Monthly Archives: March 2010

Arnica – a must have remedy

A few weeks ago an older woman fell down in front of a store I had just walked into.  My ds11 rushed in to tell me that my dd15 was outside helping her, so I went out to see what the situation was.  The woman had stumbled over the cement parking divider and fallen forward, hitting her head hard.  As soon as I saw her head (bleeding and a large lump rising fast), I started rummaging around in my purse for my vial of arnica, THE homeopathic remedy I don’t leave home without.  Unfortunately my kids had given some to my baby a couple of days before and put it back in the wrong place in my purse; fortunately there were still huge mounds of snow in the parking lot so after helping her to her car and cleaning up her head, I was able to make her a makeshift ice pack by ripping up a plastic shopping bag and tying it around some snow that I packed together.  But I felt frustrated not to have been able to find the arnica when I needed it.

Yesterday I was listening to a cassette and the speaker mentioned that arnica stops bleeding – I’ve heard this before a number of times and every time forgotten about that aspect of arnica’s healing qualities, and I mentally resolved to fix this little fact into my mind this time.  A half hour later I was picking up something from a friend’s home and in the few minutes I was there, her 9 yo daughter cut her head badly when she fell while outside playing with my dd9.  When I saw her, blood was gushing all over her head and onto the ground and I couldn’t tell what the size of the cut was, or even where on her head it was.

Fortunately this time the arnica in my purse was back where it was supposed to be and I had the timely reminder about it being effective in stopping bleeding (though I would have given it anyway because of the blow to the head and issue of swelling), so I quickly gave her about six or seven pellets.  Her father asked me what I was giving her, and I told him it was a remedy for shock and trauma and would stop the bleeding and reduce any swelling.  Cuts to the head always bleed profusely and scare the living daylights out of parents since it looks so alarming, but within five minutes the bleeding had totally stopped.  (It was probably less but I wasn’t keeping an eye on my watch.)

I wanted to give her a second dose after ten or fifteen minutes but by then the emergency medical volunteers had arrived (in a case like this it’s recommended to give a dose every fifteen minutes for an hour).  As I was watching the little girl getting more and more ‘shocky’ looking (pale, staring, looking faint), I knew she needed more arnica, but the medics were taking care of her and it wasn’t appropriate for me to be involved at that point.   I did mention to her mother after she was taken to the emergency room that if they could pick some up at the health food store, it would be a good thing to give her a few doses over the next day for the trauma. Fortunately she only needed one stitch and was back home a few hours later.

Arnica is a must have remedy.  It’s the only homeopathic remedy that I buy two of – one for my house, one for my purse; there are so many situations that it can be helpful in, and having it immediately can allay all kinds of bumps, bruises, and trauma.  My ten month old baby recently was at the stage of learning to pull himself up and then falling over backwards hard – he quickly learned to recognize the arnica vial and as soon as he sees it, he stops crying immediately and his eyes brighten up while he waits for me to give him some (it’s in tiny sugar pellets).  I also bought some arnica flowers to make a muscle rub, but have yet to get around to that project.

Something I especially appreciate about homeopathic remedies is that it’s very easy to get kids to take them since they taste so good.  This was very important at a time like today, when my friend’s daughter had no idea what I was giving her and had blood running all over as I gave it to her – being able to tell her it tasted like candy made it much easier.

Eventually I’d like to learn lots more about homeopathic remedies so I can effectively use a wide variety of them, but for now arnica is a very useful remedy with many day to day applications – any bumps, bruises, falls, or cuts.  When my oldest son was 6 he was hit by a bus and thrown across the street (the passengers on the bus thought he was killed but miraculously he only suffered a cracked collar bone), I took him to my pediatrician a day or two after the accident to be sure everything was okay (he had been in the emergency room overnight for examination and supervision immediately after he was hit, so it wasn’t like I waited two days after a major accident to wander in to a doctor).  She was a Russian doctor who took one look at him and told me, “He’s in shock.  Give him some arnica immediately!”   At that time I didn’t know what it was, but in the last ten years, I’ve learned!  (She also taught me about garlic oil for ear pain.)

It’s ironic that using arnica sounds like something new-agey but it’s actually something that was a well-known remedy for a long time. A few months ago my dh bought a comic book written over a half century ago (I think it was Little Nemo), and when someone in the book got hurt, my kids got a kick out of reading that arnica was recommended!

I usually buy arnica itself, but last time I was at the health food store they had a new product, which is what I used today.  It’s called Arnicare Trauma, and contains arnica, bellis, and ledum; it’s made by Boiron.  It’s not better than arnica alone, but the formulation is slightly different to address a slightly different concern.  If I had to choose between the two, I’d go with plain arnica.  One vial of a homeopathic remedy costs about $7 and is worth every penny.

(This post is part of Fight Back Fridays.)


Oh, no, the mumps is coming! Puhleeze.

