This time of year can be strange for Jews, and Christmas parties can exacerbate the weirdness. Many a Jew has gone to a Christmas party wondering: Is it okay if I eat Christmas cookies? Is it okay if I make them? Do they have to be in the shapes of Jewish stars and dreidels?
For me, the Christmas cookie tradition has never posed much of a problem. I grew up making traditional Christmas cookies like gingerbread men with my mom, who wasn’t Jewish, and I love spending weekends making batch after batch of holiday cookies for my husband’s office and other loved ones. The concept that food is love transcends ethnicity or religion, and so I relish this time of the year to show my affections through the universal language of COOKIES.
Holiday cookies don’t have to be overtly for “Christmas” in fact my fellow food-loving writer Tamar Fox suggests a Hanukkah Sugar Cookie, with a special Austrian twist, perfect for a Jewish celebration or for other holiday treats.
Another way to update a cookie-classic with some Jewish spirit? Shades of Blue Rainbow Cookies from Nosher contributor Joy Prevor.
Or go totally “non-traditional” with my Salty Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies! My husband loves these, and who doesn’t just love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate.
Here are some of my other favorite cookie and treats recipes that I will be making later this week, Do you bake holiday cookies? Post your favorite recipes below!
Chai-Spiced Cookies from Whole Foods (pictured above)
Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti from King Arthur Flour
Poppy Seed Hanukkah Sugar Cookies from Weelicious
Oreo Cheesecake Brownies from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen
Salted Fudge Brownies from Food and Wine
Traditional Rugelach from Joan Nathan
Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips and Cherries (pictured below)
Tonight is the last night of Hanukkah. Sigh. This has been such an exciting year to celebrate. But between Thanksgiving, the long holiday weekend and eight nights of latkes and sufganiyot, my stomach is sure ready to move on to lighter fare.
I’ve put together some of my favorite healthful eating ideas to help you detox from the eating debuachery of the past week. Got a great a recipe to get our eating on track? Post below and let us know!
Don’t forget dessert: Strawberry Lemon Granita
When I used to live in Washington, DC there was a little bar I loved frequenting which served, among other delicious items, tater tots, grilled cheese and even homemade tomato soup – all the best childhood comfort foods, just a bit upgraded. At some point in the restaurant’s history it changed over the menu to tapas (small Spanish-style plates), and the tater tots and grilled cheeses were a thing of the past. Sigh.
I love updating comfort foods, like my Sweet Potato Mac n Cheese and Shakshuka Pizza among other dishes. There is something so exciting about taking a bite that is both new and also brings back fond memories.
So on a cold November day a few weeks ago when my friend’s son requested soup for lunch, I knew right away I wanted to make something a 3 year old would enjoy as much as I would: creamy, healthy tomato soup with just a spoonful of playful alphabet letters, a throwback to childhood classics. Everyone enjoyed the tomato soup that day, including my 1 year old daughter, the 3 year old Jonah and me and the husband.
Make sure not to add the alphabet pasta until you serve otherwise the pasta will absorb too much of the soup and it will have a mushy, non-soup-like consistency.
2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 14 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 ½-2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
Salt and pepper
½ cup alphabet or other small pasta
½ cup heavy cream (optional)
Add butter or oil to a medium pot over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic until translucent.
Add crushed tomatoes and stock. Season with salt and pepper to taste and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat after 10 minutes to low.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta around 6 minutes or according to directions. Drain pasta and drizzle with a tiny amount of olive oil to prevent pasta from sticking. Set aside until ready to serve.
If you want the soup to be a smoother consistency, you can puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor. If not, you can leave soup as is.
If making the soup dairy, add heavy cream before serving.
Add a heaping tablespoon of pasta to each bowl. Sprinkle chopped chives on top and serve.
When I was brainstorming my Thanksgivukkah menu I kept dwelling on one of my favorite childhood holiday dishes – what my family calls “Sweet Potato Yum Yum” (or what another family might call sweet potato casserole). You are probably familiar with the heavenly combination of pureed sweet potatoes, margarine, brown sugar and spices, topped with marshmallows and baked to sweet, melted perfection.
