Lose Weight the Kosher Way

Oct. 28, 2012 – 220 lb. Maximum weight. Apr. 15, 2013 – 208 lb. Start Medifast. Jul. 15, 2013 – 168 lb. Begin transition. Aug.  5, 2013 – 164 lb. End transition. Mar. 14, 2014 – 158 lb. Attained goal. Jan. 29, 2015 - 160 lb. Current weight.

Oct. 28, 2012 – 220 lb. Maximum weight.
Apr. 15, 2013 – 208 lb. Start Medifast.
Jul. 15, 2013 – 168 lb. Begin transition.
Aug. 5, 2013 – 164 lb. End transition.
Mar. 14, 2014 – 158 lb. Attained goal.
Jan. 29, 2015 – 160 lb. Current weight.

The Medifast diet has been my key to weight-loss success. I lost over 50 pounds and I have kept it off.

As long as I can remember I have had a problem with my weight. I tried a number of diets — including Atkins and Weight Watchers — with some success, but they all required a level of self-deprivation which I could not sustain, and inevitably I would regain any weight I might have lost.

Last Spring, my daughter was pestering me to try the Medifast diet, telling me how well she was doing on it. Needless to say, I was extremely skeptical given my experiences in the past. However, Gabby is quite persistent, so I let her place an order for me figuring I would try it for a few days  and when it failed, I would give any leftover food to her since it was working for her. (She went on to lose 60 pounds or about one-third of her weight!)

Despite my half-hearted commitment to the program, I immediately saw weight loss day after day, and I was surprised by how easy it was.

More after the jump.

On the Medifast diet, you eat low-carb portion-controlled meals every three hours plus a small “lean and green” meal (fresh vegetables and proteins) along with some optional snacks. I soon realized that the only times I was actually hungry was when by force of habit I neglected to eat for three hours.

There are about 70 different pre-portioned meals to choose from. Most of these are certified Kosher by the Orthodox Union. (Note that the “Vegetable Chili” is not listed since it contains beef stock and should be avoided by vegetarians and observant Jews.)

Some food is ready-to-eat (candy bars, pretzels and the like) and some requires preparation in a blender, microwave or stove-top. Each meal has similar nutritional values, so you can pick whichever one piques your interest, or even combine them to increase the variety of possible dishes using recipes that can be found online at fan websites. For example, you can combine pancake mix and brownie mix to make chocolate cake, or banana smoothie mix with pancake mix to make banana bread.

When I would see someone having a high-calorie treat like ice cream, pizza, muffins, pretzels or candy bars, I wouldn’t be jealous. Instead I would say “That is a good idea. I can do that too. I think I’ll grab a Medifast Caramel Crunch Bar” or mix up some soft-serve ice cream with Medifast powder in a blender or fry up a Medifast pancake with chocolate chips. Instead other people would be jealous of me seeing me eat what looks like a candy bar in the middle of the morning or afternoon. People might think I am glutton for eating all the time, but what do I care when I know that I am moving from “obese” to “overweight” to “normal”.

The Kaiserman JCC held their “Biggest Winner” contest during this time and I was proud to take 1st place having lost 14.83% of my weight during the contest.

As I reentered the “normal” zone, I used the Medifast transition plan for about a month, and have now successfully maintained my healthy weight for the last few months.

Gabby has now become a Medifast coach and is helping other people achieve their weight loss goals on her website. The coaching is free. You only have to pay for the food.

Weight loss has changed our lives and we would love to share our success. If you or anyone you know is struggling with his or her weight, please contact me or Gabby. We would be delighted to help.


The New Home-Made Gazoz

— by Ronit Treatman

In primeval times, the earliest humans enjoyed effervescent water from springs in which sodium carbonate from underground rocks dissolved into the water. This created the first natural soda.  

In the 18th century, Joseph Priestly discovered that holding a bowl of water over a vat of beer would infuse the water with carbon dioxide. This was the first homemade seltzer water.

Soda syphons were invented in the 1800s. These were special bottles that could dispense soda without releasing all of the trapped gases, and kept the soda from going flat. Syphons were very popular in the 1920s and 1930s.  

During World War II, the syphon factories in Europe were bombed. Carbonated water began to be commercially bottled and marketed, and soda syphons fell out of favor.

Recipe after the jump.

Soda syphons fell out of favor in Europe after World War II.

In Israel, however, soda syphons remained popular well into the 1960s. The soda they produced was called gazoz. As a special treat, children were allowed to mix the plain seltzer water with a sweetened fruit syrup concentrate.  