Today I received the following email from my synagogue regarding what is being portrayed by the city health department as a public health warning.  You can see the response I sent to the synagogue at the end as well as additional comments.

“We want to share some important information with you regarding a continuing mumps outbreak in this part of the country.

The situation has involved over 1200 people, primarily members of the Hasidic community in New York and New Jersey.  While this health alert targets the Hasidic community, we are aware that the Yeshiva community has been affected as well.

There have been no outbreaks in the Hasidic community in Baltimore City .  However, with Passover fast approaching and with it the opportunity for extensive social interaction with people from the affected areas of New York and New Jersey , the Health Department aims to make the community aware of the issue and to encourage everyone, especially children, to be sure they are fully immunized against mumps. This is achieved by receiving 2 doses of MMR vaccine, at least 4 weeks apart.  Typically, one dose is given at 12 months and the second at 4-6 years, prior to school entry.  However, the doses can be administered at a later age.  The other way to be protected, of course, is to have had the disease, as confirmed by a physician.

We are asking your assistance in communicating this information in an appropriate manner to your family and friends.  You can cite the facts that are presented in the attached document. The Health Department has already sent out information to the pediatricians and federally qualified health centers in the area.

Please keep in mind that this is a time-sensitive issue.  Passover is coming; the first night is March 29.  With families joining together for the holiday, that will create optimum opportunity for mingling and infection.

The vaccination requires 10-14 days to produce protection.  So it is imperative that you make your family and friends aware of this so they can ensure their protection in time for the holiday.”

Things like this disturb me because they are: 1) based on inaccurate information; 2) creating fear and hysteria; 3) don’t have any helpful information to balance the message being sent.  Here’s the message I sent in response:

“I’m disappointed to receive a message like this from the shul.  Those who are familiar with the mumps outbreak know that in fact the majority of those who contracted it were fully vaccinated on schedule, and therefore the recommendation to take care of vaccinations is unhelpful. I realize the purpose of this message was to be helpful but I’ve watched a lot of hysteria in the frum community online build for at least a couple of months now based on inaccurate information like this.  People are frantic since their vaccinated children are getting mumps and the only information they have is that the vaccination should have prevented it.

Mumps is a minor and unpleasant childhood illness that is easily dealt with with mega doses of vitamin C in the event that someone does contract it; let’s not get people worked up about something like this, particularly at a time of year when so many people are already stressed out and won’t have the time to get accurate information. “

I realize whoever sent it out was basically cutting and pasting the information from the city health department,  seeing it as a service to the community.  I don’t see this as a negative reflection of the synagogue employee or volunteer who sent this, clearly trying to be helpful.  But I do see statements like these: “With families joining together for the holiday, that will create optimum opportunity for mingling and infection” as inspiring fear.

I also think that since young children are the least affected by mumps, the suggestion to be sure that especially children get the vaccination makes no sense.  It’s not the kids who have to worry about long term side affects; it’s post adolescent boys and men (I’ll put this concern into perspective below).

I was on a discussion board a couple of months ago when a woman shared that her daughter overseas had a roommate who contracted the mumps.  I couldn’t believe the extremely  emotionalized and dramatic reaction of the mother – threatening to sue the school (as if the school has the power to keep germs from circulating in the air :roll:) since they must have allowed a student who wasn’t fully vaccinated in, saying that those who don’t vaccinate are responsible for spreading disease, and on and on and on.

When other posters jumped on board to agree with her and blame all those horrible and selfish natural- granola- crunchy-negligent parents who don’t care about anyone and leave a trail of disease and suffering in their wake, I felt it relevant to share just one tiny little detail that was leaving the medical establishment in Israel (where this happened) scratching its head – most of those who got the mumps were fully vaccinated (as I mentioned in my note to the synagogue).  An investigation was launched there to figure out what happened – since clearly the issue was  the lack of effectiveness of the vaccine.

Does anyone else wonder why a critical point like this is conveniently being omitted?  Maybe because noting it would create a conflict between what you’re being told to do and what will actually be of benefit.  There’s nothing being suggested to protect oneself from the mumps except vaccination – and what can they tell you to do when you’ve already followed their suggestions and it hasn’t helped?!

Fear of the unknown is hard to deal with and it’s understandable that people overreact when faced with something they hardly know anything about.  Here’s a little bit of information to dispel the fear.  The mumps for many generations was a common childhood illness – uncomfortable but rarely dangerous.  Lifetime immunity was a nice side benefit for those who had the mumps.  Some of you might be as old as me, lol, and remember when chickenpox was considered in this way.

Is someone reading and thinking, “doesn’t she know about the sterility issue? You can’t take a chance with that, can you?” Isn’t it a wonder that humankind has somehow perpetuated itself despite the majority of males for hundreds of years having the mumps?  Hmm.

