Full of helpful advice for families starting to think about their child's bat or bar mitzvah, Bar & Bat Mitzvah For The Interfaith Family will be a helpful primer to all families (not just interfaith!).
This booklet explains the history of Hanukkah, the symbolism and significance of lighting candles for eight nights, the blessings that accompany the lighting of the candles, the holiday's foods, the game of dreidels, and more!
Connecting Interfaith Families to Jewish Life in Greater Cleveland by providing programs and opportunities for interfaith families to experience Judaism in a variety of venues, meet other interfaith families, and to connect to other Jewish organizations that may serve their needs.
A great way for Jewish professionals and volunteers who work with and provide programming for people in interfaith relationships to locate resources and trainings to build more welcome into their Jewish communities; connect with and learn from each other; and publicize and enhance their programs and services.
Some people have strong feelings about the kind of recipe that aims to create a Passover-friendly version of a dish that is typically leavened. Detractors think creating Passover bagels, muffins, and rolls miss the point of the holiday’s specific diet. Those in favor see the practice as helping to make a difficult holiday more bearable. Some will even point to foods like Passover Popovers as an example of Jewish ingenuity.
Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle. I don’t see the point suffering through a week of “I can’t believe you want to call this a bagel.” (But hey, if you can convince yourself that whatever you’ve come up with tastes like a bagel, more power to you. I’ll have eggs for breakfast this week.) On the other hand, when the introduction of matzah into a dish creates a delightful new twist on an old favorite, I’m all for it.
This brings us to Matzah Kugel, a sweet, dairy-filled confection of matzah layered with sweetened cheese. Sure, you could make a kugel with Passover noodles and come up with an almost-but-not-quite-satisfying proxy for the regular version, but you will never forget that it’s not the “real” thing. Matzah kugel, on the other hand, takes the idea of a noodle kugel as a jumping off point and transforms it into something different but equally delicious.
This dish can function as a side dish or a main course. (It pairs well with a side salad and a piece of gefilte fish.) You can freeze leftover portions: they reheat well in the microwave and even make a delicious and quick breakfast when you just can’t take one more piece of matzah with cream cheese.
Cheese Matzah Kugel for Passover
6 sheets matzah, broken into large pieces
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pound cottage cheese
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter, plus additional butter to grease the pan
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and milk.
2. Add cottage cheese, salt, sugar, cinnamon, and butter and mix to combine thoroughly.
3. Grease an 8 inch square baking dish with butter.
Food pathways show the influence on recipes from region to region and neighbor to neighbor. In Germany, a recipe for gingerbread men was adapted and adopted by Eastern European Jews to make Zimsterne, or “star” cookies to be served at the end of Shabbat after Havdalah services. Containing the spices found in the Bisomim box used during the close of Shabbat service, the symbolism was to take the sweetness of Shabbat with you into the coming week.
With the holiday season coming up and relatives visiting, this cookie is the perfect bridge between Jewish tradition and Christmas cookie baking. Everyone will enjoy the treat and you can share two celebrations with all family members at one time. Best of all, everyone can help make these soft spice cookies or, you can make them in advance. They keep very well in an airtight container and their flavor gets better, as all spice cookies do, with age.
Makes 4 or more dozen depending on size of cookie
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup honey
5 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. ground ginger
Confectioner’s sugar for rolling out dough
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla
1-2 Tbsp. milk
1. Cream the butter and the sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until mixture gets lighter in color. Beat in the honey.
2. Combine the baking soda and spices with 1 cup of the flour. Set aside.
3. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the remaining 4 cups of flour, mixing well to form a thick dough. If your mixer is powerful, use it to add the reserved cup of flour and spices until well combined. If not, stir the remaining flour into the dough by hand. Make sure that the mixture is thoroughly combined.
4. Pat dough into a flat round and place in a plastic storage bag or airtight container. Seal and store in the refrigerator for 1 hour or until firm and easy to handle.
5. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly dust a pastry board with some confectioner’s sugar. Roll the dough out on the board to ¼ inch thickness.
6. Cut the dough into star shapes using a cookie cutter, and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool for 5-10 minutes while you make the icing.
To make the icing:
1. Place the cup of confectioner’s sugar in a 1-quart mixing bowl. Whisk in the vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the milk until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, whisk in some more milk until the mixture resembles mayonnaise in consistency.
