Saturday, 30 July 2011

Cottage Life

So, here we are, en route to Pat & Renate's cottage, on what has become an annual Civic holiday weekend journey.  We all look forward to this getaway - each for a different reason.  While we all love the cottage life, Sara looks forward to swimming all day, lounging on the "danish" Uncle Pat bought last year, and roasting marshmallows and pink dogs (weenies) at the nightly bonfire. Carlo looks forward to building projects and chopping down trees with his brother and barbequing feasts for the family.  Becca loves this weekend because it marks her birthday...her amazing Auntie Nati always makes her a birthday party at the cottage...cake and all - so what's not to like?!  And me?  Well, I love it all.  Nati and I conjure up lots of yummy meals and snacks, swim, pull each other out of the way of falling trees (seriously...we did last year!) and explore little nearby towns.  I have brought my laptop and all the recipes to start (b)logging more, and maybe I will even get to do some baking with Stefan (my nephew) this weekend.  Stay tuned for brief updates - the only wifi I have this weekend is on my phone, and it is really annoying to type with my thumbs! LOL!  Happy Simcoe Day Long Weekend!!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Mushroom Brown Rice

As with many Jewish families, we would gather around the family dinner table for Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner every Friday night.  Shabbat dinner was not negotiable; it was family night - the one night each week where we took a break from our hectic schedules, and came together around the table, "Benched Licht" (lit the Shabbat candles and recited the blessings), said the Kiddush (the before meal Grace) and the "Motzi" (blessing over the Challah [egg bread]). 

While it was not open for discussion - you did not miss Shabbat Dinner in our home - it never felt like a chore.  Our friends seemed to like joining us on this evening, partaking in the friendly banter and indulging in the amazing meal my mother would serve.  In fact, if I think back, we usually chose to stay at the table long after we were free to go off on our own.  My parents managed to create a teen-friendly atmosphere that was so welcoming and embracing, our friends would often convince us to forego our original post-Shabbat Dinner plans so we could keep visiting with my family. 

Walking into our home on a Friday afternoon, you would be instantly hit with cooking tantalizing you could hardly wait for dinner to be served.  Shabbat Dinner was always substantial - with Challah, soup or salad, a tender and juicy entree of either beef or poultry, and scrumptious side dishes – at least 1 starch and 1 vegetable. 

As far back as I can remember, my mother made the most delicious, mushroom brown rice.  It was flavourful, but not overpowering, and so moist - no wonder it was a family favourite!  I could never resist that rice (still can't) and I would sneak a mushroom, or 10, from the casserole dish when my mother wasn't looking.  For those of you who knew my mother, you can imagine her expression when she brought the casserole to the table, lifted the lid, and found all the little mushroom-free depressions in her rice!  On the rare occasions that there were leftovers, David and I always managed to polish them off while watching cartoons, or Much Music the following morning. 

Now I make that same rice dish for my family…in fact, I just made it this past Shabbat.  Of course, I double the recipe so the kids will have leftovers for Saturday morning.  True to form, Sara came downstairs yesterday (between games 1 and 2 of Becca's soccer tourney) and started munching on a bowl of Mushroom Brown Rice!  This is even more amazing because Sara absolutely hates mushrooms…but she loves the rice enough to endure picking them out and leaving them at the side of her plate.  When you think about it, she is the perfect ying to my yang - I don't even have to pick out the mushrooms anymore, I have a daughter to do it for me!

OK…so when David first saw this blog, he told me I needed to blog about Mom's Mushroom Brown Rice.  I told him it would come soon enough, but I am trying to establish a method to my blogging madness, and blog about family recipes I have just made or tried.  Lo and behold, it didn't take very long to get to this recipe! 

When I was trying to sort through Mom's Paper Trail yesterday, I came across the Mushroom Brown Rice recipe, in my Bubbie Lou's handwriting, on a food-stained recipe card.  I guess this is another one of those recipes that has been treasured by at least 3 generations of our family.  I hope you will enjoy it too.  B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito!

PS...In finding Bubbie Lou's recipe card, I discovered that this recipe originated with her sister-in-law, Lil P., who was married to Uncle Harold, Bubbie Lou's brother.  And so my journey has already led to new and unexpected discoveries. 