The reality is that only about two percent of males who get mumps after puberty have testicular swelling.  Of that very small percentage of post adolescent boys,  98% have swelling on only one side.  Now, of that very, very small percentage that have swelling of both testicles, the huge majority recover and have no issues affecting sterility. So you don’t have to be a professor of mathematics to realize that statistically this is unlikely to be a problem.

And you already know I’m of the belief that building up a strong immune system is your best defense for any kind of sickness (along with lots of vitamin C and rest).  I wrote about guidelines for taking vitamin C here.  A positive outlook can do wonders, too!  I won’t be worrying about this one tiny bit, and I hope none of you will, either!


Eating beef liver to improve bone structure

I do a lot of reading about nutrition. A lot.  I find it fascinating to continually discover the unbelievable complexity of our bodies, and a core value in how well your body functions depends on the quality of your nutrition.  It’s simply mind-boggling, and I keep learning more and more that leaves me almost shocked at how critical good nutrition is to so many aspects of development.  And I’m a person who has already known for years that nutrition is really important!  (Sometimes I sit my older kids down and have them read some of what I read; other times I explain to them the science behind what I’m learning about – which leaves them wishing I knew more about nutrition when they were little so they could have all of the benefits!)

I have so many things I want to share with you here, but I often don’t because I don’t want to be seen as an expert who can answer detailed and specific questions – I can’t, and I don’t want to!  Despite reading many, many details in numerous books and articles, I’m not a person who enjoys writing about them; I prefer to share what I’m doing in response to what I learn.

I’ve been noticing that despite all of the good things we eat and the traditional ways that I prepare our foods (for about four years now), my ds2 and ds4 (almost) both have a couple of teeth that are a little close together, which I’m concerned may become crowded as they get older. It’s a little frustrating to me that it’s so darn hard in this day and age to help our kids reach their genetic potential, that we have to work so hard and so consciously to help our children develop in the way that generations pretty much naturally developed for centuries (specifically in this case I’m referring to the wide mouth palates of the past vs the narrow palates of the present).  But fortunately bone is elastic to a degree, particularly in very young children and good nutrition can actually help improve existing bone structure.  Though this is gets harder to do the older a child is, until the permanent teeth erupt there’s still a likelihood that it can be improved, and I’m hopeful that ramping up their nutrition can still benefit their jaw structure at this time.  Spending a bit more on high quality foods now could be a pretty big savings in orthodontia down the road!

I’ve repeatedly seen cod liver oil recommended as being valuable in contributing to good health (including tooth strength and jaw development), in part because it’s high in vitamins A and D, but I’ve been unable to find a single company in the world that sells kosher certified cod liver oil, so I needed to find another option.  Though I learned about the importance of cod liver oil at least two or three years ago, I’ve thought that it was enough to basically eat decent quality foods mostly prepared properly, and since I couldn’t find a source of cod liver oil I could use, I wasn’t concerned.  But now I believe that living in the toxic world we live in, we have so many strikes against us that it really takes more than ‘basically’ or ‘mostly’ to counter that.  When I once again came back to think about this issue in the last couple of months, I finally determined that we needed to add something more nutrient dense to our diets, and that beef liver is the best option for us, in terms of providing us with some similar benefits as cod liver oil (as well as benefits of its own).

Beef liver is high in iron and vitamin A (not so much D), lots of B vitamins (including the important B12), as well as Omega 3 fatty acids (most of us are deficient in Omega 3s and consume too many Omega 6s – the ration should be 1:1).  I like how Amanda says that eating liver is pretty close to taking a multi-purpose vitamin!   As such, it has many different benefits for people of all ages (I’m trying to convince a friend suffering extreme nausea during pregnancy – in her third trimester now! – with a history of severe postnatal depression to eat some liver to help address some underlying deficiencies, but she said it would make her too nauseous to eat it).

It’s taken a few weeks to actually be able to get the liver, but we finally have it!  Last night we prepared liver for the first time.  For my kosher readers, some of you are probably already wondering about this since you know it isn’t so simple!  I’ll prepare a more detailed post about the concerns for kosher consumers in the next week or so, and how to properly prepare it (including an important fact that most people are unaware of).

All of my kids but one liked it, but I told her she would only need to eat a small amount, and I’ll probably mix it into different foods, like with ground meat – so that was fine with her.  I’m planning to regularly include it in our meals, which is why I bought over 20 lb yesterday (as you know by now, I don’t know how to buy small quantities! :lol:).  We’ll see how long it lasts!

(This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays.)


Picture of dh and me

My husband and I attended our synagogue’s annual banquet at the beginning of this week, which was once again really nice.  I keep feeling like this past year has gone extremely quickly; last year this time I was very pregnant and my memory of last year’s event is still crystal clear in my mind.  I think blogging helps you keep your memories fresher, as does mentally linking anything with the end of pregnancy, lol!

