Reader Interview: Emily Segal and the Exploding Cake

Emily Segal, her husband and two sons.Please welcome Emily Segal,  a Holistic Nutritionist living in Kfar Saba, Israel. Four years ago, she and her husband made aliyah (immigrated) from New York with her two sons and Labrador retriever. She writes at Triumph Wellness.

  1. What do you remember about family meals and your mother’s cooking style when you were growing up? My mother is an excellent cook and even ran her own catering company from our home when I was a child. Needless to say, we were very well-fed. Even though she also worked outside of the home, I remember my mom coming home at 5:30 pm every day, immediately throwing on an apron and creating a fresh, balanced dinner from scratch. We would sit down to eat as a family at precisely 6:30 pm when my father arrived in the kitchen at the close of the evening network news. Our meals were always protein, vegetable and starch, although we never ate much meat.
    My mom has always been ahead of her time healthy-cooking wise. Although we were always tempted by her homemade baked goods, we mostly ate whole grain bread, low-fat foods, and plenty of fruits and vegetables, which incidentally I hated and nicknamed Shmukinuk. When I went back to school to study nutrition, my mom enjoyed the last laugh as they say.
  2.  How is your cooking style different from your mother’s? I learned the fundamentals of food and meal preparation from my mother, but I now cook almost entirely vegan and vegetarian meals for my family. My mom cooks a lot of chicken. But we are always sharing recipes and consulting with one another about things we have tried. My sister is also a wonderful cook and works as a professional food and travel writer.
  3. What is your favorite gadget? I could not live without my blender. I use it every single day, usually more than once. I almost always make a smoothie for myself after my workout and I make smoothies for the kids when they come home from school.
  4. Do you entertain, and in what circumstances? What is the biggest party or meal you have hosted to date? We entertained more before we made aliyah. Now it’s just family gatherings on holidays which my husband’s family always do pot-luck. The largest meal I ever cooked was Thanksgiving dinner for about 20 when we lived in New York, but I had lots of family members helping me in the kitchen.
  5. Can you share a typical daily menu? Weekly menu? As I said, I usually have a smoothie for breakfast, or oatmeal if it is cold outside. The kids have cereal, oatmeal, eggs or homemade muffins. My husband has whatever I’m having. I pack sandwiches plus either fresh fruit or veggies for the kids 10am school snack and for my husband’s lunchbox. I normally eat leftovers of the previous night’s dinner for my lunch.
    Like my mom, I do my best to make a family meal every night. I make a new meal plan every week and try lots of new recipes, but we usually have one night of pasta or noodles of some sort; one night a rice and bean based dish like Mudjadara (Persian Rice and Lentils), chili, or stir-fry; one bread-based meal like homemade pizza, calzones, or soup, salad and fresh rolls; one night Mexican – tacos, burritos or quesadillas. My husband cooks chicken or fish for Friday night and I make the soup and sides. Then we generally have leftovers on Thursdays and Saturdays. I also make sweet things several times a week as well: muffins, brownies, cakes, puddings and the like – sometimes healthy, sometimes not so. Let’s just say my kitchen is well-used!
  6. How has your cooking style evolved over the years? When we first married, I wanted to be the good wife, so I quickly learned how to cook chicken, fish and meat to please my carnivorous husband. I have been a vegetarian since my teens, so really, I didn’t know how to cook animals. Gradually though, my husband came to be inspired by my health and energy as a vegetarian and began to request less meat. There has been no red meat served in our home for about 6 years. Now my husband cooks either fish or chicken once a week for himself and the kids, usually Shabbat (Friday night dinner). The rest of the week, I only cook vegetarian.
  7. Can you recommend any cookbooks, TV shows or websites that have inspired you? I have about 100 cookbooks and I read tons of food blogs as well. I think the cookbooks I use most are Get It Ripe, by Jae Steele, The Happy Herbivore by Lindsay Nixon, and The World of Jewish Cooking by Gil Marks.
  8. What posts on CM have you enjoyed? Do you have suggestions for future posts? I like it when you interview people. It’s so interesting to hear what is happening in other people’s kitchens. I would love to see more posts pertaining to our local food scene, the traditional Jewish dishes from different lands, and what’s in season when, but I don’t know if that is your desired blog direction.
  9. What is the most unusual dish you’ve ever made? One time, I made so many changes to a cake recipe that it actually exploded in my oven! What a mess. I had tried to make it vegan, fat-free, and gluten-free all in one go. Now I know to only change one thing at a time.
  10. What is the oldest item in your kitchen? The newest? The oldest item is a cake decorating set from probably my high school or college days. The newest item would be the wok we just bough this week. I can’t believe I never had one before!
  11. What would you like to change about your cooking style in the coming year? I have really been paying attention to how much oil we go through. It’s too much. I am working on lowering the fat in my cooking, by sauteing in water and subbing things like applesauce for oil in baked goods.
  12. Please share a favorite recipe and cooking tips. The most popular recipe on my website is this one:

Recipe: Carrot Red Pepper Soup

Summary: Roasted vegetables, almond milk and balsamic vinegar make this vegan soup rich and tasty.


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 6 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 6 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 2 red bell peppers, roasted
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Place the chopped onion and carrots into a pot with the water and simmer, covered, over medium heat until the carrots can be easily pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.
  2. Roast the peppers by placing them over an open gas flame or directly under the broiler until the skin is completely blackened.  Place in a bowl, cover, and let stand about 15 minutes.  Slip the charred skin off with your fingers, then cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds.
  3. Blend the carrot mixture along with the peppers in several small batches.  Add some of the water to each batch to facilitate blending.   Return to the pot and add the almond milk, lemon juice, vinegar, paprika, salt, and pepper. Heat until steamy.

Quick notes

Recipe is adapted from Eat Right, Live Longer, by Neal D. Barnard, M.D.; recipe by Jennifer Raymond.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 35 minute(s)

Diet type: Vegan

Dietary restriction: Kosher

Number of servings (yield): 4

More vegetarian recipes can be found on Emily’s blog’s Recipe Index.

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  1. Yum, that soup sounds delicious, we tend to cook vegetarian most of the week as well, so I love discovering fun and healthy new recipes.

    Great interview Hannah and Emily, though I admit I’m a bit curious why Emily made aliyah with Hannah’s sons and dog ;).

  2. Great interview! You’re inspiring me to cook more during the week – we tend to drag leftovers out until Tuesday 🙂

  3. To answer Emily’s questions, I am not enough of a foodie to start writing much about traditional Jewish foods–fortunately there are enough talented writers who do that very well! I occasionally post a traditional recipe like stuffed cabbage or in-season vegetables, but I like to stay universal while focusing on helping home cooks with logistical and budget challenges.

  4. Toby, I wrote a post about meal planning for that should go up tomorrow (29.11) and there is a free meal planning template under free stuff on my blog. Have fun!!

    Thanks again Hannah!


  1. Ruth Ran Jerusalem! says:

    […] I received an email from Ruth that said: Hi Emily, I discovered your blog this morning through your interview on Cooking, and I have barely left it all day.  I have recently started running (less than a month ago) and […]