Chanuka

Fruit Roll Cookies

DSC03578.jpeg

Our family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, but we do celebrate cookies, which are as ubiquitous during the Christmas season as doughnuts during Hanukkah and matzo balls during Passover.

Every December I make a load of cookies. I give most of them away as gifts, but of course, keep (in the freezer) a container or two of family favorites for us.

Depending on how much time I have, I make these oldies but goodies: Fannies, Grand Finale cookies, Dutch butter-almond cookies, peanut butter cookies, lemon bars, cheesecake cookies, Chinese cookies and Orange Marmalade cookies.

Last year I added these Fruit Roll cookies, based on my mother’s wonderful “frozen dough” nut roll. They were a big hit, so I’m going to make them again this year.

Fruit Roll Cookies

Dough:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour

  • 1/2 pound butter, cut into chunks

  • 1 cup dairy sour cream

Filling:

  • 2 cups mixed diced dried or candied fruit (such as cherries, pineapple, orange peel, cranberries, apricots, dates, figs

  • 1 cup raisins

  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 cup orange marmalade

To make the dough: place the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the butter and beat at low speed for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is crumbly (you may also do this by hand or using the pulse feature of a food processor). Add the sour cream and mix it in to make a smooth, uniform and slightly sticky dough. Dust the dough with flour, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

To make the filling: Place the dried fruit, raisins, nuts, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and toss the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Add the marmalade and mix it in to coat all the fruit.

To assemble: Lightly grease a baking sheet. Cut the dough into 5 pieces. Working separately with each piece of dough, roll the dough on a floured surface to a rectangle about 12-inches by 6-inches. Place 1/5 of the filling on each rectangle, forming the mixture into a strip along one of the long sides and to within 1/2-inch from the ends of the two short sides. Roll the dough and place each roll, seam side down, on the baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Score each roll along the top with a sharp knife at 1-inch intervals. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven, let cool, then cut along the score lines.

Makes about 60

 

Orange-Vanilla Flavored Cheese Stuffed Dates

Sometimes I think life is a bunch of holidays with not much in between. Except for the entire month of January.

I suppose that's a good thing, because holidays are happy and celebratory.

Also, there's the food. Except for Yom Kippur, every holiday has food. And even when it comes to Yom Kippur, there's the break-the-fast when it's all over and the break-the-fast is all about food. 

As far as holidays go, at this point of the year, we've just finished Thanksgiving. So what’s next up?

Hanukkah!

Hanukkah is a really delicious holiday. Lots of fried stuff like latkes and doughnuts.

It's also a dairy holiday because of the story of Judith, which you can read about it here

For our family, in honor of Judith, I make lots of dairy items in addition to the usual potato latkes and doughnuts. I have served cheese latkes and potato latkes with a yogurt based sauce laced with lemongrass. And also Potato Galette with Caramelized Onions and Cheese and Almond Crusted Winter Squash and Noodle Kugel (actually that one’s a favorite). 

Desserts? Maybe Meyer Lemon Yogurt Pie (you can use regular lemons) or Baked Goat Cheese with Honey Sauce and Cranberries. Maybe even cheesecake. Or some fabulous cheesecake cookies!

And also these stuffed dates! Easy to make, not too sweet (no added sugar), these little morsels are perfect for the holiday. If you don't want to use almonds for garnish, crushed, toasted coconut will do nicely.

Btw, these make a nice tidbit for New Year’s, either as hors d’oeuvre or late night snack. 

 

Orange-Vanilla Flavored Cheese Stuffed Dates

  • 12 medjool dates

  • 1/2 cup cream cheese (4 ounces)

  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt

  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel

  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 3 tablespoons crushed toasted almonds (or pistachios or crushed, toasted coconut)

Cut the dates through the center, but not all the way through to the bottom. Remove the pit and spread the date slightly to form a hollow for filling. Mix the cream cheese, yogurt, orange peel and vanilla extract in a small bowl until the mixture is smooth and soft. Fill the dates with the cheese mixture. Sprinkle with the nuts.