Anyway, we hardly ever have a chance to have a picture with just the two of us.  There was a photographer moving throughout the room taking photos, and I was pleasantly surprised a few days later to see a photo of us on an online article about the event.  Most of you don’t know how handy having a blog is – you can store all kinds of things that you want to remember – so even though I feel a little self-conscious about it, I’m putting this here so I’ll be able to find it when I want it in the future!


Traditional food preparations for Passover

>>I’ve been starting to plan meals for Passover, in the hopes that better planning will mean we eat more than matzah spread with whatever.   I was wondering if you could post a bit of about creative passover meal ideas.  And also I was wondering what you know of sprouting, lacto-fermenting, etc during Passover.  What can be sprouted that isn’t kitniyos?  All I can think of is sunflower seeds, and perhaps quinoa could be sprouted.  We like fermented green beans best (dilly beans), but that is kitniyos.  I’m not sure what other options there would be, that we would like.  Can a person make kefir, or kombucha, or… for Passover?  Do you worry about soaking grains when you are eating matzah?  You can’t exactly soak matzah, right?
And also, I’ve been wondering, when you soak nuts and grains, if you don’t have a dehydrator, how do you get them back to normal?  Particularly, if you soak grains, can they be ground for flour in that state? <<

I haven’t yet planned my Passover menu (I’ll do it on Thursday next week, after I see what I get for a very good price that I want to integrate into my planning), and I don’t know if it will be very creative!  But I’ll be sure to post about it once I have it basically worked out.

I don’t think there’s much you can sprout for Passover, since it’s generally beans, seeds, and grains that are sprouted, and we don’t eat any of those!  I suppose you can try to sprout quinoa, but I’ll just do an overnight soak with an acidic medium in a warm location.  Nuts can be soaked and dehydrated, but I’m not planning to bother with that for the week of Passover- I generally use my dehdrator for that; the times I tried to use my oven to dry nuts that had been soaked and grains that had been sprouted, it didn’t turn out well at all!  (My oven doesn’t go low enough and the result was slightly scorched.)  (In answer to your last question, grains that are sprouted are ground after being dried if you want to use them for flour.)

Lacto fermented vegetables are a cinch for Passover – just shred the vegetables (I make up combinations all the time – try napa or cabbage with onion, garlic, carrots and some curry powder – this is an easy one that always turns out well), add some sea salt and water, and let them sit on your counter until they’re ready.  (The salt I use throughout the year for table use is Real Salt, which is certified kosher for Passover – this would be a very good addition to fermented vegetables.)  The hardest part is that some vegetables like cabbage will take more time than a week to be ready to eat!  You can minimize the time needed to ferment cabbage by chopping it very finely. But most vegetables can be ready within 2 – 3 days.  Most hard and crunchy vegetables can be effectively fermented – have fun experimenting!

Last year I asked about using the kefir grains and was told that I shouldn’t use them on Pesach (Passover).  Realize that in virtually every situation that I’ve asked a question like this, the rabbi I approached had to rely on my detailed description to make his decision, since these kind of questions aren’t common.  So it’s possible that it being an unknown food was a contributing factor to the decision and it was cautionary rather than kefir grains being problematic in and of themselves.  I don’t know and it doesn’t matter to me – I was told not to use it for this one week a year so I don’t.  I don’t find it hard to enjoy raw milk without culturing it for a week, so not having kefir is no hardship for me!

If you do want cultured dairy, you can easily make yogurt by buying a kosher for Passover plain whole milk yogurt starter, then following the instructions I gave here.  I usually use a dehydrator but explained in the post that I just linked to how to use a cooler as the insulating box, with a heating pad/hot water bottle on top – since I don’t have a Passover dehydrator, that’s what I would do.

I don’t use kombucha, so I can’t share any tips with that – I tried to make it about three years ago and I think I killed my scoby.  😆 Maybe it wasn’t dead but it was so unappetizing looking that I threw it away.

Because of the high phytic acid content, I’ll be minimizing the use of matza, but matza meal can be soaked overnight in an acidic medium if you use it for cakes, muffins, or pancakes. You can use shredded coconut and nut flours in place of flours for baked goods – I have a number of recipes in my ‘recipe’ category that will be appropriate for Passover use, even if I didn’t label them as such.

Tonight I’ll be preparing beef liver for the first time (will share more about that another time), and bought a new grill to kasher it on so whatever we prepare will be able to be used for Passover.  That will be a nice traditional addition to our Pesach menu, I hope!

Someone once commented that her Jewish mother-in-law gave her a Jewish cookbook and the entire book was filled with healthy recipes that work well for a gluten-free diet.  I was wondering what in the world she could be talking about, and realized that she must have been given an older cookbook with Passover recipes!  Once you get past the modern day food imitations that supermarkets are filled with that are marketed especially for this time of year, you realize that this really is an easy time of year to eat well, easier than during the rest of the year when grains and beans may be a staple of your diet.

