Posts Tagged ‘Holidays’

Next Wednesday evening at Sundown the Jewish holiday of Passover begins. The holiday commemorates the  enslaved Jews of Egypt who, according to the bible, had to flea their homes so quickly on learning they were freed that they were forced to snatch their bread from their ovens without giving it a chance to rise. In remembrance of the Jews of Egypt, modern-day observers of Passover spend a week without eating bread, pasta, cereal, cookies, crackers, cake–anything that has been “leavened,” or caused to rise during cooking.

For me, the real doozy when it comes to observing Passover is giving up my morning bowl of oatmeal. Like Passover, I observe breakfast religiously, and giving up my leavened breakfasts–oatmeal, cereal, waffles, toast– is never easy.  If you observe Passover and find yourself falling flat (pun intended…) when it comes to breakfast ideas, or if you’re just in the mood to mix up your morning meal, check out my seven original ideas for unleavened (and nutritious!) breakfasts.

1. Land of Milk and Honey

Jazz up a slice of matzah–the traditional unleavened flat bread Jews eat on Passover–with a spread of cream cheese, a drizzle of honey, and a few raisins. This breakfast is a little sweet, a little savory, and quick to prepare if you’re in a rush! (Recipe inspired by my Sephardic Jewish suite mate)

2. Hot Potato

If you can’t imagine eating eggs without toast, try this nutritious and unleavened alternative!  Cut a small sweet potato in quarter inch slices and microwave for about 4 minutes, or until the potato is  soft.  Meanwhile, poach a couple of eggs. (If you’ve never poached an egg before, it’s easy and nutritious!  Boil a couple of inches of water in a pot with a teaspoon of vinegar.  Crack an egg into a bowl, keeping the yolk intact.  Slide the egg into the water and cook for 2-3 minutes–you want the white part to be firm but the yolk runny.  Remove with a slotted spoon and season with salt and pepper).  Mash the sweet potato slices with salt, pepper, a little milk and butter if you like, and for a real kick, some sweet paprika.  If you have the time, a little diced, sauteed onion goes great!  Drop the egg on top of the potatoes and pop the yolk with the back of your folk so it drizzles down the potato mountain.  Mmmmm.

3. For a Smooth Morning

Everyone has their favorite smoothie recipe… here’s mine.  Combine one banana, a cup of vanilla yogurt, ice, a handful of frozen raspberries, and a cup of orange juice.  Blend away, and feel free to improvise, as long as the ingredients are unleavened!

4. Sweet Matzah Brie

Matzah brie, or fried matzah, is a Passover favorite.  I have two versions on my top seven countdown.  Here’s the first one: Break two boards of matzah into palm sized pieces and soak for a few minutes in a bowl of water.  Meanwhile, scramble two eggs in a large bowl bowl; add half a cup of milk, a dash of cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla, and a dribble of honey. Mix well. Drain the matzah and add to the egg mixture.  Let the matzah sit in the egg mixture while you heat a frying pan with butter.  Add the matzah mix to the pan and scramble like eggs!  Serve with maple syrup or jam.

5. Savory Matzah Brie.

Like above, soak your pieces of matzah in water for a few minutes, then drain.  While it’s soaking, dice a small white onion and sautee in a hot pan with oil or cooking spray.  For the egg mixture, scramble two large eggs; add salt, pepper, and a dash of cumin or curry powder for some spice.  Add the matzah and egg mixture to the pan of onions and scramble.  Serve straight or with some plain yogurt or sour cream.

6. Israeli Breakfast

If you can handle salt in the morning, try this delicious and authentic meal.  Make a traditional Israeli salad, with one vine ripe tomato, diced, half a sweet red onion, diced, and half a large cucumber, peeled and diced.  Dress with the juice of one lemon and two teaspons of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and let marinate for a few minutes.  Serve with a board of matzah and a scoop of plain yogurt or some sprinkled feta cheese.

7. Egg McMatzah

Sprinkle some low fat shredded mozerella on a board of matzah and toast in the toaster oven until the cheese melts.  Scramble an egg or two in a pan and slice a tomato while you’re matzah is toasting.  Spread the scrambled eggs and slices of tomato onto the cheesy matzah.  Eat open face or break in half and make an unleavened breakfast sandwhich!

