This year, my family joined a CSA- Community Supported Agriculture. In the beginning of the season, we bought a “farm share”, and every week I get to pick up a box of farm-fresh produce. If the harvests are especially good, we’ll get more produce each week. If the harvests are only so-so, we get less produce in the box. We don’t pay extra for the good harvests, nor do we get a refund for the poorer harvests. We’re investing in the farm.
The one we joined comes to about $20 a week and runs for 26 weeks. The farm itself is 50 miles away from us, but the pickup location is only 5 miles away. I pick it up on Wednesday afternoons, and the food is harvested on Wednesday morning- the shares vary slightly for those who pick up on other days of the week, depending on what’s ready that day. The farm sends out emails to tell us what’s in the box each week, so we can do menu planning.
I’m hoping that having fresh produce in the house will encourage my kids to eat more veggies. Jack enjoyed the kale chips I made last week with half the kale we got in the box- I plan to make another batch later today with the rest of it. We also got bok choy in the last box, which I used to make stir-fries. Hannah REALLY enjoyed those stir-fries. I’ll probably make something similar for her with whatever greens we get in this week’s box, as bok choy isn’t in this week’s portion.
The only disadvantage of the CSA is that I have less control over which veggies enter my house. I don’t normally buy bok choy because it’s a “black dot” for me, but I had some this week anyway. It’s organic, grown less than 100 miles from my house, and in limited quantity. I’m going to enjoy it. I even ate one strawberry, even though those are an “avoid” for me. But my kids ate most of both of those. Later in the year, we’ll be getting in things like cabbage and cauliflower, which are “avoids” for me but neutral or beneficial for Jack. I’ll certainly encourage him to eat lots of those foods when we get them- which will be a definite advantage to having this “forced variety” of foods in the house.
A few weeks ago, when I mentioned that the CSA was going to be starting soon, Jack thought it stood for Community Supported Awesomeness. I think he’s right.
I bought a new food processor on Monday. Tuesday morning, I decided I wanted to use the new machine to make muffins. I peeled some pears and mashed them with a fork. They were quite watery, so I added some chia seeds to thicken the mixture. I used 1 tablespoon of chia seeds for 4 small over-ripe pears. I let that thicken while I brought the new food processor in from the car and figured out how to use it. The mixture probably sat about an hour.
I made the banana muffins first, so the chia mixture could thicken longer. I put two over-ripe bananas into the bowl of the food processor, added 2 eggs, and blended. Then I added about ¼ cup of carob powder and 1 teaspoon baking soda and blended again. Then I added a cup of almond meal- a little at a time, blending after each addition. Then I made the pear muffins: First I blended the pear/chia mixture smooth, then added eggs and almond meal, blending after each addition.
This was enough for 6 of each kind of muffin. The texture with the food processor was MUCH smoother than the ones I’d mashed by hand, even smoother than the ones I’d mixed with the electric mixer. Plus adding baking soda helped them get much fluffier- I could have done that on Passover, but I simply didn’t think of it.
Today I made hummus. I’ve been buying ready-made hummus for most of the school year, for my kids to pack in lunches. Hannah literally packs this daily. She’s a creature of habit, and gets annoyed when I change brands. I’ve been hesitant to try making it at home when she likes the ready-made one, but then I realized this is better. I’ll no longer be at the mercy of “what Costco has in stock today.” Nor will I have to compromise on the purity of the ingredients. I can keep making it the exact same way, every time, and she’ll know what to expect.
I wasn’t able to get to the store today to buy anything, as Jack is home sick today. I’d already bought chickpeas earlier in the week, and I soaked them yesterday afternoon and cooked them in the crock pot overnight. I’d forgotten to buy tahini, but I had about ¼ cup of sesame seeds in the spice cabinet. I blended those in the coffee grinder, and then put them in the food processor with lemon juice and spices, as suggested in a recipe I found online. The only glitch was trying to figure out how much home-cooked chick peas were equal to “1 15 ounce can.” I started with a cup, but the hummus was too watery and too spicy. So I added a little more at a time, and ended up using 2 cups total. There were still over 4 cups of chickpeas left, so I froze them in 2 cup portions. It would have been easier to make 3 batches of hummus and freeze it ready-made, but I’m out of sesame seeds. Besides, this way Hannah can comment on the hummus and I can adjust the spices in subsequent batches if needed. I now know that 1 pound of dried chickpeas makes 3 batches of hummus.
