Chanukah Health-Consciousness

November 29, 2010
Please note: fresh fruit and vegetables need to be inspected for insect infestation. Please consult our guide

This article originally appeared in Jewish Action Magazine WINTER 2010/5771 – Volume 71, No. 2. For more articles, click Jewish Action Magazine or visit:

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In honor of Chanukah, it is traditional to eat foods fried in oil, including luscious latkes and sufganiyot (Israeli-style donuts traditionally filled with jam). Dairy dishes, especially those made with cheese, are also customary because the Jewish heroine Yehudit killed Holofernes, the Assyrian general, after feeding him cheese and wine.

The challenge for today’s kosher health-conscious cook is to find a way to use just a little oil and make it go a long way. Mini veggie latkes use only a little bit of oil. For an even lighter dish, try my baked variation.

Mini Veggie Latkes with Smoked Salmon and Tzatziki

Yields 4 dozen miniature latkes


  • 1 medium onion, cut in chunks
  • 1 Idaho (russet) potato, cut in chunks
  • 1 medium sweet potato, cut in chunks
  • 1 carrot, cut in chunks
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut in chunks
  • 1 red pepper, cut in chunks
  • 2 eggs (or 1 egg plus 2 egg whites)
  • 1/3 cup matzah meal or dried bread crumbs (preferably whole wheat)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh dill
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil for frying (plus more as needed)
  • 1 cup Two-Way Tzatziki (below)
  • ¼ lb. smoked salmon, cut in bite-sized pieces
  • Additional dill, for garnish


  1. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process the vegetables in batches until finely minced, about 8 to 10 seconds for each batch.
  2. Transfer the minced vegetables to a large mixing bowl and add the eggs, matzah meal, salt, pepper, and dill; mix well.
  3. Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Add 1 tablespoon oil and heat over medium high heat. Drop the mixture from a teaspoon into the hot oil to form latkes (pancakes).
  4. Flatten each latke slightly with the back of the spoon. Reduce heat to medium and brown well on both sides, about 2 minutes each side.
  5. Remove latkes from the pan when they are ready and drain on paper towels. Add additional oil to the pan as needed and stir batter before cooking each new batch of latkes.
  6. When ready to serve, arrange the latkes on a platter and top each one with a dollop of tzatziki, smoked salmon, and a sprig of dill.

Note: Keeps 2 days in the refrigerator; reheats well. Freezes well for up to a month.

Variation for Baked Mini Latkes:

  1. Place oven racks on the lowest and middle position in the oven, and preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Drop the latke mixture by teaspoonfuls onto well-oiled baking sheets; flatten slightly.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes or until the bottoms are browned and crispy.
  4. Turn the latkes over and transfer the pan from the upper rack to the lower rack and vice versa. Bake for another 8 to 10 minutes.

Two-Way Tzatziki

12 servings (about ¼ cup each)

This makes a delicious dip for raw vegetables or pita bread wedges. Fresh mint adds an authentic Middle Eastern flavor.


  • 1 medium English cucumber, peeled and grated
  • 6 green onions, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic (about 1 tablespoon minced)
  • ¼ cup minced fresh dill or mint
  • 1½ cups light sour cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Place cucumber in a strainer and press gently to drain excess liquid.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the cucumber, green onions, garlic, dill, sour cream, and salt and pepper to taste; mix well.
  3. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve chilled.

Note: Leftovers will keep 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. Don’t freeze.

Variation: Dairy-Free Tzatziki: Instead of sour cream, substitute 1 tub (12 ounces) imitation sour cream.

Snapper Balsamico with Grape Tomatoes and Mushrooms

6 servings

These snapper fillets are so scrumptious, they’ll get snapped up in a minute! This potassium-packed dish is also delicious made with tilapia, sole, or any other mild-flavored fish fillet.


  • 6 red snapper fillets (about 8 oz. each)
  • 1 container grape or cherry tomatoes (about 2 cups)
  • ½ lb. mushrooms, coarsely chopped (about 2½ cups)
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon dried or fresh thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil, for garnish


  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (preferably fresh)


  1. Line a large baking tray with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  2. Arrange the fillets in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Scatter the tomatoes, mushrooms, and garlic around the fish. Season with thyme, salt, and pepper to taste.
  3. In a measuring cup, combine the vinegar, oil, honey, and lemon juice; mix well. Drizzle the mixture over the fish and vegetables until all are well coated. Marinate for 30 to 60 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Bake the fish and vegetables, uncovered, for 12 to 15 minutes. The fish is done when it just flakes when gently pressed with a fork. Garnish with basil and serve immediately.

