The farmers' market just opened up near me, and yesterday we went for the first time this season. It’s such a wonderful place to shop; so much more lively than buying produce in a supermarket. One of the farmers saw us and greeted us with “Hey- it’s the potato boy!” when she saw Jack- then apologized for the potatoes not being in season yet. He did pick out some nice cucumbers to snack on. At another vendor, he got very excited when he saw the kale. I ended up buying TWO huge bunches of kale- one curly and one straight- because he didn’t know which kind would make better chips.
Yesterday was one of those hectic days, so I didn’t get a chance to do much of anything with the produce until today. I’d dumped the veggies on the table in the air-conditioned kitchen before going out for other errands, and didn’t even get them into the fridge until last night. When I went to inspect and clean it today, I saw that the carrots were already getting soggy. Those have been soaking in a bowl of water for hours- they should be nice and crispy again by tonight. I’ve already separated out the greens from the carrots, washed the greens, and put them away, tossing the inedible stems. I did the same for the golden and red beets, although the beets were in good enough shape to go right into the fridge without needing to be soaked or anything.
I washed one of the 4 heads of lettuce when I realized I’d bought WAY too many greens! Last year, I’d under bought the first week, and it was unpleasant having to revert to supermarket produce a few days after eating the farmers’ market stuff. So my natural inclination was to buy more to begin with; the way I’d shopped at the market by the end of last summer. But Leah and Hannah are at camp, and I’m the only one eating the lettuce this week. I’d mentally planned on having extras for company, but forgot that we weren’t making salad for 30. There were a total of 4 adults and 3 children, including me and Jack. We didn’t go through much more lettuce than I would have eaten on my own for lunch.
I’m a little bummed that my fridge is so full right now, and the lettuce might wilt faster because it’s squished in there. But I know that it will crisp up again when I soak it, so the food won’t go to waste. I’ll see how much is left by next Sunday and I’ll be sure to shop appropriately next week.
I washed the kale while preheating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, then ripped into bite-sized pieces and put them through my salad spinner. I put the spun leaves into a large foil pan, added olive oil and sea salt, and roasted them until they looked dry and crisp. I filled two large foil pans and put them both in the oven at once. I checked on them every 5 or 10 minutes, stirring as needed.
When they were mostly done, and had shrunk a lot, I combined them into one pan so I could cook the rest of the bunch of kale. I’m sure they would have cooked faster if I’d left them more spread out, but I find it easier to have fewer slower-cooking batches, rather than many small batches that cook quickly. When the second batch was one, I combined all the kale chips into one pan to cool. I plan to put them in a plastic bag tonight, but for now I want to keep them convenient for snacking.
I’ve also seen recipes for kale chips that use a low oven for several hours or overnight, basically drying the kale rather than toasting it. I’ve never tried that method. I’ve also seen recipes that add various spices or nutritional yeast along with the oil before toasting or drying, but my kids are happy with just sea salt and olive oil.
Today I cooked up the curly kale, but I don’t have the energy or time to start on the straight kale. That will be a project for another day.
For the past several years, I’ve been juggling the nutritional needs of 4 different people. Since both my oldest daughter and I have a SWAMI, and my younger daughter and son are two different blood types, I’ve had to co-ordinate 4 different food lists for nearly a year. Yes, there’s a lot of overlap between our food lists, but there are still subtle differences between each of our ideal diets, not to mention individual preferences. Hannah really enjoys vegetable soups, in all weather, and it’s just about the only way I can make sure she eats enough veggies. The only fruit she’ll eat plain is granny smith apples, and I’m not supposed to eat apples at all. Leah’s SWAMI gives her 6 times the amount of fruit that I get.
Now both of my daughters are in sleep-away camp for a month, and there are only two of us in the house. Things were very hectic this week, with packing and running around buying last-minute items. I tried to buy “just enough” of the foods that they eat that we won’t, but I didn’t work it out perfectly. I have a nearly-full jar of homemade tomato sauce that I put in the freezer. There’s one small granny smith apple that Hannah didn’t finish. We have two over-ripe bananas and a whole pineapple that I’d better find something to do with quickly.
I’ll probably freeze the bananas for smoothies for Jack, and dig up the juicer for the pineapple. I simply can’t finish up all this fruit before it spoils! If I juice the pineapple, I can freeze it in small portions, and use an ounce or two a day in green tea. I need to encourage Jack to eat more fruits and vegetables, but it’s doubtful he’ll eat slightly over-ripe bananas or pineapple by itself.
I’m glad I didn’t have to make a vegetable soup this morning, when it’s hot enough that I’d rather eat a salad for lunch. Later today, I plan to go food shopping with Jack. I’m looking forward to buying the foods we’ll both enjoy, without cluttering up the kitchen with foods we won’t eat.
We’re about a week away from the Jewish holiday of Shavuous, the commemoration of the Jews receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. It’s a two day holiday, with blessings made over wine and bread at dinner and lunch both days. It’s traditionally celebrated with dairy foods, in contrast to the meat meals usually served at other holidays and Shabbos. Fish and eggs can be served with dairy meals, but not red meat or poultry.
With 3 O’s in the family, dairy meals are a challenge, and are less likely to feel satisfying than meat meals. Sure, we could defy tradition and make some meat meals for the holiday, but the kids would be disappointed. What’s Shavuous without cheesecake for dessert after every single meal? Plus, being a holiday, we want more than tuna and egg salad at every meal- it’s a time to rejoice with special holiday foods that are tasty and fun and don’t make us feel deprived.
It’s a precarious balance between health, enjoyable meals, and the tight food budget. My 17 year old daughter and I have no common cheeses. I’m not supposed to have mozzarella cheese, and she’s not supposed to have ricotta cheese. But last year we made this delicious vegetable lasagna that used both cheeses. It was delicious and satisfying and everybody enjoyed it. We both felt that the semi-compliance was worth it for a once-a-year holiday treat.
Last year, I made this delicious cheesecake with goat cheese and agave. It’s compliant for everybody in the household. We ended up making 4 or 5 recipes’ worth of cheesecake over the course of the holiday, as everybody enjoyed it, even guests who were not following BTD. However, goat cheese and agave are significantly more expensive than cream cheese and white sugar.
This year money is extra-tight, with my ex-husband still out of work and unable to pay child support. I’m going to have to cut some corners with the holiday cooking this year. I need to be extra-careful with my own diet since I’m very sensitive to “avoids” in my diet and I have not been well lately. But my children have been eating a lot of “cheat” foods at social gatherings, and I’m not convinced that one more weekend of sugar and non-compliant dairy will have a significant impact on them.
This year, we’ll be making one small “healthy” cheesecake that I can eat, and a much larger “unhealthy” cheesecake using more traditional, cheaper ingredients. That lasagna recipe may be used as a risotto instead, since rice is a lot cheaper than rice lasagna. I may skip the mozzarella cheese on top for my own sake, or make it in two batches so I can have the mozzarella-free version.
In an ideal world, Shavuous would be a time for cooking with fresh fish and goat dairy, and I would never cook with white sugar. But we don’t live in an ideal world and I need to make the most of what I have.
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.