Two amateur cooks explore the world of cooking for a Crohn's and Colitis diet

Between attending classes, studying for classes, biking to classes, and thinking about classes, Marnina and I have had very little time to think about cooking. In the meantime, we are still alive and have not starved–a true accomplishment  Ever since we moved to Brookline, Massachusetts, we have been invited over to new friends’ houses for meals more times than we can count. We have enjoyed several dozen types of challah’s (apple-pomegranate challah anyone???), and we have brought in the Jewish New Year with plenty of honey-infused food (carrot-japanese yam-apricot tzimmes anyone???). We actually made that tzimmes (we are very proud of it!), but for the most part, we have been thoroughly enjoying other people’s cooking since we moved here.

When we find the opportunity to cook, we prepare large batches of food for the school week so that we have energy to sustain us through long classes, endless assignments, and long bike rides to school (yes, I have turned Marnina into a biker). We are very careful about incorporating the major food groups into our meals so that we are not missing out on any key nutrients. We will often try to cook a one-pot meal that includes protein, carbohydrates, and fats. We also strive to “eat the colors of the rainbow” to ensure that our diet is balanced. For tonight, we are cooking an Israeli couscous dish that is a one pot meal – onions, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, Israeli couscous, chicken, and spices. Don’t worry, we are adding some chopped coriander to give it some green!  Be on the lookout for a blog about this dish…it looks like it could be a hit!

We would like to share one of the dishes we made last week because it is not only a one-pot meal, but it also can be easily modified to meet the needs of the Crohn’s and colitis community. It is called muhammar, and it is a dish that originated in Israel. It consists of chicken with potatoes, peppers, onions, and a little-known middle eastern spice called sumac. This spice provides a tart-fruity flavor, similar to a lemon, but milder. For that reason, it meets the needs of those who cannot tolerate much spice. Also, the onion and pepper topping mixture can be omitted or modified to include vegetables that can be tolerated. Many individuals with Crohn’s or Colitis consume baked chicken and potatoes (or rice) as a substantial part of their diets at some point in their lives, so this combination of foods should not be foreign. Chicken breasts are also lean sources of protein that are perfect for the IBD community (and the common American as well). We added some sweet potatoes in addition to the regular potatoes to provide an extra hit of vitamin C, beta-carotene, folate, and potassium.

Prepping the veggies

Creating the onion-pepper mixture

Potatoes galore!

This is called Emptying Out the Veggie Bin

Allowing the chicken to marinate in the sumac

Layering the layers


The finished product

Muhammar – Chicken with Potatoes, Onions, Peppers, and Sumac
Yield: 6 to 8 servings


  • 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
  • 2 ½ tablespoons ground sumac, or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 6 chicken breasts, not boned
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 ½ cups roughly chopped onions
  • 8 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced


  1. Preheat the oven to 375.
  2. Mix together the salt, pepper, sumac, cayenne pepper, and cumin and rub half of this spice combination on the chicken.
  3. Place the olive oil, red pepper, and remaining spices n the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times, then add the onions, pulsing just until finely chopped
  4. Place the chicken breasts skin side up in a 9-x-13 inch pan. Sprinkle the potatoes liberally with salt and pepper and tuck them around the chicken breasts.
  5. Spoon the onions and peppers over the potatoes and chicken. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes.

Adapted from: Joan Nathan’s The Foods of Israel Today

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