Holiday treats kids can help make &mdash and eat

It’s no wonder many children think of Chanukah as their favorite Jewish holiday: eight days of lighting candles, playing games, eating latkes, singing songs, getting together with family and friends and of course, opening presents.

While receiving gifts is a highlight for kids, giving presents that they make themselves can be just as gratifying, if not more so. This year Chanukah falls during winter break from school — a perfect time to engage your little ones in a togetherness kitchen experience that will enhance the holiday for everyone.

The Chanukah Cookie Cut-Outs, by the way, is a great recipe where the children can help, depending on age. Older children can assist with the rolling and cutting, and younger children can put on the colored sugar.

Chanukah Cookie Cut-Outs | Makes about 2 dozen

1 cup margarine or butter
1 cup sugar, plus extra for topping
2 eggs
31⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. lemon juice
blue food coloring

Mix the margarine and sugar until well combined. Slowly add the eggs and lemon juice. Add the flour until mixed. Form into a disc, wrap and chill well.
Roll dough onto a floured surface with a rolling pin to about 1⁄8-inch thick. Cut into desired shape with Chanukah cookie cutters. Sprinkle the cookies with sugar colored with blue food coloring (sometimes a premade version is available in the grocery’s baking section). Bake on cookie sheets at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown.

Edible Dreidels
(from “The Children’s Jewish Holiday Kitchen” by Joan Nathan)

Hershey’s chocolate kisses
Help a child thread the toothpick through the marshmallow. Add the chocolate kiss to the end, point down. Eat it, don’t spin it!
Note: Replace the toothpick with a small piece of licorice string after piercing to make this totally edible, along with eliminating any hazards for little children.

Chocolate Chanukah Gelt | Makes 3 dozen coins

12 oz. bag semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. mint extract, more to taste
Place the chips in the top of a double boiler over simmering water and melt. When the chips are about halfway melted, add the oil and the extract. Continue to melt the chips, stirring to combine well the chocolate, oil and extract.

Remove mixture from the heat and allow it to cool for 15 minutes or until the chocolate has started to thicken just a bit.
Place a sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Using a spoon, drip coin-shaped discs onto the parchment paper. Use all of the chocolate to make “coins.”
Allow the coins to harden, then simply peel them off the paper and enjoy.

Apricot-Almond Chocolate Balls | Makes about 4 dozen

1⁄2 pound dried apricots
1⁄2 pound almonds, toasted
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
1 cup sugar
8 Tbs. water
confectioners’ sugar
Place apricots, almonds and chocolate in a food processor and process until very finely chopped. In a medium saucepan, over medium-high heat, cook sugar and water at about 240 degrees on a candy thermometer, for about 10 minutes.
Stir in apricot mixture and let cool. Squeeze mixture together with hands to make a firm ball. Pinch off about 1 Tbs. of mixture, form into 1-inch balls and roll in confectioners’ sugar. Place in paper candy cups and serve.
(These sugar-dusted chocolate bites can be served as either candy or cookies. Children especially enjoy rolling up the dough, which needs no cooking once assembled.)

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].