Remember what your mama told you when you were little? Mine said, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” We’re going to apply that lesson here today, and in fact, over the next two weeks.

Just because I mentioned Passover in the blog post title doesn’t mean you should leave if you don’t celebrate. The recipes I will sharing this week are ones I’m highlighting for Passover, but honestly, there’s no reason not to eat them any time of year.

But first I’m going to back up. Let’s chat about what can and can’t be eaten during this 8-day holiday, which commemorates the Jewish people’s exodus from slavery in Egypt. You might have heard that Jewish people do not eat leavened bread during Passover. This is true. That might lead you to wonder (as I have been asked many times), “But you can eat anything unleavened, right? So like, crackers, flat tortillas, and pasta?” The answer is no. The Torah forbids us from eating anything containing wheat, barley, oats, spelt, and rye (these forbidden grains are referred to as chametz). Except when they are used to make matzoh, an unleavened bread made in accordance with Jewish law.

As if that’s not confusing enough, the restrictions don’t end there. During the middle ages, rabbis in Ashkenazic (eastern European) Jewish communities developed an extensive list of additional foods to avoid, dubbed kitniyot. This includes things like legumes, rice, peas, corn, and even a variety of seeds like cumin, sesame, and poppy. The rabbis’ concern was that people might store these ingredients in the same sacks or containers as their chametz, and that due to crop rotation practices, kitniyot may be contaminated with chametz even upon harvesting. If Jews avoided kitniyot during Passover, it would ensure that they didn’t consume any traces of chametz by accident. That list continued to expand over the years as people would raise questions about new ingredients they were exposed to and whether they were permitted to eat them during Passover.

However… (of course, there’s a however)… Sephardic Jews, or those of Spanish, Mediterranean and North African descent, never adopted these rules. They are free to eat kitniyot during Passover.

So where does that leave me? Once again, it’s not clear-cut. I have both Ashkenazic and Sephardic heritage, but my family’s Jewish traditions lean more towards Ashkenazic culture. On Passover, though, we were not very strict about avoiding kitniyot. We did not make it a point to avoid everything containing corn products like starch or syrup, and I regularly ate peanut butter (legumes) on a piece of matzoh. This was more out of leniency and not because we understood these practices to be part of Sephardic culture. But, even as a child, I was always baffled by the aisle of Passover food in the grocery store. There were always hundreds of products boasting the label “kosher for Passover” that seemed, to me, like they didn’t need it. Jellies, chocolate chips, condiments, etc, – I knew these things do not contain chametz. But for people who carefully avoid kitniyot, these labels are necessary.

It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I made an effort to learn about the roots of the tradition to avoid kitniyot. And guess what? I decided that avoiding kitniyot is not for me. It’s not because I love peanut butter and garbanzo beans or that I can hardly make a recipe without grabbing for the jar of cumin, but rather because it has nothing to do with the Jews leaving Egypt nor MY ability to observe and enjoy the holiday.

Just for fun!

Which leads me to this recipe for grain-free hot cereal. I had seen similar recipes on Ricki’s, Kelly’s, and Lexie’s blogs and my first thought was, “what a perfect Passover substitute for my beloved oatmeal!” And my next thought? “I’m sure some of these ingredients are kitniyot and I better say so on my blog because not everyone will eat this during Passover.”

I did a quick search and learned that:

  • Chia seesd – not kitniyot
  • Flax seeds – maybe kitniyot – some Rabbis say yes, others no
  • Hemp seeds – kitniyot!

To which my husband replied, “Whaaat? I don’t think G-d would have smite Moses if he broke out his Vitamix in the desert and made a smoothie.”

And that pretty much sums up my feelings on kitniyot. The history of those foods has nothing to do with Passover, and I think that banning them just causes people to focus more on rules and less on the meaning of the holiday.