Stick with traditional fats- extra virgin olive oil, rendered chicken fat (shmaltz), butter, and extra virgin coconut oil.  Then add lots of fruits, vegetables, eggs, fish, meat and chicken, along with quinoa, potatoes, and sweet potatoes for the starch, some nuts, coconut, and dried fruits for dessert – there’s hardly anything to miss eating.  And all of it is healthy, simple, and delicious!


Keeping everyone fed when converting kitchen for Passover

I was going to respond to the comment made recently and share about how to make the ‘turning over the kitchen’ stage as stress-free as possible.  Then this morning I noticed that last year I responded in detail to this, so I figured I’d repost it since many of you didn’t see it then.


>>Whats your eating plan for the next week before Pesach? Just curious. I enjoy reading about your Pesach preparations. <<

In keeping everyone happy in the time you’re converting your kitchen from regular use to Passover use, I think keeping everyone fed on time in an appropriate manner adds a lot to general happiness!  Seriously, there absolutely must be a plan for meals.  And the plan can’t be not having food in the house and hoping the kids won’t complain too much.  That’s just not going to work!  I can’t stress the need for a plan enough – it doesn’t have to be complicated.  Just take a few minutes to think about the 3 – 6 meals that you’re not going to easily be able to cook in your kitchen the way you usually do and how you can handle it in a way that you will be able to stay relaxed.

In my experience, the biggest issue is what to feed everyone for the two days that the kitchen is being done.  Before that, they can eat regular food.  After that, you can cook Pesach foods.  During the time you’re cleaning the kitchen, you don’t want to have to be cooking chometz when you’re in the middle of kashering everything. And the kids still have to eat, right?

So here’s what I did.  At the beginning of the week, I made a few chometz dishes in disposable  pans, and put them in the fridge.  Those could be easily reheated in the oven, and then served directly from the pan.  Today we’re in between things – after all of these years, I haven’t figured out how to avoid that, since you have to wait 24 hours after using the sink before kashering it (I guess I could start washing dishes in the laundry sink 24 hours before I kasher the rest of the kitchen so the sink could be done at the same time, but that presents it’s own inconveniences…).  Tonight we’ll finish everything – kashering the sink, oven, and stove.  But until then, we’re kind of in the middle of things, and it’s an awkward position – I can’t yet cook everything in Pesach dishes, and I don’t want to take out chometz dishes to cook with.

So for breakfast today, I pulled out the prepared pan of bread pudding for breakfast.  We served it in large chunks on napkins after heating it up, and had some bananas and kefir with it.  For  lunch, we had lasagna and vegetable juice – but everyone got paper plates and utensils then :) , and for dinner, we’re having these unhealthy instant entree things (hey, we can live wildly once a year, right? :) )) that we were given a few days ago when someone was getting rid of all the chometz in their freezer – a combo of mini hot dogs, potato puffs, and a couple of other things, with some corn and tomato salad.  Those will also just need to be eaten warmed up.  Oh, and the kids had spelt soup croutons and cream of wheat for a snack mid day.  That’s just about the last of the chometz, I think.  For myself and the others in my family who don’t eat flour, I roasted a turkey at the beginning of the week for dinner meals through the end of the week.  And since dh prefers when I do this, I’ll probably make some kitniyos for the time leading up to Pesach (like a pot of rice), that will be prepared in an electric cooker on the patio table, and served there as well (on paper plates, and washing the cooker in the laundry sink in the basement).

After dinner when the littles are in bed, I’ll kasher everything.  Tomorrow morning, I’ll be able to use Pesach dishes and pots, and everyone will have a regular kosher l’Pesach breakfast.  I need to do my veggie shopping, too, because I’m very low.  I’ll start making a menu plan for the next few days sometime later today or tonight, and I’ll share that when I have it done.


Hopefully by sharing this now it will give you time to think ahead so you can plan for this stage and minimize the stress involved.  Note that I said minimize, not eliminate – there are inherent pressures involved and expecting yourself to feel ultra relaxed every minute and wondering what you’re doing wrong if you’re not, is unrealistic and will just set you up to feel like a failure.  Do the best you can and give yourself credit for every little (and not so little) thing you’re doing to get ready for Pesach (Passover)!


Chickpea Cheeseburgers

I made these chickpea cheeseburgers for dinner last night; they were very frugal and very much enjoyed!  For those who are avoiding gluten, they’re also gluten-free.  I served them with sour cream, red pepper strips, and snow peas.  Since everyone enjoyed them and they were very frugal, I thought you’d appreciate if I shared it.  I’ll post my costs at the end.

As always, I make recipes up as I go along so I’ll try to estimate how much I used of each ingredient as accurately as I can.  This made enough as a main dish for our family of 11, about 50 4-inch burgers; you can either cut it in half (or 1/4!), or make the full recipe and put some in the freezer to use at a another time.

