4 Holiday Hacks for Surviving the Yom Tov Season

Menu-planning for the holidays has quickly become the transcontinental operation it was always destined to turn into. Group chats chart recipe swapping between family members around the world as soon as back-to-school season starts. This makes way for color-coded spreadsheets which lead to shopping lists planned out based on potential routes through the grocery store. May God help you if you get in the way of a Jewish mother menu-planning for the high holidays. Four-course meals have become the new norm and when you add up every meal for every holiday, the amount of food is simply staggering. 

While we have finally started to acknowledge the pressure that comes from planning, shopping for, and cooking so many meals, the pressure to eat such a large amount of food remains. We have barely digested one four-course meal before we start setting the table for the next one. The beauty of breaking bread together and taking part in longstanding religious traditions over laughter and clinking glasses almost disappears beneath the pressure to live up to these impossible standards.  

Rethink Your Approach

This is why we recommend rethinking your approach to food this yom tov season. Consider a more balanced technique for menu planning that allows you and your family to avoid such intense ups and downs with overeating and then feeling the need to restrict to make up for it. Make a concerted effort to create a menu that provides enough protein, carbohydrates, and nutrients but try and avoid the pressure to over-prepare. It’s reasonable to expect that your guests will leave the table comfortably full and satisfied without having to undo a few notches on their belts. 

1. Take your entire yom tov schedule into account

Have you ever prepared a full four-course meal complete with place cards and swan-shaped napkins only to have your husband and kids come home full from eating at the shul Kiddush? Take your entire yom tov schedule into account when planning your meals and don’t over-prepare for days when there will be a two-course meal complete with pickled herring and a meat cholent at shul. 

2. Scale down your courses

Consider choosing just a fish or soup course instead of both. You won’t take away from the beauty of the holiday by scaling back. You can also divide one salad up into smaller containers to be placed along the table to give the illusion of more food without doubling the number of recipes you’re making. 

3. Plan with a theme

Consider choosing a theme and creating dishes around that cuisine for every meal. This helps you create a more limited menu without serving the same food over and over again. Try meatballs in a crockpot and freshly made pasta. Consider a Mexican theme that includes build-your-own tacos and margaritas for the grownups. Have fun with your yom tov meals and feel comfortable breaking out of the regular mold! 

4. Eliminate waste and post-holiday leftovers

After the holidays end, the last thing anyone wants to look at is another piece of chicken. Make the last meal of the holiday a leftover medley. This way no food goes to waste and you won’t be stuck eating brisket out of a Tupperware at the office the following week. It’s also one less meal to worry about planning! 

By shifting your mindset and saying no to all the usual holiday pressure you can ensure a smoother and less stressful yom tov season for all! 

This article was originally published in Issue 436 of Whisk by Ami Magazine

By: Miriam Herst

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The Truth About Dairy: Setting the Record Straight Just in Time for Shavuos

Walk into just about any coffee shop and you will be inundated with regular milk alternatives: almond, soy, oat, or even goat milk are among some of the most popular options. As we begin to discover more about our digestive systems and how our bodies react to different foods, we are adjusting our diets to meet our needs. And the food industry is adjusting with us – ergo the coffee shop barista juggling five different kinds of milk! And while we applaud this level of body awareness, we rarely recommend cutting out entire food groups unless you have a real aversion.

As Shavuos gets closer and we begin to bookmark recipes for everything from cheesecake to blintzes to quiche, we think it’s time to debunk the myths around dairy consumption and set the record straight once and for all. 

While dairy (and cow milk specifically) has been expertly marketed to promote an increase in bone health, there are many recent studies that prove otherwise. In fact, certain studies showed that increased consumption of milk actually had the opposite effect as it is an acidifying animal protein. Those who consumed the most calcium in each study were often found to be more at risk for bone fractures. So, if you have your bone health in mind as you pour regular milk into your smoothie, you may want to rethink your motivations.

Not only that, but with studies showing that 60% of people are lactose intolerant, meaning that the body is unable to digest the sugar typically found in milk products, it might make sense to reexamine your diet and see if dairy is adversely affecting your health. If dairy is having negative effects on your body and your digestion, it may be worth cutting it out. 

And if you do have a hard time digesting dairy, you can opt for dairy products that are low in lactose. Kefir, hard cheeses, or Greek yogurt are all great low-lactose options. Even if your body struggles to digest high-lactose foods, cutting out dairy completely may not be the answer for you! Low lactose alternatives may be enough to make all the difference. 

At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind that moderate dairy consumption is a good source of calcium, protein, and vitamin D. So, if you aren’t averse, we wouldn’t necessarily suggest omitting it from your diet as it can provide you with a lot of added benefits. Especially with a holiday like Shavuos coming up, this is not the time to unnecessarily cut out dairy! Instead, determine if you require low-lactose options or if your body can handle high-lactose dairy products. Adjust your Yom Tov menu accordingly and enjoy the holiday! 

If you are looking for a summery dairy dish that contains less lactose, consider this Arugula, Watermelon, and Feta Salad:

Arugula, Watermelon and Feta Salad

Recipe Courtesy of Ina Garten


1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)

1/4 cup minced shallots (1 large)

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 cup good olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 cups baby arugula, washed and spun dry

1/8th seedless watermelon, rind removed, and cut in 1-inch cubes

12 ounces good feta cheese, 1/2-inch diced

1 cup (4 ounces) whole fresh mint leaves, julienned


  1. In a small bowl, mix together the orange and lemon juices, shallots, honey, salt, and pepper. Add the olive oil slowly, stirring constantly. Keep covered in the refrigerator if not using within the hour. 
  1. Toss the arugula, watermelon, feta, and mint in a large bowl and drizzle with dressing to coat the greens lightly. Adjust seasoning and serve immediately.

By: Miriam Herst

Originally published on COLlive, June 4, 2019