Thursday, 29 March 2012

Kabakle

Zaida Sam, "The Young Man"

When Sara was 7 months old, she had her first piece of solid food - a pickle at the Eaton Centre cafeteria.  Mom and I had taken her downtown and I had gotten a pickle (remember - I am a 'salty') with my lunch.  Sara got a hold of it (okay, maybe I handed it to her) and she began gumming it.  And so it was that the love of salt was passed down to the next generation. 

It is no wonder that we love salty foods in our family, especially given the meals we enjoyed at our parents' table.  I was eating sardines in my high chair - the story goes that Mom handed me sardine and I proceeded to use it as a telephone!  I bet it took her a long long time to get that mess out of my baby ear! 

We were always served strong-flavoured foods in my parents' home.  Davie and I both remember the 4 of us piling into the family station wagon many a Sunday morning and heading down to Pasquale Brothers' market on King Street , where we would by a variety of delicacies for brunch that day.  There were olives - green and black, and seasoned artichoke hearts and cheeses.  Mom would set them all out with bagels and rye rolls from Open Window Bakery, along with a plate of sliced cucumbers and tomato wedges.   Occasionally, there was also a plate of herring (not my cup of tea) and/or sardines. 

Voorsht (salami) sandwiches with hot mustard and tomato on rye bread were another family favourite, and a staple for picnic lunches whenever we went on road trips (which was at least once a year).

Thinking back, another favourite for Shabbat and Yom Tov was Kabakle (no idea how it is spelled, or it's language of origin).  Mom always made the best Kabakle.  It was especially delicious spread on challah, and even made matzah appealing. 

Mom has shared the recipe before, and I have made it, but foolishly I never wrote it down.  So you can imagine how happy I was to discover Zaida Sam's recipe among the treasures in My Golden Recipes.

A young Gertie & Sam

A little background on Zaida Sam...he was adored and treasured by all.  He emigrated from Romania in 1900 to flee rampant anti-semitism and pogroms.  He went first to New York City where he was a window dresser, and then moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he met my great-great-grandfather, Isaac Chaliff.  There is a tribute to him in Salute to the Romanian Jews in America and Canada, 1850-2010 By Vladimir Wertsman.  He worked for Isaac Chaliff, managing his rural stores, and met Isaac's beautiful, strong-willed daughter, Gertrude.  The story is that Sam was staying with the Chaliffs, sleeping on their couch.  Gertrude liked Sam but not his moustache and beard, so she began to shave it off while he slept.  My recollection of the story fades at this point but, needless to say, it didn't scare him off. They were married, and moved to Regina, Saskatchewan, where they raised 6 kids (including my Bubbie Lou), were founding members of the Synagogue - Beth Jacob- and opened a successful ladies' wear clothing store - Pearlman's Ladies' Wear.

Memorial Plaque of Zaida Sam
at the Regina Beth Jacob Synagogue

My mother adored Zaida Sam, and he adored her.  Her eyes always lit up when she talked about him, and his untimely death in February 1953, while vacationing in Florida with Bubbie Gertie, devastated a 10-year-old Carol Joy.  Uncle Jim (Mom's brother) recounted what a happy, kind and fun-loving man he was.  How he would play little jokes on the grandkids sitting around his table, and hide their slice of (homemade) strawberry shortcake, gingerly resting the plate on his knee, trying so hard to suppress the giggles.  Eventually, they got the better of him, and turned into full-on laughter, at which point the fluffy white whipped topping landed all over his suit and Bubbie Gertie was not amused.

Bubbie Gertie, Zaida Sam, Uncle Harold and the grandkids
Mom is the taller little girl standing in front of Bubbie Gertie

I feel like I knew him, and I treasure him too.  Mom held onto the few things she had left from him - a child's nightie he had made for her, and a coverlet too.  Each of my girls has one of those treasured items, which they themselves treasure because they belonged to Bubbie Carol.

This is believed to be the last known photo
taken of Zaida Sam and Bubbie Gertie, taken
in Florida in February 1953 - the month he died

And now, from my great-grandfather's kitchen, to my grandmother's, to Mom's and now mine, I hope you enjoy Kabakle as much as I do. 


Whatever you're preparing and whatever you're celebrating, I wish you a wonderful holiday filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!


Bubbie Lou's Handwritten Recipe


PS - the Passover Seders are now but a memory, and I am proud to share that Davie and Dad said my Kabakle tasted just like Mom's!  The texture is a little smoother than hers, because my immersion blender is unparalleled and liquefies everything! (Oy and vey!!), but otherwise, I did it! Hurray!  I am also happy to be able to share a pictorial step-by-step of the Kabakle prep...here it is!


Preheat oven to 350°. Bake 3 medium eggplants, in their skin,
for 45 minutes (use a lined cookie sheet to reduce mess if
eggplants or pepper [below] leak!)

Also, bake a whole pepper (recipe calls
for green pepper, but red worked too!)

Remove from oven, cool for 15 minutes,
then peel skin from eggplant, keeping seeds!

