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Shanah Tovah 5780

Fall into the flavors of Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur

Since summer seems long-gone and families are knee-deep in activities already, make it a little easier on yourself. Make the freezer your friend. 

By Ethel G. Hofman (JNS)

Rosh Hashanah falls late on the calendar this year, at the end of the back-to-school month and at the beginning of the first signs of fall. No matter; somehow, there are always those last-minute guests and added recipes that cause a flurry of activity in Jewish households right down to the wire. This year, the holiday starts after sundown on Sept. 29, a Sunday—a gift for those cooks and hosts who have just a few more preparations to make before they welcome the new Jewish year, 5780.

Since summer seems long-gone and families are knee-deep in activities already, make it a little easier on yourself. Make the freezer your friend. With the time ahead of the holiday, whip up a few dishes, slip them into the freezer and forget about them until that Sunday morning. Besides the ubiquitous brisket and chicken, soups and casseroles galore may be cooked, cooled, sealed and frozen. Just don’t forget to label each one, adding key codes such as pareve, meat or dairy.

It’s no big deal to cut up salads the night before (remember, the clocks start to go back, and there will be time after Shabbat for thawing and finalizing the menu). Chunks of tomato, cucumber and shredded basil stay just fine overnight. Toss with a little olive oil, some lemon or lime, and salt and fresh pepper just before serving. Cream soups, however, do not freeze well. The soup will separate, and the texture will become grainy; those are best prepared fresh or make the night before and refrigerate. For thawed soups, the seasonings may need to be adjusted as flavors are reduced by the cold.

And what’s a Jewish holiday without a kugel? My grandkids, home from college, will expect my Pineapple Applesauce Kugel, and for dairy meals, a Rich Banana Dessert Kugel. Both freeze exceedingly well. Another must-have on the table is the ubiquitous honey cake. Try a seasonal variation: Pumpkin Honey Cake, which is moist, dark and delicious.

All of the dishes here may be served at Rosh Hashanah or to break the fast after Yom Kippur.


Ginger-Spiked Fruit Soup (Pareve, Vegetarian)
Serves 6
Super-easy: Just place all ingredients, except the ginger, in blender and whirl. Serve chilled.
For a dairy soup, stir ½ cup sour cream or plain yogurt into thawed soup.

• 1 (15 oz.) can pitted cherries, drained
• 1 cup whole cranberry sauce
• 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
• 1 cup orange juice
• ½ cup water
• 1 slice (½-inch thick) challah or white bread, crumbled
• 2-3 tablespoons coarsely grated ginger root to taste

Place all ingredients, except ginger root in blender jar or food processor. Whirl until smooth. Stir in grated ginger root to taste. Pour into freezer container, cover tightly, label and freeze.

Photo by Ethel G. Hofman.


Easy Vegetable Lasagna for a Crowd (Dairy)
Serves 24

• 1 (16 oz.) package skim-milk ricotta cheese
• 1 (16 oz.) package low-fat sour cream
• ½ cup skim milk
• 1¼ teaspoons freshly ground pepper
• 1 (16 oz.) jar meatless spaghetti sauce
• 1 (10.5 oz.) “no cook” lasagna noodles
• 1 (12 oz.) jar roasted sliced red peppers, drained
• 1 (12 oz.) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
• 1½ cups frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
• 2 teaspoons garlic powder cup grated Parmesan cheese
• ¾ cup water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 13×9 inch lasagna pan with nonstick vegetable-spray. In a bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, sour cream, skim milk and pepper. Set aside.

Spread half the spaghetti sauce over the bottom of prepared pan. Cover with 3 lasagna noodles and top with about cheese mixture. Cover with roasted pepper and half the artichokes. Repeat with 3 lasagna noodles and half the remaining cheese mixture. Cover with remaining artichokes and the spinach. Top with remaining cheese mixture. Sprinkle with garlic powder and Parmesan cheese.

Pour ¾ cup water into one corner of pan, tilting to distribute water to other corners. 

Cover tightly to seal with heavy-duty foil. 

Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Uncover and bake 15 minutes longer.

Cool before sealing with foil. Label and freeze. To reheat, thaw and bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

Credit: Pixabay.