Combining the flavors from my family’s Sweet Potato Yum Yum into individual-sized sweet potato latkes topped with toast marshmallows seemed like the perfect crowd-pleasing dish to mark this once-in-a-lifetime holiday. And it is. Happy Thanksgivukkah!
Reprinted courtesy of www.thebigfatjewishwedding.com
1 lb sweet potatoes
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
½ tsp salt
1 heaping tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 Tbsp brown sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
Peel and coarsely grate the sweet potatoes.
Place grated potatoes in a dish towel and wring out as much excess liquid as possible. This step is key to making sure your latkes are crispy. In a medium bowl stir together potatoes, flour, salt, pumpkin pie spice and brown sugar. Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl. Fold eggs into potato mixture until combined.
Heat oil in a deep skillet over moderately high heat.
Check to see if oil is hot enough by putting a small drop of the potato mixture in the oil. If it starts bubbling it is ready for frying.
Spoon approximately 1/8 cup potato mixture per latke into the oil. Flatten with a spatula and don’t crowd the pan otherwise the latkes won’t crispy properly.
Reduce heat to medium and cook until golden brown, about 1- 2 minutes per side.
Transfer latkes to a cookie rack to cool.
Turn on your oven’s broiler. Place latkes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and top each latke with marshmallows. Place latkes with marshmallows in the oven and watch carefully to make sure the marshmallows don’t brown too much.
Once marshmallows toasted until just brown, remove from oven and serve.
Is there anything better than waking up the day after Thanksgiving and raiding the fridge full of leftovers while everyone else is elbowing one another at the mall?
My favorite Thanksgiving leftovers were always the excess crescent rolls slathered in butter next to some stuffing and a heaping pile of glazed sweet potatoes. A few carbs during the holidays never hurt anyone. But there comes a point sometime on the Saturday or Sunday after Thanksgiving where you just can’t look at another plate of turkey and glazed sweet potatoes. You are craving something different, but ahhh – who wants to waste all those leftover?
Fret no more because I have your solution: bite-sized Thanksgiving knishes made with leftover mashed potatoes, turkey and cranberry sauce. Combine these mini treats with some cranberry mustard dipping sauce and leftovers never sounded so good!
- Substitute the mashed potatoes with leftover stuffing or mashed sweet potatoes.
- Substitute the cranberry sauce inside the knishes for leftover gravy.
The possibilities are endless, or at least as endless as your leftovers.
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed for 30 minutes
1 cup cranberry sauce, divided
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp whole grain mustard
½ cup leftover mashed potato
½ - ¾ cup leftover turkey, diced
1 egg, beaten
All purpose flour for rolling out puff pastry
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry on all sides so that dough stretches slightly. Cut into 9 even squares.
Using fingers stretch each square just a little bit more. Add tsp of mashed potatoes, a few pieces of turkey and tsp of cranberry sauce onn each square.
Fold each point of the puff pastry up and pinch at the top. Twist puff pastry and then push down. Repeat.
Brush each knish with beaten egg.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.
While knishes bake, mix ½ cup cranberry sauce with 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard and ½ tsp whole grain mustard. Spicy brown mustard can also be substituted. Whisk together until smooth.
Serve knishes while warm with cranberry mustard.
Most of my favorite recipes use wholesome, healthful ingredients that are local and seasonal. I don’t buy a lot of processed products or packaged snacks. I truly enjoy making things from scratch.
But once in awhile I find a recipe or a product that I simple cannot resist. Oreo cookies. Entenmanns’s Cheese Danish Twist. And most recently a sweet potato kugel my mother-in-law made last year using sweet potatoes, marshmallows and a box of cake mix.
My sister-in-law and I sat at one end of the long kitchen table with two heaping platefuls of the addictive kugel, unable to prevent ourselves from eating yet another serving.
Soon after the sweet potato kugel binge, I fell asleep with my daughter upstairs for a full hour and a half. Forget the turkey-induced snooze fest…my kugel nap was just divine.