2. Using a pastry brush, brush the icing over the tops of the warm cookies and let sit at room temperature until the cookies are cool and the icing is dry and no longer sticky. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, or freeze until later use.
Children love to cut out cookies and transfer them to the cookie sheet. A trick to prevent the dough from dragging on the spatula and losing its shape is to rub a scrap of dough on the spatula and then dip the spatula in some of the confectioner’s sugar before you transfer the cookie onto the baking sheet.
Using a rolling pin is often challenging for young hands. However, rolling pin bands of varying thickness are sold that fit on the ends of the rolling pin to ensure the dough isn’t rolled unevenly.
Shepherd’s pie is an old English, Irish and Scottish peasant food. It’s traditionally made with minced lamb and is topped with mashed potatoes. An earlier version of this dish is known as cottage pie. Cottage pie was typically made with ground beef. Whether it’s cottage pie or shepherd’s pie the essentials are potatoes and an inexpensive cut of meat.
This version fuses cultures, inviting a Jewish flair by using flanken cut beef short ribs rather than ground beef. Flanken is a Yiddish word for the cut of meat that goes across the bone so the meat is in strips wrapped around sections of bone rather than lying along the bone. This is a tough, typically undesirable cut of meat, which is why it was easily available, and, like so many peasant foods, is absolutely delicious if treated just right.
Flanken would have been used for cholent and stews that could sit for hours on the stove to be enjoyed during Shabbat or for the holidays. Although this recipe does take a little time, it doesn’t take hours. It is quick to prepare and slow to cook, which is perfect for a cool fall day.
English Cottage Pie with Yiddish Flanken Cut Short Ribs
4 flanked cut short ribs 2 in. thick
1/8 cup of olive oil plus 1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 6-oz can of tomato paste
1/2 head of cauliflower
2 cups of frozen peas
1 head of garlic
2 medium/large yukon potatoes
1 1/2 cups of red wine
1 – 1 1/2 cups of rice milk, stock or water
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Pat the flanked short ribs dry with a paper towel. Then sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. of salt. Drizzle 1 Tbsp. of olive oil into a dutch oven or a frying pan. If you are using a dutch oven or oven-safe pan with a lid you can make this all in one pot. If you do not have a dutch oven you can transfer the meat to a roasting pan once it has browned. Brown the short ribs on high/medium high on both sides.
3. While the meat is browning, wash and trim cauliflower. Remove core and slice in half. Wash potatoes and wipe dry. Cut root side off of the head of garlic. Pour 1/8 of a cup of olive oil over the potatoes, garlic and cauliflower and rub with oil. Sprinkle 1 tsp. of salt over the vegetables and place them together in a separate roasting pan.
4. If you are using a roasting pan for your meat as well, transfer the browned ribs to the pan now. Deglaze your frying pan with 1 1/2 cups of red wine then pour that into the roasting pan as well. If you are using a dutch oven, just add the wine to the dutch oven and bring to a boil. Add tomato paste and cover with a lid or heavy duty tin foil.
5. Place everything in the oven for 90 minutes. Be prepared to check the vegetables within an hour. If they are still hard, you can add a few tablespoons of water to the roasting pan.
6. After 90 minutes, carefully remove the dishes from the oven. Check that the potatoes and cauliflower are tender and there is no resistance when a knife is inserted into either. Remove the bones from the flanken cut short ribs. They should pop out with a spoon or fork. The meat should be very tender. After removing the bones, put the meat back in the oven with the lid on for another 30 minutes while you prepare the mash.
7. In a food processor or blender puree the roasted garlic, cauliflower and 1 cup of water, stock or rice milk. You want a smooth texture. If the puree is too thick (like mashed potatoes) add a little more liquid until the puree is more like a thin applesauce. Slice the potatoes (if you prefer no skin, remove the potato skins as soon as the potatoes are cool enough to touch). Drizzle 2 Tbsp. of vegetable oil over the potatoes and mash with a fork or potato masher. Mash in 1/2 tsp. of salt and 1 tsp. of freshly ground pepper. Next, stir the cauliflower mash into the mashed potatoes.
8. Take the ribs out of the oven and carefully take out the meat one rib or piece at a time. With two forks, shred the meat. As you shred the meat remove the pieces of cartilage that can be found near where the bones were. Once you have shredded all the meat, scoop out the tomato paste that is left in the pan and mix it with the shredded meat. Add two cups of (defrosted) frozen peas to the shredded meat and stir together.
