Jewish Community

Feeding your family well on Shavuos – Simply and Sanely!

The way Shavuot falls this year (10 days from now) we are looking at a three day yuntov. Because of the length and because it starts with Shabbat, I really have to keep my menus simple to maintain my sanity. I encourage you to do the same! You’ll also want to do as much prep ahead of time as possible.

I have two suggestions to simplify your menu.

  1. Make one big dish and supplement it with a side salad and rainbow vegetable platter. For your big main dish, consider my vegan enchilada casserole or vegan gluten-free lasagna. I promise you won’t be able to tell that either dish is gluten-free or sans cheese. In addition, both of these dishes can be put together before Shabbat and yuntov and then baked fresh for lunch. You can also bake them ahead of time and reheat for your meal.

2016-04-18 09.35.12 Substitution is Your Strategy Story JFE forward region

  1. Another simple strategy is to let your guests customize their own meal. For example, see a previous year’s Shavuot blog with a “make your own” Taco Bar and Jicama Mango Salad. Two other Mexican options include a “make your own” nachos (which you can then bake fresh if you want to melt real or vegan cheese on top) or fajitas.

2015-10-13 12.15.14 2014-05-01 18.37.21

Two Italian “make your own” options include pizza and a pasta (try whole grain or bean options) bar. Kids are often a focus on Shavuot. Let them enjoy their lunch and feel like they made their own meal, instead of being told what to eat. You’ll give them a number of healthy choices for toppings, such as baby spinach, sautéed mushrooms, black olives, fresh and roasted peppers, etc…

Here is an easy side salad suggestion from The Healthy Family, Healthy You Cookbook:

Colorful Company Salad

Serves 6-8

2013-09-22 17.53.27

It doesn’t get any easier than this! I’m always looking out for you – easy, healthy and fast! I love this salad and don’t think it even needs dressing. However, feel free to add some if you like. You can also feel free to play around with the proportions of ingredients.

2 cups corn canned, frozen, or fresh cooked corn (cut off the cob)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, to taste
1 red pepper, diced
1 mango, diced
1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half

Combine all ingredients, except for the tomatoes, and stir. Cover the top of the salad with the sliced tomatoes. If you really want to impress your guests, use a mixture of yellow and red grape tomatoes.


2014-07-06 18.12.42

For dessert, let the kids make their own chocolate covered strawberries or banana bites. My sis Lani’s fig salad is also always a hit and particularly refreshing after days of heavy dairy foods.

Good yuntov!


A Spring without Zombies!

2016-04-17 18.19.02 2016-04-17 18.19.03 2016-04-17 18.19.09

I’m not one to tell my kids to go outside and play. Why? I don’t like to play outside! If they’re out there, I have to be too (Call me crazy but I don’t enjoy Maryland gnats buzzing about my head). However, I recently realized that I had to do something to combat the slow screen-addicted zombie-ification of myself and my family. Discovering a sense of wonder (missing in the Google age) for something other than new toy videos on YouTube is definitely a healthy habit for children AND adults. I decided to force that discovery and took advantage of a once a year phenomena to get us out there. (You can see the results above. A lot better than fighting over the remote!)

Washingtonians are often aware of seasonal use it or lose it events because D.C.  is home to the famous cherry blossoms. They bloom once per year (we never know for sure when) and are only at their peak for a short time. Some years I make it. Some years I don’t.

This year I found a pocket of unscheduled time on a Sunday afternoon and took my kids on a drive to see the cherry blossoms. I was so eager not to miss them that I went even though I had heard news reports that it was still early in their blooming process. Alas, the trees were still in bud stage. It was quite the tease. I could clearly imagine the billowy pink canopy coming soon, but couldn’t quite feel or experience it.

Once they were in bloom, I simply couldn’t find an unscheduled hour (during daylight) to get back there. Their peak happened to fall during Purim, one of the busiest times of the year for us; filled with making and delivering mishloach manot, dressing up in costumes, attending the requisite parties (I know, it’s a hard life!) and Megillah (Book of Esther) readings, there just wasn’t time for much else.

