Vegetarian Passover (part 1)

It’s been quite a spring, and between being wildly over scheduled (my fault) and having log-in issues to WordPress (I’ll blame someone else for that) my blogging took a Spring Break. That’s not to say we haven’t been eating some fabulous and ethically-friendly meals (my lentil ‘meatballs’ served double duty when we broke them up into marina sauce and had ‘meat sauce’ over pasta) but it was admittedly nice to take a breather from writing for a few weeks.

But we’re back now and with a topic so big it could fill 8 posts! Passover is the 8 day Jewish spring festival that commemorates the Jewish people’s escape from slavery in Egypt. If you’ve seen Prince of Egypt, you get the gist.

mrs_moses

What that means for us is 8 days without leavened items…although in 2014 quite a few steps have been taken through chemicals, food engineering, and creativity to allow for recipes that attempt to satisfy Jewish American’s standards while adhering to the religious rules and restrictions of the holiday. You can now find Kosher for Passover brownie mixes, cake mix, boxes of cereal, and pretty much anything you’d want to ‘survive’ the 8 days. While that’s all well and good for those who wish to spend hundreds on a week’s worth of groceries, have food labels with a font impossibly small to accommodate all of the unusual ingredients, and pump their bodies with unnecessary chemicals, we use this as a week to eat cleanly and kick start our bodies for the warmer months.

We first decided to become vegetarian during Passover 3 years ago. As such, this is only our 2nd year being vegetarian during Passover, and we love the challenge. The sum of it is that as an Ashkenazic Jew, you’re not able to eat any wheat, barley, corn, rice, beans, soy, or any products derived from those products. For a CliffNotes version, check out this BuzzFeed article for everything that’s prohibited and most typically craved! In recent years quinoa has been approved by even the most strict of rabbis, so quinoa and eggs are our primary source of protein for the week with potatoes fulfilling my starch cravings! In the coming days I’ll go into more depth about what we eat, including snacks and dessert (yes, you CAN eat dessert on Passover and it doesn’t have to taste like sawdust!)

The seder is the traditional festival meal that occurs on the first 2 nights of the holiday. It involves the telling of the story of the Exodus, the eating of certain foods that are reflective of our history (parsley dipped in salt water to remind us of the tears of slavery, haroset (a mixture of chopped apples and nuts) to remind us of the mortar used to build pyramids, and horseradish indicative of the way the Israelites’ lives were embittered by the Egyptians, to name a few), and a festive meal celebrated between family and friends. While we couldn’t take pictures due to the religious nature of the meal, here’s what we had on our table:

  • Thai Butternut Squash soup (we increased the amount of curry paste just a bit to give it more of a kick!)
  • Matzo Balls (S’s mom was nice enough to keep a few separate from the chicken soup so we could have them!)
  • Sweet Potato Casserole
    Combine 5 cooked sweet potatoes with 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 3 TBSP orange juice. Put in a baking dish and top with whole pecans, then place a few thin butter pats on top and lightly sprinkle with brown sugar. Cook until warmed throughout and browned on top-the butter should be melted.
  • Kale and Quinoa Salad
    Mix the juice of 1 orange with 1 tsp dijon mustard, 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Drizzle in approximately 1/4 cup of olive oil and either whisk to combine or shake in a tight-fitting lidded container until emulsified. In a large bowl, combine kale (destemmed, washed, and cut into small pieces) with 1 cup of cooked quinoa. Add in a handful of dried blueberries and a handful of pine nuts. Top with vinaigrette and toss to coat– let sit for at least 30 minutes to absorb all flavors.
  • Criss Cross Potatoes
    Cut baking potatoes in half lengthwise so that you have two shallow ‘boat’ shaped pieces per potato. Slice 1/4 inch deep into the flesh of the potato making 4-5 parallel slits going in the same direction, then make 4-5 more slits in the opposite direction so that you create a diamond pattern. In a small bowl, mix garlic powder and paprika into melted margarine/butter–amounts will vary depending on how many potatoes you’re making. Brush or spoon butter mixture onto cross-hatched potatoes and bake cut-side DOWN at 350 degrees until potatoes are cooked throughout.
  • Green Beans Almondine
    Saute slivered almonds in margarine (or butter, if you’re not keeping kosher) until toasted and set aside in a serving bowl. Steam green beans (preferably haricot verte) until tender but still crisp, then add to same serving bowl as almonds. Toss to coat and serve
  • Zippy Zucchini (we used the recipe from this page)
  • Mushroom Farfalle Kugel (made by a family friend, recipe unknown but DELICIOUS!)