Bubbie Lou's Original Recipe Card

Mom's (and Bubbie Lou's and Aunt Lil's) Mushroom Brown Rice
 (with my comments in parentheses)
·         1C Uncle Ben’s Rice
·         ½ package dried onion soup mix (I used Osem brand –2 to 3 tbsp)
·         1 can button mushrooms (I often use sliced – whatever I have in the pantry)

·         ¼ C mushroom juice (reserved when draining the mushrooms
·         2 tbsp soya sauce (low sodium soya sauce works just as well)
·         ¼ C Mazola oil (any oil will work)
·         1 ¾ C cold water

Method: Put into a casserole in the above order, starting with the rice and the water last. Make sure to spread each layer evenly over the last, otherwise the flavouring will not be consistent throughout.  Do not stir, cover. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

The recipe can be doubled, but will take more than 1 hour.  My grandmother suggests (see original recipe card in photo) that you make it in the morning, bake for 1 hour, then return to the oven for another hour before you plan to serve it.  

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Mom's Paper Trail

Aunt Adele's Card
It's Saturday afternoon, and Becca has a house league soccer tournament today.  We are on break between games 2 and 3 and I snuck away to my room to start sorting through Mom's recipes.   What a daunting task!  In addition to the many proper recipe cards and sheets, there are tons of little pieces of paper with recipes written on the back or, in some cases, down the sides.  On the reverse of these makeshift recipe cards I've found notes from my brother to my parents, grocery and to do lists written by my mother, telephone messages from work, calendars from 30 years ago, and so much more.  I've also rediscovered Red Cross Swimming Report Cards from 1976...yet another area where my little brother excelled and surpassed his big sister (he actually got the badge!).  In addition to the recipe cards, there are many clippings from various magazines and newspapers and a gift card/note from my great-aunt Adele, my Bubbie Lou's sister, to my mother on the occasion of her engagement, with the inscription: "One way to a Mans heart...Happy Eating! Have Fun!  Good Luck!".  My only memory of my aunt Adele was her passing when I was 4 years old. I knew she had cancer, a disease that would later claim 2 of her 5 siblings, and my mom left us to go to Regina and support her own mother during this difficult time.  This little note got me to thinking...what was their relationship like?  Were they close?  What was the gift - which cookbook did Auntie Adele give Mom and it is in my kitchen now?  I need to check with Dad and Uncle Jim, and perhaps broaden my search to include my Aunt Anita, who is alive and well.  Maybe one of them can fill in this blank for me.  I have to go back to the pitch for game 3 in a minute, but will be back later to log a proper post...stay tuned for the Mushroom Brown Rice recipe, which was a favourite in my parents' home and now in mine.

Inside of Aunt Adele's Card

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Family Birthday Traditions....Happy Birthday Lena (Rapini a l'Antoinetta)

Rapini ... a work in progress
In our household, we have "birthday months". Carlo and Sara are both January babies, and Becca and I are born in August.  We tend to have multiple celebrations throughout the month.  In order to make our special days special, we have a tradition where the birthday girl, or boy, gets to choose the meal I make on their actual birthday.  Usually, this involves some kind of meat - steak is a favourite among my clan, but some of us have vegetarian leanings. 

Allow me to introduce my sister-in-law, or as my mother used to say "Sister-In-Love", Lena.  She is married to my brother, and is celebrating a birthday today...HAPPY BIRTHDAY LENA!  So, in honour of her birthday, she got to choose today's recipe.

Lena absolutely loves my rapini (a cross between spinach and broccoli), which I have taken from my mother-in-love's vast treasure trove of Italian culinary delicacies.  This green is so delicious, so good for you, and a cinch to make.

Rapini a l'Antoinetta


·         1 bunch of fresh rapini
·         2 whole, peeled cloves of garlic
·         2 to 3 tbsps of olive oil (veggie works fine)
·         Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the ends off the rapini, then cut the stalks in half.  Rinse and place in a stock pot filled with water. Bring to a boil, and drain after 1 minute.  Rinse with cool water and allow excess water to drain for 15 to 30 minutes.  If you are rushing, you can squeeze the water out of handfuls of rapini (make sure it has cooled first!). 

At this point, you can freeze the rapini for use at a later time. 

Slowly sauté rapini and garlic in oil, on low heat (3 or 4 works well), stirring occasionally and adding salt and pepper as you go along.  Remove from heat before the rapini starts to lose its bright green colour. 

