Cheater’s Latkes


We had to celebrate Hanukkah late this year; we didn’t have both of our girls home until the 19th. But it’s better late than never, and part of the celebration always includes Cheater’s Latkes (potato pancakes).

I’ve been making these for many years, and was highly amused when one of my favorite food bloggers, Chungah An at, blogged back in October about her way to make Easy Potato Pancakes. There are some definite similaries between our two recipes. (Do explore her blog; I’ve made a number of recipes from it, and ALL of them have been wonderful.) I have to say, however, that mine came out of an overwhelming need to be lazy. Grating potatoes (with or without onions) is not my idea of a good time. It takes forever, and if I have to go through that much bother just to prep them, I won’t make them. Hence, Cheater’s Latkes.

Do not assume that these are healthy for you in any way, shape, or form. My mother reduces oil in her latkes to almost nothing by baking them in the oven. They are ok, but not what I expect from a latke. If you don’t use a lot of oil, why are you bothering making them for Hanukkah? It’s the oil holiday, and what better way to commemorate it than to fry, fry, fry? I figure I’ll just do this once a year, and be sure to take my Lipitor. Fried potatoes, what’s not to love? (Also note that I do not use onions in this recipe. Years ago, I remember my mother complaining that all the oil and onions were heartburn-producing, so my Uncle Irving suggested baking the latkes and using onion powder instead. I’ve just adopted the onion powder.)

So how do I get around that pesky grating of potatoes task? Use thawed, frozen shredded hash browns. Any brand will do. I’m also too lazy to crack a bunch of eggs, so I used egg substitute. (I’m not plugging the brand, any carton of liquid eggs will do.) Measurements are also not my strongest suit, particularly with this recipe, so the measurements I’ll use are mostly approximations. Nothing is cast in stone, a little more or less of any of the ingredients will work just fine.

Here’s what you need:


(Plus flour, somehow that didn’t make it into the photo. )

I almost never make this in reasonable quantities, I typically use 2 or 3 bags of shredded hash browns because I need to feed family and guests, elementary school classes, and co-workers.

Add flour to the hash browns.


Next add the egg substitute.

033Add onion powder, garlic powder, and salt. Stir well. If you find that the potato mixture is too wet, you can add more flour, or use a slotted spoon when you go to fry the latkes. (If you like ground pepper, this would be the time to add some. I typically don’t.)


This is what three bags of potatoes looks like. I’ll include my standard recipe for 2 bags, which will still feed an army. This metal bowl is the largest bowl I own.


Heat up a frying pan and add about 1/4″ of oil. I use canola oil. Drop potato mixture by heaping spoonfuls (I just use our standard soup spoons) into the hot oil. Be careful, splattering is likely. Flatten each latke down with the back of the spoon.


Once the latkes start to turn brown on the bottom, carefully flip them over. Remove when both sides are equally browned, and place on paper towels to drain. Looks pretty inviting, huh?


My friend Elaine actually fried this batch; we figure that since she’s part Irish, her potato-related skills are genetic. She is also more meticulous than I am, and these latkes turned out to be fairly uniform in size and stunningly beautiful. Use paper towels between each layer of latkes when you remove them from the oil.


It was a rather LARGE batch …something like the Leaning Tower of Latkes.


Serve with applesauce and/or sour cream. I like both.


Cheater's Latkes
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
The ultimate fried for Hanukkah and beyond. It's great as a main dish or a side dish.
Cuisine: Jewish
Serves: enough to feed a small country
  • 2 bags shredded hash browns
  • 1 pint container egg substitute
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • canola oil
  1. Mix all ingredients except oil together in a large bowl.
  2. Heat a frying pan, add about ¼" of canola oil.
  3. When oil is hot, drop potato mixture by spoonfuls into the pan.
  4. Turn latkes over when bottoms are golden brown.
  5. Cook other side of latkes to the same doneness.
  6. Continue cooking the rest of the potato mixture the same way, adding more oil as necessary.
  7. Remove latkes to paper towel-lined plate. You can stack them up as long as you put paper towels between layers.
  8. Serve with applesauce and sour cream.


Beef Veggie Soup from Memory


Many years ago, when I still lived in Maryland, my parents and I used to frequent a lot of craft shows, festivals, and the like. One of our favorite shows was the annual fall festival in Thurmont, MD. Invariably the weather would be cool and brisk, and there’d always be some vendor who was smart enough to serve a phenomenal beef vegetable soup.

