Sunday, 29 January 2012

Let Me Tell You a Story - Part 2: The 2012 Walk for Memories

Yesterday was the 22nd Walk for Memories in Toronto, Canada.  It was my first Walk for Memories, and many special ones were made yesterday.
My Mother's Treasure Team - 2012 Walk for Memories

But before I recount the amazing day we had, let me tell you a story:

My mother was always an activist and advocate,  I'd like to think she taught us well. 

When Davie and I were little, we both remember Mom busily preparing for marches, rallies and events.  She was a member of the Group of 35, young women who tirelessly demonstrated for Soviet Jews to be allowed to emigrate from the USSR.  To read more about their amazing story, please access the following links:  Jewish Agency For Israel - History of Campaign for Soviet Jewry.

I was 6 years old when the campaign went into overdrive.  My memory of that time is a series of flashes or images.  One of them was of demonstrating with Prisoners of Conscience - people dressed in black and white striped uniforms, much like the photo contained in this article about the Montreal 35s (we were the Toronto 35s).  I was the little girl chosen to present a bouquet of flowers to the Captain of a Soviet ship docked in the Toronto Harbour.

I can still see our living room of my childhood home, charged with the energy of my mom and her friends and colleagues before the demonstration, busily reviewing the strategy for that day's events.  I remember feeling PROUD...I got to wear my 'oh so special' green, white and navy floral maxi skirt, and my hair was up in 2 tight pony tails.  Mom rehearsed my part with me over and over (I was nervous).  She explained how important my role was, and how important our demonstration was - we were speaking for those who had been silenced and no longer had a voice.  We were their voice, and we were going to be heard.  We went down to the harbour and waited, and waited, and waited.  The Captain never came out to receive the bouquet I had for him.  I felt so deflated and disappointed as we ventured home, but Mom explained that we made a difference today, and just because the Captain did not come out to greet me did not mean he didn't hear our voices.  That was 37 years ago, and I still remember. 

Eventually the campaign was a success, and our voices were heard.  Thousands upon thousands of Soviet Jews were able to emigrate - to Canada, to America and to Israel (but to name 3).  Ironically, my sister-in-love is originally from Russia.  She moved to Israel and, some years later, to Canada.  I believe in bashert (destiny), and would like to think that this movement helped to ensure that her family had the freedom to move some 15+ years after our demonstrations. you now see, Mom was the one who instilled this need to "be the change you want to see in the world" in her children - thank you Mom.

Walks are not new to us...we Run for the Cure with my friend Anne-Marie and her team, the Pink Butterflies, every year.  But this walk - the Walk for Memories - it was something new.  Alzheimer's has more than "touched" my life.  It has robbed me of my mother and my grandmother.  I have already touched on my backstory in earlier posts, so I won't repeat it here. 

Something changed for me in the past year.  I have started to accept my new normal.  I am learning to appreciate my mother in her new form, though I still hate the disease.  I think that writing about her as she was - pre-AD - has overshowed the negative and pain by bringing all the wonderful stories about her to the forefront. that I can face this disease from a position of regained strength, I can start to fight it...and so begins my next story:

I awoke before the alarm went off at 5:45 a.m. yesterday...I was so excited and eager to go to the Walk.  Our family got ready and off we went, to pick up Dad and Davie.  The energy from my parents' living room all those years ago was back - and I couldn't get downtown fast enough! 

We've arrived - finally!! The stage is behind me

Marilyn!!  I don't think the boa went with my outfit :)

Me and my new buddies!

Sir Elton - fabulous!

Coffee and Candy!  (Hot cocoa actually, but I was going for alliteration)

Poor Becca - so tired...

Candy will wake Becca up!  Me and my angels!

My Mother's Treasure - they are all treasures!

The sea of people behind me!

We arrived at the Brookefield Place and it was buzzing with teams and individual walkers, volunteers and Alzheimer Society dignitaries, and lest we forget the celebrity lookalikes!  Davie's office is in Brookefield Place, so...after we registered My Mother's Treasure Team, we went upstairs and left our coats, etc in his office.  We came down and met Aviva, Joel and Ross, and wandered around, taking it all in.  The opening ceremonies were different than I am used to....maybe because this disease is at my doorstep, pushing it's way into my life.  I listened to Tom Harrington, the event's MC, speak about this disease that has taken his father and now has a hold of his mother.   Then Fiona Reid came on the stage with Art Hindle - holy star power!  Again, she spoke of her mother's battle with the disease, and it sounded much like our own experience.  The message was clear: this disease has no preferred target, regardless of age, gender, skin colour or religion.  No-one is immune.

