Sunday, 20 May 2012

May holidays...Victoria Day, Shavuot, and Cheese Muffins

Sisters...Bubbie Lou & Auntie Etta - the
 originators of our family's cheese muffin recipe

Chag Sameyach!  That means Happy Holidays!  And as a Canadian Jew there is a lot to celebrate this weekend!

First off, it is the Victoria Day Weekend, where we Canadians, as part of the Commonwealth, celebrate the birth of Queen Victoria.  I love this weekend.  It officially marks the start of planting season, people open their cottages for summer...and to me, it represents the beginning of everything summer: warm weather, sunshine, longer days, amusement parks, the zoo, picnics, walks to the lake, bike rides, BBQs, and so much more.  And what a gorgeous weekend it is!

Secondly, it is Shavuot, a 2 day holiday when we celebrate receiving the Torah (Old Testament) from Har (Mount) Sinai.  Typically, people serve dairy dishes during this holiday, in recognition of the Kashruth (dietary) laws contained in the Torah, which prohibited the preparation of dairy and meat meals in the same dishes (and so much more!).  The Hebrews could only prepare dairy dishes, because they had not yet kashered (made kosher) their pots, pans and dishes.  As a dairy lover, this tradition sits very well with me!

There has been a massive exchange of dairy recipes for Shavuot on Norene's Kitchen as of late, and one dish that was featured jarred my memory....cheese muffins!   As I was reading about one lady's search for a specific recipe, I could see the muffins being served on my Bubbie Lou's kitchen table, ladled with sour cream and rhubarb & strawberry compote (if you opt for the sauces, you're best to cut it into pieces on your plate first!).  I could even recall the unique taste of these muffins.  I think I even remember them being served at Mom and Dad's during a Break The Fast celebration.  Strange how food memories and associations can be so strong...

I decided to sift through Golden Recipes and Mom's Cookbook in hopes of finding a recipe...and lo and behold, there it was - Cheese Muffins (Etta).  I have yet to make the recipe, but hope to this weekend, along with a cheesecake, both in honour of my beloved matriarchs and Shavuot.  I will post a pictorial step-by-step when I do.  But until then, here is the sure to serve it with Mom's compote!

Cheese Muffins


  • 1 lb (16 oz or 2C) large curd creamed cottage cheese G
  • ⅞C sour cream (1C less 2 tbsp)
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ lb (4 oz or ½C) melted butter
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder 
  • 2C flour
GIf you do not want to use 1lb of creamed cottage cheese, Bubbie Lou suggests either 12oz of dry cottage cheese and 4oz of creamed cottage cheese or 16oz dry cottage cheese (all large curd).

Preheat oven to 375˚.  Sift together baking powder and flour.  Then combine with all remaining ingredients and let stand for 5 minutes.  "Butter" the muffin tins (I prefer canola oil cooking spray).  Fill each tin ¾ full and round up in middle (this is how Bubbie Lou wrote it - I am not sure what it means, but I am thinking it is so the muffin will peak when baked?  Will make sure to let you know when I make them).  Bake for 25 to 35 minutes.  Cool and serve with sour cream (& compote!).  

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

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Carol's Savory Compote...a Keeper!

This plant looks much like Mom's plant did

Everywhere I turn these days someone is talking about rhubarb.  Funny things is that growing up I thought we were the only family who actually ate rhubarb...a lot!

I told you about Mom's garden, and all the lovely plants that would bloom in the spring.  But there was another special plant that bloomed in the back, right-hand side of the garden, about 3 shrubs past the bleeding hearts - rhubarb!  Mom would go out daily to survey and assess the condition of her rhubarb plant's leaves, making sure that the ants weren't getting to it.  Just as soon as it was ready, she would cut the rhubarb stalks, then take them inside to wash, cut and freeze them for future use.

A closer view, to see the rhubarb stalks beneath its leaves

The rhubarb went into a variety of dishes, but the 2 that stick out in my memory are strawberry rhubarb compote and strawberry rhubarb pie.  Both were really delicious, and a huge treat that Mom made, from scratch, for us.  The combination of sweet and tart, in a flaky pastry was enough to get us all asking for seconds.

Funny, I really believed that this dish was unique to the Reiters, and never considered that it had to originate somewhere...where else, but the matriarchs?

