Instead of competing, why not create holiday memories of your own

“Chanukah versus Christmas, so not the dilemma” would read my epithet. How many of us as parents of Jewish American children think we need to Christmas-ize Chanukah in order to compensate for what is perceived as a lack of “holiday spirit”? Rather than compete over toys from Santa or eight nights of presents from parents, midnight Mass or morning minyan, gingerbread or mandelbrot, I prefer to hunker down with our family and enjoy the time off school creating memories in the kitchen.

Small children, like my 5-year-old Ruby, love making cookies. Middle-schooler Violet is ready to take on bigger projects. “Mom, I like to cook anything with you,” she claims. Her Asian noodles have become a family request. Gideon, at 8, is the original Atkins man, eschewing latkes for brisket and doughnuts for omelets. We’re creating a family cookbook, which includes our weekly menus, current favorites, some dictated recipes and lots of original illustrations and photos.

In addition to latkes and applesauce, we include our new family favorites to share with our friends. There are so many ways to involve everyone in the preparations of a meal. Children as young as 2 can add ingredients and stir. Older children can learn safe knife skills. And anyone can be a taster, which is what makes cooking and eating a creative and bonding activity.

Gideon’s Lox and Tomato Omelet | Serves 4

8 eggs

2 Tbs. water

1 tsp. fine sea salt

2 Tbs. unsalted butter

4 oz. lox, cut into strips

1/2 cup small tomatoes, cut into halves

4 Tbs. sour cream

Whisk together the eggs, water and salt until foamy. Melt the butter in a medium-sized skillet. Pour in the eggs, reduce the heat and cook the omelet until it is just barely set. Put the lox and tomatoes on top, and cook for a minute more.

Slide the omelet onto a large plate, folding it in half as you slide it. Place the sour cream on top. Serve warm.

Violet’s Asian Noodles | Serves 6

2 Tbs. vegetable oil

2 Tbs. grated ginger

1 clove garlic, through the press

2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks

2 zucchini, cut into matchsticks

3 green onions, peeled and sliced

1 cup water

1 cup coconut milk

1/2 cup peanut butter

2 Tbs. soy sauce

1 Tbs. Thai curry paste (if adults are eating and the kids don’t mind)

1 lb. angel hair pasta

2 tsp. sesame oil

1/4 cup chopped peanuts

1/4 cup chopped mint

1/4 cup chopped basil

Heat the oil in a large pan until very hot. Add the ginger, garlic, carrots, zucchini and green onions. Sauté until the vegetables are fairly soft, about 4 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl and set aside.

Pour the water, coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce and curry paste into the pan where the vegetables were cooked. Stir until smooth, and simmer the sauce until it thickens, about 5 minutes.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and toss with the sesame oil. Add the sauce, the vegetables and toss very well. Place in a large bowl, and garnish with the peanuts, mint and basil. Serve warm.

Ruby’s Extra Dark Chocolate Cookies | Makes about 3 dozen

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

6 oz. unsalted butter

2 eggs

1 Tbs. vanilla extract

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted

3/4 cup flour

3/4 cup cocoa

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

Beat the brown sugar, sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla and the melted chocolate, and blend well.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Mix in the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Drop spoons of batter onto parchment-lined cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 10 to 12 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool slightly before removing them from the cookie sheet.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a Bay Area cooking teacher and food professional. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to J. or to [email protected].