Then I discovered that one of my co-workers, Liz Smith (are you out there, Liz?) regularly made this soup up at her farm in West Virginia. She had a big garden and did lots of canning, so she always made huge quantities of this soup. But she used a pressure cooker to cook the beef, and that always intimidated me, so I never got around to making it.

Years passed. I moved to California and lost touch with Liz (although thankfully I have reconnected with many of my other old buddies from the National Agricultural Library). And as I’ve become increasingly adventurous with cooking, I decided to see if I could recreate this soup – a dish I hadn’t tasted in over 30 years. I am convinced, however, that there is a distinct connect between taste buds and memories, and figured this would be a reasonable experiment. So I dug out Liz’s recipe and made some modifications. Here’s what I started with:


And then there was the beef…


The first potential problem was cooking the beef. I still didn’t have (or want) a pressure cooker, so I seasoned the beef with salt and pepper, and then opted to brown the chuck roast in a big pot and then finish cooking it in the oven. Liz’s recipe cooked the chuck roast in a cup of water with a bouillon cube; I opted for a can of consomme and about a half a can of water.



While the beef was cooking, I started prepping and assembling all of the veggies. Liz’s recipe called for quantities like “quarts of tomatoes” and “quarts of green beans.” I didn’t have any of that. So I took some wild guesses and started throwing ingredients together.

Once the beef was cooked, I took it out to rest for a few minutes on a cutting board. Then I skimmed off the surface fat from the broth.


Next, I chopped any veggies that needed to be chopped,  and then added them to the broth.


Then came all of the veggies.


Next, I cut the beef into small pieces and added them back into the broth along with the remaining seasonings.


Oops! This pot wouldn’t hold everything AND the remaining liquid (still to be added)…how about another pot?


Much better! Finally, I added the tomato juice and mixed everything together.


Yup, that fit a LOT better!

I brought it all to a boil, and then let it simmer for an hour (it’s done once the potatoes are tender).

Liz and the various festival vendors always added some sort of noodles (e.g. elbow macaroni) to the mix at the end, but I decided to leave it out. I like it both ways.

Served with some crusty bread, it makes a great meal on a sloppy winter’s day.



Beef Veggie Soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: American
Serves: a small country
  • 2 lb. chuck roast
  • 1 can consomme
  • ½ can water
  • 1 package frozen green beans
  • 1 package frozen corn
  • 1 package frozen peas
  • 4 handfuls baby carrots, sliced
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • tomato juice
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • handful of dried parsley
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 can lima beans, drained
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 cups elbow macaroni noodles, cooked (optional)
  1. Brown chuck roast in 2 TBSP oil in a dutch oven. Add consomme and water. Bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours, or until tender. Remove beef from broth, skim fat from surface. Chop/shred beef, return to pot.
  2. Add remaining ingredients to the pot.
  3. Bring to boil, then turn down heat and simmer for an hour or until potatoes are tender.
  4. Optional: add cooked noodles at the end of cooking time.



Top 10 “Plan B” Dinners

I had this grand plan when I got home from my latest east coast trip that I was going to cook a nice dinner for my family the following day. I went to the store, bought all sorts of groceries, even did some of the prep. Then I took a nap since I was jet-lagged. And woke up at 7 PM.

So much for the nice dinner. Hence the need for a Plan B.

This sort of thing happens a lot around here. Something always comes up – I might get home really tired and not feel like doing much. I might be so busy during the day even when I’m at home that I don’t have much time to prepare dinner. Going out to eat or getting takeout food is always an option, but after a while that just gets expensive. (And having to go out again when all I want to do is curl up on the couch isn’t necessarily a viable option.) That’s why we have a list of Plan B dinners.

I keep certain foods around the house just for this purpose, so that I can throw something together at the last minute and not have to resort to a bowl of cereal for dinner. (I personally find a bowl of cereal for dinner incredibly unsatisfying.) So when you’re having One of Those Days, see if something from this list might be of help!