Peel and seed pepper, adding only the flesh to the mixture

Add 1 finely chopped, raw onion to mixture

Using a blender (Mom and I both use(d) immersion blenders),
puree the eggplant, pepper and onion mixture, then add 2 tbsp
oil (I prefer canola), 2 tbsp white vinegar and 1 tsp salt.  Use
immersion blender to mix, unless you prefer a seedier or chunkier
texture, in which case use a spoon.  Keep seasoning to taste.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Gefilte Fish - Love it or leave it


What can I say about gefilte fish?  You either love it or you hate it.  I belong to the former group, and we are a minority.




I have seen, and tasted, gefilte fish in 2 forms - the bottled-in-brine fishcakes that you buy in the grocery store and the kind that one of Mom's oldest (as in length of friendship) and dearest friends makes.  Until "Auntie Nora" entered our lives, I did not know that gefilte fish came any way other than in a bottle.  We always had a jar or 2 on hand for Pesach, and we ate it with khren (horseradish).  It helped to satisfy my inner 'salty' and I ate it with Mom every holiday. 




As long as (Auntie) Nora and Jessie have been together - which is going on 30 years now - we spent the Yomim Tovim (holidays) together.   Usually Mom took one night and Nora the other.  Jesse and Dad's friendship dates back to law school days, and they share a birthday (1 year apart).  Nora and Mom just hit it off from day one, and their friendship blossomed into one of those deep and powerful sisterhood-type friendships featured in movies - only theirs was real.


So it comes as no surprise that I found many of Nora's recipes written on food-stained pieces of paper in Mom's cookbook.  Nora, like Mom, is a fantastic cook.  Hers is the only chicken soup - other than Mom's, now mine - that Davie will go for seconds and thirds.  Her matzo balls are light and airy, always floating to the top.  In fact, everything she serves is unbelievably delicious.  Yom Tov at Nora's table was always a treat. 


Sadly, as Mom's condition worsened, we had to cut back numbers and keep things really small and quiet in order to quell her anxiety.  Large dinners with our 2 families were one of the casualties during this period.  But to this day, I carry with me the wonderful memories of dinners at Nora and Jesse's table, and now I replicate some of her traditional dishes that I adore. 




One of them is her baked gefilte fish.  It is delicious and out of this world.  It combines 3 types of pre-ground fish, with various seasonings, onions, eggs and veggies and the whole shebang is baked in the oven in a bundt pan.  Lena, Becca and I adore this recipe, and after having Nora's gefilte fish, I could never revert to the jarred stuff - never. 




Every Yom Tov Nora would serve the gefilte fish, and generously wrap up the leftovers for me to take home!  Finally, a few years back, I decided to take the plunge and make it myself.  Armed with the recipe, I went to the market and bought the salmon, sole and whitefish.  One small problem - I did not know you could buy it already ground/minced!  So I spent hours deboning and grinding all this fish - uggh!  Now, don't forget, I have a daughter who reacts to fish.  If she tastes even a morsel she becomes nauseous.  A few bites and she is physically ill.  Thankfully she is not anaphylactic, but I do avoid bombarding her with fish smells - you can only imagine how much she appreciated my new endeavour of home-grinding fish!  Later on, when the wonderful gefilte fish bundt was ready, I recounted my less-than-pleasant preparation experience with Mom, who burst out laughing!  She asked why I didn't just go to the Kosher Sobey's and pick up 3 pounds of pre-ground fish?!  I was shocked - it never occurred to me that it came pre-ground!  She laughed and told me that this should be enough proof that I still need to consult with my mama!  So, don't make the same mistake I did - just to go your local market (Sobey's at Clark & Hilda if you're from my neck of the woods) and ask for minced or ground fish!!



Nora's version of gefilte fish was appetizing enough that Carlo relented on his vow to never try it  and ate some - he says the jellied fish reminds him of an Italian dish Souse (pronounced sootzoo) which will never pass his lips either!  I think he liked it, but just can't get his head around the connection to jellied products, so he does not partake with us.  That's OK - just means that there is even more left for us!


So, from Auntie Nora's table to mine, and now to yours, I hope you and your family will enjoy this outstanding gefilte fish recipe as much as we do. 




Auntie Nora's Great Gefilte Fish


Ingredients

  • 3 lbs minced fish - ¾ lb salmon,   ¾ lb sole, 1½ lb whitefish (remember - buy it minced!!)
  • 2 large onions - diced and sauteed 
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 tbsp matzo meal (or cream of wheat if not for Pesach)
  • 2C ice cold water
  • 5 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 4 carrots - grated
  • parsley



Method
Preheat oven to 350°.  Mix all ingredients together for 20 minutes in mixer.  Grease bundt pan and sprinkle with parsley.  Pour in mixture.  Bake for 2 hours, covering with foil 1 hour into baking so it does not get too brown.  Delicious! 


I typically make it ahead of time and freeze it.




Whatever you're making and whatever you're celebrating, I wish you a wonderful holiday season filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food. B'Tayavon and Buon appetito!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Pesach is here -- already ?!?!?



