1. Any packaged foods that are marked with a hechsher (kosher symbol) that's listed on the Chicago Rabbinical Council website. Some of these hechshers are: OU, Star K, Circle K, Chaf K, CRC, Wisconsin K, Scroll K, Shield K and Heart K. White sugar and frozen vegetables don't need a hechsher.
2. Any raw foods like salads and fruit. Special consideration has to be given to “hot” raw foods when they are cut. Things like garlic, onions, radishes, ginger, hot peppers and leeks are considered to “cook” because of their heat. A basic principle of Kashrut is that heat transmits the food's essence into the pot or dish or knife that you use. If the heat is higher than what can be comfortably touched (Yad Soledes Bo) it can do this. Therefore you must use a new plastic knife when cutting these “hot” foods for a salad and cut them on a glass board. (Glass is the one substance that doesn't retain the essence of hot foods.) If you're not cutting the “hot” foods, you may use an unkosher knife for cutting raw foods as long as it's clean and cold.
The other consideration with raw foods is to make sure there are no bugs. Most fruits and vegetables simply need to be washed and examined for bugs. However vegetables with many crevices--like lettuce, and fruits--like raspberries and strawberries, need to be immersed in water in a white bowl or dish pan, to which a little dish soap or salt has been added. You swish them around and then remove them from the water. You examine the water under good light. If you see a bug you must repeat the process until you don't see any bugs at all. This must be done with broccoli and cauliflower too even if they're being cooked. Brussels sprouts and artichokes are almost impossible to check for bugs so shouldn't be used.
3. Cooked foods can only be made, in an unkosher kitchen, using a new pan, aluminum or otherwise. The pan must be completely double-wrapped with aluminum foil and baked in your oven. The food must be either natural, like vegetables or unprocessed grains, or have an acceptable hechsher. All natural unprocessed foods, like fruits and vegetables, are already kosher and don't need a hechsher. Very delicious foods can be made this way but they take a little longer to bake.
IF you buy a new pot, you must always wash it separately with new scrubbers that are kept separate from your other dishes. If the new pot is used in the oven it must be double-wrapped with foil. If it's used on the stove top, you must turn on the burner on high for 15 minutes before you use the burner.
Of course you also must know if the meal will be dairy or meat and make sure all your ingredients are within those parameters or are pareve (not meat or dairy). The Hechsher will list if the food is dairy, meat or parve. It will also list if the food is kosher for Passover.
Following these guidelines, many dishes can be made. With creativity and ingenuity we can still have delicious seudas (festive meals) together, while being inclusive of those in our group who keep kosher.
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