YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Grandma Rosie’s Rhubarb

Last week, I wrote about my Grandma Rosie’s chopped eggplant, and it was a huge hit! So now, this week, with the rhubarb starting to poke up in the garden, I thought I’d write about her rhubarb. But first a few words about the woman herself.

My Grandma Rosie was an extraordinarily good cook. I mean — really, really good. She made chicken soup, like my friends’ grandmas, but she also made many dishes that I never saw in any other grandmas’ homes, dishes like stuffed veal roasts and chicken fricassee, chopped eggplant (see last week’s post), stuffed peppers and stuffed cabbage, homemade water bagels, chopped green beans, salads of every imaginable variety, potatoes and spinach, calves foot jelly (p’cheh), and all kinds of other delicacies. Her kitchen was always warm, her table was always full, and her creative expression seemed unlimited.

Grandma Rosie wasn’t nearly as interested in baking as in cooking, however, so there were just a few desserts, and they usually consisted of some kind of fruit. My favorite, hands down, was her rhubarb. The mix of sweet and tart has always been absolutely irresistible to me.

1 pound rhubarb, chopped into 1 inch pieces (approx 3 cups)
2 apples, chopped (sometimes she used a pint of strawberries instead)
1/4 cup raisins
juice of 1 lemon plus zest from 1/2 of lemon
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Place ingredients in covered dish, stir, and cook in 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. Uncover, stir, and cook for 15 minutes more.

You can serve this plain or you can dress it up with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream, a spoonful of unsweetened whipped cream, or a little fresh cream poured on top. The last few times I made it I added to the recipe a small (finger-tip sized) nub of ginger chopped into into very tiny pieces. I’m pretty sure Grandma Rosie would have gone crazy for it. She loved when we took her recipes one step further.

Grandma Rosie’s rhubarb is delicious served warm, cold, or at room temperature. You can’t go wrong.


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Grandma Rosie’s Chopped Eggplant

On this Mother’s Day 2019, here is my present to you: Grandma Rosie’s Chopped Eggplant. This recipe means so much more to me than simply the sum of its ingredients. We used to make it for special holidays, and always in a big wooden bowl with what we reverently called “the chopper,” a utensil whose correct name — I have since learned — is actually “mezzaluna,” which accurately describes its half-moon shape. The bowl and its contents would pass among my grandmother and whomever else was helping out in the kitchen, each of us chopping for as long as we were able, until our chopping arm was aching and it was time for the bowl to be transferred to the next lap. We all chopped, but only Grandma Rosie decided when the eggplant was ready.
On a recent visit to Jerusalem to visit my son and daughter-in-law, who asked me to make this recipe for them to serve at a special celebration, I discovered neither wooden bowl nor mezzaluna, nor even a food processor. What to do? Improvise! I would never have guessed that I could reproduce this recipe with just a knife, fork, and cutting board, but that is exactly what happened. Grandma Rosie would have been so proud, and I like to imagine that this is how chopped eggplant was prepared (perhaps by Grandma Rosie’s own grandmother before her?) some long-ago time before wooden bowls and choppers became “de rigueur” in the Eastern European kitchen.
Note: I usually roast the eggplants the night before I plan to make the recipe, so they can cool overnight.
1. Puncture 4 med-large eggplants with a fork or knife in a few places, and roast on high heat (475F) in oven until skins are blackened and flesh is soft. Start checking after 30 minutes, but it may take up to an hour or so. Allow to cool completely.
2. Chop 6 medium yellow onions coarsely.
3. Add 4 onions worth (2/3 of the pile) to a large frying pan with generous amount of sizzling olive oil (3-4 Tbsp). Stir frequently on med to high heat until onions are clear and edges are browning. Set aside.
4. Sprinkle remaining onions with one and one-half teaspoons of salt and chop as fine as possible, even until the onions begin to become paste-like.
5. Use the back of a fork to mash the eggplant with all the onions (cooked and raw) until well mixed.
6. If you like, you can also add one-half teaspoon black pepper, or mash a couple cloves of fresh garlic with the raw onion, or sprinkle the top with parsley prior to serving. Also, use a food processor if you like, but be careful to pulse just a few times or the texture will become thick and gummy.
Serves 6-8, warm or cold.
Thank you, Grandma Rosie, and Happy Mother’s Day to you.

The Problem with Girl Scout Cookies

In one memorable scene from the movie The Addams Family, young Wednesday Addams asks the uniformed adolescent who rings the bell at her front door if the cookies she is selling are made with real Girl Scouts. Well, Wednesday, I would say that yes, in a way they are.

I was a Girl Scout, and I went to Girl Scout camp for many years. I wore a sash that was covered with badges. I even sold Girl Scout cookies in my neighborhood. But I am no longer 12 years old.

Girl Scout cookies got their start in 1922 when a few ambitious young women and their moms made sugar cookies for a bake sale. The recipe (see below) looked exactly as you would expect. At the first officially organized sale, the Scouts sold homemade cookies at the windows of local Philadelphia utility companies. By 1936, however, 125 troops were working with commercial bakers who had been licensed for the purpose. Girl Scouts sold other things besides cookies. During World War II, for instance, a shortage of flour, sugar, and butter led Girl Scouts to sell newspapers. In 1943 they sold War Bonds (not for profit).   

