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Lentil Bolognese


By now, I’ve read thousands of vegan recipes. So many of them look fabulous but have ingredients I don’t understand and require kitchen equipment I don’t have. So I love when I find something that looks yummy and doesn’t have a lot of mystery ingredients. This was my first time working with lentils, but because they didn’t require soaking, it was an easy recipe to adapt to my kitchen.

Here’s my adaptation of the original.

2 small or 1 medium chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning (or oregano)
1 scant tsp chili powder
15 oz. can of tomato sauce or two tubs of 260 gr. rotev agvaniot l’pasta
rounded 1/2 c of red lentils (100 gr.)
2 servings of dry spaghetti
salt and pepper

Saute chopped onion in 2-3 Tbs water. Sprinkle with salt. Saute on low heat 10 minutes until soft but not brown. Add water 2-3 Tbs at a time if necessary.

With a little water remaining with the onion, add the Italian seasoning, chili powder, chopped garlic and a shake of pepper and stir.Blend for 1-2 minutes.

Add tomato sauce and stir.

Add lentils with an 1/8 c. additional water and cook on low for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.

If sauce looks dry or lentils are still hard after 15 minutes, add another 1/8 cup of water and cook until lentils are soft and puffed up.

Serve over cooked pasta.



Spinach Potato Puffs


These were adapted from a recipe I found online for Colcannon Puffs. If you read the original recipe, you’ll learn that colcannon is a traditional Irish dish made with mashed potatoes and kale or mashed potatoes and cabbage.

Kale is not impossible to find but it can be hard to come by in Israel, Frozen spinach (תרד), on the other hand, is generally available. The frozen spinach in Israel comes in clusters, so it’s easy to just take out as much as you need.  I made some other adjustments to the original recipe and now I can produce spinach potato puffs on demand – without a food processor.

5-6 medium potatoes
8-10 defrosted minced spinach clusters
2 Tbs brewer’s yeast (Israel’s version of nutritional yeast)
1 scant tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 Tbs soy milk
2 Tbs potato starch, corn starch or potato flour

Cut the potatoes into small cubes, put in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook 20-30 minutes until potatoes are tender.
Remove potatoes with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Add all other ingredients and mash with a hand masher.
When cool enough to handle, form mixture into balls about 1″ across.
Place them on parchment paper  that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
Bake 20 minutes at 220 degrees.
Carefully turn and bake an additional 20 minutes until lightly golden brown.
Makes about 30 puffs.

As an alternate, somewhat easier prep, you can bake the mixture together as a spinach-potato kugel. And don’t mind me. I put paprika on everything.


GUEST POST: Purim and Mushroom Barley Soup


This guest post was written by Anabelle Harari. Her bio appears below.

As Purim is upon us, I wanted to create a Purim inspired meal that went out of the typical hamentashen. Did you know that when Queen Esther was living in the King’s palace she was vegetarian? She didn’t eat meat because she wanted to uphold the kosher tradition.

Indeed being a vegetarian or vegan makes life alot easier when keeping kosher. So what would Esther have eaten? She probably needed some comfort food while having to deal with the fate of the Jewish people- that’s just my guess.

So, in celebration of Purim, here is warm and comforting vegan mushroom and barley soup. Cozy up to this soup with some warm bread and enjoy Purim in comfort!


1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, as needed
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups chopped mushrooms (you can use an assortment if you prefer)
2 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt, to taste
½ cup whole or pearl barley
4 cups vegetable stock or water
A few sprigs of thyme
Freshly ground pepper to taste


Heat the oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until just about tender, and add the sliced fresh mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are beginning to soften, and add the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Continue to cook for about five minutes, until the mixture is juicy and fragrant. Add the barley, and the stock or water. Salt to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes. Add in the sprigs of thyme during the simmering time and pull it out when the soup is done.

The barley should be tender and the broth aromatic. Add a generous amount of freshly ground pepper and serve.

Yield: Serves two to four

Note: The soup will keep for about three days in the refrigerator, but the barley will absorb liquid, so you will have to add more water or stock to the pot when you reheat.


Anabelle Harari is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College. She is a sustainable food blogger and the community attache for Birthright Israel Experts. She lives in Jerusalem and you can connect with her@thelocalbelle.

Sweet Potato Cauliflower Soup


In my first few days as a vegan, I downloaded at least half-a-dozen vegan cookbooks from the library’s eBook collection. Turns out, Pinterest and vegan blogs have more than enough ideas to keep me cooking for, oh, a few decades. Because I have a lifelong case of SED, I’m a very picky eater. A picky kosher vegan. Yeah, I’m a lot of fun at parties. But when I cook for my family, I can focus on preparing what I know I’ll enjoy.

Here’s a great, very simple vegan soup that my DH loved too. Just seven normal ingredients and one optional one.

1 head cauliflower
3 sweet potatoes
2 white potatoes
1 diced onion
2 cloves garlic
7 c. water
7 tsp pareve chicken or vegetable soup mix
chia seeds (optional)

cut cauliflower into bite-sized pieces and check as normal
place cauliflower on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper
sprinkle lightly with any combination of season salt or salt, pepper and garlic powder
roast at 200 degrees 20-30 minutes until the largest pieces fork-pierce easily
While the cauliflower is roasting, peel and slice potatoes.
Add potatoes, onion, garlic, water and soup mix together in a soup pot.
Simmer 20-30 minutes until sweet potatoes are tender.
Blend with immersion blender or mash by hand.
Add in roasted cauliflower and top with chia seeds.
Optional: sprinkle nutmeg on top of individual servings just before serving.

Bulgar Pilaf with Nuts


On my very first Shabbat as a vegetarian transitioning to vegan, we were invited out to the home of a serious foodie. Check out her Facebook page: Eating Israel – Life as a Foodie in the Holy Land.

In a gracious attempt to provide me with something to eat, she made a grain-based dish that I loved. She adapted it from The Sephardic Table: The Vibrant Cooking of the Mediterranean Jews by Pamela Grau Twena and I further adapted it a bit for my vegan kitchen. And my pocketbook, since pine nuts are wickedly expensive. My first substitution for pine nuts was toasted corn. That was a soggy fail. Shelled pumpkin seeds worked well and don’t require cracking and cutting like pistachios. Best all around is a flavorful mix of nuts on top.

I’ve made it several times now and it’s always a hit. It heats up well on the plata and is perfect for a warm and filling Shabbat side dish. During the week, I piled a bit of veggie chili on top and the combination was fabulous.

1/2 cup any combination of shelled nuts (e.g. pine nuts, pistachio, pumpkin seeds, mixed)
3 Tbs canola oil
1 onion thinly sliced
1/2 cup thin noodles (אטריות דקיקיות)
1 1/4 cups bulgar (medium grain)
2 1/2 cups water
2 tsp pareve chicken or vegetable soup mix
Salt to taste

In a medium frying pan, sauté the nuts in 1 Tbs of oil until golden and fragrant. Remove and set aside.
In remaining oil, sauté onions till golden. With a slotted spoon remove and add to nuts.
Add the noodles and sauté until lightly golden.
Add the bulgar, soup mix, water and salt and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to low heat for 8-12 minutes until all liquid is absorbed.
Top with onion and nut mixture.

If you have a crowd, this recipe can easily be doubled.


Perfect Timing


Today is the 13th of the Hebrew month of Sh’vat. This month is most known for the celebration of Tu B’Sh’vat – the birthday of the trees – which we celebrate by eating fruits, nuts and drinking wine, preferably from the Land of Israel. That’s a wildly simplified explanation of the holiday, but it’s good enough for now.

My focus is elsewhere. In Judaism, each Hebrew month is associated with particular characteristics – the letter of the month, the tribe of the month, the sense of the month, the body part of the month, etc.

It’s part of the incredibly complex system of Jewish learning known as kabbalah. This learning points out to us that there are certain spiritual potentials that are most potent during that month – things we can achieve best in the unique energy of that month.

The sense of the month of Sh’vat is taste.  “Taste and see that God is good.” (Ps. 34:9)  According to Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk, this verse means that when you taste and see your food with greater awareness. you understand that all goodness is actually God.

Of what am I tasting and seeing more clearly? Of where my food comes from, of what impact it has on my well-being, of who was harmed and who was helped in providing that food to me.

More than that, the month of Sh’vat is ideally suited to rectification of our eating habits, elevating the way we eat with additional holiness, additional mindfulness.

I stopped eating most animal-based foods just a week before the month of Sh’vat began. It wasn’t until after the fact that I realized how perfect that timing was.

It All Began with a Movie


It All Began With a Doormat! is a children’s book with great wisdom for adults. It’s about how, when we tweak one thing (in this case, buying a new doormat), we suddenly become aware of other, related things that also need our attention.

In my case, it all began with a movie. Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead is a very provocative title for a documentary.  I saw it on Netflix, but the 2011 film can also be watched for free on Hulu. Here’s the first paragraph of the film’s synopsis:

100 pounds overweight, loaded up on steroids and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease, Joe Cross is at the end of his rope and the end of his hope. In the mirror he saw a 310lb man whose gut was bigger than a beach ball and a path laid out before him that wouldn’t end well— with one foot already in the grave, the other wasn’t far behind. FAT, SICK & NEARLY DEAD is an inspiring film that chronicles Joe’s personal mission to regain his health.

Joe Cross convinced me to go buy a juicer and to start eating more fruits and vegetables. And Netflix recommended a number of other documentaries on similar themes. Food Matters,Vegucated, Forks over Knives (implying that eating a plant-strong diet can keep one from needing surgery), and others.

Not only did I become hyper-aware of the health dangers of eating animal-based foods, I also learned about the incredibly gruesome cruelty to animals that takes place in factory farming. During certain scenes of factory farming that appeared in my personal documentary extravaganza, I had to avert my eyes, so cruel was the treatment and maiming of animals used for food. How could I not have known this? I think of the vegans I know and wonder why they are not trying to educate everyone.

Then I remembered that kind of advocacy rarely works if the other party is not open.

My eyes were also opened to the sadistic manipulation of the health of the American population through beef, poultry and dairy industry advertising, lobbies and government policies.

But mostly, I saw the incredible health benefits of eating a plant-based diet. I understood that the body wants to heal. And though I am not yet a victim of the major diseases of the Western diet (i.e., high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, etc.), I know I’m at risk.

So I have the chance to repair the physical damage of a poor diet, reduce the demand for animal flesh food and thus save the animals I am not going to eat from this point on, laugh in the face of nutritionally inaccurate and harmful marketing of beef and dairy products and possibly even lose some weight. And gain enormous health benefits.


On top of all THAT, a friend gave me a book, written by her father, about the intersection of Judaism and Vegetarianism. I sat down to read it and was immediately overwhelmed with the awareness that the Torah actually instructs us that a plant-based diet is the preferred way to go. Permission to eat meat was a concession granted in the time of Noach, in part because the spiritual level of people had fallen so low and in part because the vegetation had been temporarily wiped out by the mabul (flood). Note that in the generations before Noach, people routinely lived 800-900 years. After permission to eat meat was granted, lifespans were reduced by many hundreds of years. By the time we get to Avraham (Abraham), his lifespan was 175 years. And Moshe (Moses), of course, lived 120 years.

Here are a few other Torah-based facts that blew me away:

  • The bracha (blessing) for meat, fish, eggs and dairy is she’hakol – the lowest, least differentiated of the brachot (blessings) for food. In contrast, fruits and vegetables have their own distinctive brachot.
  • At the time of the wondering in the desert, Hashem (God) provided the Israelites with mun (manna), a perfect, non-animal based food. In rebellion, they demanded flesh to eat (Bamidbar 11:4). This displeased Hashem and, in His anger, He brought a gluttonous overabundance of quail. While the quail was being consumed, He brought  a plague. According to Dr. Schwartz:

The place where this incident occurred was named “The Graves of Lust” to indicate that the strong desire for flesh led to the many deaths (Numbers 11:34). While manna, their staple food in the desert, kept the Israelites in good health for forty years, many deaths occurred when they deviated from this simple diet. – Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 7

  •  16th century Kli Yakar: It is far more appropriate for man not to eat meat; only if he has a strong desire for meat does the Torah permit it, and even this only after the trouble and inconvenience necessary to satisfy his desire.

There is much, much more in the book and in related sources.

So there’s the health angle – to repair the damage already inflicted by the way I have been eating and to prevent further damage.

There’s the consumerism angle – to take back my autonomous decision-making and not behave like a Stepford Wife in the face of massive profit-centered manipulations and outright lies by the food industry.

There’s the tsa’ar ba’alei chayim angle – we are commanded by traditional Jewish teachings not to inflict pain on animals.

There’s the general Torah angle – that God actually prefers that we adopt a plant-based diet, as was the case In The Beginning.

It all comes together in a fairly neat package.

That all began with a movie.

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