Hometown Heroine: Bethulia

How this Fast Diet Lifestyle works: Eat these meals tomorrow, for a calorie total of less than 600. On another day this week, eat the meals from a different post, another day of eating 600 calories or less. Eat sensibly the other days of the week. That’s it: a simple way to lose weight and be healthier. Welcome to A Star on the Forehead who is now Following.

Hannukka starts on December 19 this year. Candles will be lit and people will tell the story of the oil in the temple. But there is another story to tell, found in the “Book of Judith.” In Bethulia, lived a young widow named Judith. At that time, according to the story, Israel was a vassal state to Assyria, headed by King Nebuchadnezzar [in history, he is associated with Babylon, not Assyria]. After Israel refused to send troops to fight for him, the angry King sent Holofernes and his army to attack Jerusalem. But the road to the capital had to go through Bethulia, and the way was blocked. Holofernes besieged the city, cutting off their water. For 30 days the town held out. Judith called out the city fathers for suggesting a surrender; she accused them of lacking faith in God and said that if they wouldn’t act, she would. They dismissed her words and told the little lady to pray for rain. After much prayer for strength, Judith put on a fine gown and went with her maid-servant to Holofernes’ camp. The guards, impressed by her beauty and self-assurance, let her in and escorted her to Holofernes’ tent. She told him that she wanted to ally herself to his cause, saying that Israel would lose the battle when they committed a sin against God. Holofernes was quite taken by this apparent turn-coat. Judith stayed in the camp for four days, leaving every night to “go to the desert to pray for Holofernes’ victory.” On the fifth day, she appeared in the camp in all her finery with a bag containing cheese and wine. The General, smitten with her beauty, invited her to his tent for dinner. The cheese was very salty, so Holofernes drank a lot of wine — “more wine than he had ever drunk before,” and he fell into a stupor. Seizing the moment, Judith took his sword and cut off his head. The maid-servant put it in the food bag, and they calmly left the camp again and returned to Bethulia. [CSI interjection: did they change their blood-splattered clothes first??] Judith showed the head to the city leaders and counseled them to attack the Assyrians at dawn. In disarray without their leader, the invaders fled and Judith had saved the day. The Book of Judith never made it into the Christian Bible’s Old Testament, but the image of the pretty, brave, murderous woman became popular in art. It was first an allegory of the weak overcoming the strong [female David vs Goliath], then in the Renaissance it was the embodiment of drama and gore at the hands of two very capable women. In treatment by some female artists, it was the opportunity to rail against male oppression. Some of the most famous representations are by Cranach, Caravaggio, and Gentileschi.

Feta cheese is often part of a Hanukkah dairy meal, since it is salty. These two meals are delicious ways to use feta in cooking. My version of the dinner contains shrimp. Feel free to substitute a Kosher alternative if you wish. By having a ‘Dairy Hanukkah’ instead of oil-based foods, you can observe the holiday without the fat and calories. Save the latkes for a Slow Day.

Spinach-Mushroom-Feta Bake: 178 calories 10.5 g fat 1 g fiber 13 g protein 8 g carbs [4 g Complex] 214.5 mg Calcium   PB  GF — if using GF flour Miri Rotkovitz presented this recipe via thespruceeats.com and she recommends it as a ‘dairy meal for Hannukka’. Her version is a dinner pie, complete with an olive oil crust. My version delivers a lot of flavor at breakfast.  HINT: This recipe makes two servings. The other half of it would be a terrific lunch on another day.

½ tsp olive oil + non-stick spray 2 cloves garlic, chopped = 2 teaspoons 3 oz mushrooms, chopped or diced 3 oz chopped, frozen spinach 2 two-oz eggs 2 Tbsp milk 1½ teaspoons white whole wheat flour 1½ oz feta cheese, crumbled   Optional: blackish coffee [53 calories] or blackish tea or mocha cafe au lait [65 calories] or lemon in hot water   Optional: 5-6 oz fruit smoothie or berry-yogurt smoothie [88 calories]

Thaw the spinach in a sieve to remove extra water. Gently cook the garlic in the oils until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook until the water they exude evaporates. Put the feta in a bowl, top with the spinach, then the mushrooms. Let the mushrooms/garlic cool before you stir the vegetables and cheese together. Combine the flour and milk in a small dish and heat in the microwave. Stir together to make a roux. Whisk the roux with the eggs. Put the vegetable-cheese mixture in an oven-proof dish which has been spritzed with non-stick spray. Pour the egg mixture on top and bake at 350 F for 20-23 minutes. All the flavors meld together to create a savory way to start your day.

Zucchini-Feta Fritter Plate: 288 calories 7 g fat 2.4 g fiber 27 g protein 22 g carbs 285 mg Calcium  PB GF – if using GF flour A delightful meal for a busy day: delicious, savory, nourishing, and easy to prepare.

5 zucchini-feta fritters** 3 oz tomato, cherry-size or large ones sliced or cubed 3 oz shrimp, steamed or grilled previously 2 Tbsp plain yogurt Arrange on the plate and enjoy your stress-free evening meal.

**Zucchini-Feta Fritters makes 23-24  each: 34 calories 1.3 g fat 0.3 g fiber 1.5 g protein 3 g carbs 34 mg Calcium  1-1/8 pound [18 oz] zucchini salt 1 two-oz egg 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled or diced ¼ cup fresh dill weed OR 2 Tbsp dried 2 Tbsp fresh parsley ¼ c white whole wheat flour ¼ cup self-rising flour Grate the zucchini and put it in a colander over a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and use your fingers to toss the zucchini to distribute the salt. Let sit several hours or overnight. Place the zucchini in a clean bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Combine well. Heat a griddle/large skillet and spray with non-stick spray. TIP: I used a 1.5 Tbsp scoop, but a heaping tablespoon would do as well.  Make piles of the batter on the cooking surface, then flatten them and cook until nicely browned on both sides.

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