9. Layer the meat into a baking dish or deep dish pie plate. Then add a thick layer of the mash until the meat is all sealed in below.
10. You can sprinkle the potato with paprika for color if you like. Take a teaspoonful of the rendered fat from the short ribs and drizzle it over the potatoes. Cover the shepherd’s pie with tin foil and bake for another 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
The pie can be prepared (steps 1-9) and frozen or left overnight in the fridge and then cooked the following day.
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Sukkot is synonymous with fall fruits and vegetables which are often used to decorate the sukkah. No specific foods are required but using the abundance of our local harvest replicates the Israelites bringing some of the bounty of their harvest to the Temple in Jerusalem. Making the long trek to the city, the travelers dwelled in temporary huts, or sukkahs, at the base of the Jerusalem hills.
It is customary to sleep and eat in the sukkah for eight days. In many climates this is not advisable, but eating in the temporary hut that has a lattice roof through which to view the stars was mandated in the Talmud on this holiday. Mandate aside, it is customary to invite friends and family to partake of a meal in your own sukkah (or to visit friends who have built one).
Dishes that are easily transported from your kitchen to the table outside are preferred and, of course, including nature’s fall produce is a must. Here is a side dish that can be made dairy with butter or parve (no milk or meat products) if anyone in your sukkah keeps kosher. It is Caribbean in origin, an area of the world where many Jews settled 400 years ago. You can, of course, bake your own sweet potatoes and small pie pumpkin to mash for this sweet potato pumpkin cazuela, but to save time and even allow your young children to help you make this recipe I call for canned pumpkin and sweet potatoes in light or no syrup.
One word of warning: This dish is so very delicious that I would double or triple the ingredients if you are making it for more than four people. And don’t forget Thanksgiving. But, please, hold the marshmallows—this is not a dessert, but could be served with any number of other dishes.
Sweet Potato Pumpkin Cazuela
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter or coconut oil
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
5.6 ounce can unsweetened coconut milk (about 2/3 cup)
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (NOT pie filling)
1 29-ounce can of yams in light syrup, drained and mashed
1/4 cup water
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
2-inch stick of cinnamon broken into pieces
1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
3 whole cloves
1. Place the butter or coconut oil in a 2-quart Pyrex bowl and microwave for 45 seconds.
2. Whisk the sugars, flour and salt into the butter to combine.
3. Whisk the coconut milk into the mixture until thoroughly blended. Add the eggs and combine.
4. Add the pumpkin puree and the mashed yams and whisk until a smooth batter is formed.
5. Combine the water with the spices in a small glass cup and microwave for 3 ½ minutes. Let the spices steep for 5 minutes. Strain the spiced water through a fine mesh strainer into the pumpkin-potato mixture and stir to incorporate.
7. Butter a 2-quart casserole and pour the mixture into the prepared dish.
8. Bake covered in a pre-heated 350°F oven for 1 hour. Serve hot out of the oven or reheated warm or hot.
Sugar pie pumpkins are about 1 ½ pounds and very rounded. Always use them when a recipe calls for cooked pumpkin. Larger pumpkins are more watery.
Coconut milk is not milk or dairy. It is the liquid formed from ground, fresh, hydrated coconut.
In many Jewish households, Fridays are for chicken. A roasted chicken for Shabbat is as commonplace as fireworks on the Fourth of July. If you’re creating a Jewish home, or a home with a Jewish flavor, a great way to do so is by sharing a delicious Shabbat or holiday meal. I love gathering with friends and hearing about their grandmothers’ roast chicken or the best roast chicken they had at a friend’s house growing up.
This time of year, it is hot outside and having the oven on for a long time roasting a chicken is less appealing. For Canada Day (July 1st) and Independence Day (July 4th) we’ve got this simple fried chicken recipe, which is perfect for a picnic, and as always, the secret is in the sauce. The dipping sauce for this recipe is all about Canada Day because it’s a sweet maple syrup sauce that explodes with flavor thanks to some Dijon Mustard (a nod to Bastille Day, July 14, perhaps) and some fresh minced garlic.
Picnic Fried Chicken with Maple Dipping Sauce
Special equipment needed: a candy thermometer to measure the heat of the oil.
2 full chicken breasts with the skin on (this will be four pieces) If the chicken breasts have the bones ask your butcher to split the breasts and remove the bones for you.
