By Elke Probkevitz
Passover, even more than all other holidays, is centered around food. It’s about the foods you cannot eat and the symbolic foods you should eat. One of the worries is not having enough options among kosher-for-Passover foods. To ensure you don’t feel deprived, there is an infiltration of imitation foods that are so full of unrecognizable ingredients, you can hardly call them food! The manufactured products are worse at Passover time than the processed products all year long. Stay far away from convenient products that seem too un-Passover-like to be true. Just keep it simple and use real ingredients so you know what’s going into your body. Yes, your children may miss their pizza and pasta, but they will survive those eight days and they’ll be better off with a home-cooked meal.
Cottonseed oil. One of the least healthy oils out there, cottonseed oil is a highly processed oil coming from the cotton plant, which is one of the four main genetically modified crops. It contains high levels of pesticide residue from the plant and has a high ratio of saturated fat and omega-6 fatty acids. It is found in Passover mayonnaise, imitation mustard, and in many other products to replace soy and canola oil, and in bottles to cook with it. Pass it up! Olive oil is a little more expensive, but you will be feeding your family a healthy ingredient rather than something harmful.
Onion and chicken soup mix. MSG and salt are the main offenders here. MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a flavor enhancer used in processed foods. It is something you should be wary of all year round, since it can cause serious damage to your family’s health, including brain damage, learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and more. Use fresh or dry herbs for flavor and make your own stocks, which is simpler than it sounds.
Snack foods. Snacks like Bissli contain MSG, which makes them addictive to kids. It is essentially MSG-flavored matzah meal. The potato chips and potato sticks, another popular Passover staple, are potatoes deep-fried in cottonseed oil (see above)! Jellied fruit snacks that claim to be made of real fruit actually have a little fruit-juice concentrate and a lot of sugar, starch, artificial flavors, and food dyes. Instead, it’s better to make snacks out of matzah with melted chocolate on it, cheese and matzah, homemade baked chips, dried or fresh fruits, or pancakes made with ricotta that can be topped with berries or jam.
Non-dairy creamers and whipped toppings. These are other products to stay away from all year round. When it is not Passover, at least you can replace dairy products with almond, soy, or coconut-based creamers. On Passover, it is a chemically manufactured product made of partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil (a trans fat), artificial flavors, and other unrecognizable ingredients. Trans fats have been linked to heart disease, cancer, learning disabilities, and osteoporosis, just to name a few. Use real cream for dairy dishes and coconut or almond milk for non-dairy alternatives.
Margarine. Another product that is full of dangerous trans fats. Trans fats are created by the process of partially hydrogenating vegetable oils and are worse on Passover because they are made with cottonseed oil. Real butter is better when preparing dairy meals, and olive oil can be used in cooking and baking instead of margarine for meals containing meat.
Instant and imitation foods. Instant mashed potatoes are dehydrated potatoes full of chemicals and are completely unnecessary when potatoes are available everywhere on Passover! Matzah-ball mix contains added MSG and high levels of salt and is not much easier than just taking matzah meal and making it from scratch. Foods like frozen pizza “bagels” are processed artificial foods that are not necessary on Passover. Imitation soy sauce is basically liquid MSG! Stick with natural herbs and spices, garlic, and ginger to add flavor to your dishes. v
With Ganache filling
Makes 20 cookies
1 cup pecan butter (can use almond butter or cashew butter as well)
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
6 oz. good-quality dark chocolate
¾ cup almond milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract
Combine pecan butter, dark brown sugar, egg, salt, vanilla, and cinnamon in a bowl and mix well to combine. Place teaspoons of dough onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper 2 inches apart. Flatten dough slightly, then bake until golden, about 8 minutes. Let cool.
Meanwhile, coarsely chop chocolate and process in food processor until finely chopped. Heat almond milk until just before boiling. Pour into food processor and process until chocolate is fully melted. Add vanilla and blend until smooth. Pour ganache into shallow dish and let set for a few hours. Spread flat side of cookies with ganache and top with another cookie to make a sandwich. Let set completely on baking sheet before serving.
Want to learn how to cook delicious gourmet meals right in your own kitchen? Take one-on-one cooking lessons or give a gift to an aspiring cook you know. For more information, contact Take Home Chef personal chef services by calling 516-508-3663, writing to elke@TakeHomeChef.net, or visiting www.TakeHomeChef.net.