On Yom Kippur, when we fast to atone for our sins, we think about things that are far more important than food.
Fasting is hard for most people and for many it is extremely difficult. They get headaches or stomach cramps; some feel lightheaded and may even faint if the day is extremely hot. Some people find themselves getting irritable and cranky as their blood sugar drops throughout the day; some find themselves thinking about food all day and even feeling anxious and stressed.
Other people find fasting fairly easy. They go through the day in relative comfort even though the fast lasts 25 hours, not suffering from headaches or other bodily discomforts except, perhaps, a few growls from their bellies.
So what is the difference between those who suffer and those who make it through more comfortably?
There are lots of differences that account for one’s comfort level during fasting. One important difference is how much caffeinated coffee one drinks. Skipping a day of caffeine, if you are used to drinking 2 to 4 cups each day, is guaranteed to result in a headache, jittery feeling, and even stomach problems.
I do not believe that our ancient ancestors had to deal with this issue, as coffee was not the popular drink it is now. So how to combat caffeine withdrawal? Start now. A week before, switch to half-caf for 2 days and then, for the last 5 days, to caffeine-free. Your Yom Kippur will be much more comfortable.
Another difference is our basic eating habits. Those who eat lots of red meat and spicy foods usually find the day more stressful. Red meat, especially processed meats like cold cuts, are loaded with all kinds of things that make it hard to digest and more difficult for a person if eaten before a fast. One of those ingredients is sodium, especially in processed meats. Sodium makes one thirsty. Being thirsty is bound to make one uncomfortable and cranky through the day. So skip processed meats before Yom Kippur.
Overeating before a fast is not the best way to stave off hunger. Too much food can lead to all kinds of stomach issues that will make fasting very uncomfortable, so it’s not wise to eat more than a normal meal before the fast.
The best way to approach a day-long fast is to eat well for several days before the fast and especially the day before. Avoid salty and very spicy foods and eat lots of slow digesting foods like legumes. Avoid caffeine and too much sugar, as well. If you do not feel well, it will be hard to focus on all things spiritual.
I hope these pre-fast day recipes help you to have an easier fast.
Overnight Take-to-Work Oatmeal with Apples, Honey and More (Pareve or Dairy)
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 to 1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. chia seeds
1 tsp. flax seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk or regular milk
1 tbsp. pure maple syrup or honey, more to taste
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 apple, chopped or grated
Mix all ingredients together, place in a mason jar and close tightly. Refrigerate and take with you in the morning or uncover and microwave until hot. Makes one serving.
NOTE: Adjust this by amounts and ingredients for your family members, and let children make their own the night before. Makes breakfast a snap.
Pre-Fast Healthful Salad (Pareve)
6 cups Greens of your choice
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup shredded beets
1 cup chopped cucumbers
1 cup shredded purple cabbage
1 cup hearts of palm, sliced or diced
1 cup fresh cooked corn, cut from husks,
1 cup fresh peas
Small grape or cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup each sunflower seeds, chopped walnuts or almonds or unsalted pistachios
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raspberries or snipped apricots
Juice of several lemons to equal 1/3 to 1/2 cup
1/3 to 2/3 cup canola oil
Drizzle honey, to taste
Toss all the salad ingredients together in a large bowl. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and drizzle the dressing over the salad. Toss to coat. Serves 4-6.
GIgante (Giant) Lima Beans (Pareve)
1 pound giant lima beans soaked 12 hours (overnight from 9 pm until you cook them.)
2 cans (15 ounces each) whole tomatoes, preferably without salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 large onions
2 to 4 cloves garlic
3 to 4 stalks celery
3 to 4 large carrots
1-1/2 cups water
1/4 cup freshly minced parsley
Tiny pinch salt and pepper to taste
Place the beans in a large pot or bowl and cover — by 2 to 3 inches — with cold water. Cover the bowl and let soak for 12 hours or overnight.
The next day…
Grease a 3-4 quart Pyrex like baking dish and set aside. Remove the tomatoes from the cans, retaining juice in the cans, and chop. Place back in the cans. Set aside.
Dice the onion, celery and carrots, keeping them separate. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Drain the beans and rinse. Place them in a large stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 60-90 minutes, until almost completely cooked.
Meanwhile, Heat a large skillet and add the oil. Add the diced onion and sauté until light golden brown. Add the garlic and mix well. Add the diced celery and carrots and cook until heated and softened, about 10 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and the juice and the 1-1/2 cups of water. Mix well. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 20-35 minutes or until reduced and slightly thickened. Add the parsley and just a tiny bit of salt and pepper. Mix well.
Remove from the heat. Add the drained beans to the prepared baking dish and cover evenly with the sauce. Stir to blend.
Place in the oven for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until the beans look thickened, a little crispy on top and are soft. Let cool ten minutes and serve. Serves 6 to 10.
Simple Chicken and Wine with Shallots (Meat)
This can be easily doubled.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
4 tbsp. flour, divided
2 tbsp. trans-fat-free, pareve margarine
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. tarragon
1/2 tsp. paprika
Freshly ground black pepper 2-4 grinds
1/3 cup canola oil
12 shallots, peeled and cut into quarters lengthwise
1/3 to 1/2 cup white wine
3/4 cup chicken broth, stock or soup, low salt, preferably, divided
2 tbsp. freshly minced parsley
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place 2 tablespoons of the flour, the garlic and onion powders, tarragon, paprika, salt and pepper in a zipper plastic bag. Shake to mix. Add the chicken breasts and shake to coat evenly. Set aside in the bag. Heat a large skillet and add half the canola oil. Add the shallots and sauté until golden and softened, 10-15 minutes.
Place the margarine in a small saucepan and heat until melted. Add the remaining flour and mix until fragrant and slightly golden. Slowly whisk in half the chicken stock until smooth. Add the white wine and whisk until smooth. Heat over low heat until thickened and bubbly. If too thick, add more stock. Remove from heat.
Add the remaining canola oil to the saucepan and add the chicken breasts. Discard the bag and remaining flour. Cook until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Place the chicken and shallots in a baking dish and deglaze the skillet with any remaining stock. Pour over the chicken. Pour the sauce over the chicken, cover and place in the oven for 30 minutes, until golden and bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley before serving. Serves 2 to 4. Great with mashed potatoes or cauliflower or rice.