kosher kitchen

Thinking food: Eating healthier as we age


America is aging. Ten-thousand Baby Boomers turn 65 every day and there are now 75 million people aged 65 and older living active and healthy lives.

There are many reasons that we are enjoying longer lives. Good medical care and advances in treatments are a big factor. Many seniors exercise more and practice other good health habits. My gym is filled with people well into their 80s and one particularly devoted attendee is almost 90, lifts huge weights, and moves like a 30 year old on the tennis court!

One aspect of health we have to pay more attention to as we age is nutrition. But we know so much more about nutrition than we did generations ago. We know about fat and cholesterol and that sugar is the true enemy of health. Many of us now avoid over-processed foods and look to healthier, high-fiber vegetables and whole grains. 

We also know that our nutritional needs change as we age. Our metabolisms slow no matter how much we exercise or how many marathons we run. It’s a medical fact that older bodies do not regenerate cells as quickly as young bodies do, so we have to adjust our caloric intake downward. We also lose the ability to absorb B vitamins, so a supplement might be a good idea. People, sometimes even as young as 50, need to adjust what kinds of foods they eat as the ability to digest some foods may decrease. 

The best advice is to eat “clean.” Eat lots of plant-based foods, healthy and lean proteins and lots of whole grains and fiber-rich foods. Avoid a lot of processed foods and follow your doctor’s guidelines regarding the use of supplements, salt intake and diet and nutrition. 

Living to 100 in good health is more of a reality than ever before and good nutrition as we age is a solid step in that direction. 

Farro with Caramelized Onions, Leeks, Mushrooms and Veggies (Pareve)

Farro is an ancient whole wheat grain that is nutty, chewy and delicious.

4 Tbsp. Canola oil

1-1/2 lbs. onions, cut in half and thinly sliced

1 to 2 cups, thinly sliced leeks

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. canola oil

2 cups chopped celery

1 to 2 cups matchstick cut carrots

1-1/2 cups uncooked farro

3 cups boiling water

1-1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Chopped almonds, walnuts, pistachios for garnish

OPTIONAL: Add 1/4 cup dry white wine to the farro mixture as it cooks.

Add 2 to 3 cups baby spinach leaves or chopped baby kale at the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Heat a large skillet and add the 4 tablespoons of oil to the pan. Add the thinly sliced onions, mix to coat with the oil, and cook, over low heat. Let the onions cook very slowly so the sugars caramelize and darken the onions. If you cook them too fast, they will burn. Watch carefully. Caramelization can take about 30 to 40 minutes. If the onions catch a bit, add a teaspoon or two of hot water to the pan and scrape up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Cook until the onions turn deep mahogany. Spoon them into a bowl and set aside.

Add one tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add the leeks and garlic and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the celery and sauté until softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the carrots and cook about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until they exude their juices. Spoon most of the liquid into the bowl of onions. Continue to cook the mushrooms until they are golden, about 5 to 10 minutes. 

In a separate, large saucepan, heat the water just to boiling. 

Add the farro and mix well. Cook for 10 minutes. Carefully pour the farro and liquid into the skillet with the mushrooms and mix well. Cover and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, mixing a few times and adding more water as needed, until the farro is cooked through but still has some bite.

When almost all the liquid is absorbed, add the onions and mushroom liquid back to the skillet. Mix well. Garnish with chopped nuts and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 6 to 10.

Berry Spinach Salad with Frisee and More (Pareve)

Strawberry Vinaigrette

1/2 pint strawberries, stems removed

1 cup light olive oil

1/4 tsp. tarragon

1 tsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar for a sweeter flavor

1 Tbsp. raspberry vinegar 

1 Tbsp. orange juice

1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Taste and adjust vinegars and juice to taste. Set aside.


3 cups baby spinach leaves

3 cups mixed greens, arugula, baby kale or other greens

1 package frisee, end cut and washed and cut into bite sized pieces

1 radicchio, cut into pieces to equal 1 to 2 cups

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1/2 red or sweet onion, cut in half and then cut into thin slices

1/2 to 1 pint strawberries, cut into halves or quarters

Fresh walnuts or pecans, plain or candied, and/or sunflower seeds, 

Mix first six ingredients and add enough salad dressing to moisten. Plate and then garnish with berries and nuts. Drizzle dressing over salads. Serves 6 to 8.

NOTE: You can use any greens you like for this salad and add as many other ingredients as well. In the fall, I substitute fresh apples or pears for the strawberries.

Ciabatta, Mushroom, Wild Rice Stuffing Casserole with Tart Cherries (Pareve) 

6 cups Ciabatta bread cubes, toasted

1 to 2 cups cooked wild rice or quinoa

3 large onion, chopped

1 bunch celery, chopped coarsely

2 to 5 cloves garlic, finely minced, to taste

8 ounces mushrooms, chopped

1 stick pareve, trans-fat-free margarine or 1/2 cup Canola or light olive oil

4 tbsp. Marsala wine, to taste

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth, divided

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. salt, to taste

3/4 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. pepper, to taste

1 cup dried tart cherries

1/2 cup dried sweet cranberries

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

OPTIONAL: 3/4 cup chopped pecans

1 cup snipped, dried apricots 

NOTE: You can use the apples with the recipe as is, but if you use the other fruits, cut down or eliminate some of the other fruits so that the fruit measures about 2 to 2-1/2 cups total.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the bread into cubes and place on a rimmed cookie sheet. Bake until lightly golden. Remove from oven, let cool, and place in a very large mixing bowl. 

Cook the rice according to instructions. While it is cooking, prepare the rest of the recipe. Place the cherries in one cup of broth and set aside.

Place the margarine or oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion until translucent. Add the celery and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and cook until they exude their juices. Add the wine, salt and spices and mix. Add the cherries and wine and pecans and stir well. Cook for about 5 to 7 minutes. 

Place the bread cubes and cooked rice in a large bowl. Add the sautéed onion mixture and mix well. Add the 3 tbsp. olive oil and enough broth to moisten. Add the parsley and mix well. Place into a well-greased pan and bake until golden brown. Serves 8 to 12.