Hanukkah traditions call for eating oil-fried latkes and jelly doughnuts, both of which can pack plenty of fat and calories.
While I'm generally not one to mess with important traditions, I was thinking that perhaps we could lighten the load a little. Because a typical serving of fried latkes can pack around 25 grams of fat and 750 calories — about half as many calories as most adults should have all day.
If that becomes too much for you (and your waistline), I've got a version that delivers the same flavor with a fraction of the fat and calories. Depending on how you make it, this recipe weighs in at between just 87 and 117 calories per serving. I'm still working on downsizing those jelly doughnuts...
I came up with a couple of fat-saving techniques to make that possible. Just a little bit of oil in a nonstick skillet will get you the 117 calorie version. The latkes are easy and delicious. The oil can be heated to a fairly high heat, which minimizes the time the latkes are in it (which means much less oil is absorbed).
Want to cut the fat even further? My oven "fried" method produces equally crisp results using just a few squirts of oil from a can of cooking spray. This version has just 87 calories.
I wanted to offer both methods because I appreciate the importance of oil in the Hanukkah meal. This way, you select the method that makes the most sense for your traditions and healthy eating goals. And either way, you're still saving tons of fat and calories over traditional latkes.
My recipe doesn't include the traditional accompaniment of sour cream, but you won't miss it. I've chosen to accent them with another popular latke mate: homemade applesauce sweetened with nutritious coconut nectar. I've used one of my favorite apples here, the Fuji apple.
What I love about latkes is that they can be made from all types of vegetables. Turnips and sweet potatoes are two healthier options I've incorporated into the recipe, along with white potato. Turnips lend a pleasant tang; sweet potatoes offer a gentle sweetness; and regular spuds, well. A latke isn't really a latke with them.
The latkes are held together with the starch in the potato and egg white powder (which further lowers the calories, fat and cholesterol).
As for those jelly doughnuts, I'm working on extracting the calories and fat from those, too. So If you'll excuse me, I'm off to my kitchen to experiment.
— Grate the vegetables just before preparing the dish so they do not discolor.
SWEET POTATO LATKES WITH APPLESAUCE
Oil has an important symbolic value in Jewish cooking during Hanukkah. This latke recipe relies on the canola and vegetable oils contained in cooking sprays to help oven-crisp the latkes while minimizing fat and calories. If you prefer to use traditional oil, brush the baking sheet with olive or canola oil before placing the latkes on it, then lightly brush the tops of the latkes with a bit more. If you use 1 tablespoon of oil for this, a three-latke serving will have 117 calories and 4 grams of fat. Using the additional oil, the latkes also can be pan-fried in a nonstick skillet.
Start to finish: 30 minutes
1 1/2 cups peeled and grated white turnip
1/2 cup peeled and grated Idaho potato
1/2 cup peeled and grated white sweet potato
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, plus 1 sprig fresh thyme
Salt and ground black pepper
2 Fuji apples, peeled, cored and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 tablespoon coconut nectar
2 teaspoons egg white powder
Heat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it lightly with cooking spray.
In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine the grated turnip and both potatoes. Mix in the 1 teaspoon of thyme leaves, then season with salt and black pepper. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 3 minutes, or until the vegetables are just tender, stirring twice. Place the bowl in the freezer to cool for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the apples, thyme sprig and coconut nectar in a separate microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, or until the apples are just tender, stirring twice. Remove and discard the thyme sprig. Use a potato masher to mash the apples. Or for a smoother consistency, you can use a food processor. Set aside.
Once the vegetables are cooled to room temperature, add the egg white powder and mix thoroughly.
On the prepared baking sheet, make 12 equal piles of the vegetable mixture, then form each into a slightly flattened disk. Spritz the top of each latke with cooking spray. Bake the latkes for 10 minutes, then use a spatula to carefully flip them and bake for another 6 to 7 minutes, or until golden brown.
Place 3 latkes on each serving plate and top with applesauce.
Nutrition information per serving (3 latkes with applesauce) (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 87 calories; 0 g fat (0 percent calories from fat) (0 g saturated); 0 mg cholesterol; 20 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 3 g fiber; 214 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Rocco DiSpirito is author of the "Now Eat This!" and "Now Eat This! Diet" cookbooks.