How will you fill your baskets this Purim?


purim baskets

Margi Lenga Kahn, Special to the Jewish Light

The appearance of hamentaschen at bakeries and grocery stores is a reminder that Purim is near. Along with those iconic pastries, Purim evokes wild merry-making by even the most reserved members of our community, and crazy and colorful costumes. But it is Mishloach manot, the Purim tradition of sharing food with friends and those in need, which resonates with me. For someone who enjoys cooking as much as I do, Mishloach manot (“sending of portions”) is a special opportunity to come up with fun ways to fulfill a Purim mitzvah.

As with other Jewish traditions, there are guidelines. Mishloach manot is a form of tzedakah, and thus a central tenet in Judaism. And while tzedakah during the year tends to be monetary, on Purim those gifts should center around food. As specified in the Book of Esther, 9-22, food gifts should be shared with friends and with the needy among us. Also, tradition suggests that each gift include at least two food items, neither of which requires further preparation on the part of the recipient. Finally, for gifts for the needy, think about asking an agent (someone the recipient does not know) to deliver gifts to those in need. Anonymity in such cases is part of the mitzvah.

Your gifts need not be expensive or elaborate; it is the thought that counts. Look for baskets, boxes, and additional items to include with your gifts at grocery stores, farmer’s markets, your local Dollar Store, Target, World Market, Marshalls, and T.J. Maxx stores. And to mark the festive nature of Purim, consider including confetti, masks, and Purim groggers or other noisemakers as part of your gift.

With that in mind, here are some ideas and recipes:

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Margi Lenga Kahn is the mother of five and grandmother of three. A cooking instructor at the Kitchen Conservatory, she is currently working on a project to preserve the stories and recipes of heritage cooks. She welcomes your comments and suggestions at [email protected]

Caramelized Apple Sauce


3 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 Pippin or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons apple cider or fruit-flavored liqueur


Heat butter in large pan or skillet over medium heat. Add apples, sugar, and cinnamon and raise heat. Sauté and stir mixture until apples begin to caramelize, about 10-15 minutes.

Reduce heat under pan to medium and add 1/2 cup water. Simmer mixture, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let mixture cool for 15 minutes.

Turn mixture into a food processor or blender and puree to desired consistency. (Alternatively, mixture can be mashed with a potato masher in the pan, which will produce a chunkier consistency.) Taste for seasoning.

When completely cool, spoon into clean jars and refrigerate for up to 1 week. (Let the recipient know that the sauce should be stored in the refrigerator.)

Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Trail Mix Bars


1 1/2 cups Grape Nuts cereal

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup sliced blanched almonds

1/2 cup unsweetened or sweetened shredded coconut

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup raw pepitas (dried pumpkin seeds)

7 dried apricots, snipped into small pieces

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

1/2 cup pure maple syrup (do not use pancake syrup)

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup instant dry milk

Butter or oil for oiling pan


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil an 8×8-inch pan with butter or oil.

Mix together cereal, pecans, and almonds, half of the coconut, raisins, pepitas, and apricots in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a small saucepan over low heat, stir together peanut butter, maple syrup, and brown sugar. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring. Stir in dry milk.

Pour peanut butter mixture over cereal mixture and stir until all ingredients are combined.

Turn mixture into prepared pan and press with your finger to even out. Bake bars for about 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove pan from oven, place on a cooking rack, and sprinkle with remaining coconut, pressing lightly to adhere.

Let mixture cool completely before cutting into bars in desired size. Once cut, bars can be individually wrapped in squares of cellophane or waxed paper.

Store bars in airtight container at room temperature for 5-7 days. Makes 8-12 bars.

Zucchini Bread


2 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus more for oiling pan

1 1/2 cups grated zucchini

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1/2 cup chopped dates


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9x5x3 loaf pan.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, sugar, vanilla, and oil. Stir in zucchini and set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gently fold this mixture into zucchini mixture. Stir in walnuts and dates.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until nicely browned.

Turn bread out of pan onto a cooling rack and allow bread to cool completely before wrapping in cellophane or foil paper.

Store bread, wrapped, at room temperature for 5-7 days.

Makes 1 loaf.

Cherry-Walnut Biscotti


3/4 cup dried, tart cherries, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes and drained

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water for egg wash

Melted chocolate for dipping (optional)


Place flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in bowl of mixer. Mix ingredients until blended together. With machine running, add eggs and vanilla and beat until thoroughly combined. Remove bowl from mixer and stir in cherries and walnuts.

Butter and flour a large baking sheet. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead gently for 30 seconds. Divide dough into 2 pieces, and place pieces side-by-side, 2-inches apart, onto baking sheet. Using your hands, form each piece of dough into a log, 13″x2″. Brush logs with egg wash and bake for 30 minutes. Remove pan to cooling rack, and let logs cool for 5 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

Carefully transfer each log to a cutting board and slice crosswise, at an angle, into 1 1/2 inch slices. Place slices on their sides on the pan and place pan in oven for 10 minutes. Turn slices over so that other side is exposed, and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove biscotti to a cooling rack and cool thoroughly.

When cool, biscotti may be partially dipped in melted chocolate. Allow chocolate to dry before packing biscotti.

Biscotti may be stored at room temperature in zip-lock bags for 1 week, or frozen for up to 6 weeks.

Makes 20-24 biscotti