Monthly Archives: March 2010

Passover 2010 menu plan

Here’s my list of what I’m making so far for the next few days.  Because there’s so much cooking for Passover, what will be served at each meal will be determined closer to the meals – I find it simpler like this as it allows me to focus on cooking.  This isn’t a complete list for all of Pesach (Passover), but it’s what I have scheduled so far.

Main dishes:

  • roasted chicken
  • meatloaf
  • shepherd’s pie
  • braised beef tongue
  • meatballs
  • chicken cutlet salad

Sides:

Salads:

  • coleslaw
  • health salad
  • carrot-apple-pineapple salad
  • charoses (for seders)
  • cauliflower salad (steamed cauliflower, carrots, olives)
  • California pickle salad (shredded carrots, tomatoes, pickles)
  • traffic light salad (red, yellow, green peppers diced with olives)
  • lacto fermented pickles
  • egg salad
  • chopped liver

Desserts:

  • very berry apple compote
  • strawberry ice whip
  • triple berry ice whip
  • mocha squares
  • apple pie
  • chocolate non-dairy ice cream

General:

Chag kasher v’sameach!

Avivah

Amending the garden soil – yes, right now!

With Passover beginning later today, it’s been especially busy the last couple of days – well, the last couple of weeks, actually!  So when a landscaper friend of my dh called yesterday and said he had a load of sheep manure for me (for my garden – he told me he’d keep me in mind months ago when we were discussing gardening), my first thought wasn’t that this was something I had time for!  But it really was a favor to me since last year the kids and I drove 40 minutes in each direction to a horse farm, where we loaded up a bunch of buckets with composted horse manure to spread on our garden area.  I really wanted to continue to build up my soil this year with some more manure, in addition to all the composting I’ve been doing, and was thinking that we’d just have to do without since I have so many other things that need doing at this time of year – so his offer saved me time and energy.

He came by in the afternoon and it really wasn’t a large amount at all (less than 20 gallons).  I intended to just dump it on my lasagna beds and cover it with leaves and wood chips so there would be no smell.  But almost as soon as I got outside, I started feeling like I wanted to be out working in the yard!  I love being outside, and though my garden isn’t large, it’s become a satisfying and relaxing activity for me.  I had been thinking for the last couple of weeks that I needed to get outside and prepare the garden beds for spring planting (my goal is to maximize my garden space by doing succession planting and always have something growing in the available space), but as I already said, this is a busy time of year and I just couldn’t make it a priority.

I started shoveling by a little here, then a little more there.  Then started neatening up my lasagna beds by clearing a path between them (lasagna gardening basically means sheet composting, where the entire area is covered with layers of composting materials), since they don’t look neat like the raised beds we built do.  (If I come across free lumber, then I’d like to convert the area where the lasagna beds are to raised beds because it looks so organized and uniform.  Ds16 built the newest raised beds from the boards of the deck we pulled apart before we made the brick patio this past summer and stopped building when we ran out of wood.)

I put the manure on the newest beds, which never had soil amendments; the new beds were  filled with the dirt we excavated when we dug the area for the patio and nothing else.  I ended up planting seeds in them in the fall, not expecting much from them because the soil quality wasn’t anything special, and the plants in them did nicely.  In fact, some of them have rebounded beautifully once the snow that was covering them melted – right now I have kale, turnips, beets, spinach, mache, chives, leeks (two of them :)), oregano, fennel, and strawberry plants growing.  It’s so gratifying to look outside and see plants growing even though I didn’t have time to plant anything!

Since the new beds have pretty much been filled with plants since we built them in the beginning of the fall, I had to carefully put the manure and compost to the side so I didn’t disturb the plantings.  When we finish harvesting the spring greens and before I put in the summer seeds, I’ll add a big dose of compost.   We had some heavy rain after I worked outside, which was perfect, since I ended up adding compost and turning over the soil in all the raised beds after adding the manure and compost and the rain will help it all break down more.