Makes 12 

Orange and Vanilla Scented Cheese Stuffed Dates

fullsizeoutput_86f1.jpeg

Sometimes I think life is a bunch of holidays with not much in between, except for the entire month of January.

I suppose that's a good thing, because holidays are happy and celebratory. Also, there's the food. Except for Yom Kippur, every holiday has food. And even when it comes to Yom Kippur, there's the break-the-fast when it's all over and the break-the-fast is all about food. 

As far as holidays go, at this point of the year, we've just finished Thanksgiving. Next up? Hanukkah!

Hanukkah is a really delicious holiday. Lots of fried stuff like latkes and doughnuts.

It's also a dairy holiday because of the story of Judith. You can read all about it here

So for me, in honor of Judith, in addition to the usual potato latkes and doughnuts, I have served cheese latkes and potato latkes with a yogurt based sauce laced with lemongrassPotato Galette with Caramelized Onions and Cheese has been on my Hanukkah menu and also Almond Crusted Winter Squash and Noodle Kugel

Desserts? I could go with Meyer Lemon Yogurt Pie (you can use regular lemons) or maybe Baked Goat Cheese with Honey Sauce and Cranberries. Maybe even cheesecake. Or some fabulous cheesecake cookies!

And also these stuffed dates! Easy to make, not too sweet (no added sugar), these little morsels are perfect for the holiday. If you don't want to use almonds for garnish, crushed, toasted coconut will do nicely.

 

ORANGE-VANILLA SCENTED CHEESE STUFFED DATES

  • 12 medjool dates
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese (4 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons crushed toasted almonds (or pistachios or crushed, toasted coconut)

Cut the dates through the center, but not all the way through to the bottom. Remove the pit and spread the date slightly to form a hollow for filling. Mix the cram cheese, yogurt, orange peel and vanilla extract in a small bowl until the mixture is smooth and soft. Fill the dates with the cheese mixture. Sprinkle with the nuts.

Makes 12 

Latkes of a Different Kind

Hanukkah wouldn't be right without latkes. And, while classic potato latkes are my favorite and I once made 200 of them for my sister-in-law and brother's annual holiday party, I also like to cook up different varieties.

In addition to fried foods, dairy is also an iconic food for Hanukkah.

So -- dairy latke!

This one is made with cornmeal and cheddar cheese. Good for breakfast, lunch or as a side dish at a vegetarian meal. Perfect accompaniment to sunnyside eggs, for dipping into runny yolks.

Also, versatile. Add chives, scallions, corn kernels, chili peppers. Whatever.

Also -- make them ahead and rewarm. 

 

Cornmeal-Cheddar Latkes

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2-1/3 cups milk, approximately
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 ounces shredded cheddar cheese 
  • butter for frying
  • optional: 1 small chopped jalapeno or serrano pepper; 1 cup corn kernels; 2 tablespoon chopped chives

Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. In a bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the milk, eggs and cooled melted butter. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture, stirring gently. Fold in the cheese. If the mixture seems too thick, stir in more milk.

Heat about 1 tablespoon butter in a sauté pan over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, drop 1/4 cup of the batter per pancake and cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown.

Makes about 24

 

Roasted Sweet Potato Hanukkah Coins

When Hanukkah comes most of us are cooking latkes or doughnuts, the holiday’s most typical goodies.

When we were kids, we also ate chocolate Hanukkah gelt, those awful tasting coin candies that are so cheap it makes you wonder whether there is actually any chocolate in them. NOTE  TO ALL: the kids still love those coins but for more discriminating palates, several companies are selling “gourmet gelt" — the real deal, premium chocolate coins.

I decided to take the coin idea in a different culinary direction this year.

On Hanukkah I will also serve sweet potato coins. Roasted, crispy, seasoned sweet potato circles.

Hanukkah gelt of a different sort.

