Photo Credit: Mindy Rafalowitz

As Pesach nears, I look back 20 years and it’s hard for me to believe where I was then and where I am now.

At the start of my career as a balabusta, I was determined to keep my house perfectly clean and orderly all year round. I rationalized that this would save me extra scrubbing work come Erev Pesach. It was a sensible idea, but, in effect, I found myself slaving away each year on my Pesach cleaning anyway, investing endless scouring hours and energy.

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It came to a point where I actually dreaded Pesach and all it entailed. The mere mention of the word would make me shiver with fear knowing that no matter how much emphasis I’d put on my cleaning regimen, I’d never feel I’d done enough.

Though I loved cooking, I did it with a heavy heart as I continuously worried about what I should be cleaning. The yoke of the cleaning standards I subjected myself to didn’t allow me to concentrate on the yolks I was separating for my fabulous, non-starch nut-cake. I felt cheated and defeated with no oomph left for food preparations of any kind.

But I progressed from life’s elementary school on to high school’s lessons in life, eventually graduating from life’s college and its teachings.

Throughout, I’ve been taking notes and diligently doing my homework. With numerous daily tests to pass, I must work hard, reviewing the lessons I’ve learned. I give myself the marks and encouragement to make sure I don’t lose my motivation. I don’t have a report card or diploma to show what I’ve done (never liked those things anyway!) or how far I’ve grown in the School of Life.

But here I am today, anticipating Pesach and cleaning, cooking and shopping. In the ongoing life-course I’m taking, I’ve learned an important lesson: “Preparing a Happy Pesach.” It’s about prioritizing, proportional-ism and forgoing lots of previous stubborn notions. It’s constantly remembering what Hashem intended when He gave us such beautiful yomim tovim like Pesach. When your efforts are channeled to making Him happy, we automatically go into simcha-mode. This lesson is not an easy one and I’m doing endless exercises for reinforcement.

So Pesach preparations still entail lots of work but now I enjoy it so much more. I happily go through the cleaning knowing the “prize” that awaits me when I finish: preparing all those traditional dishes my family awaits and creating new ones. And if special guests are expected, I get real satisfaction in thinking up and then preparing a scrumptious, VIP menu with the bare minimum of ingredients we use on Pesach!

The best thing about hosting on Chol Ha’moed is that no one really expects to be full after the meal, knowing there’s not much to eat anyway. This puts you at great advantage as you pleasantly surprise your diners with whatever it is you bring out.

And here’s a surprise for you! You don’t need to serve a proper “three-course” meal. This year, you’ll be able to enjoy your company instead of spending all your time in the kitchen. Simply lay everything on the table at once: salads in a colorful array, stir-fried, veggie-stuffed egg-blintzes, vegetable kugels, meat pies (you’ll find these recipes and more great ideas in my cookbook Take It Easy!). And if you’re worried about everyone getting their fill, bring out a bowl of soup with a choice of soup accompaniments and you can rest assured no one will leave your Pesach table hungry!

 

Layered Meatloaf Cake

This is just the right thing to impress your VIP’s for Yom Tov, Chol Ha’moed or around the year simchas.

Fill and bake in individual pans of any shape or in a disposable loaf pan for rectangular slices. Your family and guests will enjoy this meatloaf any way you slice it, hot or cold.

 
For the bottom layer:

1 lb. ground chicken or turkey
2 eggs
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 small potato
¾-1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Pinch of ground pepper

 

For the middle layer:

1 lb. ground chicken
2 eggs
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 small potato
¾-1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground pepper
¼ teaspoon baharat (optional)

 

For the top layer:

1 lb. ground beef
2 eggs
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 small potato
¾-1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground pepper
¼ teaspoon baharat (optional)

 

To prepare:

In 3 different bowls, mix all the ingredients of each layer separately. Oil the pan/s you chose to use. Layer the mixtures in the pan/s starting with the bottom layer mixture. For even layers, smooth each layer of meat mixture before adding the next layer.

Bake at 350° F for about an hour.

Top Tip:

For perfect slices that don’t fall apart, let cool about 15 minutes before cutting.

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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.