Because I was raised in a kosher household, my transition to vegetarianism was easier than I expected.
My vegetarian diet consists mainly of foods that are naturally kosher: fresh fruits and vegetables, mostly organic; whole grains and dried beans; nuts and seeds and a small amount of dairy and eggs.
I became a vegetarian 30 years ago, and transition is the operative word here. The change was gradual: first red meat was eliminated, then chicken and fish, and finally dairy and eggs, although I added them back to my diet because I was concerned about nutritional deficiencies for my children and myself. (I raised my third child as a vegetarian after I became a vegetarian.)
I did not and still do not feel deprived or uncomfortable. Sometimes it is a challenge, such as going to a restaurant and asking lots of questions about ingredients and if any of the soups are vegetarian.
For the Jewish holidays, I can create a menu using fall foods, such as sweet potatoes, carrots and whole grains without sacrificing taste. In fact, in my cooking classes, my motto is the “Good Taste of Health,” because as a nutrition educator, I have studied the importance of eating fresh, organic whole foods to be sure that my vegetarian diet not only helps the environment but also keeps me healthy.
Even if you are not a vegetarian, I urge you to try some of these dishes to expand your kosher menu. Some of these dishes can be side dishes to your menu, without sacrificing your favorite brisket or chicken soup.
Or walk a little on the wild side: Prepare a meatless meal once each week. Breaking the fast after Yom Kippur is usually dairy, so this is a good place to start. You don’t even have to give away your favorite kosher cookbooks, because I still use mine. I just avoid the meat entrees.
In fact, I read once in a book by holistic health practitioner, nutritionist, raw foods advocate and author Viktoras Kuvinskas that kosher is the first step to vegetarianism. That statement really inspired me and gave me food for thought!
Fall Kosher Vegetarian Menu
Awesome Autumn Salad
Carrot-Sweet Potato Soup
Kale With Sesame Seeds
Baked Apples With Allspice and Raisins
Awesome Autumn Salad
5 oz. organic baby Romaine (about 4 cups packed)
1 cup peeled mandarin oranges or tangerines
1⁄2 cup pomegranate seeds
1⁄4 cup sliced almonds
2 Tbsps. kosher olive oil
juice of 1⁄2 lemon or lime
Wash and spin dry greens. (Feel free to substitute other greens.)
Add oranges, pomegranate seeds and almonds. Add olive oil and toss gently. Squeeze lemon or lime juice onto salad and toss again.
Serve immediately. (If you are making the salad in advance, toss right before serving.)
Baked Sweet Potato Soup
2 to 3 medium (organic) sweet potatoes, scrubbed
3 to 4 organic carrots, washed and peeled or unpeeled
5 cups cooking water or vegetarian stock (approximate amount)
1⁄4 to 1⁄2 tsp. cinnamon
1⁄4 tsp. ginger
1⁄4 tsp. nutmeg
pumpkin or sunflower seeds for garnish
Scrub and score sweet potatoes and bake in a 375˚ oven until tender, but not mushy (about 45 minutes). This can be done the day before.
Cook scrubbed and coarsely cut carrots in 2 to 3 cups of water while potatoes bake.
Carrots will be ready first. Remove from stove and place in blender or food processor with cooking water.
When sweet potatoes can be pierced with a fork, remove, cool and peel. Add to blender and puree with carrots, adding 2 more cups of water or vegetarian stock.
If soup is too thick for your taste, add another cup of water. The soup does tend to thicken in the refrigerator. Add spices and puree again.
Heat and serve, sprinkled with pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
Note: You can also make this soup by simmering the sweet potatoes (peeled and cut into chunks) and carrots in 4 cups water or stock, cooling, blending with spices and adding extra liquid if needed. This is quicker, unless you bake the sweet potatoes the day before. (I prefer the baked flavor.)
1 pkg. (16 oz.) firm or extra firm tofu
kosher olive oil or sesame oil (approx. 1⁄2-3⁄4 cup)
flavored bread crumbs (kosher) or flaxseed meal mixed with sesame seeds (approx. 1⁄2-3⁄4 cup)
tamari soy sauce (San-J brand is kosher)
Allow tofu to drain well before slicing. Preheat oven to 350˚.
While tofu is draining, prepare two small bowls, one with about 1⁄2 cup oil and the other with about 1⁄2 cup bread crumbs or flax/sesame mix.
Slice the tofu into thin slices lengthwise along the rectangular shape, about 1⁄2- to 3⁄4-inch thick.
Dip slices first into oil and then into bread crumbs or flax/sesame mix. Place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet or one lined with parchment paper.
Bake at 350˚ for about 10 minutes on each side, turning carefully to keep coating mixture on the slices.
Put oven on high/grill mode and grill tofu about 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until desired crispness.
Serve over cooked kale (see below) and sprinkle with tamari soy sauce.
Note: A recent article in The Philadelphia Inquirer touted kale as easy, cheap, nutritious (packed with Vitamins A, C and K) and versatile. Kale has finally moved away from merely a trendy health food to a mainstream vegetable and is also available as chips.
1 bunch organic kale
water or stock
1 to 2 Tbsps. kosher olive oil
sesame seeds or sunflower seeds
Wash kale well. Tear about 5 to 6 leaves into bite-sized pieces from the stems. Discard stems.
Steam until tender (about 10 minutes) or cook in a small amount of water or soup stock until tender (15-20 minutes). Kale tends to be a little bitter, so I prefer cooking it in water or stock, perhaps losing a few nutrients but making it much more palatable.
Drain kale, toss with olive oil and sprinkle on sunflower seeds or sesame seeds.
Arrange tofu cutlets over the kale and drizzle with tamari soy sauce.
Apple Honey Cake
1⁄2 cup organic apple or orange juice
3⁄4 cup organic raisins or currants
2 large eggs
1⁄3 cup olive, coconut or walnut oil (plus 1 Tbsp. for baking pan)
1⁄3 cup honey
1 tsp. almond or vanilla extract
2 cups pastry/all-purpose flour (plus 2 Tbsps. for baking pan)
1 tsp. baking powder
1⁄2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon powder
1⁄2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1⁄2 tsp. powdered ginger
2 cups organic apples: cut, peeled and diced
Preheat oven to 350˚F. In a small bowl, soak raisins in juice. Set aside.
In blender, place eggs, oil, honey and almond/vanilla extract. Blend well.
In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.
Add blended items to dry ingredients in bowl and mix well, making sure all the flour is moistened. Mixture will be thick.
Add soaked raisins with the juice and mix into large bowl, stirring well. Add diced apples and stir in completely.
Grease a 21⁄2-quart baking pan with 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons flour (pan is approximately 8x12x2 inches).
Bake for approximately 45 minutes in a 350˚ oven. Check after 30 minutes with a toothpick and continue baking if toothpick is not clean. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Note: This can be served as is, with a dollop of yogurt or applesauce, or made sweeter by drizzling honey on top before serving. This is a good cake not only for dessert, but also for breakfast or as a snack with a beverage.
Ellen Sue Spicer-Jacobson is a teacher, nutrition educator and cookbook author. Her website has many recipes, all vegetarian, under Kitchen Nutrition (www.menupause.info ).