Monday, 29 July 2013

Going Gluten-Free - an (almost) adventure in cookie baking

Becca is off to a friend's cottage this week, and I want to send something with her as a token thank you hostess gift.  But she is a tween who thinks I go overboard...what's a gal to do?

I was planning on a gift basket, but Bex quickly nixed that as "too much Mom - I'm a kid and kids don't do gift baskets".  OK...why not something home-baked?  I pride myself on not doing "store bought" very often, and so buying cookies was out of the question.  We finally agreed that we'd find a unique vessel for our home-made cookies.  Off we went, to look for the perfect cookie jar.  Much like Goldilocks and the 3 Bears, some were to big and some were too small, and then, as we were about to throw our hands up in the air, give up and head out to a different store, Becca announced she'd found it!  It was a ceramic canister, with a vacuum sealed top in a nice, neutral colour.  It had a mini chalk board label on the side.  It was perfect!  Hurray Becca!

We bought the jar and off we went, back home for lunch.  And then the adventure began.  I needed to find the perfect, gluten-free cookie recipe, as they adhere to a gluten-free diet right now.  I must admit, I know little about gluten-free cooking, although I see recipes for it on Norene's Kitchen all the time and know people who follow gluten-free diets.

My girlfriend Diane, pointed out that I could buy ready-made cookie mixes that are gluten-free, then laughed as she acknowledged that I wasn't likely to do that.

After some searching, I found a cookie recipe that didn't look too complicated and the cookies in the photo look scrumptious!  Thank you Rachael Ray!

I take dietary restrictions very seriously.  While Kashruth is more of a choice over a medical need, it is something that my father and brother strictly observe and I respect that.  When they come over my meals are strictly kosher.  My mother is lactose intolerant with a white flour allergy.  My Sara is allergic to fish, and I suffer from migraine and have to avoid a multitude of migraine-inducing ingredients.  Becca and I both have friends who are allergic to nuts.  So, baking gluten-free is just another cobblestone on my culinary adventures.

I perused a few gluten-free websites and printed off lists of safe foods and taboo ingredients.  Off I went to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients for our "bakefest".  I soon discovered that going gluten-free is not so simple.  You need to ensure you don't cross-contaminate - which means gluten-free: flour (who knew there were so many kinds of flour!?!), baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, etc!

I repeatedly stopped in the aisles to Google all these different types of flour - white rice, brown rice, kamut - not one package that simply read  "gluten-free baking flour" like the recipe calls for! - and then a sinking feeling came over me as I realized that I was in way over my head.

Over the years I have learned from  numerous Passover baking disasters that adapting standard baking recipes with substitute flours and sugars does not guarantee that the recipe will turn out.  In fact, you can pretty well bet that the recipe will flop and you'll throw out the whole batch.

So, with Diane's words ringing in my ears, I reluctantly picked up a box of ready-made gluten-free cookie mix and put it in my shopping cart.  I continued to shop, cringing at the prospect of baking a boxed cookie that wouldn't taste homemade...and then it hit me - MERINGUES!  They are gluten-free and always prove to be a hit at the bake sales and dance competitions.  The ingredients are all safe and they keep well, package well, and will travel to the cottage without mushing!

So tonight, after I get home from work, I will whip up a fresh batch of Mama's Meringues to fill the canister Becca and I picked up this weekend...phew!

In the meantime, I am still determined to learn how to bake gluten-free...just because.  So if you have a simple and easy recipe for gluten-free baking, please share it in the comments below!

Whatever you're having, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Update on Advocate (like no-one is watching, and until someone does!)

Last weekend I told you about the health challenges my parents were facing, and specifically the problems with Mom's fingers and pressure ulcers.

I am grateful to be able to report that Dad is on the mend, and while he is taking it easy - it takes weeks to recover fully from a bout of pneumonia, especially when your body is 80 years old! - and only working half-days right now, I am so relieved that he is healing, and should be back to normal in another week or two.

And then there is Mom...the Wound Clinic had prescribed topical and oral treatments for the paronychia (infected fingers) and the pressure ulcer (bedsore).  Cristy, her caregiver, continued to soak her fingers in Epsom salts, tilt her wheelchair every hour as directed, and keep her pressure ulcer wound clean and dry.