I convinced my mother-in-law to hand over the recipe, and with just a few small tweaks, I share it with you all. But I warn you: there is no going back. Make this at your own risk. You may not be able to put down your fork.
8 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3-4 heaping Tbsp brown sugar
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ cup orange juice or orange-flavored liqueur
8 oz mini marshmallows
1 box yellow cake mix
2 sticks margarine or butter, melted
Boil sweet potatoes in large pot of water until tender, around 20-25 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Drain the sweet potatoes and mash in a large bowl. Add vanilla, brown sugar, nutmeg, salt and orange juice or orange-flavored liqueur and mix well.
Grease a 9x11 baking dish. Layer half of the sweet potato mixture evenly in the baking dish.
Sprinkle marshmallows over the top. Add remaining sweet potato mixture on top of marshmallows and spread evenly using an off-set spatula or knife.
Sprinkle yellow cake mix evenly over the top of sweet potato mixture. Pour melted butter or margarine evenly over the top of the cake mix.
Bake for 60 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
A few weeks ago I had the hysterical pleasure of attending the 25th annual Kosherfest, the world’s largest kosher-certified products trade show. It’s an event dedicated to the newest and wackiest kosher foods available, but it’s also a meeting place of diverse food-interested Jews.
The two-day event feels like a synagogue kiddush on steroids: everything from basic cakes and cookies to gourmet gelato, fine wines and upscale BBQ food and the pervasive shoving and jockeying for position that inevitably occurs when hungry Jews are presented with seemingly endless platters of free food.
It was like a giant game of Jewish geography, where you’re likely to run into everyone from your old camp counselor to your great-aunt’s mahjong partner. After all the Jewish geography and elbowing, I was able to make my way through the booths and taste some of the food.
In the delicious category the award goes to Gelato Petrini’s chocolate hazelnut and tiramisu flavored gelato – they were rich, creamy and a real treat from the frozen yogurt I am accustomed to eating.
The Ice Cream House’s cute ice cream sushi roll and Dependable Foods’ pizza cones may not win any awards for taste, but certainly deserve points for creativity and cute factor.
Pareve macaroni and cheese and hot chocolate? May sound unappealing but Mikee Mac’s non-dairy instant mac and cheese Cuppa J Hot Chocolate both won me over despite the lack of dairy.
And while I am not a big meat eater, I was impressed by the Italian Sausage Burger from Jack’s Gourmet.
Hanukkah is just around the corner, and so I must make mention of some holiday-specific dishes including Dr. Praeger’s kale pancake, an instant new favorite. Manischewitz’s Chanukah Cookie House featured menorah and mezuzah sugar icing decorations. And Saba Habib’s extra virgin olive oil was distinctly smooth, with an almost fruity flavor; I sopped it up with a slice of baguette and felt positively Mediterranean, ready for the festival of lights and oil.
The food was eclectic and delicious, vendors vied desperately for passersby, and it was absolute Jewish food mayhem.
It was a great day, even with all the elbow-dodging and acid reflux. But on a more serious note, Kosherfest is one of the few events I attend where I see all different types of Jews, from Hasidic to the most unaffiliated to everything in between, represented both behind the booths and circling the floor. It’s kind of nice that we all come together in harmony for something, if only for our unabashed love of food. Until next year!
The day I moved into my very first apartment was an important day for me. I was starting my senior year in college, and for what seemed like the first time, I was taking a leap towards independence. Sure, I moved halfway across the country to go to school where I knew only a couple people, but living on campus, there’s a certain safety net in place to catch (and comfort) the students if they fall.
I remember taking great care to choose an apartment within my budget, and carefully selecting my roommates. We plotted and planned how we’d decorate, and made memories building our ready-to-assemble furniture from our favorite Swedish retailer. Not surprising, the part of apartment living I was most excited about was that I would finally have a kitchen of my own. While my roommates concentrated on finding art to decorate our walls and the perfect rug to tie the room together, I focused on stocking our kitchen with our favorite foods and the tools with which to cook them. I found mismatched sets of pots and pans at my local discount store, and piece by piece, built our little kitchen into a functional one our friends begged to come and borrow. It was nothing fancy, but it worked for us. Granted, we could never invite more than four people for dinner, because that was how many plates we had, but we made it work.
