Prepping for Pesach with Jamie Geller
Jamie Geller (PC: Miguel Emmanuelli)
With just two weeks left before Passover, the American-born, Israeli food personality Jamie Geller took a break from her own Passover planning to offer some of her best tips for seder prep. Geller knows from busy: the 40-year-old mother of six is the author of six cookbooks, is the co-founder of Kosher Network International, and posts at JamieGeller.com; she was the voice behind the now-shuttered Joy of Kosher magazine. She answered questions about planning for a seder while working full time, hosting your first seder ever, Passover trends, and more.
How do you recommend prepping for a seder when you have a full time job?
PLAN, PLAN, PLAN. Lists are the busy host’s best friend. I start my list making the day after Purim.
These are the four lists you need to make to get ready for Passover:
List #1: Kitchen Inventory
Take inventory of all your silver, dishes, tablecloths, pots, pans, spatulas, and serving pieces, real and disposable, and start to figure out what else you need to buy. This job is much easier if you started last year, so take note to pack up well this year.
List #2: Seder Inventory
Check your stock of Haggadot and other seder needs like seder plate, matzah plate, matzah cover, cup of Eliyahu, and afikoman cover. Or make your own DIY crafts for the seder.
List #3: Shopping List of Non-Perishables
Write up your shopping list of perishables to include anything you can start buying now. Matzah, olive oil, soda, tomato sauce, canned goods, etc.
List #4: Shopping List of Food
Finally, make your food shopping list ensuring that you cross-reference the menus you planned. Note every spice you will need too, remember your kitchen is empty.
How should you prep for your first-ever seder?
Follow my Passover Countdown for a step-by-step plan for hosting your first-ever seder. I’ll hold your hand the entire way through. In addition I have a handy seder checklist to help not just first timers but all seder hosts, cause menu prep and seder prep is a lot to juggle.
My Passover Countdown starts right after Purim and then maps out a two week, one week, and then day-by-day plan including a day-of checklist.
Once you've recovered from Purim, highlights include suggestions like:
- Take a deep breath.
- Invite your guests and inquire about an allergies or dietary restrictions.
- Make your shopping lists, including items that can be bought now - don’t forget the wine!
- Do a kitchen inventory: determine if you need to by new cooking or serving ware.
- Make a plan/menu to use up your chametz.
- Write your cleaning to-do list: The kitchen is last. Start with the closets.
I walk you through the weeks before, the week of and then the day-by-day, including reminders to clean the car, the kids toys, polishing the silver, preparing seder games, tablescape ideas plus a reminder to actually set the seder table - with a little self love time scheduled in as well (take a moment to treat yourself to some good chocolate!).
What are some ways you can incorporate the themes of the holiday into your seder meal?
Edible 10 plagues are an incredible way to bring the seder to life for your kids and guests. Our list features a glass of half-clear and half-red jello to represent water turning to blood. Get a frog cookie cutter and make everything from sugar coated marshmallows (for the adventurous) to frog kiwi or melon cutouts (for those pressed for time!). For our edible hail, we put fresh pomegranate arils inside ice cubes. Luckily they taste great inside your water too!
How do you keep up the momentum for all eight days of Passover and not lose steam after the seders?
Make a mix of easy dishes (matzah pizzas, casseroles/lasagnas etc...) combined with recipes that you can make in bulk and freeze so that you’re not cooking from scratch everyday and can enjoy Chol Hamoed/intermediary holiday activities with family and friends.
What are some new and exciting Passover trends you are seeing emerge for this year?
Classics always rule! After which ease is preferred. So our four-ingredient seder recipes are a huge hit. More popular year over year is the fact that folks prefer to cook with natural ingredients and not the plethora of imitation kosher for Passover products that line the shelves. Desserts and snacks are a category where people don’t mind to try something special and new. Matzah toffee crunch has been a big trend and this year we predict sweet and salty matzah crackle will be a top snack. We are making a crackle with kosher beef bacon - this is a chocolatey treat that checks off all the boxes, salty, smokey, sweet, and addictive. We are also doing a non-matzah version featuring bacon dipped in chocolate and topped with fleur de sel and crunchy nuts.
How has your Passover prep changed since you moved to Israel?
As my life and career have gotten busier (international travel plus a growing family) I have found the need to plan and get a jump-start on the holiday more important than ever. Doing a little each week and then each day starting a month prior to the Seder has changed my life and stress level. Additionally, a full and active Chol Hamoed is part of the national culture. The entire country is off and the kids have an expectation of fun family time criss-crossing the country. So it’s important to prep not just for the seder but for Chol Hamoed so we can enjoy it vs being chained to the kitchen.