Jewish Holidays

Seder Table Ideas and Inspirations

Every year, I try to set a majestic and unique seder table.  There is something magical about that first Pesach (Passover) meal: the anticipation, the new dishes and the silver wine goblets.

seder black tablecloth wide view

Over the years, I have tried all types of tablecloths and seder themes.  There are a few helpful tips that I have incorporated into my seder planning that have stuck and I’d love to share these tips with you.

 

seder table 2

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Simple Low-Carb Broccoli Crust Pizza: Perfect for Passover

brocolli pizza crust-in ovenCauliflower rice has become the rage as an ingredient in faux fried rice and as a low-carb pizza crust alternative.  As an experiment, I tried similar adaptations of broccoli and have found it to work beautifully.

My family is always looking for something delicious and nutritious to eat on Erev Pesach (the eve and day before Passover begins).  Since we cannot eat bread and it is customary not to eat Matzo until the seder, it is a challenge to find satisfying foods that will keep everyone full until the seder begins later in the evening  evening.

I have created this delicious low-carb broccoli pizza recipe, suitable for Pesach.  It is a simple pizza to prepare and pretty much fool-proof, as long as you keep the crust as dry as possible.  It is important to squeeze out any liquid before baking and to layer the cheese on before any sauce to keep the crust as dry as possible.  Feel free to experiment with different toppings.

It is simple.  It is delicious.  It will create a wow for your family this Erev Pesach.

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Five Simple Ways to Rediscover the Wow in Pesach

I love Pesach (Passover).  I love the purity and the newness.  I love the springtime freshness and the themes of freedom and family.  I don’t mind the cleaning and the rotation of special dishes and ingredients.

The secret is that I do a bare minimum of the cleaning and really try to put the emphasis on the true themes of this holiday.  It takes some organization, but there is a true sense of mastery and majesty that comes with Pesach that takes my breath away.

Here are five simple ways to retain the magical wow of Pesach:

(1) Keep the cleaning simple

Focus on ridding your house of chametz (leavened products) only and do not be tempted to do a thorough spring cleaning.  It is not necessary to wash curtains, organize closets and steam-clean your carpets.  If you must, save the spring cleaning until after Pesach.

(2) Stay organized

Start as early as possible segregating the chametz (leavened products) so that you can use up what you have before Pesach.   If possible, shop, prepare menus and recipes and cook in advance so that you are not overwhelmed.  Although I love to prepare fresh meals, for Pesach, I prepare all my baked goods, meats and side dishes in advance and freeze them.   This cuts down on the magnitude of the cooking in the days before Pesach.

(3) Don’t lose your focus

With all that there is to do, make sure that the focus is on freedom, family and tradition. Make sure that everyone is well-rested and prepared before the seder.  Enlist the help of your family and design your seder in a way that is meaningful to all your family members. Try to prepare foods and traditions that will create everlasting memories and keep the food choices and preparations to a minimum.  Encourage each of your family members and guests to share ideas and inspirations at your seder.

(4) Don’t forget to take care of yourself

Try to get enough sleep and relaxation before the holiday begins.  Make sure to eat well, especially  on Erev Pesach (the day of the Passover seder).  Even with the best organization, the magnitude of Pesach preparation is huge, so reward yourself.  Buy yourself something new for the holiday or pamper yourself.  Buy a new tablecloth, a new outfit, a new haggadah or schedule a massage or facial.

(5) Do something to create that eternal wow

Try to take the emphasis off the material preparation and refocus it on the spiritual preparation for the holiday of Pesach.  Take some time to read the Haggadah before the seder, perhaps with a new commentary.   Try to find family outdoor time over Chol Hamoed (intermediary days of Passover) and find time for family discussion about the themes of Pesach before, during and after the seder.

Think about creating a seder table theme.   In the past, our daughter, Leah, has decorated our seder table with elements of the ten plagues and the splitting of the sea.  It gets our family and guests engaged.

Pesach commemorates freedom from our enslavement in Egypt and the beginning of the Jewish people coming together as a nation.  The seder is designed to engage our children and pass our rich heritage and traditions down to others.  Let us remain true to these goals and release ourselves from the enslavement all too often associated with this beautiful holiday.

With best wishes for successful and joyous Pesach preparations….

 

 

Mason Jar Salad with Purim Croutons: A Simple Purim Mishloach Manos Wow

mason jar arugula salad0finished with tag

 

Purim is coming!  One of the mitzvos (commandments) unique to the Jewish holiday of Purim is to deliver gifts of food, called Mishloach Manos, to friends and family. The parameters of this mitzvah require each Jewish adult to send a minimum of two ready-to-eat-foods to at least one person.

I like to send Mishloach Manos that are nutritious and can be served at the Purim seudah, the festive meal served on Purim day.   One of my favorite ideas for  Mishloach Manos are mason jar salads served with croutons.  They  are simple to prepare in advance,  easy to package and are well-received by our recipients.