I kept calling and hounding Mom's unit clerk to find out when the follow up appointment was scheduled for, but nothing had been posted or sent to him.  On Wednesday he started to search the computer systems for me to see if he could find an appointment - in fairness, most patients do not have family members accompany them to these follow ups, so I guess advanced notice to the unit was not considered a priority.

He found that the appointment was set for the following day.  Perfect!  I let Cristy know, and made arrangements for Dad and Sara to keep the office going while I slipped out to the appointment.  (Remember, Dad can only comfortably manage about 4 hours before he is tuckered out and needs to rest, so we had to co-ordinate that he came in later that morning).

I made it to the clinic on time, and we met with the doctor.  Everything is healing!!!  Very slowly, but the redness is down in the fingers, and the infection is going away.  Her pressure ulcer is also healing, albeit slowly.  Some recommendations were made in terms of bandaging, etc., and the doctor graciously agreed to note even the simpler changes (bandages to be used, etc), on the report upstairs, because it is clear that Cristy and I have no voice there right now.

We went upstairs and I was all smiles, so relieved that things were improving.  As the porter wheeled Mom into the unit, the nurse passed us (remember, I was all smiles), and curtly nodded as she quickly walked by on her way to a patient's room, avoiding eye contact with me.  And it was then that I realized it just doesn't matter anymore.  I am modifying my approach, and ensuring that I am there for all appointments.  I will wait and see how things progress before I take this to the unit supervisor...there is no rush.  It is clear that she has been told of my concerns and unofficial complaint, and as long as quality care is provided, I can let the rest go...for now.

The important thing is that everyone is on the mend, and now life can slow down a bit, just in time for Becca's birthday, the girls' back to school preparations and Yom Tov menu planning (Rosh Hashana is the beginning of September this year!).  Better still, this means that I can get back to baking and discovering new recipes!

Whatever you're doing this lovely sunny summer Sunday, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, friends, fun and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Persevering with Pastry and Sweet Success with Strawberry Rhubarb Pie!

My first ever attempt at strawberry rhubarb pie

If you've been following my blog, you know I am not a sweet tooth...ironic, isn't it, that I love baking?

Having grown up in a household where my mother and grandmothers baked, it is only natural that I would eventually discover the joys of baking.

The one dessert I have deliberately avoided preparing was pie.  I am not sure what recipe I used some 10 years ago when I first attempted to make a pie, but I do recall that my pastry was a complete disaster.  I am definitely from the school of "once bitten, twice shy", and never even attempted to prepare pastry since that day.  

The fact that my mother made fabulous pastry - with whole wheat flour no less! - added to my trepidation.  As far back as I can remember, my mother was the Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Maven.  I really believed that this fruit combination was unique to my family, and still feel territorial when anyone mentions making this kind of pie - knowing deep down that no-one, and no recipe, will ever measure up to my mother's pies.

I've told you in previous posts about the rhubarb growing in the garden of my childhood home, but what I only recently discovered is that my Bubbie Lou also grew rhubarb in her garden.  Recently my cousin Michael and I were reminiscing, and I mentioned my plans to finally make the family pie.  I recalled how Mom grew rhubarb in our garden, and he remembered Bubbie Lou having it in her garden too!  

I decided that I'd run out of excuses and it was time to face my pastry fears head on.  

Around this time I was visiting our neighbours when Ali decided to show me his amazing fruit and vegetable garden.  He came to one plant and asked me if I had any idea what it was...I did, it was rhubarb.  He was so surprised that I recognized it, and so I filled him in on my lifelong connection to rhubarb.  Ultimately we struck a deal - he'd supply the rhubarb and I would show his wife - my friend - Teresa, how to make the pie.  

Ali harvesting the rhubarb from his garden
We made a date for the following week - he would harvest the rhubarb and Teresa would bring it over for a pie-making girls' night.

Now the pressure was on.  I knew that I had to have at least 1 trial run before I undertook the task of teaching someone else how to bake a pie, especially given my history with pastry.  So I decided to bake a pie to take to Marisa and Tony's (along with the dessert jello).  For the filling, I used the family recipe strawberry rhubarb compote, and I pulled out Bubbie Gertie's recipe for pastry (contained in her Apple Pie recipe).

The pastry dough was so simple!  I could not believe that it only called for 4 ingredients (it's pareve!), blended effortlessly, rolled out beautifully an transferred to the pie plate with ease.

