These days, it takes a lot more than a rousing game of spinning the dreidel or some gold foil covered chocolate coins to keep kids interested in Hanukkah. Even more to get the attention of seemingly eternally bored teenagers.
After all, an eons old story of a day's worth of lamp oil lasting for over a week is no match for iPhones and Xboxes.
But cookbook author and mother of four (including two teenagers) Susie Fishbein has a secret weapon – food.
Kids love to eat as much as they love to "schmooze" and socialize, says Fishbein, and Hanukkah is very much about its symbolic foods and traditions of hospitality.
She suggests getting your teenagers involved in choosing and preparing traditional foods. This might not only get them excited about the holiday, but also will create an opportunity to talk.
And she speaks from experience. While developing recipes for her new cookbook, "Kosher by Design: Teens and 20-somethings" (Artscroll/Shaar Press, 2010), Fishbein relied on her own teens and their friends to help test the recipes she was creating.
The teenagers, she points out, were at ease during these gatherings because they weren't being asked to reveal anything personal, but instead just to talk about the food, which in turn allowed them to relax and be themselves. And when kids are being themselves, they tend to open up more.
In fact, Fishbein points to food and cooking as a conduit for keeping communication lines open between adults and teens all year.
In her new book, which is part of a kosher cooking series, Fishbein offers fun, accessible recipes that serve up new choices for teens who favor fast food, as well as fresh and healthful cooking projects for the teen or college student.
Start to finish: 40 minutes
Makes 10 fritters
1 small zucchini, with skin, cut into -inch chunks
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 large egg
1 cup milk or plain unsweetened soy milk
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups (10 ounces) dry cornbread mix
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Canola oil, for frying
Jarred marinara sauce, warmed, for dipping
Place zucchini into a 2-cup measuring cup. Break broccoli and cauliflower florets into tiny florets, cutting away any thick stems.
Add enough of the broccoli and cauliflower florets to zucchini to make 2 cups. Transfer to a microwave-safe bowl. Add enough water to cover; microwave on high until vegetables are soft, about 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, milk, tablespoon of canola oil and salt. With a silicone spatula, stir in cornbread mix until a smooth batter forms.
Sprinkle the flour over drained cooked vegetables. Mix floured vegetables into batter, using the spatula to distribute them evenly.
In a large skillet over medium, heat 1/2 inch of canola oil until a tiny amount of batter dropped into the pan sizzles. If it sizzles too vigorously, turn the heat down.
Add batter to the oil cup at a time. Use a metal spatula to gently flatten each fritter. Work in batches of 3 or 4 fritters at a time; do not crowd the pan. Fry, turning once, until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. When flipping fritters, flip away from your body to prevent splattering yourself with hot oil.
Drain on paper towels. Serve with warm marinara sauce.