We did our warm ups and then off we went!  The walk was indoors, through the downtown Toronto underground city known as "the PATH"...which was literally a walk down memory lane for Dad, Davie, Carlo, Sara and I.  Becca was born after our office move which took us off the "PATH".   Our Sara could actually remember certain places that Mom had taken her (and later Becca too), and it was a lot of fun to point these places out to the kids.  This also made the walk pass so fast, almost too fast!  There were bands and cheering volunteers all along the walk, and it was a really fun and inspiring experience. 

By the time we came back we were all feeling a little tired - likely the letdown of knowing the end was near.  As we stood and listened to Tom announce the teams who raised the most money, I looked around the Galleria.  Everyone there had someone they were walking for, an AD sufferer.   Many were wearing shirts with their loved ones' names and faces on them.  One lady had a shirt with a paper pinned to it -- it had 7 people's pictures and names.  Six had passed away, one still with us. And it hit me - we need to keep walking, and talking and raising money to stop this disease... NOW!   There is still time to donate to the cause - the online donation page is open until Monday, February 13, 2012.

Our team was small but mighty this year.  I am hoping that many of you will come down and join us next year, and that we can build an army of AD Warriors (to quote my new friend Rick, the founder of Memory People) and together we can help put an end to this disease!

Oh...lest we forget about the food - Daddy took us all out for a fantastic lunch to a fantastic restaurant Amore - thanks Dad!!  Then we went home and I took a nap!! I never take naps...never!  Then I made dinner, as planned, and it was yummy!  Lasagna, risotto proupettes, rapini and Baba Dora salad - it hit the spot... mmm mmm good!

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

Friday, 27 January 2012

Who Are You Walking For?

She gave me life, I was her baby...

She stood by me through my tumultuous teens...

She loves me still...even though the words sometimes escape her ...

Tomorrow, I am walking for My Mother - MY TREASURE.

Please join us on the 2012 Walk for Memories (Support MMT Team).  Unless I post otherwise, please meet us on the main floor of the Allen Lambert Galleria, Brookfield Place, by the Fountain (near Richtree Restaurant, aka Marquis, aka Marche).  We will be taking a team photo at 9:45 a.m. To learn more about the walk - see 2012 Walk for Memories

Update: For those joining the walk...below are the walk details
•Location: BROOKFIELD PLACE, Allen Lambert Galleria, 181 Bay Street (Bay/Front)
•Subway: Closest Subway UNION STATION, follow signs to Brookfield Place
•Parking: Enter either at Front St. or Wellington St between Yonge and Bay
•Coat Check upstairs in the Allen Lambert Galleria by TD Bank (Bay St. end). Please leave your coat in your car if you can.
•Registration opens at 8:30 a.m. on the concourse level. Everyone MUST REGISTER to collect your goodie bag and incentives. So please come early to avoid the rush.
•Food and Coffee - Free food & beverages on concourse level behind Registration
 •Music & entertainment, Lots of great stuff for everyone – young and young at heart
 •MMT Team Photo - 9:45a at the Fountain beside Richtree Restaurant (near Yonge St entrance)

 •Opening Ceremonies, Starts at 10:00 a.m. upstairs in Allen Lambert Galleria includes Welcome, Shoelace Tying Ceremony & Warm UP.
•Walk begins at 10:30 a.m. Starts in Allen Lambert Galleria and winds through the PATH
•Closing Ceremonies at 11:30 a.m. Top Walkers, Top Corporate and
Top Friends and Family Team and Grand Total

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

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Happy Birthday Sweet Sara

Some 15 years ago, we all sat around my parents' kitchen table and marveled at my growing belly and this little sonogram photo with a black and white profile.  What would she look like?  What would she be like?  I remember my brother, David, pointing out that she was not even here yet, and she was already the centre of attention....what would things be like when she actually arrived!?

Sara was born on a cold Saturday evening; the day after a snowstorm, the day before Superbowl Sunday, and on Robbie Burns' Day.   She was our first child, my parents' first grandchild, and my inlaws' seventh grandchild (7 - my favourite number!). 