One-Bowl Pineapple-Applesauce Kugel (Pareve)
Serves 8-10

• ½ pound medium egg noodles, cooked and drained
• 5 eggs
• ¼ cup vegetable oil
• 2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
• 1 (16-oz.) jar chunky applesauce
• ¾ cup sugar
• 1½ teaspoons cinnamon, divided
• 1 cup crushed cornflakes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9×12-inch baking dish with nonstick vegetable spray.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs with oil, pineapple, applesauce, sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Add the slightly cooled noodles. 

Stir to mix. Transfer to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle cornflakes evenly over noodle mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon.

Bake in preheated oven 45 minutes or until slightly moist in center. Cool, cover tightly with foil and freeze.


Pumpkin Honey Cake (Pareve)

Makes 1 loaf (9x5x3-inch dish)
and 1 extra mini-loaf (not individual, but mini-size), or 4 mini-loaves.

*Substitute 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1 teaspoon nutmeg for pumpkin-pie spice.
*Substitute ¾ cup candied citron peel instead of raisins.
*For full-proof nonstick effect, line bottom of loaf pan with waxed paper and spray with nonstick vegetable spray.

• 4 eggs
• 1 cup dark brown sugar
• ½ cup water
• 1 cup vegetable oil
• 1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie) mix
• ¾ cup molasses
• ½ cup honey, warmed
• 2 cups whole-wheat flour
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
• 1¼ cups dark or golden raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray loaf pan and extra mini-loaf pan (or 4 mini-loaf pans) with nonstick vegetable spray with flour.

Beat eggs and sugar until blended. Add the water, vegetable oil, pumpkin, molasses and honey. Mix well.

Stir in the flours, about ½ cup at a time, mixing to blend between each addition.

Stir in the baking soda, spice and 1 cup raisins. Spoon into prepared pan(s). Scatter remaining raisins on top.

Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Bake mini-loaves 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center.

Cool in pan 10 minutes. Loosen edges by running a round bladed knife around. Turn out onto a wire tray. Cool completely. Wrap and freeze.

Photo by Ethel G. Hofman.


Six children’s books for the Jewish New Year

By Penny Schwartz

BOSTON (JTA) — A Rosh Hashanah apple cake bake-off fit for reality television and another installment in the Scarlett and Sam series from the award-winning author Eric A. Kimmel are among the highlights in the crop of new High Holiday books for children.

Six engaging and fun reads for kids of all ages seize the spirit of the Jewish holidays and the excitement and anticipation of beginning anew, reflecting on the past, and celebrating the warmth and joy of Jewish traditions with family and friends.

Kimmel’s Whale of a Tale provides a modern-day riff on the biblical Book of Jonah read aloud in synagogues on Yom Kippur, preaching forgiveness over revenge. The master storyteller adds his laugh-out-loud wit to this ancient and intriguing story.

In Once Upon an Apple Cake, the children’s book debut for author Elana Rubinstein, you get a zany, charming story of the meaning of family and the strength of Jewish tradition. Not to mention a terrific recipe, too.

Other offerings bring the Sesame Street characters led by Grover and a brilliantly colorful biblical story of Creation by another award-winning author, Ann Koffsky. Not to mention for Sukkot, an elephant making his way into a sukkah.


Once Upon an Apple Cake: A Rosh Hashanah Story
Elana Rubinstein; illustrated by Jennifer Naalchigar

Apples & Honey Press; ages 7-10

In this humor-filled, heartwarming chapter book, readers meet Saralee, an endearing 10-year-old Jewish girl whose cute-looking nose possesses the unusual superpower to sniff out scents and flavors. As Rosh Hashanah approaches, Saralee, whose family owns a restaurant, is excited to bake her zayde’s (grandfather in Yiddish) popular apple cake with a mystery ingredient that even Saralee can’t figure out.  Trouble lay ahead when a new family opens a restaurant and threatens to take over the apple cake business.

When zayde bumps his head, he temporarily forgets the secret to the cake. Will Saralee rise to the occasion, bake the perfect cakes and win a contest judged by a famous food critic? More than anything, Saralee wishes that her grandfather returns home from the hospital for Rosh Hashanah.

The cartoon illustrations by Jennifer Naalchigar add zest to Rubinstein’s efforts. The recipe is included at the end of the book.


Whale of a Tale
Eric A. Kimmel; illustrations by Ivica Stevanovic
Kar-Ben; ages 6-10

Travel back in time in the third installment of the Scarlett and Sam Jewish-themed chapter book series for older readers by Kimmel (“Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins”). The lighthearted adventure begins when the brother and sister twins offer to take their Grandma Mina’s centuries-old carpet to be cleaned at the local rug shop. Engrossed in conversation with their mysterious ride-hailing service driver, Jonah, they forget to take the prized carpet with its aura of magic that their proudly Iran-born grandmother brought with her as she fled tyranny in her country.

Suddenly they find themselves transported to Jaffa in ancient Israel amid carpet sellers in the shouk (market). They stow away on a ship, where they reunite with Jonah, who they learn is the biblical prophet. The stormy caper shines with references to the biblical tale, as the kids and Jonah go overboard and are swallowed up in the slimy belly of a big fish (is it really a prehistoric shark, they fear?). With fierce determination, the clever kids prod the reluctant Jonah to travel to Nineveh, to be faithful to God and justice, and to speak out to the ruthless Assyrian king.

Ivica Stevanovic’s animated illustrations embellish the drama.


Shanah Tovah, Grover!
Joni Kibort Sussman; illustrated by Tom Leigh
Kar-Ben; ages 1-4

Join Grover, Big Bird and other beloved Sesame Street characters as they welcome Rosh Hashanah with honey and apples, a shofar, and a festive meal with songs and blessings. Joni Sussman’s simple verse is perfect for reading aloud to little ones and for preschoolers eager to read on their own, paired with veteran Sesame Street artist Tom Leigh’s delightful, colorful illustrations.


Creation Colors
Ann D. Koffsky
Apples & Honey Press; ages 2-5

In this gloriously illustrated picture book of papercut art, Koffsky (Judah Maccabee Goes to the Doctor) presents young kids with the biblical story of Creation through the prism of color: from separating light from dark to the bubbling blues of the water, to the yellows of the sun, and the stripes and spots of the animals. After God created the first two people, a world full of people of all shades and hues followed. And then, on the seventh day, God rested.

This simple, lyrically told story is perfect for Simchat Torah, the joyful festival at the end of the High Holidays that anticipates the start of the new cycle of the weekly Torah reading that unfolds with Genesis.


Jackie and Jesse and Joni and Jae
Chris Barash; illustrations by Christine Battuz
Apples & Honey Press; ages 3-8

On a crisp fall day, four good friends stroll hand in hand toward the river clutching small bags of sliced bread. The diverse group is following their rabbi and neighbors to tashlich, the custom during Rosh Hashanah of tossing crumbs or other small objects into moving water to symbolically cast away mistakes from the past year. Kids will relate as the friends recall misdeeds, like when Jae shared Jackie’s secret.

Chris Barash’s lovely rhyming verse comes to life in Christine Battuz’s cartoon-like drawings in warm autumn tones of browns, orange and green. On the closing page, the friends are seen from behind, walking home, again hand in hand — a palpable reminder of the power of asking for and extending forgiveness, a theme central to the High Holidays.


The Elephant in the Sukkah
Sherri Mandell; illustrated by Ivana Kuman
Kar-Ben; ages 3-8

Nothing will get between a young boy named Ori and Henry, a lively elephant who once was a circus star but now is sent to a farm for old elephants where no one sings or has fun. When Henry wanders out one evening, he is enchanted by the joyful music and singing he hears from the Brenner’s family sukkah. After a few nights, he even learns the Hebrew words.

Young Ori hears Henry singing along outside the sukkah and is determined to find a way to bring the animal inside to fulfill the mitzvah of welcoming guests. The boy’s surprising solution shines with kid-friendly inventive thinking.

Kids will chuckle at illustrator Ivana Kuman’s double-page spread as Henry, in his red-checkered shirt and small black cap, tries every which way to squeeze into the sukkah. On an author’s page, readers discover that the out-of-the-ordinary idea of elephants in a sukkah crossed the legalistic minds of the Talmud’s rabbis.

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