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A little of this, a little of that, and a whole lot of blah blah blah....

Friday, April 27, 2012

Gluten Free Parve Brownies: an easy and delicious recipe!

Last night, I decided to try baking gluten free brownies from scratch for the first time. I've been rather (excessively) timid about baking without a mix since cutting wheat and gluten out of my diet two years ago. It always seemed to require so many ingredients and lots of (potentially wasteful and expensive) trial and error. Passover recipes, however, tend to require relatively few ingredients and so I adapted a Kosher for Pesach recipe from a wonderful book, Crafting Jewish: Fun Holiday Craft and Party Ideas for the Whole Family, by Rivky Koenig. This is, by the way, a great book with ample recipes, lovely crafts and art projects as well as ideas for entertaining. If it is not available at your local bookstore or to borrow from your library, it can be purchased directly from or from

I should mention, I love brownies. A famous family recipe for this delicious classic treat was one of the first things I ever learned to bake as a child. I even won a first place prize after entering that recipe into our county fair in upstate New York. Occasionally, I've bought gluten-free brownie mixes to bake, but they just weren't the same. I have now fallen in love with brownies all over again, and for those who are gluten intolerant or just brownie lovers like me, this recipe turned out too fabulously not to share!

 Gluten Free Parve (non-dairy) Brownies

  • 4 eggs 
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup potato starch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup parve semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional) You could alternatively use nuts if you happen to like those in your brownies, or, if you are making them dairy, you could use a different type or flavor of chocolate chip. I used to love making mint chocolate chip brownies and may try this in the future.
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a 9x13inch baking pan with cooking spray, coating the sides and bottom. I actually used a slightly smaller rectangular glass baking dish.
  2. Crack eggs individually into a small bowl, checking for blood spots if you keep a kosher kitchen. After ensuring they are good, place the eggs into a large mixing bowl. The recipe I adapted this from calls for an electric mixer, but I had success without one. Beat the eggs with a whisk until they are light and foamy. Add sugar and oil; mix until well combined.
  3. Add the cocoa, potato starch, baking powder and vanilla. Mix (slowly at first since the cocoa and potato starch will splatter!) until combined, but do not over-mix.
  4. Fold in your chocolate chips (or nuts, mint chips, etc.).
  5. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Place in hot oven for about 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick or knife inserted into the center of your brownies comes out clean.
  6. Remove from the oven and place on wire rack to cool. The brownies cut well while still warm, and a small trick my mother taught me as a girl was to use a pizza wheel to cut even and straight lines. 
Anyone have some non-dairy ice cream?? These are incredible and the closest to my family recipe I've ever come. Now, if you'll excuse me I'm going to go sneak a good workout in at my gym before Shabbat comes!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Shabbos Shmooze: Beginning Each Week With Its End In Mind

beginning with the end in mind...

I think it's pretty normal on Monday morning for most weekday workers and/or students to already have our eye on Friday afternoon and the freedoms of the weekend. For many Jews, there is an added element to that feeling. Preparing one's home and oneself for the Sabbath commences at the beginning of the week so that by the time sundown arrives on Friday, the holiness of Shabbat can be truly honored and enjoyed. For me, observing the laws of Shabbat is still relatively new and a work in progress. Beginning my preparations early in the week--as early as Sunday morning--helps me not only to lessen any feelings of stress on Friday, but also allows my excitement for Shabbat to remain at the forefront of my mind rather than somewhere in the background.

