Passover 2018

Las night, I hosted 10 beautiful people for Passover at my bungalow in Santa Monica. It was a dream come true to bring people from different worlds of mine together, some who had never experienced Passover before, some who often don’t, and others who do Passover every year, for a remixed sedar.

There were so many people who I want to thank who I truly could not have done this without. Dani Duke, my twin sister, who worked many many hours to compile a draft of the Haggadah we used from many different texts and who also hosted her own vegan Passover sedar in Boston just a few hours ahead of ours. My amazing friend Sean who helped me cook, bake, chop, prepare, and set up EVERYTHING. My friends Ben and Johanna who printed out the Haggadahs and brought extra chairs so I didn’t have to turn anyone away. My friend Cari who brought the salt so we could dip our bitter herbs. And of course, we would not have been here without OneTable, one of the most incredible organizations that I am so lucky to be involved in. OneTable empowers people to host and attend Shabbats (or in the case, Passovers) that are unique, valuable, and sustainable by setting hosts up with the tools they need to succeed; guidance, money per person to provide food, and a platform. Bringing good people together from my many different worlds to share the plant-based food I enjoy and traditions I love, while celebrating our most beautiful holidays is honestly one of the most special and meaningful things I’ve ever done.

I wanted to create this post incase anyone in the future is curious and desiring of hosting their own Passover and would like to replicate or learn from what I did last night.

First, see if you can sign up to be a OneTable host. Aside from all of the wonderful help OneTable offers with empowering you to host in your own unique way, they also give you $15 per person for each person who RSVPs, which helps with the cost of food. I normally charge $5 when I host, as I realize it furthers the level of commitment from my friends… if you pay, you’re more likely to come. Also, it helps towards the REAL cost of the dinner (even with $15 per person, I was still $100 over of my own money as I really wanted the night to be special) so charging can help cover the difference. I’ve done $5 in the past because I really don’t want it to be difficult for anyone to attend, but next time for a holiday I will likely charge $10 since it’s still affordable but can actually cover the cost.

Next, you want to make sure everyone RSVPs and you have a legitimate head count- see if people are planning to bring plus ones (they should have added them on the invite) so you know you have enough room for everyone. The New Moon Shabbat I threw recently had 18 people there and since it wasn’t a sit down dinner, people didn’t need seats. We had Rahel’s Vegan Ethiopian Food so people grabbed food at our “buffet” and sat on couches and comfortably on the floor. But if you’re doing a holiday meal like Passover, it makes sense to make sure you have seats for everyone.

During the week before Passover, my sister found texts online for a Haggadah that we wanted to create ourselves. Since we are both passionate about veganism, earth justice, sustainability, social justice, and using yoga and Kabbalah to make sense of Jewish themes, we knew that we wanted to create our own Haggadah using existing texts for a vegan Sedar. While Dani scoured through documents, I sent her quotes from my friend Jenny’s Kabbalah Shabbat emails, friends Passover posts, and Kabbalah centre blog post readings I’ve been doing. Dani compiled texts into a 47 page google doc that she edited down to 8 pages, and then I went through her 8 pages and added some stuff to make it the final 12 page Haggadah that we used.

I am posting the PDF here but it is a living & breathing document, and as I learn more, I hope to add more. Additionally, this is only a jumping off point, as the real learning should come from people’s perspectives and thoughts at the table.

***********Passover Haggadah**************

With Dani’s draft of her Boston meal, I planned a meal. At the sedar, we were having so much fun and I was so present in the moment that I forgot to take pictures of the food unfortunately (this happened with the New Moon Shabbat too… next time I need to put one of my friends on photography // social media duty so I can make sure we get some great photos of everything). I am always nervous because this food is delicious to me but my palette is so adjusted to a clean way of eating- by not eating processed foods, added oils, added sugars, etc, I can really taste the flavors of fruits and vegetables in ways that people who are eating processed food simply cannot… so I always worry if people will like the food.

Good news, everyone ate food that is TRULY health-promoting and nourishing, AND they all really enjoyed it (which thrills me)! There was no dollars directly contributed to violence, and hopefully people have a more expansive idea of what a vegan meal can be.

