Posts Tagged 'Passover'

A Taste of Honey

I know that I said a few days ago that I would post some Passover menus and recipes. With everything that has been going on with Avi, I have not had the time, or for much of the time the desire. But Passover is coming regardless of Avi’s location, and we are concentrating on our preparations. Noam is very excited about Passover. He is learning a lot of the songs in school and we go over some of them each night. Noam is thriving at Schechter and I for his sake (and ours as well) we will have great Passover Seders. Shayna is getting into the act too and she has learned at least the first of the four questions.

Our Seder plans are basically firmed at this point, with 21 the first night and 22 the second. Our menu is mostly complete as well, and I will include that below. One thing that is always an issue, especially when you have Seders with a lot of kids is how to keep them occupied with the Seder (you can look at some sample pages of my Haggadah where I discuss this as well). One thought that I got from our friend Lisa (who will be at our Seder) is to have a list of questions prepared for the kids. The lists can be set up in so that you have questions that are age appropriate and then you ask questions throughout the Seder. Whoever answers the question correct gets a win ticket or a token. At the end of the Seder, the kids can trade in their tickets for prizes (which we will pick up at the dollar store). This way, everyone will get something, and there will be less rivalry in terms of finding the Afikoman. Also it helps the kids want to stay at the table during the Seder. I don’t know how well it will work, but I will report back after the Seders.

Now let’s get back onto the main topic of this blog entry, FOOD! It is interesting to note that of the 5 main mitzvoth surrounding Passover, 4 of them have to do with food and eating. We are commanded to eat Matza, Marror (the bitter herb) and the Pesah sacrifice (during the time of the Temple in Jerusalem). We are also commanded to stop eating food that come from the five grains (wheat, barley, oats, spelt and rye). And people wonder why there is always food at Jewish events! The whole Seder is built surrounding a festive meal. Without food there really is no Passover.

Our menu this year is actually very much the same as in past years. We begin our Seder this year at about 6:30 which is actually too early to start Passover. We do this because starting at the correct time makes getting to the meal very late. In order to make sure that we do not say Kiddush before the proper time (about 7:05) we will start with serving soup and fish first, and then start the Seder with the Kiddush. We do the same the second night just starting a little bit later.

So here is the menu:

Chicken Soup with Matza Balls
Gefilte Fish – We use the frozen logs that you cook in a pot with your own extras
Roast Turkey
Chestnut Stuffing – This is Lisa’s and I will try to post the recipe
Pot Roast with Orange and Dates
Quinoa – We have not yet determined how we will make the Quinoa
Green Beans, Broccoli, Cauliflower
Apple Cake
Fruit Ice

And probably some more surprises!

I want to end off with the recipe for Haroset that we use at our Seders. This is a Mizrahi recipe rather than the traditional Ashkenazi recipes that many of us are familiar with. Mizrahi means eastern and it is a term used to describe Jews from the eastern Arabic speaking lands. Often this is called Sefardic, but that really is a term for Jews of Spanish origin.

Before the recipe, I have to throw in some Jewish education. Sorry it’s my nature. Haroset is the sweet apple mixture that is found on the Seder plate. The tradition of Haroset goes all the way back to Mishnaic times (before 200 CE) as it is mentioned in the Mishna as something brought to the table on Passover. The Rabbis come up with three reasons for its inclusion. Everyone will probably think of the first which is in remembrance of the mortar that the Hebrew slaves used to make the bricks. This is one. The second reason is in remembrance of the apple. Why the apple? Well the Midrash tells us that the Jewish people survived in Egypt because of the actions of the women. Pharaoh decreed that the men and women should be kept apart in order to stop childbirth. According to the Midrash, during the heat of the day, the women would lure the men under the apple trees and have relations. So to remember this, we have apples in the Haroset. The third reason is to remember the blood by using wine in the Haroset. So to this day, EVERY Haroset recipe (and there are hundreds) have three things in common. They all use apples, they are all thick like the mortar and they all have wine. Beyond that, the sky is the limit. There are traditions to add cinnamon or ginger in remembrance of the straw that was used in the brick making. Some have the tradition to add the fruits mentioned in Song of Songs in the bible.

Here then is my recipe which my mother got from a Mizrahi Women cookbook.

2 Apples
½ C Dates
¼ C Walnuts (or pecans)
1/3 C Sweet wine
½ C Raisins
¼ C Almonds
1 tsp. Ginger
1 tsp. Cinnamon

Quarter and core the apples. Grind apples, raisins, dates and nuts. Add ginger and cinnamon and wine. Mix Well

That is the original recipe. I do it a little differently. First off, for one Seder we make 4 or 5 times this recipe. Second, I core and quarter the apples and put them in the food processor. I process them for a minute. Then I add the rest of the fruit and nuts and process until it starts to get smooth but is still a bit chunky. Then mix in the wine and spices (you can do that in the processor as well, just add and pulse for 20 seconds).

Enjoy!

