Have Hanukkah Your Way: A Flexible & Easy Menu

During Hanukkah, I love setting aside a night for a traditional family dinner. In the midst of the noise and busy-ness of December, the table can be a quiet and light-filled space.

Depending on the year, however, Hanukkah’s timing can be precarious. For interfaith families like my own, there is the 800 pound gorilla of Christmas. Sometimes Hanukkah falls during winter break and can overlap with travel plans or hosting out of town guests. Sometimes Hanukkah is earlier in December and sits in balance with a busy work week.

Also: remember Thanksgivikkah?!

Because each year can be different, my Hanukkah menu is flexible. The suggestions below are some of my favorite recipes and alternatives, the majority of which can be made ahead or bought in a pinch. Truth be told, this is my basic Jewish holiday menu. For Rosh Hashanah, add apple cake. For Passover, cut the challah, add matzo ball soup. You get it.

Hanukkah Menu and RecipesChicken

Make it: Ina Garten’s roast chicken recipe is my favorite!

Buy it: Rotisserie is our go-to option for Shabbat since we work until 5pm.

Latkes

Make them: Latkes are what distinguish this meal as a Hanukkah celebration. Frankly, the easiest version of this menu is just to have latkes and call it a night. Last year I shared my tips for make-ahead latkes:

  1. Cool hot latkes on rack (not paper towels).
  2. Freeze in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Reheat in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Have Hanukkah Your Way: A Flexible & Easy Menu

Buy them: Trader Joe’s has latkes in the freezer section near hash browns and other breakfast items.

Kugel

Potato: If you aren’t making latkes, this potato kugel is a great substitute.  It tastes just like a latke, can be made in advance, and is relatively simple, both in terms of ingredients and process.  Technically the recipe’s author (Tori Avey) doesn’t recommend making this kugel ahead, but I almost exclusively do that with consistently good results (my husband actually prefers it on day 2 or 3!).  To make ahead, prepare and cook, cool and refrigerate.  Reheat on 350 degrees until warmed through.

Picture of potato kugel

Apple: This apple raisin kugel is a reliable hit with family and guests. The recipe calls for shredded apples but I dice them (you can see the chunks in the picture below). To make ahead, assemble the kugel and refrigerate.  To serve, bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes.

Have Hanukkah Your Way: A Flexible & Easy Menu

Vegetable

We rotate through different roasted vegetables but my “fancy” vegetable dish is roasted brussels sprouts and grapes.  I use Martha Stewart’s recipe as a guide, but don’t include thyme or walnuts.  To make ahead, I will prepare a big bowl of halved/quartered brussels sprouts and grapes tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt, and put in the fridge.  When it is time to bake, I’ll pour the contents of the bowl onto a sheet pan and bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.

Challah

Make it: My go-to challah recipe is from Mollie Katzen’s cookbook, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. The recipe yields two loaves, which I bake on the weekends and freeze. On Shabbat and other holidays, we take a loaf out to thaw when we leave for work in the morning. When we get home, we pop it in the oven on warm (170 degrees) while setting the table.

Buy it: I like making challah and from a practical perspective, it’s cost effective. However, for a store bought option, Bread Garden makes some of the best challah anywhere, hands-down.

Dessert:

(Have someone else) make it: I’m going to level with you. My strategy for sufganiyot is to have someone else make them. The picture below is from the synagogue’s Hanukkah party.

Buy it: My kids are still thrilled by gelt, which is a win-win for the easiest Hanukkah shortcut ever! In our area, Trader Joe’s has gelt marketed as “Coins of the World.”

However you carve out time for your Hanukkah celebration, I hope it is filled with love and warmth.  Happy Hanukkah!


Our Ultimate Guide to Holidays in Iowa City offers answers to all your holiday questions, from Family Friendly Events to Light Displays and more!November and December family events in the Iowa City areaSanta Sightings: Where to see Santa in Iowa CityBest Places to see Christmas Lights Displays around Iowa City areaChristmas tree farms near Iowa CityService and volunteer opportunities in Iowa City for the holidays

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Susie is a mom of two, student affairs professional, book-lover and frequent challah baker. Originally from Skokie, Illinois, Susie first came to Iowa City for college and grad school. The following decade was full of adventure and moving boxes as she and her husband followed jobs to New York, Illinois and Texas. They were thrilled to relocate “home” to Iowa City in 2016. In addition to working at the UI Pomerantz Career Center, Susie is a PTA volunteer and sorority advisor. She loves date nights in the Ped Mall, catching a show at Hancher or the Englert, and most of all, cuddling her kids on the couch.

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