As the Jewish holiday of Pesach (Passover) approaches, I really miss my mom. 

  
As far back as I can remember, Mom had me as her very own captive audience, reviewing her Yom Tov menus with me, over and over again, until everything was just right.  She would delight in updating me on the progress of her preparation, happily crossing off items that she had finished making and frozen for the dinner.  At the time, it did not impress me and, if I'm perfectly honest, I think it made me a little nuts. 

  
So it is especially ironic that I have turned out just like her, only worse!  Not only do I review my menu 500 times, delighting in every item that I have crossed off my list, but I do the same thing with my weekly groceries!  I know what you are thinking - poor Carlo, Sara and Becca.

  
So, now that Mom is not available to share these moments with me, I have decided to share them with you!  Ready?  Set?   Let's Go!

In years gone by, our Seders have ballooned to 40 people, and shrunk to the immediate 8 (when Mom and Mildred were still able to come over, and Abby was but a twinkle in Davie & Lena's eye).  When entertaining proved difficult for Mom, I took over.  Depending on our numbers, we entertained in the condo party rooms and at our house.  Mom and Dad were always firm believers that no-one should be alone for Yom Tov, and room was always found for those last minute discoveries that a friend or acquaintance was on their own.  This is just one of the things for which I am immensely proud of our parents. 

  
But some unexpected twists and turns in our life path (Mom getting EOAD) have made it more difficult to open our doors and not have the preparation lead up turn into a wholly negative and exhausting experience.  Lena and I talked, as the new leading ladies of my family, and agreed to scale down the numbers - not for any other reason than we wanted our kids to grow up with happy memories of these festive meals, and not just remember a grumpy mom who did nothing but lament about how she had too much to do. 

  
So fast forward to 2012.  Carlo and I are hosting the first Seder, Davie & Lena the second (in the Diaspora, we observe the holidays for 2 nights, to ensure we do not miss the proper timing - as it falls in Israel). 

  
There is a lot of pressure on this night - and while I will still emit the occasional whine and complaint over the next 2 weeks - I wouldn't trade a moment of it.  There is much more to this evening than just the festive meal, but at the moment, that it what I am concerning myself with. 

  
Now, let's run down this year's "Dos & Don'ts Checklist": 

  1. First off, Davie & Dad are strictly kosher - the evening will be too
  2. Dad and Joel (and if I am truthful - I) need to have sodium-reduced diets
  3. Davie and I insist on having the hard boiled eggs, celery and potatoes, all in salt water
  4. Lena is pescatarian, and she, Becca and I adore Auntie Nora's Gefilte Fish (recipe to follow in a future post)
  5. Davie and the kids love chicken soup with matzo balls - can't forget that
  6. Carlo, Dad & Davie love chopped liver - Aviva is making that
  7. Carlo, Davie, Dad, Becca, Abby and occasionally Sara love meat - need a brisket (although they are pushing me for rib roast - but the brisket will have similar flavouring to the chicken, come on people!)
  8. We need chicken for those who prefer poultry - country apricot chicken will go well with brisket
  9. We need lots of veggies for Lena, Sara and I - Lena is bringing her famous salad - yumm!
  10. We need potato kugel - what is a holiday meal without it!?!?
  11. We need stuffing - Norene's recipe is out of this world
  12. We need tsimmes to combat what Mom called "Princess Matza Belly" effects of Pesach
  13. We need Auntie Nora's asparagus vinaigrette - too delish to omit (recipe to follow in a future post)
  14. I am thinking we need some kabakel (roasted eggplant spread) - thankfully I found Zaida Sam's recipe
  15. Dessert - no lemon rolls for us!  I refuse...we'll have fruit and some kind of baking - I am thinking Ruth Heiges' Sponge Cake & Meringues...we'll see!


Well, now you see that this is not such a simple endeavour...I hope you will join me over the next 2 weeks as I prepare the dishes listed above, and make my first: Strictly Kosher, Low-Sodium, Pescatarian, Carnivore-friendly, Veggie filled Seder!


Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food. B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Salty in a Sweet World


I am a 'salty' in a 'sweet' world.   I adore salty food, crave it and face the daily struggle of resisting it.


Everyone around me loves sweets of some kind, and each one has a favourite - their Achilles Heel so to speak.  Carlo loves fudge, Sara loves Nerds, Becca loves Toblerone and Dad loves ice cream.  The old joke was that Mom would just buy Dad a case of ice cream and keeping bringing him dishes to his den whenever my grandparents would come to stay for a visit! 


Mom had a sweet tooth, and her weakness was for licorice allsorts.  She loved black licorice, and always had a stash on hand 'just in case'.   I was not a fan myself, and she would always try to convince me that I needed to give it another try: "It's good for the mugen (stomach) - aids in digestion".  Oy Mom, to this day I am not convinced!



