Tu B’shvat is coming up. It's customary to eat fruits on this “birthday of the trees”, as well as to eat from the Shivat Haminim - the Seven Species of produce for which the Land of Israel is praised – even those that don’t grow on trees. Since Tu B'shvat falls out on Shabbat this year, I put together a menu in honor of the day. Best of all, it shouldn’t take any longer to prepare than our usual fare. There's more sugar and fat in these dishes than those I normally prepare or recommend, but at least it's all trans fat free, low in saturated fat, and high in fruits and vegetables!

We’ll start with wheat challah, like every week. Then I'll serve Mushroom Barley Soup instead of the usual chicken soup. The main course is the fun part: Pomegranate Chicken and Salad, Raisin Noodle Kugel, Avocado Olive Salad. To complete the Seven Species, I'll skewer dried figs, dates, and other fruits and stick them in a vase filled with nuts. I'll use the arrangement as a centerpiece throughout the meal and divvy it up for dessert.

Mushroom Barley Soup

Season salt and marrow bones give this soup an exceptionally rich flavor. Whole barley is to pearled barley what whole wheat flour is to refined white flour, so use whole barley if you can. It’s available in most stores and looks similar to oats.

Sautee lightly: 2 lb mushrooms, sliced

2 garlic cloves, sliced

2-3 onions, diced

Fill an 8 qt pot halfway with water

Add 2 pieces flanken or 4 marrow bones

Bring to a boil, then simmer on low flame for 2 hours

Add: 6 sliced carrots

2 stalks of celery

Dash of garlic powder

2 tsp season salt or to taste

Cup of raw whole barley

Sauteed vegetables from above

Simmer an additional ½ hour on medium flame.

Nutrition facts for 1/10 recipe (about 1 1/2 cups each) with 3 oz flanken and 1/3 c oil to sautee: Calories 189, total fat 9g (saturated fat 1g, trans fat 0g), cholesterol 5mg, total carbohydrate 23g (fiber 6g, sugars 5g), protein 8g. Vitamin A 120% DV, riboflavin 28% DV, niacin 24% DV.

Pomegranate Chicken…and Lettuce Salad

This is a two-in-one recipe. The recipe makes a large amount so that there will be enough sauce to cover the chicken. If you are only using the salad dressing, then make only one quarter of the dressing and add 3/8 c oil. You'll still have some left over to keep in the fridge for another occasion. You can replace the pomegranate with berries, mango, or orange slices at other times of the year.

Using 100% pomegranate juice will give you better color, flavor, and more of the antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering, anti-atherosclerotic properties for which pomegranates are famous. However, a pomegranate juice drink works very well as well. Either one will produce a rich dark red chicken.

Dressing: ½ c sugar

½ c honey

½ c red wine vinegar

2 tsp mustard

¾ tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

For salad:

Blend dressing using a hand blender until sugar and mustard are completely blended in.

Take about 2 ½ tbsp of dressing.

Mix in 2 tbsp canola oil.

Toss with: 1/2 red onion, diced

Arils of ½ of a large pomegranate (at least)

Bag of romaine lettuce

For chicken:

Add: 2 c pomegranate juice

3 tbsp whole wheat flour

Boil in a pot for about 15 minutes or until mixture becomes a thick syrup, almost like honey. No need to stir, but you will need to lower the flame when it starts to foam.

Spoon over four pieces of bone-in chicken. The syrup should be thick enough that you'll need to press it onto the chicken.

Bake covered for one hour.

Add Arils of ½ of a large pomegranate

Uncover and bake for ten more minutes.

Nutrition facts for 1/8 salad (about 3/4 cup): Calories 68, total fat 4g (saturated fat 0g, trans fat 0g), cholesterol 0mg, sodium 30 mg, total carbohydrate 8g (fiber 2g, sugars 6g), protein 1g. Vitamin A 98% DV, vitamin C 26% DV, vitamin K 77% DV, folate 21% DV.

Nutrition facts per 1 piece skinless chicken breast, thickly glazed : Calories 289, total fat 2g (saturated fat 0g, trans fat 0g), cholesterol 68mg, sodium 317mg, total carbohydrate 40 g (fiber 0g, sugars 38g), protein 28g. Niacin 68% DV, vitamin B6 34% DV.

Easy Raisin Noodle Kugel

No need to boil and drain the noodles in this recipe.

Boil: 4 ½ cups water

3/4 c sugar

2 tsp salt

6 tbsp canola oil

3 Tbsp brown sugar

Add 1 lb of raw thin egg noodles

Turn off the fire and let sit until it is no longer piping hot – about ½ hour

Mix in: 4 beaten eggs

1 cup raisins

Pour into a 9x13 and bake at 350 for about an hour and 20 minutes

Nutrition facts per 1/24 of recipe: Calories 154, total fat g (saturated fat 0g, trans fat 0g), cholesterol 16 mg, sodium 208 mg, total carbohydrate 26g (fiber 1g, sugars 12g), protein 3g. Thiamin 15% DV, folate 11% DV.

Avocado Olive Salad

This salad is high in monounsaturated fats. It’s very healthy, but you might want to choose a different salad if you’re trying to lose weight.

3 ripe avocadoes, cubed

1 box (2 cups or 9-10 oz) grape tomatoes, halved

1 can hearts of palm, sliced

½ cup sliced green olives

Juice of ½ lemon (fresh squeezed will give a much better flavor than bottled)

1 Tbsp light mayonnaise

Dash salt

Dash pepper

Mix gently until the avocado coats the whole mixture, but not so much that the avocado pieces break down. If the avocado is ripe enough, you will need less mayo. I usually don’t add any mayo at all. Add a little at a time till you reach the proper consistency.

Nutrition facts per 1/14 of recipe (about ½ c) with mayo: Calories 99, total fat 9g (saturated fat 1g, trans fat 0g, monounsaturated fat 6g), cholesterol 0mg, total carbohydrate 6g (fiber 4g, sugars 1g), protein 2g. Vitamin C 13% DV, vitamin K 14% DV, folate 11% DV, manganese 14% DV.