Rabbi Kalonymos Kalman Halevi Epstein once said:
"On Shabbat, holiness rests upon every person... However, some people sense only the smallest amount [of holiness] while others experience much more... It all depends upon the preparation of the person--how ready [s]he is for Shabbat while it is still Friday, and more so, how ready [s]he was from the first day of the week for Shabbat, bringing upon himself [or herself] the holiness of Shabbat during all of the six days of the week."
--  Ma'ar Vashemesh, Ki Tisa, taken from Oasis In Time: The Gift of Shabbat in a 24/7 World, a student textbook from the Jewish Learning Institute

My weekdays can get pretty hectic between finishing up my undergraduate degree, teaching preschool, and working on my writing. As a result, sometimes my weekday Shabbat preparations will be quite simple--like picking up a few extra items when I stop at the grocery store that will be used especially for Shabbat. Perhaps I throw in an extra load of laundry one afternoon so my tablecloth and dress clothes are clean and ready for Shabbat. Maybe I just take a break from writing for a moment to read another blog post about Shabbat or this week's parsha (Torah portion). Many of these activities seem minuscule in the midst of my busy weekdays. Sometimes I think-- I can just put this off until Thursday night or Friday afternoon. I can just save this pleasure reading for the weekend when I have more time. However, in just the past few weeks since I've added this level of mindfulness to my day to day activity, I've found myself enjoying a taste of the calm and peacefulness I feel on Shabbat right in the middle of the work week! I've also been able to enjoy Shabbat more as I don't feel nearly as rushed at the end of the week.
OK, so...regardless of whether Shabbat comes in at 3:40PM (as it does for 2 weeks each winter in Spokane, WA), or as late as 8:40PM--I always feel rushed in the last minutes before sundown. Sometimes that is a little overwhelming, but more and more, I find it exciting and recognize that restfulness will come as soon as I light the Shabbos candles. And whatever I didn't get done can and will wait until Saturday night.
Keeping the laws of Shabbat is one of the most rewarding and challenging life changes I've ever pursued. I am very excited to have recently signed up through a wonderful Jewish organization for a chavrusa, or learning partner to help me learn more about the halachos (laws) of Shabbos. Like keeping a kosher kitchen and learning to read Hebrew, keeping Shabbat is not necessarily a linear process and mistakes do happen. It has been, however, a very positive process. I am careful not to take on more than I can handle at any one time; I am forgiving when I do need to take a step back. I am also mindful of how powerful a mitzvah keeping Shabbat truly is...

U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman said the following in a course forward he wrote for the Oasis in Time class given through the Jewish Learning Institute*:

"'On Shabbat,' Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Rebbe of the Chabad movement, said 'we cease to struggle with the world, not because the task of perfecting it is on hold, but because on Shabbat, the world is perfect; we relate to what is perfect and unchanging in it.'... If [every Jew] would just stop and observe one Sabbath, and then another, in perfect unity with G-d and one another, then the world would be redeemed."

And so I leave you on this Thursday night with a wish that you all have a relaxing and enjoyable weekend. For those who are observing Shabbat --in whatever way and wherever you do so--may you find it restful and meaningful. Good Shabbos, and as always, it's been great shmoozing with you.

*I had the opportunity to take this course through my local Chabad center about a year ago. This and all of the other JLI courses I've attended have been phenomenal! Check out a course near you if you are interested.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Shabbos Shmooze: Shlissel Challah

Before the first Shabbos after Pesach, there is a special segulah (auspicious action) for parnasah (good fortune/livelihood) to bake fresh challot. This unique tradition is common to Ashkenazi families and is called Shlissel Challah, with shlissel being the Yiddish word for "key." Because many Jews associate Pesach with prosperity, families have taken on the minhag for generations to bake challah this week in the shape of a key or, alternatively, with a key baked inside.
Since I am gluten-intolerant, I often had to pass up the delicious challah at Shabbos meals. That is until a dear friend of mine perfected a recipe for gluten-free oat challah! She is a talented cook and baker, and her tried and true recipe contains proportionately enough oat flour to qualify for a proper blessing over bread. Up until last night, I'd greatly enjoyed eating the benefits of her labor, but in honor of this being the week to bake shlissel challah, I baked my very own for the first time! I've not yet tried it and won't until I eat my Shabbos meal this evening, but it looks amazing, smells amazing, and I am happy share the photogenic results!

Before adding eggs, they are checked for blood spots, as any impurity would make the egg unkosher.
All the ingredients are gathered together. The yeast is busy getting to work in very warm water along with sugar and agave syrup.

