Much of my life has centered around food.
My mom is a great cook, and I still crave her salmon croquettes, minestrone soup, and her famed pork spareribs with sauerkraut. That’s right, nothing fancy. Just pure comfort and home-cooked goodness.
I’m most thankful for how my mom made dinner mandatory family time. Even when she was a single-mom of three, we shared the day’s events over the evening meal. When she re-married, and two more siblings came along, dinner was a time to come together and BE a family. We told stories and laughed. We celebrated victorious soccer games or perfect trumpet recitals. And, like most kids, we got into trouble for laughing during grace or launching the world’s biggest food fight.
It was real life, it was family, and it showed me how food brings people together in meaningful ways.
My mom continues to gather us together for feast and folly. I’m really looking forward to her deviled eggs for our Easter celebration, and I’m sure my brother Walker will bring one of his amazing food creations. I have been assigned the vegetables, naturally.
I also love learning about other holiday traditions, and will always remember my first Passover meal. Oh my goodness. Not only was I inspired by the rituals and stories around this tradition, but the food was absolutely glorious! And it made me appreciate that food is a common denominator for joy and celebration.
And guess what? Making merriment with food can be a healthy endeavor if you commit to a few simple guidelines.
First, be mindful of portions. Serve yourself 1-2 bites of each dish – you will find that with several dishes this will quickly fill your plate. Second, get plenty of exercise before your holiday meal – even if just a brisk walk – to put you in the mindset of being healthy. Third, try low-sugar, lower fat versions of your family favorites. We’ve listed a few Easter and Passover recipes to get you started.
This week, create the intention that food is fun, it is family, friends, laughter…and it is to be enjoyed.
Our Favorite Easter Recipes:
Rosemary Roasted Potatoes
4 red medium red potatoes
3 cloves garlic – minced
1 T. olive oil
1 T. fresh, chopped rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375. Par-boil whole potatoes until they are fork tender. Cut potatoes in quarters and transfer to oven by placing on cooking sheet covered with olive oil. Cook skin-side up. Bake until golden brown. Transfer to skillet. Add rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper, and cook over medium heat until potatoes are at desired consistency. Serve immediately.
Southwestern Stuffed Acorn Squash
3 acorn squash (3/4-1 lb. each)
5 oz. bulk turkey sausage
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. chili powder
1 t. ground cumin
2 cups chopped cherry tomatoes
1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed
1/2 t. salt
Several dashes hot red pepper sauce, to taste
1 cup shredded low-fat Swiss cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with olive oil. Cut squash in half horizontally. Scoop out and discard seeds. Place the squash cut-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, lightly coat a large skillet with olive oil; heat over medium heat. Add turkey sausage and cook, stirring and breaking up with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned 3-5 min. Add onion and bell pepper; cook, stirring often until softened 3-5 minutes. Stir in garlic, chili powder and cumin; cook for 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, beans, salt and hot sauce. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until the tomatoes are broken down, 10-12 minutes.
When the squash are tender, reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Fill the squash halves with the turkey mixture. Top with cheese. Place on the baking sheet and bake until the filling is heated through and the cheese is melted, 8-10 minutes.
Molasses Fig Cake
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 t. baking soda
¾ c. ground Flax seed or Salba seed
¾ c. dried figs, chopped
1 cup boiling water
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
¼ c. molasses
1/3 c. honey or agave nectar
2 large eggs
2 cups milk or soy milk
Preheat oven to 375. Prepare 9×13 inch baking pan by coating lightly with cooking spray.
Stir together flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, add boiling water to chopped figs.
In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add molasses and then honey and continue to beat until smooth. Add eggs one at a time. Continue to beat and add milk alternating with flour mixture in small amounts. Stir in flax or salba.
Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Bake for about 30 minutes until lightly browned and fully cooked in center. Allow to cool completely before turning out.
Adapted from the kitchen of Optimum Wellness.
Our favorite Passover Recipes:
Low-fat Potato Latkes
2 cups peeled and shredded Russet potatoes, firmly packed (about 1 pound)
1/4 cup grated or finely chopped onion
1 large egg
6 tablespoons egg whites
2-3 tablespoons low sodium matzo meal (a little less than 1 matzo, processed into fine crumbs)
1 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 teaspoons canola oil
Place the potatoes in a cheesecloth or double thickness of paper towels and wring to extract as much water out of the potatoes as possible
In medium bowl, stir the potatoes, onion, egg, egg substitute and matzo meal and salt together well.
In a large heavy-bottomed non stick skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until hot. Make sure the oil is spread evenly over the bottom of the skillet. Place 1/4 cup (level measure) of potato mixture into the hot oil, pressing down on them to form 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick patties. Spray tops with canola cooking spray. Brown on one side about 3 minutes, turn over and brown the other side (about 3 minutes).
Serve these hot with unsweetened applesauce for a sweet treat.
Makes 10 latkes
Vegan Sweet Potato Kugel Recipe
6 small sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
3 apples, peeled and grated
1 cup raisins
1 cup matzo meal
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 cup water
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Use a food processor to grate the sweet potatoes and apples. Combine all ingredients together.
Gently press into a baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes, or until lightly crisp on top.
Matzo-Lemon Sponge Cake
8 egg whites
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup naturally sweetened lemonade (found at natural food stores)
1 1/2 cups organic sugar or Sucanat (found in natural food stores)
pinch of salt
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
1 cup sifted matzo cake meal (in a pinch, grind regular matzo meal for a minute in a food processor, then sift and measure 1 cup)
Fresh, organic strawberries (optional)
Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Line just the bottom of 10-inch pan with parchment or waxed paper (or line the bottom of 2 loaf pans). Beat egg whites until stiff; set aside.
Beat egg yolks and lemonade until light. Add sugar and beat for a minute. Add a pinch of salt, the lemon juice and rind, and the matzo cake meal, and beat on low until nicely blended. On low speed, gently beat in the egg whites (or fold in with a spatula).
Once well mixed, pour into prepared pan(s) and bake until golden (about 45 minutes for the spring-form pan or around 20 minutes for loaf pans).
Invert pan until cake is cool. Use knife to cut around edges and remove cake from pan. Cut with serrated knife into layers if desired. Serve with strawberries between the layers if desired.
Makes 12 servings
Have a wonderful week ~