Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The menorahs are polished, the dreidels are ready to make their annual appearance and donuts and latkes seem to be just about everywhere. Yup, Chanukah is here and whether you are looking for new recipes to enhance your holiday celebrations or gifts that will hit the spot, these two fabulous new cookbooks may just be the answer.

 

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More Real Life Kosher Cooking

There is a reason why several hundred people turned out on December 8th to celebrate the launch of Miriam Pascal’s third cookbook. It wasn’t just because it was an opportunity to sample wickedly good goodies, watch a live cooking demo and walk away with gift-filled foodie swag bags. Pascal has rightfully earned her reputation as a superstar in the world of Jewish food one delicious dish at a time. From her earliest days blogging on Overtime Cook, Pascal has routinely made herself available to her loyal followers, offering advice and menu planning suggestions.

More Real Life Kosher Cooking is another Pascal gem with more than 150 fabulous recipes accompanied by variations to mix things up, as well as practical suggestions for streamlining prep time and freezer tips for those who like to plan ahead. Because we are a pretty visual society these days, there are gorgeous pictures of every recipe, Pascal proving her talents as a gifted photographer and food stylist. And while we may be celebrating Chanukah now, I can’t help but be grateful for the Pesach index listing 40+ recipes that can easily be adapted to chometz-free.

Crispy onion strings with a spicy maple aioli are dangerously addictive, but being able to easily turn these into latkes make them the perfect addition to your Chanukah menu. Portabella lentil soup isn’t just comfort food – pair it with a good loaf of bread (try the easy to prepare whole wheat loaf on page 24 or the homemade pitas on page 26) and it is a meal, packing great flavors and healthy plant-based proteins. It’s hard not to fall in love with sticky blueberry chicken, kicked up a few notches with intriguing additions including basil and soy sauce. Mac and cheese waffles are heaven on earth, at least for me, and are perfect for Chanukah or as the answer to those Motzei Shabbos munchies that strike this time of year. A few real standouts in this book for our family included the irresistible roasted cauliflower poppers topped with a spicy apricot sauce, the deceptively simple herb roasted green beans that I can’t leave sitting out on my counter on Friday afternoon because they will all disappear by the time I light Shabbos candles, and the roasted sweet potato wedges topped with an amazing avocado drizzle. Two standouts in the dessert department that will have you tossing your diet to the curb were the wontons stuffed with a cream cheese-based fudge and the totally inspired cookies and cream Krembos. When I first turned the pages of Real Life Kosher Cooking I found myself thinking that they couldn’t taste like the iconic Israeli cookie, I was wrong, wrong, wrong and I could literally eat these chocolate dipped, mousse topped Oreo cookies all day long.

An ArtScroll publication, More Real Life Cooking is one of those books that you are going to reach for again and again and again. Buy a few as Chanukah gifts, but maybe keep a copy for yourself. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

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Kids Cooking with Chef Shiri

While it is something that requires adult supervision and an initial investment of your time, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that cooking and/or baking is a great activity for kids. Not only is it a productive way for your little people to spend their time while reinforcing crucial math skills (yes, fractions really are relevant in day to day life!), your kids may be capable of producing goodies you will actually want to eat, instead of foodstuffs you politely taste and then discreetly hide at the bottom of the trash can when no one is looking. Having personally reaped the rewards of having a kid who turned out to be a beyond awesome cook (like seriously, I dream of the babkas that girl makes), I can tell you that you want your children to be comfortable in the kitchen. And who knows? Somewhere down the road, that kid who could barely crack an egg into a bowl may just end up producing the best potato kugel or chocolate peanut butter brownies that you have ever eaten.