On that note, I’ve been enjoying this grain-free hot cereal for the past few days and I look forward to starting the day with a bowl of it during Passover as well. Loaded with cholesterol-fighting good fat and fiber, and a good amount of protein, its satisfying powers are unrivaled by any bowl of oatmeal. It is low in carbohydrates and won’t cause a spike in blood sugar. I’ve given instructions to make a big batch of it, allowing for a no-fuss breakfast any day of the week. This is a “just add water – and whatever toppings you like” kind of meal.

Speaking of toppings, fresh fruit is always a good idea, but I want to give a plug for freeze-dried fruit too. I’m not talking about chewy dried berries, or dehydrated fruit chips – both of those products often have sugars added to them. Freeze dried fruit – the bits you find in a box of cereal such as Special K with Strawberries  – contains only fruit. No added sweeteners or oils. It rehydrates in warm water and has a long shelf life, making it a perfect addition to hot cereals like this. You can buy freeze-fried strawberries, blueberries, and even mango, but I especially love freeze-dried bananas. Not only do they taste great with the spices I’ve used here, but I like being able to just grab a small handful of freeze-dried banana slices instead of peeling an entire banana to just use a small piece of it, and then trying to find a use for the rest of it.

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Spiced Coconut-Almond Porridge with Chia, Hemp and Flax Seeds

Yield: 12 servings

A grain-free breakfast cereal packed with a nutritional powerhouse of heart-healthy fats, fiber, and protein.

Looking to buy ingredients online? Check out Cara's Cravings Essentials Shop for good deals I've identified online.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups (144gm) unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup (78gm) ground flax seed
3/4 cup (84gm) chia seeds
3/4 cup (108gm) shelled hemp seeds (also known as hemp hearts)
3/4 cup (84gm) raw almonds
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, OR a blend of spices such as:
3 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon gruond cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

For preparing and serving:
3/4 cup liquid (water, almond milk, coconut milk, or a blend) per serving
fresh or freeze-dried fruits
sweetener, such as stevia, coconut sugar, honey, or maple syrup, to taste

Directions:

Measure out the coconut, flax, chia, hemp seeds, and almonds separately, and grind each into a fine powder using a powerful blender or coffee/spice grinder. (It is important to grind each ingredient separately, because the coconut, hemp and nuts will turn into "butters" if processed for too long.) Transfer each to a large bowl and the spices. Whisk well, and transfer to glass mason jar, or other tightly sealed container. Keep refrigerated.


When ready to eat:

Option 1 - Bring 3/4 cup liquid to a boil in a small saucepan. Quickly whisk in cereal and sweetener. If using freeze-dried fruit, add it now. Turn off heat, and allow to stand for 5 minutes, or until thickened.
Option 2 - Measure dry cereal into a serving bowl. Pour 3/4 cup very hot water over cereal, and mix well. Add sweeteners and freeze-dried fruit, if using. Let stand for a few minutes to thicken. If you would like the cereal to thicken further, microwave for 30-60 seconds.
Add additional toppings, if desired.

Nutrition Facts:

Serving Size: 1/3 cup, or 42gm dry cereal
Amount Per Serving (cereal only, does not include cooking liquid or optional add-ins):
Calories 235.0
Total Fat 18.7 g
Saturated Fat 5.5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 5.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 3.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 5.6 mg
Potassium 152.2 mg
Total Carbohydrate 10.2 g
Dietary Fiber 6.5 g
Sugars 0.7 g
Protein 8.9 g

Cara Lyons, www.carascravings.com. Adapted from Andrea Nakayama and Andrea Livingston, via Diet, Dessert and Dogs.

This gluten-free and vegan cereal recipe is linked to the Allergy-Free Wednesday Blog Hop.

And one final note: it is complete coincidence that I based my recipe off one from Ricki Heller’s blog and then realized it was actually created by Andrea Nakayama. Ricki and Andrea are co-teachers of the Sweet Victory Sugar Detox program I plugged last week – and offered you a free spot in. This amazing opportunity is still going on, so please make sure to stop by and enter if it’s right for you!

Sweet Victory Giveaway: Win a Free Spot in Ricki and Andrea’s 2-week educational detox program, complete with meal plans and 24/7 online support.