The only mistake I made was not completely draining the compote mixture before filling the bottom crust.  In fairness to me, I did use a slotted spoon, but it was still...there is no subtle way to put this - drenched!  Unfortunately, this means that my pie was soggy, which dampened my spirits.  But then again, that's why I had a dry run (excuse the pun) before my pie-making play date.

So, 2 Wednesday nights ago, Teresa came over and we had a blast!  We made the pastry and the compote, and this time I made sure we actually strained the excess liquid (which totalled more than 6 cups).   We baked our pies, and my friend who had never baked a pie in her life, made a tremendously better-looking pie than mine!  No worries, they both tasted delicious.  

Cooking the strawberries, rhubarb and sugar
Filling the pie with fresh, juicy fruit
Teresa's pie
My pie
The final, baked product!

So from my family to yours, I hope you enjoy this pie recipe as much as I do.
Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Bubbie Gertie's Perfect Pastry

  • 3C ordinary flour (sifted 1 or 2 times - although I never actually sifted mine)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1C shortening
  • ½C ice cold water
Combine dry ingredients, add shortening and then water (a little at a time, until you reach the right consistency).  Dough should roll into a ball easily, not sticking to your fingers.  This recipe will make 2 pies (4 portions of dough).

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. 

Mom's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie 
Method:Preheat oven to 450˚.  Divide dough into 4 equal portions.  Roll out 1 portion of dough on a lightly floured sheet of wax paper to desired size.  Lightly spray your pie plate with Pam.  Gently flip the pie plate so it is face down above the dough.  Carefully inch the sheet of wax paper with the dough off the counter enough to get your hand in the middle of the paper/dough and flip the pie plate and dough over so the pie plate is right-side up.  Position the dough/paper in the pie plate and then pat the dough onto the pie plate, leaving enough dough to cover the lip of the plate.  Using a fork, dock (pierce) the dough a few times along the bottom of the plate.  

Fill the pie with the drained compote mixture.  Repeat the process of rolling the dough onto a sheet of wax paper, then gently flip on top of the fruit filling.  Make sure to roll out the dough to a large enough circle to cover the edges of your pie plate.  Using a dull knife, cut away excess dough, then pinch the top and bottom edges together to form a seal.  Cut some air holes on the top of the pie in any design you prefer.  Bake at 450˚ for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350˚, and bake for an additional 35 to 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and flaky.  

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Advocate (like no-one is watching, and until someone does!)

Carol Joy in her 30s
This road is difficult for all of us...especially for Mom...

She cannot move or control her body.  Her means of communication has been reduced to smiles, mumbles, gasps and winces.  She is my mother, and now that Alzheimer's Disease has stolen her voice I feel a duty to make mine heard much louder and clearer than before.

Much as it pains me, I know it is important to share the sad moments with you too, to give those just embarking on this roller coaster ride an idea of what to expect.  I wish someone had prepared me for what was coming...I think it would have given me the unspoken permission I need to feel sad, relieved, frightened and angry...all the while knowing I am not alone.

Things continue to decline.   Mom cannot even squirm to adjust herself in her wheelchair.  She cannot tell us if she is in pain other than to gasp or cry out.

New problems have surfaced over the past couple of months, which are exacerbated by her diabetes and Paratonia...she has developed her first pressure ulcer (aka bedsore) and while it's not infected, it's also not healing.  She also has these inflammations on her middle and ring fingertips on one hand.  They look sore and she winces when they're touched - which is often because they need to keep her fingers limber by placing them in splints.

I keep asking for them to be looked at - sounding more and more like a broken record.  She's been on a couple of rounds of antibiotics with no success.  They tell me there is no infection.  While I am not a doctor, I know something is wrong and this is not normal.  Everyone tells me the fingers just look like that now, that this is a normal side effect of the progression of her disease, that it is "not their department" - you need to speak with "so and so" in "such and such" department.  So I have been asking....the Occupational Therapist, the Nurses, the ATC staff, the doctor, the PSW and the Paratonia Study Doctor.

I have worked together with Mom's caregivers: Mildred, and Cristy, who is covering Mildred's maternity leave.  They work tirelessly to keep her nails short and to soak her fingers in Epsom salts thrice daily. They keep her dry and clean and the bedsore covered.  Nothing is working.

