Ellen Geller Kamaras
“On Fridays, my mom left a dish for me to prepare. Each week she would teach me a new recipe, slowly developing my love and interest for cooking, food styling, and nutrition.” ~~ Adina ~~
Many of you already know Adina Yaakov, who authors the Once Upon a Thyme recipe column. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and always includes a personal introduction and photos with her delectable recipes.
I enjoyed meeting a co-columnist and bonding over our shared interest in healthy eating.
Adina is a passionate and gifted woman, born and raised in Brooklyn to Selma (Cattan) Cohen Saban and Haim Cohen Saban. Selma is of Syrian descent and moved to the U.S. from Brazil when she was eight. Haim is of Egyptian descent and was born and raised in Brooklyn.
Adina talked lovingly about her yeshiva education, her childhood summers and vacations, and her parents and in-laws as inspirational role models.
Her childhood and teen years significantly shaped the spiritual, talented, and energetic woman Adina is today.
“I read a lot of books as a child, and still do. I formed many lasting memories with my cousins each summer in Lakewood and on family trips for holidays and vacations.”
Adina attended Bnos Leah Prospect Park Yeshiva from nursery through 12th grade. She greatly appreciates the strong Torah and academic education that PPY provided. Adina proudly shared that she learned pesukim and halachot in yeshiva that she can still recite and explain. She also enjoyed the diverse makeup of the students and the warm atmosphere.
Adina is drawn to painting, drawing, and arts & crafts. In high school Adina wrote a monthly newsletter with hand-drawn comic strips and articles.
Adina’s friends describe her as talkative, motivated, creative, spirited, and caring. I would add, positive, energetic, driven, and focused. Adina has a real sense of hakarat hatov to her parents, educators, and family.
A Sweet Spot for Food
As a child, Adina vacationed in Israel with her parents and joined her dad on business trips to Hong Kong and more. Adina’s parents also took her to dine in many restaurants, all adding to her love of food and travel.
Adina recalls coming home from school on a Friday at a young age and smelling the wonderful aroma of her mother’s cooking. She expressed disappointment that her mom had cooked the entire Shabbat meal without her help. The following week, as she entered the kitchen, she saw a bowl full of fresh halved green zucchini and another bowl with ground beef.
“I ran to get the rice and spices and washed my hands to prepare my favorite dish, mechshe. After that, my mom would always leave aside a dish or two for me to prepare. Each week she would teach me a new recipe, slowly building my love and interest for cooking, food styling, and nutrition.”
At 13, Adina was blessed with her first sister, followed by triplet sisters and then a younger brother. “As the oldest, I used the opportunity to cook many family meals, using the tips and techniques my mom taught me.”
As a teenager Adina subscribed to Martha Stewart’s monthly publication, Food. “I loved looking at the styling of each photo and each new recipe. I aspired to publish my own recipes.” Her dream came true.
Growing up in a health-conscious home inspired Adina to become an RDN. “I’ve been eating whole grains, fruits, and vegetables for as long as I can remember. My parents always served a heaping bowl of salad at every meal, and we consumed fish one to two times a week for dinner. These foods were never presented as ‘healthy’ or ‘dietetic,’ rather as a delicious meal.”
Marriage & Family
In 2005, when Adina was 18, she met her husband, Shaul Yaakov, through a community shadchanit. Shaul’s family is of Israeli-Iraqi descent and he works with his father, Reuven Yaakov, selling wholesale Pro Audio and lighting equipment.
For their first 18 months of marriage, the couple lived in Yerushalayim, enjoying every moment before returning to Brooklyn. Thanks to PPY, Adina conversed easily in Hebrew with Shaul’s family and at the supermarket.
The couple has three children, Esther Claire, 16, Reuven, 15, and Shulamit Selma, 12.
As young children, the kids happily substituted as sous chefs by preparing, peeling, or chopping produce with kiddie gardening gloves to protect their fingers. Esther makes kibbe hamid for Shabbat and Reuven fries chicken poppers for dinner. Their youngest, Shulamit, prepares sambousek with homemade dough. “I love that they can cook meals,” Adina said proudly.