1 full skinless boneless chicken breast (this will be two pieces)
1 400 ml can of coconut milk, divided
1 cup of water, divided
2 tsp. of smoky paprika (if you only have one kind of paprika just use that twice)
2 tsp. of sweet paprika, divided
1 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of pepper
3 tsp. of cider vinegar, divided
additional salt and pepper to season chicken
2 cups of all purpose flour (optional 1 cup rice flour and 1 cup of all purpose flour)
1/2 cup of corn starch
vegetable oil for frying: enough to fill your pot about 1 1/2 inches which should be no more than 1/3 of the way up the pot. (I like canola or peanut oil)
Dipping Sauce Ingredients:
1 Tbsp. honey
3 Tbsp. maple syrup I prefer the dark/grade B maple syrup
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp. of Dijon mustard
Note: I make two different soaks for the chicken. One is more child-friendly and is a bit milder. My daughter does not like pepper so the children’s chicken is pepper free. I also make chicken strips for the children that cook quickly and are perfect for little fingers to hold.
The chicken is made in two steps: soak & fry.
1. You will need two bowls: one for the children’s chicken and one for the adult’s. In the larger bowl (adult bowl) mix the coconut milk and 1 cup of water. Whisk the mixture together and then pour 1/3 of the mixture into the other bowl (kid’s bowl).
2. To the adult bowl, add 2 tsp. of smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp of sweet paprika, 2 tsp. of cider vinegar, 1 tsp. of salt and 1 tsp. of pepper.
3. To the kid’s bowl add 1 tsp. of cider vinegar and 1 tsp. of salt.
4. Whisk the mixtures in each separate bowl until everything is combined.
5. Place the 4 chicken breast pieces that have skin into the adult bowl. If the chicken is not submerged you can add a little bit of water. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but I prefer to soak overnight.
6. Take the boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cut them into 1-inch strips with scissors or a kitchen knife.
7. Place the chicken strips into the kid’s bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but I prefer to soak overnight.
1. Take the bowls out of the refrigerator and remove the chicken from the cold coconut milk soak to a wire rack over a tray. Let the chicken sit for a while so that some of the chill is removed from the meat. The coconut milk will begin to “melt” off the chicken. Let the soak drip off and remove any excess coconut milk before you coat the chicken in flour.
2. Fill your pot no more than 2 inches high with your oil and warm it up over medium heat until it reaches 375 degrees.
3. In a large plastic bag add 2 cups of flour, 1/4 cup of cornstarch, 1 tsp. of salt and 1/2 tsp. of pepper and mix well with a whisk.
4. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Then put the chicken into the flour mixture in batches. Shake to coat.
5. Have a baking tray or plate ready with a double layer of paper towels for the chicken to drain on as each batch is ready.
6. The full chicken breasts take 20 minutes to fry. Once your oil has reached 375 degrees, you can start frying in batches. I like to put a timer on for 5 minutes at a time. Every 5 minutes you can turn the chicken in the oil. After 4 turns the chicken will be ready. Take it out with a slotted spoon or very carefully with tongs and place it on a plate layered with two paper towels. Sprinkle the chicken with a little salt and pepper to finish. The chicken strips take only about 8 minutes and can be done in two or three batches. Turn them every two minutes.
In a measuring cup pour 1 Tbsp. of honey, 3 Tbsp. of maple syrup, 1 clove of garlic minced, and 1 tsp. of Dijon. Whisk together. Add a pinch of salt to taste.
After dealing with the challenges of food in an interfaith family during the Passover and Easter season, it’s nice to come back together at Mothers’ Day to celebrate without the pressure of not serving meat on Good Friday when it also happens to be the first seder or how to have a traditional Easter dinner without a ham.
I also love Mothers’ Day because it’s another great excuse for BRUNCH! My favorite meal.
When I got married my mom’s friends threw me an amazing bridal shower and put together a recipe book with favorites contributed by all of the guests. I treasure these hand-written recipe cards, which have a place of honor in my kitchen, and they have become even more special as many of the recipes were contributed by my grandmother (bubbe) who passed away in the fall. I know I’ll be missing her as we sit down together for Mothers’ Day, so I’ll do my best to evoke her memory by baking one of her recipes.
