By Jeannine Cotler, Jewish Cooking Specialist and Coleman Parent

Being the Jewish Cooking Specialist at Camp Coleman 2nd Session for the past 2 years has been like having my rugelach and eating it too! I had been sending my 4 children to Coleman for 12 years. Sarah and Matthew, my 2 oldest, were now on staff. Leah and Daniel, my younger 2, were enjoying their time as campers. I finally decided that I wanted to have my own Camp Coleman experience!

I’ll admit that when I applied for a position, I had visions of working in the office, answering the phone, filing and copying, delivering mail, etc. when I was told that the only positions that still needed filling were Driver and Jewish Cooking Specialist, the decision was a no-brainer. I decided to jump in with both feet and have some fun!

I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed sharing stories about my grandmothers, as well as some history and other delicious bit of information along with etching campers (and some staff members) how to make things from Israeli salad to potato latkes (from scratch) to shakshuka, and this summer’s surprise- “Deconstructed Falafel”.

Falafel day became a wonderful opportunity to teach that cooking/baking is not always an exact science. After 3 attempts, it became clear that the falafel balls weren’t happening. However, with less oil in the pan and simply sautéing/browning the mashed chickpea mixture, we came up with something that could be easily spooned into a pita pocket- with tahini drizzled on top of course!

My very favorite thing about being the Jewish Cooking Specialist is getting to connect with the campers. It doesn’t get much better than good conversation and good food. I love seeing the satisfaction in their eyes and smiles.

As for the rugelach, crescent rolls make a great substitute for the dough when you’re pressed for time!

Quick and Easy Purim Hamentashen

1 (18.25 ounce) package moist yellow cake mix
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
2 tablespoons water

1 cup fruit jam (any flavor) or 1 cup prepared poppy-seed filling or 1 cup chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease cookie sheets.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix and flour. Stir in the eggs and water to form a stiff dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/8-inch thickness.
  3. Cut into 3-inch round circles and place 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. Place a teaspoon of filling into the center of each cookie and pinch the sides tightly to form three corners so that only a lite filling is visible. Moisten with water, if necessary.
  4. Bake hamentashen for 6 to 8 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly browned.
  5. Allow cookies to cook for 1 minute on the cookie sheets before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

Recipe yield 2 dozen hamentashen.

Sweet Potato Latkes


2 sweet potatoes, peeled and shredded
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ cup vegetable oil for frying


  1. Place sweet potatoes in a colander. Place a cheesecloth over the potatoes and squeeze the potatoes to release as much liquid as possible. Let the potatoes sit to release more liquid, then squeeze again.
  2. In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes, eggs, brown sugar, flour, cloves and cinnamon, mix well.
  3. Heat oil in a large heavy skillet to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Form mixture into pancake size cakes, and fry in hot oil. Flip cakes after 2 to 3 minutes (when bottom is browned) and brown other side. Drain on paper towels and serve piping hot!