I was delighted to see tons of earthworms in the lasagna beds!  I compost all of our food scraps by burying them there, and they’ve clearly been enriching our soil.  It was a noticeable difference between there and the raised beds where I hadn’t yet amended the soil and had significantly fewer worms.  It’s gratifying to visibly see the difference your efforts make.  Strong soil makes for much healthier plants, and healthier plants produce more nutrient dense vegetables.

As I was doing all this work outside, I kept thinking that I should probably be cooking and cleaning instead for the holiday.  But my littles were all napping and it felt like such a wholesome and soul-nourishing thing to be doing.  Though I wouldn’t have planned it, it was the perfect time for the delivery of natural soil enhancer to arrive – it was nice to shift gears a little and get out of my busy-busy headspace, and to feed my soul and body with some exercise, fresh air, and quiet time alone outdoors.

(This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays.)

Avivah

Pesach 2010 food shopping list

Every month I spend approximately $600 on groceries for our family of 11, and this month has been no different, including all extra Passover food expenses.   This year I’ve accomplished that by firstly spending about 50% less than usual last month, using up pantry items so I didn’t need to buy as much as usual, then using the extra $300 to buy matza, six cases of grape juice, and ground meat.  That split up the large expenses so that it didn’t need to come out of one month’s budget, and everything else was able to be purchased this month.

You’ll notice when looking at my list that I don’t buy a lot of prepared or processed foods.  I did buy mayonnaise for Passover even though we usually make it from scratch – I don’t have a blender set aside for Passover use that I can make it with.  And though I was planning not to buy any sugar at all and to stick with honey (during the year I use sucanat and honey, no white sugar at all), my kids pleaded with me to buy some so that they can make our annual strawberry ice whip recipe.  Otherwise most of our groceries are ingredients in the unprocessed state.

Since I bought the bulk of the groceries for the entire month, what I’ve bought is intended to last through the middle of April, not just the week of Passover.  (I have money remaining to buy more vegetables, once tomorrow and then again in two weeks.)  Here’s my list of basic ingredients, amounts, and prices I paid:

  • 70 lb chicken wings – .99 lb
  • 30 lb ground meat – 3.49 lb
  • 3 lb chicken cutlets – 3.79 lb
  • 3 lb fresh beef tongue – 12.59 lb
  • 20 lb raw beef liver – 2.99 lb
  • 6 lb shredded mozzarella cheese – $4.99 lb
  • 4- 8 oz farmer cheese – (rubbed out on receipt, I think it was something like 2.99 each)
  • 40 dozen pastured eggs – 24 dozen for 1.60 dozen/16 dozen for 1.25 dozen – from two different farmers (these were my lowest prices yet and I was quite pleased!)
  • 7 gallons raw milk
  • 100 lb potatoes – 9.95/50 lb
  • 80 lb yams – 13.50/40 lb
  • 50 lb onions – 30.50 (last month I paid $14 for 50 lb – when I asked why the big jump I was told the hurricane in Chile drove up a lot of produce prices)
  • 30 lb carrots – 2.99/5 lb (will need at least 50 lb more)
  • 3 pkg romaine hearts – 2.29 each
  • 1 case grapefruit (40 ct) – 15.50
  • 1 case navel oranges (88 ct) – 18.75
  • 20 lb clementines – 3.99/5 lb
  • 10 fresh pineapples – 1.29 each
  • 40 lb apples – .33 lb
  • 45 lb frozen berries – 2.49/3 lb
  • 4 lb fresh strawberries – 3 lb/$5
  • 18 lb. cabbage – .39 lb
  • 5 heads celery – .69 each
  • 8 heads cauliflower – .99 each
  • 3 calabaza squash – 1.49 each
  • 3.5 lb sliced baby portabello mushrooms – .69/8 oz
  • horseradish root – .80
  • 1 pkg garlic – .99
  • 10 lb cucumbers – .99 lb
  • 4 lb red peppers – 1.99 lb
  • extra virgin olive oil – 8.99 (3)
  • 1 small jar mayonnaise 3.19
  • honey – 5.29
  • 5 lb white sugar – 2.99
  • 1 container raisins – 3.65 (plus have 30 lb I bought six weeks ago)
  • 2 cans pickles – 1.39 each
  • 2 cans crushed pineapple – 1.29 each
  • 2 cans sliced green olives – 2.89 each
  • 2 cans sliced black olives – 2.89 each
  • 2 bottles lemon juice – 1.79 each
  • 1 small jar apple cider vinegar (this part of receipt is faded – was under $2, though)
  • 5 lb hand shmura matza – 16.99 lb
  • 1 lb hand shmura spelt matza – 25.99 lb
  • 3 lb organic spelt machine matza – 3.29 lb
  • 6 lb machine shmura matza – 5.99 lb
  • 1 lb matza farfel – left from last year, I think someone gave it to us
  • potato starch – .50 each (bought after Pesach last year)
  • matza meal – .50 each (bought after Pesach last year)
  • (4) 6 oz pkg ground walnuts – 1.99 each