I wakened that morning, in labour - 2 weeks early - and we made our way to the hospital.  I was so nervous that I refused to go upstairs to triage alone.  I waited until Carlo had parked the car and came with me.  Once we arrived there was no mistaking it - I was in full-blown, active labour.  We called our parents and next thing we knew they were at the hospital.  Mom and Dad arrived with sandwiches - which I was not permitted to eat - and a Minnie Mouse doll for their new granddaughter.  Then my inlaws arrived and the wait was on.  My brother was on standby in Victoria, where he was studying at the time.  Finally, at 5:39 p.m. on a snowy Saturday eve, Sara Devra Leah was born.  Sara - because we loved the name, Devra for my Baba Dora (Devora) and Leah for my Bubbie Lou (Leah).  She was beautiful and delicate from the moment she was born.

Sara's Minnie (she's 15 years old too!)

I can remember the overwhelming feeling of watching Sara's grandparents' faces and expressions when they came in to meet her.  Every one of them was overjoyed.  I remember Mom holding her...and gently stroking her fingers, commenting on how long and delicate they were - perfect for playing the piano.  I remember my someone calling my brother, who had opened a bottle of champagne with his roommate, and they were toasting his niece.

And, although much of the experience is a blur, I can still see her father, holding his new baby daughter, swaddled in a pink blanket, rocking her back and forth, utterly mesmerized by his little girl. 

My mother always told me that my girls felt like they were her own.  She said that when I became a grandmother I would understand this new kind of love, a love that was even greater than a parent for a child.  She still looks at them with pure love, and every now and then I can see that same sparkle in her eye when she looks at her girls. 

Sara with her Bubbie and baby sister

15 years have passed since our baby was born, and she has grown into a beautiful, smart and talented young woman, whom we all adore.  Tonight's dinner is all about Sara - she has chosen the meal, as is the tradition in our family.  Her only request was that I make her a dinner like her Bubbie would have made her.  So, we will have:
  • Squash soup - Mom loved making soups
  • Baba Dora Salad 
  • Mom's Spectacular Standing Rib Roast 
  • Potato Knishes (Norene's Hot Potato Kisses, Meal-Lean-I-Yumm, page 57)
  • Auntie Nora's Asparagus Vinaigrette (recipe to follow in short order!)
  • and for dessert: Buddy the Cake Boss' Vanilla Cake with fresh strawberries & cream and a Vanilla Icing

Sara and her Bubbie
Happy Birthday my Sweet Sara...

Buddy, the Cake Boss' Vanilla Cake (with a whipped cream & fresh strawberry centre - yumm)

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

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Let Me Tell You a Story - Part 1: In the beginning

I love the Sound of Music...always have.  It has everything all rolled into one: love story, music, intrigue, WWII references, triumph over evil...

"Edelweiss"...this picture has it all:  children, music, and the love triangle!

So many of Maria's lines resonate with me, and reflect my outlook on life.  One that keeps running through my head these days is "When G-d closes a door, he opens a window somewhere". 

The Sound of Music: Maria, about to find a window opening

Let me tell you a story...

There was a woman, "the daughter", whose mother developed early onset AD (Alzheimer's Disease).  No-one seemed willing to acknowledge the possibility that this was happening, including her doctor.  Consequently, it went untreated far too long.  Some days the daughter felt like she was drowning in the void left by her mother's illness.  On one of these days she fell upon a memory book she had bought her mother, a book her mother could not complete because of the AD.  Saddened by the fact that she would never have a written record of her mother's life story, she sat down and started to write.  She wrote to her mother, she wrote about her mother, and ultimately, she wrote for her mother. 

The daughter decided, on a whim, to post it as a note on Facebook.  People responded - it had touched a nerve.  She decided to take it a step further and create a blog.  But what to name it?  A Treasure for My Daughter was one of her mother's favourite cookbooks. 

And so, the daughter started to play with the words, and finally came up with My Mother's Treasure.  

The blog posts caught on slowly, very slowly.  And so the daughter kept writing.  And her recollections transported her to a world where her mother was still young, well, vibrant and "the hostess with the mostest".

She knew how beautiful her mother and matriarchs were, but she wanted other's to see her lovely family too.  And the mother's cousin shared photos of relatives who had long since passed away.  Below one of these photos was the name of a man who the daughter had heard of in passing - Isaac Chaliff.  And then it donned on her - this man was her great-great grandfather.