This is one of the easiest recipes you will ever find. For Hanukkah for sure, but any time you need an easy side dish.
 

Roasted Sweet Potato Hanukkah Coins

  • 2 long, narrow sweet potatoes
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • ground cinnamon
  • Aleppo pepper or cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into thin slices. Place the slices (not overlapping) of a parchment lined cookie sheet. Brush them on both sides with a thin film of olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt, cinnamon and Aleppo pepper. Roast for 10 minutes. Turn the coins over. Roast for another 6-10 minutes or until crispy. 

Makes 4 servings

An InLinkz Link-up

Manischewitz Chanuka House

If you think Manischewitz is all old school, with tried and true stuff like matzos and gefilte fish, you wouldn’t be wrong. But this company, born in 1888 (will celebrate its 125th birthday next year!), has got its act in the 21st century too.

Like so many other manufacturers who now offer thousands of products for kosher home cooks whose culinary aspirations go beyond traditional, Manischewitz has a bunch of new items, like Dark Chocolate Covered Potato Chips, Almond Butter Spread, Chocolate Hazelnut Spread, Moroccan Roasted Vegetables, and others.

And for the kids, there’s the new Chanuka kits, a sort of kosher take on the seasonal gingerbread house. There are two kinds: a Chanuka Sugar Cookie Decorating Kit (4 vanilla cookies with Hanukkah (or Chanuka) themes, plus icing, beads and sprinkles; and a second, more elaborate Chanuka House Decorating Kit with all the goodies needed to make a holiday cookie house, decorated with icing and sugary things all over.

In addition, the company is sponsoring a contest (grand prize $500) — for folks who actually make one of the vanilla cookie houses, creating the design of their desire. It’s a terrific and sweet project for kids. You can get the entry rules and information here.

But it’s more than just a contest. You don’t have to enter (entering involves taking a photo of the finished project). Cooking and crafting with kids can be a lot of fun. A nice start to the holiday season.

Enjoy!

Potato Latkes with Lemongrass Yogurt Sauce

Latkes!  Now there’s a good word.   The word we generally hear around this time of year because Hanukkah (or Chanuka if you prefer) is coming (sundown on December 8th). And on Hanukkah we eat:  Latkes!  Ohmyohmyohmy. They’re another of those really really wonderful things to eat. Crispy. Crunchy. Hot. Fried.   It really doesn’t get much better. Even if latkes are among those foods that help pack on the 7  pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years .  Try to limit yourself if you can. :) These are quite luscious.  I have made potato latkes more times than I can even imagine. It’s tough to be the one at the stove, sampling and all. If you get my meaning.  I have lots of potato latke recipes. The first step is which kind of potatoes to buy: baking (Russet, Idaho). They’re the driest, so your latkes won’t be as soggy as they might with other varieties.  Second: how to grate the potatoes. I’ve hand grated them; used the food processor shredder; first shredded then chopped the potatoes with the S-blade. They’re all good methods, but my kids like the shredded version the best.   We also like latkes with sour cream. REAL sour cream, not the fake non-fat stuff. But actually, Chobani 0% plain yogurt is absolutely wonderful too. Nice and tangy and thick.  Okay, a few of us prefer applesauce. But not from my side of the family.  I’m adding a recipe for Lemongrass-Yogurt Sauce too, because there’s always someone (usually me) who wants to try something new. This one’s a goody.      Potato Latkes   4 large peeled baking potatoes  1 large onion  3 tablespoons matzo meal, breadcrumbs or potato starch  2 large eggs  1 teaspoon salt or to taste  freshly ground black pepper to taste  1/2 teaspoon baking powder  vegetable oil for frying     Grate the potatoes and onion into a bowl or, if using a food processor, shred the potatoes and onion together. If you prefer latkes softer, after shredding, place the shreds back into the food processor and use the S-blade. Process the potatoes and onions to a fine consistency. Either squeeze the vegetables in a kitchen towel over a bowl or place the mixture in a rigid strainer set over a bowl and press the vegetables. In either case, wring or squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Place the vegetables in a large bowl. Add the matzo meal or breadcrumbs or use the solid potato starch that remains at the bottom of the bowl containing the squeezed liquid. Stir in the eggs, salt, pepper and baking powder. Heat about 1/4” vegetable oil in a cast iron or other heavy heat retaining skillet over moderately high heat. Drop some of the potato mixture into the pan, using equal amounts to make each pancake. Fry for 2-3 minutes per side or until the pancakes are golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels. Serve with dairy sour cream, nonfat plain yogurt, applesauce or Lemongrass-Yogurt Sauce (below) Makes 12-16      Lemongrass-Yogurt Sauce   1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt  1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint  1 scallion, finely chopped  2 teaspoons finely chopped lemongrass  1/2 teaspoon finely chopped chili pepper  1-1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger  1/2 teaspoon grated fresh lime peel  2 tablespoons lime juice  salt  Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly to distribute them evenly. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving. Makes about one cup

