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Purim Food for Thought

Purim Food for Thought

Healthy and simple mishloach manot ideas.

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With Purim around the corner, many of us are thinking about what to send for mishloach manot, gifts of food. Of course, any type of mishloach manot is a welcomed gesture of friendship. But instead of sending cakes, cookies, and candy, why not consider healthier options? Your friends will be grateful to you for not tempting them to overeat, giving their kids a sugar high, or leaving them with too much chametz before Passover.

The Produce Platter

Fruit platters make a great snack on Purim day. My parents have given fruit platters for years, and every year recipients call to thank them, saying it was the best gift they received. Too busy on Purim day to assuage their hunger with real food, they found fruit to be the perfect thing.

You can vary the size and type of platter, depending on your budget. For someone to whom you owe appreciation, you might want to send a large arrangement of fresh pineapple and melons on a fancy platter, presented elegantly in cellophane topped off with a bow. For more casual friends, the arrangement could consist of basic winter fruit on a simple plate or a fruit salad in a bowl. I’d advise you to stay away from apple slices, as there is a limit to how long lemon juice can keep an apple slice from turning brown.

A vegetable platter is easier to set up attractively for those whose talent doesn’t lie in beautiful presentations. Fill a small clear plastic bowl with salad dressing and place it in the center of a plate or circular platter. Lay baby carrots, strips of different colored peppers, grape tomatoes, olives, baby corn, or any other vegetable in sections radiating from the bowl in the center. You can also buy sectioned disposable platters. Simply covering your platter with plastic wrap is sufficient, as the rich colors of a fruit or vegetable platter are beautiful in and of themselves.

Easy Russian Dressing Dip

1/2 c mayonnaise (reduced fat is fine)
2-3 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp garlic powder

Real Food

A hearty vegetable soup is another healthy option. It can be made in advance and doesn’t require any fancy packaging, since it’s normal to send soup in a plastic container. (You can decorate the container if you wish.) Attach a package of breadsticks to the container to fulfill the mitzvah of sending two types of foods for mishloach manot.

Another item that is generally appreciated is a kugel. Although kugel is not usually a healthful food, at least it’s real food! It’s not likely to contribute to Purim day snacking, since it will probably be put away for a Shabbat meal after Purim. Unlike many other side dishes, kugel refrigerates and freezes well and is almost universally liked. Lay a second item (a small bottle of wine or grape juice works well) on top of the kugel, and no container is needed.

Sweet potato Kugel
Base:
3 cups boiled, mashed, and drained sweet potatoes
2 eggs
½ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp salt

Mix and pour into an 8x8 (20 cm) or 9 inch (22 cm) round pan.

Topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
5 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp oil
Optional: 5 Tbsp chopped nuts

Work the oil into the sugar and flour. Sprinkle the topping over the base. Bake at 350 F (180 C) for 30 minutes or until light brown.

Broccoli kugel
1 large saut éed onion
32 oz (1 kg) frozen broccoli pieces
4 large eggs
2 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise (reduced fat is fine)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

Bake in a low pan at 350 F (180 C)

Salad

A salad is another welcome meal item and is easy to put together. Lettuce or pasta salads are the most practical, as you will probably not want to take the time on Purim or the day before to chop the many vegetables needed to produce a decent-sized vegetable salad. Sending an unopened bag of lettuce with kosher certification will avoid both freshness and kashrut problems. Customize the salad by placing the bag of lettuce in a large fancy bowl or a simple plastic container, along with a container of homemade or store-bought dressing and packages of craisins, nuts, mandarin oranges, or other salad toppings.

Orange-craisin lettuce salad
1 bag lettuce
Handful craisins
Small can mandarin oranges (or sections of 1-2 clementines )

Dressing (Shake well before dressing the salad):
3 Tbsp vinegar
3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp oil (may replace with 1 Tbsp oil and 2 tsp water)

Couscous salad

This salad works well for Purim because it actually tastes better when made a day or two in advance.

Salad:
1 1/3 cup raw fine couscous (mix orange and green colored couscous with the regular variety for a fun look)
4 large tomatoes, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 red onion, diced
½ cucumber, diced
1/3 cup fresh parsley (or about 1 ½ Tbsp dried parsley)
Juice of 1-2 lemons (fresh tastes best)

Dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
¾ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Put all the salad items into a large ziplock bag or container with a lid. Pour dressing in, mix well, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4-5 hour. The hard, raw couscous will absorb the liquid from the dressing and vegetables and fluff up as if it had been cooked. Try it – it really works! Keeps for almost a week in the refrigerator.

Kids and Teens

If your child is embarrassed to give a mini apple juice instead of a soda to his friend, it’s not worth it. You have to know your customer. But for children who are willing to do something a little different, breakfast foods are usually healthy and tasty. For example, you could send a breakfast bar or mini cereals and milk. Tie them together or send in a plastic cereal bowl. Even sweetened cereals and chocolate milk have far more nutritional value than soda and chips.

I hope this gives you some food for thought. Have a happy and healthy Purim!

Published: February 20, 2010


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Visitor Comments: 10

(9) Anonymous, March 12, 2010 2:37 AM

too much sugar

Almost all the recipes mentioned contain sugar- the dressing recipes, the kugel, craisins, madarin oranges- all of these recipes could be made without sugar, with less sugar or with less honey which has a lower GI index than white table sugar -which is very high. As a health professional, I have been giving out on Purim real food that does not contain any white sugar for 20 years. This article does not present any new ideas. I have been writing about and working with patients around these issues for many years. I quess there is a 20 year lag in the frum community about issues related to food and health. It shouldn't be a wonder to me, I still get shalach manas filled with junk, the worse being the improperly labeled candy and treats from Israel, which does right into our trash can. I also think it is improper and a misuse of shalach manos to make nicer baskets for those who you "owe appeciation." To me this is a bastardization of the concept of the mitzvah and an improper way to use it. It also turns the holiday into a popularity contest, which gets perpetated even by well- meaning sites such as yours.

Anonymous, March 4, 2012 11:10 PM

You sound so angry; could that be sugar deprevation?

Everything you said is right; just the way you said it, sounds like you may have low blood sugar and need to eat something to calm down!!!

(8) Miriam, February 23, 2010 3:04 PM

Message to Anonymous Comment #3

You're right! It does take more work than the store bought stuff! It sounds like this is not a good year for you to go this way! You'd do better off going the easy way! Save these ideas till your kids are grown and you're relaxing with your retired husband!

(7) NZ, February 23, 2010 12:21 AM

This article really did get me thinking ..thanks for the tips..

(6) Anonymous, February 22, 2010 11:00 PM

Response to 2 and 3

#3 - of all the things to complain about time consumption, why would you pick a kugel? you make a few huge batches and you're finished. You don't have to give a 9 X 13, so one batch can make a few kugels. Also you can even start two or three weeks before purim and just keep them in the freezer unlike fresh fruits/veggies. That way there is no pre-purim rush. In my experience kugels were always the easiest shaloch manos for these reasons. #2 - Ronni - No one is saying that it's forbidden to eat a homantash on purim, and not even that you shouldn't be sending cakes or the like for shaloch manos. All the article is pointing out is that since most people give sweets, it would probably be very appreciated to give some real food for shaloch manos. Thank you so much for this wonderful article! My 7 year old son got so excited about the breakfast idea that he can't wait to give it out to his friends! Have a happy purim everybody!!

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