There are actually 2 books that I am using now...the "famous" Golden Recipes, and a second book, that I bought Mom (I was always trying to organize her!) which holds a slew of recipe cards. Many of the cards in this book originated in Bubbie Lou's kitchen, and were transplanted when Mom inherited her mom's cookbooks in the early 1990's.

I found a recipe for Adele's Rhubarb & Strawberries in Golden Recipes.  I then found another recipe for Bubbie Gertie's Rhubarb & Strawberries in the second book - let's call it Mom's Recipes from now on.  They were similar, but Adele's recipe had measurements (thank goodness!).

I imagine that this Rhubarb & Strawberry Compote was served at my matriarchs' and relatives' Yom Tov dinners many times over the past 100+ years.  It is amazing to think that it all started with Bubbie Clara, who passed it down to Bubbie Gertie and her sisters, who passed it down to Bubbie Lou and her sisters, who passed it down to Mom, who passed it down to me, and now I am sharing it with my daughters.  When you put it in those terms, it becomes much more than a becomes a legacy.

I think back, a lot, these days, and consider what it must have been like in a turn of the century kitchen, without all our modern appliances and conveniences, as my Bubbie Gertie made these dishes to serve to her family.  I can see the compote bubbling on the stove, and envision Bubbie Lou, Aunt Adele and Aunt Etta helping her to serve the family in a room filled with laughter and loud voices (remember, they were a family of 8).

I fast forward and envision my perfectly coiffed Bubbie Lou, in her pressed dress, pearl necklace and apron tied around her waist, serving this compote to her smaller family, who would have been much more proper in a Leave to Beaver kind of way, with Mom helping her serve Zaida Bernie and the boys.

I can actually remember helping my mother to serve this to our family and guests at our own dinner table.  The recipe has endured at least 5 generations, likely more.

I made my first batch of strawberry rhubarb compote for Passover this year, and it was delicious!  I served it on top of Ruth Heige's sponge cake (recipe to follow in a future post) and everyone loved it.

Now, with all the talk about rhubarb being in season, and everyone making "Mom's" pie, I think it is high time that I take the plunge and try my hand at making pastry.  What better time to do it that on the first long weekend of the season, especially given the beautiful weather they're forecasting! So keep an eye out for the step-by-step pictorial of Mom's Strawberry Rhubarb pie, which actually traces back to Bubbie Gertie, later this weekend.

In the meantime, here is the recipe for the strawberry rhubarb compote.

The Matriarchs' Rhubarb & Strawberry Compote


  • 4C rhubarb (washed, unpeeled, cut into pieces OR you can use frozen)
  • 1½C granulated sugar
  • 4C strawberries (washed, hulled and halved OR you can use frozen)

Wash rhubarb and cut in pieces.  Do not peel.   In medium saucepan, combine 4 cups of rhubarb with 1½ cups of granulated sugar.  Cook over low heat (Bubbie Gertie says on a very slow burner) for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  While the rhubarb is still whole and just starting to break apart, add strawberries and cook gently for a few more minutes.  Cool and store in fridge.  This recipe can be frozen for later use.

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

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Mom's Garden...and a Mother's Day Update

Mother's Day Lunch...the finished product

I hope everyone enjoyed their Mother's Day...we sure did!  Of course, as always, I packed too much into my morning, and humbly admitted that Carlo was right on the money when he suggested I push back my visit to Mom to the afternoon.  I spent the morning cooking and baking, and loved every minute of it.  Even better, when we came home from Hebrew school, swimming and baseball, everyone loved the meal!!

My beautiful urns

But let me take you back a step or two...I drove into driveway after picking up the kids to discover brand new hanging baskets of yellow tuberous begonias (my all-time favourites), and 2 large black cast iron urns for my new hobby - gardening!  Happy Mother's Day!!

Yellow tuberous begonias...aren't they lovely?

You see, I have decided it is high time I learned how to garden.  Carlo is taking me to the nursery for the May 24 weekend, and I get to select all the flowers for "my" urns!!  Now comes the hard part - choosing!  I am trying to recreate the gardens of my childhood, and digging deep into my memory to recall those plants in Mom's garden that I loved...

