Levana Kirschenbaum’s list of accomplishments is long and bright. A successful restaurateur, a highly regarded cookbook author, a much sought after culinary instructor and a popular blogger who has been dubbed the “Jewish Julia Child,” the Moroccan-born Levana paved the way for today’s kosher foodie generation with her flair for upscale kosher dining and foods that revel in simplicity. Once again, Levana takes on the role of trailblazer with an all-new line of completely natural meal replacement blends that promise to be as nutritious as they are delicious.
As in so many other instances, necessity proved to be the mother of invention. Levana’s husband Maurice was diagnosed with multiple myeloma almost one year ago. A long protocol of treatments and hospitalizations left him gaunt and completely without an appetite. Adding insult to injury, the quality of both the hospital food and the nutritional supplements offered were, in Levana’s eyes, completely unacceptable.
“You see the hospital meals coming in and you think to yourself, ‘Why don’t you just shoot me?’” Levana told Olam Yehudi. “It is absurd to give a piece of potato bread with a pat of margarine and call it lunch. Plus the supplements they provide in hospitals are the biggest killers, which makes no sense. Here we are fighting for our lives and they are giving us something that just causes more problems.”
Unwilling to let her husband subsist on the canned meal replacements provided by the hospital, Levana took matters into her own hands.
“They gave Maurice Ensure because patients have a way of wasting away,” recalled Levana. “We read the label which listed corn syrup, water and chemicals – unacceptable. There are so many supplements on the market but you don’t just need nutrients. The operative word is ‘complete.’ I looked at all the mandated meal replacements until I was blue in the face and I thought to myself, ‘I have been in the food business all my life. I am going to come up with an all-natural alternative.’”
Levana got to work in her own kitchen, hoping to come up with a product that would offer far more benefits than the currently available commercial products which she refers to dismissively as “meals without food.” Drawing on her own years of experience in the food business, she worked on balancing flavors and textures, coming up with two different products that bear her name and work equally well as a recipe component or just mixed with water.
The Breakfast Blend, made with almond flour, hemp, coconut milk, chia, and flax, will be available in vanilla bean, chocolate and mixed berry flavors and is intended to be mixed into a smoothie. Levana’s Savory Blend, an ideal soup base, consists of a variety of vegetables including sweet potato, kale, carrots, leek, celery, fennel, parsley and herbs, and packs a double punch of both nutrition and flavor in both the garden vegetable and miso wild mushroom flavors. The product’s website, www.levanamealreplacement.com, offers a variety of creative ideas for both products: adding vanilla bean Breakfast Blend into yogurt, oatmeal or cookie or muffin batter, or using the Savory Blend to season omelets, grains, rice, mashed potatoes, ground beef and pasta sauces.
Levana hopes to have her products available for sale no later than September and she is currently working on obtaining certification from both the Food and Drug Administration and the Orthodox Union. She is also having a professional nutritional analysis performed. While the initial plan calls for selling the product on Levana’s website, she is hoping to be able to place it in some chain stores as well. Plans are in the works for a liquid version at some point in the future, something that Levana thinks will appeal more to the geriatric population.