Regardless of if you observe Passover or not, these 7 Unleavened breakfasts are delicious and nutritious year-round.  Enjoy, and be sure to post comments with your favorite Passover breakfast recipes!


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Mardis Gras is soon upon us, and though we may be far from New Orleans, Barbelle wants you to be able to celebrate Mardis Gras in style! This, of course, requires that you bake King Cake, a sweetened yeast bread absolutely required to complete a Mardis Gras celebration. Being a strong, beautiful, Barnard woman does not require that we miss out on this fun food tradition, but it may help if we use a slightly more health-conscious recipe when we decide to bake in honor of “Fat Tuesday.”
And so, thanks to Weight Watchers, Barbelle brings you this year’s King Cake recipe of choice, with less fat and fewer calories. Laissez le bon temps rouler!  (Let the good times roll!)

1 cup skim milk
4 tablespoons reduced-calorie margarine
Two ¼ oz packets of yeast
2/3 cup warm water
½ cup sugar
½ cup fat-free egg substitute
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
5 cups all-purpose flour
Cooking spray
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup raisins
½ cup of chopped pecans or walnuts
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon melted reduced-calorie margarine
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons granulated decorating sugar

Dough: In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine milk and margarine. When bubbles appear, remove from heat and set aside to cool
Meanwhile, mix yeast, warm water and 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar, and then it stand for 5 minutes.  Beat in egg substitute and the cooled milk mixture, along with the remaining granulated sugar, salt and nutmeg.
Add flour, cup by cup, and mix until blended and no longer sticky (this will take 4 to 5 cups; you don’t need to use all 5).  Knead the dough until smooth and elastic (this should take about 2 minutes using a dough hook on your mixture or 8 minutes by hand). Shape the dough into a ball.
Next, coat a large bowl with cooking spray and add the dough to it, coating all sides. The bowl should be covered with plastic wrap; let it rise in a warm place for about 1 ½ hours (until it doubles). Then, punch the dough down with your fists, and then roll it into a large rectangle (about 14 x 18 inches) and set it aside

Filling: Mix brown sugar, raisins, nuts, cinnamon and melted margarine in a bowl until the mixture is crumbly.
Then, sprinkle the filling over the dough (although not all the way up to the edges of the rectangle). Along the wider side of the rectangle, roll the dough up tightly like a jelly roll, and then bring the ends of the roll together to form a ring. Put the dough on a pre-sprayed baking sheet and pinch the ends together. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes (until it doubles in size).

Preheat oven to 375ºF.Cut slits about 1/3 of the way through the dough all around the ring, about an inch apart. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the dough is golden.
***When you remove the cake from the oven, you can insert a plastic baby doll into the bottom of the cake so that it’s hidden.***

Whisk together powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons of water, and then spread it on the cake while it’s still warm. Colored sugar should then be sprinkled over the cake.


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You may not have a valentine this V-Day, but that doesn’t mean you’ve got no “V” to celebrate! Take a few moments to learn some facts about your vagina in honor of, well…yourself, and also in celebration of V-Day, an alternative holiday on February 14th.

1. Vaginas are like snow flakes. No two are exactly alike!

2. According to Discovery Health’s “Sexual Health Center,” it’s a common misconception that the vagina is a continually open cavity. Most of the time, the walls of the vagina are flattened against each other, like a collapsed tube. Only when the vagina is stimulated, do the walls open up, creating a hole or space.

3. 90 % of the nerves of the vagina are located on the outer 1/3 of the vaginal barrel, closest to the vaginal opening. This means that the inner, or deeper, 2/3 of the vagina have very few nerve endings and are less sensitive to touch.

4. You vagina is full of muscular tissue that, like the rest of the muscles on your body, can benefit from some pumping and toning! Kegel exercises are vaginal exercises that involve contracting or sqeezing your vaginal muscles, holding for a few seconds, then releasing. Try doing a couple sets of ten everyday! (You can also get a feel for your kegel muscles by stopping and starting a flow of urine. This is an action that requires contracting your kegels.)