Now the pendulum is swinging back: Due to concern for the environmental impact of disposable soda containers, many people are returning to the tradition of making their own seltzer water at home. Instead of adding the sugar-laden syrups of the past, they are flavoring their sodas with fresh fruit.

I initiated the switch in my house by purchasing a soda-making machine from Sodastream. I chose the SodaStream Penguin Sparkling Water Maker. It comes with dishwasher-safe glass bottles. Once it arrived, it was time to get creative and make some delicious sodas.

Some of the most refreshing drinks I know are called aguas frescas, “fresh waters” in Spanish. They are made with natural tropical fruit juices, mixed with cold water. I saw no reason why this would not taste even better with carbonated water.  

Where would I get all the fresh tropical fruits that I craved in February in Philadelphia? I decided to reach straight to the source: Goya Foods sells unsweetened tropical fruit pulp. The fruits are picked at the peak of ripeness, and processed on the spot. The pulp is frozen to lock in the flavor, and then shipped to the U.S.

Here is an easy recipe for aguas frescas. I like my drinks tart, but you may sweeten yours with natural grape or apple juice. Goya Foods sells the pulp of passion fruit, papaya, mango, tamarind, guava, and coconut, among others.  

Passion Fruit Gazoz

  • 1 tablespoon passion fruit pulp
  • 1 cup of sparkling water
  • 1 tablespoon grape or apple juice (or other juice to taste)
  • ice cubes
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a glass.  
  2. Stir well and enjoy!

Make Food Fun for Kids!

— by Sarina Roffé

We get so many of our eating habits from when we are children, that it is important to teach them good habits at a young age. It seems that childhood obesity has become a national epidemic. In my granddaughter’s school this year, junk food was forbidden with lunch. The rule was a protein, a veggie and a fruit. No chips, pretzels or cookies. Lunches became more difficult when the school became a peanut free zone, and we now had to think harder about lunches. The no snack rule permeated the school and because it was a school-wide, the children learned not to expect junk food. Teaching children these good habits helps them to live a healthier lifestyle. It also helps your children avoid being overweight.

More after the jump.
There are many ways to make healthy food fun for your child. A few hints. Make sandwiches fun by using cookie cutters and letting them cut out shapes in their sandwiches. Slice carrots and use cherry tomatoes or other veggies to make faces on a sandwich. Use strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and banana slices to make food art – a butterfly, or caterpillar. Make faces out of rice cakes using apple slices for ears. Make orange juice ice pops during the summer. As parents, it is our responsibility to promote healthy eating in our children so that it becomes a habit. Check out the recipes on our website and in our app, due out later this summer.

Sarina’s Sephardic Cuisine is a collection of kosher family recipes derived from Esther Cohen Salem, Sarina’s grandmother, and Renee Salem Missry, her mother. The authentic recipes in the cooking app were handed down from mother to daughter with love and are traditional foods found in the Levant.

Italians Fall in Love With Jewish Goose Salami

— by Daniela Enriquez

One of Italy’s newest culinary trends is coming from an unexpected source: the country’s Jewish heritage.

The Cantone family, which has been producing goose salami for more than 40 years, wrote in its website that the connection between the area of Lomellina, Italy and the sausage is dating back to the 11th century.

Today, Italian goose salami is becoming much more popular, and even has a group of aficionados.

An Italian journalist and visiting scholar at the Center for Transatlantic Relations in Washington, D.C., Daniel Moro, said that “Italian goose salami is better than the meat from France.”

More after the jump.
For the last three years, The Brunoldi Ceci Association organized an annual “Jewish Style Lunch” in Lomellina to showcase the trend, with the help of other institutions, such as the Order of the Frog and Goose Salami of Lomellina.

In the latest event, last November, the attendance more than doubled compared to the previous year: about 100 participants, 80% of whom non-Jews. Except for Moro, the president of the Jewish Agency in Italy, Claudia De Benedetti, was also present.

This event is part of the “Traditions and Traces of Jewish Cuisine” initiative, which focuses on the strong link between Northern Italy, in particular the area between Milan and Turin, and the tradition of making goose salami.

Locals showed strong interest in this tradition, as they have finally discovered the origin of the “Jewish Pork,” which they have been eating for centuries.

The Brunoldi Ceci Association’s spokesperson, Gianluca Cominetti, said, “We owe the success of our initiative to the strong link that exists between Jewish cuisine and our land.”

Following the pattern of the past two events, everything about the lunch was “goose based,” with dishes made of geese exclusively from the Lomellina area:

Synagogue of Casale Monferrato.