bulk purchases:

  • grape juice – 2.50 bottle (this was 50% off the regular price so I bought 48 bottles in order to have enough until the fall when it goes on sale again – I can’t bear paying full price!)
  • 25 lb sliced almonds – 102.67
  • 25 lb raw cashews – 67

The quinoa I  ordered didn’t end up coming in, so I decided to do without it for Pesach – I just bought 25 lb last month and since when I got it, transferred it by pouring directly into a clean bag in a clean bucket (and it’s stayed closed since I haven’t yet used it),  I do have the option to use it for Passover.

I didn’t buy any butter or extra virgin coconut oil because it’s so expensive; instead I’ve rendered a huge amount of beef fat for tallow (which I got free from a butcher – chicken fat is suddenly in demand this time of year and expensive but I guess using beef fat is beyond the pale, lol!) and will use that for most cooking during Passover.  I’ve used rendered beef fat and cooked with tallow before, but never tried to do without butter or coconut oil!  I’ll use olive oil for salads and to saute anything for dairy meals (though I generally avoid doing any cooking with olive oil since it isn’t heat stable).  We already baked mocha squares with the tallow and though my dd doing the baking was put off at the idea, it turned out great.

Because my kids prefer chicken wings to any other kind of chicken and they’re so much cheaper than other cuts, it’s a very affordable protein option for us.  This month I decided that since I spent so little on chicken, and there was still room in the budget, that I could for once splurge on fresh beef tongue in honor of the holiday.  My kids love this but it is so outrageously expensive that I haven’t bought any for years. I used to buy it twice a year when I lived on the West Coast, since it would be marked down to about $4 lb after the holidays.  Then I’d put it in my freezer and have it on hand for the next holiday.  It’s hard to look at the very small amount that 3 lb of tongue ($42) makes, though – I’ll have to serve another main dish with it since that alone would be very skimpy!  But all of that notwithstanding, it will be special for the holiday and I know it will be appreciated.

I still have about 3/4 case of napa cabbage (I bought two cases over a month ago for $7 each).    Despite my efforts to use it all quickly, forty huge heads of napa is a lot to use!  In order to keep it fresh, I wrapped each head of napa in a clean plastic bag, pressing out all the extra air before closing it well.  Now weeks later, they still are fresh and I’ll have plenty to use  in place of lettuce for salads, in addition to having it as a cooked vegetable.

Tomorrow I’ll do another shopping trip for more fresh vegetables so we’ll be set for the week (we use a lot more of everything during Passover than during a regular week).   Dh wants to start drinking fresh vegetable juices, and fortunately our juicer has never been used (it’s been sitting around for over 2 years now :)) so we can use it for Passover.   For juicing I’ll need even more vegetables than usual.  I’ll probably get a 50 lb bag of carrots, and more cukes, beets, peppers, tomatoes, etc.

