Posts Tagged ‘Hanukkah’

Grandma Hilda’s Blintzes

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My Grandma Hilda was always full of life and loved to cook and entertain. Every year on Chanukah, she had a big party with friends and family. She always had a massive spread of food, gifts for the kids, dreidels, and chocolates. And her potato blintzes were incredible! I’ll never forget how the potatoes were always so smooth and sweet, they would practically ooze out of the blintz. There was just something about them that kept me coming back for more. Several years ago, she gave me the recipe over the phone. I made them this year based on my notes, and they were delicious. Even though she never really knew what a blog was, she sure knew what a blintz was. So in honor of Chanukah and her recent first yahrtzeit, here is her recipe.*

Grandma Hilda’s Blintzes

Grandma Hilda, 1922-2010

Makes: Approx. 24 small blintzes or 12 large blintzes.
Total Time: 1-1.5 hours
Tip: Start by boiling the potatoes. While they are boiling, prepare the batter mixture and fry the crepes. Then mash the potatoes, and then fold and fry the blintzes.


8-10 potatoes, peeled
2 tbsp. butter
fried onions (optional)

Cut the potatoes into quarters or eighths and boil them in a large pot for 20 minutes or until soft. Remove from pot into a large bowl, retaining the potato-water in the pot. While the potatoes are still hot, add the butter to the potatoes and mash. Add salt and pepper to taste. Saute onions in frying pan until brown and add to mixture (optional). Use small amounts of milk and potato-water to thin the mixture as desired. The potato mixture should not be runny; it should be solid.


8 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp. salt
2 cups milk
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla (optional)

In a blender or other type of mixer, blend all ingredients until very smooth and no lumps remain. (Mixing by hand is okay, but not recommended.)

In a small frying pan, on a very low flame, heat about 1 tsp. of vegetable oil. For the first crepe, pour in 4 tbsp. of batter at once (about 1/4 cup). (For a large frying pan, use 1 tbsp. of oil and 1/2 cup of batter.) Let it cook for a few seconds, then slowly tilt the pan in a circular motion to get the excess batter to even out, making a nice round crepe. Cook 3 minutes until browned on the bottom, then pile onto a paper towel.

The thinner the crepe, the better. If the batter is too thick, add a little milk and mix again.

Oil the pan before each subsequent crepe.

Putting it all Together

Place a large spoonful of potatoes into the center of a crepe. To create the “envelope,” fold the bottom of the crepe up over half of the potatoes, then fold the top down to meet the bottom, then fold the left inward, and then the right inward over the left. Turn the blintz over (the open side should be on bottom) and put it back into the frying pan for 1-2 minutes until browned. Flip them for 1-2 minutes more to brown the top. Serve hot.

*I kept to the recipe, only adding paprika and garlic powder to the potatoes. And I used whole milk. However, please let me know if you made the recipe and how it came out for you. I’d be happy to post edits or variations.


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Top Ten Ways You Know You’re a Jewish Graphic Designer

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(In the spirit of Adar and joyfulness, this is for my friends in design….)

10. You’re filled with dread at the thought of designing for yet another annual dinner.
9. You search for “jewish” in all the stock photo sites.
8. You spend most of davening trying to figure out why the bima is 46 pixels off-center.
7. You can’t stand that Yiddish-looking English font from the Lower East Side.
6. Come summer, and you’re still wondering if your client spelled “Chanukah” right.
5. Your clients have to get back to you tomorrow because they need to talk to their Israel office.
4. You’re grossed out by the Jewish Press.
3. On Fridays you add “good shabbos” to your emails.
2. It’s really weird, but your clients all know each other.

And the number one way you know you’re a Jewish graphic designer….

1. Your shul has already asked you for free work. And um, you’ve said yes.

Are you a designer? Anything to add?

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Maccabeats’ “Candlelight” was Tremendous, but WHY?