Chickpea Cheeseburgers

  • 2 lb dried chickpeas,  soaked, sprouted, and cooked
  • 1 large onion or 3 small onions, minced
  • 12 eggs (I used pastured eggs)
  • 1  c. arrowroot flour (if you want it to be gluten-free) or bulgur (cooked with 1 c. water or yogurt – I meant to soak this ahead but forgot)
  • 1 lb mozzarella or cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 T. salt
  • pepper to taste

(If you decide to use bulgur for this recipe as the thickener, start it cooking while you prepare the rest of the mixture.)

Blend the chickpeas in a food processor until they are somewhat smooth (they don’t have to be pureed, but you want them pretty well broken down).  You’ll probably find it helpful to add some liquid to this so they can blend easily – either water or the juice the chickpeas cooked in is good.  Add in the minced onion, garlic, and eggs.  Mix, then add the shredded cheese and spices.   Mix well, and add either arrowroot powder or cooked bulgur as the thickener.

Drop onto parchment-lined or greased baking pan into the size you desire.  We made them about 4 – 5 inches across.  Bake at 500 degrees until they are browned, about 10 – 15 minutes (smaller ones will cook faster).  They should stay in a burger form when they’re cooked through – if they’re falling apart, you need to cook it for longer.  Serve warm.

Here are my costs (remember that I buy almost everything on sale and if I didn’t the costs could be double what I’ve listed – but still would make for an inexpensive dinner!):

  • chickpeas – .59 lb – $1.18 total
  • onion – .28 lb (bought in 50 lb bag) – .28 total (I’m overestimating since one large onion was less an a pound but I prefer to overstate costs than to understate them)
  • eggs – 1.75 dozen – total $1.75
  • organic bulgur – .79 for 24 oz – .20 total
  • mozzarella/cheddar (bought in 5 lb block) – 4.69 lb – $4.69 total
  • garlic – 5 lb peeled organic garlic was $7 – .20 total
  • spices – not significant, but I’ll add another .15 for that

Total cost for burgers – $8.45 – since this served 9 people (not including dh and baby), it works out to .84 cents per person, and each person had enough for 5 – 6 burgers.  I think that served with more sides, three would have been enough per person.

The sour cream we served it with was 2.29 for a large container, sliced red peppers were .99 lb and used about 2 lb, and the snow peas were 1.99 lb (used 1 pound).  I meant to chop up a large head of napa cabbage but got busy with something else and forgot about it until halfway through dinner – that would have only been an additional .50 since I bought a case with 20 heads for $7 from the Asian grocery (but we would have ended up eating less of the other things!). So $6.29 total for the add-ons.

The total cost for the entire meal was $14.61, which works out to $1.62 a person.  Most of our kids have adult appetites, with the exception of the 2 and 3 year olds.  I love figuring out these kinds of things! :)

(This post is part of Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays , Real Food Wednesdays, and Pennywise Platter Thursday.)


Clarifying what products need Passover certification

Have you ever noticed that packaged foods that are certified for Pesach (Passover) are very expensive?  (How’s that for a nicely phrased understatement? 😆 )

After seeing the prices for some foods I want to use for Pesach that are certified for Passover use, I decided yesterday to get some more information about these foods and if they really need that additional Pesach supervision that I’ve been paying extra for until now.   Although I have a few more items I want to call about tomorrow, the information I’ve learned will help me to buy a number of foods for Pesach at the price I pay year round, and I thought I’d share that with you.  (However, it’s always good to ask your questions yourself.)

Quinoa – some people don’t use this because of the suspicion of it being kitniyos.  Here in my city it’s accepted across the board that it’s not; I believe it was the local kashrus agency that did the research about if quinoa was kosher for Passover and brought it to public attention.  My previous understanding was that it had to be purchased from one of two sources, both of which were much more expensive than what I can buy it for.  My question was if I could use quinoa from any company or not.  I called the OU (Orthodox Union) Hotline yesterday and was told that as long as it’s purchased in a sealed bag and is checked before Pesach (in case of accidental cross contamination), I can buy from whatever company I want.  That means that I can buy from my usual bulk source and get a 25 lb for under $4 lb instead of paying between $5 – 6 for a 12 oz box.   I had already decided I wasn’t going to use much quinoa if it meant paying over $7 lb – I’d rather buy meat for that price! I use quinoa year round so buying a 25 lb bag isn’t a waste for me, and this means I can use as much as I want for Pesach.

Nuts – any shelled nuts (ie without shells) that are whole and have no additives or preservatives can be used for Pesach even without certification.  Be sure that there’s no BHA or BHT in the nuts you get.  This is also something I use and buy in bulk year round – since I don’t have any unopened packages I’ll buy new ones for Pesach.  I usually space the expenses of bulk nut purchases so that I don’t buy more than two a month, and since there are four kinds of nuts I’d like to get, this will be a big expense in the coming month for me.  But it will all even out since I won’t have to buy nuts for a long time.  I was told sliced almonds also have this classification, but nut flours don’t.

