HOLY moley, what a month! The holy month of April is filled culture, tradition and food.
This month is packed with wonderful time honored religious traditions that have been around for thousands of years. We will focus on three primary faiths-Muslim, Jewish and Christian. All three cultures have healthy food as the centerpiece of their individual thousands year old traditions!
This year the Muslim holy celebration of Ramadan begins April 2. The date changes yearly because it is based on the lunar calendar. Ramadan is most notable for its practice of fasting during the hours of sunrise to sunset. This practice is known as the fourth pillar of the “Five Pillars” of faith followed by millions of this faith.
Islam is the world’s second-largest religion, with over 1.9 billion followers known as Muslims. Islam is the third-largest religion in the United States after Christianity and Judaism.
Many Muslims are up before sunrise to begin their day with a nutritious meal and plenty of fluids to prepare for their fast that does not include liquids. This meal is called Sohoor. Increasing your water intake and having high water content food such as watermelon, tomato or cucumber between Iftar (Evening meal) and Sohoor is recommended to remain hydrated. Also, meals should include high fiber and healthy fat items to remain satiated until the next meal and to keep energy up.
Here is a great recipe known as Muesli. It is much like a granola but not crunchy. This can be served warm or cold with milk added. It’s a great way to begin your day!
- 1 cup rolled oats (the long cooking kind)
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- 2 tbsp. sunflower seeds
- 6 pitted Medjool dates-chopped
- 1 1/2 cups of puffed wheat cereal or Kamut
- ½ cup wheat bran
- Yogurt-preferably plain Greek yogurt with no added sugar
- Mixed berries, such as raspberries, strawberries and blueberries
- Cinnamon (optional)
- Lightly toast the oats in a skillet over medium heat. About five minutes.
- Add the pecans and sunflower seeds and toast for one minute.
- Remove from heat and in a large bowl combine toasted oat mixture with the chop dates, Kamut and wheat bran.
- Top muesli with yogurt and fresh fruit. Dust with cinnamon for added flavor!
Chag Pesach Sameach!
Passover 2022 will be celebrated from April 15 – April 23. With the first Seder beginning April 15th after sundown. The second Seder be will begin on April 16 at sunset. Passover is the name of one of the Jewish traditions based on the Jewish calendar. The Passover Seder is the name of the ritual feast. It is set around a dinner table where the participants eat, drink, sing, discuss current social issues and retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The traditional foods during this holiday may include matzo ball soup, gefilte fish, beef brisket, chicken and potatoes. And speaking of potatoes, we will be making a Kugal.
This decidedly Jewish dish is best described as a baked pudding. It originated over 800 years ago in Germany and quickly became popular with Jewish families throughout Eastern Europe. During the Passover holiday, noodles and sweets take a step back to these potato kugels that are dairy free and contain no flour, which are served alongside other holiday classics like brisket, roast chicken and matzo ball soup.
Potato Kugal in a Cast Iron Skillet
- 6 tablespoons chicken fat, also known as schmaltz, or oil divided
- 1 large white onion finely chopped
- 1 Teaspoon salt
- 3 large russet potatoes-scrubbed clean peeled and grated
- 5 Eggs-large
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- Bowl of water with 2 tablespoons of salt added
- Heat 2 tablespoons chicken fat in 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Remove from skillet and set aside.
- Whisk 2 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt in large bowl until salt is dissolved. Using the large holed side of a box grater, grate potatoes. Add the potatoes to the salty water. This will keep them from turning gray.
- Drain potatoes in colander. Place a few handfuls of grated potatoes in center of clean dish towel. Squeeze any excess water from the potatoes. Add back into a bowl that has the eggs, pepper, onions, and salt into potatoes until thoroughly combined.
- Heat remaining 4 tablespoons fat in now-empty skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add potato mixture to skillet and pat into even layer but do not press down or smooth top. Cook for 1 minute to set bottom.
- Transfer to oven and bake until kugel is lightly browned on top, about 45 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges in skillet. Sprinkle with chives and serve.
- *Inspired by America’s Test Kitchen
The most important and oldest festival of the Christian Church, Easter is a Christian holiday that celebrates the belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the New Testament of the Bible, the event is said to have occurred three days after Jesus was crucified by the Romans and died in roughly 30 A.D.
Jesus is called “The Lamb of God” so Spring lambs are often served as a traditional Easter food, though lamb at Easter also has roots in early Passover celebrations. In the story of Exodus, the people of Egypt suffered a series of terrible plagues, including the death of all firstborn sons. Members of the Jewish faith painted their doorposts with sacrificed lamb’s blood so that God would “pass over” their homes. Jews who converted to Christianity continued the tradition of eating lamb at Easter. Historically, lamb would have been one of the first fresh meats available after a long winter with no livestock to slaughter. While many people now choose to have a baked ham instead of the traditional lamb, knowing the stories behind our food history is fascinating keeps us in touch with our culture and traditions.
A wonderful, quick side dish with delicious fresh sweetness. This takes only minutes to make!
- 1 pound of carrots-cleaned and chopped or a bag of baby carrots
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons of honey (Spoon Full Of Hope Honey is recommended!)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
*Orange juice can be substituted for the lemon juice. Add a pinch of ginger powder and cinnamon to give variety to this dish!
- In a sauce pan, boil water. Add carrots and boil for about 5-7 minutes till tender yet still crisp. Drain the carrots. Add the butter, honey and citrus juice. Salt and pepper to taste.
- *Inspired by Food Network
What are your food traditions when you gather with your family? Why are they important to you?
We at Second Harvest Food Bank wish you a beautiful Spring that includes a time of gathering and reflection with friends and family.
If you have any questions about the recipes please reach out to Chef T
She can be reached at: Tbarrios@feedhopenow.org