December 24 marks the beginning of Hanukkah this year. From then until January 1, Jews and their friends everywhere will be celebrating The Festival of Lights — myself included! Hanukkah is a joyous holiday. It is also a time to celebrate the existence of miracles, rededication to one’s principles, and to foster good will with one’s community.

If you’re not Jewish, did you click the links above to familiarize yourself with Hanukkah? Good. I’m not religious myself, but the story has always spoken to me. The notion of standing up for what you know to be right and banding together is powerful. The miracle of the oil that did not burn out, despite every reason that it should, is something that I think about a lot this time of year.

I would wager to say that I’m not alone in feeling like 2016 in particular has left me looking for miracles and I’ve doubled down on my principles. Hanukkah might be a Jewish holiday, but I believe that all of humanity could take some comfort in believing that no matter how dark things get, the light (however you interpret it) will have oil powerful enough for it to endure. Celebrating hope and appreciating one another’s visibility and survival is something that I think can be celebrated universally. (Not to mention, with oil being such a big part of the Hanukkah story, fried foods are likewise a big part of the party — even more to love!)

So whether or not you are Jewish, I invite you to get into a festive and hopeful mood with these yummy, not-quite-traditional-but-close-enough Hanukkah dishes. I have created them to be completely vegan and, in all cases, easily gluten free. Gather your family, chosen or otherwise, and enjoy some fried togetherness. Remember that each other’s company is itself a miracle to be treasured.

Photo by Suma Jane Dark

Fried rugelach beignets. Photo by Suma Jane Dark.

Fried Rugelach Beignets

Sweet, but with nice sour notes coming from the dark chocolate and sourdough — this may not be the Rugelach of your childhood, but can you really complain?

You will need:

  1. Sourdough pizza dough (in a bag is best, but canned is OK, too!)
  2. 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  3. 1/2 cup melted Earth Balance (or other dairy free butter substitute)
  4. Cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar to taste — or approximately 1-2 tablespoons each.
  5. Powdered sugar (optional)

Method:

Begin heating up a small skillet with vegetable oil over low to medium heat. Roll out your pizza dough until it is flat. Using a roller, cut the pizza dough into triangles.

Place dark chocolate chips in the center of the triangles. Roll the triangles up gently. They should achieve a croissant-like shape.

In a small bowl, combine Earth Balance, cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar. Top triangles with the Earth Balance and spice mixture.

In small batches, pan-fry the rugelach triangles, patting with your spatula to slightly flatten.

Once browned, remove from pan, top with powdered sugar and serve.

Photo by Suma Jane Dark

Latkes. Photo by Suma Jane Dark.

Easy Golden Latkes

Yes, I use hash browns to make my latkes. Hear me out, though! They taste just as delicious as fresh potatoes and save you the hour or so of dealing with uncooked potatoes. I mean, if you’re already cooking a big meal, who really has the time to deal with boiling and shredding potatoes? Use hash browns. Treat yourself!

You will need:

  1. 1/2 package of diced hash browns (if frozen, thaw first)
  2. 1/4 cup white rice flour
  3. 1/4 cup all purpose flour (gluten free if you please!)
  4. Handful chopped scallions
  5. 1/3 cup vegetable stock
  6. 2 tablespoons vegan cream cheese (optional)
  7. Salt, paprika, white pepper to taste

Method:

Begin heating a small skillet with vegetable oil over medium heat.

Combine white rice flour and all purpose flour, scallions, salt, paprika and white pepper in a large bowl. Mix in hash browns until thoroughly combined. Slowly add vegetable stock, mixing as you do so. Add and mix in cream cheese (if you like).

Mold into patties, and fry in small batches. They’re finished when they are nice and golden! Serve with dairy-free sour cream and applesauce.

Related: 4 Quick and Easy Vegan, Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Hits

Photo by Suma Jane Dark

Quick vegan kugel. Photo by Suma Jane Dark.

Quick Vegan Kugel

Is there anyone who doesn’t love kugel? If you’ve never had it, don’t let the idea of a sweet pasta dish scare you off. The tofu “egg” gives it just enough salt to satisfy in all the right ways.

You will need:

  1. 1 package of spiral noodles (be careful to read the package, as many contain eggs)
  2. 1/3 block of tofu
  3. 2 tablespoons of turmeric
  4. Cinnamon, agave nectar, allspice and nutmeg to taste
  5. Pinch of sea salt
  6. Raisins, pears, cherries as desired (I used raisins and pears)

Method: 

Prepare noodles according to instructions on package. In a small bowl, crumble tofu until it is a scrambled-egg like consistency. Add turmeric and salt to tofu and mix until well integrated. Tofu should look pale yellow.

Once the noodles are ready, strain, then add tofu. Add all spices and agave nectar. Mix well. Add the fruit of your choice.

Optional: cook for ten to fifteen minutes in the oven at 350 degrees F.

Photo by Suma Jane Dark

Smoky tempeh brisket. Photo by Suma Jane Dark

Smoky Tempeh Brisket

This is delicious served over baked veggies such as carrots, Brussels sprouts or some garlicky greens. For those who may be new to it, tempeh is tofu’s fermented, protein-loaded contemporary. It is nutty, hearty and holds up to slow baking or frying incredibly well.

You will need:

  1. 1 package of tempeh
  2. 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
  3. 1/4 cup tomato soup (or tomato paste mixed with vegetable stock)
  4. 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  5. 1 tablespoon paprika
  6. 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  7. 1 teaspoon powdered mustard
  8. Salt to taste

Method:

Place whole block of tempeh in pre-heated skillet.

Mix all other ingredients in a small bowl until combined. Use them to baste tempeh in the skillet, turning it over and over in the liquid mixture until totally coated. Fry another 2-3 minutes until it begins to caramelize and brown.

Thinly slice to resemble brisket. Enjoy!

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