I'll bet you haven't seen one of these old fashioned mixers in years! I just found one at a local shop in town & LOVE it!

Once my arm was ready to fall off from the hand-mixer, I moved on to a good ol' fashioned spoon. The gluten free dough is very sticky!
Don't forget the key--this is shlissel challah!
Mini loaf-tins seemed to be best for this dough. It is too sticky a dough to braid or form.
It looks (and smells) amazing! I can't wait to make motzi on it by my Shabbos meal!

Perhaps, with my friend's permission, I shall share the recipe at a later date. Shabbat Shalom, a Gut Shabbos & may you all have a wonderful weekend. And for those who partook in the baking of shlissel challah this year, may the results be propitious in both flavor and finance!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fearlessly Joyful & All Ferklempt

I bought my tassel, stole, cap, and gown today. My commencement ceremony is just two months (minus one day, not that I'm counting) away! Up until fairly recently, I'd not even planned to walk at my graduation. I didn't think the whole ceremonial aspect of it would mean anything to me and additionally, the event is on a Saturday, coinciding with Shabbat. However, as the end to my Eight Year College Extravaganza (as I affectionately call it) became visible in the horizon, I realized this is important to me and I want to honor the occasion. I am (with the help of my university's staff) making some simple accommodations in order to keep the laws of the Sabbath while still participating in the ceremony.
Today as I walked through the university bookstore to purchase my gear, I found myself getting all ferklempt (Yiddish: too emotional to talk, ready to cry). I began taking college courses at a community college in northern Idaho in 2004 with no real career goals and no real belief my ability to obtain a degree or maintain a career for that matter. Much of that mindset was due to the low expectations that were set for me by "professionals" along the way. Whether or not they were well meaning in their approach is now beside the point. Everything that has happened in my life, particularly in the last 8 years, has happened just in the way it was meant to and has shaped the person I am continuing to become today.
I also recalled today a catchphrase frequently voiced by some counselors I worked with when I first moved out to the inland northwest.
"The degree to which you feel your sorrow is the degree to which you feel your joy."
I do not want to insinuate that this is a "bad" or "wrong" concept. I do, however, recognize that in living by that philosophy, I grew to temper all of my joy with an often debilitating fear of perceived pending sorrow. In my first year at the university I wrote a paper for my Intro to Social Work course about my firm belief in this motto. I received a good grade, but my professor asked to set up a meeting with me at my nearest convenience. In that meeting, she challenged the statement and my loyalty to it. She offered me the possibility that those joys could be celebrated wholly and completely and that the sorrows need not necessarily sink so low. Outwardly, I took her comments into consideration; inwardly, I continued to live my life trying to curb my successes in order that any potential falls would be equally cushioned. In fact, I often found that I seemed almost to brace myself in moments of joy as if somehow not feeling complete elation could prevent me from feeling anything other than happiness in the future.
Today, however, I am two months away from wearing this cap, gown, tassel and stole. I am two months away from completing my degree and pursuing a world full of dreams that once seemed ten sizes too big. I have overcome misdiagnosis and surpassed the devastating symptoms of undiagnosed sleep apnea. I am strong physically, mentally and spiritually. Today, I am celebrating and feeling my joy wholly and completely. I am grateful to G-d. I am grateful to my family and to my friends. I am grateful to those who mentored me, supported me, inspired me and continue to do so. I also recognize my own hard work and perseverance. Any part of that equation missing could have led to a different result. And above all, I have a new motto:

I am fearlessly joyful!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Shabbat in my Home: The Good, The Holy, and The Less Than Perfect

Note: to honor the holiness and sanctity of Shabbat, no photos were taken from sundown on Friday until after nightfall and Havdalah on Saturday.

everal weeks ago on a Friday afternoon, I decided to be brave and capture on camera the process and occasional misadventures of preparing my home for Shabbat. I, of course, had the intention to post these photos soon afterward (as I do not use my computer, camera, etc. during the holy Shabbat), but never got around to it. So now, as I prepare to go off grid again for the second Yom Tov days of Pesach and Shabbat, I've decided to virtually welcome you into my home for a Shabbos tour.

