Light a Hanukkah candle website is online

Posted On December 29, 2009

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Israel’s Ministry of Tourism has launched a dedicated Hanukkah website to mark the holiday, which started on the evening of December 11.

Visitors can log on and light virtual candles for each night of the eight-day holiday, also known as the Festival of Lights. The site was developed in cooperation with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and is accessible at > 

With each candle, visitors to the website will be able to access more information about travel to Israel. And at the end of the holiday, site visitors who have lit all eight candles will be entered to win a free trip to Israel with El Al Israel Airlines, to experience the country’s many areas of cultural, religious and historical interests. For more information visit >

Happy Kwanzaa

Posted On December 29, 2009

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Not a religious holiday, Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday about the festival of the first harvest of the crops. It begins on December 26, and lasts for seven days.

The name Kwanzaa, sometimes spelled Kwanza, comes from a phrase which means “first fruits” in Swahili, an East African language.

Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration held in the United States honoring African heritage and culture, marked by participants lighting a kinara (candle holder). It is observed from December 26 to January 1 each year, primarily in the United States. Kwanzaa is considered one of the primary holidays within the U.S. Christmas and holiday season.

Kwanzaa consists of seven days of celebration, featuring activities such as candle-lighting and pouring of libations, and culminating in a feast and gift giving. It was created by Ron Karenga and was first celebrated from December 26, 1966, to January 1, 1967.

The name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza”, meaning “first fruits”. The choice of Swahili, an East African language, reflects its status as a symbol of Pan-Africanism, especially in the 1960s.

The Seven Principles (Nguzo Saba) > Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa honors a different principle. These principles are believed to have been key to building strong, productive families and communities in Africa. During Kwanzaa, celebrants greet each other with “Habari gani,” or “What’s the news?”

Colorful Celebrations > Families gather for the great feast of Karamu on December 31. Karamu may be held at a home, community center, or church. Celebrants enjoy traditional African dishes as well as those featuring ingredients Africans brought to the United States, such as sesame seeds (benne), peanuts (groundnuts), sweet potatoes, collard greens, and spicy sauces.

Especially at Karamu, Kwanzaa is celebrated with red, black, and green. These three colors were important symbols in ancient Africa that gained new recognition through the efforts of Marcus Garvey’s Black Nationalist movement. Green is for the fertile land of Africa; black is for the color of the people; and red is the for the blood that is shed in the struggle for freedom.

The Seven Symbols > Celebrants decorate with red, black, and green as well as African-style textiles and art. At the heart of Kwanzaa imagery, however, are the seven symbols.

Learn more about Kwanzaa >

Hanukkah Latkes > Recipes III

Posted On December 16, 2009

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Apple Latkes >
Ingredients >
2 eggs, beaten
1-1/2 cups orange juice, yogurt or milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Salt to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar to taste
3 medium apples, peeled and coarsely grated
Vegetable oil for frying
Confectionery sugar

Procedure >
Mix eggs with orange juice, yogurt, or milk in a bowl. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add dry ingredients to the egg mixture and grated apples. Heat a thin layer of oil in a skillet. Drop about 1 heaping tablespoon of batter into the hot oil. Cook about 2 minutes on each side, or until slightly golden. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with confectionery sugar, and serve.

Sweet Potato Latkes with Cinnamon >
Ingredients >
15 oz can of pumpkin, sweet potato puree
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon 
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. cloves
¼ tsp ginger
¼ tsp allspice

Procedure >
Mix pureed sweet potato or pumpkin with flour, spices and sugar. Drop spoonfuls into pre-heated oil. Fry each side for about three minutes, or until light brown. Lightly lift out of the hot oil with a slotted spatula and place on a pan or tray lined with paper towels. The latkes can then be eaten right away or kept in a 300 degree oven to stay warm.

Cauliflower and Potato Latkes >
Ingredients >
1 cup cauliflower florets
1-1/2 cups mashed potatoes
3 tablespoons matzoh meal
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons kasha
4 to 6 tablespoons margarine or butter

Procedure >
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook cauliflower until very soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry. In a mixing bowl, mash cauliflower to small bits. Add mashed potatoes, matzoh meal, garlic, salt, pepper, and egg, and blend thoroughly. Shape into 12 patties 3 inches in diameter and about 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle with kasha, pressing into both sides. Melt 3 tablespoons butter/margarine in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry latkes, adding more butter/margarine as necessary, until they are browned and crust is crisp, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot.

Mushroom and Pecan Latkes >
Ingredients >
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
10 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup cooked wild rice
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 egg
3 tablespoons matzah meal
3 tablespoons dill
3/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Canola or other vegetable oil for frying
Smoked salmon (for garnish)
Pickled ginger (for garnish)

Procedure >
Heat oil in nonstick frying pan, and sauté mushrooms. Add thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Place in food processor, and pulse until mushrooms are chopped. Place mushrooms in a mixing bowl. Add rice, pecans, sour cream, egg, matzoh meal, snipped dill, lemon zest, cardamom and nutmeg and mix well. Coat a nonstick frying pan with oil, and heat. Take heaping tablespoonfuls of mixture, and fry for a few minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels. Garnish with strips of smoked salmon and pickled ginger, and serve.

