We are embarking upon the last days of the Yom Tov season, Simchat Torah and Shemini Atzeret, about 11 Yom Tov meals shopped for, prepared, served and cleaned up. Congratulations! Only a few more to go.

It’s hard to be creative and maintain the same level of culinary enthusiasm at this point. No worries! These super simple and delicious recipes have you more than covered and won’t have you overworking yourself. Relax and enjoy the time with family and friends and reflect back at the efforts and special season of the Yom Tovim.

Smoky Spiced Chicken with Cauliflower, Apricots and Olives

Serves 6

This chicken is two quick steps. Marinate and bake on a sheet pan. It’s best prepared and served with minimal reheating. I marinate it in the morning and bake it shortly before serving it. The flavor combination is bold and yet well balanced, and includes everything from smokiness, sweetness, saltiness, and rich caramelization.

Photo by finecooking.com
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 teaspoons curry powder, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets, or bag of frozen cauliflower, defrosted and dried
  • 1 cup dried apricots, figs, dates or other dried fruit
  • 1 cup pitted green olives

In a zip-top bag, combine chicken thighs with 2 tablespoons oil, 2 teaspoons curry powder, ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, cinnamon, vinegar and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Gently mix to coat chicken with mixture. Marinate for 45 minutes or up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper for easy clean-up.

Place cauliflower, apricots and olives on the sheet pan. Add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons curry powder, ½ teaspoon paprika, and ½ teaspoon salt and toss to coat. Place chicken and remaining marinade on pan, spacing everything out into a single layer. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until chicken registers 165°F. Serve warm.

Roasted Garlic, Tomato, and Balsamic Brick Roast

Serves 12

Photo by Peninsula Winery

Roasted garlic adds wonderful depth of flavor to everything. It’s sweeter than fresh chopped garlic and it helps tenderize this roast. If you must, substitute about 6 cloves of fresh chopped garlic for the roasted garlic to save time. I roast a few garlic heads and store them in the refrigerator for recipes like this one. This meat freezes well too. Slice it and return it to the pan sauce. Cover tightly with foil and freeze. Defrost in the refrigerator and skim off some of the fat before reheating.

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1 (4 ½ - 5 lb) Brick Roast, Square Roast or French Roast
  • 1 head of roasted garlic* or 6 cloves minced garlic
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¾ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until softened. Place onions in a large roasting pan and put French Roast on top of onions.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a small bowl, mix roasted garlic (squeeze out cloves and remaining oil), brown sugar, tomatoes, water, balsamic vinegar, and orange zest. Pour over meat. Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil.

Bake for 2 ½ hours. Remove from oven. Cool and slice thinly and return meat to sauce. Rewarm and serve with sauce.

How to roast garlic

  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Slice off the top each head of garlic to expose some of the cloves inside. Place the heads on a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap tightly in the foil. Roast until cloves are lightly browned and tender, about 45 minutes.

Slow Cooker “Butter” Soft Seasoned Corned Beef

Serves 8

Photo by Traeger Grills

This corned beef gets “butter” soft cooked low and slow in the slow cooker or alternatively in a 225°F oven for 7-8 hours. The seasonings give it exceptional flavor. Serve it with a honey mustard sauce or a store-bought deli mustard.

  • One (4-5 pound) corned beef
  • Dry rub
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Remove corned beef from packaging and rinse a few times with cold water to remove pickling spice and excess saltiness. Pat dry and place on parchment paper.

For the rub: In a small bowl mix black pepper, coriander, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, both paprikas, chili powder, mustard powder, and kosher salt. Generously rub mixture all over the corned beef to evenly coat the meat. Wrap tightly in parchment paper and then twice in heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Place the seasoned and wrapped pastrami into the slow cooker. Pour about 1 cup water around meat. Cover and cook on low for 9 -10 hours, or until meat is tender and the internal temperature reaches 200°F.

Remove the wrapped pastrami from the slow cooker and let rest on a baking tray for 15 minutes before slicing.

Serve corned beef with honey mustard sauce or deli mustard.

Mushroom and Onion Brown Rice Pilaf

Serves 8

Photo by thechunkychef.com

Sometimes store-bought products are worth buying. Honestly, that does not hold true for jarred tomato sauces, dressings etc that contain obscene amounts of sugar and salt. But grain blends and spice blends are often flavorful and still healthy. I like the Lundberg Jubilee blends, available in national markets as well as some of the rice blends from Trader Joe’s. The simple addition of onions and mushrooms with seasonings makes it a company worthy dish.

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 3 portobello mushrooms, sliced or 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
  • 1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ cups brown rice blend (like Lundberg jubilee, or Trader Joe’s brown and wild rice blend, or regular brown rice)
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, optional (taste before adding)

In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until translucent and lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar, teriyaki sauce and mustard and toss to coat onions and mushrooms. Cook 3 minutes until sauce is slightly thickened. Turn off heat.

Cook rice according to package instructions. When rice is fully cooked but still warm, pour into onion mushroom mixture, toss to coat all rice with sauce. Add pepper and salt, if needed. Best served warm but can be served at room temperature.

Lotus Butter Rice Krispie Treats

Makes 12 bars

Kid and adult friendly, rice krispie bars just got a whole lot better….is that possible? Be careful, the Lotus butter in most national markets probably do not have a hecksher and are not kosher. The version that is imported from Israel (and in the same packaging) and carried by kosher markets is kosher and bears a hecksher. Also, the lotus cookies served on many airplanes do not have a hecksher.

  • ½ cup margarine
  • 3 cups mini marshmallows, divided
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup Cookie Butter (Lotus butter)
  • ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 cups Rice Krispies cereal
  • ¼ cup coarsely crumbled Lotus cookies, optional
  • For the topping:
  • ½ cup Cookie Butter (Lotus butter)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Grease an 8×8-inch baking dish and set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt margarine over medium heat until melted completely. Add 2 cups of mini marshmallows and vanilla extract. Cook, stirring occasionally, until marshmallows are completely melted. Add cookie butter and salt. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon until smooth. Remove pan from heat and add the rice krispies, remaining 1 cup of mini marshmallows, and coarsely crumbled Lotus cookies. Quickly stir, ensuring that all the cereal is coated in the marshmallow mixture.

Spoon into prepared pan. Using wax paper to help with the stickiness, press into pan.

For the topping: In a small saucepan, stir cookie butter and chocolate chips over low heat until melted and smooth. Pour the topping over the rice krispie treats and spread into an even layer. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set completely. Cut into 12 bars and serve. Store in refrigerator.