Easter Memories from My Childhood
I have fond early childhood memories of holidays spent around my great grandmother’s table, and in later childhood around my grandmother’s table, eating wonderful Polish soul food. I don’t have Bapshe’s or Nana’s recipes for babka, cucumber salad, or kielbasa and saurkraut, but I do carry their memories…
I remember the link kielbasa, coiled and ornamental in the glass enclosure where my brother and I inspected them thoughtfully. Already our stomachs growled in anticipation of the holiday meal my family would make that afternoon.
Nana had sent my brother and me down the block and around the corner to Detmer’s, the neighborhood Polish deli. The small slip of paper my grandmother had given me was tucked carefully in my pocket, and I took my task as seriously as any of Caesar’s messengers must have done.
Once inside the tiny market, the aroma of smoked kielbasa enticed and welcomed us. I removed the folded paper from my pocket and handed it to Mr. Detmer, the butcher: double-smoked, fine ground, lean kielbasa. It was made right on the premises.
We would return to my grandmother’s house at a full sprint with our prize wrapped tightly in a thick blanket of white paper. The community that was my childhood family would coalesce into a single chef and prepare a grand Easter dinner. Uncles, aunts, parents, siblings, and my wonderful grandmother.
If I close my eyes, that long ago holiday table rushes back in near tangibility. The smoked ham and kielbasa centerpieces, the sauerkraut and homemade babka bread. There are scalloped potatoes, broccoli and cheese sauce, and cucumber salad. Dessert was ambrosia and ice cream.
And Easter eggs, dyed like rainbows. My brother and I always came early to Nana’s house to dye eggs.
Some of the people who shared that day are gone now, but the memory will be forever.
With a bit of a tweak, I am able to enjoy this traditional holiday meal while still adhering to my bariatric diet. My Easter dinner menu makeover works for anyone wanting to eat grain-free or low carb.
My New Bariatric Holiday Tradition
The ideal barbaric plate consists of ½ a plate of lean protein, ¼ a plate of raw or lightly cooked vegetables, and ¼ a plate of fresh fruit. Given this criteria, the babka bread must be dismissed because grain does not compliment a bariatric diet. While my grandmother’s babka bread has no parallel, I received a number of compliments from friends for the Paleo Herb Buns with onion powder and dill that I recently made. I think you will like it also.
I no longer eat red meat so I will be substituting ham with turkey and using Rachel Ray’s recipe Herb Roasted Turkey Breast. If you enjoy ham then by all means include it in your menu.
If I could choose for you, I would select a fresh ham. Smoked hams are injected with a brining solution of salt, sugar, nitrites, seasonings and water before they enter a smokehouse. Some hams get their flavor from artificial “liquid” smoke rather than natural hardwood smoke.
Dry-cured ham is cured with a dry salt rub instead of brining. The ham must be soaked in water for hours to remove some of the salt.
None of this sounds very healthful. But if your Easter dinner simply would not be complete without a smoked ham, go ahead and enjoy it once a year. Be sure not to get a sugar-cured, maple-cured, or honey-baked ham. These are drenched in sugars and will likely may you ill. Also fat and sodium content vary widely between brands, so read labels and go for a ham that’s lean and low sodium.
The traditional kielbasa and sauerkraut will be part of my menu. Nowadays, I buy a wonderful chicken kielbasi from a Polish deli at my local farmer’s market. It is on par with Mr. Detmer’s kielbasa, and not at all like the tasteless supermarket turkey kielbasi. My favorite recipe is Diane’s Sauerkraut and Kielbasa.
Easter eggs, cucumber salad, and broccoli with cheese are all bariatric diet friendly. A Broccoli and Gruyere Gratin recipe in which I substitute 1/8 cup of arrowroot for 1/4 cup of white flour will be part of my menu, as will be a Hungarian Cucumber Salad. This is similar to my family’s recipe. I am not sure why my great grandmother made Hungarian cucumber salad instead of the Polish version, which uses sour cream, but I prefer it made this way. I guess Bapshe and Nana did, too.
Desserts will be Strawberry, Mango, and Avocado Salad and the Biggest Loser Easy Raspberry Sorbet. Not only are these far lower in sugar than ambrosia and ice cream, but they even taste better. Easter would not be complete without candy, so I’m going to try my hand at making Dark Chocolate Coconut Bites.
The final touch will be decorative Edible Vegetable Bouquets .
Normally, I don’t eat like this. For the holiday, I indulge within the limits of my bariatric diet. I really can live large and stay on track with my bariatric life.
A Happy Easter to All
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I am sharing my wonderful recipe make-overs with you that have helped me to be successful in maintaining my weight loss from bariatric surgery in 2003. These include delicious protein shakes - some of which taste even better than the delicious fat and sugger ladden Frappucinos at Starbucks, protein bars that are far more healthy and affordable than those you buy online/in-store, and awesome recipe-makeovers of foods you love but are no longer part of a bariatric life food plan.