Note: Keeps for up to 2 days in the refrigerator; reheats well. Don’t freeze: if frozen, vegetables will be watery when thawed.

Pasta Pinwheels

Yields 24 pinwheels


  • 1 lb. lasagna noodles
  • 2 slices whole-wheat bread
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 (10 oz.) package frozen spinach, cooked, drained and squeezed dry
  • 1 lb. part-skim ricotta or cottage cheese
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh basil, minced or 1 teaspoon dried
  • ¼ cup skim milk
  • Dash of salt and pepper
  • 2 cups vegetarian spaghetti sauce (bottled or homemade)
  • ¾ cup grated low-fat mozzarella cheese


  1. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse well.
  2. Lay flat on a clean towel and pat dry. If you use large sheets of fresh lasagna (regular, spinach or whole-wheat), cook the pasta for 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In the food processor, process bread until soft crumbs are formed, about 20 seconds. Add spinach, ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, basil, milk, salt and pepper. Mix well. Pour half of the spaghetti sauce into the bottom of a lightly sprayed 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
  4. Cut noodles in half crosswise. (Omit this step if using large sheets of fresh pasta.) Spread a heaping tablespoon of filling in a thin layer on each noodle, spreading it right to the edges. Roll up tightly to make a pinwheel.
  5. Repeat with remaining noodles and filling. Arrange pinwheels cut-side up in baking dish. Pour remaining sauce over pinwheels. Sprinkle lightly with mozzarella cheese. (Can be prepared in advance and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
  6. They can be frozen; defrost them overnight in the refrigerator before continuing with the recipe.)
  7. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  8. Bake pasta for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden and bubbling.

Note: Allow 2 to 3 pinwheels per serving. Freezes and/or reheats well.

Chanukah Gelt Double Fudge Chocolate Layer Cake

image12 to 16 servings

Marcy Goldman, renowned pastry chef, baker and cookbook author, shared the recipe for her magnificent cake from her latest cookbook: A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking, The 10th Anniversary Edition (Whitecap).



  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1¼ cups vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1½ cups warm, flat cola soda

Chocolate Icing:

  • ½ cup chocolate chips, melted and cooled
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter or unsalted margarine
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 3 to 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • ½ cup water, cola, or half and half


  • Colored sprinkles
  • 20–30 gold-colored chocolate coins
  • Miniature decorative plastic dreidels


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 9-inch layer pans and line them with parchment paper circles.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, blend the sugar and oil. Add the eggs and vanilla and combine until the mixture is well blended.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Fold them into the wet, and mix, drizzling in the cola as the mixture blends.
  4. If using an electric mixer, use the slow speed and mix for about 3 minutes, scraping the sides and bottom once to incorporate all the ingredients. This is a thin batter.
    Bake on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cake springs back when lightly touched.

Chocolate Icing:

  1. In a bowl, cream together the melted chocolate, shortening, butter, and vanilla with the cocoa and 1 cup of the confectioners’ sugar.
  2. Add the remaining confectioners’ sugar and whip on high speed, adding a bit of water, cola, or half and half to get a light, fluffy consistency.
  3. If you’re not frosting the cake right away, re-whip before using, adding additional warm water, a tablespoon at a time, to achieve the right consistency.

To Decorate:

  1. Place one layer on a cardboard circle.
  2. Ice it with about ½ inch of frosting.
  3. Cover with the second layer and ice the sides first, then the top.
  4. Coat the sides with colored sprinkles. Garnish the bottom edge with gold-covered coins.
  5. Garnish the top with gold-colored coins, making any arrangement you want, placing the coins either flat on top of the cake or standing up, sticking them in the icing to hold.
  6. (You may even cut some of the coins in half to garnish the border of the top layer.)
  7. Place a couple of miniature dreidels in the center if you wish, or Chanukah candles.

Norene Gilletz is a cookbook author and culinary consultant in Toronto. She is the author of eight cookbooks. For more information, visit her web site at

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.