Your Easiest, Best Hanukkah Party Yet

Your Easiest, Best Hanukkah Party Yet

Lily Diamond

Lily Diamond is the writer and photographer behind the website Kale & Caramel. She’s the author of Kale & Caramel: Recipes for the Body, Heart, and Table and cohost of the podcast What’s Your Story. Follow her on Instagram @lilydiamond.

Hanukkah was one of the few Jewish holidays my very nontraditional parents insisted we celebrate each year. Each night of the eight, my mother found ways to incorporate her own traditions into the candle-lighting ceremony. These personalized rituals inspire me to share the holiday with my friends each year. But gathering even a small group together to light candles and share a meal can be stressful, particularly in the frenzied atmosphere of the holidays.

Fortunately, Whole Foods offers a number of delicious prepared dishes, allowing me to host a modern Hanukkah party that honors classic (and not-so-classic) traditions while letting me seamlessly incorporate my own twists. Picking up the majority of my dishes means I only have to turn on the oven and whip up some easy sides. I can then turn my attention to setting a beautiful, buffet-style table using natural, seasonal accents from my store’s floral and produce departments — and to planning the entertainment.

Here's how I do it:

The Food

I always want to make sure I have some traditional Jewish comfort foods for my guests, and the chefs at Whole Foods take every bit of guesswork out of what would have been a daunting and time-consuming process with the Wine-Braised Brisket Dinner for 8. The dishes are a perfect foundation upon which to build a feast. Each is prepared as meticulously as I would myself — perfectly spiced, beautifully flavored and truly fresh.

  • Wine-Braised Brisket: Juicy beef brisket, braised until fork-tender in red wine and beef broth. No antibiotics, ever, and no added hormones.
  • Classic Potato Latkes with Applesauce: Latkes with applesauce are a Hanukkah staple — you can’t leave them off the menu. This traditional recipe gets super crispy and has a light caramelized onion flavor.
  • Cumin-Spiced Carrots: Multicolored carrots tossed with spices and perfectly roasted.
  • Green Beans with Crispy Garlic and Parsley: These garlicky green beans are topped with crisp parsley, which takes the garnish to the next level. It’s the perfect side.

I then like to add some of my own favorite dishes to give the meal a personal twist.

  • Hearty Autumn Salad: Lettuce, shaved fennel, apple, toasted walnuts, crispy shallots and goat cheese with a shallot red wine vinaigrette.
  • Harissa Crème Fraîche for the latkes: Mix crème fraîche with harissa paste or spice.
  • DIY Chocolate Gelt (chocolate coins): Melt 365 Everyday Value Dark Chocolate Baking Chunks to make your own gelt (instructions below) and top with crystallized ginger, 365 Everyday Value Kettle Roasted Candied Pecans Sweet & Spicy, coconut flakes, and pomegranate seeds. Invite guests to bring their own toppings to add to the mix.

The Décor

  • Bring the rich, jewel-toned colors and textures of fall and winter inside with a table that features seasonal flowers, leaves, and fruits, like persimmons and pomegranates.
  • I decorate my dining table for use as a buffet table, leaving space for the menorah, serving dishes, glassware, plates, cutlery and napkins.
  • Prepare a basketful of trimmed flowers, leaves, fruits, and branches: Trimming your decorations ahead of time makes decorating easier and fast, as you can see what’s on-hand.
  • Think in patterns and shapes: The colors, textures, and shapes of the leaves and flowers create their own patterns. Let nature’s beauty speak for itself. Bonus: Less work for you.
  • If you have a menorah, make it a central fixture on the table. No menorah? Pick up 9 tea lights and candle holders (8 plus the shamash candle that lights the rest of the candles) instead.

 Entertainment

  • Invite your friends for sundown: This ensures you’ll be able to light the candles together. (Jewish holidays begin at sundown.)
  • Let each person dedicate a candle: One guest lights the shamash candle; other guests dedicate each candle to something or someone personally meaningful: Peace, health for someone who is ailing, hope, the memory of a loved one who has passed, and so on.
  • Invite your guests to make chocolate gelt after dinner on 6-inch squares of parchment paper and decorate with the toppings of their choice. While the chocolate hardens (it will take 10-15 minutes in the refrigerator), pour a dessert wine or mulled cider, and invite friends to share a memory or tradition that’s meaningful in their lives. Then, serve your chocolate. Happy Hanukkah!

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