Preparations definitely involve a lot of work in the kitchen. Cooking is not permitted during Shabbat, so all of the food must be prepared ahead of time. It is a mitzvah to eat and enjoy decadent meals on Shabbat. I save my favorite recipes for this time, like my family's famous Sweet Potato Casserole.

Best laid plans and intentions to manage time well don't always work out. It's important to remember that Shabbat will come at sundown whether or not you are "ready." This means, on more weeks than I'd like to admit, my sink is full of dirty dishes before Shabbat even begins...

...and the trash never made it out to the dumpster...

...but it's nothing a nice tablecloth can't hide for the next 25 hours! can't see the garbage bag under there and neither can I!

This is a needlepoint my late grandmother handcrafted. May her memory be blessed! I am not sure when she made this, but it once hung in their home and she gave it to me to hang in my home when I was in my early twenties and first taking on more observance.
Looking at such special family heirlooms--like this needlepoint, or the Chumash my mother received on her first trip to Israel when she was 15 years old--connects me not only to my family members who live far away, but also to those family members who have passed on. It is a heartwarming reminder every Shabbat of why I go to such lengths to keep this time holy, and what my ancestors had to go through in order that I may have the privilege and right to do so.

With Shabbos nearly here, and all the de-cluttering and cleaning done in the living room, I am already looking forward to spending some quality time with some of the books on that shelf! I keep my schoolwork out of sight in order to keep it out of mind as much as possible. This will be a time to rest,
rejuvenate, and study things pertaining to Judaism.

Even as the clock is ticking away with much yet to be done, a sense of peacefulness begins to fall over my home...

In the last minutes before Shabbat comes in, I tend to some of the miscellaneous details, like making sure the switch that allows the light to go on and off in my fridge is taped down, the coffee maker is set, that all the lights I want on are on, those I want off are off, and those that have timers to turn them on and off during Shabbat are set.
Oh yeah, I'd better get myself ready, too! Shabbat is a time to dress in your best--even if you aren't going to shul. We are about to welcome the Sabbath Queen and one should dress as though she/he will be in the presence of royalty. With all the time spent cooking and cleaning, self-care often comes last. Inevitably, the shower taken before Shabbat is not a long, hot, relaxing one, and a "good" week is when I have time to apply mascara to both eyes!

My Shabbos table is set. This week I splurged and bought some fresh flowers to add to the beauty and delight of the holy Shabbat. My tzedakah box is also on the table. It is a mitzvah to give extra charity before lighting the Shabbos candles.
Candle-lighting is an important mitzvah especially for Jewish women. This is also an auspicious time to ask for special blessings and personal prayers. The dirty dishes and semi-hidden trash bag shall wait for 25 hours, and truthfully, I will allow myself to forget they are even there for that time. I will relish in the restfulness and tranquility of this holy time. Each week, it seems to hit a much needed "reset" button in my soul...

***insert screeching fast-forward noises***

After Shabbat ends at nightfall on Saturday evening, I will honor its departure with the prayers and rituals of havdalah. A special candle is lit. Some of these can be quite ornate and beautiful, but any candle with at least 2 wicks is fine. A kiddush cup is filled to overflowing with wine or grape juice. We honor the departure of Shabbat and the entrance of the week. We separate the holy from the mundane. We bless this separation, the fire and light of the candle, the wine/grape juice, and the sweet aroma of the bisamim, or spices.

This box was a gift from my father. He purchased it when he was traveling in Portugal once and I've used it for several years for the purpose of storing bisamim.

The whole cloves that are in here are actually all that is left from a purchase I made about 6 years (and 4 moves) ago while visiting my grandparents in New York. I don't believe the spice shop I bought it at is still open, but I recall shopping with my Grandma and Grandpa that day. We stopped in just after leaving the Judaica bookstore where they bought me my first siddur. I am amazed every week at how strong the cloves still smell!
Shavuah tov, a gut voch, a good week to all!