Last night I popped into bulk barm for a couple of supplies.  I decided to get Carlo a treat while I was there...but what to get?  The man loves every kind of sweet imaginable.  He was no help - "I can't decide between jujubes, jelly beans or allsorts...surprise me".  So, off I went to kill 20 minutes before Sara would be finished at tutor, and leisurely strolled the aisles of bulk barn.  I found the almond paste I need for another recipe I've been dying to try, and the piping bags I'd run out of, and then it was off to the candy aisles. 


Don't get me wrong, I don't hate sweets, I just don't love them.  Maybe it stems from working in fro yo (frozen yoghurt) shops through my teens, and being surrounded by toppings - a sweet lover's paradise.  It just does nothing for me.  I do like the occasional sour soother, and peanut butter and chocolate is my weakness.  So walking through aisles of candy is not in the least bit tempting to me.  I stumbled upon the licorice allsorts bin and decided that this was his treat - why?  Because it was Mom's favourite, and in some way, it made me feel connected to her at that moment.  Off I went to get Sara and go home for Shabbat dinner.  Afterwards, Carlo and I plunked ourselves in front of the television and I got out the allsorts. 




Let me explain, as I venture further into my 40s I have noticed that I occasionally have a hankering for something sweet after dinner, just to nosh on while we clean up.  My mother-in-law has a little jar or jelly tots that call my name every time we go there, and I keep some dried figs on hand at home for just such 'emergencies' - the big jar or tots and/or soothers was proving too much for me too resist, and my waistline began showing signs of my weakness!




Mom, too,  had a nightly routine - she would finish up in the kitchen after dinner, and then go peruse her nosh (snack) stash, taking great pains to choose just the right combination.  Then she would head upstairs and settle in on her bed to watch her favourite shows and nibble on sweets - often a Costco-sized box of allsorts. 





So, last night, I sat down with Carlo and our allsorts when the phone rang.  It was Aviva, and it turns out that allsorts are her favourite too (no offence, but what is wrong with these people?!?!?).   Then the conversation started, and I discovered that there is an allsorts etiquette of sorts!  Seriously!  Both of them hate the candy coated ones (as far as I am concerned, the best in a bad lot of treats), throw out the plain black licorice ones (how wasteful!), and like the coconut centred candies.  When I called them on this, their explanation was simple - that I am weird!  That's ok - I can take it...besides, sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me!

Oh, well, I will leave the allsort officianados to their craft, and I will move on with the nice memory of my beautiful mother, relaxing with her allsorts, appreciating every morsel, especially the black licorice ones - after all, they are good for the mugen!





Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

You Say Tomato, I Say Tomato: Stuffed Tomatoes



My mother was always a huge fan of the musical.   Growing up, Mom and Dad often took us to the theatre, symphony and ballet (actually, she and I went to the ballet while Dad took Davie to see the Leafs).  Consequently I, too, have a deep love for musicals.  I watch them on television every chance I get, and Carlo and I take the kids to the theatre and symphony whenever our busy lives permit. 


If I had to pick an all-time favourite musical it would have to be Les Miz (I know, it sounds so cliche, but it's true!), and I have been to see it at least 4 times - not to mention watching the 25th anniversary special that keeps appearing on PBS!




So...going back to my childhood - Mom would go around the house singing songs from the classics - the clips that follow are a sampling of Mom's and my favourites...she would sing or hum them as she went about her business...they always brightened her mood and mine. 


Nowadays, I sing them as I putter around our home - the only difference being that I am tone deaf and drive the kids a little nuts when I try to sing.  No worries, 25 years from now they will look back on these days with warm fuzzy memories. 


There's Singing in The Rain:


Cats, The Musical:


Fiddler on the Roof:


Evita:




They say that music is one of the last things to be lost to an Alzheimer's patient.  I would agree.  Mom still taps her feet and smiles a bright smile when she hears music.  When I visit, I always pull out the old songs she used to sing to me and then to my girls.  Now I sing them to her, and she smiles, occasionally remembering the words to fill in a blank:


Mairzy Doats:



Nobody Loves Me:


I love you a bushel and a peck :


Wow!  Looking for these songs has transported me back to a happy, simple time about 35 years ago, snuggling up with my mother on my parents' bed on a Sunday afternoon, covered by her favourite, tattered blue, purple and red mohair throw (boy was it itchy, but she loved it, and it was a small price to pay for a delicious cuddle with my mama), watching old musicals on TV.  Mom had a few mohair throws, and Sara inherited one, which she keeps on her bed (oy - it itches me just to fold and lay it on top when I change the sheets!!!).


My parents had one just like this!!



I thought I would share these special memories and songs with you because they have become part of who I am - I sing silly ditties that apply to the dish I am preparing.  In this case, I sing "you say tomato and I say tomato - let's call the whole thing off!".  What is the dish, you may ask?  Stuffed tomatoes!  I think I followed a recipe for them at one time, but now I just wing it!  I hope you enjoy making these, and don't forget to sing (ok - maybe just hum) the song while you're doing it!




Until next time,  I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food!  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!


