Passover

 

Gluten Free Isn’t a Walk in the Desert Anymore

 

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Matzo shmeared with deliciously fluffy cream cheese and some sweet preserves or jam is what Passover food means to me. That, and, of course, matzo pizza delicately baked and devoured within minutes. I haven’t been observing Passover long enough to really loathe the classic Passover treats, so I tend to find a sort of misplaced joy in these once-a-year concoctions. All of that changed, however, last year after I spent the entire week of Passover sick with stomach cramps and aches. No matter how much or how little matzo or matzo by-products I ate, I felt rotten. For the first time in several years, I really learned to suffer through Passover.

After a test, some advice, attempting to give up other foods (like dairy and coffee), and a huge decision, I decided that a gluten-free diet was the best way to feel better. In the simplest terms possible, that means the five grains that Jews so cherish — barley, oats, rye, spelt, and wheat — became off limits to me. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, spelt, barley, rye, and, according to some, oats. (I haven’t had problems with oats, so I purchase gluten-free oats, which are sold by Bob’s Red Mill.) Many of those who hold to a gluten-free diet have Celiac Disease, but there also are individuals who have found relief from IBS and other gastrointestinal woes. Although I took the gluten-free plunge before finding out if I officially have Celiac Disease, I haven’t looked back and over the past year have been feeling better and better. And no matter what anyone tells you — it is not as bad as it sounds. Believe me, you can live without challah, not to mention barley in your cholent (rice makes a great substitute, as does quinoa).


 

Free Chicken For Passover

 

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My Passover will be free this year.  At least my chicken will be.  Free range, free of hormones, free of antibiotics and pasture-raised.  As my family gathers together and celebrates Passover, we are trying something new.  I am liberating my menu from conventional chicken.  The meat we serve will reflect the values of this holiday.  I am not an environmentalist, the only thing “green” about me are my eyes.  But over the past few months, I’ve gotten to know some of the folks leading the eco-kosher movement and I am eco-curious. (more…)


 

The Benefits of Fiber in Quinoa

 

 

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All signs point to Spring: the sun is shining brightly, trees are awash in their leafy splendor and, most notably, boxes of Matzo begin to line most supermarket shelves. As a child, I always looked forward to Passover. It meant Seder dinner with Nana’s stove-top apple kugel and nut cake, Afikomen prizes, chocolate lollipops and vacation from school.  Even the dreaded Matzo was a treat; when shmeared with whipped cream cheese, it became an instant delight. Passover represented a rare departure from the everyday way of eating; snacks that were a rare treat were the norm for Passover week. I never understood why the adults grumbled and groaned about the preparation and food doldrums. As a married mother of two and full time Dietitian, I can finally appreciate how truly beautiful and difficult this holiday can be – especially when trying to maintain a healthy diet.

While it is possible to maintain a varied and healthy intake during Passover, it is more difficult to include high fiber foods. The use of whole grains is forbidden and the majority of our Passover intake includes foods made from matzo and matzo meal.


 

The Ultimate Seder Checklist

 

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So picture this…

I am married for three years and had yet to make a Pesach Seder. Each year, we had been able to go to a relative or a hotel, where someone else did all the cooking and Passover prep. I was living in a fool’s paradise, but I didn’t know it.


 

Spring Clean Your Kitchen

 
 

Winter is almost over (finally!) and that means spring is almost here! If you live in the Northeast like I do, you’re probably excited to put away your heavy sweaters and boots, go out for a walk in the park, and have some fresh fruit to snack on other than apples and oranges (or maybe that’s just me!). If you’re lucky enough to live in a warmer climate, spring may not feel like such an exciting time, but it’s still the perfect time to refresh yourself and your surroundings by doing some spring cleaning. Not to mention that Passover is right around the corner, and if you do your spring cleaning now, you’ll save some time prepping for the holiday.

When it comes to cleaning your kitchen, you probably have the basics down: wipe down the counters and shelves in the refrigerator, wash the sink, and clean off any stove-top splatters. This may suffice on a day-to-day basis, but over time you’ll be missing many important steps in the cleaning process. And for Passover you need to be extra vigilant when cleaning the kitchen. Here are some of the key steps for spring cleaning your kitchen:


 

Old World Charosis Gets a Hip Makeover

 

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I used to think holiday meals were sacrosanct. My grandma’s Passover turkey dinner became my mother’s Passover turkey dinner, then mine. There was something thrilling about the continuity, even for a person like me, who likes to invent and re-invent recipes. But after we discovered my daughter Gillian’s life-threatening allergies to fish and walnuts, our menu went through a complete overhaul (except for the turkey!).

Improvising suits me well, and fortunately my family liked the new foods, especially Stuffed Artichokes instead of Gefilte Fish and Honey-Soaked Chremslich made with Raisins and Pignoli Nuts, which everyone but my brother Jeff agrees is an improvement over my grandma’s version with walnuts.


