Long before the days of "Ozzy and Harriet," "Leave It to Beaver" and the likes, American families sat down at the dinner table every evening to talk about their day and enjoy a family meal which typically consisted of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and apple pie for dessert. Somewhere along the way, moms traded the kitchen counter for the office cubicle; playing video games has become the predominant activity at the table for the kids; and having red meat for dinner just didn't seem nutritious anymore.
Countless studies have stressed the importance of taking the time to sit down as a family and eat dinner together but in today's reality, when long hours at the office are inevitable for both mom and dad, the time to cook a wholesome family meal is practically nonexistent. Besides, we don't even want to cook this kind of food anymore. We like our arteries unclogged and our sugar to be at a perfectly normal level, thank you very much.
Nevertheless, we still want to try and have a nice family meal with healthy food that won't cost half a paycheck and take five hours to prepare. The solution? Consider the Israeli dinner; every evening, at around 8 PM, countless of Israelis gather around the dinner table. Do they eat falafel drenched in oil? Hardly. Most Israeli families eat a light meal that resembles breakfast more than anything (in fact, many Israelis eat this type of food for breakfast as well): raw vegetables, eggs, some cheese and a slice or two of bread. There may or may not be pickles involved.
Why is this type of eating light years better than American fare? For starters, eating light in the evening hours is far healthier, even if it's a little later than the typical 6:30 PM dinner in America. This type of food digests relatively quickly; it's light on calories and carbohydrates and the fresh vegetables and eggs are filled with anti-oxidants. Low-fat dairy and whole-wheat grains round out the meal. Second, it takes only a few minutes to make and there is no need for specialty ingredients, making it practical for busy moms. Finally, it's affordable -- there's no processed food or meat; just regular food you can find at any grocery store.
How to put together an Israeli dinner:
1. Begin by making an Israeli salad. This usually consists of small cubes of tomatoes & cucumbers (mini-cucumbers are the best; make sure to keep the peel on). You can also add chopped onion and parsley. For the dressing: fresh lemon juice and olive oil (I also like walnut oil).
2. Next up are eggs, typically scrambled, sunny side up or in the form of an omelet.
3. Finally, a couple of slices of bread with cheese slices, cottage cheese, or feta, as well as hummus, tahini, avocado or tunafish.
4. Feel free to add extras: yogurt, raw veggies such as sliced bell peppers and carrots, as well as olives or pickles (I may possibly be biased but Israeli brands for olives and pickles are, in my opinion, the best).
NOTE: To make the meal even healthier you can eat whole wheat/whole grain bread, a whole-wheat wrap or rice cakes and use low-fat cheeses.
Does this mean that now your children will want to put down their video games and actually talk about their day at the dinner table? Probably not. But after cooking a quick and uncomplicated meal you might have some energy left in you to seize that video game, give a quick but stern look while raising your eyebrows and authoritatively announce: We're eating dinner now!
Goat Cheese, Parsley & Chives Omelet
2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
½ cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
1 pinch dried oregano
2 tablespoons soft goat cheese, crumbled
1. Break eggs into bowl and whisk for 20 seconds with fork.
2. Heat a pan on medium heat, spray with cooking spray and pour eggs in. Immediately sprinkle chives and parsley evenly. Add oregano.
3. When omelet is set -- it should be nicely brown on the bottom -- turn down the heat to a minimum and add the goat cheese onto one side of the omelet.
4. Fold over the side without the goat cheese, wait 30 seconds and remove from heat.
Serve with an Israeli salad, whole-wheat bread spread with humus and some pickles on the side.