Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is one of those holidays that takes over everything. The pantry overflows with bottles of oil and baking ingredients at the ready, kids decorate the house with dreidels and chocolate gelt coins, the menorahs get dusted off, and there are whispers of gift requests. This year, the eight-day affair starts on the night of Sunday, Dec. 22 and lasts through Monday, Dec. 30—later on the American calendar than usual, but always falling on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev.

For grandparents, parents and kids, it’s the perfect opportunity to relax, talk and learn. Spending quality time together is a life skill, as is spending time in the kitchen. And there’s more to it than just measuring and mixing—health, science, math, nutrition and even family history are all involved. Before beginning to handle food, make sure to wash hands and roll up your sleeves. Grandparents can tell the story of a particular dish or baked good handed down through generations. Then there are the questions: Why does a cake rise? How many quarters make a whole cup? Which ingredient goes in first? How long do you mix? Fine motor skills are practiced through kneading, mixing, whisking and all the actions used in preparing something they love to do (and better yet, love to eat).

If you’re cooking with little ones, adult supervision is needed, especially with tasks related to the stove or oven. Other recipes are so easy that they can attempt to do it themselves. So what if the bread rolls for the “Menorah Candles” are squashed or the “Wacky Cake” mixture is plastered up the sides of the baking dish? The results are good enough to eat, and there’s always that satisfied look of “I made it myself.”

 To a sweet and Happy Hanukkah!

Broccoli. Credit: Pixabay.

Broccoli Tree Soup (Dairy)

Serves 2

This is one way to get them to eat greens. My toddlers always called broccoli florets “trees.”  

 Cook’s Tips:

*Cut florets into smaller florets.

*At a pinch, use prepared mac-and-cheese from the market.


1 cup macaroni, cooked

⅓ cup grated cheese

1–1½ cups vegetarian broth

About ⅓ cup broccoli florets


Place the cooked macaroni into a medium saucepan.

Stir in the cheese and 1 cup broth.

Heat over medium heat to melt cheese. Do not boil. Add more broth, if desired.

Stir in the tiny broccoli florets and heat through.

Pour into bowls and serve.

Hanukkah “Menorah.” Photo by Ethel G. Hofman.

 Hanukkah ‘Menorah’ (Dairy)

Serves 9

 Besides lighting the candles on the menorah, it’s fun to make one that’s good enough to eat.

 Cook’s Tips:

*Adults should shred lettuce for little kids.

*Microwave cream cheese 15 to 20 seconds for easy spreading.

*Stack 4 to 5 slices bread on a cutting board. Trim crusts. Save crusts for cheese sticks (recipe below).

*Instead of carrots, quartered small strawberries may be used for flames.


9 slices whole-wheat or white thin-sliced bread

3-4 tablespoon cream cheese

2-3 baby carrots, sliced on diagonal about ¼-inch thick

2 cups shredded lettuce


Lay bread slices on a board. Spread thinly with cream cheese.

Roll each one up like a jelly roll. Press lightly.

Arrange on a large platter or board to resemble candles. Insert a carrot slice at top of each “candle” to resemble flame.

Spread a line of shredded lettuce at bottom of cream-cheese rolls. Chill or just eat at once.

 Cheese Sticks: Place crusts on a baking sheet. Toss in 1 tablespoon melted margarine, then in 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese. Bake at preheated 375 degree oven for eight to 10 minutes, or until beginning to brown. Cool before eating.

Jars of preserves. Credit: Pixabay.

Jammy Pennies (Pareve)

Makes 9-12

Cook’s Tips:

*No need to remove crusts.

*No cookie-cutter? Use a juice glass.

*Use any favorite preserves.

*Substitute margarine for peanut butter.

*If not eaten immediately, cover with plastic wrap and chill.


3-4 slices whole-wheat bread

2 tablespoons softened peanut butter

2-3 tablespoons preserves, any flavor


Lay bread slices on a cutting board. Spread thinly with peanut butter, then with preserves.

Cut out with a small cookie-cutter, about 1½ inches in size. Don’t worry if circles include crusts. Arrange on a platter and serve.

Cocoa powder. Credit: Pixabay

Chocolate Haystacks (Pareve)

Makes 8-10 mini stacks

 Cook’s Tips:

*Set bowl on a kitchen towel so that it doesn’t slide while stirring.

*Instead of shredded wheat, substitute corn flakes.

*Spoon into paper mini-muffin cups instead of a baking sheet.


2 tablespoons margarine, cut in pieces

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1½ cups shredded wheat, coarsely crushed


Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick baking spray. Set aside.

Place margarine and honey in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave 45 seconds. Stir. If not melted, microwave in 15 second bursts.

Add the cocoa and mix until smooth.

Add the shredded wheat, stirring to coat almost completely.

Drop in heaped teaspoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheet.

Refrigerate 30 to 40 minutes or until firm.

Sufganiyot. Credit: Pixabay.

Swift ‘Sufganiyot’ (Dairy)

Makes 12

In Israel, sufganiyot or doughnuts, are always served at Hanukkah time, when even El Al Airlines check-in counters often have platters of these oil-based treats to sample.  

Cook’s Tips:

*Buy doughnut holes from market.

*Besides preserves, you may use peanut butter, cream cheese or grated cheese.

*Use cinnamon-sugar instead of confectioners’ sugar.


12 doughnut holes, plain or glazed

2 tablespoons preserves

Confectioners’ sugar (optional)


Cut each doughnut hole in half. With a teaspoon, scoop out a teaspoonful of crumbs from 6 halves.

Use the end of a wooden spoon to make a smooth hole.

Spoon about ½ teaspoon of preserves in each hole.

Top with the remaining halves, pressing lightly.

Roll in confectioners’ sugar or cinnamon-sugar.

To make cinnamon-sugar: In a small jar, measure 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Cover; shake well to mix.

Raisins. Credit: Paweł Kuźniar via Wikimedia Commons.

Wacky Raisin Cake (Pareve/Vegetarian)

12 servings

This goes all the way back to the Depression, a time when dairy ingredients were expensive and scarce. You probably have all of these ingredients on hand in your pantry.

 Cook’s Tips:

*Any leftovers may be frozen.

*Instead of raisins, stir in fresh hard fruits, such as finely diced apples or pears.

*No white vinegar? Substitute lemon juice.

*Don’t worry if cake mixture is smeared on inside of pan. It’s wacky!


1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup raisins

1 cup water

Confectioners’ sugar to sprinkle (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Into an ungreased 8×8-inch cake pan, dump in flour, sugar, cocoa and baking soda. Stir to mix. Roughly spread out with a wooden spoon to cover the bottom of pan.

With wooden spoon, make three holes in flour mixture. Pour the oil into one hole, the vinegar into the second hole, and the vanilla and raisins into the third hole. Pour the water over all.

Stir to mix using a big fork, making sure no white streaks remain.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a tooth pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool before sprinkling with confectioners’ sugar (optional) and cutting into squares.

Strawberries. Credit: Pixabay.

Strawberry Soda (Dairy)

1 serving


¼ cup strawberries, fresh or frozen

Bottle of sparkling water

1 scoop strawberry ice-cream or frozen yogurt

Box of cookies (sugar, butter, vanilla wafers, plain biscuits)

Glass of sparkling water. Credit: Nevit Dilmen via Wikimedia Commons.


In a mug or tall glass, crush berries with a fork.

Fill the glass half-full with sparkling water.

Add the ice-cream; stir.

Serve with a cookie on the side.

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