The picture that started it all

The daughter had never thought back much beyond her mother's grandparents.  Bubbie Gertie was a beloved grandmother whose hamentashen recipe was pulled from the family recipe archives every spring, and everyone marvelled at how delicious these cookies were. 

Now, the daughter was staring at a picture of a young couple - a pretty woman and a handsome man - her great-grandparents.  Her curiosity was piqued.  Who were they, and what were they like?  Who was this man, Isaac, Gertie's father, who stood stoically and stared at the camera? 

Gertie & Sam

Her curiosity got the better of her, and she registered for Jewish Gen - a genealogy site.  Imagine her surprise when, just 24 hours later, she was contacted by a potentially long-lost relative.   As luck would have it, it was her long-lost cousin, Phyllis G. the great-granddaughter of Pinchas - brother to Isaac.  Hours later, the official family historian, Phyllis T. was in contact.  And so it was, in the beginning...

Isaac and Pinchas, along with siblings David and Devora had been born to Joshua and Eta Chaliff in Russia in the 1850's and 1860's.   The 3 "boys" emigrated to North America in the 1880s, fleeing anti-Semitic persecution and pogroms.  They went their separate ways - Isaac building a life in western Canada, Pinchas and David to America.  Devora - known as Doba - remained in Volodymir-Volynsk, with her parents, husband and children.  They suffered unspeakable suffering during World War 1, and Eta - the Chaliff matriarch - died of starvation. 

Pinchas, Isaac and Isaac's wife, Clara (late 1800s)

Devora and her children survived, eventually dispersing - some to America and some to Argentina.

Even though Devora, David, Pinchas and Isaac appear to have maintained some contact with each other, Isaac's Canadian branch of the family lost contact with the rest of the family for some 71 years.

Fast forward to 2011.  Pinchas' great-granddaughters, Phyllis G and Phyllis T, by now quite skilled genealogists, had managed to track 800 members of the Chaliff family, but kept hitting a wall when it came to the Canadian kin.  They kept at it, determined to break through the impasse.  Then, one day, they received a notice from Jewish Gen that Isaac's kin had surfaced. 

Imagine - 71 years and 3 generations of silence - and then the family that had been lost to each other was finally reunited. 

And while the void will always be there - only her mother can fill it - little spaces have been filled by the lovely ladies, the new Chaliff matriarchs, who persevered and realized their dream of reuniting a fractured family.  We'll never know if the discovery would have been made had the daughter not been seeking to fill the void, but she likes to think of it as one of the windows G-d opened.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Becca's Tuna Pasta Salad

It's funny how the simplest recipes often end up the favourites in our household.  I cannot remember whether I first created this salad before or after we were married, but it was definitely a 90's creation borne of necessity.

We were living in our first home in Scarborough and I was craving a salad, but one with substance.  It was a weekend afternoon, and given that I tend to clean on Saturdays, it would have to have been a Sunday afternoon.  Anyways, I tossed everything I had in this salad - pasta, lettuce, carrots, celery, tuna, corn niblets, chickpeas and any other leftover veggies that would have been sitting in the fridge (I hate to waste!!!).  Top it off with a little grated or cubed cheddar cheese, some oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and the Tuna Pasta Salad was born!

Fast forward to 2001 and I was struggling to shed the baby weight after Rebecca was born.  The biggest obstacles for me were my love of food and the fact that I was nursing.  Carlo would happily tell you that "(I) can eat!"...and I can!  But, I discovered I could eat tons of this salad, feel full and still lose weight!  I think that this may be the reason that Becca adores the salad...she ate it vicariously through me throughout her infancy.  Anyways, I still make it - often - and apparently I serve it to many people who join us for weekend lunches...and now, everyone has assumed ownership of this salad!  My 3-year-old niece calls it Abby Salad, we call it Becca's Tuna Pasta Salad and, last week my Uncle Jim asked for the recipe - turns out it is his favourite pasta salad!! 

This really is a shitarein (Yiddish for "throw it in") recipe, because I use up whatever I have in the fridge - tossing in leftovers.  Here is a general recipe for the salad, which you can tailor to fit your family's taste.