Latkes!

Now there’s a good word. 

The word we generally hear around this time of year because Hanukkah (or Chanuka if you prefer) is coming (sundown on December 8th). And on Hanukkah we eat:

Latkes!

Ohmyohmyohmy. They’re another of those really really wonderful things to eat. Crispy. Crunchy. Hot. Fried. 

It really doesn’t get much better. Even if latkes are among those foods that help pack on the 7 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years.

Try to limit yourself if you can. :) These are quite luscious.

I have made potato latkes more times than I can even imagine. It’s tough to be the one at the stove, sampling and all. If you get my meaning.

I have lots of potato latke recipes. The first step is which kind of potatoes to buy: baking (Russet, Idaho). They’re the driest, so your latkes won’t be as soggy as they might with other varieties.

Second: how to grate the potatoes. I’ve hand grated them; used the food processor shredder; first shredded then chopped the potatoes with the S-blade. They’re all good methods, but my kids like the shredded version the best. 

We also like latkes with sour cream. REAL sour cream, not the fake non-fat stuff. But actually, Chobani 0% plain yogurt is absolutely wonderful too. Nice and tangy and thick.

Okay, a few of us prefer applesauce. But not from my side of the family.

I’m adding a recipe for Lemongrass-Yogurt Sauce too, because there’s always someone (usually me) who wants to try something new. This one’s a goody.

 

Potato Latkes

4 large peeled baking potatoes

1 large onion

3 tablespoons matzo meal, breadcrumbs or potato starch

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon salt or to taste

freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

vegetable oil for frying

 

Grate the potatoes and onion into a bowl or, if using a food processor, shred the potatoes and onion together. If you prefer latkes softer, after shredding, place the shreds back into the food processor and use the S-blade. Process the potatoes and onions to a fine consistency. Either squeeze the vegetables in a kitchen towel over a bowl or place the mixture in a rigid strainer set over a bowl and press the vegetables. In either case, wring or squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Place the vegetables in a large bowl. Add the matzo meal or breadcrumbs or use the solid potato starch that remains at the bottom of the bowl containing the squeezed liquid. Stir in the eggs, salt, pepper and baking powder. Heat about 1/4” vegetable oil in a cast iron or other heavy heat retaining skillet over moderately high heat. Drop some of the potato mixture into the pan, using equal amounts to make each pancake. Fry for 2-3 minutes per side or until the pancakes are golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels. Serve with dairy sour cream, nonfat plain yogurt, applesauce or Lemongrass-Yogurt Sauce (below) Makes 12-16

 

Lemongrass-Yogurt Sauce

1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

1 scallion, finely chopped

2 teaspoons finely chopped lemongrass

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped chili pepper

1-1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon grated fresh lime peel

2 tablespoons lime juice

salt

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly to distribute them evenly. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving. Makes about one cup

Chocolate Truffles

DSC09699.jpg

Chocolate instead of broccoli to stay healthy?

