The "Heroine" Breaking Boundaries with Plant-Based Kosher Cuisine
By: Rivky Blumenfeld, Lubicom Marketing Staff
Kenden Alfond (@jewishfoodhero) is on a mission to remake Jewish recipes into delicious vegan, plant based variations. She is an author of multiple plant-based cookbooks, and a psychotherapist currently residing in Cambodia.
Before I delved into her healthy world of plant-based Jewish cookbooks and how they came to fruition, I was interested in how she found herself in Cambodia. After finishing her MA in clinical mental health counseling in 2005, she left the U.S. to go overseas as a volunteer with the American Jewish World Service (AJWS), an organization dedicating to ending poverty and promoting human rights in the developing world. With AJWS, she volunteered at a mental health NGO (non-governmental organization) in India. She has been living and working abroad ever since working for NGOs and the United Nations. Before she landed in Cambodia she worked in Afghanistan for a year, then Democratic Republic of Congo, and Switzerland.
Kenden says that health and vegan food have been a constant theme in her life, at least since she was 12 years old. After the birth of her daughter, she took a plant-based nutrition class at Cornell University to update her knowledge of nutrition to make sure she could raise her daughter mostly vegan. After taking the class, she realized she wanted to bring this information to the Jewish community. She started the Jewish Food Hero project with the goal of getting plant-based foods on Jewish tables around the world.
When I asked her what readers can practically do to incorporate vegan and healthy eating into their diet, her answer was simple. Focus on adding healthier plant-based food to your table. The more minimally processed fruits, veggies, grains and starches you add to your table, the better everyone will eat and subsequently feel. It’s all in the food.
Kenden promotes a concept called “crowding out,” which makes it easier to add more plants into your diet without attempting radical, overnight changes that you can't stick to. If you want to create good eating habits, you need to “crowd out” your bad eating habits. If you want to eat less meat or dairy, you need to add different kinds of foods into your diet that can crowd out the meat and dairy. To learn more about how to do this, read this informative interview Kenden published with plant-based nutritionist Jeff Novick.
Kenden’s approach to food and eating is not extreme. She is well aware that it is hard for any person to change their eating habits, and so she has a soft approach towards veganism. “Healthy eating is not an all-or-nothing affair,” she said. Most people will never totally give up meat or dairy products, and at the same time, most of us can reduce the amount of meat and dairy we eat for our own health and the health of our environment.
Kenden stays motivated to embrace plant-based eating because of the personal health benefits she experiences and the environmental impact of her food choices.
There is a plethora of vegan recipes for the Jewish holidays in her cookbook, The Jewish Food Hero Cookbook, which has 50 recipes, and can be found on Amazon. Kenden’s goal with her first cookbook is to offer plant-based Jewish food for our holidays that is fresh, modern, and delicious. Some recipes are remakes of the classics, like a healthier latte or coffee cake to break the Yom Kippur fast, and some recipes are just good ideas, like a vegetarian shepherd’s pie for Passover.
Her cookbook offers complete plant-based menus for ten Jewish holidays. Each menu includes a starter, main dish, two side dishes, and a dessert. Yup, all the recipes are plant-based, vegan and delicious. Each menu has a theme and each recipe is photographed beautifully. The back of the cookbook has detailed shopping lists for each menu, and the recipes offer easy-to-follow instructions.
Aside from that cookbook, she has another cookbook coming out in March 2020 (and she’s working on a third) titled Feeding Women of the Bible, Feeding Ourselves. Kenden didn’t grow up in a religious family, and she felt like she wanted to connect more with the Biblical women, so she devoted a cookbook to them.
This cookbook is written in collaboration with 40 other Jewish women. Feeding Women of the Bible features a short compelling narrative for each of 20 women from the Hebrew bible, paired with two healthy plant-based kosher parve recipes inspired by the woman's experience.
If you want to add more plant-based recipes to your holiday or weekly meals, here are some recipes from the Jewish Food Hero blog that you can enjoy:
- This honey cake is perfect for this season and can be used to make muffins.
- These stuffed cabbage rolls are a Jewish classic, reinvented for a vegetarian or plant-based diet