Thursday, December 2, 2010

Happy Hanukkah! A special dinner for the first night!

Yay! So last night was the first night of Hanukkah! Although it is extremely early this year, I wanted to do something special. I decided I would make a nice dinner for David and me: baked chicken (Mom’s method), sautéed asparagus in olive oil, and latkes (potato pancakes) with homemade chunky cinnamon applesauce! YUM! And of course for the best part: DESSERT = Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting! So my picture I took of our lovely dinner doesn't really look so pretty, but the food was delicious and I want to share with you how I made everything!
So of course we lit the candles first (David bought me my first menorah a couple of years ago). I’m so glad he is so supportive of my traditions. And I am glad I can share this with him. 

Dinner was great! The night before our lovely dinner I decided to make homemade applesauce. I used three kinds of apples: golden delicious, granny smith, and pink lady. I make a very simple applesauce (unsweetened) that is naturally sweet and healthy!

Rachel’s Chunky Cinnamon Applesauce

  • 3 golden delicious
  • 4 granny smith apples
  • 4 pink lady apples
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1-2 tablespoons cinnamon

1. Peel, core and chop apples. Place the apples in a large pot.
2. Add water to the pot. The water should cover the entire bottom of the pot.
3. Cover and cook the apples on medium-high heat. When the apples and water begin to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer.
4. Add the cinnamon.
5. Apples will take approximately 45 minutes until they become a sauce. Stir occasionally. Cook the apples longer if you prefer smooth over chunky applesauce.

I wanted to make the applesauce the night before because I prefer cold applesauce, rather than hot. Let me tell you, this was some good applesauce!
The baked chicken is always a favorite. My mom taught me a delicious and easy way to make chicken (on the bone): Place the chicken in a greased pan, sprinkle with salt, onion salt, and paprika, then pop it in the oven uncovered for an hour at 350 degrees!! I think David’s favorite part of this is the crispy, flavorful skin :)

The asparagus was simply sautéed in olive oil and seasoned with kosher salt and pepper. Always a favorite of David’s :)
Of course since it’s the first night of Hanukkah, I needed to make a traditional recipe: Latkes!! This was actually my first time making them! I found the recipe on and modified it based on other reviews. These were delicious and the applesauce made them even better! I decided to bake the latkes, rather than fry them. Baking them is just a bit healthier!

Potato Latkes

  • 2 cups potatoes, shredded (approx. 3 small Idaho potatoes)
  • 1 onion, shredded
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons matzah ball mix
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray 

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. Mix the shredded potatoes and onion together. Add the egg, matzah ball mix, and salt. Stir to combine.
3. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture on the baking sheet. Should get approximately 8 generous-sized latkes.
4. Bake for 15 minutes, turn, then bake for 10 minutes longer, or until browned.
5. Serve with applesauce or sour cream or both!

I ended up baking my latkes slightly differently. But I would recommend the bake time and temperature that the recipe calls for. My latkes unfortunately ended up getting a little more well-done on one said than I would have preferred, but they were still great! Because I was also baking chicken, I kept the oven temperature at 350 degrees F. The latkes baked for 30 minutes, turned, then baked 20 minutes longer. 
Now it’s time to talk DESSERT! My favorite time! I brainstormed for a while, trying to think of traditional Hanukkah dessert recipes. All the desserts I had in mind seemed to be a bit time consuming though. So I decided to be creative and rather than make a traditional recipe, I showed my Hanukkah spirit! 

My mom gave me a recipe a while back for pumpkin cake. In the past we have always made this as pumpkin bread, which doesn’t need any frosting or icing – it is delicious by itself. But I decided I wanted to make pumpkin cake with a cream cheese frosting. Let’s give it a little bit of a richer flavor, shall we?! Okay, can we say YUMMY!! Soooo good… I’m drooling just thinking about it. My pumpkin cake has lots and lots of cinnamon in it. The original recipe calls for nutmeg, ginger and allspice too, but I omit it all and stick with just cinnamon. I stirred dark chocolate chips into the batter and poured it into two 9-inch round baking pans. Baked goods leave such a wonderful aroma too! The cakes were pulled out of the oven at a perfect time… nice and moist! After allowing the cakes to cool for some time on a cooling rack, I made two different cream cheese frostings. The first frosting I made was the basic cream cheese frosting, which was used as the filling between the two cake layers and to decorate the top of the cake (with the addition of food coloring). The second frosting I made was a chocolate cream cheese frosting, which I had never attempted before. Very sweet, but delicious! Of course I used a chocolate cream cheese frosting from my favorite website ( and modified it slightly based on the ingredients I had. 

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting 
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • ¼ cup shortening
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 (8-oz) package cream cheese
  • ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream

1. In a large bowl with a handheld mixer or using a kitchen aid mixer, mix together the cocoa, shortening, and granulated sugar until combined (this is also the equivalence of 1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips, but you have to get creative when you don’t have any on hand). 
2. Add the cream cheese and blend. 
3. Add the confectioner’s sugar and heavy whipping cream. Mix until well blended and a good frosting consistency.

Overall, we had a great dinner! I had fun cooking and baking as always. I just love my kitchen chemistry! Happy Hanukkah! Hanukkah Sameach (חנוכה שמח)!


  1. Rachel! Oh my gosh! Your cake looks AMAZING, and I'm sure it is delicious too! I've seen cakes in bakeries that don't look that good! SO cute!!! :) How did you decorate it? Do you have cake decorating tools? I'm totally inspired to try to do something like that this month now.

    And the rest of your meal looks awesome, too! David is such a lucky man to have a cook like you. ;) And I'm glad to see that Bella was getting into the spirit of the holiday as well! LOL She's adorable!

  2. Thank you Shannon! David may be a lucky guy since I'm cooking all the time but I'm lucky to have you as an awesome fan!

    I have a few cake decorating tools - I have this cute little kit that has about 6 different decorating tips, frosting bags (which I have officially run out of, but plastic bags work fine) and food coloring. Michael's is a great craft store to get cake decorating things even though I'm upset with them right now for not having any Hanukkah decor! I don't hold grudges though, so I still love that store hahaha.

    All of the decorations on the cake just came to mind as I frosted! It was a lot of fun! I convince myself more and more that I should just open a bakery!

  3. I've tried to decorate a cake just with a plastic baggy (I cut off a corner). It worked ok, but was kind of unpredictable. lol

    You'll have to come up with a name for your bakery. :)