Throughout the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, Girl Scouts experimented with many different recipes. Just like McDonalds. 

In 1978 the National Council standardized packaging and pricing systems, and reduced the number of licensed bakeries. By the 1980s, the Girl Scouts’ control over a sizable segment of the cookie market led to an agreement with Keebler, owned by Kellogg’s, along with two other licensed bakeries. Cookie sale awards were instituted in 1998. The cost of the awards, of course, is factored into the funds that are returned to each troop.

But my big beef with Girl Scout cookies is not the business arrangement. It’s the ingredient list. Most brands contain at least three types of sugar, including sugar, invert sugar, and dextrose. Yes, I know they’re cookies. But let’s call sugar sugar, and remember that home-baked cookies don’t contain invert sugar, dextrose, or corn syrup solids. 

Why do all mentions of “enriched flour” include a detailed list of all the B vitamins added back after the flour was stripped? Well, it has the effect of pushing back the first mention of the word “sugar” much farther in the ingredient list, to make it appear as if it is not a major ingredient. Even though it is.

At least one type of cookie contains caramel coloring. A study published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, demonstrated a positive association between caramel coloring and risk of high blood pressure. If we stop buying it, maybe they will stop making it.

On their official website, the Girl Scouts of America organization justifies the widespread enlistment of children to serve as representatives for commercial baked goods manufacturers by emphasizing that selling builds people skills and confidence, decision making, creative thinking, fair business practice, and, yes, money management. Many other activities also accomplish the development of these skills.

What else are we teaching? 

#1 That it’s okay to sell (and eat) large, even absurdly large, amounts of white flour and sugar. 

#2 That you don’t have to learn to make things yourself. 

#3 That it’s okay to let somebody else make large amounts of treats for you to distribute. 

#4 That it’s okay not to know your own way around a kitchen.  

#5 That it’s okay for parents to take signup sheets to work to increase your total sales, otherwise known as letting someone else do the work. 

#6 That it’s okay to do things that you may not personally believe in for financial gain. 

In our country, where fully a third of current fifteen-year-olds are expected to become diabetic, a conversation is brewing about whether the Girl Scouts should represent the commercial baking industry. 

Who is going to pay for all the medical care that those diabetics are going to need? It is unlikely to be the processed food industry. How high a price are we willing to pay?

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Girl Scout Cookie Ingredient List, circa 1922

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar, with additional sugar for topping (optional)

2 eggs

2 tbsp milk

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Chopped Salad

My parents moved into the house next door to us a year ago, so instead of getting to eat my father’s cooking only a few times a year, we are now lucky to count ourselves as regular beneficiaries of my father’s superb cooking. Not long ago, my father, also known as Chef Ira, cooked dinner while the rest of us put in a full day of work. The menu for that memorable meal included fresh cod; roasted potatoes, eggplant, squash, and Brussels sprouts with caramelized garlic and onions; and his famous chopped salad. My dad’s chopped salad, which appears at most if not all the meals he cooks, is “to die for!” and it is certainly worth learning how to make.  Continue reading



YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Haminados (Eggs) for Passover

Haminados are one of my all-time favorite Passover recipes! Simple, sublime and delicious, they have been a staple at the Passover tables of Mediterranean Jewish communities for millennia! Check out this recipe and you’ll see why. Whether you make this dish in your crockpot or oven, it takes just a few minutes to toss it together and get things cooking. Continue reading


Avoid HFCS, Make Your Own Ketchup

My dad is on a mission to get people to eat less ketchup, but it’s not because of the tomatoes, or the ketchup. It’s 100% because of the high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). He can’t stand the fact that most national brands of ketchup have so much HFCS, and that it’s usually first or second in the ingredient list. So he asked if I would post an entry about this. Okay, Dad, yes, here it is! Continue reading


Insulin: Like Money in the Bank

Have you ever considered that the amount of insulin you are capable of making over your lifetime is limited? Maybe your pancreas can make, let’s just call it 1000 pounds worth of insulin, and after that it starts to have trouble keeping up with the demand? What would happen if you used up most of your supply by the time you were 40 or 50? Then what? Then your blood sugars would probably start to rise dramatically, and you would need to start taking medicine, whether to make your remaining insulin work more efficiently, to get your pancreas to make more, or to augment your existing supplies. Continue reading


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Avgolemono (Lemon-Egg Soup)

Avgolemono (ahhv-go-LEH-mo-no; avgo is egg, and lemono is lemon) is Greek chicken soup, but you don’t need chicken to make it! Its simple combination of a few basic ingredients creates a deep well of comfort to satisfy your senses and soothe your soul. Even though avgolemono is about as simple as it gets, it’s an elegant recipe whose brilliance comes as much from the technique as the ingredients. As usual, the better the quality of the ingredients, the better the finished product. Also, you don’t have to use arborio rice, but it does confer a particular creamy texture that other kinds of rice do not. Continue reading