When I think about Passover, I think about dressing up in homemade costumes with my family (including my two sons, husband, and even my parents) and improvising the parting of the Red Sea.
But of course, the backdrop of our annual Passover play tradition is the delicious food.
While matzo ball soup (made with matzo balls as dense as hockey pucks) is my favorite Passover indulgence, my husband loves chopped liver on matzo and my kids love matzo brei (made simply on a nonstick pan with matzo, eggs, and nonstick cooking spray).
To help you enjoy, savor, and better understand and incorporate a few of your favorites, I asked a few of my registered dietitian gal pals to share their favorite foods, ideas, and recipes to help make this Passover one to remember. Here's what they had to say.
Karen Ansel, MS, RD, CDN, a Media Representative for the New York State Dietetic Association, loves gefilte fish (as do I!). Traditionally, it's made of carp and whitefish, though some make it with omega 3-rich salmon. It's a lean source of protein and has a tender, meaty taste.
"When growing up, every Passover my grandmother would spend an entire day in the kitchen making homemade gefilte fish. Because it needed to be chopped by hand, my mom and us four kids had to pitch in, so it was really a major production. Even though the gefilte fish on my Passover table isn't homemade, it's still a favorite of mine that brings back a flood of memories of my grandmother and all that labor-intensive (but fun!) chopping we used to do."
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Charoset (a sweet fusion of any combination of nuts, apples, wine, honey, dried fruit, and spices like cinnamon) is a favorite Passover dish for many. Registered dietitian Ellen Slotkin, MS, RD loves to pair it with maror, otherwise known as horseradish.
"When you eat charoset with maror, the mixture of bitter and sweet flavors symbolizes the ancient Israelites enslavement and ultimate freedom from Egypt."
Slotkin also notes the powerful nutritional value of her favorite charoset, made with walnuts, wine, apples, cinnamon, and honey.
"Walnuts are an excellent source of ALA, important omega-3 essential fatty acids that are believed to contribute to cardiovascular, neurological, and immunological health; wine contains the antioxidant resveratrol, which may have anti-aging benefits; cinnamon appears to have anti-inflammatory and blood glucose lowering properties; apples provide vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants that potentially lower "bad" LDL cholesterol levels; and honey has modest amounts of disease-fighting antioxidants."
Slotkin also notes that vitamin C-rich horseradish, also recognized as a natural sinus cleaner, may even offer a slight metabolic boost. She adds "the best part of eating charoset and maror is that they're low fat by design, and require little preparation beyond cutting up and combining ingredients."
Registered dietitian Reyna Franco, MS, RD, CDN, CPT, loves her charoset made with dates, walnuts, and apples.
"We make a sandwich with charoset, whole wheat matzo, and romaine lettuce-it's so delicious, even my 12 year-old son can't get enough of it."
Certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian Janice Baker loves the Middle Eastern version made with stewed and pureed prunes, walnuts, and a blend of spices.
"Besides being absolutely delicious, this version of charoset is great because the prunes can ward off the unpleasant constipation many may feel if they consume too little fiber during Passover."
And Faye Berger Mitchell, a registered and licensed dietitian vividly remembers many a passover during which she and her mom would make charoset using an old fashioned nut chopper to chop the nuts. "Although as a kid I had no idea about all the amazing health benefits of the foods used to make charoset, I just loved its sweet taste."
Bonnie Taub Dix, a registered dietitian and co-author of Kosher By Design Lightens Up, uses matzo as a base of operations to make delicious Passover fare. One of her family favorites is matzo lasagna.
"I use whole wheat matzo to boost fiber intake, an array of colorful veggies that add tons of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and cottage and shredded low fat mozzarella cheese that provides a good dose of calcium. I also use a bit of tomato sauce, and some seasonings which add a lot of flavor and texture to the dish."
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