What does your shopping list look like?

Avivah

Baked Winter Squash with Apples

I can’t think of a catchy name for this recipe, but it’s really yummy!  It’s ideal as a side dish for meat or chicken but tasty any time.

Baked Winter Squash with Apples

  • 6 c. winter squash (peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4″ thick slices)
  • 6 c. Granny Smith apples (peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4″ thick slices)
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 1 t. cinnamon or nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 – 1/2  c. honey
  • 1/4 c. oil (coconut oil, rendered beef/chicken fat, or butter)
  • 1 1/2 T. lemon juice

Cook squash slices in boiling water for several minutes until tender; drain.  Combine squash, apples, and raisins and put in greased pan.  Mix in seasonings.  Put the honey, lemon juice, and whatever oil you’re using together in a small pot; heat on low until honey and fat are both liquid.

Pour the honey mixture over the squash and apple, and mix in well so that all slices are well-coated. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour or until squash and apples are very tender, stirring occasionally.  Serve warm.

(This post is part of Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.)

Avivah

Pesach Granola

We made a large batch of this (three times the below recipe) to have for breakfast some of the days of Pesach.

Pesach Granola

  • 1 lb. matza farfel or matza, crushed into very small pieces
  • 2 c. dried coconut (you can double this but I only had enough coconut for this measurement :))
  • 1 c. cashews
  • 1 c. sliced almonds
  • 3/4 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. honey (we don’t like our food very sweet so you might want to increase this to your taste)
  • 4 T. butter or coconut oil, melted
  • 2 c. cold water
  • dried fruit (I used raisins)

Combine matza with dry ingredients, except almonds and dried fruit.  Mix thoroughly.  Combine the melted butter/coconut oil with the honey, and warm slightly so that it’s liquid and pours easily.  Mix into dry ingredients.  Drizzle water all over, mixing well.

Spread the mixture on greased cookie sheets.  Bake at 225 degrees for two hours, stirring every 15 minutes.  Add almonds and bake 15 minutes more until almonds are toasted.  Let granola cool, and then add in dried fruit according to the amount you prefer.

Note: I wanted this to be non-dairy so I didn’t soak the matza overnight in an acidic medium.  However, if you’re concerned about minimizing the phytic acid content, then I’d recommend using thinned yogurt for part of the water measurement, and mix the matza with half of the water called for the night before, mixing in everything else the night before.

This is really yummy served with raw milk or even dry as a snack! (Ask your LOR about if it’s necessary to wash for this, not me!)

Avivah

Bargain clothes shopping

A couple of days I took a day trip with my oldest kids to do some shopping for apparel. Specifically the oldest three wanted to get shoes and the girls and I needed summer tops.  I had the great idea to take them to an outlet mall, where supposedly prices are much better than at the non-outlet stores for the same brands.  Before we got to the outlet mall, we passed a Goodwill in the neighborhood we were doing our food shopping, and decided to pop in to see if we could find anything suitable.

Turns out all womens’ cotton knit tops were on sale that week at 2/$5, and the more expensive ones were 2/$10.  You had to have a discount card to get this price, but I figured it was worth $4.25 to buy discount card that I could use for a year – especially since we saved $24 on our first purchase as a result (after the cost of the discount card we saved $19.75).  That was a nice bit of fun shopping, since in addition to saving money on nice shirts (mostly name brand and all good quality – we got 16 tops and a few other items for $55) it saved us the time of having to go in and out of lots of other stores looking for clothes.

Then we spent a long time in the outlet stores, and all of them were getting more tired and disappointed with the prices and selection as time went on.  I was so glad when my ds16 found a pair of nice shoes at Bass – they were $30 and had been marked down 75% (down from $119).  He was looking for something very specific and was pleased with his purchase; I was pleased that after all of our time in the stores, that someone finally found something they wanted!

