8 Nights of Chanukah (A Carol)

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Chanukah has ended and the long-abandoned treadmill is calling my name. My muffin top has been upgraded to a fallen soufflé. Latkes were inhaled and precious time was spent with friends and family as we lit the menorah, spun dreidels, and sang Chanukah songs. Good food was enjoyed, gifts were exchanged, and lifetime memories were made. In the spirit of Chanukah, I adapted this song for Jews and non-Jews alike.

Please sing along…

To the tune of ’12 Days of Christmas’ because why should goys have all the fun!?

On the first night of Chanukah,
my true love gave to me
Corn rye stuffed with hot pastrami

On the second night of Chanukah,
my true love gave to me
Two guilt trips,
And corn rye stuffed with hot pastrami

On the third night of Chanukah,
my true love gave to me
Three dreidel tops,
Two guilt trips,
And corn rye stuffed with hot pastrami

On the fourth night of Chanukah,
my true love gave to me
Four calling cards (“To call your mother who’s worried sick about you!”),
Three dreidel tops,
Two guilt trips,
And corn rye stuffed with hot pastrami

On the fifth night of Chanukah,
my true love gave to me
Five golden latkes,
Four calling cards,
Three dreidel tops,
Two guilt trips,
And corn rye stuffed with hot pastrami

On the sixth night of Chanukah,
my true love gave to me
Six relatives a-kvetching,
Five golden latkes,
Four calling cards,
Three dreidel tops,
Two guilt trips,
And corn rye stuffed with hot pastrami

On the seventh night of Chanukah,
my true love gave to me
Seven alka seltzers,
Six relatives a-kvetching,
Five golden latkes,
Four calling cards,
Three dreidel tops,
Two guilt trips,
And corn rye stuffed with hot pastrami

On the eighth night of Chanukah,
my true love gave to me
Eight candles glowing

Seven alka seltzers,
Six relatives a-kvetching,
Five golden latkes,
Four calling cards,
Three dreidel tops,
Two guilt trips,
And corn rye stuffed with hot pastrami

Sending you light and love, peace and good health this holiday season. From our family to yours.

The Amazing Latke Adventures of Caleb and Jordan

LATKE BOY AND DREIDLE DUDE!

Caleb and Jordan have known each other since they were just several months old. They met in the infant room at their childcare program, and are now in the pre-k class together. Jordan and his family joined us on Friday evening, the third night of Chanukah, for a latke making party. Jordan’s dad, Ty couldn’t join us (we missed his company), but his mom, Robyn and his little brother, Evan came over.

After work, I ran to Monterey Market to pick up the ingredients. I was both amazed and amused to find foot long potatoes  (I kid you not!) in the potato bin. Who knew they could grow so large!? Another shopper and I stood there for a few minutes, marveling at the huge potatoes. Once I brought the ingredients home, Jordan’s family soon came over and immediately helped prepping the latkes. Mateo then came home a few minutes later and jumped right in. Before we knew it, the boys had grated / processed all of the potatoes and we had a full-on latke making production taking place in our small kitchen (with cheesy Chanukah music playing in the background).

Robyn and I managed the frying portion, but the boys put in their fare share of “elbow-grease” prepping the ingredients. Once we had all of the latkes fried up to golden brown perfection, we handed the boys the platter of hot, crispy latkes and they both looked so proud of themselves.

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Our house smelled like Chanukah. We were all ready to sit down and feast on our delicious latkes. We brought them to the table, along with a spinach salad, and a loaf of challah. It was at this point that I dropped almost a bowl’s worth of sour cream over Caleb! Fortunately, the bowl missed him and I was able to clean him off quickly. Sorry, Caleb – your mom’s a klutz!

It was Friday night, so we also wished each other “Shabbat Shalom,” then we dug in – dolloping sour cream and applesauce onto our latkes. Our boys did good! Everyone loved the latkes and kept eating until we were stuffed. We finished off our meal with a delicious dessert that Robyn and Jordan made together the night before, called mandel bread – a Jewish recipe passed on to Robyn by her grandmother. Their baking adventures, along with photos and the recipe, will be included in a future guest-post. Hopefully, she’ll describe in better detail the electric menorah she grew up with… I laughed hysterically when she told me about it.

After dinner, Jordan and Caleb helped me light the menorah. We then gave them each dreidles to play with and a gift to open up. What a sweet occasion it was. What started out as a request for a recipe by Robyn, turned into a wonderful latke making adventure for our little guys.

Potato Latkes

(Recipe from the San Francisco Chronicle)

Serve with applesauce, jam or sour cream.