Dried fruit – all dried fruit needs to have a special certification for Passover.  The exception to this is raisins that are grown in the US and are certified kosher for year round use.  Since last month I bought a 25 (or 30?) lb box of raisins that meet this criteria and haven’t yet used them, this was good news to me.

Milk – last year dh asked about this and was told that we needed to use milk certified kosher for Passover.  So I didn’t use any raw milk.  This year I decided to ask for myself since after speaking to dh, I realized the answer was applicable to both pasteurized and raw milk – I thought the answer had been given expressly about raw milk.  I was told that as long as it’s purchased before Pesach, it doesn’t need any Pesach certification. That means that this year we’ll be able to enjoy raw milk on Pesach.

edited to add – I just called again and was told that organic sucanat is okay (called back a second time and was told it’s not, so won’t be using this after all), as is extra virgin coconut oil (which was also mentioned in the comments section before I made this call).  I asked about unsweetened coconut products but all of those will need Passover certification.  It didn’t hurt to ask, though!

There are other foods that don’t require certification that I was already aware of – this is by no means an exhaustive list!  These are all new to me, though.

I’m very pleased with all of this information.  I thought I had no choice but to pay extra for Passover certification on the above items, and am glad to know that I can eat these foods just as affordably for Pesach as I do year round.  And just as nutritiously, too!


My basic Pesach cleaning schedule

This week I’m officially getting started on my Pesach (Passover) cleaning! I generally don’t do more than two hours of cleaning on any given day except when we turn over the kitchen.  It’s too easy to get worn down by all the work; I find breaking it into manageable pieces makes it possible to enjoy this time of year and all the attendant preparations as much as any other time of year!  The kids do a lot to help, and I don’t want them to get burnt out, either.  Some people like to start way in advance, but I’ve never found it beneficial to start too much in advance, since then you have to keep it in Pesach ready condition.  Our house isn’t large enough that I can easily limit areas for a long time in advance!

I feel that each holiday is best enjoyed when the focus is on that holiday.  That means that I don’t do any planning for Pesach until Purim has passed – I focus on Purim when it’s Purim and don’t think about Pesach until it’s over, and all the Purim stuff has been cleaned up and put away.  I try not to drag out Pesach cleaning, but I also don’t like the pressure of having too much to do, too close to Pesach, so this schedule works well for me.    I clean mostly in the afternoons on Monday through Weds (sometimes Thursday, but I prefer to keep that time available for Shabbos preparations), so we can continue our regular homeschooling schedule until the week before Pesach.  I also use part of Sundays.

Here’s my basic schedule:

Week 1 (March 2 – 4):  I inventoried chametz (leavened foods) and clothing/shoes, and made sure everyone has what they need for the upcoming holiday and spring season.  It was the week of shopping, lol!   I still have a couple of things I need to get (including my personal big purchase that I’ll get today), but I’m waiting for a good sale to come along for the couple of other items. :)

Week 1: The week after Purim I do my planning – along with things like I mentioned above.  It’s preliminary kind of stuff that allows me to focus on Pesach cleaning without having to stop and start knowing it’s done.

Week 2 (March 8 – 11):  We’ll clean the top two floors. That includes all the bedrooms, the attic, linen closet, and two bathrooms.  We have a homeschool gathering on Weds. as well as an eye doctor appointment to take ds16 to, so I’ve scheduled that as an off-day so we can all enjoy hanging out without feeling like we should be cleaning.

Yesterday I bought our matzas and some other Pesach staples – I don’t like shopping when it’s crowded and I avoid the rush by doing it now.  It also spaces out the cost – six cases of grape juice, meats, and matza were all paid for with my Feb. budget.  My March budget will cover everything else.  My food budget is the same at this time of year as any other month – $600.   If I have to, I’ll stop in at the kosher supermarket a few days before Pesach when everything else is done to pick up any small items I don’t yet have.  Unlike the vast majority of people in the very long lines at that time, I’m relaxed and cheerful; I consider it almost a public service to share some positive energy when everyone is dripping with tension.  :)

Week 3 (March 14 – 18): At this point I do the basement and laundry room.  This year I’m slightly adjusting our schedule to accommodate the home repairs the  kids want to do.  They want to  some spackle a little, paint a little, fix some things that don’t look so nice (like the hole in the bathroom door created when ds2 used a screwdriver to screw into it!).  So on Sunday and Monday, we’ll do the basement and laundry room, and then will have the following three days to do the desired visual improvements. :)

Week 4 (March 21 – 25):  I’ll do the living room, dining room, and kitchen (we have an open layout so it’s easiest to do them all about the same time).  This is the most intensive time, since it’s a lot of work in just three days.  I like to finish cleaning about a week before Pesach so there’s plenty of time to cook in advance, do all the laundry, etc, without a feeling of pressure.  I plan to turn over the kitchen on the 23rd, and that day we’ll shift out of hectic mode and can all relax – I plan to take the family to the duck pond for his birthday – we did that last year and he requested to do it again, with the same refreshments as last year.  Then on the March 24, I’ll do my monthly shopping, and Thurs. I’ll unpack, plan my Pesach menu (to be determined after I see what I buy), and cook for Shabbos.  At that time the house is entirely ready – the only thing left to do the following week is cook for Pesach.