As we drove away, my dd13 said the prices were ‘kind of disappointing’.  I never thought about the situation I’ve created until then – my kids are used to having nice quality clothes, but they’re also used to my very low purchase prices (thanks to careful thrift store shopping, hitting seasonal sales at retail stores, and clothing exchanges with friends).  They aren’t used to spending top dollar for the kind of clothes they’re used to wearing, and they kept saying nothing they were looking at was worth the money.  One of them said, “Now I know why people think having kids is expensive – they must be dressing their kids from head to toe in stores like that!”

Then as we were driving by just a few minutes later, I noticed another Goodwill and spontaneously asked the kids if they wanted to stop in there.  This Goodwill had something I’ve never seen around here (the Salvation Army in Seattle had something similar, though), a bargain room.  The bargain room (or whatever it was called) was a separate Goodwill store next to the regular Goodwill, where all clothes were put after they hadn’t sold for a given amount of time.  All the prices were low, low, low.  But it wasn’t nicely organized or arranged on racks – you had to hunt through things to find what you wanted. There was nothing wrong with the items themselves, though – I saw some clothing that still had the original retail tags on them.

Within a minute of walking in, I found galoshes for ds16 – he had literally said five minutes before we walked in that he needs to get galoshes for his new shoes to protect them in rainy weather (since he walks back and forth to shul/synagogue daily, regardless of weather), and these were the perfect fit and style for the dress shoes he bought.  $1.50.  Then he found a really nice pair of shoes of leather shoes in great condition – another $1.50.  :)  He wore them all day yesterday and said he can’t believe it, but he likes them as much or maybe even more than the new shoes he got at Bass, that he was VERY happy with.  (Ds has a very nice sense of style and somewhat expensive taste in clothing – which is why he wanted new shoes even though he had two excellent pairs of shoes that I bought him – the style wasn’t ‘just so’.)  Then he found a white dress shirt for .75 and a raincoat for $2.  You might expect that kids would rather shop for new clothes in retail stores because it’s supposedly ‘cooler’; it’s funny but after doing all the shopping we did at the outlets, all of them appreciated a thrift store like this much more!

I’m not allowed to tell you what I bought for anyone else because I can’t embarrass my kids by telling you the amazing bargains we found.  😆  Actually, pretend I didn’t mention the above finds at the first Goodwill.  They don’t want their friends scrutinizing their clothes after hearing from their mothers who read this blog and wondering what we got at a thrift store and what we paid retail prices for.  You mothers who tell your kids what you read here should know that you’re seriously limiting my ability to write anything!! 😆 I told them that I highly doubted their friends would be put off that they got so many nice clothes at a fraction of what most of their peers would pay for the same thing, but whatever.

I guess you can say my kids have officially recognized the value of thrift store shopping for themselves!  It was a fun day and nice to come home laden with our purchases.  Even shopping with fashion-conscious teens doesn’t have to break the bank!

Avivah

Savory Calabaza Tian

Though I generally don’t post more than one recipe a week (and often not even that), for the next few days I’ll be sharing recipes that will be suitable for Passover.  Because so many Passover cookbooks use ingredients that I don’t use (for nutritional reasons), I’ve created or adapted a number of recipes to suit my needs, and realize that some of them may be of interest to some of you. You can also check the ‘recipes’ or ‘Pesach’ category and you’ll find other recipes there that are suitable; many need very small adjustments or no adjustments at all for Passover use.

When I did my monthly shopping a couple of days ago, I lucked into three large calabaza squash for 1.49 each!  I’ve never had calabaza before, so I set out to find a way to use them.  :)

Savory Calabaza Tian

  • 8 c. calabaza squash (or any winter squash like butternut, acorn, pumpkin), peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour, matza meal, or potato starch (omit flour for Passover use; omit flour and matza meal for gluten-free recipe)
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. pepper
  • 1/2 t. dried parsley or basil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 c. shredded cheese (swiss, mozzarella, or cheddar)
  • 1/3 c. butter or coconut oil, melted

Mix flour/matza meal with salt, pepper, and parsley/basil.  Dredge squash chunks in this mixture.  Place coated squash pieces in greased pan, then stir in the minced garlic and sprinkle the cheese on top.  Drizzle oil on top.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30 – 40 minutes.  When it’s done, the chunks should be slightly firm on the inside and soft on the inside.

