There is something about small lights glowing in the vast darkness that renews our childlike wonder: sparklers, flashlights, birthday candles. And we all remember “Lite-Brite,” the little black box of our childhood with the multicolored plastic pegs that, once plugged in, illuminated our designs. For Jews, there are the traditional Chanukah candles, small and accumulating in their glow during this darkest time of year. As each night grows longer, our menorahs burn brighter, a vivid metaphor for the triumph of the spiritual over the material.
As Jews, the light we bring into the world with our Chanukah candles is both our calling and our joy. They signify freedom, the miracle of oil and the continued survival of our people. Tradition instructs us in pirsumei nisa, publicizing the miracle, the command to place the menorah in a window, sharing its light with others.
This year we invite you to turn on your Jewish Lite-Brite. Tweak the tradition and get your Chanukah glow on with a Sparkle Fest Chanukah Cocktail Party. Glitter up with gelt, put on your Chanukah playlist and make a small miracle for those in need. It’s OK for grownups to get in touch with the magic of this holiday!
Here, we offer instructions to craft a Lite-Brite Menorah, whip up some Maccabee Martinis and add Savory Sweet Potato Sufganiyot to your appetizer repertoire. Make a miracle by inviting family and friends to fill a giant tzedakah box with blankets, food, clothing or books to warm those in need in our community. After all, our little candles affirm our Jewish will to brighten our world.
PERK UP YOUR PLAYLIST
Our cocktail favorites: Jon Simon, “Hanukkah and All That Jazz” and “Festival of Lights” (Island Records). You can also go to the Pandora radio website (www. pandora.com) and create a Chanukah playlist for your party by typing in artist Scott Leader of “The Hanukkah Lounge.” Your living room will be transformed into the hottest Maccabee Martini Lounge on the block.
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. Curacao liqueur
1-1/2 oz. vodka
1 teaspoon simple syrup
Sanding sugar to rim glass
Blueberries to garnish
Combine first 5 ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake well. Rim glass with lime wedge and dip into sanding sugar on plate. Strain drink into martini glass and garnish with blueberries.
(It is Israeli tradition to serve jelly donuts, sweet sufganiyot, for Chanukah — yields about 12)
For the filling:
1 cup peeled and cubed sweet potato
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup finely diced onion
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
Juice of 1/2 orange
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Crumbled blue cheese
In microwave-safe glass dish microwave sweet potatoes, raisins and water for 6 minutes until potatoes soften. In a medium skillet, heat butter and oil. Add the diced onion and pressed garlic, cooking until onions are translucent. Add chopped nuts to the skillet, stirring until toasted. Add sweet potatoes, orange juice and spices, stirring until well blended. Stir in brown sugar and maple syrup. Allow mixture to cook until sweet potatoes are soft and the mixture can be mashed. Remove from heat and place mixture in glass bowl. Mash the sweet potato mixture with a potato masher. Allow mixture to cool in refrigerator (can be made a day in advance).
For the donut dough:
1 package dry yeast
4 tablespoons sugar, divided
3/4 cup lukewarm milk
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
2 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons butter, softened
Maldon Sea Salt to garnish
for deep frying
Mix together the yeast, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and the milk. Let mixture sit until it bubbles. Sift the flour and mix it with the remaining sugar, salt, spices, egg yolks and the yeast mixture. Knead the dough until it forms a ball. Add the softened butter. Knead some more, until the butter is well absorbed. Place in bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise overnight in the refrigerator.
Assembling the sufganiyot:
Roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Cut the dough into 24 rounds with a round 2-inch cookie cutter. Place one rounded teaspoon of sweet potato mixture on top of 12 of the dough rounds. Top sweet potato mixture with a sprinkling of blue cheese and another dough round. Using egg whites, press the donuts together, sealing the edges well. Crimping with the thumb and second finger is best. Let the donuts rise for 30 minutes.
Heat 2 inches of oil to 375 degrees. Drop the donuts into the hot oil, about 5 at a time. Turn to brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.
To serve, sprinkle sea salt on serving platter, top with the sufganiyot and a small additional sprinkling of sea salt.
CRAFTING THE MENORAH LITE-BRITE
24-by-36 inch and 1-1/2 inch deep, gesso-primed artist’s canvas
Black Sharpie® felt permanent marker
Glossy latex paint
2-inch sponge paintbrush
Artist’s economy light duty knife
Mini twinkle light sets in blue, white and yellow (battery operated)
Using a pencil, in the center of the canvas, sketch a large, basic menorah with candles and flames (8 candles with flames plus the shamash candle). Next, using your pencil, in the empty area of the canvas surrounding the menorah, mark two or three circular clusters of small dash marks that are dense in the center and dispersed along the outer edges. Next, using a Sharpie felt-tip marker, trace over your menorah pencil sketch on the canvas. (Do not use the Sharpie over the clusters of dash marks).
Using a sponge painter and glossy latex house paint (ours was Behr brand #530E-2 “Cool Sky”), paint the canvas using less paint through the center of the canvas so that the menorah design shows through faintly. Be sure to paint the side edges of the canvas. Allow to dry. Once dry, using an artist’s knife, puncture very small slits (just the small tip of the blade) about 1/2-to-one inch apart throughout the menorah design and in the penciled clusters surrounding the design. The cluster punctures should be dense in the center and dispersed along the outer edges. Push the twinkle lights through these punctures (from the back to the front) so the design can glow at night. We used blue lights for the menorah, white lights for the candles and yellow lights for the flames. For the light clusters surrounding the design we used white lights.
For support, gather the light wires into clusters with twist ties and hide the cords behind the canvas. Your new art work can now be propped on a table, hung on a wall or even placed in your window for all to see!
Extra large (6 cubic feet) box
3 yards of 60-inch wide fleece fabric
Assorted colors felt fabric totaling 1/3 yard, cut into dreidel and Star of David shapes
Fabric paint, acrylic gems, rick rack, LED ribbon garland (optional)
Hot glue gun
Tape bottom of box closed. Fold in top flaps of long side of box at a 45-degree angle. Fold in the side flaps of the box top to meet long flaps. Using the felt-tip marker, mark the angle where the two flaps meet (resulting in a triangle at the corners of the side flaps). Using utility knife, score the drawn line to mark a folding line for the side corners. Cut off top edge of side flaps (about 2 inches). Cut fabric to fit each side of box and glue in place. Fold in side edges of box top along scored lines. Glue top in place using hot glue gun — there will be a 5- to 7-inch opening at top in which to place donated items. Cut dreidels, menorahs and stars out of felt and place on fleece-covered box (they will stay in place without using glue). Decorate box with fabric paint, gems, rick rack, LED ribbon garland as desired.
Tucsonans Nancy Mellan and Elise Konigsberg often hold their families’ Jewish holiday celebrations together.