I can remember cuddling with Mom on her bed in my childhood home...she would look out her bedroom window and gaze lovingly at the old maple tree at the foot of our driveway.  She loved that tree.  In fact, she loved all the nature around her.  She would marvel as spring sprang and the buds appeared on all the trees in our front and back gardens.

I never understood the pull these trees and flowers had on Mom, but lately I find myself staring out the kitchen window at our beautiful maple tree (which, by the way, Mom loved) and I  take such pleasure in watching the buds pop up all over our tree.  I tell myself to appreciate the beauty of these moments, because before we know it summer will be upon us, the tree will be in full bloom, and the buds will, once again, be nothing but a sweet memory.  

Our maple tree

This year I am driven to marry Carlo's beautiful backyard garden with the garden of my childhood.  I remember Mom taking me around our backyard, showing me the lilac trees (mauve and white), the lily of the valley, and especially the bleeding hearts bush.   I want to bring that garden back to life....and Carlo says yes!!  So this Victoria Day Weekend we will be planting bleeding hearts bushes (Bubbie Gertie's favourite) and lining our garden beds with lily of the valley!  I cannot wait for next spring, when I look outside and see our maple tree AND the lily of the valley and bleeding hearts all blooming.   But what plants should go in the urns?  Stay tuned for that update - next week!

The arbor Carlo & Richard built ...that window was
my only request, and took the most work!

One of his gardens...waiting for flowers!

More of  Carlo's beautiful landscaping

In the meantime, I will stick with what I know - cooking and baking, and pull out a recipe or 2 from Mom's cookbook to officially welcome the Spring weather...any guesses what kind of dishes they might be?  I invite you to share, or leave a suggestion of your own, in the comments below.

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

PS - Mom LOVED the cheesies - really, she did!  She managed to take my hand in hers to guide the cheesies to her mouth (I guess I was falling down on the job!)...

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Freefalling...Happy Mother's Day

I am sitting in a room, talking with my mother.  I marvel at how beautiful she is, and hang on her every word.  She is well, vibrant and laughing.  I touch her, snuggling in close to smell her sweet "mommy smell".  I take in every moment, relief washing over me as I realize the Alzheimer's journey was just a bad dream...and then, somewhere in the back of my mind I feel it all slipping away, and recognize the all-too-familiar signs that I am dreaming, and know that it will soon end.  I cling to every last second, willing myself to remember everything, to live in the moment, because it is fleeting, and I don't know when the next dream will come.  And then I wake up in a darkened room...heartbroken.

Such is my journey as I walk the path of a Daughter of Alzheimer's.

Every now and then it hits me...I've lost my mother.  Well-meaning people tell me to be grateful that she is still alive, that I can still touch her and visit her.  I smile and bite my tongue because I know they are trying to be kind, trying to find the positive in a negative situation.  But inside I am screaming...."look at my beloved mother, see how this disease has ravaged her, please try to have a conversation with her, and now...tell me again, that I should be grateful."   Like other chronic, fatal diseases, Alzheimer's has no known only presents it's targets and their families with the prospect of a long, heartbreaking goodbye.

So, as my mother progresses into this later, more severe stage of AD, I can only hope that she is no longer aware, that the insight into what was happening to her has faded, and she is finally at peace.  But then again, I am afraid.  In those brief, fleeting moments of lucidity, Mom says things that make me think she is in there, trapped, held prisoner by her dying brain.

Such is my journey as I walk the path of a Daughter of Alzheimer's.

Please don't misunderstand, I am not having a "pity party", I just need to keep this blog real.  I cannot and will not sugarcoat dementia, or the indescribable havoc it wreaks on patients and their families.  I have found a path of healing in recalling my mother's life pre-Alzheimer's, and in sharing the stories through her and my matriarch's recipes, but that does not eliminate the inevitable pain and loss that define this journey.  The stories I share with you are ultimately written so my daughters and niece will have a family history when I am no longer here.  I will not allow our history to die with me.  I have learned from my mother's experience, and am not putting off today what can be done tomorrow...after all, who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Such is my journey as I walk the path of a Daughter of Alzheimer's. is Mother's Day weekend.  I am planning on doing what I enjoy the most, cooking, baking and being with the people I love.  It is still a whirlwind Sunday, Hebrew school, swimming and baseball.  But I will spend the morning with Mom, and then we'll all end up back here for a Mother's Day lunch that I am planning.  I don't stand on ceremony for this special day, and I never have.  All I want is to be with my laugh...and to share the moments that matter.  I want to enjoy every moment that I am blessed with.   I am going to recreate the Sunday brunch of my childhood, the one I described in Kabakle post, minus the sardines!  I have been coming across so many recipes for salads that look unbelievably delicious, and I will pair them with some chelsea bun recipes, olives and cheeses.  Mmm mmm good!

