Healthy Holidays 

Roast Turkey on a platter.

BET YOU THOUGHT you’d never hear the words “healthy” and “Thanksgiving” in the same sentence, did you? Leave it to Paula Shoyer, the undisputed queen of kosher baking, to tackle this conundrum.

In December 2015, a mere one month after her mother had passed away, Shoyer was challenged by her publisher to write a healthy kosher cookbook. The shiva and grieving process had taken its toll on her diet and stamina. “I knew that it was time for me to eat better,” she said. “I needed a new challenge. Standing still was not an option.” The result was her latest cookbook, “The Healthy Jewish Kitchen,” (Sterling Epicure, $24.95) with more than 60 recipes, from both the Sephardic and Ashkenazi camps, as well as American and international dishes.

“Most Jewish cookbooks still have too many recipes with processed ingredients, not enough whole grains, too much salt and fats, and too much sugar, even in savory dishes,” she noted. “My goal was to create recipes that use only natural ingredients. I banished margarine, frozen puff pastry, soup or stocks and powders and most jarred sauces – though I gave Dijon mustard a pardon. I gave up frying and created baked goods with as much whole-grain flour as I could. I reduced sugar and salt.

“I’ve made Jewish classics healthier and updated for the modern table. It’s food you recognize, because you still want to feel connected to your ancestors’ kitchens, but I made them more nutritious and often easier.”

Thanksgiving is all about the food. Alas, too often it’s when good intentions go AWOL. Is it really possible to eat healthfully and still enjoy the holiday? I asked. “During a holiday with huge amounts of food,” Shoyer told me, “I try to use as much whole grains as possible and choose some lighter side dishes to balance with the heavier ones we love.”

Note she doesn’t suggest foregoing your favorite foods, but beginning to eat better. “I am not standing here preaching,” she said. “I go to Paris and Israel and eat my way through their best restaurants and bakeries. Good nutrition is about balance and finding a way to introduce into your diet more and more healthful food as often as possible. I am simply offering you a subtle shift towards better health without giving up your favorite foods. The key to better health is homemade and natural food.”

Whether you choose to serve a turkey breast or whole roast turkey, here is a more healthful but no less satisfying stuffing. And no one will suspect the Pear Galette, made with coconut oil – a pareve ingredient and boon to the kosher kitchen – has been subbed for margarine. By the way, here’s the easiest way to improve your baking: get a food scale and always weigh your flour (and cocoa). Use too much, and your dough will be crumbly and hard.

There’s more to Thanksgiving than what is on the table; the holiday is also about family and the happy memories we share. But Thanksgiving Day 2015 was particularly painful for Shoyer and her family. “It was the second to last day of shiva for my mother,” she recalled. “It also happened to be my parents’ wedding anniversary. We needed dinner, and my children wanted Thanksgiving food, yet we didn’t want to feel like we were celebrating. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law ordered roast turkey and simple sides. All day long I was dreading how sad it would without Mom. Then two of my closest friends and their families came by just as we were sitting down to eat. The house became hectic as we added more chairs to the table and set up tables for the teens in other rooms. Rather than eating a somber meal, we felt enveloped by love and comfort, precisely the goal of shiva and what my mother would have wanted for us.”

Sage & Shallot Roast Turkey with Whole-Wheat Stuffing


If you are making a whole turkey double the rub ingredients.


¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped

4 stalks celery (include leaves), chopped

1 large green apple, peeled and chopped

2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves

2 teaspoons dried sage leaves

8 cups whole-wheat bread cubes

¾ cup dried cranberries

½ cup Port, Marsala, or red wine

½ cup water or homemade chicken stock
¼ teaspooon salt
¼ teaspooon black pepper



1 5- to 6-pound turkey breast (or whole turkey)

1 large shallot, halved and finely chopped

½ cup loosely packed fresh sage leaves

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/8 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper


1          Preheat oven to 450°F.

2          To prepare stuffing, heat oil over medium-high heat in large frying pan or wide saucepan. Add onions, shallots, and celery and cook 10 to 12 minutes, or until vegetables are soft.

3          Meanwhile, rinse and dry turkey and place in large roasting pan. In small bowl, mix shallot, sage, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Rub mixture all over turkey, inside and out. Add more pepper if desired. Roast turkey 20 minutes. (For whole turkey, prepare stuffing first and let cool before stuffing turkey.)

When vegetables for stuffing are soft, add apple, thyme, and sage and cook mixture another 3 minutes. Add bread cubes and cranberries and toss well. Cook for 2 minutes, mixing constantly. Add wine, water or stock, salt, and pepper; stir and cook mixture 2 minutes more. It can be made 1 day in advance and stored in fridge.

5          After turkey has browned, reduce oven temperature to 325°F and roast turkey breast another hour (or whole turkey 15 minutes per pound; jiggle turkey leg. When it comes away easily from side of bird it’s done.), or until juices run clear and thermometer reads 165°F. or breast, place stuffing into 9 x 13-inch baking pan, cover with foil, and bake with turkey 45 to 60 minutes. Let turkey rest 15 to 20 minutes before carving.


Pear Galette with
A Chocolate Crust

Serves 8

In summer try thisfree-formed tart with fresh berries, plums, peaches, or apricots. CRUST (For crust recipe and instructions, see


3 cups peeled and thinly sliced pears

3 tablespoons plus 1/2 to 1 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling

 1         Prepare crust.

2           Preheat oven to 425°F.

 3           Sprinkle large piece of parchment paper with some flour. Remove

dough from plastic wrap and place it on top of parchment. Sprinkle some flour on dough and place a second piece of parchment on top. Using a rolling pin, roll over top of parchment to smooth out dough into a 12- to 13-inch round shape. Peel back top piece of parchment paper and sprinkle some more flour over dough, once or twice, while you are rolling. Place parchment and rolled crust onto cookie sheet or jelly roll pan.

4          Filling: Place sliced pears in medium bowl. In small bowl, mix together sugar and cornstarch, then sprinkle it on top of pears and mix gently until flour dissolves. Place pears in center of dough circle and spread outward, leaving a 2- to 3-inch border. Fold about 2 inches of border over pears, leaving fruit-filled center open. Repeat, pressing one section of border into the next, to pleat dough all around and seal in fruit and its juices.

5          Brush beaten egg white all over dough. Sprinkle with remaining teaspoon of sugar. Bake until crust is firm and filling looks bubbly, 30 to 35 minutes Let cool 20 minutes and serve, dusted with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

Recipes adapted from “The Healthy Jewish Kitchen” by Paula Shoyer



Jlife Food Editor Judy Bart Kancigor is the author of “Cooking Jewish” (Workman) and “The Perfect Passover Cookbook” (an e-book short from Workman), a columnist and feature writer for the Orange County Register and other publications and can be found on the web at found on the web at



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