So now you've all seen it. The good, the holy and the less than perfect of Shabbat preparations in my home. On that note, I need to go prepare for Yom Tov & Shabbat! May those who are observing enjoy the remainder of Pesach and may you all have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Pesachdik Kitchen: A Culinary Adventure in Seasonal and Local Eating

The first Yom Tov days of Pesach have come and gone. I got to attend a seder on each of the first two nights, and to share a table with some old friends, some new ones, and some friends who are like family at this point when my own family live 3,000 miles across the country. The holiday was preceded by the usual angst of “how will I get everything done?” made just a little more challenging by a stubborn sinus infection, a 2-week jury duty term and, and of course the usual business of teaching and being a student myself. I’d read somewhere that you should stop and take a break from cleaning and preparing for Pesach as soon as you stop smiling and I tried to adhere to that philosophy. Since taking on a stricter practice of kashrut in my home this past fall, my preparations were a little more involved this year. This was exciting, but in a rented apartment definitely required some creativity and ingenuity!

This vinyl liner was by far my best find this year. I bought it at my local dollar store, along with many of the other kitchenware items I needed. Between all the tinfoil and disposable plastic and paper-ware I am using this week, I am aware that this is not the most eco-friendly time of year in my home. I am also aware there are ways to limit the amount of waste on Pesach, but since I am planning a cross-country move after this summer, I did not want to make too many permanent investments this year.

Another unique challenge that I’ve grown to embrace over the last several years is living in an area without access to many Kosher foods. In fact, up until the recent arrival of a Trader Joe's here, the only way to get Kosher meat was through friends who order and ship it from New York City or friends who had brought it back from Seattle. Many of the grocery stores here actually do have small Kosher for Passover displays with the basics—matzo, grape juice, wine, and even some specialty products, but nothing to the extent of what I was able to get when living in Massachusetts and New York. However, even though I grew up eating Kosher for Pesach cereal, pasta, crackers, cookies, etc., many of these things were not so tasty and I’d imagine they were also quite expensive and not very nutritious. So being in Spokane for Pesach has become a culinary adventure in local and seasonal eating!

It’s now midway through Chol Hamoed (the interim days of Pesach), and aside from the return of this stubborn sinus infection and the introduction of some stronger antibiotics, I feel great! I am enjoying all the fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season now. Most of my protein is coming from fish, eggs, and a wonderful citrus chicken recipe I created last night. I’m having fun preparing salads, kugels and other creative concoctions with only a few very basic seasonings: extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, kosher salt and fresh herbs. Much of the flavor in my food comes from freshly squeezed citrus juice (I’m really glad I bought a citrus reamer!), onions, garlic, shallots, or—gasp—the actual ingredients I am preparing.

Many of my recipes during the rest of the year are heavily flavored by spices, sauces and seasonings that I don’t have access to during Pesach. I enjoy these recipes, but I am also not feeling at all deprived by using fewer ingredients right now. In fact, I am remembering how much I love the flavor of roasted beets, baked sweet potatoes, local eggs, as well as a variety of fresh fruits and veggies! I am even inspired to let some of this simplicity seep over into my year-round culinary routine.

If you are also observing, I wish you a chag v'kasher sameach. May your Pesach be filled with joy, meaning and delicious meals shared with family and friends. And in case you menu needs a tangy little addition, here are the juicy details of my invented recipe for Pesach Savory Citrus Chicken Cutlets:


· Juice from 1 pink grapefruit, 1 honey tangerine, 1 Cara Orange, ½ a lime and ½ a lemon*

· 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into smaller cutlets

· 3 cloves of garlic, minced

· About 1 ½ tsp kosher salt

· 1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2*. I used the 5 citrus fruits listed above, but you could really use any combination of citrus fruits. Meyer lemons would be delicious, I think! I used a citrus reamer to juice them and didn’t strain the pulp. I did reserve about ½ a cup of the juice, strained for a baked sweet potato mash I was preparing on the side. I added the minced garlic to the juice as well as the salt and let the chicken cutlets marinate for about half an hour.