The lunch began with an appetizer of goose liver and salami. A goose and bean risotto constituted the first dish, and stewed goose with polenta was served as the second.

The meal was accompanied by kosher Italian wines: Bonarda Croatina, Bonarda Donelasco and Barbera del Monferrato Kasher.

Topping off the meal was the traditional Krumiri, a biscotti home-made by the Rossi-Portinaro family since 1878.

The event was concluded with a guided tour of the Synagogue of Casale Monferrato.

Moro said that “plans for exporting these kosher products to the U.S., in particular goose salami, are in the works. In fact, Italy already exports kosher Italian wines and biscotti to the New World.”

Tahini-Carrot Cake for Tu B’Shvat

— by Ronit Treatman

During the holiday of Tu B’Shvat, the “New Year of the Trees,” it is always freezing in Philadelphia. I enjoy celebrating with foods that incorporate dry fruits and nuts, to honor the trees, and in hopes that spring will arrive soon.  

One of Israel’s most creative chefs, Yaron Albalak, has created a cake for Tu B’Shvat which is infused with the flavors of Israel’s trees. Almond extract, date honey, dried apricots and pistachio nuts pay homage to the bounty nature has blessed us with.  

This moist, delicious cake pairs perfectly with a cup of hot tea.

Full recipe after the jump.
Tahini-Carrot Cake — Adapted from chef Yaron Albalak

For the batter:

  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur or almond extract
  • 1/2 cup raw tahini paste
  • 1/2 cup unsulfured dry apricots, chopped
  • 2 cups carrots, grated
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the garnish:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place all of the ingredients for the batter in a bowl, and mix well.
  3. Pour into an oiled Bundt pan.
  4. Bake for 50 minutes. (Check the cake with a wooden toothpick. If necessary, allow to bake longer.)
  5. Drizzle the cake with Silan date honey, garnish with shaved halva and pistachios.  

Chicken and Root Vegetable Stew

— by Ronit Treatman

Nothing feels more nurturing on a cold winter day than a pot of stew bubbling over the stove. Chicken and root vegetables are inexpensive ingredients that can be combined to make a satisfying meal for a large crowd.

Full recipe after the jump.
Chicken and Root Vegetable Stew

  • 4 lbs of chicken drumsticks
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 leeks, chopped
  • 4 cups of any combination of potatoes, parsley root, carrots, beets, parsnip, rutabaga, turnips, or fennel, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 dry bay leaf
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick pot.  
  2. Brown the chicken drumsticks, then set aside.
  3. Add the rest of the olive oil to the pot.
  4. Saute the onion and leeks over medium heat until the onion is translucent.
  5. Add the root vegetables.
  6. Saute them with the onion for a few minutes.
  7. Add the wine.
  8. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
  9. Add the seared drumsticks.
  10. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  11. Add the dry bay leaf.
  12. Bring to a boil, then lower to simmer.
  13. Cook the stew for 60 minutes.

Serve with warm, crusty bread.

The Shtetl Krupnik Experience

Suillus granulatus mushrooms, colloquially referred to as the “weeping” or “granulated” bolete.

— by Ronit Treatman

When I was a young girl, my grandmother and I would relive one of her favorite experiences from her childhood in Poland: picking wild mushrooms for krupnik, the Polish mushroom barley soup.

We woke up before dawn and drove to the pine forests surrounding Jerusalem. We arrived at the forest just as dawn broke.

The majestic pine trees became visible with the pink light of early morning. The crisp air was infused with the aroma of the trees. As we started hiking, the dry pine needles crunched underfoot.

The type of wild mushroom we picked is called Suillus granulatus, colloquially referred to as the “weeping” or “granulated” bolete.

Full recipe after the jump.
These mushrooms have a symbiotic relationship with the pine trees: The mushrooms extract nutrients from the roots of the trees. In exchange, they improve the soil so that the trees have enough water and nutrients.  

I learned to identify the weeping boletes by looking for mushrooms with a large brown cap. I would check the underside of the cap to make sure that it was a golden color.

We spent a couple of hours filling a large basket with the mushrooms we found. We stopped when we had picked enough mushrooms for our needs. We knew that other people would like to have this adventure just as much as we did, and we made sure to leave some mushrooms for them too.  

We took our fungi back home to prepare krupnik. Weeping boletes taste like Portobello mushrooms. Their strong, earthy flavor is the perfect complement for barley.  

After a vigorous hike in the cold, and the seemingly endless wait in a home filled with delicious smells, we finally got to eat the krupnik. It was warm, creamy, and delicious; the perfect taste of the Old Country.