Avivah

Colcannon

Cabbage is a great vegetable because it’s so versatile, inexpensive, and stays fresh a long time (good for someone like me who buys vegetables every two weeks or less); there are so many things you can do with it!  I’m making colcannon for lunch today, and thought it would be a good time to share this frugal and tasty recipe.

Colcannon

  • 4 c. green cabbage, chopped
  • 2 c. water
  • 1 T. oil

Simmer chopped green cabbage in 2 c. water and 1 T. oil. Drain.

  • 1 c. onions or leeks, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 4 c. cooked potatoes, quartered (can be baked or boiled – I boil them because it’s faster)
  • 1 c. milk (I use raw)
  • salt, pepper to taste

Saute the onions or leeks in butter (add garlic now if you’re using it) until translucent. Add cooked potatoes and milk to the potato mix and simmer it all until it’s warm.  Then mash it all together, and add the cooked cabbage to the pot with the potato mixture and heat for a few minutes until its thoroughly warmed through.  Mix it all together, season with salt and pepper and top with some more butter if you like.  Filled with protein, carbs, healthy fats, and veggies – a balanced meal and cheap to boot!

(This post is part of Pennywise Platter Thursday.)

Avivah

Kitchen, check. Now time to relax.

My kitchen is officially turned over for Passover as of this morning, and I already have a pot of lamb broth simmering on the stove top.   First things first, you know!  The second pot is filled with potatoes.  Naturally.  :)  Seriously, I find that having boiled potatoes and eggs on hand makes it very easy to deal with hunger for the first day we turn over the kitchen, when we’re not ready to start cooking in earnest.

Today we have a busy but relaxing day planned.  Today is my ds’s fourth birthday- this year sure has flown by!  Last year we took the family to an outing to the duck pond where we all enjoyed ourselves very much, and ds asked me if we could go again for his birthday.  It’s such perfect timing, being spring weather and a good opportunity to give the ducks any leavened foods that we’re not going to be eating.   We’ll take with us the leavened food that the kids want to eat, too (like organic chocolate covered pretzels that we received for Purim).  I think we might make a trip to the duck pond an annual family tradition for his birthday; it’s the kind of thing that everyone can enjoy looking forward to.

He also asked if I could buy ice cream sandwiches, which is what I did last year.  Initially I agreed, but then realized that today is Ben and Jerry’s free scoop day, and thought it would be more fun to take the family out for a scoop.  (Here’s a link for their site if you’re interested – you can check the store locator to see what’s in your area if you’re interested – www.benjerry. com.)  No, it’s not a bit healthy!  Yep, call me a nutritional rebel.  😆

The only Ben and Jerry’s in the city isn’t participating in the free scoop day, though, so we’ll be going to a neighboring city (where my dh works), getting the ice cream there, and then picking dh up from work.  That will be a treat for all of the kids as well as dh since it means a lot more time together and we get him from work infrequently.  Then we’ll all be able to go to the duck pond together and will be back in time for dinner.

In the summer I got some free items from someone who was downsizing, and saved one to give to ds today.  It’s a beautiful hand painted laquered wood kiddush cup – here’s what it looks like.  Because it’s intended to be used at the Passover seder as the cup of Elijah, it has Eliyahu written on the front in Hebrew.   We already have a cup of Elijah, but since Eliyahu is the name of my ds, it’s perfect for him.  It’s kosher for Passover use, so he’ll use it this year for the seder and then an use it as his regular kiddush cup every Friday night.  I think he’s going to be really excited to be able to have something he associates with being big that is all for him.