A couple of weeks ago a new face (to me) appeared in Mom's room when Becca, Dad and I were visiting. She was bringing in new saline and gauze for use on Mom's bedsore.  I asked her about Mom's fingers.  She pleasantly told me that they are not infected, that this is a Paratonia issue, and I need to deal with that department.  I explained that each department tells me to speak with someone else, and appealed to her for help.  She told me to ask for a family meeting, that they cannot keep giving my mother antibiotics or she'll end up with C. difficile.  I said I don't want antibiotics, or to tell them how to treat this - but look at her hand - we need to do something!

Carol Joy in her late 30s/early 40s
Let me stress that I was polite and pleasant.  Becca is my harshest critic and tells me whenever I am snooty or clipped,  and she found no fault with my manner that day.   But somehow I made a bad first impression.  Now, when I walk into the unit, I get the know the one - where they look you up and down with just a hint of attitude, like in high school when you walked past the popular mean girls?  Oh well, it was juvenile then and it still is, and I couldn't care less...except that my mother needs help, and now that I am seen as a pain, I'm afraid she's going to get even less help...

But I am a tough broad - my mother taught me well.  The following morning I called for a family appointment and insisted that ALL departments be represented at the meeting so we can get to the bottom of this.  Then I bought Epsom salts for Cristy to soak Mom's fingers.  I also asked her to ask the nursing staff for polysporin for the fingers...this request was flatly refused, citing that my mother is not a burn patient and polysporin is for I bought our own tube of polysporin!

In the meantime, the ATC staff called me to find out why I called them into the meeting.  I explained the problem.  Bless her...she listened.  (Let's call her my ATC Angel).  She told me that bedsores are not normal, and arranged to see Mom before her next Botox appointment.  She said not to do anything before she looked at Mom's wheelchair, etc.  She arranged for the OT to be there.
Mom & Dad, newlyweds in the mid 1960s
Monday noon came and I closed the office (Dad was now really sick in bed with his "cold") and went off for the appointments.  Sara came with me.  We went to meet my ATC Angel.  She spent a lot of time with us, re-adjusting the wheelchair settings that should never be changed (ugghh!), teaching Cristy exactly how to tilt and support Mom in the chair, and then it happened.  She touched Mom's hand.  Her gasp stunned us all... ATC Angel looked at Mom's fingers and confirmed that it definitely was not normal!  And at the end of the appointment she looked up at me as she wrote her report and said I was right...that my concerns were valid and I need to trust my instincts.  I started to cry...they were tears of relief.  After 2 months of asking for help, and being told she was fine, I began thinking that I was the I had confirmation from someone in the know that it was not me being difficult.

On to the next appointment ...the Botox follow up...this was a crucial meeting, especially because everyone is telling me that Paratonia is the root cause of her fingers being inflamed, etc..  I learned a lot at this meeting... most of all that I need to be present a lot more.  They need to see my face, even if it annoys them.  I cannot rely on others to take the reigns and ensure that appointments are made and follow ups are done.

It turns out that a referral to Dermatology was made by the Botox Clinic following the May 27th visit, when the doctor determined my mother was suffering from Paronychia (ingrowing of the nail from the sides).  No visit ever happened.  I have yet to determine if an appointment was even made.  I was not at that Botox appointment.  It is hard for me to close up my office each time and run to routine appointments - our clients rely on me to be there during business hours.   But clearly, I need to be at the appointments to advocate.  Now I am worried and guilt-ridden.  The doctor came in and tried to look at Mom's hand.  Another gasp - these aren't dainty little gasps, but full-out cries of pain.  The doctor confirmed what I knew...there is something really wrong with her fingers.  They should not look that way.  They are inflamed and likely infected and need to be seen by a doctor who deals with wounds.  The problem is not Paratonia, although the "paralysis" of the fingers does not help it.

Our ATC Angel and Botox doctor both said that Mom needed to be seen by the wound clinic - I didn't even know there was such a clinic.

I got home and immediately called Mom's attending physician.  I no longer feel comfortable turning to the nurse for help - she obviously views me as a troublemaker.  He agreed that Mom has paronychia, but attributed it to the Paratonia.  I asked him to humour me and make a referral to the wound clinic.  To his credit, he agreed.

Life went on...Dad was still really sick and getting Sara and I dropped the polysporin to Cristy on Tuesday and then picked up Dad to take him to the doctor.  His breathing was shallow...something was not right.