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

Naomi's Becca's Tuna Pasta Salad

  • lettuce cut into bite-size pieces (I prefer iceberg, but romaine or mescalin work just as well)
  • cooked pasta (any smaller shape will work, I use up whatever odds and sods I have lying around
  • corn niblets
  • sliced black olives
  • chickpeas
  • carrot (chopped, sliced or diced)
  • celery (chopped, sliced or diced)
  • cucumber (chopped, sliced or diced)
  • cherry or grape tomatoes
  • tuna, drained (flaked works best)
  • grated or cubed cheddar (we are fans of marble or medium)
  • oil, vinegar, salt & pepper - to taste


Combine all ingredients, toss and enjoy!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Cooking outside my comfort zone ... not so comfy!

Do you ever have one of those days where you feel like you are living an episode of Seinfeld?  Well, today would have to be that day for me. 

Over the weekend Sara was perusing my cookbooks and found one Mom had bought the girls years ago.  We were leafing through the pages and I got this crazy idea that I should try my hand at Chicken Curry...after all, how difficult could it be?  Well, sometimes you need to listen to your gut, and if that does not work - listen to your guy!  Mine is not a fan of curry. 

But everyone was supportive and said that they would try after work I ran and picked up all the ingredients and excitedly started preparing the Chicken Curry.  Maybe I have been reading too many British novels lately, because I had this romanticized image in my head of my family all delightedly devouring this new delicacy.  Not the case...not even close!

First off, the chicken was splattering oil all over the place...grr...then the rice took forever to absorb the chicken stock...and Becca had to get to a makeup dance class...oy and vey.  When we finally sat down to dinner, I was greeted with 3 beautiful faces, each of which had a pasted on smile and a look of dread, as though I were serving them chalk or cod-liver oil for dinner!

Anyways, I must give them credit, they were all polite, and tried each dish.  Mid-way through dinner I asked Carlo what was wrong and he looked up at me innocently and said "I don't understand, why are you making all the foods I don't like?  I don't like eggplant and I don't like curry?".  The kids tried to be encouraging, but even they pointed out that I am a Jewish mother married to an Italian father and they thought it best if I stuck with what I know best - Jewish and Italian cooking! LOL!

In the end, Becca bounced off to dance class, Sara heated up some leftover Baba Ethels, and I bet you dollars to donuts Carlo went through the McDonald's drive-thru after dropping Becca at her class!

Tomorrow night will be a tried and true recipe...but I must leave you for now, and go rummage through the pantry for a snack before anyone sees me!

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

Monday, 16 January 2012

Cooking with the Kale Queen - Maple Kale Chips

My friend Aviva will happily share the story of our meeting some 8 years ago - when she claims I "dragged" her to a Parent Council meeting for our children's Hebrew School.  Well, I guess I should come clean - I did "encourage" her to join me in my first council meeting, and we kept going back for about 5 years. 

We also discovered that our lives were following parallel paths.  Her mother-in-law and my mother were both suffering from the onset of dementia, and suddenly we each found ourselves in the role of middle-aged matriarchs of our respective clans.  Through it all, a deep friendship grew, and extended to include our husbands as well.  Aviva has been my friend, my confidante, my supporter and my therapist.  She simply understands what I am going through, and is always there.  I should also mention that Mom also really liked her - and she is one of the few people who I feel comfortable bringing to see Mom - she has that amazing ability to calm and reassure her - and Mom really seems to enjoy the visits. 

Which brings me to my next point - although this really isn't where I planned to go with my entry, but - what the heck - I am going to wing it! LOL!

Aviva has over 25 years' experience working with seniors in retirement and nursing home settings.  She has recently branched out on her own and opened her business - Leisure-Full Life - where she brings her unique, and much-needed skill set to the homes of seniors who are alone and lacking companionship.  It is an amazing service which I wish had been available to our family when Mom was first diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's.  What a comfort it would have been to know that someone so kind and compassionate was spending time with my mom when I couldn't (I work full-time and have 2 children who were 6 years' younger then!).  I urge you to visit her on Facebook and check out her website  Leisure-Full Life if you have a loved one who could benefit from some one-on-one companionship. 

But I assure you, ours is not a "sad" friendship - we spend an unusual amount of time laughing - the best therapy ever.  And this past Thursday was no exception. 

