Over twenty years ago, Nechama Cohen suddenly began to exhibit severe symptoms of diabetes. “Although I had to do some very rapid nutritional research and it was very hard in the beginning, I always say that my diabetes is a blessing.
“I was forced to confront the sheer reality that I was responsible for feeding myself properly. I had to confront my own ignorance, and I had to dodge the ignorance of the medical profession, who kept me in intensive care feeding me potatoes to raise my potassium levels, while my blood sugars kept skyrocketing. That’s because we now know that potatoes translate into sugar faster than even regular table sugar!
“Diabetes totally changed my life, and as a result I founded the JDA (Jewish Diabetes Association), which caters to the specific needs of the Jewish population- we are a nation of highly traditional eaters. Every single celebration and landmark life cycle event, whether personal or historical, is established with festive meals.
“Our eating requirements are intimately bound up with our religion, culture, and ethnic identity. A Jewish person with diabetes needs to learn how to navigate their way through all these eating opportunities, and stay in control of their blood sugar levels. Go and try to explain to a doctor why you absolutely have to have 4 cups of wine at one meal and a given amount of matzah. I do not know if anybody knew the carbohydrate content of matzah balls until JDA came along!
“The holidays are an integral part of Jewish life. One of my favorite parts about them is that they afford me the opportunity to spend time with my family and friends, creating many cherished memories,” says Cohen. “And much of this time, especially during Passover, is spent sitting down together for festive meals.”
Preparing traditional Passover fare can be as daunting and overwhelming as crossing the red sea. For those trying to live a healthy lifestyle or facing health issues it is even more of a concern and searching for appropriate recipes, especially when looking for healthier, low carb/low fat recipes, proves almost futile. However equipped with leading-edge nutritional information, basic skills and a cache of Pesach recipes from Feldheim’s newly released EnLITEned Kosher Cooking by Nechama Cohen, this year we can really sail through.
Passover meals, along with the food requirements that traditionally come with a Seder, entail serious changes in food choices, quantities, and even eating times. These changes and challenges are overwhelming for everyone and can be an even more serious source of worry for people who follow specific dietary regimens. The more than 250 recipes in the book cover all Jewish holidays and celebrations, including Passover, for which Cohen provides an extensive section with recipes that make it easy to enjoy delicious foods along with everyone else. Cohen has also designed an additional 140 recipes throughout the cookbook that are suitable for Passover. (A list of these recipes can be found at www.feldheim.com and www.jewishdiabetes.org, where readers can view additional information on diabetes and Passover.)
We are living in a time when according to alarming new findings from the National Institute of Health, Diabetes and diabetes related health issues have more than tripled over the last ten years and are growing increasingly out of hand. As many as a third of American adults with Type 2 diabetes do not even know that they have the disease. There is increasing evidence that ethnic groups are at even higher risk than the general population.
So what are we to do when it comes to enjoying a holiday such as Passover to the fullest?
The Following are just a few of: Nechama’s Tips For an EnLITEned Healthy Pesach (Passover):
Tips to Help Get You Through Passover Preparation, the Holiday and Beyond
How do we eat erev (day before) Pesach (Passover)?
I consider this one of the most challenging days of the year. My advice is to start the day early (before the time when we are no longer allowed to eat chametz (unleavened food not allowed on Passover)) with a good high fiber/complex carbohydrate like oat/wheat bran—psychologically it is important to eat something chametz and it will help you get through the rest of the day. Continue your day with good quality proteins and vegetables (not a can of tuna); treat yourself to some of those yummy dishes that you worked so hard to prepare for the holiday
Good Substitutes for High Carb Potatoes:
Kohlrabi in soup and meat stews is great—in place of fried or mashed potatoes try zucchini strips either roasted in the oven with good seasonings, non-stick spray and/or in a non-stick pan. For a mashed potato effect without the high carb content, string beans or broccoli and cauliflower are great for those that use them on Pesach
Don’t Sacrifice Exercise Time:
One of the beautiful parts of holidays is the family quality time that it provides us with. Make walks a part of that quality time—it is the beginning of spring—the flowers are blooming the birds are chirping—put your cell phones away and take walks—even 15-20 minute ones—with your kids or friends—you’ll come back invigorated and ready to continue working.