 

Easy to Make Parve Passover Desserts

 

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Parve desserts are a must on Passover since so many meals are meat heavy.

If you are like me, dessert is the most important meal of the day. Passover desserts don’t have to be store-bought or difficult to make in order to be fabulous. Here are 7 non-dairy desserts that are sure to please.


 

Quin-what? – Cooking with Quinoa

 

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Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is no longer considered the superfood of the future, it is the superfood of today, especially during Passover!  Quinoa, which is grown high in the Andes Mountains in South America, looks and acts just like a grain. However, it is more closely related to beets and spinach, than to wheat, rice or barley.  Quinoa was first introduced to the US in the 1980′s, but it was only deemed kosher for Passover in 1999, when Rabbi Shmuel Heineman (Star-K) discovered that it is neither chametz nor kitniyot. Star-K tested it to see if it would rise and found that it decayed instead. It also does not grow in the vicinity of chametz and its growth does not resemble kitniyot.

Concerns have been raised about whether quinoa may come into contact with kitniyot or chametz during the packaging process. However, whole grain quinoa sold under the Ancient Harvest and Trader Joe brand names, bearing the Star-K kosher certification, are produced in plants which do not package chametz grains, and are considered suitable for Pesach use (this does not apply to the quinoa flour or flakes). However, please consult your Rabbi before using quinoa on Passover.

Quinoa is extremely nutritious.  It is one of the few non-meat foods that is a complete protein, providing your body with all of the essential amino acids – fulfilling an important nutritional need for vegetarians.   Quinoa is also low in sugar and high in fiber.


 

Matzo Pizzaz: Eight Days of Matzo Pizza in Eight...

 

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Want the deep dish on how to turn your Kosher for Passover kitchen into a trattoria? Use whole wheat matzo or shmurah matzo for a perfect pizza crust. Matzo pizza is a kid-friendly, quick, dairy meal during Pesach that is always a favorite in our house. This year, skip past the plain sauce and mozzarella and spice things up with some gourmet toppings that will give your pizza some pizzaz!

Let us know what you think of our eight recipes below and share your favorite matzo pizza ideas with us!


 

Countdown to Passover Tip #24: Looks Like We Made...

 

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Setting the table is all that’s left. Passover is ready to start and you’re calm, cool and collected.

Can you believe it? We are down to the very last tip in our four-week festival of Passover preparation hosted by yours truly and Professional Organizer Rivka Slatkin. The final changeovers are done and, since we’re all basically ready (hurray!), the last tip is a simple one that can be taken care of on Sunday or Monday morning, if needed.


 

Countdown to Passover #23: Final Changeovers

 

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Passover’s almost here and it is time to put the last minute touches on your prep.

If you’ve been following along with our 4 weeks of tips on preparing for Passover by Professional Organizer Rivka Slatkin, you’re probably all set. But just in case there is something left to do, here’s Rivka’s tip:


 

Countdown to Passover Tip #22: Pre-Passover...

 

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Make this coming Shabbat Passover-only.

Alright, we’re a little more than a weekend away from  the start of Passover. If you’ve joined us on our spiritual quest to prepare our homes in time for pesach, you’re probably ready for the holiday to arrive. Sure, sure, there are some minor things to do on Saturday night after shabbat and on Sunday, but using Professional Organizer Rivka Slatkin’s tips, there shouldn’t be any hair-tearing moments of panic coming your way.  Yesterday, Rivka suggested preparing seder plate items in advance so Monday morning before the first seder is less stressful. Today, Rivka has some thoughts about handling the sabbath right before Passover (personally, my family and I will be having our challah on the deck) …


 

Countdown to Passover Tip #21: Sprint to the...

 

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Preparing seder plate items in advance will make the day of the first seder less stressful.

We’re already cooking perishables so Pesach must be right around the corner. With the first seder happening in less than a week (evening of Monday March 29, 2010), time for Passover prep is getting tight. Of course, if you’ve been following our tips from Professional Organizer and Passover prep expert, Rivka Slatkin, you’re way ahead of the game. So here is Rivka’s pre-seder tip for today:


 

Countdown to Passover Tip #20: Cooking Ahead

 

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There are a lot of meals on Passover. It is time to get cooking.

Yesterday our vacuums were running non-stop. Though I suspect that the vacuum cleaner will continue to run for the rest of the week, today we’re back in the kitchen with the latest tip from Professional Organizer Rivka Slatkin.


 

Countdown to Passover Tip #19: Get Your Vacuums...

 

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It’s now or never! This is the week when all your Passover prep comes together.

We’ve entered the last week before Passover and we have our last tips from Professional Organizer Rivka Slatkin to get us over the chores and down to enjoying the holiday. If you missed them, you should check back for all our Pesach prep tips or recipes. This week we start back with cleaning. Here’s Rivka’s tip: