Source (inc. matzah house above): marthastewart.com
For Passover, as with pretty much all holidays, we try to keep three priorities in mind: 1) keep it simple, 2) keep it tasty, and 3) keep the kids in the act. I don’t really have the time as a working mom to look into new and exciting recipes every year. The seder plate has a lot of demands on its own (roasting a lamb shank, boiling an egg for everyone, hiding things so the kids can't find them, etc.). So we go with our favorite brisket and other standards. These ideas help keep what can be a long night of retelling into something fresh and fun for everyone.
- Everybody loves brisket. Ok, not everyone, but most people. We have had great success matching the best of Nach Waxman’s recipe (coating the brisket with tomato paste, cooking it on top of 8 sliced onions) with some of the old school can’t-miss crockpot formula (a bottle of ginger ale, a bottle of chili sauce, and onion soup mix). We don’t bother browning the brisket as Waxman suggests, and we use parsley, bay leaves, garlic salt, and cut up garlic instead of whatever the heck is in soup mix, but it’s pretty foolproof and pretty delicious.
- Get the Right Tools. Because our brisket recipe requires you to slice 8 onions, we absolutely rely on these onion goggles. Added bonus: They’re perfect for holiday instagramming.
- Get in the mood. They are a little kitschy, but my kids can’t get enough of these Maccabeats youtube videos where they use current songs to tell ancient Jewish stories. We are partial to this Justin Bieber-Passover mash up.
- Just because there’s no flour, doesn’t mean the dessert has to suck. As part of the re-enactment, you’re not supposed to have any leavening in your desserts. It’s a complicated definition, but, suffice it to say, flour is a no-go, so pretty much most bakery desserts are out. A flourless chocolate cake is an option, but we love this pink peppercorn pavlova, as something sort of different. It’s just as good if you leave off the basil sauce and you can just use a bit of vanilla instead of the work of a vanilla bean. We suggest doing individual meringues as a big one can be trickier to work with.
- Give the kids a job. Sure, there are ways to involve kids in the seder, but they can also be a good part of seder prep. Ours roll the matzo balls, and kids from a young age can handle the meringue. (They especially love the part where you can hold the beaten eggs upside down over their heads and it won’t fall out of the bowl.) They can also make name cards.
- Read less, say more. If you insist on going through the entire story of the seder and you have young kids, you will end up losing them more than engaging them. The very point of the seder is to retell the story of the Jews’ exodus from enslavement in Egypt as if it happened to you personally and to appreciate that the freedom we have today is because of the actions of others in the past. That’s why we love the twist on the traditional seder book (or haggadah) from Lab Shul which instead of focusing on storytelling revists the 4 Questions at the heart of the seder and makes them modern and engaging for all ages with its Say-Der. Or, choose a few bits from the haggadah to focus on, as this 30-minute seder does.
- Toys make everything better. There are a bunch of great and inexpensive toys and other treats that can be passed out to bring the 10 plagues to life. These coasters from Jew-ishly are meant to be used when you take drops of wine out of your glass to commemorate the suffering of the Egyptians. We also love these 10 plague masks, which are as much for the adults as for the kids.
- Invite the (non-Jewish) neighbors. Maybe the folks who go through the seder every year complain about the length, but non-Jews we’ve had over have uniformly loved it. It’s a great way to share traditions with other families.
- Make it your own. Whether it’s the kids coloring their own ceremonial seder plate or creating your own Haggadah (or seder book) out of a bunch of different ones, it brings people into the service and makes a great keepsake afterward. (Pro tip: You can save that creation in your Savor box under our “ceremonies" or "holidays"labels.) We are totally having our kids make a lego seder plate this year.
Sometimes even with the best effort, this is how Passover ends.
- A little competition never hurts. There’s a song for Passover called Chad Gadya in every seder haggadah. which, like the Old Woman who Swallowed a Fly, builds piece by piece until it’s a huge tongue-twisted list of items. We've turned it into a race to see whether anyone can read it in less than a minute.