3. Put the marinated chicken, juice mixture and all into a baking pan along with the onion. Cover with foil and bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until cooked through. My oven is a little wonky, especially when I have a lot of things baking (and I was also roasting some beets and baking a sweet potato casserole), so my cooking time may be off. However, the chicken should come out very moist and flavorful, having baked in the excess marinade. The onions also acquire a nice tangy, caramelized flavor. Enjoy!

Also on this week's menu: fresh halibut baked in lemon juice & dill with sauteed onions and garlic

Roasted beet & cucumber salad with tangerine dressing & pickled red onion

Traditional Israeli salad with an nontraditional flare: pickled red onion & fresh dill

Monday, April 02, 2012

Preparing for Pesach: Chasing Chametz, Tinfoil Tizzies & Recipe Round-ups

I can't believe it's that time of year already--Pesach (Passover) is just days away! In fact, Pesach will begin at sundown this Friday. I would like to say I am running ahead of schedule on preparations (and that I have ample amounts of free time left to blog about it), but the reality is that, as usual, I am very behind. I do have some really awesome excuses, including but not limited to:
  • My previous academic quarter ended less than 2 weeks ago. My next (and final!!!) round of college courses begins today!
  • I had one week "off" for Spring break. In reality, I had two days off to take a mini "Staycation" and then joyfully resumed teaching my preschool class. I missed them over the past 3 months while I completed a busy schedule of college courses!
  • I also spent my Spring break convincing myself I wasn't getting sick, then allowing for the possibility that I *might* have a cold, later believing I was getting better, and then finally sucking it this past Friday and heading to the doctor for a round of antibiotics.
  • My toilet broke just after Shabbat began this past week. Thank G-d, my landlord was as efficient as apparently possible, and it was fixed by Saturday afternoon. That made for a rather interesting Shabbat!
  • Oh yeah, and I got summonsed for jury duty, beginning today (yes, at the same time as I am supposed to be starting my course work and teaching my preschool class and preparing for Pesach)!
But nonetheless, Pesach is coming whether I am "ready" or not. Right around the time Shabbat ended, I was feeling wholly unmotivated to begin the lengthy and arduous process of cleaning my apartment top to bottom in search and attack mode for that oh so curious culprit: chametz. Chametz is the Hebrew word for "leavened" and refers to any leavened grain products (or otherwise unkosher for Passover products*) which are prohibited from being consumed during the 8 days of Pesach or in an environment where foods that are Kosher for Pesach are to be eaten.

*NOTE: Passover dietary laws and customs vary from community to community. For some more information on this, click here and here. I also posted a bit of food for thought here last year around the same time as I prepared for Pesach.

As a result of this prohibition, extraordinary and sometimes extreme efforts are taken to clean the home, with special attention paid to areas like the kitchen and dining rooms. Depending on your eating habits and overall cleaning habits throughout the rest of the year, this job can become monumental! (Think: food fights, kids who store surprise cookies in the toy box, couch cushion collections, etc.) The best and possibly the only way to proceed is with patience, persistence, a knowledge of when it's time to take a break and when it's time to push through, and--as always, plenty of tinfoil and a sense of humor.

** I found this photo as well as the previous one on this wonderful blog.

Ah, I have now FOILED all your attempts at keeping a straight face, no? Now back to my serious Saturday night: As I sat on my chametzdik couch, in my chametzdik living room, gazing into my very chametzdik kitchen, I contemplated the task at hand. I honestly lacked any and all desire to even begin the process. I decided to check my mailbox for some motivation. Sure enough, inspiration had arrived over Shabbat in the form of an unexpected care package from my mother. In it were a deck of adorable matzo playing cards and a copy of one of my favorite childhood videos (now on DVD), Passover at Bubbe's!

