You know that old joke: Jewish holidays are either early or late – they’re never on time. This year – talk about early! By the time this is published, we’ll be lighting the last of the Chanukah candles while downing the remains of the Thanksgiving leftovers. Now the whole month of December merriment looms before us, and the elephant in the room – I might as well say it right out – is Christmas.
When my boys were young, I used to hate it when Chanukah came early. By the time Christmas rolled around, all their toys were already broken. Oh, the joys of the Hebrew lunar calendar. Only once, to my memory, did Chanukah fall after Christmas. That year I saved all my Chanukah shopping for the day-after-Christmas sales. (Talk about a leap of faith!)
Holidays are all about creating memories. Whether you are a parent or grandparent, Christmas vacation (or as the PC generation now calls it, Winter Break) is a splendid opportunity to make those memories, and nothing fulfills that goal better than cooking with the kids (and it doesn’t hurt that you get to eat the fruits of your labors too.)
Children’s cookbooks have gotten more sophisticated these days. Kids Cooking: Favorite Triple Tested Recipes (Artscroll) is the third title in the Made Easy series by Leah Schapira, co-founder of cookkosher.com, and Victoria Dwek, managing editor of Whisk, a popular kosher food magazine. Featured are 60 easy-to-follow, tempting recipes that are fun to make, such as Spinach Quesadillas, Pizza Soup, Honey BBQ Chicken Nuggets, Hot Dog Garlic Knots and a beef riff on falafel they call Malafel, with color photos accompanying every recipe and additional step-by-step photos and “Cooking School” tips teaching young chefs techniques, such as how to simmer or sauté.
“If you are a kid and think you can’t cook, you will learn very quickly that you can,” says Dwek.
Schapira adds, “Once your kids are old enough, you can bring them into the kitchen like my mother did with me. Kids feel so confident and proud when they learn to prepare their first dishes on their own.”
“Kids love to cook, all kids, all ages, both genders,” says Susie Fishbein, author of the wildly popular Kosher by Design series. Her Kosher by Design Kids in the Kitchen cookbook (Artscroll) includes 80 kid-friendly (and adult-pleasing) recipes such as Potato Bourekas, Asian Wonton Soup, Breakfast Burritos, Chicken Pot Pie, Pizza Bubble Ring and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake.
“The best way to get kids to try a new food is to have them prepare it,” she says. “As kids grow to be comfortable in the kitchen, they will become more independent and gain a better awareness of what they are eating.”
Each recipe is accompanied by an equipment list, and there is even a section on keeping kosher as well as a kid-friendly guide to safety. Her tips “to rule your kitchen” are not just for kids: Set out and prepare all your ingredients ahead of time, what the French call “mise en place.” “Read through a recipe before you start cooking,” she advises, and “clean up as you go.”
Turn our December dilemma into December delight as you create memories with your kids.
Yield: 4 servings
“As a huge falafel fan,” Dwek writes, “I set out to create a meat dinner while still getting my falafel fix. My taste-testers, the neighborhood boys, all shocked me by filling their pitas with the meat and tons of salad and requesting seconds…arguing about what to call my creation. Their choice? ‘Eata meata pita.’”
1 pound ground beef
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons oil
4 pita breads, tops cut off
1/4 cup hummus
1 cup Israeli salad or diced cucumbers and tomatoes
1 cup red cabbage or “purple salad” (recipe follows)
1/4 cup techineh
1 In small bowl, gently combine meat, garlic, salt, cumin, coriander and onion powder.
2 Heat oil in skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Form meat mixture into little balls like falafel balls, or simply place entire mixture into hot oil. Use wooden spoon to break meat into pieces as it cooks. Cook meat until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3 Spread 1 tablespoon hummus inside each pita bread. Fill with meat, Israeli salad and red cabbage. Top with techineh.
3 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch black pepper
1-2 teaspoons oil
1 (8-ounce) bag shredded purple cabbage
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
2-3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
In small bowl, combine vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, and oil. In large mixing bowl, combine cabbage, onion, and sesame seeds. Toss with dressing just before serving.
Asian Wonton Soup
Yield: 4-6 servings
If you don’t have ground chicken, make it yourself. Pulse one raw chicken cutlet in the food processor until ground.
4 ounces ground chicken
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
12 (3- or 4-inch) wonton wrappers
8 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small head Napa cabbage, sliced
6 cups chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 green onions, root removed, white and half green part only, sliced
1 teaspoon roasted or toasted sesame oil
1 Place ground chicken, ginger, minced garlic cloves, teriyaki sauce, salt and pepper in medium bowl. Mix well. If you have a latex glove, put it on and use your hand to really mush ingredients together.
2 Lay wonton wrappers in front of you, four at a time.
3 Fill small measuring cup with water. Dip your finger into water and go around whole outside of each wonton wrapper to wet all 4 edges. Place 1 teaspoonful chicken filling into center of each wonton wrapper. Fold wrapper in half diagonally to form triangle. Press around filling to push out extra air. Firmly press edges to seal. Repeat until all 12 wrappers are filled. (Freeze any extra filling for another time.) Lay finished wontons on parchment paper in a single layer not touching each other.
4 Wash your hands and anything chicken touched with warm soapy water.
5 Heat oil in medium pot over medium-low heat. Add mushrooms; cook 5 minutes until mushrooms are soft, a little brown and smell good. Mushrooms will give off a little liquid. Stir with wooden spoon so they don’t stick. Add 1 loose cup cabbage; cook 2 minutes until wilted. Add chicken stock and pepper. When soup starts to simmer, carefully add wontons. Cover and cook 4 minutes. Wontons are done when they float to the top. Sprinkle green onion slices into soup. Carefully add sesame oil. Stir and ladle into bowls.