Cut Simple Carbs & Fats Wherever You Can:
If you have a craving for some simple sugars see the cookbook for alternative suggestions. Any carbs you cut out is a penny earned. Go for the healthy filling fats like nuts, avocado etc they are satisfying for a longer time span…but watch the portion sizes. Grape juice is one simple carb that really gets used over Passover. Think about preparing a good quality dry or semi dry wine. Try to get whole-wheat matzah—the fiber will help keep you satisfied and more. (For more about the wine, matzo and other Passover/diabetes related issues go to our magazine section on our website at: www.jewishdiabetes.org and check out our Passover magazine)
Excuses, Excuses, Excuses:
Whether it’s a sluggish metabolism, lack of time or a dysfunctional thyroid, we’re masters at coming up with excuses. Change your outlook, believe you can watch yourself and get through this Holiday nutritionally sound (make the time, decompress, whatever) and set priorities accordingly.
Walk, Walk, Walk!
If you encounter a mob at the supermarket, things are getting out of hand at home, your becoming overwhelmed……Whenever you can get in 10-15 minutes of brisk walking go for it—remember it’s spring the air is crisp, the birds are chirping, leave your cell phone at home or in the car and enjoy! Remember that this is one of the most monumental and important holidays, make it memorable for yourself and everyone around you, make it the best you can!
When You are Exhausted, Sleep, Don’t Eat!
The following recipes are excerpts from EnLITEned Kosher Cooking by Nechama Cohen with permission from Feldheim Publishers. The healthy Passover tips were provided by Nechama Cohen courtesy of the Jewish Diabetes Association. In addition to our beautiful Passover section there are an additional 140 plus recipes throughout the book usable for Passover as is. To see the detailed list, purchase the book and for more info go to www.feldheim.com, for more information on diabetes got to www.jewishdiabetes.org where you can view a detailed Passover guide for diabetes.
Passover Blintzes (Crepes) and “Noodles”
Carb Free, Low Fat / Yield: 12 crepes or 2 cups noodles
These marvelous crepes are great on Passover and all year round. Once you get the hang of it, they really are easy to make. You can also use this recipe to make kosher for Passover noodles.
- 7 eggs plus 7 egg whites
- 1½ Tablespoons potato starch
- ½ cup water, divided
- 1½ Tablespoons olive oil (or walnut oil for sweet blintzes)
- non-stick cooking spray
- salt and pepper to taste
- Beat eggs and egg whites together with salt and set aside.
- Mix potato starch with part of the water to form a smooth paste. Add the rest of the water and beaten eggs and mix well. Add remaining ingredients and mix well again. (A blender or food processor is handy for mixing the batter, but be careful to mix just until blended. Over-mixing will create a foam that must be removed, or it will affect the texture of the finished crepes.)
- Transfer batter to a pitcher that is wide enough to allow mixing.
- When the pan is hot, lower the heat to medium and pour in 1/4 -1/2 cup of batter. Tilt pan to cover the bottom and pour any extra batter back into the pitcher. This will ensure very thin blintzes.
- As soon as the batter is firm, loosen the edges and turn over onto a dish towel or slightly greased piece of aluminum foil. Then return it to the pan to cook on the other side. (You can flip it with a spatula, but most people find it easier to turn it out and then return it to the frying pan.) Cook on the second side for no more than a few seconds and remove to a towel.
- Before making the next crepe, mix batter with a fork in order to blend in any potato starch that settles.
- Heat olive oil and non-stick spray in an 8-inch, non-stick frying pan. Pour off extra oil into a dish. Keep a paper towel in this dish to use for wiping the pan after every few crepes (this helps keep the amount of oil needed down to a minimum), or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
Unless you’re a real pro, the first 1 or 2 blintzes will probably not come out easily and will tear.