Savta Devorah’s Krupnik

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 parsley roots, chopped
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1/4 cup minced dill
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot.  
  2. Add the onion, garlic, mushrooms, carrots, celery, parsley roots, and barley.
  3. Saute over medium heat for about 20 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle the flour into the pot, and mix it in.
  5. Add the vegetable broth, and bring to a boil.
  6. Lower the heat to medium, and simmer the soup for 40 minutes.
  7. Add the parsley and dill.
  8. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Pumpkin-Ginger Soup

— by Ronit Treatman

As Arctic winds blow into Philadelphia, and the snow piles up, our instinct to consume warm, hearty soups kicks in.

This is an opportunity to make use of the many varieties of pumpkins and squashes that are widely available now.  

Pumpkins are high in vitamin A, and have a good amount of vitamin C, iron, and calcium. Also, they are fat free.

When combined with onions, garlic, ginger, herbs, and spices, the pumpkin shines as a winter entree soup. Pumpkin-ginger soup can be served with a green salad, a hearty bread, and a selection of cheeses.

Full recipe after the jump.

  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup peeled and minced ginger root
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup non-fat coconut milk
  • curry powder
  • cinnamon
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • toasted pumpkin seeds
  • cilantro, minced
  • scallions, sliced
  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat.
  2. Saute the onions, garlic, and ginger until the onion is translucent.
  3. Add the vegetable broth, and bring to a boil.
  4. Add the coconut milk and the pureed pumpkin.
  5. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.
  6. Season to taste with curry powder, cinnamon, salt, and pepper.
  7. Serve garnished with cilantro, scallions, and toasted sunflower seeds.

Book Review: One Egg Is a Fortune

miso marinated Atlantic salmon with shiitake mushrooms, grilled scallions and a miso glaze— by Rabbi Goldie Milgram

One Egg is a Fortune, edited by Pnina Jacobson and Judy Kempler, is three books in one: a high quality gourmet Jewish cookbook, a table book of magnificent food photographs, and an anthology of fascinating narratives from fifty contributing authors from around the world.

The editors put ten years into developing this beautiful volume, and it is perfect as a gift.

Taste test? The closest to that that we can do is to offer a section from the narrative of the former United States ambassador, Dennis Ross, and his excellent recipe as well. B’tayavon!

Ross’ narrative and salmon fillet recipe follow the jump.

I was sent as ambassador of the United states to meet with Arafat in Tunis in 1993. This was to be the first of many meetings. Arafat liked to play the host, insisting on serving our delegation lunch.

We were about ten people around the table, four from the United States. A meal of roast chicken and potatoes had been prepared. Arafat was determined to not only serve the meal, but also to carve the chicken.

Banter lightened the situation with words to the effect of, “Are you actually going to cut my food for me as well?” with a reply of, “If you like,” and my response of, “No, thank you. The last person to cut my food was my mother.”

Dessert followed and Arafat passed around an assortment of Arabic sweets such as baklava and kanafi, a Middle Eastern dessert made from cheese and brown sugar. The meal was, in fact, good and just what both parties needed to continue.

From then on food became part of the negotiation process. Dennis fish is a variety of bream found in the Red Sea, so when I walked into a meeting, I would ask, “Let me guess what we are eating today — Dennis fish?” Arafat would laugh and at least in this context, he had a sense of humour.

This repartee continued every time we met. I heard that even in my absence Arafat would mention this wordplay just to irritate the Israeli delegation. (Page 197)

All of the vignettes bring personal stories from very interesting lives to our attention. The contributing authors come from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Israel, Ukraine, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, England, Canada and the United States.

Salmon Fillets with Green peppercorn, Mushroom & Macadamia Nut Sauce

  • 6 × 180g (6.5 ounces) salmon fillets
  • garlic salt
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 15 macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chives, finely chopped


  • 50g (2 ounces) butter
  • 250g (9 ounces) mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon bottled green peppercorns, vinegar strained
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Sprinkle the salmon fillets with garlic salt. Pour over lemon juice and marinate for 30 minutes.
  2. Grill or BBQ salmon, skin side down until almost cooked through. Turn and cook the other side for a minute or two.
  3. Make sauce: Prepare while fish is cooking. Melt butter in a non-stick fry pan. Add mushrooms, lemon juice, peppercorns, garlic salt and pepper and cook until mushrooms wilt and just begin to turn in color.
  4. Spoon sauce over fish and sprinkle with nuts and herbs.

(Serves 6)