Here are the recipes for everything we made:

  • Smoked chickpeas which were on the table for munching
    • We didn’t end up doing the olives or the peppers, was just too much
  • Charoset –> apples, cinnamon, walnuts, and grape juice
    • First we chopped up the apples and walnuts and just mixed it together with cinnamon and grape juice. I always liked charoset that wasn’t pureed, but it just tasted like apples and walnuts so I ended up throwing it into the food processor and it came out WAY better. We had too much grape juice so we just added more apples and walnuts and it came out perfectly
  • Roasted Brussel Sprouts —> brussel sprouts with a balsamic // dijon mustard // maple syrup glaze
    • This is Chef AJ‘s recipe that I learned from her cooking class last year someone else posted it here.
    • I usually don’t use maple syrup, and just do half mustard half balsamic, but it’s a holiday so did it. Delicious both ways.
    • It’s a huge favorite of everyone whose eaten it, I actually prefer to roast them and eat them after they’ve been in refrigerator (they’re AMAZING cold).
    • This is the balsamic you should use, it’s thicker than balsamic vinegar  (you can get it at Whole Foods)
    • I roasted on a silpat instead of parchment paper- either is great because you don’t need oil but I prefer a silpat because it creates less waste!
  • Curried Quinoa
    • This was just amazing. The tahini in this… I mean the tahini in anything.. but the tahini in this.. wow!
  • Israeli Rainbow Salad
    • This really took me back to my 3 months spent in Israel.. which I’ve been missing so much lately
    • No oil necessary at all!! I think Dani didn’t use oil but used potato starch instead for thickness but we just used lemon juice and it was perfect
  • The Jessie Salad —> 2 different kale mixes massaged with avocado; and with grapes cut in half, raisins, walnuts, beets, fresh mint, and Brandi from The Vegan 8’s incredible spicy tahini dressing
    • I’m going to start calling it the Jessie Salad because every time I cook for people I make some variation of a massaged kale with avocado salad with different fruits and nuts
  • Barbecue Lentil Loaf
    • Brandi from the Vegan 8 is my favorite blogger- all of her recipes are less than 8 ingredients and oil free
    • This loaf is SO GOOD!!!! I made it for my film fraternity’s Passover I threw 2 years ago. AMAZING
  • Sweet Potato Kugle
    • I used orange sweet potatoes and Japanese sweet potatoes
    • I had no regard for the measurements here.. just kinda threw in apples and potatoes as I pleased
    • Whole Foods ran out of matzah meal so I left that out and this was a big hit
  • I also bought Enjoy Life (vegan and oil free) dark chocolate chips to melt on strawberries and matzah but we ended up not doing it because people were eating pretty late and my friend brought dessert she passed out, but that’s on the menu for next time 🙂

Now for the details of actually making this thing happen:

Saturday morning around 10am I went to Whole Foods and did a huge shop. Make sure you give yourself enough time to shop and cook- without taking a break, I started at about 10am and cooked up until 6:20pm (people arrived at 6:30pm).

Luckily, I have a beautiful reclaimed wooden table (that was my workman’s desk in New Jersey, but is now my dining room table in Santa Monica) AND a hard plastic folding long table that was exactly the same width so it ended up looking like a pretty awesome long table (#aesthetic). I covered the ugly hard plastic table in a green and brown elephant tapestry which worked perfectly. In addition to 6 upholstered dining room chairs, I brought in chairs from my outdoor table (and had 2 chairs from Ben & Johanna also). I also strung lights above the table (it actually was placed perfectly) but to my upset, the lights wouldn’t work!!! I was so nervous because the overhead lighting in my apartment is pretty gross, but with the light coming in from outside and all of the tea lights, it was perfect and vibey evening. I also opened all of the windows and the door so we had lots of cool air (one of my friend’s even said it felt like we were outside with all the fresh air, while still being comfortably inside). I was very happy with how the room ended up being set, even with no working christmas lights.

As for setting the table:

(2) Mason Jars with fresh flowers: beautiful pink and red daisies

(2) 3 tea light candle holders, as well as free standing tea light candles to line the entire table

(2) Larger candles at the ends of the middle of the table

2 Plate holder (top plate was our sedar plate, bottom plate held the matzah) in the middle of the two tables

Each table had their own charoset, celery, salt water, and smoked chickpeas (appetizer while going through the sedar)

Real plates + napkins, and plastic ups and plastic utensils that I can wash and save for the next time I host

And of course, lots of wine

Sedar plate: Orange, Tomato, a Lock, Celery, a scoop of charoset & a beet (check out the Haggadah for what these all mean!)

Other details:

Printing the Haggadah: make sure you or someone you know has a printer and can print the Haggadah. Don’t mean to waste the paper, but I truly could not imagine having people stare at their phones (never in a million years). To make it sustainable, I plan to bring out Haggadah’s and laminate them, and save them for year to year.

