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For a healthy take on a traditional favorite this Passover, try this vegetarian matzo ball soup with inflammation-fighting turmeric and fresh dill!
It turns out that matzo ball soup, one of the most traditional and simple dishes at Passover, is not so simple! There are many factors involved in making the perfect matzo ball. First, the weight of the matzo ball. Are you a fan of the fluffy floater, or the dense sinker? Personally, I absolutely love matzo balls and will eat them either way! Another factor to consider is the type of broth, which will have a major effect on flavor. In my home, our broth of choice is vegetarian, and that means adding lots of spices and fresh herbs to give it more taste.
Perfecting the Matzo Ball
Growing up, my family was not particularly religious–my mother came from a Christian household and my father from a Jewish one. Our holidays revolved around family traditions like decorating the christmas tree, dying easter eggs, and yes, making matzo ball soup. Traditions at home always included a delicious holiday meal, as food was always a focus. My mother was an extremely intelligent and successful woman that was a pioneer in the medical field. She also made some very unique (and delicious) matzo balls. Instead of small matzo balls in a soup, my mother would make ostrich egg sized matzo balls with Mrs. Grass’ noodle soup mix.
This spring, I decided to finally make my own matzo ball soup with the same Jewish American Cookbook that my mother used during my childhood. Instead of using matzo ball mix like we did growing up, I decided to make mine from scratch. After some researching, I came across an amazing article online about the basics of matzo ball making by Serious Eats. There is a true technique to making a fluffier matzo ball if you are not a fan of the dense version. This blew my mind! The trick is using either seltzer water or baking soda (or a combination of both). Also, simmering the matzo balls in broth instead of water will add in more flavor. I used these different techniques in my recipe and I was really impressed!
Turn it up with Turmeric!
To spice up the traditional matzo ball recipe, I decided to add in turmeric for a hint of color and additional nutritional benefits. You may recognize turmeric in Indian dishes such as curry, yellow rice, and even tea. There’s a reason it is starting to pop up more and more in our favorite foods. This magical spice may delay the effects of aging and reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases. More specifically, preliminary studies have shown that it may reduce the risk of cancer and diabetes, and help fight inflammation. Even with ongoing research showing promising results, don’t go overboard with turmeric supplementation. Using the spice in cooking is a healthy way to sneak in the anti-inflammatory benefit. Just as I did with this soup broth, sprinkle it in your favorite stews, rice dishes, and even scrambled eggs. If you are feeling bold, try it in a smoothie!
Over the summer, several brands issued a recall of their ground turmeric, because of concerns over traces of lead. I highly recommend a high quality turmeric that is certified organic and free of contaminants. For more information, visit the FDA’s website for product recalls and food safety alerts.
In this recipe…
The trick to matzo balls is to have the right consistency. To set the mixture, place the blended matzo batter in the fridge for at least a half hour. To save time, I prepped the vegetables for the soup while the matzo batter was cooling in the refrigerator. Once ready, the matzo balls are best when cooked separately from the soup broth. This keeps the matzo balls from absorbing too much of the soup broth and preventing a cloudy, starchy broth. Some recipes call for boiling them in water, but I felt the broth gave a better flavor. This soup can easily be adapted based on your preferences, whether it is using chicken broth instead of vegetable stock, or making denser matzo balls without the baking soda. For those of you celebrating Passover, I wish you a very Happy Passover and a very delicious matzo ball soup!
- 1 cup matzo meal
- For the Matzo Balls:
- 3 whole large eggs plus 1 egg white
- 2 tablespoons cold water
- 3-4 tablespoons oil oil or melted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped, optional
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, optional
- 10 cups water (or half of liquid using vegetable broth for more flavor, about 4-5 cups)
- Vegetarian soup stock:
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or butter
- 10 cups water
- 2 celery stalks, trimmed and sliced
- 1 1/2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or pinch of sea salt
- 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
- To make the matzo balls:
- Stir all of the matzo ball ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set the mixture.
- Once matzo balls are ready, in a large pot bring 10 cups of water or vegetable broth to a boil.
