Purim is coming, and this is just the time to start thinking about what you are going to do for mishloach manos – the foods you send to friends on Purim. This is one of my favorite holidays – I really enjoy sharing food with other people, and this is built right into this holiday.
What is Mishloach Manos? It is 2 different types of food sent to a friend. Some people go all out on this holiday and send not only huge baskets but send to huge numbers of people.
Someone asked me, “How can I save money on Purim baskets?” Well, dear readers, there are lots of ways to save money on Purim baskets while still having lots of fun. First of all, just as a side note, try to remember that you only have to send 2 Mishloach Manot. So, if you really want to save money – send 2 and then make a donation to a local wonderful organization (Ahavas Yisroel) and give out cards to everyone else. Also, this holiday isn’t supposed to make you crazy. So, if you don’t want to send out cards and you do want to send out baskets and you don’t want to spend a lot of money – then here are some ideas to make the baskets yourself. If you have found yourself in previous years staying up through the night making cards and decorating baskets (and this isn’t your idea of fun) then let’s simplify!
How do you decide what to send?
- Pick a theme
How do I pick a theme? Benjamin Lipschitz from Kosherline.com recommends that you pick something you like that’s close to your heart. If you like animals – you could have an animal themed basket (gummy bears with bearclaw with a stuffed animal). Do you love coffee? You could do a Starbucks theme (friends did a similar theme last year – they put some coffee beans and a coffee packet in a Starbucks cup). Do you enjoy working out? You could do an exercise theme (Gatorade, power bar, all in a running hat). The possibilities are vast.
- Pick a theme based on what’s on sale
Decide what your budget is going to be and how many people you are going to send to. Then go to the dollar store and see what’s available. You can often pick up inexpensive baskets, or other containers that are in your price range. Also, this year Purim is in March. If you plan ahead – there will be lots of candy sales after February 14th. Michael’s is a great place to go after a big holiday to find good deals on all sorts of things. Michael’s also has do it yourself items (baskets and boxes that you can paint, if you have the time and inclination).
Homemade baked goods are generally a big hit – see our hamantaschen recipe below (stay away from allergenic foods – or label them as such). Also, if you buy some baskets at the dollar store or Michael’s, buy some ribbon, as well. Then you can make bows or weave the ribbon into the basket to give your basket a little homemade flair. Pick up a roll of cellophane and wrap the whole thing and voila – homemade Purim baskets.
If price is no object, but time is, there are a few people you can call. The Candy Store has a number of prepackaged baskets that you can buy – but you should order quick – a number of their baskets are already sold out (what? It’s only January? Yes I know, and they’re sold out – call quick if you want them).
Is a loved one away at school? Kosherline.com sends all over the States and to Israel – so for those special someones – you could check out their website.
Enjoy Purim – it’s fun to have little helpers – the more they help the more homemade everything looks – and that’s a good thing – because your friends will know that you made it special for them.
A friend gave me this recipe – I modified it a little bit. I like to add lemon zest (or you could add orange zest for a similar effect). This recipe creates an in-between crunchy and soft cookie. Yum. And this is another fantastic activity to do with children. They can measure and mix. And then they can put a teaspoon of filling in each cookie and they can make triangles.
- 5 cups flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 t salt
- 1/2 t lemon zest
- 1 cup oil
- 4 eggs
- your choice of filling (jam, jelly, preserves, chocolate chips**).
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Blend flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and zest.
- Mix in oil and eggs.
- Roll out dough approximately 1/4 inch thick and cut out circles (I used a 3 inch circle cookie cutter). I also like to roll out my dough on an aluminum foil sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Then I have an easier time getting the dough off. Take the circles and transfer them to your cookie sheet (with sprayed aluminum foil or parchment paper).
- Put 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of filling on the circle.
6. Take an arc of the circle and fold in.
7. Take a second arc (to make a point) and fold in on cover the edge of the first arc.
8. Take the third and final arc and fold up.
You do not want to pinch the corners, instead you want each arc to overlap so that the cookie stays together.
9. DON’T DO the following picture (your cookies will still be tasty, just not hamantaschen).
8. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 F. Makes approximately 80 cookies (this will be based on how thick you roll your dough and the size of your cookie cutter).
** If you are going to put chocolate chips in your center I would recommend leaving the citrus zest out – but that’s me, I don’t like lemon and chocolate or orange and chocolate. I know you people exist out there who do like these combinations. Well for you, leave the zest in and put chocolate in the middle. For everyone else, leave the zest out – it’ll make your cookie even yummier.
Bracha Shor is co-owner of Sweet and Good Catering and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.