Somehow Aviva was dubbed the "Kale Queen" in Norene's Kitchen, and I was relegated to be her sous chef and housemaid!  It was decided that we would try out this recipe she had posted in the Kitchen Kale Queen's original post once I had dropped the kids to Hebrew School.  So, off I went to cook with the Kale Queen!  Below you will find her recipe along with a pictorial step-by-step of my 1.5 hours spent with Aviva - I haven't laughed that much since the last time I was with her! 

In the meantime, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food!  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito! 

The Kale Queen's Recipe for Maple Kale Chips
Rinse and break up Kale leaves into big pieces...put them in a bowl with 2 tbsp oil and 3-4 tbsp maple syrup...put them on a cookie sheet, add a little salt and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes... check on them often depending on your oven 10 minutes may be too much or too little.

Kale Queen breaks up kale, then rinses and pats it dry

Sous chef tidies up

Adding the olive oil

Then the Maple Syrup

In Mom's words: mixie mixie a la pixie, diddly dum and diddly dixie!

Spread on parchment-lined cookie sheet

Add a little salt (although I have to tell you, we did a couple of retakes
 of this photo and perhaps our first batch was a little too salty!) LOL!

Into the oven!  Or was this out of the oven?!

The final product ... yumm!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Bubbie Gertie's Lemon Cake - Happy Birthday Mom!

Funny, the things you recall  years after the fact.  My mother would tell me how she loved Bubbie Gertie's Lemon Cake.  I cannot remember her making or serving the cake, just telling me that she loved it.

Bubbie Lou's handwritten recipe

When I started perusing all of Mom's recipes last summer, I found the Lemon Cake recipe.  I cannot explain how or why, but for some reason, when I try one of these recipes from yesteryear, I really feel the hands of my matriarchs are resting upon my shoulders (thank you Donna, for this lovely phrase), and am comforted by the sense that they are with me as I prepare the recipes they once  lovingly prepared for their families when they were my age and at my stage of life.

So, even though I am was not a fan of lemony cakes - I decided to venture into the cooking unknown and make Bubbie Gertie's Lemon Cake.  Wow!!  As it baked, the smells wafting from the oven were tantalizing...and I counted down the minutes until it was ready.  It popped out of the bundt pan with ease and was beautiful!  Then came the moment of truth - I cut a piece and handed it to my in-house taste-testing crew - they loved it!  I decided to taste it myself.  One slice just wasn't enough!  It was light, fluffy and flavourful, with a just a hint of lemon! Mmm Mmm Good!

I have since prepared it in cake and muffin form, with minor adaptations - Sara is not a raisin fan so I use   craisins in my recipe.  I recently whipped up a batch in muffin form, and took one to Mom...she loved it, and smiled at me as she ate it.  I would like to think that she knew what it was, and that her smile reflected her happiness that I am keeping her traditions (loving cooking and cooking with love) alive.  Either way, not a morsel was left on her plate!

Today is my mother's birthday.  What do you give someone who cannot read, operate simple electronics, read or independently initiate activity?  I am hoping that this cake and a long visit will bring a smile to her face.  I will let you know!


After I left you, I went to bake Mom's cake, and then decided to bake a second cake for our family too.  The following is a pictorial step by the of the cake-making process.

Creaming margarine and brown sugar

Beaten egg

Blend egg with margarine and sugar

Add sour cream

Combining dry ingredients before adding to mixture

Don't forget the craisins

Pop them in the oven

Mmmm - the finished product!

Once the cakes were made and cooling, we rushed to eat a bite of lunch, get ready, videotape Becca playing piano for Mom to watch, and meet Dad.  What follows is a sample of Becca's music arrangement.

Mom was quiet when we played the videos for her, but just kept looking over my should to where her girls were sitting.  I would like to think she was pleased that the love of piano has made it to the next generation.

I know I am a proud Mama, but I think she is wonderful!   When she plays, I close my eyes and it feels like I am listening to my Mom again...oh what a nice feeling...

Anyways, Mom looked good yesterday, and was so happy to see us.  There were celebrations for her at lunch and dinner as well, but Mildred tells me that she still remembered our visit hours after we'd left!  Dad brought her the most beautiful orchid (pictured below), and she just enjoyed being with her family.  She snuggled on the bed with a granddaughter nestled on either side of her, and called them "dolly".  That was a moment that brought us all a little peace and like it used to be. 

