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Spice of Life

Styling and Photography by Baila Rochelleiner

As women who cook and bake, we know that turning out that perfect dish takes thought. No, it’s not throwing the steak on the grill that takes brainpower. It’s not peeling potatoes that needs concentration, and no foodie rises to fame because she finally figured out how to squish all the chicken legs into one 9x13. The real time and thought goes into flavoring our dishes so that they’re transformed from bland to delicious.

Hashem told Bnei Yisrael, “Barasi yetzer hara, u’varasi lo Torah tavlin — I created the yetzer hara, and I created Torah as its antidote” (Kiddushin 30b). Learning Torah is Hashem’s prescription for freeing ourselves from the yetzer hara.

But the word tavlin, antidote, also means “spice.” One of the ways that Torah keeps us from sin is by training us to live mindfully. We don’t just pour spices on impulse. Haphazardly pouring unlimited cayenne pepper, basil, and turmeric onto just about anything would end in disaster. Spicing takes time and thought; it forces us to be mindful, to make conscious choices, sometimes even to take out a measuring spoon when things get sensitive.

The Torah transformed us from people who were suddenly free to people who were responsible for harnessing our freedom and channeling it to make the right choices. It behooves us to live and act not impulsively, but mindfully. In that way, Torah is like tavlin. It is the spice, the mindfulness that Torah brings out in us, that enables us to overcome our animalistic urges and behave royally instead.

Respond, Don’t React

Over the years, this column has covered helpful topics about how to make proactive choices about caring for our bodies. But as much as we know about taking care of ourselves, in the moment, it’s not always easy to tell if you’re making a conscious choice or reacting impulsively.

Take a look at the word reaction. It’s a conjugate of re and action — you’re repeating an action. You’re stuck in a habit loop that you have been in before. The red flags are all there, but you’re still doing the same old thing, even though you may know you’ll regret it later. There’s no pausing to reflect or consider other options or how you’ll feel about this choice in an hour: it’s impulsive, as the yetzer hara encourages us to be.

Responses are different from reactions. They are thoughtful and measured; they’re tavlin-style actions. A response is responsible. You take stock of the situation. You pause, you think, you reflect, you consider. And then you make your responsible choice.

Using this play on words, face those heat-of-the-moment decisions with a brief pause, and simply ask yourself: Is this a “re-action,” or is this a “responsible choice”?

In Full ’N Free, we talk about being mindful. We’ve talked about making responsible choices for the sake of nourishing our bodies and about being fully present to savor the treats we do choose to enjoy. But being mindful, aware, and responsible are not Full ’N Free concepts. They are really Torah concepts. Torah tavlin — it’s the spice of life.

And just like spices, when added mindfully in just the right amounts, make the flavor of our food so much richer, living mindfully makes our lives so much richer. Every moment becomes more enjoyable; every interaction, more meaningful; every meal, more satisfying.

This Shavuos, the Yom Tov when we commemorate receiving the “spice” of Torah, let’s aim to stay focused, stay present, and savor the satisfaction that results.

Wishing you a fabulously flavorful Yom Tov,



Rorie Recommends: Lemon Pepper

Talk about spices! This one gets a lot of use in my kitchen. Surprisingly, lots of popular brands add sugar to their lemon pepper, even though it’s really not necessary for the flavor. Look for brands that don’t contain added sugar, like Trader Joe’s or Celtic Sea Salt, or try making your own!

For about ¾ cup of lemon pepper, mix ½ cup dehydrated lemon zest, 2½ Tbsp black pepper, 1 Tbsp onion powder (optional), 1 Tbsp salt, 2 tsp garlic powder (optional), and 2 tsp dried parsley (optional). Store in an airtight container for a few months.

(To dehydrate your own lemon zest, toast on a foil-lined baking sheet at the lowest setting of your oven or toaster until completely dry, around half an hour or longer.)

Lemon Pepper Salmon

Simple spices, thoughtfully measured and combined, bring out this salmon’s delectable flavor. It’s always nice to incorporate a fish at your dairy meal, but many fish recipes don’t complement dairy dishes. This one does! It’s my absolute go-to favorite, and the best part is that it’s super easy.


  • 4 thick or 6 appetizer-size salmon fillets with skin
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp coconut aminos (or tamari sauce)
  • 1 tsp pink Himalayan salt or sea salt
  • 2 tsp lemon pepper
  • ¼ cup Rorie’s Creamy Dressing or store-bought Caesar dressing
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1–2 tsp dried parsley

Marinate the fish fillets in lemon juice and coconut aminos for about 15 minutes. Preheat oven to low broil.

Arrange fillets on an oiled baking sheet; discard marinade. Season with salt and lemon pepper to taste. For a beautiful presentation, use a squeeze bottle to drizzle creamy dressing over fish; alternatively, brush the fish with dressing. Top with seeds and parsley.

Broil fish in the preheated broiler for 8–10 minutes until crispy and cooked through. (If your fish is thicker, it might need more time — just watch it closely.) Once cool, remove fish from the pan with a thin spatula or fork. It should separate easily from the skin, so that the skin remains on the pan.

Delicious served warm, cold, or at room temperature.

TIP: Don’t use parchment paper for this recipe. Just spray the pan with olive oil and the skin will stay behind when you serve it.


As a health coach certified in integrative nutrition, Rorie shows the frum community how delicious, fun, and doable it can be to incorporate healthy habits into our lifestyle, one small step at time. She’s the health ambassador of Kosher.com, founder of Full ’N Free, LLC, and a diehard recipe developer who’s always whipping up foods and treats that love us back. Her most recent project? Bringing the goodness of spelt sourdough to the public! Check out her all-new video demos and detailed instructions at www.fullnfree.com.

All statements are suggestive only. Please consult with your doctor before making any dietary or lifestyle changes.

(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 740)

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