I have so many memories of standing around the kitchen frying up latkes as a kid with my mom and grandma. The smell of latkes filled our house for days, and while she never glanced at the recipe card, my grandma’s latkes were consistently delicious every year. 

Now that I have my own family, passing down the love of cooking for the holidays is something I cherish; however, I am always playing around in the kitchen so my recipes change from year to year. 

But the recipes I offer here are sure to stick around and create some new family favorites. Hopefully, next year we’ll be able to share them in person with people we love, but for now I hope they fill your table with warmth and joy.

Apple-pear sauce

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Apples and pears

I started making my own applesauce this fall after realizing just how easy it was to do. My kids love helping, and it is a great way to get them involved in the kitchen. We talk about what we are adding and how much of each ingredient goes in. They love watching it change from raw ingredients into yummy sauce, and we use it as a snack, yogurt topping and, of course, for latkes! 

This year for Chanukah, I decided to add some delicious pears and nutmeg to make the sauce even more special. Feel free to substitute the sugar for another sweetener of choice, but I love the flavor that the coconut sugar adds.

Ingredients

4 sweet, red apples

4 pears

1/2 cup water

Juice from 1 lemon

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla 

Peel and dice the apples and pears. Place in a large, deep pot over medium-high heat. 

Add the water, lemon juice and coconut sugar to the pot and stir to combine.

Let the pot come to a boil. Add in cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and lower heat. Allow the mixture to simmer, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Once everything is cooked until it is completely soft, remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool. Using a large spoon or hand masher, mash the sauce until you achieve the desired consistency. 

Serve warm or cooled. It can be kept refrigerated in an air-tight container for about a week.

Homemade Chocolate Gelt

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Homemade chocolate gelt

I have found myself spending a lot of time in my kitchen this year, and it has been fun to think about ways I can take foods that my family usually enjoys outside of the house and make them our own at home. And when it comes to holidays, I have really loved planning out all the fun ways I can get creative. 

Now, I love chocolate, but I have never been a fan of traditional gelt, so I knew that I wanted to try making my own gelt this year with flavors that I would enjoy — hello dark chocolate and sea salt! 

Making gelt is surprisingly easy to do, and you can get really creative when it comes to the types of chocolate you use and toppings you add. 

Ingredients

1 package (12 ounces) of high-quality chocolate chips (I prefer 60% cocoa or higher)

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Toppings of choice:

Sprinkles, nuts, dried fruit, sea salt, etc.

In a microwavable bowl, pour out the chocolate chips and add the coconut oil. Microwave for 30 seconds and then stir for about another 20 seconds continuing the melting process.

Return the chocolate to the microwave for another 30 seconds. Take out and stir repeating this process until the chocolate is melted thoroughly. 

Be careful not to overheat the chocolate, because then it will become chalky and unusable.

Once the chocolate is melted, use a tablespoon to measure it into the bottom of a mini muffin pan. Continue until all of the chocolate is used. It should create about 48 pieces. 

Add your desired toppings gently, sprinkling them over the top of the chocolate pieces.

Place the pans in the fridge or freezer for about 10 to 20 minutes to firm. Once firmed, gently pop each piece out and store in a container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Unique twists on Latkes

With 2020 being the year of many changes, why not change up your Chanukah menu and cook up some unique versions of the classic latke? Potato latkes are more traditional, but these three twists take on some unusual, yet delicious flavors and may have you vowing never to go back to traditional latkes again. 

A few tips and tricks to get you started: 

Be sure to wring out as much moisture as you can after grating the ingredients so that the latkes hold together when frying. 

Use a food processor if you have a blade that grates to make this part go by much more quickly. 

These recipes can be doubled, but you only need 3 eggs (not 4) if you double the rest of the ingredients. Four eggs would make the batter too runny.

Zucchini Carrot Latkes

Ingredients

2 medium-sized zucchini (about 14 ounces)

8ounces carrots

1 large potato (about 14 ounces)

2 eggs

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Oil for frying (vegetable or canola oil)

Wash and clean all of the fresh ingredients. Grate the zucchini, carrots and potato and drain all of the liquids using a towel or cheese cloth.

Put drained shredded veggies into a large bowl and add remaining ingredients. Mix to thoroughly combine — by hand is best.

Heat a large skillet with oil about 1/2-inch high so that the latkes can float and won’t stick to the bottom. Once the oil is hot, form round flat patties with the mixture and place into the hot oil. Cook latkes until crispy and brown on both sides, flipping once to ensure even cooking.

Remove from skillet and place on a paper towel to drain excess oil. Serve warm. 

Jalapeño Popper Latkes

Ingredients

2 to 3 large potatoes (about 2 pounds total)

1 small onion

2 to 3 jalapeño peppers (to taste — more peppers = spicier)

2 eggs

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

6 mozzarella cheese sticks cut into thirds (18 pieces total at about one-quarter ounce each)

Oil for frying (vegetable or canola oil)

Wash and clean the potatoes and peppers. Deciding how spicy you want the latkes to be, you may want to deseed the peppers as well. 

Grate the potatoes, onion, peppers and drain all of the liquids using a towel or cheese cloth.

Put drained shredded veggies into a large bowl and add in the eggs, flour, salt and pepper. Mix to thoroughly combine — by hand is best.

Take a spoonful of the mixture into the palm of your hand. Place one piece of the cheese into the middle and cover with another spoonful of mixture making sure the cheese is completely covered. Place on a plate or platter until ready to fry. 

Heat a large skillet with oil about 1/2-inch high so that the latkes can float and won’t stick to the bottom. Once the oil is hot, gently place the latkes into the hot oil. Cook until crispy and brown on both sides, flipping once to ensure even cooking.

Remove from skillet and place on a paper towel to drain excess oil. Serve warm. 

Sweet Potato Dessert Latkes

Ingredients

1 large sweet potato (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

Oil for frying (vegetable or canola oil)

Wash, clean and grate the sweet potato. Drain all of the excess liquids using a towel or cheese cloth.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and mix until thoroughly combined. Add in the drained sweet potato, vanilla and eggs and mix together — by hand is best. 

Heat a large skillet with oil about 1/2-inch high so that the latkes can float and won’t stick to the bottom. Once the oil is hot, form round flat patties with the mixture and place into the hot oil. Cook latkes until crispy and brown on both sides, flipping once to ensure even cooking.

Remove from skillet and place on a paper towel to drain excess oil. Serve warm. JN

Jennifer Starrett is an events and marketing consultant. Visit jewphx.com, for more of her recipes and blogs.