My mom noticed my efforts, and took it upon herself to stock our little kitchen with its crowning jewel: a tostonera. A tostonera is a device specifically designed to smash chunks of fried green plantains into crisp, golden coins, called tostones. And the fact that my mom was gifting me a tostonera was a really big deal, because this served as an informal invitation to join the culinary ranks of the matriarchs in the family.
Just about every Cuban person who cooks has a tostonera, and now, I did too. I was so excited to put my tostonera to use, and at the first Hanukkah party of the season, I surprised my friends with a new treat. I figured that in many ways, Cubans use plantain bananas the way Americans use potatoes, so swapping traditional potato latkes with savory tostones seemed like a natural choice.
As my friends oohed and aahed while they crunched their way through the small plate of tostones, I smiled with delight, because I knew I was on my way to earning my culinary stripes.
This Hanukkah, if you’re looking for something outside the traditional latke box, take a cue from the Cuban cookbook, and serve tostones alongside your festive meal. And if your mother hasn’t gifted you with a tostonera, fear not. You can achieve similar results with the bottom of a frying pan.
Vegetable oil for frying
2 green (under ripe) plantain bananas
Kosher salt to taste
In a large frying pan, pour in enough vegetable oil to fill the pan about halfway, and place over medium to high heat.
Remove the peel from the plantains, and discard. Chop the pulp into rounds of about 1-1½ inch thickness.
To test the oil temperature, carefully place a small piece of plantain into the oil. If the oil bubbles around the plantain, it is ready. If it doesn't, continue heating the oil until it does.
Once the oil is ready, carefully drop the plantain rounds into the oil, and fry for two minutes before flipping and frying for two minutes on the other side.
Remove the plantains from the oil, and using either a tostonera or a frying pan and a flat surface, smash the rounds until they flatten.
Return the now-flattened plantain rounds to the oil, and fry until golden and crisp, about two more minutes.
Remove the plantains from the oil, and immediately place on a platter lined with paper towel to catch any unnecessary oil.
Sprinkle with kosher salt while the plantains are still hot, and serve.
Every home cook has those go-to meals that their friends and family can’t get enough of. For me, it’s my Italian meatballs that I learned in the kitchen with my mother. While standing at my mother’s side, she would fry batch after batch of meatballs. But only after taste-testing the first one to make sure it was seasoned correctly.
I love carrying on this tradition, and relish sharing this special meal with my loved ones. When my close friends hear I am making spaghetti and meatballs for Sunday night dinner they will drop everything to come join us for dinner. The husband isn’t always so eager to share this coveted meal.
Last week for the first time I served up spaghetti and meatballs for my pasta-loving daughter. She typically gobbles up pasta with sauce pretty quickly, but this time she voraciously ate 5 entire portions of chopped up spaghetti with bits of meatballs. I was a proud mama.
One of my favorite parts about whipping up a large batch of meatballs and sauce on a Sunday is having leftovers for the rest of the week. The husband and I often buy a crunchy loaf of fresh bread the next day and make meatball subs. It’s such an easy weeknight meal, especially when paired with a side salad or steamed broccoli.
But even after heaping bowls of spaghetti and meatball subs there were still more meatballs to be had. What to do with those last precious meatballs?
A light bulb went off and I thought: pizza! I have made non-dairy pizza with meatballs before, and it was good enough. But I wanted to make something really special. As I was mulling over what I had in my fridge and what might combine nicely with the meatballs I thought….eggs….arugula…and another great non-dairy pizza combination was born in my humble kitchen.
Tip: don’t skimp on the extra drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt – it really brings out the flavor of the unique pizza. And don’t worry if you don’t have a pizza stone – you can also use a baking sheet.
