A Basic Guide to Cooking and Nutrition on Your GAP Year in Israel
This is a guest post by Justine Friedman RDN. Justine runs a private practice as a clinical dietician and mindset mentor in Modi’in, Israel. She is an olah chadasha from Johannesburg, South Africa. (www.justinefriedman.com)
There are so many different taste sensations to try when spending time in Israel. Different programs may have meals included which makes the preparation of food far simpler. However, if you find yourself in a position to explore with cooking for yourself there are many wonderful options you can try.
Delicious and nutritious meals do not necessarily mean spending hours in the kitchen. With some basic ingredients you can still create fabulous meals.
What are some of the ingredients you will need?
The basics you will need in any kitchen includes a variety of spices that you like. The usual salt, pepper, garlic salt, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, oregano can add flavor to most dishes. When buying oils, canola oil is best for cooking with and olive oil better for salads or adding to pasta dishes after they are cooked.
When cooking meals or preparing food it is practical to prepare enough to last for a few days so that you cut down on time spent cooking. Foods like rice, cous cous, ptitim and pasta can be made in bulk and used for a few different meals.
Here are some recipe ideas for you to make
To cook rice (אורז):
Heat 750ml water with salt in a pot.
Add 2 cups (500ml) rice to the boiling water.
Turn the heat down so that it simmers on a medium heat for 10 minutes and then turn off the heat and allow the rice to stand for another 25 minutes.
To cook pasta:
Bring water to the boil with salt in a pasta pot (lid closed).
Add package of pasta once the water is boiling (remove the lid for the duration of the cooking process).
Test the pasta to see if it’s done after 7-12 minutes (depending on instructions on the packaging).
Drain the boiling water.
To cook cous cous (קוסקוס):
Place desired amount of cous cous (anywhere from ½ cup) in Tupperware container.
Boil the kettle. When water is boiling pour it over the dry cous cous until it covers the level by just over 1 cm. Allow to stand until grains swell and cook. Include spices/ stock powder for flavor.
To cook ptitim (פתיתים):
This awesome Israeli dish can be made in many ways. Ptitim is a toasted pasta grain that can be added to a one pot meal or made separately.
Chop 1 medium onion בצל.
Chop 2 tomatoes עגבניות (If you want this option but you don’t feel like chopping vegetables you can substitute with a can of chopped tomatoes).
Sautee both together in a small pot with 1 tsp canola oil and 1 tsp garlic (for this you can buy the ready crushed garlic in tubs in the freezer sections of most supermarkets)- sauteing means cooking the onion until its color looks glassy.
Add ½ tsp cumin spice.
Then add 1 tablespoon brown onion stock powder (מרק בצל) or chicken flavour soup (מרק עוף) powder and 750ml/ 3 cups of water.
Allow the water to heat up and then add 2 cups of ptiptim. Turn the heat down and allow it to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Turn the heat off and allow it to stand for another 20- 30 minutes.
You can add extra vegetables into this dish if you would like, such as grated carrots (גזר) , zucchini (קישוא), chopped peppers ( פילפילים/ גמבה), mushrooms ( פטריות).
Other foods to keep around for more simple meals
Rice cakes, corn thins and fitness crackers are great options to have with cottage cheese גבינה קוטג , smooth white cheese גבינה לבנה , tuna טונה , hummus חומוס , tahina טחינה or peanut butter חמאת בוטנים.
With any of these options you can add cherry/ baby tomatoes, small cucumbers, small bell peppers and you have yourself a quick and easy meal or snack.
Shopping for dairy products
In Israel the dairy products range in fat percentage from the lower fat options of around 1% all the way to 9%. If you are wanting to keep to a lower fat diet then buying cottage cheeses in the range of 3-5% fat is optimal.
Yoghurts come in a wide range of flavors, fat percentages, protein contents and toppings.
Depending on your preference you can explore your way through all of these. Once again if you are looking for low sugar options then the light and free range is a good option as well as plain low-fat yoghurts which you can then add fruit, nuts and seeds into for your own unique combination.
For a higher protein choice there are two brands either pro20/ pro21 or Gopro. These are not always low in sugar so pay attention to the food labels for guidance as to what the products contain.
When buying milk there are 3% fat and 1% fat as standard choices. There are also low lactose options דל לקטוז and lactose free ללא לקטוז options (these are generally 2% fat).
Do you prefer non dairy milks? There are so many of these to choose from such as almond שקדים , soya סויה , oat שיבולת שועל, rice אורז , coconut קוקוס and a blend of some of these together. They also come either with sugar or without added sugar. If you are trying to pay attention to sugar intake then choose those which say no added sugar לא תוספת סוכר / ללא סוכר.
Red and green signs on food labels help you to make better choices
These red signs are found on certain food products, and they highlight for the shopper that the food contains high sugar or salt or saturated fat.
Here is a typical green sign that you will find on products which the ministry of health in Israel prefers consumers to choose.
You are now prepared to begin your shopping adventure. Have fun exploring the stores and trying out new foods.
For more nutrition ideas, visit Justine's Facebook and Instagram pages