Passover Prep Secrets: Best Tips and Tricks From the Pros
by Rivi Rotenberg
Passover at home is no small job.
That’s a big understatement.
It’s actually a HUGE job.
To quote my father-in-law, (songwriter, Abie Rotenberg of Journeys), many of us have got the “Here- Comes-Pesach-Blues”. And many people simply do not WANT to “pay their dues”.
But what if we can’t just “lay down our mops and rest our backs”?
And what if we really cannot afford “the Homowack”. (Is that even still around?)
I’ll move on from the lyrics and get down to business.
If you’re in the “home for the holidays” category, I’ve brought you tips and tricks from the best in the business. These pros have seen it all, done it all, and are ready to share.
On Food Restrictions During Passover
Paula Shoyer of @thekosherbaker says that when she is considering recipe ideas for Passover, she does not want to think, ‘well it’s good enough for a Passover dessert’. She just wants to think that ‘it’s good’. Full stop.
And she would know. Her cookbook, The New Passover Menu, has been a godsend to Jewish cooks around the world who have that same standard- ‘it has got to be good- not just good enough’.
According to Shoyer, our approach to Passover food is all about our mindset. To fully appreciate our options, we need to approach Passover possibilities with an abundance mindset and not a scarcity mindset. The advent of the gluten-free industry has opened the floodgates in Passover food options.
“People need to simply reframe their mindsets. We’re often so focused on all the food that we can’t have on Passover, but in actuality there is so much good stuff that we can have. The world of proteins, fruits, vegetables and gluten-free carbohydrates is abundant. So it’s actually not just a mindset; it’s a reality.”
Passover To-Do Lists and Organization
Faigy Murray of @mykitchen_studio, shares her system for turning Passover prep into a simple science. She is all about creating methods to avoid the madness.
She starts off every holiday season by sitting down with her family to discuss menu options. They consider old family favorites, toss up new ideas, and always incorporate traditional flavors.
Once the menu is complete, she creates a shopping-for-Passover list based off of that menu. Murray says that this process is essential for avoiding multiple grocery runs and impulse purchases.
“There are so many new products every year, and if you shop without intention, you’ll end up buying a lot of things simply because it has a ‘Kosher for P’ symbol. You will also end up in the store one too many times.”
Murray promises her new cookbook, My Pesach Kitchen, will be a gamechanger, whether you’re a newbie to the Passover scene or doing it for years.
Murray teaches her readers how to simplify EVERYTHING. She includes samples and templates and uses them to break down every project into bite- size tasks.
Melinda Strauss, health coach and kosher blogger, insists that menu planning prior to shopping is key. Her reasoning is all too relatable. She concedes that nothing makes her more frustrated than starting to cook and realizing that she doesn’t have all the ingredients on hand.
Once your menu is planned, you can go through each product category on Passover.com as if you were shopping the aisles of the supermarket, and get all the shelf-stable products delivered to you well in advance of the holiday. That will help you have peace of mind that you are almost ready. All you'll have to do is pick up meat, chicken, dairy, and fresh produce closer to Passover.
Shopping and Preparing for Passover
It’s hard to be overwhelmed when you have a paper in front of you telling you exactly what to do, and when and how to do it.
Some of the perks to her system:
- All Passover prep jobs are divided into an itinerary of daily jobs. This way you’re never stressed about how busy your week is. If it is not on today’s to-do list, then you don’t think about it yet.
- It makes your shopping intentional and efficient by dividing lists down to stores and even down to store aisles. This intentional mindset saves time and money.
- Murray includes EVERYTHING on her lists. The Seder night has many moving parts and small items. If you include buying candles on your shopping list, you will not forget them come candlelighting time.
- You are consistently crossing things off your to-do list and that feeling is like a productivity steroid. If you know, you know.
Traditionally, Jews go all out for the Seder night. On the Passover stage, the Seder is “The Main Event”. There are 14 ritual steps and there is a lot of planning involved. But that doesn’t mean it should take center stage in your menu planning.
Shoyer recommends taking the pressure off the Seder night. She advises people to “be kind to yourself and go easy”. The built-in Seder rituals don’t let anyone go hungry. In fact, she feels that the “food volume alone can be overwhelming”.
Naomi Nachman, author of Perfect for Pesach, agrees. Naomi’s classic Passover masterpiece is dubbed by fans as ‘the bible for survival’, and for good reason. It offers winning Passover recipes that are innovative, yet doable for the everyday home cook. Yet despite her passion for fabulous cooking, Naomi does not believe that the Seder night is the time to showcase your talents.
“Between all the wine, matzah, and maror, many people are practically full before the “official” meal begins. There is enough to do for the Seder as a whole. Keep the menu planning simple and light.”
For those who enjoy cooking in style, there is an entire eight- day holiday to spread the wealth. You don’t need a showstopper meal at the Seder.
Shoyer shares another tip for those of you attempting to be fully present while hosting the Seder. She has three words for you: room temperature sides!
Side dishes like Shoyer’s own charred cauliflower and grilled eggplant can be prepared in advance and brought to room temperature on the counter during the Seder. No fuss, no hassle and no soggy or dried out foods.
Chef Chaya, labeled by Forbes as the “Kardashian of the kosher world on Instagram”, shares her hack for preparing home-made maror (bitter herb: often romaine or horseradish) in advance without compromising its potency.
She grinds the horseradish in a food processor and freezes it immediately in airtight containers. She defrosts it a few hours before the Seder, and it remains sharp but hassle free.
Hosting Family for Passover
Passover preparation is usually all about the big meals and festive dinners. But if you're hosting family, don't forget to factor in the small stuff….like breakfast and snacks.
Shoyer remembers one holiday when staggered sleep schedules left her feeling like a short-order cook. Sleep-deprived college kids don’t exactly rise and shine, and she had kids eating breakfast while she was prepping dinner.
We all want to truly enjoy our family’s company, but the constant mess and buzzing can get to the best of us.
Shoyer now makes sure to have easy snacks, breakfast ideas, and grab-to-go items ready in advance. She prepares gluten-free granola, yogurts, and muffins so that they are readily available for self-service.
When hosting for the holidays, Melinda Strauss says that “freezer friendly foods are my best friend”. She prepares a lot of her menu in advance which translates into less stress the day or two before Passover begins.
Post- Passover Roundup Advice
One very savvy tip is to hold onto your receipts from all of your Passover grocery shopping. At the end of each Passover, Shoyer takes stock of her surplus items and makes a note on the receipt to adjust quantities for the upcoming year.
- So basically, if your receipt shows that you purchased five bags of ground almonds and you have three still in your pantry, you’ll make a clear note to only buy two the next year.
- You’ll also be sure to mark down which items you could have used more of.
This is a super nifty hack for all the people starting to shop for Passover products online this year. You can simply forward your e-receipt to yourself to edit for adjustments.
Once I create my own order, I plan on emailing my ‘Passover.com’ invoice to myself with the subject PASSOVER 2021. Come next year when Passover planning feels like a distant memory, I’ll have an efficient system for creating a new and customized shopping list.
And there you have it- advice for Passover 2022, before Passover of 2021. You’re welcome.
And have at it, folks! Best of luck and wishing you a very happy Passover!
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