So far the challenge this week is that the best time to clean is when the littles are napping, but they each nap in a differentbedroom, so not much can be done on the top two floors since it will wake them up!  That means cleaning with them awake and involved.  The biggest challenge is the attic, since I keep all the clothes storage there.  Since everyone is going through all of their drawers, I have a lot of clothes that need to be cleaned and then packed in the appropriate boxes.  Once I get past this area of the house, it will get easier since I can use the time the kids are sleeping to work.

I also want to find some time to plan my garden.  I don’t know if I’m going to get myself together enough to plant fruit trees – this is such a hectic time of year!  I need to go through all the seeds I have, see what else I need, but the most time consuming thing of all is to make a plan for where everything will be planted.  I have a feeling that I’m going to have to accept that I can’t make the more involved garden that I would like.  Oh, well.  At times like this I remind myself that I can only do so much, and to look at what I do accomplish instead of what is left undone.

Do you have any tips that help you stay relaxed and enjoy this time of year?


The crowd isn’t where you want to be

Last night I took three of my older children to a magnificent recital by Leon Fleisher.  The story of Fleisher is very inspiring – he was a child prodigy and at age 16 was singled out as by a famous conductor as being ‘the pianist find of the century’.  But in 1965 he was struck with a neurological affliction known as focal dystonia and lost the use of two fingers on his right hand; he was told he would never regain use of this hand.

He mastered a number of difficult piano pieces using only his left hand (one of which he performed last night), and after four decades, regained the use of his right hand.  He is now 82 years old.  Can you imagine what it must be like after so many years to regain the use of your hand – particularly for someone whose life passion was the piano? A film was made about him called Two Hands, which was nominated for an Oscar and an Emmy.  I’m going to see if we can find it at the library, since I’m sure the kids would enjoy seeing it after hearing him play.  We also stayed for the question and answer session with him afterward, which added more perspective to our view of him – it’s nice to see people who have accomplished great things and remember that they are simply people.

On our way out of the packed parking lot, there were many cars waiting in line to exit.  We noticed that despite the efforts of the man who was directing the traffic out of the lot, all of the dozens of the drivers were turning right, though the attendant was vigorously indicating they needed to turn left.  When it was finally my turn, I broke with ‘tradition’ and turned left.  After a couple of minutes as I tried to figure out where I was going, I saw this allowed me to quickly get to the main street, rapidly bypassing all of those who had turned right and were backed up, still waiting to get onto the main street from the second exit.  Right after we got onto the main street, one of the kids glanced behind us and were shocked to find that there was a long stream of cars who followed me.  I explained to them the proven psychological phenomena they were witnessing.

People take their social cues from those around them, regardless of the evidence to the contrary.  The social reasoning is, if everyone else is doing it, it must be right.  The attendant couldn’t have been more clear about what direction they should go in, and intellectually it’s reasonable to assume he’s been hired to make your life easier by keeping traffic going smoothly.  But when people see all of those in front of them doing one thing, it’s very difficult not to follow – you start to think there must be something that everyone is aware of and are appropriately responding to, though you don’t see it.

But I was willing to take a chance going in a different direction, since I couldn’t see how it could negatively affect me – after all, this person’s job is to make my experience there pleasant!  And once I was willing to go in a different direction, the cars behind me were willing to follow my cues.  Had anything else changed? No – it was the same parking lot, same attendant, doing the same thing. The only thing that was different was the reaction of the driver in front of them.  All it took was one person willing to turn in a different direction, and suddenly the drivers behind me were willing to pay attention to the energetic efforts of the parking lot attendant and go in the direction he indicated.

As I pointed out to my kids last night, “you can see what happens to those who follow the crowd without thinking”.  Following the crowd generally isn’t what you want to do in life.  Happiness isn’t there, peace of mind isn’t there, meaning and joy aren’t there.  Conformity and social approval are there, though – and in a society that values conformity more than critical thinking skills, that’s of primary value to many people.

Many things I believed to be facts have been turned upside down after significant research (birthing practices; parenting; nutrition – many, many aspects; health – eg role of vaccinations; education).  Despite being a conservative person by nature who doesn’t like to stand out or make waves, I’ll make what is a very strong statement, but over the years I’ve become increasingly convinced it’s true.  If you’re following the crowd, it’s a good clue that you may be going in the wrong direction, and need to closely examine what you’re doing to be sure it’s in alignment with your true values. The crowd is heavily peer dependent and doesn’t make choices based on individual needs or intelligent though, and group think is a reality in almost every area of life.

Life lessons can be found everywhere, can’t they? 😆