Naomi's Sumptuous Stuffed Tomatoes

Ingredients: 
  • 4 firm tomatoes - hollowed, reserve pulp! (I prefer plum or hot house)
  • ½ C bread crumbs
  • ¼ C melted margarine
  • 1 tsp Mrs. Dash
  • 1 tsp dried chives
  • 1 tsp parsley

Method:
  • preheat oven to 350 °
  • slice top off each tomato, close to edge
  • gently scoop pulp so tomato is hollow
  • cut around stem of tomato, adding cuttings to pulp
  • finely chop pulp and tops (approx 4 pulses on mini chopper - do not liquefy)
  • combine with remaining ingredients - mixture should be firm enough to hold it's form, not sticky.  If it is sticky, add more bread crumbs until you achieve a workable consistency
  • place tomatoes in muffin pan to hold them upright
  • stuff each tomato with mixture
  • bake for 20 minutes or until filling is golden brown and slightly crispy

Friday, 16 March 2012

March is Media Month!

I always try to do things for the right reason - acknowledgement, attention & accolades are not what drive me.   Awareness, on the other hand, is fantastic!!


My bird's eyeview of the 2012 Walk for Memories


This is a lesson that Carlo and I are teaching our children as well.  For as long as I can remember, we have volunteered for causes that are important to us, and made an effort to include our children in them too.  We participate in various walks - Walk for Israel, Run for the Cure, Walk for Memories - and volunteer our time and effort on different councils and committees.


We attended the Walk for Memories on January 28th, 2012.  The excitement was in the air.  Media was everywhere, and photos and videos were being shot all around.  At one point a photographer came up to us and started photographing Becca tying the memories shoelace on my finger.  It was a cool, fleeting moment.  We never saw the photograph.  It was not in the papers that we could see.  Oh well, that was not the reason we went anyways.  And life went on. 


Last week (is it only a week ago?!?!) I met with Joan and Marija at Alzheimer's Society of Toronto for the taping of the e-learning module.  Afterwards, Joan and I perused their website.  I discovered a blogger who, like me, is documenting her journey.  I discovered the Walk for Memories online album.  Over the weekend I took a few minutes to view the album - and there was Beccaloo's picture!  So exciting - I blasted it on twitter and MMT facebook.  The end....or so I thought.


Today I opened my e-newsletter from the Alzheimer Society of Toronto - and there is her photo!  So, please - go check out one of my two cuties, and take some time to read about all the exciting programming and wealth of information listed in their newsletter.  What the heck - subscribe to it and stay informed!


I had better get ready for work now.  So, until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

It's Here!!! CJN Article about Mom

Last January 31st, 2012 I had the pleasure of meeting Carolyn Blackman of the Canadian Jewish News - to talk about Mom and her recipes.  I went into our meeting with no expectations, and really enjoyed our visit.

This morning a friend emailed me that she read Carolyn's article in the CJN - out today.  I immediately stumbled (I am not the most techno-savvy gal around) and found the article (CJN - go to page 38).

I read it and started to cry.  I am starting to cry as I write this!  Why the tears?  Because every article and post about my mother returns her to who she was - a vibrant, beautiful and treasured daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother and friend.  If you take nothing more away from my blog, please let it be that, and let that be her legacy.  

Thank you Carolyn - it is a beautiful article - for helping to memorialize Carol Joy Reiter.  I am forever grateful. 

March 15, 2012 Edition of Canadian Jewish News

CB loves PB ... Cookies, that is!



They say opposites attract, and if you need any proof, look no further than my husband and me.  He's Italian and I am Jewish.  He loves sports and I...well, I don't.  He likes action movies and I love romcoms.  He loves Discovery Channel and I love TLC.  He loves meat and I would be happy to never eat it again.  Actually, that's really where our differences end.




After more than 20 years together, we have meshed into 2 halve of a whole, and the truth is that our differences serve a purpose - we compliment one another.  Carlo LOVES sweets; I don't.  I LOVE baking sweets; he doesn't.  Together, we are the perfect fit - I bake, and he eats!




Recently, a friend from Norene's Kitchen posted a recipe for peanut butter cookies.  Carlo LOVES peanut butter cookies. So, of  course I have been plotzing (exploding with excitement)  to make a batch of these cookies for him!




This past Sunday the timing was finally right.  I managed to spend a quality hour and a half with Mom, Dad and Davie, then had a luxurious stroll through No Frills - you may think I am kidding but I'm not, I love my grocery shopping time and look forward to it - and came home.  Carlo had a beautiful fajita waiting for me, we unloaded and washed everything up and there was still time for me to whip up a batch of cookies. 




I usually ask the kids what cookie they feel like, and alternate between them, but this time I decided that it was Carlo's turn.  So I gathered the ingredients, got myself organized, and then decided to double the recipe so I could freeze a batch of pre-rolled cookies.  If there is one thing I love to do, it is to simplify my life by doubling recipes and freezing half.  Mom taught me this and lived by this rule herself.  It makes sense - the clean up is the same, the increased effort is negligible, but the benefits - well they are obvious!  Easy access to fresh, home cooked/baked treats. 




