The authors of the Torah thought that food was so important that it is a discussed from the very first moments of man’s existence when Adam is told he can eat anything in the Garden of Eden — except the fruit of one tree that was off limits!
The Torah goes on and on about food and includes all kinds of food references from feeding the poor and leaving part of the crops in the fields we harvested, to taking care of the sick and those who cannot care for themselves. Important events took place over food, such as the announcement of the impending birth of Isaac over dinner and the famous meal we celebrate every year when G-d commanded the Jews to have a feast to celebrate the last night of slavery before the Exodus and freedom. When we left, we took food with us — if you can call matzah food! — to the dessert. Finally, we get the rules of keeping kosher and food issues seemingly are resolved.
In more recent times, Jews brought food to those in the shtetls who were sick or old, who had just had babies or who were in mourning — I know because my grandmother told me of being a child and helping her mother make food to bring to neighbors almost every week! My American-born grandmother told me that her mother, even with 15 or 18 children (the number has never been completely resolved) managed to feed hungry neighbors, other relatives and more.
If food was so important as to be included in the Torah then it was certainly acceptable — even laudable — to bring food as gifts to friends and relatives for any and all occasions. I think we embrace that idea in much of what we do. So, if you are going to a friend’s or relative’s house for the holidays, bring a gift from the kitchen! It will be greatly appreciated.
Shanah tovah u’metukah!
Instant Pot Red Lentil Vegetable Soup (Pareve, GF)
You can use chicken broth in this or kosher no-chicken broth. I prefer to keep this super simple soup vegetarian. I also use the tomato paste and a small can of crushed tomatoes as my family prefers a less tomoato-y soup. You can use what your family prefers. Pack in quart sized
Mason jars and wrap with some gingham material. My friends love the gift of soup, especially after the heavy meals of the holidays!
1 to 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, diced
4 to 6 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
2 to 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 to 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1/4 cup tomato paste and/or 1 small can crushed tomatoes OR 1 large can crushed tomatoes, to taste
2 cups red lentils, checked and rinsed
vegetable broth to the 2/3 full line on the instant pot, about 2 quarts
1 to 2 tbsp. kosher bouillon paste or powder
OPTIONAL: 1/2 to 1 tsp of one or more of the following: cumin, paprika, salt and pepper
Set the instant pot on sauté and add the oil. Add the sliced onio0ns and leeks and sauté until lightly golden, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the celery and carrots and mix well. Heat until the carrots get a bit brighter, 2-5 minutes. Turn off the sauté function, add the lentils and mix well to break up any clumps formed by rinsing and draining. Add the stock and mix well. Add the tomato paste and/or crushed tomatoes. Add the bouillon paste or powder and mix well. NOTE: I add about half the bouillon before cooking and half after cooking, so I can adjust the flavor. We like a more vegetable flavor with less salt, so we often use just the 1 Tbsp.
Cover the pot and set to soup, and then for 9 minutes for the 6 quart pot. Close steam valve and go relax for 10 minutes. Let steam release naturally for about 15 minutes. Then quick release steam valve. Remove the cover and mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Makes about 6 quarts.
Low Sugar Grain-Free Granola (Pareve, GF)
3 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted OR canola or olive oil
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup, dark amber
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes or chips
1-1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1-1/2 cups sliced almonds
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup chia seeds
2 Tbsp. flax seed meal
3 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt
2/3 to 1 cup dried fruit such raisins, cranberries, blueberries, cherries, snipped apricots, snipped dates, snipped figs, snipped dried peaches or apple, etc.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and then a sheet of parchment paper.
Melt the coconut oil with the maple syrup and vanilla in a small microwaveable bowl. Set aside to cool.
Place all the ingredients, except the coconut oil mixture, in a large bowl. Add the dried fruit if using. Toss to mix well.
Add the vanilla to the oil and mix well. Drizzle evenly over the mixture while tossing with a large spoon or clean hand. Spread evenly on the prepared pan and place in the oven.
Bake 18 to 25 minutes, remove from the oven, break apart any clusters and place back in the oven for another 12 to 20 minutes, until evenly golden brown. Watch carefully and do not let burn. Remove from the oven and let cool until completely cooled to the touch. Scoop into pint sized mason jars. Makes 3 to 4 jars. Stores well for up to two weeks.
NOTE: IF you do want to use oatmeal in this, substitute half or all the coconut flakes for old fashioned oatmeal.
Apple, Carrot and Zucchini Loaf or Muffins (Pareve)
3 extra-large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup Canola oil
2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups grated carrots
1-1/2 cups grated zucchini
3 apples, peeled and finely chopped or grated (Cortland, Golden Delicious, Delicious)
1 cup raisins
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
OPTIONAL: 2 tbsp. chia seeds
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease 2 loaf pans or two muffin tins or use muffin papers.
Beat the eggs, oil and vanilla in a large bowl. Add the carrots, zucchini and apples and mix well. Add the nuts and raisins and stir. Mix the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and sugar together in another bowl. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and stir with a fork until blended. Fill the loaf pans and smooth the tops, or ill the muffin cups about 2/3 full. Bake 20-25 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. If you like, you can drizzle with cinnamon icing made with 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, 1 to 2 Tbsp. apple cider and 1/2 to 1 tsp. cinnamon to taste. Mix until the icing is the consistency of thick cream. Drizzle over top. Makes 2 loaves or 24 muffins. Wrap in plastic wrap and pretty paper or a bag.
Refrigerator Jam (Pareve)
I love making refrigerator jam. I make it with very little sugar, which means it’s a bit runny, but delicious for me and It is much healthier as I control the fruits or berries I use and so I know they are organic and free from pesticides and more. These make delicious gifts and can last in the fridge for 2 to 3 weeks.
I use raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, fresh pitted cherries, peeled peaches, nectarines, peeled apples, plums, rhubarb, and more. Melons don’t work well. I also add a bit of pomegranate juice to the berries for more intense flavor.
1-1/2 pound berries or fruit, washed, patted dry and checked for blemishes.
1-1/2 cup sugar – I use 1/2 to 1-1/2 cups, depending on sweetness of the fruit
1/3 cup Pomegranate juice, orange juice, apple juice, or water
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over a medium flame. Once it reaches a boil, reduce heat to produce a strong simmer. This reduces the amount of foam that needs to be skimmed from the top. Simmer strongly for 25 minutes, until jam begins to thicken.
Remove from the heat and let cool for 15 minutes, stirring often.
Spoon into cleaned 4 or 8 ounce mason jars and cover. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks. Makes 4 (4-ounce) jars or 2 (8-ounce) jars.
NOTE: Get creative with these. Mix berries or fruits. Add some herbs such as mint or thyme or basil to the berry jams. Raspberry with lime juice is one of my favorites. Also, if you want to make these with a sugar sweetener, add just a bit of tapioca or corn starch to thicken.