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Jun 26 2014

My Magnetless Fridge Makes Me Sad

By at 9:55 am

grand-mom-fridge

I have a new refrigerator. It is shiny and wide with French doors and sports a special kid-friendly snack drawer for easy to grab cheese sticks and Gogurts. It has a special setting for fruits and veggies and organized doors with shelves for varying sizes of bottles and jars. It even lets me know when it hasn’t been shut properly with a cool bell tone.

But, as pretty as my aluminum-covered, jazzy new refrigerator is, it is defunct in one major area: It does not attract my magnets. My old refrigerator used to smile at me every time I went to open its doors. It was chock full of the usual refrigerator accessories: memo boards, magnets of all shapes, sizes, and colors holding up photos and phone numbers, grocery lists, and coupons.

But it wasn’t just a convenient storage place. Our family always had the tradition of showcasing creative accomplishments on the fridge. This tradition was passed down to me from my mother and her mother. It had become our family’s ritual to review the gallery while sipping tea and nibbling on crunchy snacks. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 6 2012

Tu Bishvat in Candyland

By at 10:47 am
Tu Bishvat Candy

No time to plan a 15-course fruit seder for Tu Bishvat? Try candy.

The holiday of Tu Bishvat, a.k.a. the birthday of the trees, starts at sundown tomorrow. Tu Bishvat is a field day for all environmentally-conscious families: an ideal ground from which to explore, celebrate and protect all things ecological. Kabbalists gave it a 15-course fruit seder of its own back in the 16th century, which is still observed in some fashion today. But if you want to make this tradition more tangible for your kids, we have some candy recommendations for you.

To read the rest of Joanna’s piece, click here.

Oct 4 2011

A Whale of a Snack for Yom Kippur

By at 11:32 am

With a little imagination, a snack and a doll quickly become a Yom Kippur scene.

It’s great to lavish time and effort into homemade, handmade treats for holidays, but it’s also great to find thematic goodies that are instant. As in, open a package and you’re done.  No fuss, no oven, no investment whatsoever except a buck at the Target Dollar Spot.

Which brings me to an ideal nosh for kids at Yom Kippur. It’s instant, kosher, crunchy, cute, cheesy (in more ways than one) and it’s fittingly thematic: whale crackers from Stauffer’s. Why whale crackers? Well, what’s the story Jews hear on the afternoon of Yom Kippur in synagogues all over the world? Jonah and the Whale.

The plot twist is pretty memorable: Jonah gets swallowed by the whale. All part of God’s plan, no doubt. Some say the whale swallowed Jonah to keep him safe, so that the reluctant prophet could make it to Nineveh and finish his assignment—to warn the people to change their ways. And throughout the story, we see that Jonah embodies the values of the High Holiday season: forgiveness (selichot) and repentence (teshuva). But, whether we blame the whale for gobbling poor Jonah or not, to eat whale-shaped crackers right after hearing the story tips the karmic balance just a smidge. At any rate, it’s fun. Plus, our kids can literally embody an element of this elemental story: they eat it.

But the best time to think about this is before Yom Kippur, when the rest of us—not just the preschooler crowd—can eat, too. Make the teeny whales special. They can be eaten out of hand, sure, but consider serving that handful in an ocean-blue, paper cupcake liner.  Whales can top homemade or store-bought mini-muffins or cupcakes, or float on blue jello.  The  dye-free parents among us might sprinkle a few on a small bowl of blueberries. The not-so-careful among us might sprinkle a few on a big bowl of blue M&Ms. It’s all good. It’s all Jewish. It’s all about celebrating and making connections and having fun with our kids.

I had never heard of these crackers till I saw them last week at Target. At first glance, these crackers do look like the ubiquitous (and non-kosher) Goldfish crackers, especially to fasting adults with plummeting blood sugar and dry eyelids. One must look closely to make out the stylized whale and his cheeky grin. But these crackers aren’t fish, they are whales, by golly.  The whale ate Jonah, and now we’ll eat the whale.

My point is that even ordinary snacks, if thematic and if reserved for a particular holiday, can sharpen a child’s anticipation, inject a bit of levity, add a layer of meaning, and stick in the memory as something Jewish and fun. And they are easy. This year, I’m hoping the kids will enjoy crunching mini whales in a moment of role-reversal.  And hopefully, no one will go overboard on the idea and start spewing whales.

Sep 28 2011

I Need Store-Bought, Thematic Snacky-ness And I Need it Now

By at 10:55 am

See? Those Bugles look just like a real shofar.

Every year before Rosh Hashanah I stock up on bags of Bugles: the corn-chip snacks fried in the shape of cones. I don’t even care how fatty or salty they are. I must have them.

Around a holiday, most nutritional considerations get eclipsed in favor of the greater good: transforming the ordinary into something special and memorable. And for my family, this includes Bugles. Why?

Bugles are miniature, edible shofars. Not by intention, but by conversion. They are hollow and tapered like tiny horns of plenty, and occasionally they’ve frizzled in the fat long enough to twist into a convincing arc like a real ram’s horn.

We use them as shofars for the Lego and Playmobil people. We use them as shofars for ourselves. We decorate mini muffins with them and sing Happy Birthday to the World. And we do this whether we are 4 or 14 or 46. They’ve become a taste and toy of Rosh Hashanah.

Until now.

Last week, I came home with half a dozen bags for a children’s program at the synagogue. And then I looked closer at the label. Where was the hecksher, the symbol of kosher certification?  It’s always been there. So, I go online and discover what the kosher world has known since March, 2011: the Orthodox Union (who administers that hecksher certification) has discontinued kosher certification due to “operational changes in the production sites.”

My synagogue has rules about such things. These bags, because of the sudden disappearance of two letters, will not be allowed in the building. I might just as well try serving pigs-in-a-blanket. Read the rest of this entry →

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