Hanukkah is one of the best-known Jewish holidays, but not because of its religious significance, but because of its seasonal relationship with Christmas. Gift giving is an American custom than does not exist among Jews worldwide.
Growing up, I loved Hanukkah. As a family, we lit the menorah together each night. I had my own menorah, as did each of my siblings. I made my menorah out of clay one summer at camp (when I was 8 or 9) and used far into my young adult years. As a child, I got gifts, not nearly as many as my non-Jewish friends, but I never seemed to mind. My siblings and I would get 1 small gift each night with one “big” gift on the 8th and last night.
After we lit the menorah we would play the dreidel game and eat latkes with applesauce. The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top and each side is imprinted with a Hebrew letter. The letters serve as an acronym for Nes Gadol Haya Sham, which translates to “A great miracle happened there”, referring to the miracle of the oil. In Israel they say Nes Gadol Haya Po, “A great miracle happened here”.
To also remember the miracle of the oil, it is customary to eat foods that are fried with oil. Potato latkes are the traditional food of choice, eaten once a year (or really 8 if you eat them each night of Hanukkah), and served with applesauce. The idea of fried foods gives me a stomachache so this year I am trying something different – baking my latkes instead of frying and making sugar free applesauce.
We all have family recipes, traditions and favorite dishes that are not healthy enough to eat year-round, which is why we indulge only on special occasions, but why un-do your hard work of good decision making to suffer weight gain, a stomachache or worse? Getting back to where we were before we made a poor diet or lifestyle decision can takes days, weeks or more before we feel as good as we did before that decision. May be it’s worth it for you, but it sure isn’t for me.
I love revamping recipes to make them healthier. This way I don’t feel like I’m really making a sacrifice to maintain my health.
Do you have a recipe you want to make healthier? Shoot it my way and I’ll send it back to you healthier, but still tasty.
Applesauce: (serves 2-4 people)
6 -8 sweet apples (I used Fuji apples)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Remove skin from apples and chop into 10-12 pieces each
Put apples and cinnamon into pot with lid
Stir often until apples are soft – approximately 30-45 minutes
Put apples in blender and blend completely
Put apples back into pot and add vanilla
Cool and serve
Potato Latkes (makes 12-15)
1 large sweet potato, grated
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, blended
1/2 cup of flour (I used Pecan flour, but any will do)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Grease baking sheet
Combine all ingredients into bowl and stir well
Use your hands to scoop mixture
Squeeze all liquid out and place scoop on cookie sheet and flatten
Bake until latkes are crisp and golden brown