Mason Jars allow for preparing salad up to two days in advance and are really just an upside down salad. The dressing lays on the bottom of the jar and the salad is layered with the heaviest and wettest ingredients on bottom, working up to lighter ingredients with the salad greens at the top of the mason jar.  It is important to keep the mason jar upright until ready to serve so that the delicate greens are protected from the dressing on the bottom.

Once ready to serve, simply shake the salad vigorously and decant into a bowl.

 mason jar arugula salad

The croutons can me made from leftover bread or challah.  It is a great way to use up leftover bread and challah that you have stored in the freezer.  The mason jars themselves are useful to those receiving them and can be reused in a myriad of different ways.

 

The source for Mishloach Manos is read on Purim from the Purim Megillah, the scroll chronicling the story of Purim in Hebrew.   After the Purim victory , Mordechai, the hero of the Purim narrative,  ordered his fellow Jews ” to make the fourteenth day of the month of Adar… feasting and joy, and sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.”

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Five Simple Tips to Keep the Wow in Purim

Tzippy Respler

Adar II, 5776

the Purim Grinch

For years, I had been remarking that Purim is more stressful for me than Pesach (Passover).  Most people scoff when they hear that.   I had become the Purim Grinch, especially because the Holiday of Purim is one that is based upon fun, joy and goodwill.

I get that.  But for me, the issue was that so much on Purim must be accomplished in a mere twenty-four hours.   Within the short day of Purim, we are commanded to listen to the Megillah (scrolled story of Purim) twice,  to give Matanos L’evyonim (gifts to the poor) and to prepare and deliver Mishloach Manos (edible portions) to others. Costumes must be made and adjusted.  A Seudah (festive meal) must be prepared and eaten.  Oh, and Purim falls out right on the heels of a fast day, Taanes Esther.

While so many women tend to stress over Pesach, I find Pesach so much easier to master. Yes, the house needs to become chometz-free and special  foods, utensils and dishes must be used.  Yes, the Seder must be set and it continues into the  wee hours of the morning. But, Pesach can be as relaxing as you allow it to be and it is simple to relegate the Pesach cleaning to only ridding the house of chometz (leavened food).  Pesach has order.  Pesach has structure.  Pesach is pure.  Pesach is clean.

Purim on the other hand can be messy.   (more…)

Mason Jar Mishloach Manos: Soup with Purim Croutons

Purim is coming!  One of the mitzvos (commandments) unique to the Jewish holiday of Purim is to deliver gifts of food, called Mishloach Manos, to friends and family. The parameters of this mitzvah require each Jewish adult to send a minimum of two ready-to-eat-foods to at least one person.

I like to send Mishloach Manos that are nutritious and can be served at the Purim seudah, the festive meal served on Purim day.   One of my favorite ideas for  Mishloach Manos are mason jar soups served with croutons.  They  are simple to prepare in advance,  easy to package and are well-received by our recipients.  The croutons can me made from leftover bread or challah.  It is a great way to use up leftover bread and challah that you have stored in the freezer.  The mason jars themselves are useful to those receiving them and can be reused in a myriad of different ways.

mason jar MM feature photo

The source for Mishloach Manos is read on Purim from the Megillah, the scroll chronicling the story of Purim in Hebrew.   After the Purim victory , Mordechai, the hero of the Purim narrative,  ordered his fellow Jews ” to make the fourteenth day of the month of Adar… feasting and joy, and sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.”

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Robot Mishloach Manos: a Robot-Themed Purim with Printables

My daughter, Kaitlyn, created a Robot-themed Purim. Each member of the family dressed up as a robot and she created Mishloach Manos to fit the theme. It was simple and it was a wow.

I asked her to share a picture of the robot-themed bags and the printable designs.

 

robot mishloach manos

One of the mitzvos (commandments) unique to the Jewish holiday of Purim is to deliver gifts of food, called Mishloach Manos, to friends and family. The parameters of this mitzvah require each Jewish adult to send a minimum of two ready-to-eat-foods to at least one person.

The source for this lovely mitzvah is from the Purim Megillah, the scroll detailing the story of Purim read on the Purim Holiday in Hebrew.   It is chronicled after the Purim victory that  Mordechai, the hero of the Purim narrative,  ordered his fellow Jews ” to make the fourteenth day of the month of Adar… feasting and joy, and sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.”

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Robot Costume…Fashioned from Dollar Store Finds

 

robot costume

My daughter, Kaitlyn, creates the cutest costumes ever!  This is one of my favorites.  This robot costume is one that she designed for her husband, Aaron, to wear on Purim.

There is a custom to dress up in disguises on Purim to commemorate the events in ancient Persia whereby the Jewish nation was saved from a terrible decree of extermination. Unlike the outright miracles in the Jewish exodus from Egypt commemorated on Passover, the Purim story is one of natural events coordinated in such a way that the “hidden hand” of G-d was evident. We dress up on Purim to commemorate the disguised miracles for the Jewish people in Ancient Persia.

This robot costume is designed entirely out of dollar store and upcycled finds and it is creative, practical and very unique. Kaitlyn scoured her local dollar store for items that she could use for this costume.  You may find other items to use that will create your own robot design. Please feel free to share your own designs.

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