Parking: I encouraged my guests not to drive if they were going to drink, but for those who did want to drive, I was able to register guest spots from the City of Santa Monica since parking is permit required on my street. Make sure if you’re hosting, your guests will be able to park otherwise it creates a hassle before the night has even started for them and that’s not the mindset you want your guests to walk into dinner with

Communicate & Set the tone: If you’re relaxed, your guests will be relaxed. If you’re joyful, they’ll be joyful. I send emails before the dinner always so people know a little bit of what to expect. Call people. Text people. Make sure people are excited by showing how excited YOU are- if you show how much it means to you, it will mean something to them. I was so happy to see everyone taking the sedar so seriously, but I realized it’s because I set the tone that this was an important and special night.

The night was so beautiful, and honestly a dream come true. It meant so much to me to be able to share last night with every single person who was there… each person who came who was invited by myself or another was extremely intentional and arrived so open and conducted themselves with so much respect and love (and I recommend thinking about and being intentional with who you invite for such an intimate dining experience) and it really was perfect. The double table looks long (and it was) but it also was very intimate and small. I am growing more confident in my ability to create atmospheres conducive for the special kind of interactions I value so much; so I walk away now looking forward towards a meaningful Passover week (celebrations don’t stop here) and towards a future with many more opportunities to host.

Although I never did Shabbat growing up, the past few years of Friday night dinners have inspired me and filled my life with so much joy. I’ve grown to love creating experiences for people to connect and tune in, and it makes me feel a warm sense of family that I really crave. So I am so grateful for everyone who came and will come in the future as I continue to create these experiences for myself and others.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out and let me know 🙂 Happy passover! To freedom.

Other stufff:

Jewish Vegetarian Society: Your Guide to a Plant-based Passover <– I actually didn’t get a chance to look through it before I did my own but this is amazing!! Their posts are wonderful and I had the pleasure of meeting Lara, the director, at a Jewish vegan conference back in February.

Learning to Fly The Kabbalah Centre

Eliminating Chaos from Our Lives The Kabbalah Centre

Little few second video of everyone connecting! IMG_9918-1 

 

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Passover 2016

Passover 2016 was one of the first big holidays I had to think about how to eat vegan and oil free. I had never been vegan at another Passover. I had never not been able to eat oil. What was I going to do?

Turns out, I was pledging the pre-professional cinematic arts co-ed fraternity, Delta Kappa Alpha, that semester. There was a decent number of Jewish kids who I was friendly with, and I thought, how cool would it be to cook my own Passover sedar at the house and have them come? Everyone would chip in, and I’d get to use a kitchen (since I was in my second year of being an RA, third year in the freshman dorms, and even though my potatoes, salsa, and beans worked for me for pretty much every meal, I knew I wanted a more elaborate Passover sedar).

I ended up cooking a lentil loaf, a huge really delicious salad that I have no idea what was in it, a ton of baked fries, and other things I don’t remember at all. But it was a really good time, and I think everyone really enjoyed it. I didn’t cook Passover this year because I was able to go to Hillel and Chabad for the first night and eat the food after learning to speak up for myself (yay) and the next night my very good friend Zach’s family had me over (and his amazing sister, Abby, eats just like me so she made sure I was good to go), but I definitely want to cook again for Passover in the future.

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Let’s Get it Right: Brunch is a Holiday

I’m not gonna lie and act like Brunch doesn’t deserve to be celebrated as a holiday! Maybe it’s the LA in me, but eating good food, drinking, and partaking in weekend relaxation and socializing in the sun sounds like a good time to me. There are so many things wrong with the world that I feel on my shoulders, which motivates and inspires me to create change and take action, but there are also soo many beautiful things to enjoy; like brunch. And I’ll take any chance I can get to celebrate 🙂 

I actually threw this with the help of Shamayim V’Aretz, a Jewish Animal Welfare Organization that sponsored the brunch because I was a campus fellow. Pretty damn cool.

Again, this was before I thought to pick up my camera from my shelf and use it for food pics, but I want to describe some of the things I (with the help of a few friends) did:

Tofu scramble with hashbrowns, veggies, hot sauce, etc. You know, all the good stuff.

Chickpea salad stuffed into those gorgeous colorful flowers.

Roasted brussel sprouts with a dijon mustard and balsamic glaze.

Pita with red and green salsa dips.

Avocado toast.

Fruit salad.

Mimosas, of course.

Can’t wait to do this again… if only I could find people who wanna chill with me, eat vegan food, and schmooze. Let me know!!

