Ideas to lighten up Hanukkah cooking this year

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away (a.k.a. when I attended Sunday School as a child), I recall grasping the parallel between Hanukkah’s miracle of a vial of oil lasting 8 days and frying latkes in oil. It made sense then just as it does in my adulthood.

However, kids never worry about fatty acids, triglycerides, cholesterol and coronary heart disease! As adults, most of us would like to continue the culinary tradition, hearing the sizzle of hot oil in a frying pan and savoring the unmistakable aroma of crispy potato pancakes. Might healthier versions of the holiday’s celebration exist?

Throughout the years, I have come across various recipes for ways to “healthify” latkes, from using shredded zucchini in place of potatoes, to baking the pancakes in the oven. Sure, when preparing the baked variety, no oil is burned. Creativity and a bit of imagination typically accompany modified recipes. In the name of health, some of us are willing to tolerate the less-than-traditional fare rather than forego it entirely. 

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So, how might we incorporate oil into our Hanukkah celebration? One way is to make your own oil-and-vinegar salad dressing, drizzling it atop fresh greens and crunchy vegetables. This provides a way to acknowledge the miracle of long ago without the oil saturation that frying entails. 

Another idea is to purchase the highest-grade oil you can find, along with a spritzer bottle. When your holiday chicken is almost done cooking, turn the oven up to “Broil” and spritz the poultry with just enough oil to hear it sizzle, creating a delicious crackly-brown surface that will keep even the white meat moist. 

Now, how about those ever-popular jelly-filled doughnuts? Let’s be honest about this: once you bring a dozen home from Dunkin’, you tend to forget that they are related in any way to an oil-laden treat. Rest assured: the bakers at the store did indeed fry these little beauties in the cooking process! A delicious substitute is a jelly-filled cobbler (or use fresh fruit). Choose ingredients wisely: replace white flour with whole wheat, substitute honey or agave nectar in place of the sugar, and toss in some granola when preparing the streusel topping. 

Time to spin the dreidel? Instead of the gold foil chocolate coins, give the kids chunks of dark chocolate. It is just as yummy and fun, but with considerably less milkfat.

There you have it ~ the guide to enjoying a delicious thinking-outside-of-the-box Hanukkah! With every candle you light, may your holiday be healthy and bright!

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.