- When blintzes are cool, roll up a few at a time and slice into ultra-thin strips.
- For smaller noodles, slice down the length as well.
- Allow noodles to dry a bit and then store in an airtight container or plastic bags. These freeze well.
For Crepes (Blintzes):
- Use the filling of your choice (see next page) and either fold the crepe around it blintz-style (like an envelope) or roll up.
The unfilled crepes freeze well, either stacked or in layers divided by wax paper.
- You can certainly use the standard mashed-potato filling, but if you want a lower carb count and something more interesting, here are a few suggestions:
- Low-carb potato: Mix equal amounts of cooked potato with cooked cauliflower and some fried onions. Add salt to taste.
- Meat: Mix ground meat and/or chicken with fried onions and seasoning.
- Apple: Grate apples; add sugar substitute, cinnamon and ground nuts.
- Nut: Beat 1 egg white just until shiny and starting to stiffen. Add ground nuts to form a paste. Add sugar substitute, cinnamon (optional) and juice from half a lemon.
- Cheese: Mix farmer cheese with 1 beaten egg white, sugar substitute, cinnamon and vanilla flavoring.
- Tip: If you’re cooking for a crowd and want to save time, use a large frying pan and make extra-large crepes. Pile up cooled crepes, slicing off the sides to use for noodles. You will be left with nice-sized rectangles that can be used for folded blintzes.
- Serving size 1 crepe/2–3 Tablespoons noodles – 1 oz. (30 g),
- Calories: 37, Protein: 3.1 g, Carbs: 0.7 g, Fat: 2.3 g, Sat. Fat: 0.6 g, Cholesterol: 85 mg, Sodium: 37 mg, Calcium: 11 mg, Fiber: 0 g
- Exchanges: Lean protein ½
Fresh and Natural Applesauce
Low Carb, Fat Free
Yields: 20 servings
It’s hard to go back to store-bought applesauce after tasting this delicious, refreshing dessert. The trick to this great dish is tea bags. Be daring and try a variety of different flavors.
- 10 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced into eighths
- Juice of half a lemon
- Dash of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 to 4 flavored tea bags of your choice
- Sugar substitute, optional
- For fruit compote: use fruit of choice
- Place apples in a 5-quart pot.
- Add lemon juice, salt, vanilla, tea bags and water, covering not more than half the apples so that the end result will not be too watery.
- Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until apples are soft.
- Hand-blend and mash to desired consistency.
- For additional sweetness, you can add sugar substitute.
- For a crunchy fruit compote: Bring ingredients to a boil and cook on high heat for 7 minutes. Turn off heat and cover. Let stand overnight. In the morning, put into a jar and refrigerate. This can be frozen in an airtight container.
- For a strawberry-rhubarb apple compote: Add 11/2 cups of sliced strawberries and 1 cup of sliced rhubarb to the apples. Rhubarb is quite tart, so add sugar substitute according to taste. Blend well and refrigerate.
- For cinnamon applesauce: Add 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon to blended apples. For a beautiful crimson color, as well as additional flavor and fiber, add 1-1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries.
- Serving size – ½ (cup) 2⅔ (oz) 80 (g)
- Calories 34, Protein 0.1 g, Carbs 8 g, Fat 0.2 g, Sat. Fat 0 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium 0 mg, Calcium 5 mg, Fiber 0 g
- Exchanges: Fruit 3/4
About The Jewish Diabetes Association
The Jewish Diabetes Association (JDA) was founded in 1985, less than one year after Nechama’s diagnoses of diabetes. What began as a small support group in her home has now grown to an inter-continental organization with a growing world- wide membership. JDA is a leader in bringing the public the message about the correlation between obesity and diabetes, and the higher risk factors in the Jewish population. The JDA Connection for Healthy Living is proud and grateful to bring to the public this landmark book of Enlitened Kosher cooking. Please visit our website at: www.jewishdiabetes.org
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.