Hanukkah Latkes > Recipes II

Posted On December 16, 2009

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Ingredients >
2 large potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
1 small onion, grated
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 eggs
1 1/2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper
Oil for frying
Applesauce, sour cream, preserves or granulated sugar sprinkling

Procedure >
In large bowl, combine potatoes, onion, lemon juice, eggs and 1 tablespoon oil. Mix well. Blend in flour. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly. Add eggs, 1 tablespoon oil, lemon juice and flour and process to blend. Use shredding disk to shred potatoes into onion mixture. Remove disk and replace with plastic knife and process to combine. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In large heavy skillet, heat 1/4 inch oil to 375 degrees. By tablespoonfuls, spoon potato mixture into hot oil and flatten with back of spoon. Brown on both sides, turning only once, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately with applesauce, sour cream, preserves or granulated sugar. Yields about 2 dozen.

Ingredients >
12 large potatoes, grated
3 medium onions, grated
1 large carrot, grated
4 eggs, beaten lightly
¼ cup matzo meal
3 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Peanut oil for deep frying

Procedure >
Mix the grated potatoes, onions, and carrots in a large bowl and remove excess liquid by squeezing out mixture. Add matzo meal, eggs, salt and pepper. Mix well. Heat large frying pan and add a thick layer of oil. Heat oil until it’s sizzling. Drop large spoonfuls of potato mixture into pan and flatten with spatula. Flip latke after it is nicely browned and cook other side. When crisp, remove latke from oil and place on thick layer of paper towels to remove excess oil. Serve hot with sour cream and applesauce.

Hanukkah Latkes > Recipes

Posted On December 16, 2009

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Latkes or Latkas, potato pancakes, are a traditional dish to be cooked and served during Hanukkah celebrations. They look more like shallow-fried pancakes of grated potato and egg, often flavored with grated onion. They can be topped with a variety of condiments, ranging from the sour cream, sugar, applesauce or simply served as is.

Ingredients >
2 1/2 pound baking potatoes, peeled
1 large egg
3 tablespoon chopped chives
2 tablespoon matzo meal or all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon grated onion
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil, for frying
Applesauce and sour cream

Procedure >
Preheat oven to 250F. Line cookie sheet with paper towels. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the large egg. Stir in chives, matzo meal, onion, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. In a food processor with shredding disk, shred the potatoes. Place the potatoes in colander in sink, squeeze out liquid. Stir potatoes into egg mixture. In an nonstick 12-inch skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Drop potato mixture by scant 1/4 cups into oil to make 6 latkes. Flatten each latke into 3-inch round. Cook latkes 8 to 10 minutes or until both sides are browned and crisp, turning over once. With slotted spatula, transfer to lined cookie sheet. Keep warm. Repeat, stirring mixture each time before frying and adding more oil for each batch. Serve with applesauce and sour cream.

Traditional Latkes >

Ingredients >
5 large potatoes, peeled
1 large onion
3 eggs
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp. Salt
¼ tsp. pepper
¾ cup oil for frying

Procedure >
Grate potatoes and onion on the fine side of a grater, or in a food processor, or put in a blender with a little water. Strain grated potatoes and onion through a colander, pressing out excess water. Add eggs, flour, and seasoning. Mix well. Heat ½ cup oil in skillet. Lower flame and place 1 large tablespoon batter at a time into hot sizzling oil and fry on one side for approximately 5 minutes until golden brown. Turn over and fry on other side 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from pan and place on paper towels to drain excess oil. Continue with remaining batter until used up, adding more oil when necessary. Serve with applesauce on the side. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

The Festive Spirit blog

Posted On December 5, 2009

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Dear Reader – Visitor,

Welcome to The Festive Spirit blog!

This blog is a member of the Homeboy Media Network [] and is the latest addition to the HMN network, after moving herewith all our previous posts from our Christmas Spirit blog [] in an order to split the different festive holidays and celebrations.   

This was done in order to create dedicated-theme blogs rather than to mixing many different subjects and issues in one. Our aim is to provide you with enhanced information and knowledge while maintaining a friendly and easy to browse website environment.

Please also note that this blog is still under re-designing and re-structuring, and is still a work in progress, so do excuse any omittions or mistakes you may observe. Just credit us with some time until we fix all details and parameters. Thank you.

We wish you a happy reading and we look forward to your comments.

Czech Easter Eggs

Czech Republic > A woman decorates Easter eggs with traditional designs. Easter eggs are famed for their geometrical designs applied with the use of wax.

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