I love my grandmother’s banana bread, and whenever my bananas are turning brown, I toss them in the freezer to be used later. The original recipe calls for margarine (which I don’t like to use), LOTS of sugar and sour cream. I switched it up a little bit here, and prepared it as mini muffins instead of as a loaf, since my kids will eat nearly anything if shaped like a mini muffin (think: meatloaf muffins, egg muffins … you get the picture).
This recipe is also great because it requires no fancy equipment. You don’t need a stand mixer or even a hand mixer; you really can do the whole thing with just bowls and a fork!
If you’re serving this dish at a meal that involves meat to people who keep kosher, you can easily substitute the yogurt with soy yogurt.
Bubbe’s Banana Bread Muffins
Yields 48 mini muffins (or 24 regular sized muffins)
It’s always helpful to get everything together before you start. The French call this “mis en place.”
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup Greek yogurt
3 very ripe bananas
½ cup coconut oil
½ cup sugar
½ cup honey
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon zest
½ tsp. salt.
Use a a fork to cream together sugar, honey & coconut oil
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Liberally grease 2 mini muffin tins.
3. Combine baking soda and yogurt in a large bowl.
4. Cream together coconut oil, sugar and honey in a small bowl until well mixed. Add to yogurt mixture.
5. Use a potato masher to mash the overripe bananas into the batter.
6. Add smashed bananas and beaten eggs to mixture.
7. Combine flour, baking powder, vanilla, lemon zest and salt in a medium bowl.
8. Add dry ingredients to wet in two batches, mixing as you go.
10. Bake for 20 minutes (25 if you are making full size muffins), turning the pan once. Use a toothpick to check for done-ness: If it comes out clean, they’re ready! They should be just slightly golden brown on the edges. Let the muffins cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.
There can certainly be challenges when melding two faith traditions, and at no time of year does that seem more evident than when Passover and Easter overlap. This is no coincidence, as the Last Supper is thought to possibly have been a seder meal, and the holidays share a great deal of symbolism and significance. But what are you to do when preparing a meal for your relatives on Easter that also needs to be kosher for Passover? What if you’re attending an Easter meal but your family is keeping Passover? Here’s the perfect recipe to share with your host so they can plan a meal that’s sensitive to Passover without giving up any of the delicacy of a big Easter meal.
Passover is the most widely celebrated Jewish holiday, so while many Jews are non-observant during the rest of the year, Passover is a time when it can feel good to participate in a holiday outside the synagogue that has clear rituals around food. Not everyone follows these restrictions in the same way, and it’s a time when you have the ability to decide how to observe the traditions on your own terms. For example, I’ve seen family members order shrimp Caesar salad, hold the croutons, during Passover, or a cheeseburger—no bun.
In my house growing up, it wasn’t a Jewish holiday if the menu didn’t include brisket, which for us meant my mom’s chili sauce, onion soup mix and preserves concoction, which is truly delicious, and still one of our go-to favorites. But there’s another side to brisket: slightly less sweet, more southern and savory, and a great opportunity to let the oven do a lot of the hard work for you. What’s great about this recipe is that it will scratch the itch of your Jewish guests, to whom brisket is a holiday tradition, while also being a hearty main dish in an Easter celebration. By tweaking the recipe to be a bit more modern, everyone will be satisfied and not feel like they’re missing out on any dishes that might not be kosher for Passover.
This is actually a great time of year to buy a brisket, as traditional Irish Corned Beef, often served on St. Patrick’s Day is made from the same cut of meat, and so is more widely available. The brisket is a cut of meat from the chest of the cow and has a great deal of connective tissue, so most recipes you’ll find use a “low and slow” approach in order to get the most tender end result. When buying a cut of meat, they are usually listed as either “first cut/flat cut” or “second cut/fat end.” Either is fine for this approach, although I prefer the fattier cut. Most Jewish style brisket dishes are a type of pot roast, but a southern style brisket usually starts with a dry rub, as this one does. Brisket is best when it’s made ahead of time: You can even make ahead and freeze until the day of your event. I suggest serving this with some lighter, springier fare, like asparagus, orange and fennel salad, cauliflower kugel, and a lemon bar for dessert, as this dish is on the heavy side.
Kosher for Passover Southern Dry Rub Beef Brisket
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp dried mustard
1 bay leaf
4 pounds brisket
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1.5 cups beef broth or stock
A note on this recipe: the ingredients, as they stand, are perfect for a year-round brisket, but if you are cooking this during Passover, please note the inclusion of mustard powder. Mustard is considered “kitnyot,” a category of food that some Jews do not consume during Passover. The category includes rice, corn, soy beans, string beans, peas, lentils, mustard, sesame seeds and poppy seeds. Many Ashkenazi Jews do not eat these foods during Passover, while many Sephardic Jews do. Certainly adhere to your level of Kashrut and the traditions you are most comfortable with when preparing food for Passover, and be sure to ask your guests what they observe before preparing food for them. If you’re not sure, just leave out the mustard.
1. Preheat oven to 275
2. Combine all the spices together and rub on the meat, let sit for an hour if possible
Tip: apply rub generously, shake off excess. Even if you’re making a smaller cut of meat, use these proportions for the rub, and then you can store the extra.
3. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pot/dutch oven
4. Brown the meat on all sides, just a minute or two on each side
5. Cook in the oven for 1 hour, uncovered
6. Add the broth or stock, tightly cover, and cook for another 3-4 hours, until the meat is fork tender.
To serve sliced traditionally, wait for meat to cool, and then slice against the grain to get long slices.
Another wonderful option, if you’re having a brunch, is to “pull” the meat, using two forks, and serve topped with a poached egg. You can even serve it on top of a potato latke for a more hearty brunch feel.
A third choice is to serve as an appetizer, shredded, on top of matzah crackers, and topped with a light BBQ sauce, for a sort of “sliders” feel.
Every week my family travels around the world without leaving our dinner table. For some people the flavors of a culturally diverse menu seem unattainable, especially when presented with challenges like keeping kosher, dealing with food allergies or health concerns related to unknown ingredients in restaurant or takeout food. When you cook at home, all of those challenges disappear, and you have complete control over what goes into each mouthful.
Every week I’m faced with feeding my family of four quick, healthy and kid-friendly food. I make the commitment to cook at home five nights, and the other two nights we either eat out, with friends or have leftovers. To keep things interesting I play mix-and-match with flavors and main components. So, most weeks we eat something Asian, something Latin-flavored, something Italian-style, breakfast-for-dinner and one of our family favorites—but it’s never the same thing two weeks in a row. One week we might eat Ground Turkey Tacos and the next Sweet Potato Enchiladas. They have the same flavor profile, so I’m not restocking my pantry all the time, but the main ingredients are different, so nobody is getting bored—myself included!
Everyone in my family loves Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese food, and in many interfaith families there can be quite a range of different cultural tastes. But take-out or eating in a restaurant gets expensive and it’s not always the most healthy, but if I use these flavors at home I can control the cost and the calories, and make sure we have leftovers for lunch at work and school the next day. We’ve been doing a lot of stir fry, since it’s simple and quick.
One of the ways I’ve tried to simplify things for myself in the kitchen lately is by doing a big round of fruit and veggie prep on Sundays. I’ll cut up peppers, carrots, squash, etc. and keep them in a large food storage container in the fridge so most of the prep work is done for me when I get ready to throw dinner together. An added bonus is that it’s now easy to reach for a healthy snack to dip in hummus or salsa, instead of the crackers or chips I may have reached for before.
Here is my recipe for a super simple stir fry. You can sub in any other protein you like (my husband is a big fan of this recipe with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which you can cook and then just pull apart with 2 forks when you are plating it) or if you’d like to avoid the protein altogether, just add more veggies. If you’re looking for another short cut, we LOVE to use Soy Vey or the Trader Joe’s version for stir fries as well; just marinate the protein in ¼ cup of the prepared marinade.
Another note: The size of the vegetables and the order you add them is important, as all these things cook at different speeds, so be aware as you prepare.
B’tayavon (eat with gusto–enjoy!),
Simple Veggie Stir Fry
3 bell Peppers (I like using red/yellow/orange), thinly sliced
3 carrots, small julienne
1 lb. extra firm tofu cut into ½ inch cubes
½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 inch fresh ginger, minced
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
½ Tbsp. sesame oil
1 ½ Tbsp. honey
Adding veggies is a good step to let your kids jump in!
