click here to jump to start of article
  • Torah Reading: Naso
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Healthy Rosh Hashana Cooking

Healthy Rosh Hashana Cooking

Start the New Year off right with healthy food choices.


Excerpted from Food for the Soul: Traditional Jewish Wisdom for Healthy Eating, Gefen Publishing House, Jerusalem 2008

It's hard to believe that Rosh Hashana is just around the corner. A whole month of holidays – and oh so many festive meals!

You're going to be shopping. You're going to be cooking. There will be food everywhere! And lots of it!

Let's take this short nutrition quiz to learn how to start the New Year off right with healthy food choices.

1. How many servings of vegetables and fruits do you eat each day?

  1. 0 – 1
  2. 2 – 4
  3. 5 or more

If you chose C, you're doing well. Eat 5 to 9 (or more!) servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day and you'll get plenty of essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and anti-oxidants. Plan your Rosh Hashanah meals around fresh seasonal vegetables. Squash, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, leafy greens – they're all in season now. And serve fresh fruit for dessert all through the holidays.

2. What type of fat do you use most often (for cooking, spreading, eating)?

  1. Butter
  2. Margarine
  3. Extra-virgin olive oil

Extra-virgin olive oil is your best choice. Use butter sparingly, just for flavor. Margarine, a source of harmful trans fat, is mainly soybean oil processed with an array of food additives. There's nothing healthy about it. So this Rosh Hashana, dress your salads with olive oil. Use it to sauté vegetables, including all of those onions. And try my mother's honey cake for dessert (recipe follows). It uses just three eggs and no oil at all.

3. What beverage do you drink most often?

  1. Water
  2. Soft drinks
  3. Coffee

Did you choose water? With no calories and no additives, it's the healthiest and least expensive beverage around. Most tap water is completely safe, though in some areas a filter is recommended. Soft drinks are the major source of added sugar in our diets – and they certainly add inches to our waistlines. If you enjoy coffee and have no medical reasons to avoid it, up to three cups a day are probably fine. For a refreshing beverage, thinly slice a lemon and put it into a large glass pitcher. Add several sprigs of fresh mint, fill the pitcher with water and chill. What a beautiful addition to your holiday table!


Beet greens are one of the Simanim – traditional foods eaten on Erev Rosh Hashanah. Each of the Simanim symbolizes a specific request for the coming year, and each request is based on the Hebrew or Aramaic word for that food. While eating beet greens (selek), we request that our enemies be removed – yistalek. Leafy green vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals. Here's an easy way to add them to your holiday menu.

  • 2 pounds (1 kilo) Swiss chard or beet greens, washed and checked well
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or 1 cube frozen minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon each ground cumin and coriander
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Slice the greens, including the stems, into ribbons, about 1 inch (2 to 3 cm.) wide. Put them into a pan with the remaining ingredients. Cover tightly and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes, or until the greens are very soft and silky. Stir occasionally and add more water if necessary to prevent sticking. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4-6


Although kasha (toasted buckwheat) looks and cooks like a grain, it really is a seed. It's high in protein and calcium and doesn't contain gluten. In fact, if you substitute gluten-free pasta in this recipe, your gluten-intolerant guests will be very happy. You can serve this dish as a vegetarian entrée as well.

This version of the traditional Ashkenazi kasha varnishkes (noodles) goes into the oven, making it especially convenient to prepare in advance of holiday meals.

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, halved and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, washed and sliced, optional
  • 8 ounces bow-tie (or other shape) pasta
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup kasha
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan with a cover and sauté the onions, stirring frequently, until nicely browned. Place the onions in a large mixing bowl.

Add the mushrooms to the same pan and sauté just until they begin to brown. Add the paprika and cook for another minute. Add the mushrooms to the onions.

Set the pan aside without washing it.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water for 3-4 minutes, until tender but not thoroughly cooked. Drain, rinse and add to the onions.

Beat 1 egg in a bowl and add the kasha to it. Mix thoroughly.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the pan. Add the kasha and stir constantly until the grains are toasted. Add salt, pepper and broth or water and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature to low, cover and cook for about 15 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.

Add the cooked kasha to the noodle and onion mixture and gently mix together. Taste for salt and pepper.

Beat the remaining two eggs and add them to the kasha and noodles. Place in the sprayed baking dish and sprinkle with paprika.

Bake, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes, until thoroughly cooked.

Serves 6-8


This is the honey cake my mother has baked since I was a little girl. My only update is to substitute half of the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat pastry flour. The preparation is unusual – baking soda is added to hot honey, which bubbles up in a chemical reaction of acid and base. Serve small slices of this sweet cake with herbal tea and fresh fruit for a luscious Rosh Hashanah dessert.

  • 2 cups honey
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup strong hot coffee (brewed or instant)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar

Generously spray a large bundt pan or two 9 x 5 inch (23 x 13 cm.) loaf pans with baking spray.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 Celsius).

Heat the honey in a very large pan until it begins to bubble slightly. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the baking soda. The mixture will bubble and foam. Stir in the coffee and set the mixture aside to cool.