To make the meatballs:
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground veal
1 extra large egg or 2 medium eggs
1 1/2-2 cups unseasoned bread crumbs (preferably fresh)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp garlic powder
vegetable oil for frying
small bowl of cold water
tomato sauce of your choosing
To make the pizza:
1 store-bought pizza dough, left at room temperature 1 hour
flour for dusting
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup fresh arugula
olive oil for drizzling
thick sea salt
Special equipment: pizza stone
To make the meatballs:
In a large mixing bowl, combine breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, oregano, parsley, basil and garlic powder.
Add meat and eggs and mix thoroughly, but lightly, with hands; do not overwork the meat. Set the small bowl of cold water next to your working station.
Prepare a platter lined with paper towels and place next to the stove as you prepare the meatballs.
Working with just the palm of your hand, and not packing too tight, make fist sized meatballs and place on unlined platter. Use cold water to wet hands in between each meatball. Place meatballs in skillet, and brown on all sides until even.
When meatballs are all fried, put into a slightly simmering pot of tomato sauce to finish cooking through and absorb the tomato sauce flavor.
To make the pizza:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Once oven is fully heated, place pizza stone in oven for at least 30 minutes, or up to 60 minutes.
Working on a lightly floured surface, stretch pizza dough using hands and rolling pin until desired thinness and shape.
Using pastry brush or fingers, spread 2 Tbsp olive oil all over pizza dough.
Cut meatballs into rounds. Spread sauce evenly over dough. Place on pizza stone and cook 6 minutes.
Crack eggs into a bowl while pizza is cooking.
After 6 minutes, open oven and carefully spread eggs over pizza a few inches apart from one another. Put back into the oven for another 5-6 minutes.
Remove pizza from oven. Allow to cool 2-3 minutes.
Sprinkle fresh arugula over top of pizza. Drizzle with olive olive oil and sprinkle thick sea salt.
Wondering what to do with all your leftover gelt after making the DIY Thanksgivukkah table runner? I’ve got the perfect pie recipe to use up those chocolates!
Both decadent and delicious, this Bourbon Pecan and Gelt Pie is the perfect way to end your Thanksgivukkah meal this holiday season. To create this recipe, I combined a classic pecan pie with some chocolate gelt candy and then added a touch of Bourbon for a little something extra.
Just like Thanksgivukkah itself, everyone is sure to love it!
For the crust:
2 cups of flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2/3 cup cold shortening
7 Tbsp milk. Almond milk is a great non-dairy alternative.
For the filling:
1/3 cup melted butter or margarine
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
½ tsp salt
1-2 Tbsp bourbon
20-25 pieces of gelt—enough to cover the bottom of the crust. (You can order pareve gelt online.)
½ cup chopped pecans
½ cup halved pecans
To make the crust:
Whisk together flour, salt and sugar. Cut shortening into the flour mixture until it is almost incorporated.
Add milk and mix until just combined. You do not want to over mix here, or the crust will be rubbery. Form a large ball with the dough and place in the middle of a flat surface covered with flour.
With a rolling pin, roll the dough out until it is about 2 inches larger than the upside down pie plate. Once it is big enough, flip the pie plate back over and lay the dough in the plate lightly pushing it to the bottom and the sides.
With a fork, poke a few holes in the bottom of the crust and push the sides of the crust into the side of the plate. Then, to make the lip of the pie look fancy, use the fork to make marks in the dough on the lip of the plate (picture shown) and rip off any excess dough. Set aside for filling.
Note: You can also use the extra dough to make decorations. Roll out the extra dough and cut out any shape you want – here I used a turkey. With a fork, mix 1 egg and 1 Tbsp of water. Lightly brush a small amount of the eff mixture over the cut out and then sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 375 until golden brown (about 2-5 minutes depending on how big your cut out is).
To make the filling and assemble pie:
Mix melted butter or margarine and corn syrup together until it has a glossy look. Add salt and sugar and mix until it is completely integrated into the mixture. Mix in eggs and bourbon until the entire mixture is a pale yellow color (no darker yellow egg streaks). Set aside.
Start filling the crust by placing the unwrapped gelt at the bottom of the pie crust. Add both chopped and halved pecans. Then add filling mixture.
Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. The edges of the crust should be a golden brown and the filling should be completely congealed.