But, to quote Sophia on Golden Girls, "I digress". The recipe is so easy, and the batter is thick but not too sticky - a pleasure to work with.  I made a couple dozen, and rolled another 5 dozen for freezing.  They were barely out of the oven when Sara came in and tried one - delish!  Then the big test: Carlo.  He LOVED them!  Hurray!  (Otherwise I would have been in big trouble with an extra 5 dozen in the freezer!). 



I want to thank Marion Kaplan for allowing me to share her recipe with my readers. Without further adieu, here is a pictorial step by step of The Making of Marion's Peanut Butter Cookies.




Mix ½ C each of white & brown sugars 


Add ½ C margarine or shortening


Cream sugars and margarine


Add 1 egg & 1 tsp vanilla

Y Mom's Sifter 



First, mix dry ingredients separately,
then blend dry mixture with creamed sugars


Blend ½ C  peanut butter, roll into 1/2 tbsp balls, bake for 10" at 
375° for 10 minutes, cool for 2 minutes and transfer to cooling rack
I always try to double recipes &  freeze a batch
 for freshly -baked cookies on a moment's notice


The finished product - family approved!


Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!



MARION'S PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES 

INGREDIENTS
  • ½ C shortening or margarine
  • ½ C white sugar
  • ½ C brown sugar                                 
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ c. sifted flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ½ C smooth peanut butter
  • 12 oz. package peanut butter morsels (optional)


METHOD
  • preheat oven to 375° F
  • spray cookie sheets or line with parchment
  • cream shortening (or margarine) with white & brown sugars at medium speed for approx 3 – 5 minutes
  • Add egg & beat well
  • gradually add sifted flour, baking soda, salt, vanilla and peanut nutter
  • MIX WELL on low speed
  • hand mix peanut butter morsels (optional)
  • batter will be THICK, roll into 1¼” balls by hand (or scoop if desired)
  • flatten each cookie with the tines of a fork
  • bake at 375° for 10 minutes (for chewier version bake at 300° for 15 minutes)
  • cool on cookie sheets for 2 minutes, then remove & cool completely
  • Cookies will be a light golden color with a light brown edge
  • Yields 6 dozen  2” cookies


Saturday, 10 March 2012

Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining - Open The Window and See

As I have said time and time again, I started this blog with no direction.  It was a way to write for my mother...what a wonderful ride it's been over the past 9 months....WOW!  I just counted the number of months I've been blogging, a full gestation period, and when I think of it, I feel reborn.  No worries, I am not going to proselytize...but I do feel like I've awakened from a nightmare to find myself in a sun-filled room, bathed in golden yellow hues. 


When Alzheimer's (or any life-changing disease for that matter) strikes, the ripple effect is far-reaching.  Life as you know it will never be the same.  I often talk of my family's and my "new normal" - relearning how to live when someone you love has a chronic degenerative disease, and they slowly slip away from you - a little bit each day.  That is what it is like for me.  My mother was a vital and vibrant woman.  She was beautiful and charming and so much fun to be around.  Everyone loved her.  We still do.  But this disease slowly destroying her brain and robbing her of the ability to understand, communicate and function in daily life. 

The 4 of us at Davie & Lena's Wedding (November 2005)


And so I write.  I tell her story, 1 anecdote at a time.  And in doing so, I keep her alive, as she would want to be.  She would hate to be remembered as a frail and timid person being ravaged by AD.  She would want you to remember her entertaining, laughing and loving. 



I have been blessed to meet many incredible people on my brief journey thus far - Norene (she is still my rock star, but is also becoming my friend), my long lost family, Facebook communities of foodies and Alzheimer's advocates...the list goes on and on.  And I am humbled by the fact that people connect to our story - and want to read more - thank you for your caring and interest!  Please know that it is never taken for granted.


My friend Ellin is a journalist.  She took the time to write a beautiful article about Mom and me, and our family.  Thanks to the worldwide web, that article has been far-reaching, and I have made many new and exciting connections.  One of them is with a CJN journalist who has written a story about Mom that should be coming out next week.  You can be sure I will be promoting it here!  Stay tuned. 


Another amazing contact is with the Alzheimer's Societies - both in Toronto and York Region.  Mom lives in Toronto, and I live in York Region.  So it only makes sense that I would connect with them.  And this post is all about the new windows that have recently opened.


After Ellin wrote the wonderful article about Mom a lady working with the Toronto Alzheimer Society - Joan Rocha - contacted me.  She is the Marketing and Communications Manager, and wanted to connect with me.  She was following my blog!?  I see the number of page views slowly climbing, and I know people are visiting my blog, but it was amazing and exciting to talk to a perfect stranger who was connecting with me. I was encouraged to know that people other than my friends and family were reading my posts. 


We tried to connect at the Walk for Memories, but she was in charge of the stage and it just didn't happen.  I did have the pleasure of meeting Marija Padjen, Toronto Alzheimer Society's Chief Program Officer, at the media table - little did I know that a couple of months later she and I would sit down to tape an 'intimate' chat about Alzheimer's, dignity and care.