- Using a cookie scooper or small spoon, scoop out mix and roll with wet hands to make a one-two inch ball. This prevents the mixture from sticking to your hands.
- Slowly place into the boiling water. Once all of the matzo balls are in the pot, reduce to simmer and cook for 20 minutes, covered. The matzo balls should be soft all the way through (use a fork to test).
- Once cooked, turn off the heat.
- For the Soup:
- While the matzo balls simmer, it is time to prepare the soup.
- Heat a 4 quart pot with the olive oil on medium high. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and sautee for 5-7 minutes or until tender. Do not brown the vegetables. Add the garlic and turmeric and sautee for 30 seconds to one minute until fragrant.
- Pour in the water and add the salt and bay leaves. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until vegetables are soft and the broth is flavorful. Adjust the salt and spices to your liking.
- Once the broth is ready turn off the heat and remove the bay leaves.
- Slowly spoon in the matzo balls into the broth using a slotted spoon. Toss in the fresh dill and let the soup cool down for a few minutes before serving.
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A new takeout alternative is here! Try this healthy and delicious Crispy Baked Cara Cara Orange Tofu for your next restaurant craving!
Are you a fan of Chinese food takeout on the weekend? Join the club! Making your own favorite recipe with healthy modifications saves you money and calories! Instead of deep frying, these crispy textured tofu cubes are baked! I know we all love a weekend splurge, but this orange tofu recipe will make you want to eat in instead of ordering out! Can we all say Fri-yay?
Citrus Fruits that Brighten Winter
When it comes to citrus fruits many of us think of delicate cocktails or smoothies in the summer. Citrus fruits are actually in season during the winter! What better time to get a boost of vitamins and minerals to get us through the cold and snowy season! Citrus, such as the Cara Cara orange in the recipe, is loaded with Vitamin C, folate, and dietary fiber. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant to fight free radicals and aids in building collagen to keep our skin glowing.
Besides having a cute name, Cara Cara oranges give a beautiful pink hue and tangy taste. Some say the taste reminds them of cranberries! These gorgeous, seedless citrus favorites are in season during the winter to early spring. Try them in a smoothie, a winter salad, or as a marinade!
What’s the Deal with Soy?
In today’s food industry, soy has come a long way from the previous fears and misleading health claims. This plant-based, complete protein (containing all of the essential amino acids our body needs) comes from the soybean. There are numerous forms of soy out there besides the soybean, edamame. Tofu is the beancurd from soy milk. It works great in stir fries, soups, and desserts! If you want another option for sneaking soy in your diet, try tempeh, soy sauce, or miso. Or, if you want to try an alternative to cow’s milk, try a fulfilling glass of soy milk.
As we know, soy is an excellent source of protein, but it also provides calcium, iron, unsaturated fats, and fiber. Soy also contains isoflavones; mostly recognized is the estrogen-like compound, phytoestrogen. Because these compounds function like hormones, many feared an increased risk of hormone-related cancers. Current research mentioned in the Harvard School of Public Health newsletter has found that soy consumption as early as in adolescence may reduce risk for breast cancer occurence and recurrence.
Further research is ongoing for cardiovascular disease risk and blood pressure. However, replacing meats high in saturated fats, such as red meat, with soy foods suggests a beneficial outcome for the heart. This is because soy contains unsaturated fats, vitamins, and minerals.
In this Recipe…
In thirty minutes, you will have a tasty restaurant-style tofu with better nutrients and less saturated fat! Compared to the deep fried method, the tofu is coated with corn starch and seasonings, and then baked for a delicately crispy texture. For this crispy tofu method I was inspired by Cookie and Kate’s Crispy Tofu recipe (see here). Prior to coating the tofu, make sure to press the tofu with clean towels (or paper towels) to soak up the extra water and moisture. While the tofu bakes, make the sauce to save time. You will even have enough time to cook a side vegetable and whole grain to make this a complete meal. I added broccoli and kale with brown rice as a foundation for the orange tofu.
