This year, for the first time in my lifetime, American Thanksgiving and Hanukkah coincided. Thanksgiving is always the 4th Thursday in November, so it can range from the 22nd through the 28th, depending on what day of the week November 1st is that year. This year it fell on the 28th, the latest possible date.
Meanwhile, the Jewish calendar is a lunisolar calendar. Months always begin with a full moon, so we can’t have a “leap day” every 4 years without messing up the days of the month. So we get a “leap month” every few years. Most years have 12 months but leap years have 13. The whole cycle repeats every 19 years. This year is the earliest possible point in the cycle, when Hanukkah begins on the night of November 27th.
So, we have an early Hanukkah combined with a late Thanksgiving, making the two holidays overlap. Somebody coined the term “Thanksgivukkah” and it’s fun to use- so why not? We won’t get to use the word again until 2070, when Thanksgiving falls on November 28th and Hanukkah starts that night.
Thanksgiving has never had much special meaning to my family, or I might have resisted the silly term combining the holidays. Most of us were off from work and school for Thanksgiving, and we either got a free turkey or we got one on sale, plus the rest of the “traditional Thanksgiving foods” were readily available, in season, and on sale.
We’ve always been flexible about having the turkey another day that weekend if Thursday wasn’t convenient. When I was 10, we moved during Thanksgiving week, and weren’t ready to host a big dinner on Thursday, so we had the traditional foods on Sunday instead. The year my son was born, his Bris (ritual circumcision) was on Thanksgiving Day, so we had the turkey and trimmings on Friday night instead of Thursday.
I’ve never found Thanksgiving cooking to be that much more work than what I prepare for Shabbos every Friday afternoon- only I’m making a larger amount at once and using leftovers for Shabbos that week. I made brown rice the night before, and added raisins and apple chunks to the rice. I put onion and ginger slices on a foil pan, put the turkey on that, then stuffed with the prepared stuffing. I sprinkled dried dill over the bird, covered with foil, and put in the preheated oven. I uncover it in the last hour of cooking, basting every 15 minutes, so the skin gets crispy.
I also made a pumpkin pie with a rice and almond flour crust. The pie filling itself was a can of pumpkin with eggs, homemade rice milk, honey, and spices. I made cranberry sauce by combining 1/3 cup of raisins, 1/3 cup of unsweetened dried pineapple, cut into small chunks, with 2 cups of water and 3 cups of frozen cranberries. I let that simmer on low a long time and chilled before serving. I also opened up a can of jellied cranberry sauce, since Hannah prefers that to the homemade kind. When basting the turkey, I removed some of the cooking liquid into a small saucepan and thickened that with rice flour to make gravy. The final dish was simply steamed broccoli.
I’d originally intended to make latkes as another side dish, but I ran out of energy. We truly did have enough food without it. I’d made latkes the night before, and have made them several times since. We don’t need to have latkes EVERY day of Hanukkah!
For Halloween, my Mom bought a huge packaged of assorted “fun sized” chocolates to give out to trick-or-treaters. She didn’t want to be tempted to eat the chocolates, so she gave them to us.
At first, the kids gorged and I restrained myself. Instead of eating a candy bar, I mashed an avocado, added cocoa powder and agave, and enjoyed a bowl of 100% compliant chocolate pudding! But then the next day I caved and ate one “fun sized” Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. It was OK, but not as tasty as I remembered; it’s now much too sweet for my taste.
If that one little chocolate had been my only indulgence for the month, I don’t think it would have hurt me. But there’s milk in those little goodies, and milk sets off allergic-like cravings in me. I had a hard time keeping myself from snacking on small amounts of cheese every day. Then, just when the cravings were almost under control, came Jack’s birthday, with the resultant cheesecake and dairy-heavy meals. I’ve had a hard time coming off the dairy since then; having a few slices of cheese for a bedtime snack, or topping off a healthy “salad and fish” meal with some cheese on a rice cake.
We had Jack’s birthday party yesterday, and most of the leftover candy went into the goodie bags. I baked the cake with spelt flour; which is so toxic for me that it’s not even a temptation. The purchased (wheat) pizza is finished; I didn’t eat any. It’s time for me to get back on track with healthy eating and detox from all the dairy and sugar I’ve managed to ingest in the past few weeks.
Today I’ve eaten clean all day, but I feel brain-fogged and tired and I still have a slight headache. I expect to feel better by tomorrow. I could have prevented all of this if I’d just been more careful with my diet in the first place. I KNOW better!
All this was started by one little “fun sized” candy. Not so much fun after all.
My son Jack turned 12 last week. He’s planning a party for his friends next weekend, but we had a mini-celebration at home, just for the family.
When he got up before school, he asked for pancakes for breakfast. Normally he has oatmeal or rice cereal, as it cooks up a lot faster and is less messy on busy school mornings. But it was his birthday so I obliged. I mixed together an egg, a cup of milk, a dash of salt, about a tablespoon of rice bran oil, and enough whole grain spelt flour to make it the right consistency. It occurred to me afterwards that I usually also add baking soda and some kind of sweetener to the batter, but he was happy with the taste and texture, and this was easier. I fried the pancakes in butter and served them with real maple syrup. There were enough pancakes left over for quick microwaving later in the week.
