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Apr 10 2014

You’re Not a Grown Up Until You Host Your First Passover Seder

By at 12:15 pm

You're Not a Grown Up until you host your first seder

It’s official. I am finally an adult. I will be hosting Passover seder, first and second night, in my own home with my tablecloths, fancy wedding registry dishes, and glasses. I’m also making the matzah ball soup for the first time ever this year. Last year, my husband and then 1.5-year-old daughter Charlotte and I were living at my parents’ condo for the year and had a bi-coastal Passover (1st seder in New York, 2nd seder in Seattle). Of course we helped with the cooking, singing, and clean-up at our respective parents’ houses, but I didn’t have to sweat all the details, like do we have enough folding chairs for 16 people and is anyone a vegan or gluten-free, lactose intolerant, or pescatarian?

I’ve had many memorable Passovers in the past; eating curry and mangos with a Baghdadi family in Bombay, a seder in Russia when my sister was spending the year in St. Petersburg, Passover in Uganda with the Abuyudaya, and once, bringing a box of matzah for a spring break to Cuba. My favorite Passovers of all time though, are the Passovers I have with my family. We do the whole Haggadah, sing lots of songs, and weave in new traditions while keeping the old. My brother-in-law recently introduced the practice of whacking your table neighbor with a green onion when singing Avadim hayinu (We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, now we are free.) We each have our favorite readings and like to point out the crumbs and brisket stains in the Haggadot from Passovers past. This time of year, my mouth waters when I think about the perfect bite of matzah with a big spoon of haroset, topped by a slice of gefilte fish, with a dollop of horse radish on top.

We’ve been talking about getting ready for Passover for the past month and Charlotte is super excited for all the visitors, especially her new cousin, baby Galit. We listen to Dayenu on repeat from her PJ Library CD in the car, and I hope this will be the first Passover she actively remembers. I’m looking forward to sharing and passing on all our Passover schtick to her over the years. Passover is my favorite Jewish holiday, despite the matzah crumbs, which descend like cherry blossom petals all over the place.

Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 9 2014

How to Lead a Passover Seder at Your Child’s Episcopalian School

By at 4:04 pm

seder-sample

My third grade daughter is finally getting excited about the idea of me leading a mini-seder for the 3rd and 4th graders at my kids’ Episcopalian school next week. As my daughter has struggled with whether she will agree to “assist” me, I have wrestled with determining the best way to significantly portray the powerful story of Passover to a group of 9 and 10-year-olds of various religious backgrounds in 30 minutes.

When I discussed this with the school chaplain, I was pleasantly reminded that all the children actually already know the Passover story as they recently finished learning the story of Exodus.

Music to my ears. Now I could focus on the excitement of this action-filled story, in which God shows his glory through the burning bush (wow!), the 10 plagues (gross!), the splitting of the sea (awesome!) and against all odds, the liberation of Jewish people (yay!). We will look at the amazing symbolism found on the seder plate (oh, how kids love symbols!), taste some Passover foods (matzah, haroset (nut-free of course) and bitter herbs), hear the four questions and some great musical numbers like “Let My People Go.” In addition to instilling the kids with the “flavor” of Passover, I would like to impress upon them that there are important lessons to be learned from the Passover story that apply to their lives today. Read the rest of this entry →

Three Seders, Two Cities, One Diet

By at 10:54 am

matza-brei-serving

My family has always made an effort to make the Passover seder fun. Yes, we are retelling a very serious tale of fleeing bondage, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have four question finger puppets or 10 plague interactive toys, right? It wouldn’t be our seder if we didn’t have a water gun to symbolize the slaying of the first born. As an only child, I was always the target.

Is it just the toys that make the holiday special? No. For me it’s about being with the extended family in New York, lovingly talking over each other, laughing harder than we laugh all year, retelling a story that Jews have been telling for centuries, and eating yummy food.

But, what does all of that mean in a year when my cousin’s due date is right in the heart of Passover time and I’ve started a diet which I’ve publicized online? Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 8 2014

Five Paleo Diet Food Blogs That are Perfect for Passover Cooking

By at 11:04 am

nom-nom-paleo-kveller

In many ways, I’m the last person who should be writing an article about cooking for Passover. My family went on a Passover cruise the year I turned 12, and after experiencing what it was like to opt out of cleaning and cooking, my parents never looked back. So I’ve never really cooked for Passover. Don’t hate me for that, though, because I cook Passover food every day.

My husband and I adhere to a Paleo diet, which means that we don’t eat any grains, legumes, soy, dairy or refined sugar. We aren’t doing it to be trendy, or even to lose weight (though it’s a welcome side effect). Eating this way reduces inflammation in the body and is a very effective way to fight off chronic illness. The secret to sticking with it lies in the kitchen. Paleo recipes are so delicious; I never miss the things I used to love.