My next project is crackers. I made some before Passover, but it was a hassle in my mini-food processor. Besides, the mini food processor is “meaty” since I’ve used it to make chopped liver in the past. This means that any crackers made with that machine cannot be eaten with dairy products. What good are crackers if they can’t be enjoyed with goat cheese? I’m keeping the new machine pareve (neutral) so they can be eaten with anything. I have rice and quinoa cooking in the oven now, and I’ll either make the crackers later today or tomorrow.
During Passover, I have limited ingredients to work with. Rice flour is not permitted to Ashkenazi Jews, and many things that are theoretically acceptable for Passover use are not available with reliable certification. I’ve never been able to find agave or molasses for Passover, so I do allow myself small amounts of honey.
There are certain techniques for baking during Passover that most kosher cooks are familiar with. Even for those without health-related dietary restrictions, Passover cooking is different. Matzah meal can be used in baking, but it won’t act like regular wheat flour. Gluten gives baked goods a nice texture, as it stretches out and holds the dough together before baking. But when you’ve got gluten that’s already been mixed with water and baked before being crumbled and used as a cooking ingredient, it doesn’t have those dough-smoothing properties. While just as hard on your body, the gluten is useless from a baking perspective.
Good kosher cooks have learned how to compensate for the lack of gluten in baking. The most popular technique involves separating eggs. Then you whip up the egg whites in a separate bowl until they’re light and foamy. Meanwhile, the other ingredients (including the egg yolks) get mixed in another bowl. The last step is to gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture- if you’re too rough you’ll destroy the fluffiness of the egg whites- and then spoon the batter into prepared baking dishes.
I used this technique to make some banana muffins over Passover. I started by mashing a few over-ripe bananas. Then I added the egg yolks to the mixture while putting the egg whites in another bowl. I also added the pulp from the almond milk I’d made earlier in the week. I added some lemon juice and salt to the egg whites and whipped them up. When they were stiff, I blended together the ingredients in the other bowl. It didn’t seem sweet enough, so I added a little bit of honey to the batter. Then I folded in the egg whites and put it into the muffin papers. I’d prepared 12 muffin papers in my 2 foil cupcake tins, and then realized I’d made too much batter for 12 muffins. I was afraid to keep the batter out too long, in case it fell and the texture was ruined, so I put more muffin papers into a rectangular foil pan. The muffins weren’t as round, but it worked fine. The end result was SO light and fluffy that I wondered if they would have come out better without separating the eggs.
I made more banana muffins later in the week. I didn’t have any more almond pulp, and didn’t need to make any more almond milk, so I used ground almonds instead. This batch didn’t need added honey and overall had a better flavor.
I baked a chocolate cake loosely based on a recipe I found in a kosher cookbook. I did the egg-white thing, mixing a few whole eggs into the egg yolk mixture because the yolks broke when I tried to separate them. I also added brown sugar, vanilla, and cocoa powder. I used some oil and tapioca starch to “grease and flour” the cake pan, and mixed the extra bit of tapioca starch into the batter- probably about a tablespoon total, maybe two. The cocoa powder and dry sugar provided most of the bulk for the cake. That came out light and fluffy and delicious.
I tried to bake a honey cake using the tapioca starch for solidity, and only honey for the sweetener so it would be free of refined sugars. It came out horrible- the edges were too dry and crumbly, and the center was gooey like a pudding. Basically, the batter separated before it could solidify, and the texture was awful. I ended up throwing it out. I guess Passover cakes need something more solid than starch to hold them together- the solid sugar helps provide some texture. A cake made with only honey for sweetness would need nut flour to hold it together.
I baked some more almond meal muffins today, even though Passover is over. I started with an overripe pear- I peeled it then mashed it with a fork and added egg yolks. I beat the egg whites until stiff in another bowl, then blended the pear/egg mixture, then added some almond meal until the texture looked right. It seemed kind of watery- I guess pears are more watery than bananas- so I added a little rice flour too. I folded in the egg whites and put into prepared muffin tins.
But I’d prepared 12 muffin tins and only had enough batter for 6 muffins. So I made more muffin batter. This time I mashed up a ripe banana, and I was too lazy to separate out the eggs so I whipped up the banana with whole eggs until fluffy. Then I added the almond meal and put into muffin tins to bake. I didn’t use any added sweeteners in either of today’s muffins.
The banana muffins came out good even without separating the eggs- though they’re denser than the pear muffins. I still haven’t decided if I’ll bother separating eggs when I make muffins again.
