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    Making Hanukkah Fun and Meaningful For Adults

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    My husband and I invented No Limit Texas Dreidel so that adults (and older children) can enjoy dreidel too. Here are some other ideas to make your Hanukkah party fun and meaningful for your adult friends whether they are Jewish or not.

    Have guests bring a symbol of a freedom they are guarding or fighting for. Yes, there is the (silly) story about oil lasting for eight days. But, really, Hanukkah is a celebration of religious freedom. In 167 B.C.E. the Maccabees fought Antiochus who brought Greek idols into the Temple and banned the practice of Judaism. The menorah is the Jewish symbol of this fight for freedom. Ask guests, "What freedom are you guarding or fighting for?" Invite guests to bring an object that represents this freedom. Guests can choose to share the meaning with the group or simply set the item with the others.

    Upgrade your holiday menu for an adult palate. Chocolate gelt (coins) has developed a bad reputation as something you don't necessarily want to eat. Serve gourmet chocolate coins, which the most discerning chocolate lovers will appreciate, such as those (personally taste-tested and approved by me!) from Madelaine, Godiva, or See's. Serve sweet potato latkes or Zucchini Latkes with Garlic by Faye Levy, the cooking columnist for the Jerusalem Post, or try serving traditional latkes (like those from Modern Jewish Mom Meredith Jacobs) with gourmet Rosemary and Brown Butter Applesauce from Bon Appetit. The Bon Appetit website has many gourmet latke recipes.

    Tzedakah is always appropriate for any Jewish holiday. Tzedakah is translated as "charity," but its root, tzedek, means justice: We give not only to help those in need but to help set things right, as part of the process of creating a just world. Have guests bring a grocery bag of food for your local feed-the-hungry program or a toy for the Toys for Tots program. Or have each guest "buy in" to receive their chocolate gelt for the No Limit Texas Dreidel game and make a group donation to a local charity. The buy-in idea came from a ModernTribe customer, who is doing this for her own Hanukkah party this year.

    Hanukkah Dreidel Game FAQ

    With Hanukkah coming soon (the first night begins Sunday, December 21, 2008 at sundown!), here are the dreidel game rules.

    How do you play the dreidel game?

    Here are basic instructions for the dreidel game, a traditional Jewish Hanukkah party game. Each player starts with the same number of pieces of gelt (chocolate coins); we suggest 10. In a pinch, pennies also work, but then you can't eat your winnings!

    The game begins with each player anteing one piece of gelt into the pot. Going around the circle clockwise, each player takes turns spinning the dreidel. If it lands on:

    ...the player takes all the gelt in the pot.

    ...the player takes half the gelt in the pot (round up for odd numbers -- if there are 5 pieces of gelt in the pot, take 3).

    ...the player receives nothing; next player spins the dreidel.

    ...the player puts one piece of gelt into the pot.

    Each time the pot is emptied out, each player puts in a piece of gelt, and the dreidel game continues.

    If a player has no gelt as a result of spinning a Shin or anteing, he or she is eliminated from the dreidel game. The game continues until only one player remains; or at a set time, the players total up their counters, and whoever has the most gelt wins. Enjoy eating your gelt! You can even conveniently remind your friends of the dreidel game rules in card form.

    What is a dreidel?
    A dreidel, or in Hebrew svivon, is a traditional Jewish four-sided top. When you spin it, the dreidel falls over, and whichever side is up is your dreidel spin.

    What do the dreidel symbols mean?
    The Hebrew letters Nun, Gimel, Hay, and Shin stand for Nes Gadol Haya Sham, "A great miracle happened there." In Israel, where the miracle of Hanukkah happened to the Jewish people, the dreidel letters stand for Nes Gadol Haya Po, "A great miracle happened here." You can read more about the Hanukkah story.

    How can I make the dreidel game even more fun?
    Try No Limit Texas Dreidel, the game that combines dreidel with No Limit Texas Hold'em poker! It uses the same Hebrew letters as the dreidel game, then adds betting, bluffing, and folding.

    LA and DC are Going All Spin!

    Saturday (after sundown, of course) we are proud to be part of two Hanukkah events happening on separate ends of the country. No Limit Texas Dreidel will be played, tournament style, at the Los Angeles Federation Young Leadership Division's Chanukah Bash at the X Bar in Century City and the Young Professionals' Kesher Hanukkah Party of Washington DC at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue.

    Jon Layne of Party Layne, a very popular event production company in LA and Detroit, found NLTD through our Heeb Magazine promotions. He excitedly called and asked how he could integrate NLTD into the annual event which expects 300-400 young adults. I shipped Jon a game and since then he has become sort of a NLTD evangelist because he loves the game so much. Check out Party Layne's Blog to keep up with party trends.

    The Young Professional's Kesher of DC is having all 50 expected guests play NLTD at the same time! The winner and runner up get E-Gift Cards.

    These events are playing NLTD tournaments in very different ways too. Read here about two ways to do NLTD Tournament Style.

    Check back for pictures from these events.

    Optimize Your Latke Frying

    We make hundreds of latkes for our Hanukkah parties. My husband's alter-ego is "The Optimizer" so he is always measuring and tweaking to find the best way to do everything. Read on to learn from our mistakes:

    1. Use lots of oil. The oil should not be "coating the pan." Those potato lumps should be swimming in the oil. We prefer a vegetable oil, not olive oil's stronger taste.
    2. The temperature of the oil is critical. Either use an electric grill that allows you to set the temperature of the oil or, if using the burners (like we do) use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the oil. The oil needs to be between 350 and 375 F. When frying lots of latkes you are constantly adding oil. You should wait for the right temperature or your latkes will be too greasy (if oil is not hot enough) or burn (too hot).
    3. The most time consuming and boring part of making lots of latkes is grating the potatoes and onions. Yes, use a food processor... but better: buy pre-shredded potatoes and diced onions. Both are available (separately) in frozen foods. We tried this last year and this version was almost as good as freshly grated... and 300% less work!
    4. Fry ahead of time and then freeze. We've spent many Hanukkah parties stuck in the kitchen. Now we know better. Fry ahead of time. Put the latkes on cookie sheets. Cover. Place the cookie sheets in the freezer. Once frozen, you can put the latkes in zip lock bags, thus making room for more latkes. The night of the party, heat on the cookie tray at 350 F for 20 minutes or so.
    5. I'm sure many would protest, but which latke recipe doesn't really matter as long as you use potatoes, onions, and eggs. Matzah meal vs. flour? Not important in our experience.
    6. Gourmet toppings are nice but you can't beat apple sauce and sour cream.

    Happy Frying!