No, not really. But in a recent study the results indicated that eating chocolate might cut a woman’s risk for stroke. Read about it here.

This is not the first time I’ve heard that chocolate is healthy (it has flavanoids, which have anti-oxidant properties, which in turn help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol).

But this is the one of the only times I’ve heard someone caution women not to over-interpret the results. Like, do not substitute chocolate for broccoli. And a cardiologist who was interviewed said that although chocolate may be good for you, maybe the study results would have been similar if they used apple skins or grapes.

I’ve always wondered about some of these studies. I wonder whether you can prove whatever you want depending on how you go about the study.

Well, I am no scientist, so I don’t know.

But I do remember, many years ago, when the information regarding dietary fat was still in its infancy and Nabisco came out with SnackWells, the so-called “healthy” cookies because they were lower fat. And people started eating SnackWells because they thought it was okay. And judging from the number of people I met (and watched at the supermarket) who ate boxes and boxes of those cookies, most didn’t seem to realize that it’s way too many calories and that it might be more harmful than if you ate a butter cookie or two.

So the broccoli warning makes sense.

But if you want to eat something delicious and chocolate-y — for your health — try these truffles. They are amazingly easy to make and you can give them away as gifts so they’re good for the upcoming holiday season.

But don’t eat the whole batch at once.

Chocolate Truffles

  • 1/2 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 teaspoons brandy or rum or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sprinkles, toasted coconut, ground nuts, etc. (approximately)

Chop the chocolate in a food processor into small bits. Heat the cream over medium heat until it is hot and bubbles form around the edges of the pan. With the processor on, pour in the cream through the feed tube and process  until well blended (you may have to scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice). Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes. Add the brandy or rum and the softened butter and blend them in thoroughly. Spoon the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate for at least one hour or until the mixture has firmed enough to form a soft “dough.” Take small pieces of the dough and shape into small balls. Place the balls on waxed paper or aluminum foil on cookie sheets. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes. Roll the balls in cocoa, sprinkles, etc.

Makes about 3 dozen. 

Baked Goat Cheese with Honey Sauce and Cranberries

image
image

On Hanukkah let’s not forget that a woman played a major role in the victory of the Maccabees in that battle, over 2000 years ago, that saved the Jewish people from complete annihilation. That woman was Judith, who visited Holofernes, a general in the enemy camp, and he fell in love with her so he asked her to dine with him.

During the meal Judith gave him great quantities of cheese, which made him very thirsty, so he kept drinking wine. He drank so much that he got drunk and fell asleep and Judith cut off his head with his own sword. And so she was able to get word to the Maccabees about the best time to strike.

Since that fateful victory we have been making merry every year with an 8 day Hanukkah celebration. 

Can there be a celebration without food? 

Absolutely not!

Everyone knows about Hanukkah latkes. Some know about the doughnuts. These fried foods memorialize the oil the Maccabees found when they went to rededicate the Temple. There was supposed to be enough for one day but miraculously, it lasted for 8 days.

But not a lot of people know that cheese has been an important Hanukkah food since way back. In fact, cheese was the first “traditional” Hanukkah ingredient. Jewish cooks used them for Cheese Latkes, which became really popular. Unfortunately not everyone could afford cheese so they substituted potato. 

The rest is culinary history.

But for those who can afford and love to eat cheese, how about something to remember the brave, intrepid Judith?

Like this fast, easy and simple dessert:

Baked Goat Cheese with Honey Sauce and Cranberries

  • 4 round crackers, preferably sweet
  • 4 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped toasted almonds
  • mint leaves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the crackers on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Slice the cheese into 4 equal rounds and place them on the cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese has softened and the edges begin to brown. While the cheese is baking, combine the honey and cranberries in a saucepan and cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until warm. Place the cheese on dessert plates. Pour the honey/cranberry sauce on top. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds. Garnish each with a mint leaf.

Make 4 servings