Archives for: April 2012
Yesterday, I decided to make a variety of different dishes for dinner and use up some leftovers in the fridge. My son would have enough to eat with the leftover baked white potato, leftover white rice, beef, and either some raw baby carrots or a can of green beans. There was enough brown rice to reheat for myself, and neither of my daughters are likely to eat much rice anyway. Roasted sweet potatoes take over an hour to cook, but the rest of the food cooks up more quickly and needed to go into the oven later. Burgers take half an hour to bake, or I could cook the ground meat on the stovetop in about 10 minutes. Frozen broccoli only needs about 20 minutes, which is also about how long the rices and potato need for reheating. My plan was to have a whole bunch of different pans in the oven, which would then be carried a whopping 3 feet from oven to table when it was time to eat.
So, I got started cooking around 4:30, so dinner would be ready at 6:00 when Leah comes home from school. I peeled and cubed sweet potatoes and put them into a pan. Then I added olive oil, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, and paprika. I stirred it all together and put that in the oven. Then, at 5:20, the power suddenly went out! I knew the oven would stay hot for another 10-15 minutes or so, but also that the food wouldn’t finish cooking unless the power came back on quickly. So the sweet potatoes continued to roast while I spent 20 minutes on the phone with the power company to report the outage.
When I was done with the phone, it was 5:40 PM and the oven was “warm but not hot anymore.” I’d learned that the power wasn’t due back on until 8:00 PM, and that my dinner plans were shot. My electric oven was NOT going to be able to cook a variety of dishes! Nor could I cook anything on my electric stovetop. My Mom has a gas-powered stove in her kitchen downstairs, but she doesn’t keep kosher. Cooking my family’s meal downstairs means carrying down all my own dishes, ingredients, and cooking utensils.
I took my big frying pan and dumped in the half-roasted sweet potatoes. Then I added the ground beef to the same pan and put the lid on to make it easier to carry. In a separate pan, I put white rice, olive oil, salt, and water. I would have preferred to make a whole grain, but at this point there wasn’t enough time for brown rice to cook and my son won’t eat quinoa. Hannah helped me carry down the two pots, which I cooked on my Mom’s gas stove. I’d brought down one metal spoon to stir the contents of the frying pan. I added a little water when it was near the end of cooking. I think broth would have been even tastier, but the kosher turkey broth was a flight of stairs away.
When the food was mostly cooked, I realized I’d forgotten to prepare a green veggie for the meal! Had I been in my own kitchen, I would have added some frozen spinach or broccoli to the pan with the sweet potatoes and meat. But it was too much trouble to go upstairs with food on the stove that needed constant stirring. Nor did I want to scrounge around my Mom’s freezer, knowing she had ice cream that could melt if the freezer door was opened. Instead, I prepared a salad after the other foods were ready. We ate at my Mom’s kitchen table on paper plates with plastic forks, and used plastic spoons to serve the rice and the salad.
Leah, Hannah, and I really enjoyed this new way of preparing sweet potatoes and meat. The sweet potatoes turned into a sauce for the meat, rather than being a separate dish. Unfortunately, Jack had one taste and hated it. He’s the reason I normally make so many little dishes. Thanks to the power failure, he only had rice for dinner.
Power came back on at 7:03 PM.
The days before Passover are probably the busiest time of the year for Orthodox Jewish families. We need to clean our homes, cars, backpacks, etc. of any traces of chametz (leavened flour products.) The kitchen is the biggest part of the job. Everything is scoured, opened packages of foods are finished up or packed away, counters are covered, dishes are packed away, and special Passover utensils are unpacked. Some items can be kashered (made kosher for Passover) through the use of heat. Many families use a lot of disposables for the week. Then there’s another busy time when the holiday ends, and we need to put the kitchen back to normal.
Kashrut is even stricter this week than it is the rest of the year. Most products need special “Kosher for Passover” certification; even items that don’t require special certification during the year. Matzah is permitted, but anything else made from wheat, oats, rye, spelt, or barley is “chametz” and cannot be consumed. Ashkenazi Jews, those typically of Eastern European descent, also don’t eat legumes or rice for the week. Sephardic Jews, those of Southern European descent, don’t have that restriction, but they do have special rules about how those foods are prepared for the holiday.
A great many products are theoretically permitted for Passover use, but are not currently available with certification. This list includes ALL the sweeteners that are permitted to me. Honey and sugar are readily available for Passover, but those are both “avoids” on my food list. Agave and molasses should be acceptable for Passover, since molasses is made from sugar cane and agave is made from a desert plant. But I could find neither with Passover certification. That left me with two choices: don’t eat sweets for the holiday or compromise on compliance.
There were a few other special holiday foods that weren’t compliant. I used spelt matzah since rye matzah isn’t currently available. Charoset is a traditional food for the Passover Seder, representing the mortar the ancient Hebrews used during slavery in Egypt. Our family recipe is a mixture of apples, cinnamon, red wine, walnuts, and honey. I’m not supposed to have apples or honey. I could have substituted pears for the apples, but since I couldn’t find an alternative for the honey anyway, I went ahead with my traditional recipe and limited my own portions.
Other non-compliant goodies included marshmallows and coconut macaroons, and my 17 year old made chocolate/caramel covered matzah, chocolate muffins, and almond macaroons. The homemade treats were compliant except for the sugar, and fully compliant for the kids. I had a small taste of each treat but mostly eliminated all added sugars from my diet for the week. I also made almond milk for the week and had it in my daily yerba mate/cocoa beverage. My family doesn’t use rice on Passover, since we’re Ashkenazi. Without being able to use rice milk or molasses in my tea, I felt the need to add something to make my tea tastier. Since almonds are neutral for me, I figured that the damage from almond milk must be subtle, and felt it was a reasonable compromise for one week out of the year.
I ate far too much sugar the last few days of the holiday. That resulted, as usual, in eating too much food overall and never really feeling satisfied. But I did eat plenty of vegetables and meats, and managed to take a walk almost every day of the holiday. I’ve been eating clean since right after lunch the last day of the holiday, so nearly 2 full days now. Between the “less than perfect” diet and the late hours we were keeping, I got quite irritable and sore. I wasn’t in a full fibro-flare, but I didn’t feel particularly well either. I’m getting myself back on track now, and I hope to do better next Passover.