My husband, two kids and I were getting ready to drive from upstate New York to our relatives on Long Island, but we awoke that morning to find ourselves completely snowed in. We could barely open the door to let the dog out, and the car was buried. There would be no driving that day, and that night was the first Seder, the traditional Passover meal.
We would just have to figure out how to make our own Seder, but in anticipation of our trip, which was going to be of several days duration, the refrigerator was pretty much empty.
For some reason, there was a lamb shank in the freezer, some eggs, a quarter of a jar of horseradish and a sorry-looking sprig of parsley in the refrigerator...those would do for the Seder plate. We also had some apples and walnuts for charoseth (symbolizing the mortar used by the enslaved Israelites in the construction of Egyptian storehouses) No wine...but apple juice could pinch hit (what household with little kids doesn't have apple juice?). We had Haggadahs (books with the order of the Seder ritual) and the kids had made Passover plates in Hebrew school.
O.k., that was a start. But what would we do for matzo?
We'd make our own, of course...it's just flour and water, after all.
But how about chicken soup with matzo balls? For me, it wasn't a Seder without this Jewish staple. I rummaged through the pantry and did find a half- empty box of matzo meal and a few bouillon cubes...ugh, the sorriest matzo ball soup ever. What we needed was a chicken, but the roads were completely impassable and, according to the radio, even more snow was forecast.
But, I kid you not, in the middle of all this, there was a knock on the door: Our neighbors were WALKING into town ( a good two miles, as we lived in the sticks) through several feet of snow...and did we need anything?
(Do you remember Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter--the sixth book in the Little House series--when the train finally makes it to the town after months of blizzards and the Ingalls family gets their Christmas presents and turkey in May? It was kind of like that, minus seven months of snow and the belly-gnawing hunger that comes from subsisting for most of that seven months on bread made with wheat ground in a coffee mill).
Well, yes, we needed a chicken!
Several hours later, we had our bird, the feast could proceed, and we celebrated our unforgettable Little House on the Prairie Passover.
I recently learned what the word "hack" means (doing something that demonstrates cleverness or ingenuity; solves a meaningful problem; and is not a common solution to the problem) and I came up with my own.
Paleo Coconut Wraps (available from www.julianbakery.com), when lightly toasted, make an acceptable matzo substitute. It won't be strictly kosher, as matzo must contain grain, but it will be Paleo and it won't taste like hard tack (and it's square, like real matzo!).
All you have to do is prick the wrap lightly with a fork (so it looks more like, well, matzo) put it on the tray in the toaster oven (don't put directly on the rack, as wrap contains coconut oil which could drip on coils and cause a fire) and toast VERY carefully for about 15 seconds, as it can burn easily. And handle carefully, as it is even more fragile than real matzo.
That's it...easy, right? Pretty good when spread with ghee and sprinkled with coarse sea salt, too!
Here are some of my family's favorite traditional recipes. The Elana's Pantry website is the definitive Paleo site for other Passover favorites (her matzo balls are spot on) so I encourage you to check it out.
My Mother's (and most likely My Grandmother's) Sweet and Sour Pot Roast
3-4 pound beef brisket
2 TBS coconut or grape seed oil
2 large onions, sliced
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock (I use Imagine brand), plus more if needed
1 bay leaf
2 TBS apple cider vinegar
1 TBS coconut sugar
2 TBS Paleo-friendly ketchup (or make your own, just google Paleo ketchup for recipe)
1/3 cup raisins
Salt and pepper to taste
1. In a heavy pot or Dutch oven, brown onions in oil, then remove them from pan (leave oil in pot)
2. Brown brisket on all sides in the same pot, then add onions back
3. Add stock and bay leaf
4. Cover tightly and simmer for one hour, adding hot stock from time to time to prevent burning
5. Add vinegar and brown sugar, cover pot, and simmer for another hour.
6. Add ketchup and raisins, cover and cook for another half hour until meat is tender.
Makes 24 kisses
Over the years, Flo's Kisses, chocolate chip meringues, have been a hit on the dessert table, rivaled only by my Aunt Toby's chocolate mousse (see recipe, below). The little kids, especially, gobble them right up. And they recently became even sweeter when Flo told me that she still has the original recipe card, written in her late mother's handwriting, carefully preserved in plastic wrap, and that in her family they were called Prawny's Kisses, named for a cousin who loved prawns.
These become Paleo by using coconut sugar (which makes them darker than those used in the original recipe) and Paleo-friendly chocolate.
Do not try to make these on a damp or rainy day. They'll end up really sticky instead of crisp.
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup coconut sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
6 oz. chocolate chips or 4 oz. chocolate medallions (Foods Alive, www.foodsalive.com, makes Paleo friendly chocolate medallions made from cacao beans, coconut sugar and cacao butter; there are several other brands of chips that are made without soy or dairy, although they do contain sugar. Not strictly Paleo, but so much better than commercial brands, that they'll do in a pinch. If you use the medallions, break each one in half)
Parchment paper lined baking tray
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
2. With hand mixer, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff peaks form
3. Fold in the coconut sugar, salt, vanilla and chocolate chips or medallions
4. Drop by tablespoon full onto parchment lined pan
5. Bake for 25 minutes or until done. Cool for 5 minutes.
Aunt Toby's Chocolate Mousse
Makes 6 servings
Note: This recipe contains raw eggs, as do most traditional mousse recipes. Not recommended for young children, pregnant women or those with compromised immune systems.
3 eggs, separated; put each egg yolk in a separate small bowl
4 oz. Paleo-friendly chocolate, like Foods Alive Chocolate Medallions
1 1/2 tsp coffee (liquid)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Cream from the top of one can unsweetened organic coconut milk (Native Forest or Natural Value are good brands), refrigerated over night.
Maple syrup (Note: depending on the sweetness of your chocolate, you may want to add maple syrup to the coconut milk as you whip it, before you add it to the rest of the mousse. Foods Alive Medallions, which I used in this recipe, are 66% cacao, so I added 2 1/2 TBS of maple syrup)
1. Carefully melt the chocolate over hot water in a double boiler, or in a microwave. Stir in the coffee and let cool.
2. Use hand mixer to beat egg whites into stiff peaks.
3. In a separate bowl, whip coconut milk until fluffy (with maple syrup if you think the chocolate isn't sweet enough)
4. After chocolate has cooled , beat in egg yolks, one at a time, with an electric beater. When all of the yolks have been incorporated into the chocolate, beat in the vanilla extract.
5. Carefully fold beaten egg whites into the chocolate, then fold in half of the whipped coconut milk into the mixture. Refrigerate until ready to serve (at least two hours).
6. Sweeten the rest of the whipped coconut milk with maple syrup ( if you haven't already sweetened it) and refrigerate. This will be the topping for the mousse.
7. Serve mousse with sweetened whipped coconut milk on top.