Tastes great hot off the stove, or leave it to cool to room temperature.  Compliments a variety of main courses including pasta, chicken and beef dishes. B’Tayavon and Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

What a Day!! A Recap and Thank You

What an amazing day it's been!  I decided that the only way to get people to view my blog was to ask...after all, "if you don't ask, you don't get"!  So, ask I did...I emailed many of my friends and acquaintances this morning, and asked them to please take a peek at my blog and spread the word if they found it interesting. Thank you Sara and Becca, my treasures, for encouraging me to press send on that email...then I found the courage to post the same request on my facebook status.

Within minutes, the emails started coming in...around 18 to 20 so far, and phone calls too!  Most people connected with my story, some remembered sitting in my mother's kitchen, indulging in the many treats she served up on a moment's notice, and all who knew her remembered her with warmth and fondness.  My recollections brought some to tears, which brought me to tears, and then I got the best call of them all!  My brother, David, called to report that he had read my blog and loved it!!!  In reading it, he was transported back to our childhood home, and our mother's kitchen.

When I didn't think things could get any better, I got the thrill of my day...and week!  My all-time favourite cookbook author, Norene Gilletz, gave my blog a thumbs up on Facebook!!!!!

Let me backtrack and explain.  The first cookbook my mother gave me, her go-to cookbook, was Second Helpings, co-authored by Norene Gilletz.  I grew up on many of the recipes in this book, and every one of them is absolutely delicious!  I make her mandel broyt recipe at least once a month, and I think this is one of the reasons Carlo married me :). 

As a young wife and mother I coveted Norene's Meal-Lean-I-Yumm Cookbook.  I never indulged in  buying it, and never mentioned wanting it to anyone.  One night, around the same time my mother first started presenting early Alzheimer's symptoms, she went to a cookbook signing event  and came home with 2 signed cookbooks; one for her and one for me.  It was Meal-Lean-I-Yumm!!  She had no idea I wanted the book, but she loved Norene's other cookbooks and decided to buy this one for us too.  I was thrilled, and immediately set out to try the recipes.  So continued my mother's and my culinary journey with Norene. 

Fast forward a couple of which point I had assumed the role of family caterer and hostess for the Jewish holidays, using only Meal-Lean-I-Yumm to plan my menus. One night of Rosh Hashanah our family were guests of our friends, Ron and Leah for Yom Tov (holy day).  Leah generously presented me with Norene's then-latest cookbook, Norene's Healthy Kitchen.  OK - so by now you can imagine my reaction - if you guessed utterly thrilled, you guessed right! 

The only cookbook needed to round out my Norene collection was the Food Processer Bible, which is no longer in print.  When I went to my parents' home to pick up Mom's Golden Recipes (the basis for this blog), I also picked up Mom's copy of the original Food Processor Bible "The Pleasures of Your Food Processor".  And now my Norene collection is pretty much complete.

Phew!  Now that you have the back story, you can appreciate how excited I was to have Norene acknowledge and share my blog.  It is truly an honour for me.  :)

Then, I came back to my blog and discovered that there were over 200 page views today...unbelieveable!!  So...I thank each and every one of you who took the time to read my entries, and to comment here and on Facebook.  I am humbled, inspired and excited, and look forward to sharing this journey with you.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Bubbie Lou's Famous Hot Mustard

Bubbie Lou's Handwritten Hot Mustard Recipe

Mom is the eldest of 3 kids, having 2 younger brothers.  The youngest - my uncle Van -  came in from out West for a visit last week, and I had the pleasure of hosting an impromptu lunch for him this past Friday. 

The week before I finally tried making Mom's famous hot mustard... actually,the recipe originated with HER mom, my Bubbie (grandmother) Louise (aka Bubbie Lou).  So...when we came back from Becca's dance camp recital, I arranged voorsht (salami) and tomato slices on a fresh layer of Bubbie Lou's mustard slathered on fresh multigrain bread...YUMMY!!!  I can't tell you how thrilled I was to hear that I got it right, and it tasted like the hot mustard of yesteryear...

That was always one of my mother's favourite quick fix easy and tasty...and she would make a pile of these sandwiches for the first stop on our many childhood family road trips.  Mind you, one graduated to eating the hot mustard sandwiches...the little ones got voorsht and tomatoes with yellow mustard on rye....and the "big kids" and grown ups indulged in the good stuff.

