that they might be sent back to war-ravaged Kabul, where it would not be safe for their return. They eventually made it on the next flight and arrived later that evening to DFW, safe, exhausted, grateful, and smiling despite their ordeal getting there. They were welcomed by friends, old and new, and brought to their waiting apartment. 

Physical map of Afghanistan, by Sommerkom, http://www2.jpl.nasa.gov/srtm/index.html

This experience has given my family many opportunities to talk about how fortunate we are. That we are not in a situation where we need to fear for our safety, where we have resources and access to what we need, where we speak the language, and where we have not had to give up our old life for the unknown. And that we can offer support to others that are experiencing a rough road. Indeed, it is our obligation as fellow humans.

As part of our Welcome Team volunteer agreement through the resettlement agency, we were to provide a culturally appropriate meal upon the family’s arrival. This was a wonderful opportunity to explore the tastes and flavors of Afghanistan.

Located next to Pakistan, much of the culinary tradition shares flavors of Pakistan and India. Rice, wheat, barely, chickpeas, dates, mangoes, and onions are among the main crops. Tomatoes, yogurt, coriander, mint, dried fruits and nuts, lentils, chilis, turmeric, paprika, cinnamon, cumin, and cardamom are just some of the ingredients common to a variety of dishes.

When we chose a menu for this family’s arrival dinner, we tried to give them a taste of home. Feel free to peruse the menu and explore the recipes that we made. 

Afghan Salad
Cauliflower Curry
Borani Banjan (eggplant with yogurt sauce)
Kabuli Palaw, Afghanistan’s national dish, basmati rice topped with fried raisins, carrots, and pistachio nuts
Pita Bread
Rice Pudding topped with pistachios and shredded coconut

One of the old Kabuli friends that met up with the family said, “Hey, you cook food like us!” I hope this means the food brought the family some comfort after an extremely long voyage and gave them hope that they can still maintain their culture and traditions while living in a new land. 

I imagine the upcoming days and weeks will be a whirlwind for this family as they learn their neighborhood, reconnect with old friends from Kabul, find all of the surprises left for them throughout the apartment, and get connected with social services and supports and schools. 

Welcome to America, family. May you now have the opportunities available to grow and prosper and feel safe. It will be a hard road, especially at first, but hopefully easier than if you had remained in Kabul. And thank you for putting into perspective just how fortunate my family truly is. I am different on the other side of your journey, and will never forget this experience.

For more information about how your Dallas-based group can support refugees, contact Refugee Services of Texas

Fall Persimmon Salad with Ginger Citrus Dressing

Fall Persimmon Salad with Ginger Citrus Dressing

What better way to celebrate the end of fall than by eating in season? This beautiful salad features flavors from produce readily available this time of year in a rainbow of colors.  It’s as important to eat with our eyes as it is to taste 

Sweet Potato Latkes

Sweet Potato Latkes

Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, is a minor Jewish holiday. Due to its close proximity on the calendar to Christmas, it gets a lot more attention than may be warranted. Regardless, it’s fun. Hanukkah is filled with miracles. One is around oil: There was 

Honeyed Apple Tarte Tatin

Honeyed Apple Tarte Tatin

This traditional French dessert gets a Rosh Hashanah spin in this elegant and delicious finale.

Apples and honey are classic Rosh Hashanah fare: The apple symbolizes the relationship between Jews and God. Meanwhile, the honey is a symbol of sweetness for the upcoming year. They go together like peas and carrots, or Bert and Ernie.

I have been looking for an excuse to make a tarte tatin (or “taste Satin” according to autocorrect. Maybe it’s just that delicious it’s sinful…but I digress…). Rosh Hashanah seemed like the perfect opportunity.

I relied on the recipes of two other bloggers to bring this dish together, so instead of reprinting their recipes I will simply provide the links.

The caramelized apple ingredients list and instructions come from Veena Azmanov’s blog. Be sure to read the instructions carefully before beginning, as they are written in a non-traditional format. Meanwhile, the gluten-free crust comes from the Bojon Gourmet site. This crust was truly beautiful – light and buttery, nutty flavored yet subtle, and not pasty. Plus it doesn’t include eggs or a large amount of rice flour, which I was personally trying to avoid. I recommend working with it in between parchment sheets and you shouldn’t have any trouble rolling it out or transferring it into the pan to seal the apple-caramel deliciousness on the way to the oven.

A note on serving…

No fancy French dessert is truly complete without an accompaniment. If you have time, tarte tatin is traditionally served with a cream anglaise. But this doesn’t hold up well, and who has time to make a delicate custard sauce in the middle of serving your company dinner. Whipped cream spiked with vanilla, a touch of honey, and even a teaspoon of applejack will suffice. I promise.

Be sure to cook your apples in the syrup low and slow to allow them to caramelize. I found it easiest to flip the slices with a chop stick midway through cooking. I just reversed the spiral pattern. Also pack those slices in there as they cook down!

Bon appetite!

Preserved Lemon-Cilantro Sauce

Preserved Lemon-Cilantro Sauce

I was digging through my fridge trying to figure out what I was going to pair these zucchini-leek fritters with, when it hit me: Why not be inspired by the 10 lbs of preserved Meyer lemons resting in my fridge?! Yes, please. This creamy sauce 

Zucchini Leek Fritters

Zucchini Leek Fritters

We have been dealing with the Candida demons hardcore in my household. While the results have been great, finding delicious foods that the whole household enjoys has been a challenge. These zucchini-leek fritters dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. They are grain-free, 

Rosh Hashanah 2018

Rosh Hashanah 2018

It’s been a rough month. I was particularly grateful for the halt from the every day grind that Rosh Hashanah provided. Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish New Year, is a time for celebration. But it is also a time to dig deep spiritually and clear your conscience. It kicks off the Days of Awe leading into Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. So this is a solemn time, one earmarked for gathering with family and close friends and making amends, and apologizing for transgressions from the past year. It has been an amazing opportunity to reflect and consider how I want to live my life differently in the upcoming year. I’ll spare you those mundane details 🙂

Instead, I’ll share about food.
This year as we were invited to have Rosh Hashanah dinner with some dear friends. Since my family is currently dealing with multiple dietary needs, we brought along some dishes that we could share with everyone but that I knew would work especially well for us.

To our hosts’ traditional Jewish meal of round challah, brisket, matzo ball soup, apples & honey, fall-inspired tsimmis, and salad, we added zucchini-leek fritters with preserved lemon-cilantro sauce, gluten-free raisin challah, and honeyed apple tarte tatin.

Shana tova umetukah!

Soy Sauce Alternatives and Chinese Inspired Roasted Chicken

Soy Sauce Alternatives and Chinese Inspired Roasted Chicken

Chicken is one of my family’s favorite foods and they would eat it plain all day long. But I get sick of the same old. This is when I go to the pantry and hastily try to pull a few ingredients and mix them together