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS...I need to remind myself of this...the doctor said it was likely pneumonia, and we needed to get a chest X-ray right away and get him on antibiotics.  We dropped Sara at home, headed to the lab, got his X-ray, grabbed a quick bite to eat a Centre Street Deli (where I had not been since I was last there years ago with both my parents) and then filled the prescription.  I got Dad settled at home, with home-made chicken soup with lokshen, jello, etc., and went home to fall into bed.

The next morning they confirmed it was pneumonia.  Oy and vey!  I had 2 sick parents, an office to keep running, and a brother out-of-town on business!  That's when I need to tell you that I am blessed.  I have a husband who steps in, no questions asked, and does what needs to be done so I can do the same. Carlo is my rock, my best friend and this week - my salvation.

So, between running to my Dad's to make sure he was OK, and keeping the office running, I was a little tuckered out.  And then on Thursday I got a text from Cristy.  It was 12:39.  Was I coming to the wound clinic appointment?  WHAT?!?!?  I had no idea there was an appointment.  No-one told me.  It was at 1:30.  I had a Bell repair technician in my office and a client coming to drop off important documentation.  So I said I would try to be there.

For those of you who are not GTA (Greater Toronto Area) residents, allow me to explain.  It is a 45 minute drive from my home to my parents' respective homes.  Depending on rush hour, it is the same drive to my office these days (thank you urban sprawl).  It is a 20 to 30 minute drive from my office to Mom or Dad's places.  And coming home from their places during rush hour is a 60 to 90 minute drive.

So...I MADE IT!  The Matriarchs must have been shining down on me, because I was in the examination room 5 minutes before the doctor came in.  I saw the bedsore.  My heart broke.  This is my mother.  The woman who gave me life, and sustained me through 9 + 1 operations (one I was in my 30s), through heartbreak and celebrations, who loved me with every fibre of her being.  And look at her now.  I pray she does not know what is happening to her...

The Wound Clinic doctor confirmed what I knew all along...she has an infection in her fingers, and a bedsore that won't heal but thankfully is not infected.   The doctor prescribed topical treatments for both, and a different antibiotic for her fingers - BECAUSE THEY ARE INFECTED.  The joke is that they looked ten times better at this appointment because of Cristy's relentless efforts to soak her fingers, dressing them with polysporin I brought in after my request for some was refused.

As we waited for the porter to help us back to Mom's room, I gently stroked her head, and kissed her forehead, all the while telling her that it was going to be OK now...we finally got help, and the hurting will stop.  I told her not to worry, that I was a tough broad, just like she taught me, and I will not let her be forgotten.  She looked up at me with clear eyes and smiled.  And as this moment unfolded, I remembered lying on a hospital bed, scared and hurting, with my mother (and father) stroking my head and telling me it would be OK, that they would make sure of it.

Mom and me...once upon a time, when she was my advocate

I put a call into Mom's unit clerk about this yesterday.  He assures me that this nurse is one of the best they have, with a heart of gold.

Maybe she is, maybe we got off on the wrong foot.  I don't want to go after anyone and have them punished. I don't need another best friend - I have enough, thanks.  I just want my mother to be cared for, and her suffering to be acknowledged, taken seriously and alleviated wherever possible.

So I am taking my concerns to the floor supervisor. While no-one needs to like me, they have a professional duty to ensure my mother is cared for.  They have a duty to take the time to listen to her family's concerns, to document them, and to seek appropriate care.  If they are not authorized to dole out medications or salves, they still need to note the request and bring it to the attention to someone who is authorized to do so.

And Dad...he is improving daily, thank G-d.  He is a tough cookie, and not much keeps him down.  But I am cooking for him, making sure that he has healthy, home-made meals to help him regain his strength and recover from the pneumonia.

What's the lesson I've learned from all this? ADVOCATE, and keep advocating...and trust your instincts...because eventually someone will hear you, and help.

Dessert Jello - Delicious!

The finished product - Dessert Jello

I love Jello.

It was one of the only hospital foods I liked during my many stays at Sick Children's hospital 40+ years ago.  I loved the orange, green, yellow and red squares that would arrive with my lunch and dinner every  day.  I marvelled at the way they held their shape and loved the way each square was topped with a dollop of whipped cream.  

