A Gluten-Free Pesach

By the end of Pesach, I sometimes envy people who eat a very simple diet of matzah, boiled chicken, potatoes and carrots during most of the holiday. But then I realize how boring it would be. I’m much too used to a wide variety of food and new recipes. Besides, my family would rebel if they had to eat boiled chicken all week long!

Fortunately, I’m one of those women who enjoy cooking for Passover. Really now – it’s only a week, and there’s plenty of fresh produce to choose from. Here in Israel we’re lucky to have hormone-free kosher chicken and many varieties of fresh fish. If the weather’s still chilly, I make vegetable soups like sweet potato, potato-leek, asparagus and zucchini. In warmer weather I prepare salads with lots of vegetables or fruits (fresh or dried) and nuts.

Special diets can add to the challenge of Pesach cooking, but they shouldn’t keep anyone from eating healthy and tasty meals. If you’re gluten intolerant (unable to fully digest gluten – a component of wheat, rye, barley and other grains), you’ll have to forgo matzah balls as well as baked goods and kugels made with matzah meal. Forget most of those store-bought cakes and cookies.

Passover noodles and soup almonds made with potato starch are usually fine for a gluten-free diet, but check labels carefully. Many macaroons are made without matzah or cake meal, and they should be allright as well.

What about matzah? That’s certainly a challenge if you can’t eat gluten. For the seder, try gluten-free oat matzah. Very expensive, but as far as I know, they are the only ones acceptable for fulfilling the mitzvah of eating matzah at the seder.

After the seder, I suggest Gluten Free Matzo – an Israeli product produced by the Yehuda company. It’s made from tapioca and potato starch, palm oil (not great, but you’re only eating it once a year), egg yolks and honey. I gave out samples to several people – some gluten-intolerant, others not. Everyone found them crisp, flaky and very tasty. In fact, their taste is closer to potato chips than regular wheat matzah. They are certified Gluten-Free and O-U parve. (The brachah is “shehakol”.) If you can’t find them locally, order them on line at Use their code GFM979 to receive a free box of matzah with your order.

Gluten Free or not, enjoy a happy, healthy and kosher Pesach!

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Gluten-Free Chocolate Crunchies

More and more people are discovering that they’re gluten-intolerant. Including my daughter-in-law. She figured it out last year after Pesach. After a week of not eating much matzah, she polished off a large roll and promptly got sick. Then she started paying attention to what she ate and made the connection.

I don’t find it problematic. There’s always rice and quinoa in my pantry. I keep a box of gluten-free pasta and rice crackers on hand for her as well.

When the kids come for Shabbat, I make fruit or nut-based desserts. I’ve also made low-fat flourless chocolate cake and cakes based on polenta or dairy products.

But I had an idea for something else. Something gluten-free that was quick and easy. And crunchy.

I started with a chocolate bar and “Puffed Brown Rice” (פצפוצי אורז מלא) – the Israeli version of whole-grain Rice Krispies. I melted the chocolate, threw in a handful of dried fruit and mixed it all up. That’s pretty much it.

Now it’s the most frequently requested recipe at family get-togethers.

Chocolate Crunchies (Parve or Dairy, depending on the chocolate)

Melt 1 bar (100 grams/3.5 ounces) of bittersweet chocolate. (Elite and Vered Hagalil make parve bars with 60% chocolate solids that work well.)

The easiest way to do this is in the microwave.

Using your hands, break the chocolate into small pieces and put them into a large bowl. Add about a teaspoon of canola oil. Microwave the chocolate on medium to low power for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes, until it melts. Stir it until it’s smooth.

Mix a handful of raisins (or dried cranberries, blueberries or chopped dried apricots) into the melted chocolate. Add a cup or two (or more) of puffed brown rice cereal to the chocolate. Start with a smaller amount of cereal and mix it in until it’s covered with chocolate. The goal is a larger amount of cereal held together with a smaller amount of chocolate.

Use a soup spoon to drop the mixture onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Don’t worry. The mixture will not hold together well just yet. Just place the mounds on the sheet, with a little space between each one.

Put the baking sheet into the freezer for about 5 minutes. Or into the refrigerator for a longer time.

Variation: Omit the oil and add a spoonful or two of natural-style peanut butter to the melted chocolate before adding the cereal.

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Chana Rubin, RD

Food for the Soul

Traditional Jewish Wisdom for Healthy Eating
By Chana Rubin, RD

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