Dinner was planned out further in advance. He wanted 2 different kinds of pasta and 2 different kinds of sauces, and then Hannah requested that one of the pasta dishes be heavy on the vegetables, which Jack wouldn’t eat. I started out making the box of ziti. While it was cooking, I prepared the vegetable sauce. I peeled and shredded a few broccoli stalks, cut up mushrooms and onions very small, and used the vegetable peeler to make very thin slices of carrot. I sautéed all of that in the frying pan, then added water and tomato paste when the vegetables were fully cooked. I blended that with some ricotta cheese and about half the ziti. It was too large to fit in the casserole dish I’d intended to use, so I used a foil pan instead.
The other half of the ziti was mixed with ricotta cheese and tomato sauce- a very simple sauce consisting of tomato paste and water. He likes things simple. Both dishes of ziti got covered with mozzarella cheese and went into the oven. Then I started making the spaghetti. In my small pot I made a cheese sauce: milk, rice flour, and shredded cheddar cheese. Then I mixed the last little bit of tomato paste with hot water for the tomato sauce. We had enough food for 6-8 people, and only 3 of us were eating! The leftovers are being used for Jack’s school lunches.
The cheesecake got baked in the afternoon but was served last. I could have made a goat cheese cake, but I decided to go with the traditional cream cheese cake this time. I did substitute honey for the sugar called for in the recipe. We used real whipped cream for the frosting. I buy heavy cream in Trader Joe’s where I can get it from cows not given hormones and without any additives such as carrageenan. I whipped the cream with maple syrup and vanilla, and then added cocoa powder to a small portion of that. I put the chocolate whipped cream into a sandwich bag and cut a tiny hole in the corner, and then Hannah used it to make a pretty design on the cake.
Needless to say, I ate a number of avoids that night, and too many carbs. The same thing happened the next day when I ate leftovers. But I only ate the ziti with vegetables, and that’s finished now. The rest of the pasta I’m saving for Jack.
I was cleaning out the fridge this week and I noticed that we had a LOT of apples that had been hiding in the back for well over a month. A few days ago, somebody sliced one open to eat, only to realize it was mushy inside and no longer good for eating raw, although it wasn’t moldy or spoiled. That apple was put in a plastic bag in the fridge.
Two days ago, I took the time to peel ALL the apples in the fridge, including the ones that had previously been sliced. Those were harder to peel! I cut up the ones that weren’t pre-cut, removing the cores and seeds. Then I put all the apple chunks and slices into the crock pot and let it simmer on “high” for a few hours. I added a dash of salt and a few dashes of cinnamon. Cinnamon is an “avoid” for my B son, but he’s never reacted badly to it, and he likes the flavor.
Around bedtime, it looked done, but I was too tired to deal with it then. I didn’t realize the apples would cook so fast! I turned it to low to take care of in the morning. If I’d known they would have cooked so quickly, I would have put them on “low” to begin with. I’d also expected to use the hand blender before putting the apple sauce in jars, but it was so soft I simply had to stir it with a spoon, and it resembled the texture of commercial applesauce. It’s much darker in color though- but I’m not sure if that’s because I used old apples, because of the extended cooking time, or because of the cinnamon. It may have been a combination of all 3.
I made this yesterday but the kids have yet to try it. I’ll update you when the “taste test” results are in!
The Jewish holiday of Succos is coming up tomorrow night. Right on the heels of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, it’s time to build the succah and get ready for Yom Tov again.
Succos, also called Succot, is sometimes translated as “The Holiday of Booths.” It’s a Biblical holiday where we live in temporary dwellings for the week, in memory of the tents the Israelites used in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. The roof needs to be made of 100% natural materials, such as bamboo or tree limbs, and can’t be completely water tight. There need to be holes in the “schach” that let us see the sky through it, or it’s not a kosher succah. I remember one year when friends built their first succah, using branches from deciduous trees for the schach. The leaves turned brown and fell off during the 7 day festival, and we kept getting leaves in our food!
Everybody eats in the succah, unless it's raining, and some people also sleep in the succah. The one year my daughters tried that, the sprinklers came on in the middle of the night and they got soaked! I’ve known families who build a small succah on the porch outside the master bedroom, and sleep in that, while entertaining guests in a larger succah on the patio outside the dining room.
We don’t have anything that fancy. Our succah has a metal frame, nylon canvas sides, and the roof is a bamboo mat specifically manufactured for this purpose. We can get it assembled in about an hour- two if you count the time it takes us to bring up the folding table and locate the folding chairs. We usually build it on our back lawn, right outside the back doors. Since my apartment is on the second floor, we have to carry all the food down a flight of stairs before we can eat in the succah. Plus the table that fits in the succah is smaller than the one in my kitchen, so there isn’t much space for a lot of dishes on the table.
This changes my meal planning somewhat. This isn’t a good time to roast a whole turkey, slice what we need, and save the leftovers for other meals. I used to only make “one meal dinners” in a foil pan for Succos. I’ve since discovered that it’s not all that hard to pile a small foil pan or two on top of a big one and carry both downstairs together. Plus, my kids are bigger now and it’s not too much to carry if we all take something. So now I’ll still make “meat and veggies” in one pan, but I don’t mind cooking the rice in a separate pan and roasting potatoes in a third- it all still fits well enough on the table and isn’t too hard to carry down.
The challenge is to find different ways to cook foil pans full of “meat and veggies” that doesn’t get repetitive or boring, and that’s still compliant for everybody- or at least “mostly compliant.” I’m OK with small “cheats” at holiday time. Feel free to post any recipe ideas in the “comments” section.