1. Prepare all ingredients, slice and dice, etc.
2. In a medium bowl, combine marinade ingredients and mix with tofu, set aside
3. In a large heavy-bottom pot (I like to use a dutch oven) or wok, sauté the onion in the olive oil for 2 minutes, until starting to soften, then add garlic and ginger and sauté for 5 more minutes until fragrant and soft
4. Add carrots, cook stirring occasionally for 5 minutes
5. Add peppers, cook stirring occasionally for 5 minutes
6. Add ¼ cup of water and deglaze bottom of pan, cook for 5 minutes
7. Push veggies to the side, add tofu and lightly brown, combine with all other ingredients
8. Serve alongside white or brown rice, or atop rice noodles or even spaghetti
Growing up, latkes were always the purview of my dad and my grandma, but now that they’ve both passed away, the baton has been passed to me. Their latkes were the totally traditional, no frills, hand-grated style and they were served alongside my mom’s Corn Flake Chicken, a family friend’s homemade applesauce and my Great Aunt Shirley’s sweet and sour meatballs at our annual family and friends Hanukkah party.
The times have changed, however, and now our family is more spread out with the grandparents retired to Florida and siblings and cousins flung far and wide. While we’ll be celebrating Hanukkah in our house, we’ll also be traveling to Connecticut for Christmas with my sister-in-law, her husband, my nephew and their three fat cats. My in-laws will be up from Florida as well, and this is our only opportunity to celebrate any of the December holidays together, so, we’re doing it all at once!
For some families this is a time of tension, figuring out how to combine multiple faith traditions, but I think when it comes to food, eating together can only bring us together. I love traditional Jewish food, and will make my family’s latkes at some point during the holiday, but for our Hanukkah/Christmas in Connecticut, I’ll be bringing along these delicious baked sweet potato latkes which you need no prior latke-making experience to perfect!
Latkes can get baked as easily as fried
At Hanukkah we usually eat foods that are fried—in memory of the oil that lasted for eight days—which is why latkes and sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts) are often on the menu, but, when you’re cooking in someone else’s house, you might want to steer clear from the frying, lest you leave their whole house smelling of latkes until New Year’s. This recipe is really the best of both worlds, as it employs oil in the recipe, but they are not deep fried. They still come out incredibly crispy thanks to the finely-grated potatoes and onions and the help of the baking powder.
This recipe is incredibly versatile and once you learn the technique you can tweak it to include the spices you like the most. It pairs well with chicken, beef or fish, or could be served as an appetizer, topped with crème fraiche or a mango chutney. While my dad and grandma may have disapproved, I really need to take the help wherever I can get it during busy holiday dinners, so I’ll be taking advantage of my food processor when preparing these. Another tool that is a huge help in this recipe is a microplane to grate the fresh ginger.
Perfectly Crisp Baked Sweet Potato Latkes
Ingredients Makes about 12 latkes
2 cups grated sweet potato
½ cup grated onion
¼ cup flour
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
½ tsp. ginger powder
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. baking powder
Fresh ginger, grated sweet potato and grated, strained onion
Preheat oven to 400°F
Peel and grate sweet potatoes (easiest to use grating disk on food processor, then squeeze out any liquid)
Grate onion (using grating disk on food processor, then drain in fine mesh strainer, pushing liquid through with a spatula)
Mix all of your bright ingredients together
4. Combine all ingredients 5. Using a ¼ cup measuring cup, form patties, place on greased cookie sheet, flatten down patties with a fork in a criss-cross pattern. (Alternatively, you could cook this as one LARGE pancake in a cast iron pan or a pie pan, and then cut it in slices to serve.)
6. Bake for 25 minutes, flip and bake for 15 more minutes until crisp and slightly brown
Wishing you all the best as you celebrate this joyous time of year with your family or friends! Let us know how the cooking goes in the comments section below and for more Hanukkah recipes, click here.
Here are some links to my favorite products to use in this recipe, which could also be great holiday gifts for the foodie on your list:
Sarah Ruderman Wilensky is the founder of JewFood through which she teachers about Jewish values, culture, history and holidays through cooking and eating, because–what’s more Jewish than food? Sarah has been in the field of Jewish Education for over a decade, with experience in synagogues, camps and universities and currently works as the Jewish Educator at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Boston. Sarah has an undergraduate degree from Muhlenberg College in Theater Arts and studied in the MARE program at Hebrew Union College in New York. She is also a StorahTelling trained Educator, has been a member of the National Association of Temple Educators, Hazon’s Jewish Food Educators Network and CJP’s Families with Young Children Community of Practice. Sarah lives near Boston with her husband, two young children and cat, Brisket.