When I saw tulips sprouting on neighborhood lawns, I started stalking the website and hotline of a local garden (Brookside). After receiving confirmation that the tulips were out, the only time I had to take my family was on an already packed Sunday.  I planned for us to enjoy a picnic lunch. Our other obligations quickly overtook the day and any window of time to go kept getting smaller. My husband, kids and mom were asking if it had to be that day, what’s the big deal and weren’t we simply too busy and tired that day? I dug in my heels. I missed the cherry blossoms this year. Last year, worse than missing the tulips at the gardens, I got there late – when they were all in various stages of decay. That was so much more disappointing than finding the cherry blossoms as buds.

After all the various, “I have to go to the bathroom” (that was me – and we were there so late the restrooms were closed) and “I need a drink of water,” and “I’m hungry” delays…I told everyone to put one foot in front of the other. We were going to walk until we saw those damn tulips. And we did. The kids, my husband and mom, were equally excited to spot and compare the different colors and varieties. 2016-04-17 18.13.51 2016-04-17 18.13.55

My children played with other kids around the pools and fountains. They clearly understood why I had pushed them to get out of the house, make the long drive and walk through the gardens. Everyone left a bit more relaxed and contented than when we arrived. They both played butterfly on the metal butterfly bench.

2016-04-17 18.23.59 2016-04-17 18.43.25-3

Now, if only I could end the (so far) 7 year streak I’ve missed ordering and planting tulips in time to have them in my own yard for spring.

I have the (bad?) luck that my two favorite flowers, the aforementioned tulips, and Lily of the Valley, come and go in rapid succession and aren’t easily available other times of the year.

In fact, because Passover was a month later than usual this year, I was worried I would miss the Lily of the Valley due to bloom in my back yard. (No, I didn’t get it together to buy seeds and plant them. I had the good fortune to move into a house where it already grew.) I found them in full bloom the day I returned and quickly filled my kitchen with their sweet scent.

2016-05-02 09.32.26

There is some good in being able to find almost anything on YouTube or Google. I can show my children a rare animal or a plant that doesn’t grow here or grow now. However, there is something unique and valuable about savoring a tactile nature-related experience available only once per year. You can’t smell or touch flowers online – at least not yet.

We can teach our children to savor the season on a regular basis by paying attention to the seasons and their associated physical changes and rich bounties.

Now, excuse me while I go pull out my seed catalogues…

Mega Pesach Post/Anytime Spa Menu!

Even if you don’t celebrate Passover, these recipes are light and delicious.

Your Healthy Pesach Toolkit is here!

  1. Nice thoughts for a great week and previous Passover posts with tons of healthy recipes and tips! (from last week)
    and below…tools 2-4
  2. Your Spa-like Passover Menu – 2 new HFHY veggie recipes – and my favorite healthy Passover recipes from around the web
  3. A Super Duper Helpful Vegan Passover Cookbook
  4. Spiralizer recipes and ideas. Free e-cookbook.



Because you deserve a healthy week!

I made this for Shabbat a few weeks ago, without the greens, as it reminded me of a salad I’ve bought before at the deli. I didn’t have time to go there so I made it up myself. I then made it with the greens for my cousin’s bridal shower. There were about two bites left from the gigantic bowl.

The Caterer’s Salad
Serves: 15-20 (to lower the servings, simply lower the amount of greens you use)

cherry-tomatoes-1317889-639x958 artichoke-1057520 salad


1 very large box mixed baby spinach and spring mix salad (or other greens if you prefer)
1 can sliced hearts of palm (Depending on the size of the slices, you may want to slice the slices in half).
1 can quartered artichoke hearts
1 can sliced black olives
1 or 2 pints cherry tomatoes, sliced
1 bottle Italian dressing (As natural as possible! I’m not recommending a specific brand here because what you can use will depend on whether you’re making this salad for Passover or during the rest of the year. I recently used Brianna (newly hechshered!) French Vinaigrette and it was amazing. However, that won’t work for Passover. I may just make my own.)