Mom's Orchid

Thanks to my FB friends and acquaintances who sent Mom birthday wishes...and until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with fun, friends and fantastic food!  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Birthday Month - again! Happy Birthday Carlo (Chicken Kiev)


In our immediate family of 4, the birthday celebrations fall in January and August.  Carlo and Sara are 2 weeks apart, Becca and I are 10 days apart.  In my heart, I feel like this was G-d's way of giving us the ultimate birthday gifts - our children.  I say this because both our daughters were premature.  Sara was due in February and Becca was due in September. 

Before we had children, Carlo managed to prolong his birthday celebrations.  It started as "birthday week", and ultimately it became "birthday month". 

But the family celebrations in January do not stop there.  My mother is a January baby - she celebrates this weekend, and our niece Nicole celebrates at the end of the month.  So the party never ends with us. 

I am not sure when the tradition of me cooking favourite birthday meals came into being, but, truth be told, I think I get even more excited about birthday dinners that the recipient does.  There is nothing like pouring your heart into creating something special for the one(s) you love. 

And Carlo's birthday (this past Wednesday) was no exception.  My wonderful husband (I know, I sound like Michelle Duggar, but I mean it!) chose poultry - Chicken Kiev - for his BD dinner entree - a surprise twist considering his carnivore leanings.

I remember Mom making it for us when we were young kids, and it was always such a treat.  I loved the way the melted margarine, chives and parsley would flow onto the plate when I cut into my chicken, and how tender and juicy it was.  I love it with scalloped potatoes (you can make them pareve with coffee rich), but this time it was Carlo's choice, and he chose mashed potatoes and gravy. 

The night before I mixed up the margarine and herbs and let them chill overnight.  When I came home from work on Wednesday I tenderized the chicken breasts, wrapped each one around a (tablespoon) scoop of the margarine-herb mixture, dipped it in beaten egg and then matzoh meal.  I placed them in the parchment lined pyrex and baked them, covered, for 1 hour at 350.  Then I raised the temperature to 400 and cooked them for a further 15 minutes, uncovered.  In the meantime, I peeled, quartered and boiled potatoes, fried up the rapini, and made a salad.  The girls came in and helped me by decorating Dad's cake and then we finally sat down to dinner. 

The kids' reactions were priceless.  They do not recall ever having tried this dish, and they were utterly amazed!  Seriously, they could not believe how delicious Chicken Kiev is (and between you and me - I think they were pleasantly surprised that I was able to produce such a dish - it tastes like it is so much more complicated to make - LOL!).  I asked if I should make it again, and was greeted with a resounding yes - although Sara stressed that she is still requesting Bubbie's Rib Roast for her birthday dinner.  They ate every morsel, so I was a happy mama Wednesday night .  Once Becca came for from her extra-curricular class we sang Happy Birthday and cut into Daddy's birthday cake.  It was a hit!!!  In fact, as I edit this piece for posting (just 2.5 days later) the cake is more than half-eaten!! Hallelujah!

And now I will bid you farewell, and go bake a cake for my mom, whose birthday is today!

I wish you all a wonderful weekend filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Chicken Kiev (a la Naomi)

  • 1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts (5 or 6 singles)
  • 1/2C margarine
  • 2 tbsp chives
  • 2 tbsp parsley
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 to 2 eggs, beaten (start with one, add the second if necessary)
  • 1/2C matzo meal or breadcrumbs

At least 1 hour before (preferably longer), mix margarine, chives, parsley and salt.  Chill until it holds its form.  Preheat oven to 350.  Place beaten egg(s) in a shallow bowl.  Place matzo meal / bread crumbs in a shallow bowl.  Rinse chicken and pat dry.  Gently tenderize each piece until thin enough to roll around margarine balls.   Scoop (1 heaping tbsp) margarine into the centre of each piece of chicken.  Roll chicken around margarine.  Dredge through egg and then coat with matzoh meal / bread crumbs.  Place in parchment-lined pyrex with "seam" down.  Cover and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour at 350.  At the one hour mark, uncover, and raise oven temperature for 400.  Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve immediately! 

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Why do I do it? The smells, the tastes and the memories...

December 23rd marked the beginning of the winter break in our house.  The week leading up to the break had been busy - Sara had tons of tests and assignments due, Becca was in extra-curricular activity overdrive, there was last -minute shopping for groceries and gifts, not to mention baking, cooking and frying for the holidays (Chanuka started on the night of December 20th).  We were all ready for a much-needed break. 