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Thanksgiving

Forgive the low quality food pictures: holidays from the past year that I’m writing up were made before this blog and before I thought it was important to get good photos of what I was eating!

For Thanksgiving 2016, I was super confused on what to do. Invited to a few different places, I felt like it would be too hard to be at someone’s family house with my dietary restrictions, and opted instead to cook for myself. One of my best friends, Sarah, also happened to not be spending the day with anyone, as her family is from North Carolina. I debated on whether to ask her to come over for Thanksgiving, knowing she wasn’t vegan and not feeling fully confident she’d want to eat the food. As much as I am a real extrovert and extremely social, I love being alone and sometimes I get worried if I invite someone over but decide I want to be by myself I’ll be in a weird position.

Regardless, we ended up FaceTiming that evening and I told her she should come over- I’d cook up something quick for us. I don’t remember what I did all day, but I definitely didn’t spend the day cooking. 

Here’s what I cooked up for us…. this gives thankFULL and grateFULL new meanings!

Salad: Kale, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Red Grapes, Apples, Cashews, Fennel, and Balsamic

Pumpkin 3 Bean Chili; Kidney Beans, Black Beans, Pinto Beans, Pumpkin, Tomatos, Tomato Sauce, Basil, Garlic, Cumin

Acorn Squash (roasted without oil but in merlot) stuffed with corn, peppers, garlic, mushrooms, onions, minced broccoli, and minced cauliflower (this stuffing I also sautéed in merlot and had what didn’t fit in the acorn squash pieces in a bowl as a side dish)

Brussel sprouts roasted in merlot (ate them hot but truly the best is to roast brussel sprouts and put them in the fridge and eat them cold, in my opinion).

Dessert: Apples with cinnamon and grapes

Since my birthday is in October and I’m obsessed with the fall, I went a little crazy buying fall decorations for the apartment (see the pumpkins, pumpkin candles, fake autumn flowers, etc. below) so it gave the table a great vibe. Sarah brought over a kombucha type drink (I think? haha) and we had a really good time. Little did I know that at the time I was chipping away at showing Sarah a different way to live- a few weeks later she went to see Eating You Alive with me in theatres and eventually went vegan and is inspiring me every single day.


 

 

 

 

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Shabbat Accomodations: USC, Tzfat, Nahariya

On my Israel program this summer, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey who organized my trip set us up with families from their sister federation, a beach town in the north, Nahariya, for a Shabbat. I was of course very nervous about this. I love Shabbat, but it’s often been something that stresses me out because of the the vegan and oil free thing.

I didn’t grow up practicing really any Judaism, even culturally, but when I went to college I found community in Shabbat dinners. During my first semester of freshman year, I would go to Chabad often, bringing my Jewish friends and non-Jewish friends always, and getting to catch up with those older and younger me who I only saw once a week. Getting to celebrate once a week quickly became my favorite thing about being part of a Jewish community. 

Also, the food was amazing. Think about being in the freshman dorms for three years (as a freshman and then RA for 2 years) and eating dining hall food all the time. I wasn’t picky and honestly didn’t mind it (though now I know USC has jumped leaps and bounds to make their dining hall food more plant-based and sustainable with their LA Urban Farms gardens which I can’t believe I missed), but I still really enjoyed home cooked food on Fridays. Once I got sick though, even before changing my diet, Shabbat dinner became so stressful for me, and I opted out instead of sitting over a meal for three hours that I would inevitably get sick from.

I didn’t go second half of freshman year, any of my sophomore year, or my junior year. Though I still didn’t start the first half of my senior year, I did start going to Shabbat yoga and other Nu-Roots events, which programs for young Jewish people in LA in their 20’s and 30’s, with a focus on spirituality and creativity forming events. I loved it and realized that my fear of food and being uncomfortable was causing me to miss out on something I really loved.

After going to Poland on a Jewish trip during December, one of the women leading the trip told me I should really talk to my Chabad Rabbi and Rebbetzin and that they’d likely be happy to leave out the oil on a few salads or rices so I could go and enjoy dinner. So I asked, and of course they were so happy to accomodate me. It was a big lesson in just asking- though I still believe there is a fine line between what is appropriate to ask and what is not. I am still grateful they chose to accomodate me, as I was able to spend almost every Shabbat the second half of my senior year jumping between Hillel (whose Shabbat Chef I asked and was happy to accomodate as well), Chabad, and different Moishe houses (where I would go late enough that I didn’t have to eat there because I was already stuffed!

