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
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
3 cups boiled, mashed, and drained sweet potatoes
½ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp salt
Mix and pour into an 8x8 (20 cm) or 9 inch (22 cm) round pan.
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.
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)
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
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)
This salad works well for Purim because it actually tastes better when made a day or two in advance.
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)
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!