Place the greens on the bottom of a large salad bowl. Place the rest of the ingredients on the top of the greens. Pour on some dressing (Start with half a cup? I didn’t measure. You should be able to eyeball this.) and toss gently. Add more dressing and mix again if needed. Remember, you can always add, but you can’t take away.


Easiest. Side. Dish. Ever. Only 3 ingredients.

Baby Spinach with Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins


How much spinach and other ingredients you use will depend on how many people you are feeding. Just remember that spinach cooks down A LOT.

Serves: as many as you need/just increase ingredients…


Fresh baby spinach
Pine nuts (Start with a handful and then go up to ¼ cup, depending on how much spinach you are using)
Golden raisins (Start with a handful and then go up to ¼ cup, depending on how much spinach you are using).


Dry toast the pine nuts in a non-stick pan until fragrant but barely browned, stirring often.

Cook spinach on the stove in your largest sauté pan, with 1 Tablespoon of water. Depending on how much you are making, you may have to do this in batches, taking out the cooked spinach and placing it in your serving bowl or storage container, as you go. Just fill up the pan with spinach to start. Simply place the top on your pan and let it steam for a few minutes, then stir.

Be sure to stir every few minutes so that all of the spinach is cooked, not just what’s on the bottom. I like to use a large sauté pan I have with a clear top. Then I know exactly what’s going on in there and when I need to stir. After each batch is done, take it out and start with a new batch of raw spinach and new tablespoon of water.


Other tasty recipes from around the web…

Orange Pistachio Quinoa Ever since I found this for last Passover, I have been making this Quinoa as much as I can get away with it, without my guests and family getting sick of it.

Raw mock tuna  from Jennifer Cornbleet. For kitniyot purposes, I’m going to substitute cashews for the sunflower seeds.

Chocolate truffle pie from Mayim Bialik. This is seriously crack! Make at your own peril!


TOOL #3 A Super Duper Helpful Vegan Passover Cookbook

My huge discovery last year: I wasn’t the only one trying to be vegan on Passover. Even better, this fabulous gal, Rena Reich, of, wrote a cookbook for it! (For a quick kitniyot meal this week, see my guest post on her blog, 10 minute Taco Bar.)

Vegan Start Passover Cookbook: Eat Well on Pesach!

I have the Kindle edition, which was the only one offered last year. This year, both are updated and there is also a print option. These are also super handy if you are NOT vegan, but are allergic to eggs.

As Mara from always writes, Amazon pricing can change on a dime, so please confirm prices before you check-out. I got mine for a great price, but check the widget (picture) for the current price. Also, if you have an Ad Blocker installed on your web browser, you will need to pause it in order to see the widgets.

My favorite recipes include:

  1. Potato Kugel (I had to stop making this all-year-round. It was too good and I was eating too much!)
  2. Carrot Kugel
  3. Matzo Meal Pancakes


 Spiralizer recipes and ideas. Free e-cookbook.Spiralizing for Passover

I ordered THIS spiralizer and got 3 FREE e-cookbooks (sent to me over the course of a few days) to go with it. For my purposes, only the first one was helpful, but if you are NOT vegan and you ARE into Paleo, you’ll also love the other two. In the first spiralizer e-cookbook, a large number of the veggie-centric recipes can be used for Pesach, although of course a number of them do contain kitniyot as it isn’t a kosher for Passover, or even kosher, cookbook. However, most recipes involve veggies that will work for Pesach.

Quick idea from the book: Cucumber noodles, lemon juice and zest with cumin and sea salt to taste

Quick idea from me: Spiralized carrot noodles with golden raisins and cinnamon, fresh-squeezed juice of 1 orange

As Mara from always writes, Amazon pricing can change on a dime, so please confirm prices before you check-out. I got mine for a great price, but check the widget (picture) for the current price. Also, if you have an Ad Blocker installed on your web browser, you will need to pause it in order to see the widgets.

Chag Sameach!  You can look forward to my Mother’s Day Menu right after Pesach ends. Hope to “see” you one more time before or during Passover.

In the meantime, if you have questions or suggestions, or just something fun to share, meet me over on my Facebook page!