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The Jewish High Holy Days are almost amongst us and if you are supposed to hosting this year, you may be panicking. A little. Or a lot. Although I’ve been married for 19 years, I’ve never hosted my own dinner at my house. However, if you are making dinner at the last minute, I’m familiar with that. Several years ago, my husband’s grandmother died the morning of the first night of Rosh Hashanah. We weren’t expecting it to happen so quickly, but my Mother-in-Law had the funeral arrangements set and we held the funeral early that day and then ran up to my in-law’s house upstate right after. However, my mother-in-law was in no shape to make holiday dinner and my father-in-law had a bad cold. So we drove up to their house and I quickly went shopping for food to make the meal. We were only going to be 9 people (my family of 5, my in-laws, and my brother-in-law and his now wife). My mother-in-law, who is awesome, did not expect me to make everything from scratch. She suggested that I pick up a chicken, some salad, some chicken broth, and call it a day. While I did just that, but I grabbed my Instant Pot on the way out of the house and brought it up with me. I figured I could throw together a chicken soup (which is my favorite part of every meal) and possibly make some side dishes. My matzo balls are legendary, so I knew I was making that also. I could totally buy the rest. So here it is – the Jewish Holiday Meal Cheatsheet! The Jewish Holidays Dinner Cheatsheet: Get Your Holiday Meal On The Table in Less Than 3 Hours
Step 1 – you need groceries. Make a quick list or do grocery pickup or delivery (so you’re not tempted to just get lost in the bread aisle). You can get pre-made foods the day before, btw!
1. Veggies – Salad and Or Crudite
You need salad or veggies to cup up with dip. Appetizers are always great, but buying pre-cut veggies and dip is just easier (and pretty healthy). You can also get two bags of pre-made salad and put it all in a big bowl with a few bottles of dressing. Cut up a tomato or a red pepper to add some color on top.
You need a soup. You can quickly whip up my 30 minute Instant Pot Chicken Soup or if you have around 4 hours, make my grandmother’s Classic Chicken Soup Recipe (which is pretty easy, but you need the ingredients and 3.5 hours to cook). It’s an easy recipe, so you can pretty much dump the ingredients in and let it simmer. Instead of cutting up the onions, carrots and celery, I pick up the veggies pre-cut, plus a soup greens package. Make Matzoh Balls while you start the soup- see the next part!
3. Matzo Balls
You just need matzo meal, oil, and water. The matzo ball mix, once made, needs to sit in the fridge for an hour or so. Then you’ll need to have a pot of boiling water to cook them in. Allow 2 hours before you serve the soup to do this.
4. A Main Dish
Pick up a rotisserie chicken at the supermarket — you may need several chickens to feed a crowd. Figure each chicken should feed 4 people and adjust accordingly.
If your guests are plant-based or don’t eat meat, you need to find something they can eat. Example: My daughter is a pescatarian and won’t eat meat, so I would pick up a piece of fish from the fish department that all I had to do was pop in the oven to cook or look for fish that is already cooked and I’d just have to heat up. No one is going to be keeping score and if you really want to, pick up a main dish and veggie sides from a fast casual restaurant or your supermarket (one of my aunts always swears by Boston Market for her holiday meals). This isn’t going to be kosher, if you are kosher, there are kosher supermarkets or restaurants (like a Zorn’s or Aron’s in Flushing) that will have everything you need.
5. Side Dishes
One potato dish and one green veggie – Buy or make a potato dish: I am not good making mashed potatoes, so I usually cut up small red or yellow potatoes, add a little olive oil and roast them at 450 degrees Farenheit for 15-25 minutes.
– Make a green veggie: Buy creamed spinach (Seabrook Brand) or serve roasted or steamed green beans or zucchini. If you like to make your veggies in the instant pot, check the cooking time (but it will usually work well on 0 or 1 minute manual pressure)
6. Challah, Apples and Honey
Cut up some apples and put out some dishes of honey. You can make the challah if you have time, but here’s an easy challah in a bag recipe that we tried.
Or you can totally buy challah. Save some for French Toast the next morning!
6. Dessert — I am not much of a baker, so I would buy 2 or 3 cakes. Remember people like to bring dessert so if you get 2 desserts, most likely you can ask someone to bring a third. You can never go wrong with Chocolate Babka. Elaine from Seinfeld would approve!
Matzoh Balls are so easy to make!
Here’s the recipe I always follow (with video instructions)
Here’s the 30 minute way:
Or the 3.5 hours way
Challah in a Bag Recipe
Now — your table. Pull out a clean tablecloth, your candlesticks, and china. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but should be clean and neat. Flowers are always a great touch – your supermarket will have a fall-inspired bouquet that could work nicely.
If you want to do disposable plates, cups, and silverware, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law have used this brand. Order several days before you need it or pick up a similar set at your grocery store.
There are some great ideas for tables in this post: