As a special treat for the Cooking With Beth Blog, guest contributor Waltraud Unger, a holistic life coach, and mom, has shared some valuable information on healthy eating including fats in our diet. She also includes two special Chanukah recipes. I found her latke recipe very interesting, as she leaves out a common ingredient.

An active member of Temple Israel and JCC in Ridgewood, her approach to optimum health and wellness is based on bio-individuality and the integration of unprocessed, natural foods into ones daily program. She works with individuals, families, and schools through counseling, lectures and cooking demonstrations and can be reached via e-mail at waltraud.unger@verizon. .

According to Waltraud, “In the days before Chanukah I feel excitement mixed with a sense of apprehension. Excitement for spending time with my family, the children’s joy and laughter during the celebrations, and the comfort this holiday of lights brings us during the dark days of winter. My anxiety makes itself known when I think about the food we all love so much during this time. Chanukah wouldn’t be the same without latkes. How do I deal with fried foods and all the oil when I am concerned about the health and well being of my family and friends?”

She continues, “Well, the truth of the matter is that we all need fat in our diet to be healthy. The true question is what type of fat is healthy and how much should we consume? As we all know there are different types of fats; saturated fat, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Then there are fatty acids. It all gets confusing very quickly. Our body needs all of them to function properly, but we need to know how to balance it right.

Let’s take saturated fat as an example. We are bombarded with messages that it is bad for us and hear most about the saturated fats of animal and dairy products that are long chain carbon molecules. These products are also high in cholesterol, hormones and other undesirables.

On the other hand, we have medium chain saturated fats (MCFAs) found for example in raw coconut oil. Based on research by Dr. Bruce Fife and others, MCFAs support our immune system, thyroid gland, nervous system, skin and aide in the proper absorption of essential fatty acids like omega-3s and omega-9s, calcium and magnesium. Coconut oil also helps naturally to fight off viruses, bacteria and fungal overgrowth. This is just a snapshot of the positive effects of the right saturated fats. In order to make a sound evaluation as to what to consume, one must look at the individual’s entire food intake and state of health.

As for latkes, the question is, should we fry them in chicken fat? Not really, especially if one’s overall diet contains lots of animal products. I fry my latkes in cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. (Watch the temperatures and don’t let the oil smoke!) It is rich in mono- and polyunsaturated fats that are directly linked to maintaining a healthy heart. I also will follow my grandmother’s advice to not add flour or matzo meal to the latkes as this absorbs the majority of oil. An egg will bind the mixture together.

My Grandmother’s Latkes (4-6 servings)

6-8 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and finely grated
1 medium yellow onion, finely grated
1 egg
Salt to taste (about º teaspoon)
Pinch of black pepper
Olive oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pan

Mix grated potatoes and onion. Let the potatoes stand in a bowl for 5 minutes until some of the liquid separates. Drain off the liquid. (An extra squeeze in a clean cotton dishtowel helps get rid of excess liquid.) Add egg, salt, and pepper and mix well with a spoon or by hand.

Heat the olive oil in the pan to medium high. If the oil starts to smoke, the temperature is too high. Add the potato mixture, a large spoonful per latke, to the hot oil. Fry until the edges are golden brown and crisp; about 5 minutes. Turn to fry the other side. These latkes will be thin with a smooth, creamy center and a golden crisp outside. Enjoy!

Homemade Apple Sauce (4 servings)

As the copious amount of apples from our annual apple-picking trip with the children is dwindling down, I like to use the rest of the apples to make homemade applesauce. A variety of apples such as Jonagold, Macintosh, Ida Reds, Golden Delicious, or Empire are wonderful. This gives the applesauce a delicious, complex flavor. It’s easy to make and the kids love to help.

8-10 apples (a variety is best)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp. of water
A dash of cinnamon (optional)
Turbinado sugar or honey, if needed

Core and peel the apples and cut into 1 inch chunks. Mix with the lemon juice. Gently cook with the water until very soft, about 15 minutes. Add cinnamon and sugar if needed. Serve warm or at room temperature.