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Before we plunge into the rigorous Pesach regimen, allow me please to address a Purim-oriented “behind the scenes” tidbit.

After sending last month’s article to the editor, I was “convinced” to use the vegetable cocktail idea for my own mishloach manos this year. I also included a few spelt breadsticks coated with flaxseed and sesame seeds and a bottle of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice straight from our garden. We sent them out first thing in the morning for a healthy start on the “sweetest” day of the year. People really enjoyed the light morning snack and I got a kick out of doing a real ve’nahapach by changing confections into condiments and compliments!

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But what made me even happier were my grandkids. They were in my kitchen while we were preparing the cocktail cups and they kept begging to have one. It’s not that they were fooled into thinking the colorful, crunchy vegetables were actually sweets; they simply wanted one because they love vegetables all year around! I guess this just proves we need to set healthy examples for our offspring even if they seem to loath it. At the end of the day, it’s what they’ll choose anyway.

Now, with Pesach beginning to bloom (or shall I say loom…), what could be a better time to get back to the basics and begin developing a taste for the fresh and the real?

The most important Pesach tradition is to adhere to tradition and every household has a list of ingredients that are allowed in. When it comes to vegetables, though, don’t be a “couch potato”! You know potatoes aren’t considered a vegetable even if they grow from the ground, and there’s no reason to fall back on carbs when there is such a huge selection of delicious veggies just waiting to jump off the grocer’s shelf and come home with you.

I know not everyone uses every vegetable, but even if the recipe calls for a kind you don’t use, it can usually be swapped for one you do.

Let me ask you a question, what happens in your household when all the food, including fruits, vegetables, groceries, wine, matzah and nuts, arrive in your kitchen?

Well, let me tell you what used to happen here.

When my kitchen filled up with hundreds of pounds of produce and products until there was barely an inch of floor in sight with the kids weaving in and out and on top of it all, my head would begin to pound and I would think, “Hey, are we really going to consume all that food in one week?!” Then my body would begin to tremble as I realized that I was supposed to do the cooking…

Until the year I decided to put a stop to all my tremors. I realized that if I wanted my family to experience Pesach and its preparations as uplifting and fulfilling, I’d have to relax and loosen up.

At the speed of a thunderbolt, I cleared off the kitchen table and covered it with our Pesach tablecloth and then a disposable one. Wading through the carton boxes and plastic bags, I grabbed hold of a few packages of almonds and walnuts and plopped them on the table. Then I rummaged through the drawers until I found the nutcrackers.

“Who wants to crack nuts?” I called out.

Everyone did, so after sending them all off to wash their hands before handling the Pesach staples, each of the younger ones got to nut cracking while the older kids and I got down to organizing our mini market place.

It worked like magic!

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Mindy Rafalowitz is a recipe developer and food columnist for over 15 years. She has published a best selling cookbook in Hebrew for Pesach and the gluten sensitive. Mindy is making progress on another specialty cookbbok for English readers. For kitchen questions or to purchase a sample recipe booklet at an introductory price, contact Mindy at mitbashelpo@gmail.com.