There was chicken soup, turkey, brisket, and fish as well (for those who haven’t gone completely veggie yet), but otherwise the entire meal was vegetarian/vegan and everyone was full and happy. Dessert will come in another post (you won’t want to miss that!) but even before we moved on to sweets, the consensus around the table was one of extreme satisfaction. The best way to truly experience Passover is to enjoy what you’re eating and putting in your body- not feel like you’re suffering though the holiday. Once our people were slaves, but now we are free and most importantly, have the freedom of choice regarding our diets.

Chag Sameach and Shavua Tov!

Note: Due to our geographical limitations and personal religious/dietary priorities, we keep strictly Kosher for Passover in terms of the ingredients we eat and cook with. We do not require a Kosher for Passover hecsure on each product during Passover, only require that the ingredients themselves are kosher to eat during Passover. We did have seder at S’s mom’s house, and she keeps completely Kosher, so for the purposes of these recipes everything was pareve.

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The best laid plans…

We’ve been on a roll this week, sticking to our meal plan and chugging through the first week of school (if you think it’s easier as a teacher then think again….) The good news is that B has adjusted much better to the end of summer this year than he did in 2012 😉

A mopey puppy on the first day of school 2012

A mopey puppy on the first day of school in 2012, waiting for D to return home!

By the time Wednesday rolled around, we’d hit a wall. We were both exhausted and the 90 degree humidity didn’t put either of us in the mood for roasting vegetables (not to mention the sweet potato was a tad older than I’d thought…) so we threw caution to the wind and improvised based on what was around. Breakfast-for-dinner has never been so good!

Carrot Pancakes with Breakfast ‘sausage’

Looks like any other sausage and pancake meal, right??

Looks like any other sausage and pancake meal, right??

We followed this recipe for our pancakes, halving it for just the two of us. They were moist, sweet, and healthy!! A coworker had a maple scented candle burning all day in the office, so I had been craving pancakes all day…or really just syrup! The excess number of carrots (CSA bag carrots, leftover grocery store carrots, 2 separate bags of baby carrots….) in our fridge was getting out of control so we found a way to hide some vegetables in this. D literally looked at me mid-bite and said “we should make these for our [hypothetical, one day in the next 5 years] kids to trick them into eating more veggies!” If that’s not a vote of confidence, I don’t know what is! Next time I may try experimenting with replacing some of the flour with whole wheat, because I think the carrots lend enough moisture to do so, but we will see!

My genius D also figured out a way to manipulate what we had in the house to be the perfect accompaniment to our pancakes. Frozen veggie burgers (MorningStar Grillers are the best, but any ‘fake hamburger’ product will do–just don’t try a vegetable-based patty!) are cut into 1/2 inch pieces and sauteed with a sprinkle of sage and some smoked paprika in PAM or oil in a skillet on the stove. The sage and paprika flavors imitate the seasonings in most breakfast (meat) sausages and the house truly starts like a wonderful breakfast feast. By crisping up the burger in a pan, you get the texture of sausage — admittedly I think I’d only had it once in my life before becoming vegetarian (sorry mom!) — but try it for yourself and let me know what you think. I was completely satiated and thrilled that breakfast-for-dinner veggie-style is fantastic!

Purple potatoes make this one visually interesting!

Purple potatoes make this one visually interesting!

Potato Hash and Egg Scramble

Have too much leftover ‘sausage’? Whip up this great veggie-friendly breakfast the next morning to enjoy this newfound treat in a whole new way!

-leftover ‘veggie sausage’ (see above)

-potatoes, diced into small pieces- we used purple potatoes from our CSA bag but red, Yukon, or anything small works too

-diced onion and bell peppers

-eggs

-cheddar cheese (or your favorite egg accompaniment!)

Toss diced potatoes, peppers, and onions with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees in the oven until crispy and brown. Meanwhile, prepare veggie breakfast sausage using above directions or throw leftovers in a skillet to warm with some oil. Whisk eggs in a bowl and add whatever preparations you normally would for scrambled eggs (milk, Almond Milk, cream, salt, pepper, hot sauce, whatever you please!) When sausage is warmed, add the eggs to the hot pan and scramble to your desired consistency/dryness so that the sausage is incorporated with the sausage pieces. About 1 minute before completion, top with shredded cheese and mix into the egg to melt. Serve with crispy potatoes and ketchup!

YUMMMMM. We may start going through a lot more veggie burgers in this house–breakfast for dinner for all!

