Tuesday, December 11, 2012
When we were little, my parents kept their top drawer full of loose change. My father used to dump all the change from his pockets into small shoe and jewelry box tops. Eventually it added up! We used to take the biggest box, full of stray pennies and dump the entire thing on the dining room table. As the candles were glowing on the windowsill, we would start to play dreidel.
The dreidel, or top, would spin round and round. I used to try to learn how to spin it upside down and was thrilled when I mastered that skill! We would play for hours.
We always had a family Chanukah party with gifts for everyone. I cannot even tell you how many pairs of gloves and pajamas I got through the years. In the later years, when my grandmother was older and could only shop locally, I got whatever fragrance or new item was available at the drug store across the street from her apartment building. Some gifts were truly silly, but I appreciated the effort nonetheless.
Chanukah in school meant donuts and latkes, special programs, trips and concerts. We used to visit nursing homes and sing Chanukah songs for the residents in front of the big electric menorah that sat beside the beautifully adorned Christmas tree. I was excited that Arielle went on a similar trip with her second grade class to visit the local nursing home and sing Chanukah tunes. The tradition continues.
Chanukah is a time to be with family, to sing and dance before the candles and celebrate the ancient victory of the Jews over the Greek army, led by King Antiochus. Antiochus banned all acts of Judaism and wanted to stop Jews from learning Torah and praying to G-d. Our response has been to bless G-d for bringing us to this moment, performing miracles then and now, and allowing us to light the menorah.
I am happy to continue the tradition and create great memories for my children. The kids get to stay up late to light the candles when Mommy and Daddy get home from work. Each has his/her own menorah. They love choosing the pattern for the colorful candles to display each night, something I distinctly remember doing as well. They get Chanukah gelt, or chocolate coins, to eat. After we light candles, we sing, dance, and go a little crazy. We have gifts, parties, and time with family. Latkes and donuts. The kids practice spinning the dreidel and we bring out the special dreidel salt shakers (thanks, Mom).
We celebrate our Judaism. We celebrate our active involvement in our ancient tradition.
I truly love Chanukah. So many childhood memories and traditions are created every day.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
I honestly like the concept of separating the healthy children from those who are sick.
If I am coming for a well visit, I'd like my kid to stay well. But the bigger question to me is when a child is sick.
They've labeled the children in the waiting room.
What I find most disturbing is that they have only a small selection of toys for the kids who visit. And inevitably, they are on the "sick" side.
When my children are healthy, I send them right over to the other side to bring the toys over so they can play. The fish tank, which divides the two sides and can be seen on both is simply not entertaining enough.
When my children are sick, they play with the very same toys that other ill children are using. Presumably, they are sanitized each day before use. Nevertheless, the toys on the sick side inevitably spread germs.
I might be in the minority here, but I believe in letting kids be kids. I tell them to play with those toys and encourage the exploration despite the "sick" label. I have literally seen mothers tell their kids not to play with any toys or touch anything lest they collect germs. This morning I witnessed a mom punish her child by giving her a time-out in the waiting room because she touched one of the "sick" toys.
For the sake of all the sick children and for the sake of their parent's sanity.
What do you think? Would you let your healthy or sick children play with the toys?
Saturday, December 1, 2012
One issue that probably all hosts face is how to serve fresh and hot latkes without slaving over the frying pan during the party. After all, when I host, I want to mingle with the family and enjoy my time with the kids.
If I can be completely honest, I HATE FRYING just about anything. I prefer to prepare and just pop the dish in the oven. I do not like worrying about the oil content and swapping out old oil for a new, fresh batch. I despise standing over the hot stove while watching the food sizzle and brown.
My kids rarely get fried foods for this reason. PLUS, frying anything (schnitzel, latkes, french fries, etc.) is way too unhealthy to make a regular habit.
And this is why I LOVE my recipe for BAKED LATKES.
Baked latkes are healthier, easier, faster, and more enjoyable to make and serve at the party! I can pop them in the oven before the guests arrive and then spend my time with family and friends, knowing they will turn out delicious! They require so little effort - just a food processor, cookie sheet and a spatula! I let the oven do the dirty work. And I am out of the kitchen an hour before the party starts, so I can focus on what is really important.
Without further adieu, I now present my Holiday Yum (#holidayyum) recipe:
credit: adapted from Bon Appetit magazine
3 cups paper-thin onion slices
2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated on large holes in food processor
2 tsp. salt, divided
4 T oil
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Toss potatoes with 1 t. salt and let sit for 5 minutes. Squeeze out excess liquid using hands (I have no patience so I just strain it and squeeze). Add onions, oil and remaining salt and mix well.
Divide into 8 mounds on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and sprayed with Pam. You can divide into more mounds for smaller latkes if desired. Make sure to leave space between latkes.
Roast for 15 minutes, then flip latkes, pressing down to flatten them. They will be very soft at this point so work gently.
Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake until latkes are golden and crisp around the edges, about 45 minutes longer.
Serve with applesauce and sour cream.
Make sure to save this recipe because after you taste them, you will want to make them again next year for your annual Chanukah party!
More Holiday Yum
I have been sharing Holiday Yum recipes on twitter and hope you will consider checking out these other awesome posts that are coming:
November 17: Jenny Hansen's Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Meal
November 19: Kathy Owen’s Spiced Pecans
November 26: Ellen M. Gregg’s Chocolatiest Chocolate Cake Evah
November 28: Jenny Hansen's Almond Roca
December 2: THAT'S MY LATKES (see above)
Links to follow as the rest of the Holiday Yum unfolds:
December 5: Natalie Hartford’s French Lace Cookies
December 10: Kathy Owen’s Butter Spritz Cookies
December 14: Ellen M. Gregg’s Old-fashioned Buttermilk Sugar Cookies
December 17: Natalie Hartford’s back with a simple recipe for Cheesecake
December 19: Jenny Hansen's Holly Candy
December 23: Jess Witkins' appetizers
December 26: Kathy Owen's beef rib-eye roast with currant jelly brown gravy
December 28: Natalie Hartford shares New Year's Eve Mocktails
Stay tuned for link updates as posts go live and for more to be added to the schedule. Be sure to check out our host, Kathy Owen’s Holiday Yum page too for more deliciousness.