1. Hot dogs and fries.

I always keep a couple of packages of hot dogs (my favorite: Hebrew National, yes I’m a snob) in the freezer. My husband is very particular about his fries, so I  always have a package of Extra Crispy Crinkle Cut Fries in the freezer. (I prefer Tater Tots, but hey, use whatever floats your boat.) We don’t bother keeping hot dog buns around; they just end up getting freezer burn. I roll the hot dogs up in a regular piece of bread – something that’s always here in the house. If I’m feeling gourmet, I’ll cook an Aidell’s sausage and have it with grainy mustard. (I have a monopoly on any and all mustards in my house; my family hates it. Their loss.)

2. Chicken Patty Parmiagiana with Spaghetti

This is actually one of my younger daughter’s favorite meals. This version is NOT for purists. Making real chicken parmiagiana takes time and care. This version is when you don’t have time and really don’t care. But it’s remarkably edible anyway. Make spaghetti. Use your favorite jarred spaghetti sauce. Heat up some frozen chicken patties. Top those with some sauce and some mozarella cheese during the last couple of minutes of cooking. Add a little steamed broccoli (we’ve always got broccoli around) and you have a complete meal that’s remarkably satisfying despite the lack of effort you’ve put into it.

3. Tuna Melt

I particularly like this when fresh tomatoes from my garden or the farmer’s market are available. Take your favorite canned tuna, mix in some mayonnaise and your favorite seasonings. Spread the tuna mixture on a piece of bread, top with sliced tomatoes and American cheese. Place the bread in the toaster oven and toast until the cheese melts. Ridiculously easy.

4. Pizza Bagels

I’ve always got bagels in the freezer. Just defrost however many you need in the microwave, split them apart, top with pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce, and top with mozarella cheese. Heat in the toaster oven until the cheese melts.

5. Caprese Salad

This is the perfect meal when the weather is so hot you don’t want to turn on the oven. Alternate layers of sliced tomatoes and mozarella, tear some fresh basil and scatter that on top, and drizzle with a little olive oil and some balsamic vinegar. Just don’t tell anyone you’re really being lazy.

6. Fried Rice

Actually I usually end up taking this for lunch to work as well. I make this anytime I have leftover rice, usually from Chinese takeout or if we’ve done a stir fry for another meal. I usually add some chicken apple sausage (broiled), some scrambled eggs, and some frozen mixed vegetables. Mix everything together in a large frying pan with a little oil, add soy sauce to taste, and stir fry the whole thing together. Bombproof. It’s also a great way to use up leftover vegetables.

7. Mac and Cheese and Tuna

I learned this one from my husband. You take your favorite boxed macaroni and cheese (we use the fluorescent orange-colored stuff). Cook as directed, but instead of adding milk, add enough mayonnaise to make it creamy. Then add a can of tuna, and something to add some crunch (e.g. chopped apple, celery, or onion). It’s another easy meal for hot days when you don’t feel like cooking.

8. Quesadillas

Who doesn’t love quesadillas? You can customize them with whatever ingredients you happen to have on hand. We’ve always got shredded cheese around, and I like to add vegetables, or leftover sliced chicken, or even cooked shrimp. The possibilities are endless. Put a tortilla in a skillet that you’ve sprayed with non-stick spray, top with your favorite toppings, and add a second tortilla on top. Smoosh together with a spatula. If you’re gifted or brave, flip the whole thing over to cook on both sides. (Makes for good entertainment value too.)

9. Baked Potatoes

When my elder daughter was on her high school dance team, one of the best aspects of going to the football games was not only getting to see her dance, but having the amazing baked potatoes that were sold by the music boosters. They must have sprinkled magic on those potatoes. Mine are never that good, but adding toppings to a baked potato can form a really satisfying dinner. Try butter, sour cream, bacon bits, chili, cheese, broccoli….be creative!

10. My Version of Scott’s Friday Night Dinner

My friend, Scott, has a family tradition of putting together whatever’s on hand or easily attainable and somehow turning it into a gourmet meal. My version varies depending on what I have around, but tends to consist of: dry salami or  broiled Aidells sausage, cheddar or Havarti cheese, a baguette or crackers, some fruit (even canned pears will do in a pinch), and some raw or pickled vegetables. Add a nice glass of wine or a beer and you have a lovely dinner. No real cooking required.

Think about a Plan B dinner before bailing and going out to eat. You’ll save money, and you might like it just as well. And you can have it in your pajamas.