Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a Jewish holiday that celebrates an ancient battle victory and the re-dedication of a holy temple in Jerusalem. Though it isn’t the holiest Jewish holiday, it is one of the most anticipated; it typically falls within several weeks of Christmas and is associated with the festive holiday season.
Like other winter holidays, there are a number of traditional dishes that are essential to the Hanukkah celebration. It can be difficult if you are on a diet or trying to maintain a healthy weight, especially since the Hanukkah celebration lasts eight nights as opposed to many other holidays, which last one or two.
“As with any holiday, plan to allow yourself a little bit of indulgence,” said Aviva Goldfarb, author of The Scramble. “Different people have different traditions. I don’t bake a lot of cookies during the holidays but my family loves sweet potato pie as a side dish. I also make latkes baked or pan fried in less oil.”
Other popular Hanukkah dishes include beef brisket, jelly donuts called sufganiyot, matzo ball soup, noodle kugel and potato latkes. While many of these items are high in fat and carbohydrates, seasonal produce is a perfect complement to more decadent options.
“To make your Hanukkah dinner a little lighter, make it all about the produce,” said Goldfarb. “There are so many wonderful fruits and vegetables in season in the winter, so fill up on those before indulging in other foods.”
Sweet potatoes, cabbage, celery root and fennel are a few winter vegetables that are delicious braised, roasted, baked or prepared in salads. “My family loves whipped sweet potatoes and caramelized cabbage,” said Goldfarb. “We always have potato latkes, which are a little lighter than the traditional version.”
To make your own Hanukkah menu lighter in fat and calories, Goldfarb shared her nontraditional healthy twist on her mother’s potato latke recipe.
“In my family, latkes are one of the best parts of celebrating Hanukkah,” Goldfarb said on her blog. “These modern potato pancakes have a terrific blend of flavors and a nice crunchy texture without all the oil.”
Sweet Potato Pancakes (originally posted as Hanukkah Latkes)
Prep (20 minutes) + Cook (20 minutes)
Makes 16 pancakes, or 4 servings
- 1 large sweet potato
- 1 large white potato
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
- 6 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
- 1 cup nonfat or low fat sour cream (optional for serving)
- 1 cup naturally sweetened applesauce (optional for serving)
Using a hand grater, coarsely grate the potatoes and finely dice or grate the onion. Drain the vegetables then wrap them in a clean dish towel for a minute or two to get the excess water out. Transfer the grated vegetables to a large bowl. Stir in the beaten eggs. Thoroughly mix in the flour, salt and cayenne pepper (optional).
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. oil over medium to medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, scoop in spoonfuls of the potato pancake mixture and flatten them with the spoon or a spatula. Cook the pancakes for several minutes per side until they are browned. After each batch, add 1 – 2 Tbsp. oil to the pan and let it heat for a minute or two, to keep the pancakes browning nicely. If they start to get too browned on the outside before the middle is cooked, reduce the heat. Transfer the cooked pancakes to the baking sheet and keep them warm in the oven while the rest cook. Serve them topped with the sour cream and applesauce (or dipped in ketchup, as our kids like them!)
Nutritional Information per serving (% based upon daily values):
Calories 300, Total Fat 16g, 26%, Saturated Fat 2g, 10%, Cholesterol 110mg, 36%, Sodium 620mg, 26%, Total Carbohydrate 32g, 10%, Dietary Fiber 4g, 12%, Protein 6g, Sugar 8g.