I hope all of you who are preparing for Passover are getting to the point where you can relax and have some fun, too!

Avivah

My conclusions about liver and toxins

Last week I mentioned that I purchased over 20 lb of beef liver with the intent of including it as a regular part of our diets, and why.  Because the liver is the organ that processes the toxins of the body, for a long time I avoided it since I don’t have any option of getting organic or grass-fed beef liver and I didn’t want to ingest any additional toxins. I kept reading about all the nutrients liver was rich in, and it was a little frustrating trying to weigh the options: was it better to eat liver as a high nutrient food even though there would be toxins along with it, or don’t have any of the nutritional benefits but avoid the toxins?

The nutritional challenge that I often encounter is that what I see recommended tend to be ideals, and not helpful when the options aren’t fitting into those ideals.  For example, the ideal dairy is raw milk (which can also be fermented into kefir/yogurt or made into cheese) from grass fed cows (and that’s without touching on the A1/A2 cow issue).  But what if you can only get raw milk from grain-fed cows, or organic pasteurized milk – then what’s better?  What if you have a limited budget and/or the options for ideal foods aren’t accessible for you?  Questions like this are hard to determine since there’s not a lot of information out there on these in between kind of questions, but these are the kind of discussions that I think are would be so helpful to have, so that people can make educated choices about what is the best choice in a non-ideal situation.

I’ve contacted the company where I get kosher grass-fed beef from (Golden West Glatt), and they don’t sell liver.  I let them know that as a customer I would be very interested in seeing that become an item that is offered, and added that I’m sure there are others that share my interest.  Then I contacted the only other company in the US (that I’m aware of) that sells kosher grass-fed meat (Kol Foods), and they told me they only have chicken liver (frozen).  I specifically wanted beef liver because of its nutritional composition, and I also specifically wanted fresh liver, not frozen liver.

Then I spoke to two local butchers.  One just began offering grass-fed beef from a local farmer, but said he can’t get the livers from him.  The other told me that: a) if I wanted organic liver, I could buy it for about $7 lb and I would have to buy a forequarter.  I asked how  much that was, and he said, “A lot!”  I reminded him that I wanted 20 lb and asked how much more a forequarter would be, and he said, “A lot!”  I think he told me the amount in pounds – perhaps 80??  It wasn’t feasible for me financially or practically so it didn’t stick in my mind.   Though he usually sells only frozen liver, he told me he buys it fresh and freezes it immediately, so he could call me as soon as his order came in and I’d be able to have it fresh.   This was the option I finally settled on.

Here are a couple of important facts about liver for the kosher consumer: 1) since it’s an organ meat that is filled with blood, and the laws of kosher eating forbid eating even a drop of blood, it has to be prepared in a special way called kashering.  There are a few steps involved in that, and even when preparing it in the proper way, you can’t cook it in the same pots or pans that you usually use (because the blood that cooks out will make your kosher dishes and pots non-kosher).  2) If you buy raw liver that has been frozen, it can’t be reheated after kashering.  (This same restriction applies to fresh liver that isn’t kashered within three days from the time the animal has been killed – so you have to be ready and able to kasher all that you buy promptly if you want to eat it in heated dishes.)  That means you can’t cook with it.  Practically I was thinking of sauteing liver with onions, combining  (roasted and ground) liver with ground beef dishes, etc, but none of those are options if you buy frozen liver.  Most people (even some rabbis) aren’t aware of this since few people kasher their own liver any more and it’s a question that rarely comes up.  The only way I can think of eating liver without reheating it is as chopped liver.  That’s okay for once a week, but I wanted to include it more regularly than that.

