As Jews, we are lucky. We get to celebrate a new year twice each year – on Rosh Hashanah and on January 1. While vastly different in scope and customs, a common theme unites the two holidays: the opportunity to reflect on the past and prepare for the future. As we pen our lists of accomplishments and resolutions, we surround ourselves with family, friends and, of course, food. What better way to start a new year than with a delicious, healthy brunch for family and friends?
But before we talk brunch, let’s take a look at those resolution lists: get healthy, exercise, worry less, accomplish more, etc. etc. Sadly, many of these lists are found crumpled at the bottom of the recycling bin by February. The goals are too lofty and therefore, unattainable – getting healthy and exercising somehow morphs into eating lettuce leaves for lunch and toiling away hours you don’t have at the gym. Suddenly, worrying less and accomplishing more has become worrying more and accomplishing less.
When it comes to food and exercise, let’s bring these goals back to reality. Take small steps – switch your coffee sweetener from that cancer-causing stuff in the pink and yellow packets to stevia. Instead of walking the pup to the end of the driveway, take him around the block. And, don’t let other holidays serve as an excuse. Take a look at the calendar and we can find a holiday excuse at least once a month! So, let’s start doing healthy things on the very first day of this new year with that special brunch.
The Jewish tradition of brunch goes back generations in the US, perhaps as a way to gather family and friends on the day when most people didn’t have to work as more and more Jewish families assimilated into more secular lifestyles. Most of us have fond memories of warm bagels with a generous shmear of cream cheese topped with lox with maybe a slice of onion or tomato. Maybe there were also some rich, cheesy blintzes and, to end the meal, sweet, lucious babka and rugelach But in truth, the food is really a catalyst to get everyone gathered together. Chances are you cherish the memories of the family, friends and laughter even more than the food.
So, gather family and friend together, but keep in mind that brunch doesn’t have to be stressful or sinful. Healthy can also mean tasty, and many recipes can be prepared ahead of time. The trick to creating a healthy brunch is to use fresh flavorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, omega-3 eggs and low-fat dairy or dairy alternatives. Some of my brunch favorites include crustless quiche made with whatever fresh vegetables I can find – mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, peppers…endless possibilities. Substitute sweet potatoes in your hash browns and suddenly the dish is packed with vitamins, or top a crunchy, fresh salad with smoked salmon for a new twist on Salad Niçoise and that welcome taste of lox.
Challah French Toast Soufflé is a make-ahead centerpiece for brunch, high in fiber when you use whole-grain challah, low in fat, rich with cancer-fighting antioxidants and bursting with flavor. As an added bonus, this recipe is easy to make pareve with almond milk, which is also good for lactose-intolerant eaters. I also enjoy the rich flavor and subtle nutty undertones of almond milk.
Prepare this simple soufflé the night before, pair it with fresh fruit, mimosas, family and friends, and you’ve created a delicious brunch that is easy on your mind and your waistline – a great way to welcome 2013!