Corn starch is naturally gluten free, but for those gluten sensitive I recommend a certified gluten free corn starch product. In addition to gluten free corn starch, you will also need to substitute Tamari or coconut aminos for the soy sauce. For those that prefer a vegan option, substitute maple syrup for the honey to give sweetness to the sauce. Any meat lovers that are still not convinced to try tofu? Feel free to bake a lean protein like pork or chicken; the coating will still work great for any protein source. For cooking with meat, make sure the internal temperature is within the recommended range. Also note that cooking times for different protein sources will vary.
I would like to also take the time to give a very special thank you to our dear friend, Jordan Edwards. He has been a best (and loyal) friend of my husband’s since early college days and living abroad in Ireland. With his amazing culinary skills, especially in Asian cooking, he helped me create this delicious recipe. I still can’t believe we created an amazingly crispy textured tofu with half the calories! In addition to feeding my husband and I often with his cooking talents, he has also welcomed us into our new city of beautiful Boulder, Colorado. This recipe would not be as tasty without his help!
- Coating for Tofu:
- 1 15 ounce package extra firm tofu, cubed
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice
- 1 Tablespoon Corn Starch (or more to coat)
- Salt and pepper, garlic powder to taste
- Orange Glaze:
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Juice and Zest of one Cara Cara Orange (or another type of orange), approximately 1/4 cup
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce, low sodium (or tamari for Gluten Free option)
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 2 tablespoons vegetable broth
- 1/2-1 teaspoon cornstarch
- Additional toppings: chopped scallions, sesame seeds
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- In a medium bowl, mix all of the ingredients for the coating and toss the tofu to coat.
- Spread the coated tofu on a greased or non-stick baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or until crispy.
- While the tofu bakes, make the sauce (below).
- For the Sauce:
- Combine in a small bowl, the juice, zest, vinegar, soy sauce, honey, and broth.
- Heat the sesame oil on medium heat and saute the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes for 1 minute or until fragrant.
- Add the bowl of wet ingredients to the saucepan and bring to a simmer for 5-7 minutes. To thicken the sauce, mix the cornstarch and a small amount of water to make a paste prior to stirring or whisking in the sauce. Once the sauce reaches the desired consistency turn off the heat and set aside.
- Once the tofu is baked to desired level of crispiness, remove from the oven. Toss the tofu and sauce in a medium bowl and serve. Top with scallions and sesame seeds, optional.
When it comes to Superbowl Sunday, most of us think of nachos, buffalo wings, and cheese dip. America’s biggest TV night can be just as enjoyable with some healthier food options. Whether it is tuning in to watch your favorite team (Go Pats!) or the much anticipated commercials, these mini black bean and cheese enchilada cups will make a great snack or meal!
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If your New Year’s resolution is to eat healthier or eat more vegetables for 2017, try this delicious Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad!
Salads aren’t just a summer thing! These beautiful and delicate blends are good all year round. To keep up with the winter season choose vegetables such as beets, kale, and you guessed it, Brussels sprouts. These members of the cruciferous family are usually seen roasted or sautéed. So, why not have it shaved or shredded as a Brussels sprouts salad with a blend of cider vinaigrette and protein-packed quinoa?
While searching the internet for recipe inspiration, I mainly came across bacon and cheese as a topping. These are both delicious, but bacon was not an option for me. The sautéed shiitake mushrooms provide a meaty flavor and add the warm temperature to this salad. Toasted almonds give a nice crunch and nutty flavor to the mild Brussels sprouts leaves. If you prefer adding meat and/or dislike mushrooms, try pulled or roasted chicken in place of the mushrooms. Still just as good. The quinoa mixed in the recipe not only gives it a different texture, it also adds a protein boost to make this a balanced meal. This whole grain can be replaced with other fiber-rich winners like barley or beans if quinoa isn’t your favorite (or if like most of us, you are still learning how to pronounce it!).
Don’t forget about the dressing!
Besides a crunchy salad, my favorite way to eat these baby cabbages is roasted with a small drizzle of maple syrup and olive oil. From one of my favorite blogs, Serious Eats, I learned the basic ratio for salad dressing. Most culinary professionals recommend 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. The addition of cider vinegar gives this a sweet and seasonal taste. I had heard about this vinegar for a while and really wanted to finally try it out in a recipe. Besides being a great dressing for many foods, there are numerous health claims surrounding this little bottle of golden goodness. If you do not have this potentially beneficial ingredient in your kitchen, feel free to use red wine or balsamic vinegar to complete the vinaigrette for this brussles sprouts salad.