 Ingredients:

3 or 4 large baking potatoes, peeled

1/2 to 3/4 cup finely grated onion

3 large eggs, beaten

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Freshly ground white pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 to 4 tablespoons matzo meal or flour, plus more as needed

Vegetable oil for frying

 

Instructions:

1.  Grate the potatoes in a food processor: Put them through the shredding disc, then take half of the shredded potatoes and process them briefly with the steel knife. If you don’t have a food processor, grate them by hand on a box grater — put half through the medium grater, and half through the fine grater. You should have about 4 cups grated potatoes.

2.  Put the grated potatoes in a large bowl, cover them with water and let soak for at least 15 minutes (or up to 1 hour) to remove the excess starch.

3.  Rinse the potatoes and drain well, squeezing them with your hands to remove excess moisture. Combine the potatoes in a mixing bowl with the onion, eggs, salt, pepper, baking powder and 2 tablespoons matzo meal. Stir well. Add more matzo meal if too much liquid accumulates in the bottom of the bowl.

4.  Pour the oil into a large frying pan to a depth of 1/8 to 1/4 inch, and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, gently drop the potato batter by large spoonfuls into the hot oil, pressing down on them lightly with the back of the spoon to form thin pancakes about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, keeping the latkes about 1/2 inch apart. Do not crowd.

5.  Fry the latkes until they are browned on one side, then turn and cook them until browned on the other.

6.  Remove them to a paper towel-lined platter to drain, blotting off excess oil. Transfer to a plate and put in a 200F oven to stay warm.

7.  Repeat until all the batter is used up, adding a bit more matzo meal or flour to the mixture as more liquid starts to collect in the bowl, and squeezing out the extra liquid. Skim the surface of the oil to remove any floating potato bits, which can burn and give the oil an off-flavor. Discard the oil when it begins to brown and use fresh oil as needed.

Enjoy!

The First Night of Chanukah (December 1)

Written on 12/1 – the first night of Chanukah. Posted on 12/2.

Tonight, our family will light the first candle on our menorah (or Hannukiah) to mark the beginning of Chanukah.

Caleb and Sadie, like many Jewish children in modern times, are being raised in an inter-faith household, so they celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas. Fun for them, and for Mateo and I who truly love celebrating both holidays.

Having been raised in a culturally (as opposed to a religious) Jewish family, I look forward to this time of year, for the potato latkes (potato pancakes) that my oldest sister Niki makes in her home at our annual Chanukah celebration, and for being with my family. Our family traditionally gathers together during the cold, winter season to create a warm and loving environment…and to eat latkes with sour cream and apple sauce!

Fights break out around the table over who already has had their fare share of latkes fresh out of the hot oil, and who is entitled to another helping (this, while Niki and helpers produce a never-ending supply of latkes in her kitchen). As I elbow my way to the table, I just love to dollop equal amounts of sour cream and apple sauce on my latkes. Others have a preference for one over the other, but I love both. This is one of Mateo’s favorite “eating holidays”, as he calls it – mainly because of Niki’s fabulous latkes and the warm, crazy, loud, and loving family experience we all create. We truly have Niki (and now her children) to thank for being the Jewish tradition cheerleader in our family. She has done an amazing job at helping to keep the holiday traditions going, and for educating us about the origins of each holiday.

If you don’t already understand what Chanukah is all about, I have attached a little history and will follow up soon with a food-filled story of latke cooking adventures with Caleb and his friend Jordan, as two families join together to celebrate Chanukah.

The Story of Chanukah

The joyous festival of Chanukah begins on 25 Kislev of the Jewish calendar. It celebrates two miracles: a great Jewish military victory and a miraculous supply of oil for the Temple.

Chanukah marks the Macabees’ long-ago defeat of the much-larger Greek-Syrian army that had invaded Israel. The Macabees were just a small group of Jews led by Mattathias and his five sons, including Judah Macabee. But they organized themselves into a guerrilla army and, with God’s help, proved stronger than their powerful enemy.

Following the Macabees’ victory, the Jews rededicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and, once again, were able to worship freely.

Although Chanukah celebrates a military victory, its major symbol — the Chanukah menorah, or hanukkiah — reminds us of the miracle of the oil. As the Jews purified the Holy Temple, they found only one flask of the oil for the eternal lamp — enough to keep it burning for just one day. But a miracle occurred, and the oil lasted eight days and nights until more oil could be brought from afar. That miracle explains why we celebrate Chanukah for eight days and also why Chanukah is called the Festival of Lights.

The Chanukah menorah holds nine candles, one for each of the eight nights and an additional candle that’s used to light the others. One candle is lit on the first night of Chanukah, two on the second night, until all eight candles are lit on the eighth night.

Chanukah is a time to celebrate with family and friends, to eat delicious holiday treats, to give gifts (especially to children) and to play the dreidel game.

Happy Chanukah from our family to yours!

Stay tuned for The Amazing Latke Adventures of Caleb and Jordan