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A review of Maccabeats “Candlelight” (YouTube) Based on Mike Tompkins’ a cappella version of Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite.” Video created by Uri Westrich. Production Assistant – Rivie Shalev

So what was it that inspired 3.5 million YouTube views of the Maccabeats’ “Candlelight” video in the last 3 weeks?

What made the video so viral?

I think there are a number of factors at play here. First of all, Chanukah came well before Christmas this year, giving Chanukah a chance to shine before “O’ Holy Night.” I think this factor was just luck.

Second, the Maccabeats picked a great song. It’s catchy, has great rhythm, and is brimming with energy. It’s the kind of tune that just sticks in your head. (I mean, who hasn’t been singing, “I flip my latkes in the air sometimes,” since Chanukah ended on December 9th?) Also, Mike Thompkins’ YouTube version was an excellent a capella rendition of the song, and gave the Maccabeats the whole split-screen idea. This wasn’t luck. They were clever and picked a very good song.

But the calendar and a good song does not alone make a YouTube video great. What was it about that video that was so unique and entertaining?

If I had to sum it up in one word, I would have to say it was their personalities. They were cute, they were quirky, they were goofy, and they entertained while you listened to the music. They used costumes, pantomime, color, creative videography, and loads of humor. There was non-stop action, and it “went on and on….” until the song was over.

Kids loved it because between the sound and the visuals, it was constantly stimulating. They watched it 15 times in a row with their mouths wide open, and then asked to watch it again.

Adults loved it because it made Chanukah fun, something they wanted to be part of. It made Chanukah accessible, understandable, and upbeat. And, in its weirdness, it made Chanukah “normal.”

As a result of the video, people have blogged about it, made “candlelight” videos of their own, and invited the Maccabeats to sing in their city. More interestingly, it also inspired some people to identify more closely with Judaism, Jews and Israel. It has been a very positive PR story for the Jewish community—not to mention for Yeshiva University, which was kvelling at its annual Chanukah dinner.

The Maccabeats never thought it would spread beyond the religious Jewish community. And certainly they never expected the kind of big-time national press they received (CNN, CBS, etc). Even people in the business of making Jewish-content music for the masses did not predict this explosion. On November 30, just four days into the Maccabeats’ YouTube video, Matisyahu wrote on that,

“Jewish musicians might feel more inclined to make Hanukkah music if they knew that someone would actually want to listen to it. Until the holiday music market shows it can support Hanukkah songs, it’s highly unlikely that we will ever hear Jewish holiday music at the mall, or the gas station, or the DMV, or on every radio station that Santa currently rules…it would take a real Hanukkah miracle.”

I guess that miracle happened for the Maccabeats.

Matisyahu’s own Chanukah song, ironically called “Miracle,” has only half a million views so far on YouTube. Also ironically, he had been invited to perform at Yeshiva University’s annual Chanukah concert, where the Maccabeats and their “Candlelight” were the opening act. They all performed to a packed house with great success, but I can’t help wondering if Matisyahu was concerned that the Maccabeats were winning the YouTube wars.

To complicate their relationship, the Maccabeats were probably thrilled to meet Matisyahu, as he was the inspiration for the “One Day” video they did back in March.

This whole episode has taught us a few new things:

  1. People do want to listen to Chanukah music on the radio.
  2. You don’t need the self-deprecating humor of Adam Sandler to make it happen.
  3. Jewish-content music for the masses might actually work for others besides Matisyahu.
  4. The new Jewish music competition is on YouTube and iTunes, not in CD sales.
  5. YouTube has tremendous power, and along with other social media venues, will continue to impact the Jewish community in a big way. This is just the beginning.
  6. We’re going to see more from this band. Hopefully they can match (or almost match) this success.
  7. You can be clean-cut, religious, sing a capella—and still be really cool.

The 3.5 million views are probably the same 2 million people, but we admit, we too keep watching it over and over again. Chanukah is long gone, but we’re still sayin’ “ayyo, spin the dreidel….”

Why do you think the Maccabeats’ video went viral?

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