MMT Team for 2012 Manulife Walk for Memories



But there was no time to waste...as soon as the Walk for Memories was done it was time to attend Authors Fight Alzheimer's, a third-party fundraiser being co-hosted by the Alzheimer Society of York Region.  Norene was nice enough to let Aviva and I join her that evening.  I drove through a mini-blizzard to Norene's house, where she made me dinner - I don't often have a Jewish mama prepare a delicious home-cooked meal for me anymore, so this was a special treat!

At Norene's table with steaming bowls of Sweet Potato & Leek Soup - Yumm!



And with Aviva...



Teriyaki salmon with veggies & noodle kugel..mmm.mmm good!

After we ate we fought our way through rush hour traffic and a snow storm until we made it to the North York Library.  We unloaded Norene's books from the car, and made it inside.  A great time was had by all, and money was raised for Alzheimer's - what more could we ask for?  Well, Norene's friend, Elaine Ross (who was running the show on the Society end of things) and her husband came up to our table to say hello.  We played a little Jewish Geography ("oh...do you know so and so?) and it turns out that David knows my parents.  He called his sister Joanne over, and BAM! another connection!  Joanne and her late husband David were friends of my parents'...they travelled to the Arctic together 20+ years ago, and I haven't seen her since I am married (almost 17 years).  She had no idea about Mom, we fought back tears, laughed, reminisced and promised not to let another 20 years pass before we see each other again.  So many connections...so many windows opening.  Well, I rounded out my Norene cookbook collection and bought the The NEW Food Processor Bible: 30th Anniversary Edition , which Norene signed for me, and home we went.






But it doesn't stop there! (I am starting to sound like Vince Offer from Slap Chop TV Infomercials!)  The following afternoon I met with a journalist for the CJN who is writing a piece on Mom and MMT!  The article should be out in this week's edition, and I will be sure to post it ASAP.


Things calmed down a little bit, just in time for Becca's dance to shift into high gear.  Again, when it rains it pours...this time we ran to Hamilton on Friday and Saturday for Becca's first ever competition - it was non-stop: hectic and exciting and nerve-wracking all at once!  She and her groups came away with 2 gold medals/1st place - hurray.  Came home and spent the next 2 days running around to practice and real dance medal exams.  Now we are at Tuesday - and remember I work!  And I have missed 2 days of work!  Spent Tuesday catching up and then Wednesday I went to the Alzheimer's Society of Toronto.


This was exciting.  I was invited to participate in the taping of a new e-learning module that will be featured on the Society's web page.  The part I took part in was about dignity in care.  I didn't look at the questions until the night before.  I wanted to be fresh and unrehearsed.  I think it went well and am really excited for it to go up on the website.  Again, I will post the link ASAP. 


More importantly, it got me thinking...I write to you now, as I am starting to find myself in a sun-filled room, bathed in golden yellow hues.  But the nightmare, painful as it was to go through, is an important part of the story.  My family and I stumbled our way through discovery, denial, diagnosis, more denial, disruption and despair.  There was no road map to follow, and many days we felt like we were walking a tightrope wearing a blindfold and cement boots. 


And so, I am thinking of starting another page on this blog - The Road map - to share our experiences and knowledge in hopes of helping others travel this road without hitting as many bumps. 


What do you all think? I invite your comments and feedback, and hope you will share your thoughts on this with me. 


Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food!  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Mom, Auntie Martha and Soups

When I was a little girl it was always a treat when Mom took Davie and me to Dad's office.  We didn't go often, but I can still envision the view from his window as we watched the Santa Claus parade in the warmth of the office tower.  I can also remember going there on the occasional PA day, and sitting at a free desk, typing away and preparing text books for my play classroom at home.  On one of those visits I told my father that I was going to be his secretary when I grew up.  He smiled, and told me I could be the lawyer.  I humoured him and nodded.  End of story. 


Fast forward 14 years, and I started working in his office, and I have been there ever since.  Originally, it was a means for me to get practical experience for my thesis in University, but I discovered I loved working there.  Slowly, I learned the ropes - first reception, then secretarial, then legal bookkeeping and eventually clerking.  Twenty odd years, a university degree, a husband and 2 kids later and I am still working with my father, and treasure every moment. I know how lucky I am to be able to spend my days with him, and that I have been given a gift most people never enjoy.  Mom worked with Dad from the time I was 12, and we spent a number of years working together too.  Time well spent - no regrets.


Around the time that I got pregnant with Sara, Mom was starting to stray from her full-time gig at the office.  Lucky for me!  And for Sara!  And ultimately for Becca!  Why, you ask?  Because, when Sara was born, and Carlo and I were looking at daycare facilities for her, Mom generously volunteered to keep Sara with her.  She could not bear the thought of a stranger raising "her" baby.  And so it was that the "Sara and Bubbie adventure" began.