The photo is my mother's recipe card, in her writing.  I could hear her voice directing me as I added the teaspoons of vinegar ("try 2") and boiling water ("maybe 3"). 

Mom's Handwritten Hot Mustard Recipe
So, if you are looking for a sweet and tangy mustard with a spicy aftertaste, this recipe is for you...B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Carol's Chicken Soup..the Jewish Penicillin

Mom's Stock Pot
 After a week long struggle, I have finally succumbed to the summer cold, which got me thinking…what better way to treat a cold than with a bowl of home-made chicken soup – the “Jewish Penicillin”?

In fact, this was the first recipe my mother actually formally taught me how to prepare.  We had just moved into our new home in Maple, and Sara was a toddler.  She had probably come down with one of many colds she caught at preschool, because my mother made it clear that the time had come for me to learn the “art of chicken soup”. 

She came to my house with all the ingredients – chicken bones and breasts, onions, celery and carrots.  She taught me how to boil the bones and breasts; continually skimming off the fat and wiping down the inside of the stock pot with a wet paper towel.  Then, when the schmutz stopped rising to the surface, we added the salt and vegetables –celery leaves that would otherwise get tossed in the green bin are fabulous in the soup - chunks of carrots and celery and especially the whole onions – the favourite in every generation.  Once the soup had reached a rolling boil, we let it simmer, topping it up with water every now and then.  A few hours in, we removed the boiled chicken breasts and took the meat off the bone – this, she explained, is the bailik, the most delicious tender meat.  We returned the bailik to the soup, and let it cool.  What a treat!

Whenever I make chicken soup I am reminded of holiday meals at my parents’ home, which always started with a bowl of Bubbie Carol’s chicken soup.  I can remember the little eggs she would get from the butcher – such a delicacy and rationed every time – and I can still see my brother going back for seconds, and thirds (which he still does to this day!).  I also remember my husband’s first experience with Mom’s chicken soup…as he sat at the Rosh Hashanah dinner table amongst 15 or so guests, and tried to hide his horror as I placed a bowl of soup, prominently garnished with a chicken foot, before him.  Carlo passed the test with flying colours, gracious and charming as always, saying nothing and waiting until my mother made me remove it. 

About 7 years ago the High Holiday cooking tradition was passed on to me, along with my mother’s stock pot, which has housed many delicious soups over the years.  It still houses her soup, but now it is made with my hands instead of hers…and the requests for more tzibbellah (onions) now come from my daughters, who keep trying to convince me that at least 2 more will fit in the pot before it spills over the sides. 

I hope you enjoy Mom’s recipe, as dictated to me some 13 years ago, as much as we do.  B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito!

Carol’s Chicken Soup
·         2 plump chicken breasts (with bone and skin)
·         6 cooking onions, whole and peeled (to start)
·         6 thick carrots, cut into chunks or rounds (whatever you prefer)
·         4 long celery stalks, cut into chunks
·         3 – 4 celery leaves
·         2.5 tbsp salt (or to taste)
Method: Fill stock pot 2/3 full with cold water.  Add cleaned chicken breasts.  Cover on high heat until boiling, then reduce to medium/high heat.  Skim fat after 15 minutes, and every 3 to 4 minutes thereafter. Wipe down inside edge of stockpot with moistened paper towel.  Once water boils clean, add salt, onions, carrots and  celery pieces and leaves.  Let simmer for 3 hours. Remove the breasts.  De-bone and remove skin. Cut the chicken meat “bailik” into smaller pieces and return to soup.  Let the soup cool and remove any schmaltz (fatty residue) before reheating.  The soup can be kept in the fridge for a week – it gets better with each passing day, or can be frozen. 