While on my first Israel trip of the summer, we had a Shabbat in Tzfat with a host family. My program’s coordinators told my host family that I and another participant were vegan, but my coordinator instructed me to bring my own food since he didn’t want to tell them about the oil thing. When I got there, the mother felt absolutely horrible (which made me feel horrible) that we didn’t tell her I couldn’t have oil: she said she offers to have vegans because she wants to accomodate people. She made everything fresh but dressed most of the food with oil just minutes before we got there, and would have been more than happy to leave it off. The family was amazing and by scratch (and on command) made a quick three or four dishes I could eat (that were absolutely amazing, but I wasn’t using my phone out of respect and didn’t take pictures).

Back to Nahariya, where my madricha from my second Israel trip this summer told the family I was vegan and couldn’t have oil. I was so grateful, and couldn’t believe how above and beyond they went. An entire oven try of roasted vegetables without oil for me, countless salads, quinoa, bulgur, you name it. I don’t think I’ve ever walked away from a table so stuffed. The whole weekend we were with them, I was treated to delicious food I can actually enjoy. And one of the coolest things is, for dinner Saturday night the mom made all the vegetables without oil and said that from now on, that’s going to be their Saturday night dinner- they loved it!

Though I usually believe it is less stressful for me to cook and have people over to eat, I am grateful to have had experiences where people were so willing to accomodate me. I can’t say this about everything or everyone, of course, and the times when people would rather continue with their own cooking and I just bring my own food, I’m happy to as well (more often than not, people end up loving my food and eating a lot of it- so if you do this, make extra! There is a funny story at Long Beach Island where my mom and I made delicious lentil dahl and my meat-eating uncle devoured all of it and told my aunt he wanted her to get the recipe from us to make it for him). There are plusses and negatives. If you feel comfortable asking, ask, but I’m glad that I no longer let my fear around this ruin the holidays that I love celebrating.

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Shabbat

For those of you who know me personally, you know I’m not religious really. Spiritual is probably a better word, but there are things that I love about being Jewish that speaks to my cultural and spiritual sides.

Shabbat.

Easily my favorite part about being Jewish is Shabbat. For those of you who don’t know what that is, Shabbat is every Friday night till Saturday night (since the Jewish calendar, the day starts at nighttime) where you kick back, spend time with people you love, and rest.

Everyone does it differently, which is what is pretty cool to me. In LA, I found a community I love called NuRoots, and they have awesome events on Shabbat like Shabbat Yoga (led by my favorite person in the world, yoga teacher Zack Lodmer) where you surround yourself with great energy, flow, listen to good music, sing, and honestly just feel good. However, very religious people would say yoga is ‘work’ and you’re not ‘allowed’ to do work on Shabbat. To me, yoga is not work- it’s enjoyment, it’s a way to spend my time that is connected and spiritual. As I said, I am not religious.

I used to head to Chabad, Hillel, or a Moishe house or two as well. Though I’m extremely social, I stay in a lot, and Friday night was a night to always go out and see people that I normally don’t during the week. But before going out, let’s talk about one of the more important parts of the way I celebrate Shabbat- dinner!

One of my favorite things to do is cook for holiday meals, as I’ve cooked plant-based/no oil Shabbats, Passovers, Thanksgiving, and Rosh Hashana meals. I love getting to share the way I eat with others, who always end up enjoying it. And the cool about thing about Shabbat,

it can be whatever you want.

If I want to have a Mexican shabbat, I will. Ethiopian, I will. Indian food, I will. Since I’m in Israel and the kitchen I share with 23 other people isn’t super clean and I don’t have access to all of my usual cooking supplies, I decided to keep it pretty easy when my friend Rachel visited me for Shabbat from Jerusalem.

First, I roasted two pieces of corn in teriyaki sauce. I also put two large sweet potatoes to cook in the oven.

I then sautéed up tomatoes and fresh garlic, with no oil of course (super easy, just used water). On the plate, I topped it with fresh cilantro.

For the salad, I cut up lettuce, kale, tomatoes, and cucumbers. I put a little pepper and garlic and lemon juice on top.

For dessert, I know Rachel loves fruit, so we decided to make a fruit ‘pizza’. We cut up the watermelon into slices, and put grapes and bananas on top. 

To top off the meal, Rachel brought us delicious wine!

Normally, if there were more people, I’d make a big Shabbat with lots of courses and many dishes to eat, but it was just the two of us so it was enough food.

We didn’t eat challah because it has egg in it, but when I’m back in LA I know I will figure out a recipe that is egg-free challah with no oil. It was simple and delicious, and we both really enjoyed not just the meal, but each other’s company.

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