By default, any Paleo recipe that doesn’t include seeds (if you avoid kitniyot), pork or shellfish is Kosher for Passover. Accordingly, Paleo opens up a whole new universe of Passover recipes. Let me get you started with five of my favorite Paleo recipe blogs. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 7 2014

Top 10 Kitschiest Passover Seder Gifts of All Time

By at 7:00 pm

kitschy-gifts

It’s never too early to start prepping for Passover. There is an endless list of food and Judaica items you will need in order to create the perfect seder. These things are not on it.

If you are smart, you will bail on the sh*tstorm that is Passover planning by attending a friend or relative’s seder. And when you arrive–spouse and kiddies in tow–you should bring a gift. Sort of a “thank you for hosting”/ “sorry for the inevitable toddler-induced grape juice stains on your white table cloth” kind of gift.

We can help. These Passover products range from funny, to gross, to just plain ridiculous. They are absolutely unnecessary, but fun nonetheless, and may bring a little levity to an otherwise solemn holiday.  Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 25 2011

Enough with the “Bad Jew” Talk

By at 10:25 am

Eating bread during Passover doesn't make you a "bad Jew."

Passover is almost over.  Goodbye matzoh, goodbye gefilte fish, goodbye brisket.  And goodbye to the all the good-Jew/bad-Jew talk.  Hopefully.

It comes up a few times a year, mostly around the holidays. You know what I’m talking about—it’s the “oh, you’re keeping Passover, you’re such a good Jew!” and “I had a bagel yesterday for lunch, I’m a terrible Jew.”

Standards are different in every community, but amongst my relatively progressive, sort-of observant friends and fellow-congregants, it goes something like this: Good Jews belong to a synagogue, and go to temple for holidays and social action events, but it’s cool to spend Saturdays taking the kids to the farm or a soccer game or running a few errands. We don’t necessarily keep kosher, but if we’re not vegetarian, we definitely buy organic, grass-fed meat. Good Jews don’t have to send their kids to Jewish day school, but Hebrew school is a must.  We fast on Yom Kippur, but not on Tisha B’av, and we circumcise our kids, but spend most of the bris standing in the back of the room talking about how barbaric it is.  Most importantly, though, we’re sure to remind ourselves, and everyone else, of when we’re being bad Jews. Then we laugh and take another bite of the crab cake.

The bad Jew talk drives me nuts. I know it’s generally offered as a light-hearted joke, but the offhand comments betray a deeper truth—the guilt that we all carry, the genetic and cultural legacy of Jewish mothers (and fathers, to be honest). Parenthood is hard enough, even if you’re not trying to raise your children in a minority culture while also struggling with the schedules, foods, and standards of mainstream America.

Perhaps more importantly, though, the judgment (self-imposed or otherwise) behind the “bad Jew” comments tends to isolate those who aren’t “good Jews.” Once you’ve taken on the label, it’s hard to decide you don’t want it anymore, should the time ever come.  And even if that day never comes, even if you fully intend to spend every Yom Kippur for the rest of your life eating bacon cheeseburgers at the mall, I would still contend that you’re not a bad Jew.

I just don’t think there’s such a thing.

I do think there are people who do bad things (and I’m not talking about eating bread during Passover). I think there are Jews who don’t find meaning or fulfillment in the religious aspects of Judaism. I also think there are the aspirational amongst us—our engagement with Judaism isn’t quite where we want it to be, but life is busy and we’re working and raising kids, but every year, with each passing Shabbat and holiday, we do a little better, and come a little closer to becoming the Jew we want to be, the Jew we want our children to see. But I don’t think there are bad Jews.

So, as Pesach comes to an end, perhaps we can all free ourselves from the judgment behind the good/bad labels.  Really, we’re just a bunch of Jews making the best choices we can in a complicated, busy world.  That should be enough, right?

Apr 6 2011

Let My Puppy Go

By at 12:23 pm

Why are these dog treats different than all other dog treats? One (hyphenated) word: Kosher-style.

Zoom Room, a dog-agility training center in Hollywood, is offering up kosher-inspired dog treats just in time for Passover, which if you haven’t noticed, is just around the corner.

The treats are locally made, served in deli pints, and come in the following delightfully Jewish flavors:

No word on whether these are actually genuinely Kosher for Passover, though I’m leaning towards not, so if you’re dealing with a highly observant pup, these might not quite cut his or her strict diet. If you’re really concerned about what to do with the dog during Passover, we’ve got some answers. But just picture this: your lovable Jewish dog reclining on his dog bed during the seder, dipping his nose into the water dish twice, and noshing on some kosher chopped liver.

If you’re a dog-owner in the LA area, please head over to Zoom Room at 726 N. La Brea Avenue, mention the secret word ‘Pesach’ for a 15% discout, get your Kosher-style dog treats, and let us know how the dog likes them!

(P.S. Do you have any idea how hard it was not to make some sort of punny joke with Kosher-style/Doggie-style?!)

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