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Elijah is coming to town

You better watch out…

Now that the football season is over our minds and hearts can turn to that spring pastime that we call

PASSOVER!

Believe it or not, there are only 49 shopping days until Passover! And just to be sure that you are aware, the grocery stores have begun putting in their Passover food section (at least in NJ). Of course we still have Purim coming and most people have hardly given any thought to Passover, but it’s here and they want you to buy.

Not that we have not already begun thinking about it. For those who read my blog last year, the three moms (Marsha and two friends) have already made preliminary plans to do the Seders together again, and that puts us at about 23 people each night already.

So as we begin the season of Passover purchasing I will leave you with this youtube video.

Enjoy!

Whats been going on

Its been almost two weeks since my last full posting, and now I have so much to say, I have been putting it off because I just don’t know where to start. I think the easiest way is chronologically, so I will pick up where I left off and tell you about our Passover holiday.

Friday night the 18th we all went to one of the mom’s houses for Shabbat dinner. Dinner was to be at about 6:30 but for many reasons we did not actually eat until closer to 8:00. Dinner was fine but we needed to get a lot of the food back to our house for the rest of the holiday so a nice old-fashion wagon came in handy. We got home by 11 pm and thank God the kids went to sleep.

I think we made it to Synagogue just about when it ended. We went to the other mom’s house for lunch and that was actually kind of nice. It was a nice day so the kids played outside and we all got a chance to relax. One of the many kids was a bit sick but she just stayed asleep on a couch. By about 3:30 the moms moseyed back to our house to begin to get food in the oven and set the table for the Seder. I brought a few of the kids back at about 5, and helped to finish getting ready.

Normally dinner is during the Seder. On the other hand, the Seder cannot start until after sundown, so we would have to feed our kids very late if we did that (not to mention the hungry adults!) So we decided to have dinner first and then start the Seder on time. At the point where dinner would be we would have dessert.

I wont go into details of the Seder itself, except to say it was lively and I think everyone had a good time. Of course we did the whole thing over the 2nd day and I think everyone had fun then too.

Will we do this cooperative Seder again? I don’t know, but it did make for some fun times despite the difficulties of getting ready. Next year we may try again and we will have learned from our past mistakes.

Passover Prep part 3

When we last left our heroes, we were beginning to clean out the house. The cleaning lady came on Thursday (an hour late, but she got there) and by the time we went to bed on Thursday night (2 am) most of the kitchen was now ready for Passover.

We ate Friday night dinner at mkm’s parents house and then spend the afternoon after Synagogue at the home of one of the other families. We got home at about 8:15 pm, bathed the kids and get them to bed. By 9:30, the moms had arrived and cooking began. One of the moms brought the largest pot I have seen in a non-commercial kitchen and we make gallons of Chicken soup. They also rolled about 135 matza balls and prepared veggys for some of the next days cooking fun.

Everyone was supposed to show up at about 9:30 on Sunday. One mom got there at 10:00 and the other at 11:00, but they did do some significant cooking. The chicken for Friday night was done. The roast for the first seder, done. Tzimis, done. 709 meatballs, done! ( ok, that is way too many meatballs and the one mom who was in charge of meatballs admitted so, but we can eat meatballs for the next two weeks!)

Most of the food is not packaged and frozen, waiting for the seders. The only big-ticket food to cook is still the turkeys, and that will happen over the next few nights. Beyond that is green veggys, the quinoa and desserts. We will probably just make it!

The next major part of passover prep will occur on Thursday night. We will make one final sweep of the house to make sure there is no more non-passover food in sight. We do this by placing a few pieces of bread around the house and then we make a blessing and go “search” for them. The reason for placing the bread around the house is that we can be pretty sure we put everything away, but since we make a blessing to search for the food, we need to make sure we find some.

On Friday morning this bread will be burnt, also with a blessing to ceremonially show we have gotten rid of all the non passover foods. I will be taking off from work on Friday to help with the final prep work. We will prepare the ritual foods for the Seder table so that everything will be able to be put out when we start on Saturday night. If there is time, we will also get the tables ready and set as much as possible.

I know this sounds like so much work, but we do enjoy a lot of it and once it is all together, the Seder is a lot of fun. I don’t know if I will post another Passover prep, but I will probably post a post Seder entry.

Here is a link to a youtube that does not allow embedding. It is so cute!

Here is another fun video.

Enjoy!

When Nothing Seems To Go Right

Did you ever have one of those days when nothing seems to go right?  They don’t happen too often, but when they do, it makes for a very trying day.

Yesterday was one of those days.  I knew something was up when I was running late for everything in the morning.  Things seemed to go ok after that, but then I got a call from mkm telling me that she forgot to leave the key for the cleaning lady.

WHAM!

That totally put a kink in the day.  If you have been reading about our passover prep, you know that we have this all laid out day by day.  The house was to be cleaned so we can start changing over to Passover tonight.  This means that I would have to stay up late to clean the refrigerator last night and make sure that we will be able to do the change over.

