Have a Happy, Healthier Hanukkah


The Festival of Lights is a time of joy and celebration, but it’s not always so joyous to read the calorie counts of some of the oil-heavy dishes traditionally served during this holiday!

Not to worry. Here are some lightened-up, but still flavorful, versions of Hanukkah favorites: brisket, latkes with applesauce — even doughnuts.

Brisket With Wine-Soaked Apricots

The preferred way to prepare brisket is with long, slow cooking. Brisket is a pretty high-fat meat, but you can make it leaner by trimming off all the visible fat before cooking. This recipe can be made in the oven or on the stovetop.

3-4 pound beef brisket
1 lb dried apricot halves
2 mild or sweet onions, sliced
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
A couple of pinches ground black pepper
A couple of pinches of salt (optional)
1/2 cup toasted slivered or sliced almonds (toast in a nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat)

  • If you’re cooking the brisket in the oven, preheat oven to 300 degrees. Trim all the visible fat off your brisket.
  • Wash the apricots and put in a medium-sized bowl. Add enough wine to cover them and soak for one hour.
  • Add canola oil to large Dutch oven (or similar pot) and heat over medium-high heat on stove. Add the sliced onions and brisket. Brown meat and onions, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the spices and the dried fruit with wine to Dutch oven and stir. Cover pot and reduce heat to low (if you’re cooking on the stovetop) or move Dutch oven to preheated oven. Cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until brisket is very tender.
  • Remove brisket from pan and place in center of serving platter. Let the meat rest 5-10 minutes before slicing. Surround the slices with the apricots, and drizzle 1/2 cup of the pan juices over the top. Sprinkle toasted almonds over the top of the beef and apricots.

Yield: 8-10 servings

Per serving (if 8 servings and using a 3-pound brisket): 335 calories, 35 g protein, 26 g carbohydrate, 10 g fat, 2.7 g saturated fat, 94 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 58 mg sodium.

Potato Latkes

Serve these with homemade light applesauce (see below), fat-free or light sour cream, and chopped green onions.

2 cups peeled and shredded Russet potatoes, firmly packed (about 1 pound)
1/4 cup grated or finely chopped onion
1 large egg
6 tablespoons egg substitute
2-3 tablespoons low sodium matzo meal (a little less than 1 matzo, processed into fine crumbs)
1 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 teaspoons canola oil

  • Place the potatoes in a cheesecloth or double thickness of paper towels and wring to extract as much water out of the potatoes as possible.
  • In a medium bowl, stir the potatoes, onion, egg, egg substitute, and matzo meal and salt together well.
  • In a large, heavy-bottomed, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until hot.
  • Make sure the oil is spread evenly over the bottom of the skillet. Place 1/4 cup (level measure) of potato mixture into the hot oil, pressing down on them to form 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick patties. Spray tops with canola cooking spray. Brown on one side about 3 minutes, turn over and brown the other side (about 3 minutes).
  • Serve hot.

Yield: 10 latkes

Per latke: (if 2 teaspoons of canola used): 71 calories, 3 g protein, 12 g carbohydrate, 1.5 g fat (0.2 g , 0.7 g monounsaturated fat, 0.4 g polyunsaturated fat), 21 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 237 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 19%.

Homemade Light Applesauce

This is a nice applesauce to enjoy anytime, but especially with latkes during Hanukkah. You don’t need to get your blender dirty; you just need a potato masher and a little elbow grease.

3 pounds apples (whichever type you prefer), peeled, cored, and chopped (about 8 cups)
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons Splenda
Juice from 1 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon or apple pie spice

  • Put chopped apples in a large nonstick saucepan and stir in water, sugar, Splenda, and lemon juice. Bring mixture to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until apples are tender (about 10 minutes).
  • Use a potato masher to break cooked apples up into a nice puree. Stir in ground cinnamon or apple pie spice. Serve warm or cold.

Yield: 8, 1/2-cup servings

Per serving: 110 calories, 0.5 g protein, 27 g carbohydrate, 0.6 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 3.5 g fiber, <1 mg sodium.

Jelly Doughnut Muffins

(From Elaine Magee’s new cookbook, Fry Light, Fry Right: Fried-Food Flavor Without Deep Frying)

These are a cross between a fried jelly doughnut and a moist muffin. Fill them with your favorite jelly (mine is boysenberry).

1 cup milk
4 1/2 tablespoons canola oil, divided use
1/4 cup light cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3 cups unbleached white flour (use 1/2 cup more, if needed, in kneading step)
1 packet active dry yeast (or about 2 teaspoons)
1/2 cup jelly of your choice (boysenberry, raspberry, and cherry work well)

  • Place milk in a microwave-safe glass and microwave on high until fairly hot to the touch, about 1 minute. (Or put in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until just hot).
  • Place 2 tablespoons of the canola oil along with the cream cheese, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low until blended. Slowly pour the hot milk over the cream cheese mixture, and continue to beat until well blended.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Stir together 2 cups of the flour and the yeast in a large bowl. Add the flour mixture slowly to the milk mixture and beat on low until smooth. Beat in the remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
  • Place the dough in a large mixing bowl that has been lightly coated with canola oil or canola margarine. Turn the dough over to coat the entire surface with oil. Cover bowl and let dough rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours.
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon of the canola oil to the bottom of each of 16 muffin cups. Punch down the dough and split it into 16 equal-sized balls (about the size of golf balls). Using your hands, press each ball into a 1/2-inch thick circle, and then spoon 1 1/2 teaspoons of jelly into the middle. Bring up all the sides of the dough to wrap the jelly, squeezing the dough ends together well to seal. Place each ball in a muffin cup, and roll around to cover the entire surface with oil.
  • Let rise in a warm place until almost double in size, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the muffin tin in the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the tops of the doughnut muffins are nicely browned. Remove from the oven to cool. Top with a vanilla glaze if desired (made with 1 cup powdered sugar, 2 teaspoon water, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/4 teaspoon almond extract).

Yield: 16 muffins

Per muffin (without glaze): 182 calories, 4 g protein, 30 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat, 0.8 g saturated fat, 29 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 174 mg sodium.