The many roles of Cider vinegar…
From banishing eczema to promoting weight loss, this vinegar seems like a superhero. For centuries, it has been used for numerous health remedies. Just recently, it has gained new fame for its claim to help you lose weight and lower cholesterol. To be clear, there is not enough evidence and further research is necessary.
The newest evidence out there, however, has shown its positive effects on regulating blood sugar levels. A CNN article written by Registered Dietitian, Cynthia Sass, just came out this week. She reported that subjects who drank a diluted mixture of vinegar and water at bedtime had lower glucose levels in the morning. Also mentioned, a different study found that consumption of this diluted mix paired with a starchy food item reduced their blood sugar levels compared to a placebo group. What’s most interesting, those with Pre-diabetes (a common condition in the U.S.) decreased their levels by 50%.
Another excellent article written by a dietitian for the Coloradoan also discusses these new health claims and states it best. No matter the claims, we must all caution the use due to its high acidity. This can cause side effects, such as throat irritation and increase in stomach acid. While further research is underway, use it in moderation. Some examples would be in a homemade stir fry sauce or as I did in this salad dressing.
Has roasting vegetables become too repetitive this winter? I highly recommend trying my new recipe for a Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad! Not only are the ingredients extremely versatile, this salad can be served as a main dish or side.
Now that the holidays are coming to an end, we are all focused on our New Year’s resolutions. No matter what you choose, take care of yourself! I hope these words by the great Maya Angelou finds you new meaning. “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
This salad is great as a main dish with protein-rich quinoa, but can make an excellent side dish to meat, seafood, or pasta. If you prefer adding meat to this dish, choose a lean protein like chicken or turkey. Substitutes for quinoa can be brown rice, barley, or beans for added fiber and protein. However you choose, the brussel sprouts are the winner in this recipe packed with folate and Vitamins C & K.
- 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa (yields 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa)
- 1 cup water for quinoa
- 1 lb Brussels Sprouts, shredded (cut sprouts in half then thinly slice crosswise), stems removed
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 3-4 cups Mixed Greens, optional
- 1/4 cup raw almonds for toasting
- 4 oz sliced mushrooms, such as shiitake or oyster
- Optional toppings: shredded cheese, scallions, parsley
- 1/3 cup olive oil plus one tablespoon (three teaspoons) for sauteeing
- 2-3 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 3 cloves minced garlic (2 teaspoons)
- 1 tablespoons dijon mustard, optional
- Salt and pepper to taste
- If using uncooked quinoa or other grain, prepare as directed. For uncooked quinoa, bring water and quinoa to boil and simmer until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Set aside.
- While the quinoa cooks, prepare the dressing mixing all ingredients in a small bowl with a whisk. Adjust ingredients to your taste preference and set aside.
- In a large bowl, toss the sprouts and cranberries and set aside.
- Heat one teaspoon olive oil In a skillet or non-stick pan on medium high, toss almonds for up to 3 minutes until browning (toasted). Remove from pan and add to sprouts.
- Use remaining two teaspoons olive oil and sautee mushrooms on medium high heat. Stir frequently to cook evenly, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and toss the mushrooms in with the sprouts mix.
- Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
- Add optional toppings if preferred.
The sauteed mushrooms and toasted almonds warm this salad. If you prefer sprouts to be warmed, simply toss at the end of heating the mushrooms and stir for up to 3 minutes to warm. The dijon mustard is optional, but acts as a great emulsifier for the dressing.
Kathryn Pfeffer-Scanlan MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and recent transplant to Boulder, CO. After working as an inpatient dietitian for almost five years in Boston, she is expanding her expertise in the health and wellness industry. Katie is passionate about cooking and food photography, sharing her culinary adventures on her food blog, One Hungry Bunny, and exploring her new Rocky Mountain surroundings. Follow Katie on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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