Then if that weren’t enough, we have a Cub Scout pack meeting last night.  The previous cubmaster had planned this one and we were going to have a police detective come and speak to the boys.  Well, turns out she could not make it and no one got the message.  So there I was with about 15 boys with no program and an hour to kill.

The good thing is that these days end.  You usually figure it all out and then go on.  Our cleaning lady is now coming today at 4:30 (when mkm will be home) and after talking with the boys we had relay races and they had a good time.

Today, everything is back on track.  I actually got an early train today as the earlier train was in the station as I got there.  We got free pizza for lunch at work because someone in my office won an NCAA basketball tournament and the house should be totally clean when I get home.

Things always seem to snap back into place.

Passover prep part 2

When I last discussed this monumental process, the three moms had just decided on menus. One might think that this is easy, and in some years it is not that hard. You have two Seders. You make a lot of food and eat it both nights. In many ways we are doing that, with minor changes. However, this year a wrench is thrown into the gears because Passover begins Saturday night right after Shabbat. This means that we cannot do any preparation at all the entire day before, but our houses have to be “kosher for Passover” before Shabbat. So the 2 Seder menus just went up to three menus, including Friday night Shabbat dinner.

The three families will each dinner on Friday at one house, lunch Saturday afternoon at another and then all descend upon our house for the first Seder on Saturday night. One final wrench is that you really cannot start the Seder until after sundown on Saturday night with is around 8:15. Way too late for dinner with kids. So we are introducing an innovation, and eating the meal before the Seder and at the “meal” during the Seder we will have dessert. Here is a PDF of our basic menu.

passover-2008-menus

Yesterday Marsha and the moms met again to discuss shopping and what we will need.  As we are all hosting these Seders together we are sharing the costs.  For example, we know that we need a minimum of 15 dozen eggs.  Eggs are a major staple of passover cooking and thank God the holiday is only one week long.  We will be making 200 Matza balls.  That equals 5 1/2 dozen eggs right there.  You get the idea.  By the end of this week much of the shopping will be done.

To bring us to today, on Sunday mkm and I defrosted and cleaned the large freezer in the basement and we are now emptying out our main freezer in the kitchen and relocating the food downstairs.  Half of the large freezer will be dedicated to passover foods while the rest holds are every day stuff.  We also cleaned out mkm’s grandmothers fridge which is also downstairs to hold the every day fridge stuff that needs relocating.  Tonight we will remove everything from the kitchen fridge and freezer, the pantry and the counters so the woman who cleans our house every other week will do a more thorough cleaning in the kitchen on Wednesday.  Thursday night, the dads will convene at our house to bring upstairs all the Passover supplies (pots, pans, dishes etc.) and put away all the every day stuff.

This then brings us to this coming Shabbat.  Cooking is going to occur Saturday night and Sunday, and I will post part three of Passover prep on Monday.

Passover Prep

Everything you always wanted to know about Passover prep but were afraid to ask.

Now that would make a great title for a book. Maybe I’ll write it someday. As I’ve said, Passover is my favorite Jewish holiday (and not even because my Hebrew name is Pesah!) despite the fact that it is a lot of work getting ready. It may not take a village, but it does take the equivalent of a recking crew to get everything done. Especially this year.

Lets start at the beginning. Passover food entered the stores starting the first week in March. The first thing we do is try very had to ignore this fact when we walk into the local supermarket. Of course, they make that hard, because at the local Stop & Shop, the food is right by the entrance. So while we are still buying flour and fillings for Hamentashen, the store is trying to get us to think about Passover. They don’t scare us!

About a week after Purim, when we have either consumed or gotten rid of all the junk food that comes in the purim baskets, mkm starts to make lists. Every year at the end of Passover, we make a list of all the non-perishable food items we have left for the next year. Each year right after Purim, mkm spends days trying to find said list.

After a few days of searching, she gives up and goes into the basement and recreates the list. Then she can start shopping. Thankfully we choose to pass over the Passover pizza and Passover pancake mixes and just by the necessities (Matza, Matza Meal, Matza Cake Meal, Matza crackers, Matza, Matza, Matza and Matza). In the New York area, the supermarkets use the Matza as a loss leader, and if you spend $50 on a shopping order, you get a free five pound package. So far we are up to two of them.

That gets us to where we are today. As I said, this year is a bit different as we are doing our seders with mostly friends rather than mostly family. Two other families in our town will be joining us for seders this year (plus some parents, sisters, uncles, aunts and other assorted people). There will be at a minimum 21 people at each seder. That number will likely increase a bit for each night.

Last Thursday, mkm had a lunch meeting (read power meeting!) with the two other moms at the local Panera. As far as I can tell they spent about 2 1/2 hours planning out the whole pre-passover process, and in upcoming postings, I will share our plans.

In the meantime, here is a funny youtube video. This is the British version of “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader.”

Enjoy!


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