Saturday, 9 July 2011

A Daughter's Journey of Discovery...Through Food

Like most Jewish women, many of my childhood memories take place in the kitchen, with my mother happily preparing something delicious for us to eat.  The smells wafted through the rooms, and I felt warm and safe, cocooned in my parents' home.  I can remember my mother, aunt and cousins making latkes with my little brother Davie, and me.  I can still see everyone milling about my mother's kitchen while I sat at the table grating potatoes by hand.  There was an air of excitement and anticipation as we waited for the delicious latkes to come out of the frying pan and reach the table only to be gobbled up with sour cream and apple sauce.  I can remember sitting around the Shabbat (Sabbath) and Yom Tov (holiday) table in the dining room, waiting for my mother's chicken soup, rib roast, roast potatoes and tsimmes to be served - actually, I was usually the one serving it!!  To me, those delicious cooking smells represented home.
I went on to marry into an Italian family, and discovered an array of delicacies...fresh sauce, proupettes (rice or flour latkes), coudouri (potato and flour lady fingers), rapini and more.  Eating at my mother's or mother-in-law's tables was a weekly treat.
When our daughter Sara was born, my mother insisted on watching her while I went back to work in the family law practice.  I was blessed to have such a loving and devoted mother who loved my child as though she were her own.  She used to always say that Sara felt like her own baby...and she adored her.
One day I arrived at my parents to discover my sweet 2-year-old Sara sitting on my mother's kitchen counter, under my mother's watchful eye, holding a bowl as big as she was between her little legs, mixing batter and delightedly chanting "mixxy, mixxy a la pixie, diddly dum and diddly dixie!".  I asked my mom if she wasn't concerned about the mess Sara might make.  She scoffed and asked me how I expected the child to learn otherwise, besides, messes can always be cleaned up.  It was at that moment I believe I witnessed the transformation of my mother from an uptight parent to a laidback Bubbie.
I went home that weekend and started baking with my Sari.  We made many treats and cleaned many messes, and most important, in the process, many precious memories were made.
Rebecca also learned to bake, but moreso with me than with her adoring Bubbie.  On September 11th, 2006, at the far-too-young age of 63, my mother was formally diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.
The 4 years that followed were a whirlwind of chaos for me and my family...trying to raise our young families, deal with all the challenges of everyday life, and watch this horrible disease ravage and steal my mother.  Life was defined by crises...entering a new phase of the disease, dealing with the crisis it presented to us, and ultimately, returning to some semblance of a "new"normal.  There wasn't time or energy to just sit down and talk about our lives, to record my mother's fading memories.  That is my only regret, that I didn't ask more questions or write down the answers. "Tomorow is another day"...well, for me it isn't.  Less than 5 years later, my mother has deteriorated to the final, lingering stage of Alzheimer's, and the answers lie deep within her.  I am learning to ask questions of my father and my uncle - her brother Jim.  In remembering stories, they are helping me to piece together some of my lost family history.
I have finally started to come to terms with the loss of my mother.  She lives within me, and I hear her voice often these days, coming out of my own mouth.  It is no longer irritating, as it was in my teenaged years, now it warms my heart, and reminds me that while she is lost to Alzheimer's, her spirit, teachings and love are alive and thriving - in me.
It is now, during this phase of acceptance that I am finally able to start my journey of rediscovery of my mother.  I am sufficiently healed to be able to peruse the treasures my mother has left behind...not the jewellery or art, but her recipes, and many handwritten notes that accompany them.
A few months ago I was in my parents'  kitchen, and decided to take some of my mother's cookbooks home. Sitting on my bed, I opened her "go-to" cookbook, a well-used and much loved compilation of recipes dating back generations, housed is a now well-worn golden covered book.  I discovered recipes I had thought were forever lost to me...her dill pickles, her hot mustard, (her mother) my Bubbie Lou's chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Each recipe is hand-written, by the original cook, with commentary and suggestions.  It is as if they are still speaking with me, gently guiding me through the recipe, the way my mother did when I was a girl, and the way I do with my own (not so little) girls now.
Which brings me to the reason I am writing this.  During her recent visit to Toronto, I told my wonderful cousin Erin, who shares this rich family history with me, about my recent discovery.  We talked about how great it would be to turn my treasure trove into something the whole family - all 6 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren - could use and enjoy.
Life is still hectic, with a teen and tween in the house, a mother in long-term care, a husband launching his own brokerage and running my father's busy law practice, but the lessons of the past 4 years and 10 months are not lost on me.  Our time here is finite, and I want to start sharing my discoveries with friends and family. I hope to discover, and share, a new recipe with you every week, and if possible, to copy the original recipe card.
This is for my mother, who gave me the greatest gifts - life, love, family, and far too many more to list. I love you Joychee.