Every day I would drive up to North York and leave Sara with her Bubbie.  They would do everything together.  Go visit Auntie Nora and Auntie Ethel (mom's friends), go to Costco and Yorkdale (Rainforest Cafe was an all-time favourite), go to the park, play piano...the usual things. 


But, as I've mentioned in earlier posts, Mom also thought it was important to let Sara experiment in the kitchen. 


Mom L-O-V-E-D Martha Stewart.  She had every magazine and watched every one of her shows.  Mom was never computer savvy, but she could use a phone, and did she ever - every day she would call me and have me surf Martha's website for some amazing recipe she'd just made!  Seriously!  And lest we forget the quotes..."It's a Good Thing" is permanently emblazoned in my memory.


Something else Mom loved as much as Martha was making soups.  I cannot count how many times I came home to find her stirring a pot of freshly made soup - black bean, mushroom, lentil, bean and barley, chicken, gazpacho...the list goes on.  She and Sara would watch "Auntie Martha" on the television - Sara securely in her high chair - as Mom would whip up some new soup Auntie M was preparing.  Sara was her captive taste-tester, and especially loved the "vanilla soup" (it was actually mushroom soup & she hates mushrooms - go figure).  Funny enough I, too, am developing a thing for soup-making.  Squash, sweet potato, bean & barley, chicken... in fact, I have a bag of red lentils downstairs in my cantina just waiting to be transformed into a hot broth of liquid goodness.  Like mother like daughter.


Which brings me to my next point - did you notice the honourable mention to some of the special Aunties of Sara's early years?  Auntie Nora and Auntie Ethel are 2 of Mom's oldest (read: long-standing, not elderly!!)  friends...and Auntie Martha!  Yup!  One day when I came to pick Sara up I asked how her day was.  "Oh, it was great mommy, and do you know what Auntie Martha did today?"....wait a minute Sara, we don't have an Auntie Martha.  "Sure we do, we see her every day - she comes on the TV".  Somehow, Mom had Sari thinking that Martha Stewart was really her aunt! 


Fast forward a year or so.  I had taken my mother's lead and was baking in the kitchen with Sara.  "Mom, let's play cooking show, you be Auntie Martha and I will be .... Britney".  OK Sara.  And so it was that we would mixie mixie a la pixie, diddly dum and diddly dixie, all the while me trying to speak like Martha while my sweet 3-year-old bounced around giggling and laughing and talking to our imaginary audience, just like Martha's guests would on TV.


Becca, too, grew up with Auntie Martha, but had the added bonus of Bubbie coming to pick her up in the mornings, and stopping off at Starbucks for a decaf iced mocha and cookie too!  Oy, how Mom could turn a routine thing like driving home into a fun adventure.  And yes, the tradition of playing Auntie Martha continued with Becca too...again, picture this adorable cherub-faced doll bouncing around a kitchen while she runs her own cooking show!


The girls are older - tween and teen now.  I don't watch daytime television - I am at work, and when I am home, I am happily preoccupied by my own family and household - but I do subscribe to Auntie Martha on Facebook and Twitter, and cannot wait to make her tantalizing recipe for Stovetop Mac and Cheese, who knows, maybe I'll even take some to Mom for a nibble when I visit tomorrow!


While Mom's kitchen is now mine, and the soups are bubbling on my stove these days, the memories are sweet and never fade...like mother, like daughter, like granddaughters too.


I am writing this post in the wee hours of a quiet Saturday morning.  The whole house is still asleep - my favourite time to remember, reflect and write about my beautiful mother.  But alas, it is time for a coffee and to tidy up!  


Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food!  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Hamentashen - A Pictorial Step-by-Step

With Purim right around the corner, it was time to whip up another batch of hamentashen.  So after a whirlwind dance competition weekend, it was time for this mama to get back to basics and baking! 

I took the day off for Becca's dance medal exams, and I was able to prepare a double batch of dough in between trips to the studio today.  As soon as I finish this pictorial step-by-step on how to make my great-grandmother's hamentashen recipe, I am sitting down to watch Storage Wars with Becca and Carlo, and indulging in some hamentashen and tea...yumm!

I have to say, that out of all the wonderful culinary delights my mother whipped up over the years, her hamentashen is my all time favourite recipe to prepare.  Without fail, every time I prepare these pillowy cakes of goodness, I am transported back to Mom's kitchen.  As I work the dough, cut the circles and pinch them into triangles I feel like Joychee is with me every step of the way.   From my family to yours: Hamentashen 101!

Soak 2C dried apricots in cold water overnight
Next day: drain, using immersion blender, blend with
 1C honey, 1 tbsp orange rind & juice from orange


Beat 4 eggs in mixing bowl


Add 3/4 C sugar


Add 1 tsp vanilla


Add 3/4 C oil


Blend in mixture of 3C flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt


Roll dough into ball (add enough flour to mixture so
dough can be handled), chill in fridge for minimum 1 hour


Roll dough to thin layer
(it puffs up when baked)
stamp out circles with wide mouth cup


Drop 1/2 tbsp topping on each dough circle

Shaping your hamentashen, the video


The finished product - B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food!  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!