Whisk together the flour and spices and set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat the eggs until creamy. Add the sugar, a little at a time, until the mixture is thick and pale.

Add the cooled honey and the flour mixture alternately to the eggs, a little at a time, mixing on low speed to combine. Pour the mixture into the baking pan(s) and bake for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of the pan. The cake should start to come away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out dry.

Cool the cake(s) on a wire rack.

Serves 12 to 16

Visit Chana's blog at:

September 20, 2008

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 10

(10) Fort Lauderdale catering, August 11, 2010 7:44 AM

Jewish get togethers to look forward to

Thank you for providing a wonderful selection of dishes served during special Jewish celebrations.

(9) Charlotte, October 7, 2008 10:15 PM

Mom's Honey Cake very tasty and condensed. Next time will use less flour.

For Rosh Hashana I baked your Mom's Honey Cake and found it to be too condensed (packed) with flour. I think that next time I will try to reduce the quantity of the flour to be 1 cup whole wheat and 1 cup regular flour and will let you know how it came out.

(8) Feigele, September 24, 2008 11:55 AM

Chemicals in our Food

To Georgia (6) I agree that anything and mostly everything contains certain elements susceptible to alter our health in some ways. I am very health conscious and If I followed my instincts, we wouldn’t eat anything at all, since all food contains some chemicals. Fresh fruits, veggies, grains and cereals have been sprayed with pesticides, animals we eat have been injected with hormones or who knows what and they eat food also containing chemicals. Don’t you go to restaurants? Do you know what you eat there, how the food is prepared? You buy salad dressing, bbq sauce, potato chips, tortilla chips, soy sauce and the list goes on. They all have monosodium glutamate, which is MSG. I use a cube instead of salt. But thank you for reminding me again that this is one more thing that I should be cooking without. I too make a big pot of chicken soup w/veggies but can never seem to keep any since we eat it all that same day. To Chana Rubin (7): sorry, but I don’t agree. The way I cook kasha in just boiling water comes out very fluffy and light and grains are separated not clinging together. Maybe you put too much water, like in rice if you do, it will become glue especially in a rice cooker and maybe too long too. Then you say by cooking it in your rice cooker, the kasha didn’t stay on the fork! So which one is it then? We should all have a test of our cooking, not as a challenge, but as a discovery of new ways.

(7) Chana Rubin, September 23, 2008 10:14 PM

Answers to Questions and Comments

(5) Sarah, 22/9/2008 shana tova "And serve fresh fruit for dessert all through the holidays" It is better to eat fruit before the meal. As a rule, the foods that are easy to digest should be eaten first, otherwise they will have to wait their "turn" till the other foods (proteins, starches, or whatever) have been digested, which is not healthy at all. So start with fruits, then vegetables, and then others, and a good, sweet and healthy year to you all! Response: Our complex digestive system doesn't process foods in a specific order. Fruits are digested along with the rest of what we eat, whether eaten before, after or during a meal. Many people want a little something sweet to end a meal, and fruit is a healthy and delicious choice. (4) Jeannie Taylor, 21/9/2008 Question I would like more receipes. Thank You Response: There are many wonderful kosher and healthy vegetarian cookbooks available. One of my favorites is Olive Trees and Honey - an eclectic collection of kosher vegetarian recipes by Gil Marks. Another book that I refer to constantly is Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. My book, Food for the Soul - Traditional Jewish Wisdom for Healthy Eating has over 100 healthy kosher recipes. I also post new recipes on my blog. See the main article for the address. (3) Feigele, 21/9/2008 I have a question about the way kasha is prepared: why an egg? and why toasted in a pan, when you can just cook it like rice or pasta and get the same result? who needs extra cholesterol? I cook it in boiling water with a chicken bouillon cube and voila. delicious and no extra calorie. I still need to know why an egg. thank you. Response: Kasha is mixed with an egg and toasted to help keep the grains fluffy. Kasha cooked this way will cling together, rather than fall off of your fork. If you're concerned about cholesterol, use egg whites rather than whole eggs. Just last week I cooked kasha in my rice cooker, without using an egg: 1 cup kasha, 2 cups water, a spoonful of olive oil and a dash of salt. Very easy and delicious, but it certainly didn't stay on the fork easily! (6) Georgia, 22/9/2008 bouillon cube? That has MSG wwhich is very unhealthy. I stopped using bouillion cubes for that reason. I try to save chicken stock from soups, etc. You can freeze the stock into ice cubes. Response: Unless you are sensitive to MSG, it is probably harmless, especially in small amounts. Animal studies hint at a possible link between MSG and obesity, but only one human study has been done, so it's too early to reach a conclusion. In any case, homemade broth is certainly much tastier, and offers the nutrients of any vegetables you add to it.

(6) Georgia, September 22, 2008 1:15 PM

bouillon cube? That has MSG wwhich is very unhealthy. I stopped using bouillion cubes for that reason. I try to save chicken stock from soups, etc. You can freeze the stock into ice cubes.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment