By Lauren Manaker
This article originally appeared in Kveller.
As the Festival of Lights approaches, you might be frying latkes and making applesauce in your dreams. The food is delicious and everyone is content and full, and above all, the meal is mess- and stress-free.
Then reality sets in: You are seriously so busy this time of year!
While you may want to instill some tasty Jewish traditions in your family, do you really have time to shred a few bags of potatoes, or knead some finicky sufganiot dough?
Thankfully, this is 2020 and not 1920. These days, our grocery store shelves are stocked with convenience foods, so use them to your advantage! If you know what to do, it’s super-easy to make a delicious, “semi-homemade” Hanukkah meal that will still create lasting memories.
Read on for our top Hanukkah food hacks — they’re kind of like having your sufganiot and eating them, too.
For easy latkes, use ready-made shredded hash browns
No Hanukkah celebration is complete without latkes, but the prep work can be extremely time-consuming, tedious, and possibly a bit dangerous (especially if you have little helpers in the kitchen). But here’s some good news: It’s possible to make tasty latkes and not have bloody knuckles.
Refrigerated and bagged shredded potatoes make frying up latkes a snap! Just swap out fresh taters with the bagged alternative in whatever recipe you use, and most people won’t even taste the difference.
Pro tip: If you are trying to sneak in more veggies and/or have low-carb guests to entertain, check out this recipe for Cauliflower Latkes (https://nutritionstarringyou.com/cauliflower-latkes/) using pre-riced cauliflower instead of potatoes.
Make zero-effort homemade applesauce in an Instant
Yes, you could just buy some jarred applesauce. But does anyone with teeth (and, um, taste buds) actually like the stuff? If you have an Instant Pot — or any pressure cooker — you can make homemade applesauce in a flash!
Just toss 8 peeled, cored, chopped apples into the pressure cooker with 1 cup of water, juice from ½ a lemon, and cinnamon to taste. After the lid is secure and the mixture is cooked on high pressure for 8 minutes, mash up your apples to the consistency of your desire. Of course, you have to then make the most important decision: chunky or smooth?
Pro tip: Put a Johnny Apple Peeler on your Hanukkah wish list to help make the prep even easier! If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can still make easy homemade applesauce by using this recipe.
Use prepackaged biscuit dough for the easiest sufganiot ever
Kids generally love making treats like sufganiot in the kitchen with their family. But if you’re having guests over, or if you’re generally not the type who enjoys baking, there’s a hack for that: Use refrigerated biscuit dough — the kind that comes in a tube — instead. (Just don’t tell Bubbie!)
Simply break apart the preportioned dough and fry the biscuits in heated oil until golden on both sides. Amazingly, you don’t even have to cut circles. The biscuits come presliced! How perfect is that?
If you happen to have a pastry bag in your kitchen, fill it with your favorite jarred jelly and push the tip into the middle of the doughnut. Squeeze the jelly into the doughnut until it is filled with enough sweetness to make your dentist cringe.
If you don’t have a pastry bag, you have a couple of options: You can cut your doughnuts in half and put some jelly in the middle of the pastry, like a sandwich, or simply serve jelly as an accompaniment to the fried biscuit for dipping.
Pro tip: Not sweet enough for you? You can also sprinkle some sugar and cinnamon on top of the warm doughnut to add a little more oomph if you wish!
Let your slow cooker make the main dish
How exactly do you cook a brisket dinner for a crowd while also fulfilling all of your daily (as well as holiday-specific) obligations? By using a slow cooker, of course! This ultimate “set it and forget it” tool allows you to cook, slow and low, tough cuts of meat like brisket without any worries about overcooking.
Even better? About 10 minutes of effort will reward you with a super-tasty result. Just toss a brisket (fat side up) in a slow cooker with some cans of broth, sliced onions, carrots, garlic, and spices. Cook the dish on the high setting of the cooker for about 6 hours, or until tender. That’s it!
Serve your brisket with latkes and a salad, and your dinner is complete.
Pro tip: For an easy-peasy but delightful serving option, slice up the cooked brisket and make it fancy-looking with some sprigs of fresh parsley.
Fancy up store-bought hummus for an effortless appetizer
First things first: You can absolutely take a package of store-bought hummus, serve it in its original packaging with some store-bought crackers, and that’s that. We won’t judge! But why not add some color and flavor to an otherwise standard app?
Take your container of ho-hum hummus and spread it onto a shallow bowl. Scoop a small space into the middle of the hummus, and top the dip with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh rosemary leaves, crushed pistachios, and pomegranate arils. If you have the time or inclination, you can include some roasted, diced butternut squash as a topping for some extra color. Or add whatever floats your boat! The decorative additions will hide the fact that you didn’t make the hummus from scratch.
Pro tip: Think beyond pita! Try serving the hummus with fresh veggies or pretzels. Anything dippable will do!