Yesterday, Leah and I did some Passover shopping. The local supermarket has a special “Kosher for Passover” kiosk in the produce department with dried fruits, nuts, macaroons, and candies. When I was there buying nuts and dried fruits, they had a plate of free samples.
On that plate, they had some chocolate covered jelly rings, cut in half. Those used to be one of my favorites as a child, though I haven’t eaten them in years. I cut all artificial colors out of our diets 9 years ago when I put Hannah on the Feingold diet to control her ADD symptoms. Then, of course, I haven’t eaten much sugar since starting BTD. There’s simply no way I would even consider buying these jelly rings- there are just too many reasons my family shouldn’t be eating them.
However, the candy sitting on the plate was tempting. How much harm can half a candy really do? I took a piece as I walked away with my purchases.
It tasted NASTY!!! The flavor reminded me of cough syrup, not happy childhood memories. There I was, walking through the produce department, not sure what to do with 3/8 of a candy in my hand, since I didn’t want another bite! Leah took a small bite and fully agreed with my assessment of the flavor. Eventually we found a trash can and threw the rest of it away.
I don’t think I’ll ever be tempted by another jelly ring! The stuff we make at home is so much better!
Most people are familiar with the basic concepts of eating matzah instead of bread at Passover time. This is to remind us of what the Israelites ate during the Exodus from Egypt. They left in a hurry and had to prepare food for the journey. There wasn’t time to let the dough rise before cooking, so flatbreads were baked instead. G-d then commanded us to keep a week-long festival and not to have any chametz (leaven) during that time. The first and last days are “Yom Tov” which literally means “good days”, but has a specific meaning in Jewish law. It’s almost like the Sabbath days, but the rules aren’t quite as strict.
Matzah has several Mitzvot (commandments) associated with it. There is a special Mitzvah (commandment) to eat matzah at the Passover Seders, on the first 2 nights of Passover. There is also a Mitzvah to have “bread” at Shabbos and Yom Tov meals. Since the only “bread” we can have this week is matzah, this means that matzah must also be eaten at other festive meals during the week. That leaves the daytime meals for the first 2 days of Passover, the Shabbos meals on Friday night and Saturday, and the evening and daytime meals for the last two days of Passover, when it’s Yom Tov again.
In order for a baked product to be considered Matzah, it must be made of only flour and water; no other additives. The flour must come from one or more of the following five grains: wheat, spelt, barley, rye, and oats. Wheat matzah is the easiest to find and the least expensive. I just got a 5 pound box of it for free at a local supermarket- that box is going to a friend!
Before I identified my food sensitivities, we always used wheat matzah. When I discovered that I did well on a gluten-free diet, I tried the gluten-free oat matzah, while using the cheap wheat matzah for the rest of the family. I then continued using the oat matzah as my "bread" for Shabbos for several months afterwards. I realized I didn’t feel well during that time, so I stopped eating gluten-free oats of any kind.
After discovering BTD for my family, I switched to spelt matzah for them. I’d also discovered my topical wheat allergy- meaning that I’d get sick from even touching wheat. It’s far easier for me to feed them spelt than it is to wear gloves whenever I clean up the kitchen. That year I also bought rye matzah for myself. I still didn’t know if I was a secretor or a non-secretor, so rye seemed like the safest choice. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the label carefully enough- the “rye matzah” was like most “rye bread” available in stores, just in Passover form. It wasn’t 100% rye matzah, but a mixture of rye and whole wheat! This wasn’t discovered until after I’d eaten some. I figured the damage was already done, so I may as well fulfill the Mitzvot of eating matzah. Needless to say, I got sick that year as well.
Last year, I tried to find 100% rye matzah, but was unsuccessful. I knew that oats and spelt were BOTH avoids, and I’d already tried oat matzah and done poorly on it, so I decided to give spelt matzah a shot. It didn’t go well. My fibromyalgia symptoms returned with a vengeance. I didn’t fulfill the Mitzvot of eating “bread” with meals on the last two days of Yom Tov because the spelt made me too sick at the beginning of the holiday.
This year, I still couldn’t find any 100% rye matzah. The only options were wheat, wheat/rye, spelt, or gluten-free oat. Looking back on the time I ate the oat matzah, I realized my reactions were rather subtle. I noticed that I lacked vitality after several months of eating it, not after only one week. So I ordered a box of oat matzah. If I still get sick from that, I’ll talk to a rabbi about what I should do in the future.
I’m hoping that rye matzah becomes available. If enough Orthodox Jews start following BTD, then there will surely be other O nonnies creating a demand for 100% rye matzah.