By Sherri Holzer
Back in the day, Dean Martin sang these lyrics: “When you’re smilin’ the whole world smiles with you.” Is that true? Is a smile contagious? Does a smile on MY face cause a smile to emerge on yours?
Happiness is that feeling that comes over you when you know life is good and you can’t help but smile. I’ve done some research on smiling and how it can affect us. Studies have shown that smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers and serotonin which helps our bodies feel love, happiness, and pleasure. Each time you smile, you throw a little feel-good party in your brain. The act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness.
I once read a Chinese proverb that proclaimed, “Use your smile to change the world; don’t let the world change your smile.” That surely makes it sound like something as simple as a smile can make a huge difference in this world. I am used to connecting to people with my smile and facial gestures. It’s odd that now we haven’t been able to read each other in that way behind our masks. I have the privilege of teaching Sunday school to 4-year-olds at Beit Miriam at West End Synagogue, and I wonder what joy they are missing by not seeing the ear to ear grin on my face when those tiny voices sing the Shema during our Hebrew lesson. I was pretty sure I could tell that there were big smiles behind those 10 masks last week when I mentioned we were having Matzah and apples for a snack in honor of Pesach.
Passover is my favorite Jewish holiday. Throughout the years I have beautiful memories of the retelling of the Exodus in various ways. When I was a little girl, we read from the Maxwell House Haggadah, and when my own children were young, we reenacted the story in costume and read from the interactive Haggadah I wrote. Last year, after our seder, we were discussing our ancestors' bravery and determination to leave Egypt to start a new life in a new land. While enjoying slices of a gooey flourless chocolate cake, my husband, Jim, and I decided that we would make a move to a new land. Six weeks later we were in our new home Nashville, Tennessee.
My own Exodus out of California provided me the gift of having the time to take stock of who I am, where I've been and what I believe makes me happy. I began reading books about faith and purpose. I became a part of a mastermind group of like-minded individuals who are all seeking to embrace the idea that everything we need and everything we desire is already here in the universe. I just needed to create a clear picture of what I desired, to decide to take action, to believe in the invisible and be ready to receive it.
And I know that my now unwavering belief that I can create and be in charge of my own happiness is exactly what my god expects from me. God has created a world where I can use my creativity to attain all the joy that I desire. I have learned to not live in competition with others. I only live in creativity with myself.
I use my creativity to teach a course called Cooking with Confidence.
A student recently sent me this message: “Sherri, I didn’t want to cook. I didn't understand how to follow a recipe and I thought it was just too complicated. Now look at me, smiling from ear to ear because I can cook a beautiful meal for my family and we’re all so happy. I feel so empowered.”
As we gather in our homes in celebration of Passover, I hope everyone's table will be surrounded by smiles. Smiles from the youngest asking the four questions, smiles from the excitement of finding the afikomen, and the smiles given to those whose creativity in the kitchen blesses us with our seder meal.
May you all smile, laugh and smile some more.
Chag Pesach Sameach!
Pesach Matzohkopita Recipe
1 Package Matzo
1 lb Baby Spinach (rough chopped)
2 Green Onion (chopped)
2 Egg (Beaten)
2 cups Sheep's Milk Feta Cheese (grated)
Cracked Black Pepper (10 cracks)
1/4 cup Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Dry Dill
1 tsp Salt
1 Egg (Top layer)
1 cup Milk (Top layer)
2 Tbsp Olive Oil (Top layer)
1/2 cup Parmesan Or Romano Cheese (Grated; for top layer)
Sautée green onions in 2 tbsp. olive oil for approx. 4 min. at medium heat.
Spray baking sheet with olive oil spray.
Take a second sheet pan and fill it with water.
Submerge 6 pieces of matzo in water until soft but not breaking apart.
Cover an oil-sprayed baking sheet with Matzo, pressing down on each piece so they join together to become one giant layer of matzo (It’s okay if it overlaps, you must fill in the seams.
In a large bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients to create a spinach mixture.
Lay the spinach mixture across the matzo, making sure that all corners are covered.
Submerge the remaining 6 pieces of matzo in water as previously done.
Place them on top of the spinach layer and press down firmly to join together -- it should resemble the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem!
In a small bowl, combine the egg, milk, and olive oil.
Pat the milk mixture over the Matzo-kopitas, making sure to saturate the entire thing.
Sprinkle grated parmesan over the top and pat down.
Spray a piece of foil and cover the baking sheet loosely.
Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes.Remove cover. Bake for 30 min. more. Must cool completely before cutting into squares. Best made day ahead. Reheat in a 350F oven for 15 min or until hot.
Sherri Holzer is a food strategist, cooking instructor, and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. As the founder of Simply Sherri, she leads culinary and corporate experiences where she shares her knowledge of food, nutrition, and simplifying the cooking process with her students. Sherri’s mission is to show the world how to use food for self-care. Sherri is also hosting a FREE Passover dessert class on April 9th, at 3pm CDT. For information, or to sign up, visit: www.simplysherri.net @iamsimplysherri