Tonight starts the Jewish holiday of Shavous, which commemorates the time when G-d spoke to the Jewish People at Mount Sinai and gave us the Torah. This is when the Jewish people were first commanded to keep kosher, and dairy foods were quicker to prepare than meat in those days. So, it’s become a custom to eat dairy foods for this holiday.
Cheesecake is a common Shavous food, and in the past we’ve baked it in such huge quantities that one of my kids dubbed it “the cheesecake holiday.” In the past, I’ve experimented with making healthier cheesecakes for myself. I’d use goat cheese and agave instead of cream cheese and white sugar. The end result is usually that I end up over-eating “my special cheesecake” because nobody else really wants it when there’s “traditional cheesecake” available. And I don’t do all THAT well on goat cheese or too many sugars anyway- even sugar from compliant sources such as agave. Plus, these ingredients are much more expensive than the traditional ingredients, and normally I consume these special foods in much smaller quantities.
So, this year we’re trying something different. We baked two large cheesecakes; one plain and one chocolate. Both are made with real cream cheese, sour cream, and white sugar. The chocolate one also has a small amount of cow’s milk added. Both are also made with rice flour rather than spelt flour, so they’re basically safe for me. Not 100% compliant, but free from my worst avoids. I’m hoping that I’m better able to “have a taste of each one and then stop” since they’re not baked special for me. I suspect that I’ll react as well to a tiny amount of cow’s milk as I will to a larger amount of goat cheese.
We also got the first CSA box of the year today! I just ate a salad of locally grown, organic greens. I plan to have a lot more salads over the next few days.
Passover is, by far, the busiest time of year for Orthodox Jewish families. I started out feeling worn out and tired before the holiday even began. I just haven’t been feeling my best. I suspect that the unusually cold winter we’ve just had may be one factor. Another suspected factor is a brand of rice cakes I’d been eating regularly. One of my children noticed the “may contain traces of wheat” warning on the label. I’d stopped eating them about a week before Passover, but it takes me a few weeks to fully detox from wheat, so I was still reacting when the holiday began.
My usual Passover routine is to make a lot of things from scratch. This enables me to avoid additives and “avoids” in foods as much as possible. I usually make my own mayonnaise from complaint oils and squeeze my own lemon juice. But this year, I couldn’t find any “Kosher for Passover” oils except for olive oil and cottonseed oil. I do use plenty of olive oil, but I also wanted milder flavored oil for mayonnaise and baking. It’s been several years since I’ve been able to find walnut oil, but this year I couldn’t even find any grapeseed oil! I’ve tried making mayonnaise from 100% olive oil in the past and I didn’t like the flavor.
The main reason I make my own mayo is to avoid the cottonseed oil, which is an “avoid” for all blood types. It’s also not classified as a “food crop” and may contain pesticides not permitted on other food oils. I’ve been avoiding cottonseed oil for decades, long before I knew about BTD. But, I wasn’t willing to have a mayo-free Passover, and if I was going to have to have cottonseed oil mayo anyway, I might as well save myself some work and buy it ready-made.
I also decided to purchase lemon juice this year instead of buying a huge sack of lemons. There are preservatives in there, but it was cheaper than buying lemons and WAY less work. I may do this again next year; I’ll see how my finances and energy levels look going into Passover.
This is the first year that Leah wasn’t home for Passover, so I ended up over-buying some items. Normally, I’m good about staying away from the sugary desserts and leaving them for the kids. But with one less child eating them, nobody seemed to notice or mind that I was eating some chocolate macaroons every day. I just let myself get into lazy habits.
In previous years, I’d been very good about staying away from my “avoids” except for the oat matzah and a specified small amount of each sugary treat for the first day or two. This year, I let myself get into the habit of eating sugar every single day, and continued for a day or two after the holiday ended. I even started putting brown sugar in my yerba mate!! During the year I use blackstrap molasses, but that’s not available for Passover- so I should have drunk it unsweetened.
I’ve been back to my usual diet and I’m starting to feel better. But I’m nowhere near 100%. I’m mad at myself because I know this was completely preventable
Pi is a Greek letter used as a mathematical symbol in circle geometry. Since the first three digits of Pi are 3.14, this makes March 14th (3-14) “Pi day.” Since pie is round, and sounds like the Greek letter Pi, we celebrate Pi Day by eating pie.
We started this a few years ago when I was homeschooling, and we spent the whole day doing math with circles and baking. This year, Pi Day fell on a Friday, which means I’m usually busy preparing for the Shabbos meal. This year was exceptionally busy, as I spent the morning at the doctor’s office with an injured child rather than at home puttering around the kitchen.
Still, I managed to bake a couple of pies to accompany Friday night’s dinner. First I made a broccoli pie instead of the roasted green beans we usually have as our green veggie for the meal. For the past few months, I’d saved the “broccoli crumbs” in the bottom of a Costco-sized bag of frozen broccoli. I combined the crumbs from 3 or 4 bags of broccoli and warmed them in a baking dish. Meanwhile, I chopped an onion very fine and sautéed it in oil and salt. When both were cooked, I let them both cool a bit, then combined them, added a few eggs, some more salt, a dash of cayenne pepper, and a little bit of onion powder, since I hadn't used quite enough fresh onion. I sprayed a pie plate with cooking spray and poured the filling in to bake.