5. When you are sexually aroused, blood flows down to a ton of blood vessels on the vaginal tissue. The now engorged blood vessels press against the vaginal tissue, pushing out natural tissue fluids. This is how the vagina becomes lubricated.

6. Planned Parenthood’s Dr. Cullins explains that the G spot is a small, spongy area on the front wall of your vagina (the wall closer to your stomach), about 1-2 inches beyond the vaginal opening. This spot is extremely sensitive to touch, and its stimulation may be involved in the vaginal orgasm.

7. If your vagina is healthy, it will produce fluids that are white or clear and have very little odor. The amount of fluid your vagina produces depends on your hormone level and where you are in your menstrual cycle—you produce the most fluids when ovulating.

8. If your vaginal fluids have a strong odor or appear discolored, you may have vaginitis, an infection or irritation of the vagina. Vaginitis is easy to treat! Just visit your doctor to clear up the problem.

9. V-Day is a global event that occurs annualy on February 14. Eve Ensler, writer of the Vagina Monologues, founded V-Day in 1998 to raise funds and awareness to help stop violence against women. “The V in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine, and Vagina.”

10. You can buy tickets to Barnard/Columbia’s annual performance of the Vagina Monologues at the Lerner ticket box now! Performances are this weekend, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights from 8-10 PM. Word on the street is that President Spar is making a cameo on Thursday night only!

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In honor of Valentine’s Day, I have done an interdisciplinary study of the heart (a.k.a love) and red wine (a.k.a. it’s RED and it’s oh-so-romantic). Even though this is now old news, I feel it merits repeating during the days leading up to our time-honored celebration of the commodification of love. (End rant). First, a few disclaimers: Barbelle does not condone underage drinking or excessive drinking, and in no way does this post serve as the final word on the matter of alcohol and health. However, studies show that in moderation, red wine can reduce the risk of heart disease.

The flavonoids – a type of antioxidant found in red wine – may be the main cause of the health benefits of red wine. However, the American Heart Association stresses that flavonoids can be found in non-alcoholic drinks as well, such as grape juice, and the health benefits of alcohol should not outweigh the negative aspects of addiction and over-consumption. They further point out that the healthy hearts of wine drinkers may be due to exercise, diets high in fruits and vegetables, or other factors. They maintain that there has been no conclusive evidence that proves the specific properties of red wine prevent against heart disease. That said, red wine does contain elements that can improve health

Despite the AHA’s reticence, Harvard researchers have shown that resveratrol, another property in red wine, can reduce the formation of blood clots, the negative effects of a high-fat diet and the effects of aging. Of course, the AHA is quick to point out that aspirin can act as a blood thinner as well.

Although my research has not proven as clear-cut as I wanted, I can safely say that you may imbibe one glass of red wine at your Valentine’s Day dinner – if you are over 21 – without fearing for your health. Still skeptical? Go for the grape juice instead.

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With Valentine’s Day comes a barrage of candy hearts, paper hearts, and heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolates and valentines. Yet, amidst this inundation of material hearts,  it is important to remember that we are always accompanied by (one might even say, indebted to) another heart.  Yes, I’m talking about the heart that’s beating in your chest right now,  circulating oxygen throughout your body.

We don’t show our hearts enough love. Sure, we love them, and may become particularly aware of them when participating in the pledge of allegiance. So let us rise to the occasion. This Valentine’s Day, there are some simple changes we can make to strengthen our hearts and make us healthier.

1.) Eat less salt: The American Heart Association stipulates that we consume less than 2,300 milligrams of salt per day.  Excessive salt intake can lead to high blood pressure. Many prepared foods, a la Hewitt and John Jay, are comprised of salt. An easy fix? Choose fresh vegetables from the salad bar instead of the cooked ones.  Also, when cooking, use cinnamon, lemon juice, garlic, or hot chilli instead of salt for flavoring for heart-healthy culinary innovations.

2.) Get moving: We hear it and read it all the time, but it’s true: our bodies really do require cardiovascular exercise most days of the week. Aim for at least thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise five days per week and you’re golden.

3.) Swap unhealthy fats with healthy fats: Lower your intake of trans and saturated fats; these fats raise our cholesterol, heightening our risk for having clogged arteries. Try to eat monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in their stead, as from nuts and olive and canola oils.

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