I perused recipes and planned bake fests, as I do every year, excitingly envisioning my platters of finished baking and overflowing cookie jars.  But, as Carlo will attest, I try to squeeze far too much into a day, and never end up having enough time to do everything.  This holiday season was no exception.

My childhood memories of the winter holidays are all centred on huge snowfalls, lots of delicious cooking smells wafting through my mother's and grandmother's kitchens, and a bevvy of delicacies laid out on the tables just waiting to be devoured. 

I still treasure these memories, and have always wanted my kids to have the same kind of experiences growing up.  So, no matter how much chaos the holidays may bring with them, no matter how busy or tired I may feel, I will not consider reducing the menus or indulging in store-bought meals and baking.   All my efforts are rewarded the moment one or both of our girls walk into the house and say "mmmm it smells good in here, what's cooking mom?".  When I look across the table at my husband, and he takes that first bite of something, smiles and tells me how nice it tastes, I am a happy camper.  Don't get me wrong, I am not seeking approval - and believe me, I do not always get it!  I  just feel an unparalleled sense of satisfaction in knowing that I have recreated an atmosphere of family and food similar to that in which I was raised. 

I know that Carlo was raised in a similar environment, and his mother still works her fingers to the bone making all of her grand children's favourites before we visit.  As we walk in the door at Nonna's, we are instantly greeted with the aroma of coudouri (fried potato and flour doughy bread sticks), fresh sauce, rapini, fettine...each one more enticing than the last.  We all overeat at Nonna's, and go home with a "Nonna Belly" a phrase coined by my niece and nephew to describe the pleasant, but painful, satisfaction that comes with gluttony. 

A typical dinner at Nonna's

As a Jewish mother married to an Italian father, food is central to our existence.  I find I am always trying to feed people when they come to my home.  It is how I express myself and how I nurture others. 

And so, this holiday season, when the much-needed break finally arrived, I found myself diving head-first into a self-created vortex of baking and cooking, washing up and serving - the cycle repeating itself like a broken record.

My baking shelf - restocked!

We spend Christmas with Carlo's family - which is essentially a family banquet followed by presents, and a family night that every one of us (numbering over 20 people now) look forward to. Carlo has 3 siblings, each with spouses and children, one with grandchildren already!  We all bring a few dishes, so as to ease the burden on my mother-in-love - another foodie, but in a class all her own

My first attempt at Gingerbread

As luck would have it, this year Chanuka and Christmas converged, so I was on double duty. It is too hard to get my family together on a weeknight, I live 40 minutes north of my father and brother, so my family came over on Boxing Day. Remember, I am a LEO and very controlling when it comes to my domain, under which food falls, so I prepared tons of dishes from scratch, which means I was standing on my feet all day, again. Dinner turned out great and a good time was had by all.

My version of The Shiksa's Chanukiya and ginger-dreidls

The next day was a holiday party hosted by Becca and her friend, at our place.   Her friend's mom was kind enough to go out and get all the decorations and put together veggie and fruit platters. Again, I decided everything we would serve was to be from scratch - pizza, party sandwiches, salads, cookies and cupcakes

Pizzas ready to slice and serve

I love to do it, but maybe not 4 days in a row!  By the time the last of the kids left that evening, I was really feeling the toll of my 4 day cooking spree - my ankles were throbbing and aching from all the standing (I have had 6 surgeries on my feet, and my ankles are my Achilles heel! LOL!).

The next day was work, and then I had to come home and clean so that our kitchen (which had been overworked for 4 days straight) looked neat enough to be filmed and photographed for the article Ellin was writing for the Toronto Star. It all went off without a hitch, and no fingerprints or dust could be found on film (I checked!). 

Needless to say, this is the reason that my blogging fell off the radar over the break!

And now, as the winter break draws to a close, and I have time to sit back and reflect on the mayhem and the chaos, I have to tell you that every ache and pain was worth it!  I will do it all again for the upcoming birthdays - yes, January is also Birthday Month in our household - and for Valentine's day, and Easter and Passover and any other opportunity that presents itself.   Because in the end, it is those smells, and the flurry of activity in creating them, that makes the memories for my girls, even if they don't know it yet.

Wishing you a wonderful day, filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food!  B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito!

This post was inspired by my email update to Elaine, one of my newly discovered cousins from the Chaliff clan.