Meanwhile, Hannah made the pumpkin pie. Jack had walked to the closest grocery store and picked up a can of pumpkin and a 4-pack of Rice Dream drink boxes. Had I planned ahead, I would have made homemade rice milk and I would have bought the canned pumpkin ahead of time. The recipe on the can called for a 12 ounce can of evaporated milk, but we substituted 8 ounces of rice milk. I've been doing that for years. The rice milk is thinner than the evaporated milk, so we use less, and the overall texture is about the same. Normally, I’d use honey or agave in the pumpkin pie, but Hannah was doing the baking and she used granulated sugar- though we did use about 2/3 of what the recipe called for. Most recipes are WAY too sweet for our tastes. Just like the broccoli pie, we skipped the crust and sprayed cooking spray on the pie plate before filling.
When each pie was mostly done, I took it out for a moment and drew a “pi” symbol into the top with a clean chopstick. Then the symbol was firmly embedded when it was fully cooked.
I’d originally planned to make some kind of dessert pie with some slightly over-ripe apples and/or pears from my fridge, but I ran out of time and energy.
e Jewish calendar is a solar-lunar calendar. This means that every month correlates to the moon, and each month also falls during the same season every year. By comparison, the Gregorian calendar is solar only (the months can start anywhere in the lunar phase) and the Muslim calendar is lunar only. That’s why the month of Ramadan cycles through the seasons as the years go by. 12 lunar months are a little bit shorter than a solar year, so each year starts a little bit earlier than the last.
In order to keep up with the moon AND the sun, the Jewish calendar is rather complicated. The months can be either 29 or 30 days long, so that the first of every month is always on the new moon. The Jewish calendar also inserts an extra month every few years. Since the Torah specifies that Passover is always in the spring, the extra month is inserted in late winter. This year is a leap year, and we’re in the leap month right now.
You know how, when somebody is born on February 29th, they only get a birthday every 4 years? That can’t happen in the Jewish calendar. The first of every month is called Rosh Chodesh, literally “the head of the month.” When there are 30 day months, the 30th day is considered “the first day of Rosh Chodesh” for the following month. Say you’re born on the 30th of Av, and Av only has 29 days this year? That’s OK, your birthday is also Rosh Chodesh Elul, and so you celebrate on the first of Elul.
Similarly, the leap month doesn’t get its own name. Instead of having Adar this year, we have Adar I and Adar II. Adar II is “the real Adar.” Any Adar birthdays are celebrated in Adar II. Purim, which normally falls on the 14th of Adar, falls on the 14th of Adar II this year. Purim is observed by giving gifts of food, giving money to charity, hearing the Megilla (Book of Esther) read, and dressing up in costumes.
Tonight begins the 14th of Adar I, the day that would have been Purim, had it not been a leap year. It’s known as “Purim Katan” which translates to “Little Purim.” There are a few changes in the daily prayers, but it’s not REALLY a holiday. We don’t go to the synagogue to hear the Megilla read, we’re not all getting dressed up in costumes, and there’s no obligation to give gifts of food to our friends and neighbors. Good thing, too, considering the blizzard outside!
What I do plan to do later is bake hamentashen, a traditional Purim cookie. We’re not baking massive quantities to give out to all our friends. We’ll do that next month. Today I’m planning on just making one or two batches for ourselves. Enough to acknowledge the day, but since it’s a minor holiday, we won’t go crazy.
This is the time of year when many people “party hearty” on December 31st and then feel the need to “diet” come January.
The Jewish New Year was nearly 4 months ago, and THAT was the real time for introspection. Not that my family ignores New Year’s Eve- we like to have a few “junk” foods, stay up late, and watch the ball drop on TV. It’s harmless and fun, but it’s not really meaningful.
I bought the kids some corn-based treats that didn’t tempt me in the least. I made spiced apple cider in the crock pot- I’m not supposed to have apples juice or cider, but I did have one mug-full. The temptation came with the organic nonfat frozen yogurt we received as a gift. I normally never buy the stuff, but I do occasionally buy full-fat ice cream, which I believe is healthier than the nonfat kind. Still, this product is free of corn and carrageenan, and Jack left it out on the table staring at me, and I ended up having half a cup with some chocolate chips added. All that sugar made me even hungrier.
Today is a new day, and so far I’ve had some lemon water. I plan to eat 100% compliantly, keep the carbs way down, and emphasize beneficial and diamond foods. I also want to go for a walk later today. I want to start walking daily.
This is NOT a “New Year’s Resolution.” Yeah, I over-indulged last night and I want a fresh start, but today is no more significant than any other day. It’s a new day and as good a time as any to re-focus on my long term health goals. If I slip up again in the middle of the year, I’ll make another fresh start and not wait for some significant date before making changes.