I got 20 lb, thinking that once I had to prepare the liver, I might as well do it in a large amount.  What a mistake.  I am so not doing that again.  The economies of scale that I usually assume will be present didn’t apply in this case.  We bought a small $20 charcoal grill to use expressly to kasher liver (since you can’t use a pan that you use for anything else, and if you use the oven you have to kasher it after use – I wanted to keep it as simple as possible).  After rinsing the livers in fresh water, we laid the slices over the hot coals and waited for it to roast.  This took a long, long time.  It took three hours the first night, and then about another 8 hours the next day to finish all twenty pounds of liver – I had to have someone outside watching the grill all day until it was finished.  But at least it was all done within the 72 hour limit and all of it is kosher for Pesach. :)

Afterward my husband spoke to a friend of his who kashers his own liver, and he said they get it sliced 1/2 inch thick.  The liver I bought was cut it in 1″ slices, which I figured was fine since that’s how the butcher cuts it for all of the liver he sells.  The thickness seems to have been a big part of why it took such an extremely long time.  For now I’m glad I have enough liver prepared that I won’t have to think about doing this again for a little while, but it’s good to know how to be more efficient.

However, I know there’s got to be a better way.  I just can’t imagine that generations of women were doing this.  I can’t conceive of it having been a popular traditional Jewish food if it took this much time.  There’s got to be a way to roast it over hot flames that will be fast, instead of slowly roasting over hot charcoal.  Then again, past generations probably had more patience for things that took a long time than I do.  :)

Back to the question of the toxins – I didn’t come across enough information that I can point to data to back up my decision.  Maybe my conclusion is wrong, and it’s possible I’ll shift back to my previous position of staying away from it at some point in the future.  I did read that even if the cow was grain-fed, the nutrient value was still very high.  What are some of the nutrients in liver?  It’s high in B vitamins, high in folate, zinc, and iron (in a well-absorbed form).  Every single one of these are important for emotional balance and to counter stress and depression (both epidemic in our modern day society).  It’s a great energy booster, too!

I wanted to include more nutrient dense foods and liver seemed to be a good choice, and there weren’t a lot of other foods that we could eat or weren’t already eating.  Cod liver oil isn’t certified kosher, we already eat drink raw milk (as well as kefir, cheese), fermented vegetables, limit grains and prepare grains, beans and seeds in a way that  reduces the phytic acid content, we try to eat natural chicken and grass-fed beef as much as our budget allows (not exclusively), we have lots of bone broths – and though I don’t see non-organic liver as ideal, I want to benefit from all of those nutrients it has and hope that I’m making a choice that will be beneficial to our health.

I wish I came across studies that directly addressed the question about if there’s a benefit to eating liver if it comes from industrially raised animals.   My non-scientific reasoning was that it’s been eaten for a long time as a valuable food, and all of those people haven’t been eating and benefiting from it only in pre-industrialized societies from pastured animals.  I’ve pondered a lot about if it’s beneficial to eat animal protein from industrially raised animals or be vegetarian, and believe that you’re nutritionally better off with CAFO meat or eggs than without animal products in your diet at all.  Kosher meat, even when produced industrially, is still qualitatively better than non-kosher meat in the same class (because of the kosher laws that disallow diseased animals to be used, animals that would pass goverment inspection).  Hence my decision that including kosher non-organic liver would still be of benefit.

This isn’t something I’m committed to no matter what, so if any of you have come across information assessing the benefits or lack thereof from liver from non-organically fed animals, please don’t hesitate to share it!  Also, if you’re ever kashered your own liver and can share your tips about how to do it more efficiently, I’m all ears!

Edited to add – thanks to Cara who linked to the following article, I was delighted to read: “One of the roles of the liver is to neutralize toxins (such as drugs, chemical agents and poisons); but the liver does not store toxins (emphasis mine). Poisonous compounds that the body cannot neutralize and eliminate are likely to lodge in the fatty tissues and the nervous system. The liver is not a storage organ for toxins but it is a storage organ for many important nutrients (vitamins A, D, E, K, B12 and folic acid, and minerals such as copper and iron). These nutrients provide the body with some of the tools it needs to get rid of toxins.”  So now I can enjoy liver without any hesitations!

Avivah