By Guest Blogger Rima Kleiner, MS, RDN, LDN

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah with your own—or a friend’s—family or just know about the holiday from Adam Sandler’s beloved “The Hanukkah Song,” the Festival of Lights is almost here.

This year, Hanukkah begins on December 22 and ends on December 30. Many Jewish families are preparing for the winter holiday by dusting off their menorahs and pulling out their deepest fry pans. However, there are as many ways to celebrate Chanukah as there are to spell it. Some families stick to long-standing traditions like opening a gift and frying potato pancakes all eight nights, while others incorporate new twists to make it meaningful for their particular family. Yet regardless of how Hanukkah is celebrated, the festive holiday reminds us to bring light and warmth to our families, friends and communities.

As a working mom, one of my favorite aspects of Hanukkah is that it encourages me to push pause for eight nights. It is a sweet excuse to break away from the ordinary and indulge briefly… in gift-giving, in foods I don’t normally eat and, mostly, in my kids. Hanukkah at our house is a mix of the traditional with, frankly, whatever works for us that year. There are always gifts (though not always every night), menorah-lighting (which we always do every night), dreidel-spinning and, as with many other Jewish holidays, delicious foods.

Two traditional Hanukkah foods include potato pancakes (latkes in Yiddish) and doughnuts (sufganiyot in Hebrew). In the true spirit of Hanukkah, the latkes and susfganiyot are meant to be fried in oil, symbolic of the oil in the ancient Temple that miraculously stayed lit for, you got it, eight nights.

As a registered dietitian-nutritionist, I often get asked whether we fry foods in our home over Hanukkah. Some people are surprised when I tell them we do fry—I’m talking the real thing with lots of oil bubbling in a very hot pan—potato latkes one night. But, usually only one night. On the other nights, we might bake lighter sweet potato or zucchini latkes or sauté some Trader Joe’s Potato Pancakes and serve alongside plain Greek yogurt and unsweetened applesauce. This year, we’ll be cooking up my Easy Air Fryer Latkes, a super-easy (and less messy!) way to get latkes on the table during the eight crazy nights!

As for the jelly doughnuts… those are definitely a treat. However, just a little creativity can easily boost the nutrition factor without sacrificing taste, like replacing all-purpose flour with whole wheat white flour or opting for unsweetened fruit preserves in the middle. We like to make a batch of my Easy Baked Sufganiyot. I’m also working on an Air Fryer version of “fried” jelly doughnuts… stay tuned for that one.

Whatever winter holiday you celebrate, here’s wishing you a peaceful, warm and delicious end to the year.

Easy Baked Sufganiyot
Recipe courtesy of Rima Kleiner, MS, RDN, LDN of Smart Mouth Nutrition 

1 package active dry yeast
2 Tbsp. warm water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup skim milk
1 egg
2 Tbsp. butter or nondairy margarine, plus some for melting
1 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
1 cup whole wheat white flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
Seedless strawberry or raspberry 100% fruit spread (I use Smuckers Simply Fruit spread)
Confectioner’s or powdered sugar for dusting


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine yeast and warm water. Let sit for 5 minutes to dissolve.
  2. Add sugar and next 9 ingredients (through applesauce) to yeast mixture. Using a mixer, beat until combined on low speed. Gradually add flours, scraping sides of bowl; beat on low until flour is just incorporated and dough is sticky. Cover and let rise, about 45 minutes.
  3. While dough is rising, grease two baking sheets and preheat oven to 425 degrees. Drop dough by tablespoons onto baking sheets. Bake until lightly golden and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Let cool.
  4. Fill a pastry decorating bag or sandwich baggie with fruit spread. Cut a small hole in bag. Using an icing tip (or cut a small slit in doughnuts with knife), insert fruit spread into doughnut until doughnut puffs out. Fill all doughnuts, then roll each lightly in melted butter or margarine. Place back on baking sheet and sprinkle or sift powdered sugar on to tops of doughnuts. Makes about 30 doughnuts.

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