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Hanukkah, like other family and entertaining occasions, does not have to mean sabotaging a healthy lifestyle, according to Nechama Cohen, CEO and Founder of the Jewish Diabetes Association in Brooklyn, New York.
Cohen is author of “EnLITEned Kosher Cooking,” and with Hanukkah 2019 about to begin on the evening of Dec. 22, she’s sharing a holiday menu for Jewish people with diabetes – who may have a harder time finding resources than those celebrating Christmas.
“One of the most important things to always focus on is that it’s not only about the food. Hanukkah should be a time of enjoyment!” she reminds us.
“There is a custom to eat fried and dairy foods on Hanukkah. This as well does not have to get us off-track, as long as we know how to do it. Below are just a few suggestions. We hope you enjoy them, and we would love to hear from you!” Cohen says.
Quick facts about Hanukkah
For those who aren’t familiar, here are some basics about Hanukkah:
There are at least two ways to spell the name of this holiday: Hanukkah, and Chanukah. That’s because it is a Hebrew word “transliterated” into English, meaning sounded out.
The story behind Hanukkah is that a small band of Israelites were victorious over a much larger army that sought to wipe them out during Syrian-Greek rule in the 2nd century BCE. During this conflict, the oppressing army had raided and destroyed their Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
When the Jews were finally able to reclaim their Temple, they found the sacred lamp, called a menorah, extinguished. This lamp is supposed to provide eternal light. They found only one tiny remaining vial of olive oil needed to light the lamp – which should have only lasted a single day. Yet miraculously, the lamp continued to burn for eight days while a messenger journeyed to another region to fetch more oil.
So began the ritual of lighting one candle per night until all eight Hanukkah candles are lit. Hanukkah always begins on the eve of the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, which is why it does not always fall on the same dates in the secular month of December. It celebrates “the triumph of light over darkness.” The word itself means “dedication” — specifically, the re-dedication of the Temple.
It is a tradition to eat foods fried in oil as a nod to the oil that lasted eight nights. In particular, potato pancakes called latkes are traditionally eaten, topped with either apple sauce or sour cream.
The recipes listed below follow the traditional use of oil and dairy on Hanukkah and the widely accepted accompaniment of applesauce for the latkes. Sour cream is also a great accompaniment to latkes. A nice thick Greek yogurt works just as well, without overloading on fat.
Remember that latkes can be made with almost any vegetable. If you want the real potato feel, try combining potato with another grated vegetable. Zucchini works best as long as you drain well and squeeze out all the liquid.
The fruit punch and mulled wine are wonderful winter drinks for entertaining, and the cheese balls are great light hors d’oeuvres.
A “diabetes-friendly” Hanukkah menu could include:
- Cauliflower Latkes (Pancakes)
- Cabbage Latkes (Pancakes)
- Fresh and Natural Applesauce
- Cheese Balls
- Fruit Punch
- Mulled Wine
All of the following variations of latkes (pancakes) can be made into kugels (casseroles) as well.
Cauliflower Latkes (Pancakes)
Low Carb, Low Fat / Yield: 16 servings
These low-carb latkes are delicious and satisfying. They’re great to have around during Hanukkah, so that you can avoid munching on high-carb potato latkes.
- 2 eggs plus 2 egg whites
- 1 small onion, peeled
- 1 (2-pound) package of frozen cauliflower thawed and drained very well or 1 fresh head, steamed and drained very well
- 2 tablespoons soy or whole wheat flour
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, for frying
- Non-stick cooking spray
Process eggs and onion using a food processor and knife blade, until chopped well. Add cauliflower, soy or regular flour and seasonings and mix until finely chopped; do not over process. Wipe a non-stick frying pan with a paper towel dipped in oil and spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray. Put on medium heat, wait until hot and drop batter by tablespoonfuls into pan. Fry 4-5 minutes until firm and browned on each side.
Tip for frying lighter latkes:
With each new batch, spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray and/or wipe the pan with oil occasionally, as well. You need to be patient with these pancakes and fry them until they are firm and cooked through, or they will fall apart when flipped.
Variation: Substitute and/or combine with spinach, broccoli etc.
One latke contains: 37 calories, 2.8 grams protein, 1.8 g fat, and 2.5 g carbohydrate.
Cabbage Latkes (Pancakes)
Low Carb, Low Fat / Yield: 10-12 servings
- 2 cups cabbage, finely grated
- 1 whole egg plus 2 egg whites
- 1 scallion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons soy or whole wheat flour
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- Non-stick cooking spray
Place the cabbage in a 4-cup bowl. With a wooden spoon, mix in the eggs and scallion. Add flour and season to taste.