One might think this was the perfect opportunity to take my lack of motivation and seclude myself into a chametzdik corner to embark in a lengthy round of Matzo Solitaire. Alas, I am saving the cards for some festive games of Kings, er Pharaohs in the Corner during Chol Hamoed, or the interim days of Passover. Nonetheless, I did pop in the DVD and watch Passover at Bubbe's. There is nothing like a good dose of nostalgia to remind a person why it is we go to these lengths to prepare for Pesach. In fact, it is more than just the catchy tunes, adorable puppets and humorous anecdotes in this child's film that motivated me to get off my tush and tackle the tinfoil tizzy. I was motivated by the fact that my mother thought of me during this time of year. I was inspired by the fact that my ancestors, both recent and generations ago have taken the same extreme efforts year after year to honor the memory of their ancestors both recent and generations before--all the way back to the very exodus of the Jewish people from Mitzrayim (Egypt).
And so, on Saturday night I began the initial stages of preparation: I ate some of my leftover chametz (hey, that counts!), and began to search for recipes and prepare a shopping list for the eight days of eating both gluten and chametz-free.

Aside from the matzo itself, Passover is one of the most gluten-free friendly holidays in the Jewish tradition! In fact, many specialty products and prepared foods for Passover are, by nature, gluten free. I often store up on certain treats once they go on sale and use them throughout the year. Even matzo comes in a gluten-free option now for those who cannot tolerate the real stuff. This is the first year I'll be trying out the stuff, though I must admit I am wary of removing and replacing the only potentially tasty ingredient of a 2-ingredient recipe! Still, I am grateful to have this opportunity to be able to fulfill the mitzvah of eating matzo at the seder while avoiding the level of discomfort I experienced last year trying to do so with regular matzo.
On the topic of food, I am so inspired by the wealth of Kosher for Pesach recipes out there, especially on the internet. I've been perusing a couple of my favorite Kosher cooking sites, and
*Clicking the highlighted links will take you directly to the Passover sections on both those websites. I particularly like that the former allows you to filter by gebrokts and non-gebrokts, depending on your traditions and practice.

Even mainstream websites are reaching out with recipes for Passover, like this page
on the Weight Watchers website. I am not personally participating in Weight Watchers' program, however, I greatly appreciate their focus on health and nutrition when planning recipes.
*Weight Watchers' recipes are not specifically formulated for a Kosher diet and substitutions or removal of certain ingredients may be necessary here depending on your traditions and practice.

Overall, Pesach can be a time of very healthful eating, especially for families and individuals who follow a non-gebrokts tradition. Gebrokts (literally translated from Yiddish as 'broken'), refers to allowing matzo to come into contact with water. Many Orthodox and Chasidic communities avoid this, and hence any form of matzo other than the straight-up deal for the first seven days of Pesach. For those who adhere to this tradition, or those like myself who cannot eat regular matzo or its derivatives anyway, Pesach menus consist largely of whole foods: proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, oli
ve oil, Kosher salt and fresh herbs for seasoning. Prepared foods must be certified as Kosher for Passover, and for folks not living in a particularly cosmopolitan area where Kosher markets are available, or for those not wanting to spend a great deal of money on the specialty items, processed foods are literally passed over! In the last several years of living in this area and not having access to a lot of Kosher specialty items, and particularly in these last two years of avoiding gluten and wheat, I've found I rarely feel deprived during Pesach. In fact, the unique opportunity to get creative with fewer ingredients handy is an inspiration and reminder of how I might like to eat year round.
Well, the bathroom, living room and bedroom are cleaned, linens washed, carpets vacuumed, floors mopped. My shopping is mostly complete, save for a few ingredients. Kitchen preparations are underway, but much is left to be done! Alas, I leave you today with a
small poem I composed yesterday and a wish that for those observing, you have a joyous and meaningful Pesach and for all others, Happy Spring!

An Ode to Chametz

Chametz, oh chametz, I hate you, you stink!
This is the third time I've re-kashered my sink!
My cabinets & fridge are now covered in foil,

For hours on end I trouble & I toil.
I washed, scrubbed and scoured
Vacuumed & dusted
I'm fairly certain that's a rib I just busted
But come the first seder, we’ll all sit to dine

And I shall forget this with four cups of wine