Lettuce Turnip the Beet

D and I had a fantastic date night tonight at one of Butcher and Bee‘s Lettuce Turnip the Beet dinner. We’ve been meaning to get to one for a few months now and the timing just hasn’t worked out, so we jumped at the opportunity. One of our favorite veggie-friendly restaurants goes entirely vegetarian (with plenty of vegan options) for 1 night every few months and it’s fantastic–all of their produce and products are local, so it’s a feel good meal all around!

We didn’t exchange many words besides “mmmmm” and “did you TASTE this”, so I’ll let the pictures tell the story:

Eggplant "meat" balls

Eggplant “meat” balls

Potato and Chickpea Vindaloo with Carolina gold rice

Potato and Chickpea Vindaloo with Carolina gold rice

Roasted Zucchini with gremalota

Roasted Zucchini with gremalota

Carmelized okra with ginger tomato sauce

Carmelized okra with ginger tomato sauce

By far our favorite was the ‘meat’ balls— for you meat lovers, imagine the softest and most break-apart meatball you’ve ever had. The texture was fantastic, the flavors are incredible, and it simply smelled like the best of Italy. I could spend weeks trying to replicate these and may never, but I’ll let you know if I do! 😉

The okra was a close second–the ginger and tomato together was a tangy combo, and the sweetness of the charred and caramelized okra was an amazing contrast to that. We ate past our stomachs’ capacity just to avoid leaving any on the plate!

The zucchini was fresh and light, and knowing it came from the Lowcountry was the icing on the cake. Lowcountry produce is just bursting with the freshness from the ocean and emanates the strong SC sun the second you bite into it. With fresh herbs, it was a really bright dish.

Indian food hasn’t been the same since D and I went to Vij last summer in Vancouver so we were excited to try BB’s version of vindaloo. The second it appeared on the butcher block table it was the only thing we could smell, which is always a good sign! It was a bounty of chickpeas and potatoes over Carolina gold rice (a variety previously ‘lost’ and revitalized in the 80’s) with an incredibly flavorful sauce and fresh cilantro. By the time we got to the vindaloo we were stuffed, so we get to enjoy the leftovers again later this weekend!

D summed up the meal by saying “I challenge any person who says that they can’t have a filling and satisfying meal without meat to go and eat that.” Probably our favorite part of the dinner was that there wasn’t a single meat-substitute used– they let the vegetables be the star of the meal and it truly paid off.  Don’t be afraid to eat a meal without a traditional ‘protein’ at the center of the dish, because as proven tonight, vegetables CAN rule the plate!

Farm Weekend ends with Irish Nachos

We lucked out into some great Lowcountry weather this weekend after an usually long spring of rain and clouds, and D and I took full advantage of it. Out of respect for some amazing food, here’s a minimalist post where the pictures do the talking, followed by tonight’s fantastic impromptu Irish Nachos:

9 pounds of blueberries from Ambrose Farm

9 pounds of blueberries from Ambrose Farm

fresh mozzarella and orange cherry tomatos from Ambrose

fresh mozzarella and orange cherry tomatoes from Ambrose

Panzanella-- toss fresh basil with crusty bread, tomatoes, and mozzarella (and an olive oil/garlic/balsamic dressing)

Panzanella– toss fresh basil with crusty bread, tomatoes, and mozzarella (and an olive oil/garlic/balsamic dressing)

Irish Nachos 

1.5 large Russet potatos (cut into 1/4 inch slices)

Soy Chorizo (we like Trader Joes’ Soyrizo)

Red bell pepper

red onion

1 Poblano pepper

Chili powder, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika

1 can black beans

Mexican-style shredded cheese

Dice up all peppers and onion – set aside. Saute up the chorizo in some olive oil (will add flavor to your oil) in a large skillet for about a minute, then add the peppers and onions. Season to taste, then cook down until soft. Add the black beans and stir to combine, then let sit to enable flavors to come together.

Spread the slices of potatoes on a cookie sheet with light oil, salt, and pepper. Cook at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes on each side until lightly brown and slightly crisp. Let cool slightly, then layer (see below) in an oven-proof skillet or casserole pan. Spread the topping over the potatoes, top with cheese, and broil for about 2-3 minutes. You could top with sour cream or guacamole, but these are so perfect as-is I wouldn’t even bother!! D and I came very close to polishing polished off this whole thing 😉 The beans and potatoes make it filling, the chorizo and spices give it some umph, and the cheese is melted and stringy. Plus, you sneak in 2 whole peppers for anyone who is veggie-phobic!

The finished product...

The finished product…

Sliced and browned potatoes arranged in the skillet before broiling

Sliced and browned potatoes arranged in the skillet before broiling

Nacho topping

Nacho topping