Using wet hands, form latkes and fry on each side over medium-high heat.
One latke contains: 46 calories, 1.6 g protein, 0.4 g fat, and 2.5 g carbs.
Carb Free, Low Fat / Yield: 17 servings
These are lovely for the holidays or for anytime entertaining – or just as a nice treat for you. A combination of the various garnishes is beautiful, satisfying, filling and low in everything. These can be served with an assortment of fresh-sliced, low-glycemic fruits and vegetables.
- 1-1/2 cups farmer cheese
- 1/2 cup 5% soft white cheese or low-fat ricotta (well-drained)
- 1 cup low-fat finely grated yellow cheese (Muenster, cheddar etc.)
- 1/4 cup scallions, minced
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- Non stick cooking spray
- 1 tablespoon sweet or sharp paprika
- ⅓ cup minced dill, parsley, sesame seeds or coarsely chopped roasted nuts
Mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Wet hands and form the mixture into small balls and place in a pan that has been lined with wax paper and lightly sprayed with non stick spray. Refrigerate till firm. Roll in any or all of the garnishes. Put In one ball at a time and roll around till covered. Refrigerate at least ½ hour before serving.
Serve with whole wheat crackers and/or sliced fruits and vegetables.
Can be stored refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
It is not recommended to freeze these since they will become watery and it will change the texture.
One ball contains: 41 calories, 5 g protein, 2 g fat , 0.9 carbs.
Carb Free, Fat Free / Yield: 18 servings, 1 cup each
Call all your health-conscious friends together and even a few non-believers to prove that you can entertain using these recipes and whip up a super, satisfying spread without all the carbs and fat! Begin with this zesty punch.
- 2 quarts diet ginger ale
- 1 quart diet orange soda
- 1 quart diet raspberry drink
- 1 orange, sliced paper-thin
- 1 large lemon, sliced paper thin
- 1 cup frozen raspberries or blueberries
- 1 cup sliced frozen strawberries
Mix everything together, except for fruit, in an attractive punch bowl. Add fruit. Serve in punch cups.
Variation: Place a scoop of strawberry sorbet in each cup of punch and serve immediately.
Note: The nutrition facts are zero, except for the bit of fruit and if any of the drinks contain sodium.
Low Carb, Fat Free / Yield: 8 servings
You won’t find a more relaxing drink for a cold winter night. If you have a fireplace, you can curl up near it and savor a glass of this!
- 1 bottle Cabernet Sauvignon
- 1/2-inch piece of cinnamon stick
- 3-4 whole allspice seeds
- 3-4 whole cloves
- Sugar substitute equal to 1/4-1/2 cup sugar
- 1 long piece of navel orange peel
In a 2-quart pot, combine all ingredients and heat, but do not boil until liquid is steaming. Cover and let sit for 1 hour off the heat. Gently reheat to steam again. Strain liquid into a 2-quart thermos bottle. Seal lid tightly. Serve steaming hot.
One wine glass contains: 79 calories, 0 protein 0 fat, 1.8 g carbs.
Fresh and Natural Applesauce/Compote/Pears
Low Carb, Fat Free / Yield: 20 servings
It’s hard to go back to store-bought applesauce after tasting this delicious, refreshing dessert. The trick to this great dish is tea bags. Be daring and try a variety of different flavors.
- 5 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced into eighths
- juice of half a lemon
- dash of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4-6 flavored tea bags of your choice
- sugar substitute, optional
For fruit compote:
Use fruit of choice Place apples in a 5-quart pot. Add lemon juice, salt, vanilla, tea bags and water, covering not more than half the apples so that the end result will not be too watery. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until apples are soft. Hand-blend and mash to desired consistency. For additional sweetness, you can add sugar substitute. Variations:
For crunchy fruit compote:
Bring ingredients to a boil and cook on high heat for 7 minutes. Turn off heat and cover. Let stand overnight. In the morning, put into a jar and refrigerate. This can be frozen in an airtight container.
For strawberry-rhubarb apple compote:
Add 1-1/2 cups of sliced strawberries and 1 cup of sliced rhubarb to the apples. Rhubarb is quite tart, so add sugar substitute according to taste. Blend well and refrigerate.
For cinnamon applesauce:
Add 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon to blended apples. For a beautiful crimson color, as well as additional flavor and fiber, add 1 to 1-1/2 cups frozen blueberries.
One half-cup compote contains: 34 calories, 0.1 protein, 0 fat, 8 g carbs.
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See also, this handy Hanukkah carb chart from our friends at Beyond Type 1.
Big thanks to Nechama Cohen, and we’re wishing you all a happy, healthy Hanukkah!