But what about Mom?  What do you give a mother who is severely cognitively and physically impaired?   Let me tell you, this is a tough one! Until recently, Mom was mobile and agile.  She could pick up a speck off the floor, and would do so every chance she got.  She would pull at the photos on Bubbie Lou's photo collage and actually pulled the cord right out of the back of her television set.  Just before this latest AD free-fall, which has necessitated the use of a wheelchair on a virtually full-time basis, the charge nurse asked me to remove all items with "sharp" edges from Mom's room, that way she could not hurt herself.  And then Influenza B outbreak that leads to further, marked decline and advancing paratonia, and ultimately the need for a wheelchair, swallow tests, neurology appointments...

My mother and daughters (2010)

If I can find that silver lining in our most recent cloud, it would be that I can bring the glass vase with silk flowers to Mom's room tomorrow...and I can bring the extra television set to her room tomorrow...2 little things that will brighten her living space and, hopefully, her days.   But what else?  You know I have this uncontrollable urge to fix things with food, so I need to bring a nibble to Joychee (my pet name for Mom for those who haven't read About Mom)...but what?!

I have learned that things fall into place when they are meant to...and the nosh for Mom came to me when we were on our way back from the wheelchair "fitting" appointment last week.  Mildred - bless Mildred, she is my family's saviour, always smiling, kind and professional...taking incredible care of Mom, making her happy and comfortable - Mildred mentioned how Mom loves chips!  Apparently she perks up whenever she hears the rustle of a bag of chips being opened, and can even manage to hold a chip and bring it to her mouth!  Lately she is especially fond of cheesies...

Eureka!!  I will bring her cheesies!  Later that night I dropped Becca to dance and went to Walmart for a few things.  As I walked the aisles (no, my love of grocery shopping has not dissipated) I came to the snacks aisle and there it was - a JUMBO bag of cheesies!  Later that evening when the kids were helping me unpack the groceries, Becca went to put the cheesies away.  I told her to leave them, they were for Bubbie for Mother's Day.  She looked at me as though I had 2 heads, and so I explained what I had learned earlier that day.  When Carlo came home Becca giggled as she told her daddy that we were taking cheesies to Bubbie for Mother's Day.  He was not surprised.  No, he did not know the story, but he told Becca that back in the day, when we used to go to my parents' for Shabbat dinner each week, Mom would go to her nosh stash in the laundry room (see Salty in a Sweet World) and peruse the shelves like a wine connoisseur eyes his collection, choosing just the right bag of chips to satisfy her pre-dinner munchies.  She would come back and put out a huge bowl of chips for nibbling, all the while telling us not to eat too much or we would spoil our dinner.  Right!  She went through different phases, there were ripple chips with French Onion Helluva Good Dip, there was the natcho chip and guacamole period and then, of course, the BBQ chips or cheesies phase.

So tomorrow, I will take Mom flowers, a TV, and cheesies for Mother's Day.  Then I will come home and serve mia familia a beautiful lunch of:
  • hummus and pita
  • weekend breakfast bake (minus the ham) O
  • tomato chickpea pepper salad O
  • nutella swirls O
  • chelsea buns O
  • mango salsa O
  • avocado salad O
  • roasted chickpea salad;
  • spinach salad 
  • Israeli and kalamata olives
  • Selection of cheeses

All the O recipes are linked on the Favourite Recipes and Holiday Recipes.  I will have to let you know how far I actually get in making it all for tomorrow's lunch - too many errands, too little time!  As Carlo always says, I try to stuff 3 days worth of tasks into 1 and am still shocked when I cannot accomplish everything!  

I managed to make all the specialty salads,
a fresh batch of hummus, the breakfast
bake and both sweet breads!

I wish all mothers out there a very happy Mother's Day!  I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!