Enter Kids Cooking with Chef Shiri, an ArtScroll book written by Efraim Harari. The recipes here are divided into three levels of difficulty titled, “easy shmeezy,” “rising star” and “junior chef,” and include a glossary of kitchen terms and an illustrated guide to common kitchen tools. Equally important is a list of 15 safety rules designed to minimize kitchen messes and prevent cuts and burns, with kids thoughtfully advised to check with an adult before embarking on any culinary adventures. Interspersed over Chef Shiri’s 160 pages are 36 recipes ranging from the cute teddy bear toast to the impressive roasted vegetable pastrami pizza as well as fascinating strange but true food facts, cooking tips, jokes, Torah tidbits, pointers on brachos and hilchos kashrus and inspirational thoughts on the world around us. Given its intended audience, the recipes here are clearly written and laid out in easy to follow, step by step instructions, with great visuals including adorable illustrations and full color photos of what the finished product is supposed to look like. (It goes without saying that depending on the age and skill level of the child who is doing the cooking, the actual results may not look quite like the professional photos that appear throughout Chef Shiri.)

More than a few of the recipes incorporate fresh fruits or vegetables, a great way to ensure healthy eating habits. Newbies can start with chocolate dipped apple slices or bananas, a yummy milk-based orange juice and strawberry smoothie made with low fat yogurt, hemp seeds and an optional mint leaf garnish. Moving on from snacks to real food, kids will love scooping up easy to make protein packed chumus with toasted pita wedges while crispy chicken nuggets will have them egging and dredging chunks of chicken, with the frying wisely delegated to an adult. In keeping with the holiday season, the intermediate recipes feature both decadent s’mores donuts that can either be baked or prepared in a donut maker and traditional sufganiyot which are clearly marked as an “adult supervision required” recipe because of the deep-frying process. Be sure to check out the fried chicken and waffles in the advanced section and the easy one step spinach lasagna that can, thankfully, be made without pre-boiling the noodles.

Equal parts a kid-friendly kitchen bible and a great read, Chef Shiri has what it takes to get the younger set donning their aprons and cooking up a storm, creating fabulous dishes that anyone of any age will enjoy.

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French Toast Kabobs

From Kids Cooking with Chef Shiri,
courtesy ArtScroll and Efraim Harari.

Dairy/can also be made pareve
Serves 4

Utensils needed:
Shallow bowl
Whisk
Skillet
Fork or tongs
Pizza cutter
Measuring cups and spoons
Spatula
Skewers

 

Ingredients:
2 eggs
½ cup milk*
1 tablespoon honey
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter*
5 slices of challah or bread (cut into ¾-inch to 1-inch-thick slices)
1 cup strawberries, halved
2 tablespoons strawberry jam
Syrup

* To make pareve, use nondairy milk and replace butter with margarine.

 

Lets get started:

  1. In a shallow bowl, use the whisk to combine the eggs, milk, cinnamon, honey, and salt.
  2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat.
  3. Dip each slice of bread into the egg mixture until both sides are coated.
  4. Place the bread into the hot skillet. Cook for 3 minutes on each side, until golden and cooked through.
  5. Use the fork or tongs to take the French toast out of the skillet. Put it on a plate. Use the pizza cutter to cut it into bite-size pieces.
  6. Make small “sandwiches” with the French toast pieces and the jam, and thread them onto skewers, alternating with strawberry halves.
  7. Serve with syrup.

 

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Overnight Onions

From More Real Life Kosher Cooking,
courtesy ArtScroll and Miriam Pascal.

Pareve
Yield 6 servings

This is my mother’s specialty, and one of my favorite treats at her Shabbos table. Not only are these easy to make, but the long cook time makes them super sweet, super soft, and super delicious!

 

Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
10-12 red onions, peeled and halved

 

Directions:
Preheat oven to 275°F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Combine oil, vinegar, salt, soy sauce, and thyme in a small bowl. Whisk to combine.

Brush mixture generously over the cut sides of each onion half; place cut-side down on prepared baking sheet. Drizzle any remaining mixture over the onions.

Bake for 6-8 hours, up to overnight. Note that the outermost layer of the onion halves will become dried out and tough. Discard that layer before serving.

 

Plan Ahead The onions are best the day they are made. You can make them a day or two ahead and enjoy them later at room temperature. For best results, do not reheat.

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