“My husband is always there for me, is the most generous person, and pushes me to be my best. I am dedicated to my family, my top priority. I spend individual time with each of them, creating memories. I strive to be the best wife, mom, daughter, and sister.”
Adina feels blessed to be part of a close-knit community revolving around hesed, Torah, and meaning.
The Road to Become and RDN
Adina entered college at the age of 25 when her youngest was a toddler. She challenged herself and became an honor’s student in college.
“It wasn’t easy being a student while balancing the roles of housewife and mom, but I’m happy I did it. It’s one of my greatest accomplishments.”
Adina obtained an associate degree in allied health from Kingsborough Community College and a bachelor’s in health and nutrition from Brooklyn College. She completed her dietetic internship online with Meredith College in NC, which allowed her to intern in person in NY.
After completing 1,200 supervised internship hours, Adina studied for and took the registered dietitian exam. “It was one of the most grueling processes I’ve been through. But I knew it would be worthwhile.”
Adina became an RDN in May 2023, licensed to practice in NY & Illinois. She works remotely as a Telehealth Dietitian, providing individualized Medical Nutrition Therapy to clients with a variety of health and nutrition needs. Her position encompasses virtual consultations, delivering meal plans, personalized guidance, and ongoing support to those seeking to improve their health.
Adina values her parent’s unconditional love and support. “My parents made me feel like I can be anything and raised each of us to feel like we are the favorite.” Her father’s wisdom makes him the go-to person for business advice, and he mentors young entrepreneurs. He helped Adina craft her website and continually roots for her success.
“My mother is one of the smartest people and is my #1 fan, proofreading each recipe before I submit. She speaks six languages and assisted the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society by translating for the Syrian Jewish refugees seeking asylum in the nineties.”
Adina’s mother-in-law, Claire Yaakov, is an experienced community educator and many tell Adina that Claire was their favorite teacher.
Profession and Passions
Adina’s passions are food (and food photography), nutrition, and art.
“I teach canvas painting (paint parties) to adults and children and offer resin tray, tambourine painting, canvas painting, and marble/fluid art classes.”
Once Upon a Thyme
Adina launched her column with her own photos in 2018. She enjoys the feedback she receives from new readers, particularly when they attach photos of a recipe they tried.
Her website, onceuponathyme.co. has a diverse collection of recipes with photographs. When asked why she chose “Once Upon a Thyme,” Adina responded that it sounds like a story book and thyme is a spice. She often posts new recipes on her WhatsApp status.
“I create every recipe, photo, and article by cooking or baking, styling, and photographing the food. I use an iPhone and the natural light from the daylight, often on my front doorstep.”
Adina is an advocate of intuitive eating, an eating style that promotes a healthy attitude toward food and body image. Adina explains, “Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Babies won’t eat past fullness and they let everyone know when they are hungry. By the time we’re adults, many of us haven’t retained that innate way of relating to food. We need to understand our internal hunger cues.”
Adina is impassioned about educating people about intuitive eating and preventing eating disorders especially in our own community. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, one study conducted by Dr. Ira Sacker of ultra-Orthodox and Syrian Jewish communities in the Brooklyn found that one out of 19 girls was diagnosed with an eating disorder, which is a rate about 50 percent higher than the general U.S. population.
“Education begins with the parents, preventing negative talk about oneself, eliminating diet talk, and healing people’s relationship with food.”
Adina has successfully introduced nutritious and delicious food choices to her family.
To unwind, Adina reads biographies and books based on true stories. She enjoys playing Scrabble, Boggle, and Othello with her husband and kids, whomever is willing to lose.
Adina plans on writing and illustrating a children’s book to encourage children to make nutritious food choices and she plans to create a cookbook with new recipes and photos.
“Some people advise me to drop the dietitian job and teach art, or vice versa. I love both! I am committed to helping people with their relationship to food and body image and feel rewarded seeing the proud faces of my art students when they complete their projects.”
Please check out onceuponathyme.co, and email Adina at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ellen Geller Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach. Her coaching specialties include life, career, and dating coaching. Ellen is active in her community and is currently the Vice-President of Congregation Bnai Avraham in Brooklyn Heights. She can be contacted at email@example.com(www.lifecoachellen.com).