Those were hard times for my parents, and for me.  I can remember a great deal from those early years...the overwhelming sense of panic when my parents had to leave me at the end of each day, and the sense of doom as the orderlies wheeled me into the operating room.  There were nurses standing all around me, and then the heavy, black plastic mask was placed over my face to  administer anaesthesia.  I remember waking up in post-op, surrounded by huge stuffed animals, and being stuck under an oxygen tent with my arm permanently suspended from an IV stand so the skin grafts could heal.  Mixed in with these memories are happy ones...feeling like I could burst with excitement and joy as my wonderful Daddy carried me through the hospital corridors, walls covered in Halloween Decorations.  I was in awe of him and how he managed to "spring me" for a night so I could go trick or treating.  And I remember the jello with whipped cream on top.  The amazing thing is that I was 4 years old when I had my last surgery, and some of these memories date back to when I was just 2.  

But back to jello.  For me it's always been a comfort food that heals and soothes.

When my cousin Connie recently mentioned that the jello mold Bubbie Lou used to make was one of her favourites, I was intrigued.  I don't remember it...but think I should.  I do have a very vague memory of a jello and whipped cream mold being served, and thinking it was yummy...and so I finally got around to making it, excited at the prospect of rediscovering another lost treasure from my youth.

Bubbie Lou's Original Recipe Card

I pulled the recipe and started to make jello.  It calls for 3 different jello flavours - each to be prepared and layered on top of the last, allowing sufficient time between layers for it to gel.  Given that I am always running about, this "hurry up and wait" stuff was rather annoying.  The first layer of lime jello took a couple of hours to set and simply looked like regular jello.  The second layer was a little more interesting - whipping cream, jello with marshmallows, whipped cream cheese and drained pineapple chunks...hmmm....I layered the second level of jello and then it was back to square one - waiting again!  Finally it set and then it was time for a clear layer of the third flavour.  I used watermelon instead of cherry (it was what I had on hand).  When it was all done, and set - some 6 hours after I started! - I showed the kids, who pointed out that it looked like an Italian flag (albeit the colours were in reverse).

I had been in a cooking/baking mood that day, and also made a pie, which I planned on taking to Mary and Tony's for a day of swimming (remember their wedding story?), when the kids suggested I bring the Dessert Jello too, after all, everyone there (except me they reminded) was Italian!  So I did.  We picked up Mama and Papa Bruni on the way and headed over.  It was a hot day and their pool was a mekheye (Yiddish word pronounced meh-chai-yuh, meaning an extreme pleasure/relief - out of this world wonderful!).  During our afternoon of frolicking in the pool I discovered that Tony loves jello too!

After the BBQ we all sat down for dessert....we brought out my Italian Dessert Jello and I scooped servings for everyone.  It was pretty good - maybe a little too much cream cheese for my liking (there was no measurement so I guessed and used a full 8 oz package), but otherwise it was yummy!

What was the best part for me?  That this timeless recipe lives on, and that some 50 - 60 years after my Bubbie Lou used to make this recipe and serve it to her family at gatherings, the tradition lives on, and her granddaughter is preparing and serving it to her family ©

From my family to yours, I hope you enjoy this Dessert Jello, a perfect treat to beat the heat!

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

Dessert Jello 


  • 1 - 3 oz pkg lime jello
  • 1 - 3 oz pkg lemon jello
  • 15 marshmallows
  • 1 small can crushed pineapple - drained
  • 1 small pkg cream cheese - whipped (I used 8 oz pkg, next time I would half that to 4 oz)
  • 1C whipping cream - whipped

In clear glass bowl (remember the bowl you prepare this in is the one you serve it in), prepare lime jello according to directions.  Allow to set until firm (approx 2 hours).  An hour after making lime jello prepare the lemon jello - only mixing with 1 cup of hot water.  Then add 15 marshmallows.  Allow marshmallows to melt and then cool mixture.  In separate bowl, mix whipped cream cheese and drained pineapple, then fold into whipped cream,  Add this mixture to the lemon jello and marshmallows and pour the whole thing over the lime jello that has been set.  Put into fridge and allow to set firmly (at least 2 more hours).  Prepare cherry jello, mix and allow to cool before pouring over the other 2 set jellos.  Allow to set in fridge for another 2 hours.  Then serve!

** Note: If you want to cut the dessert jello into squares then prepare it in a deep Pyrex dish (haven't tried this yet).  To serve, cut into squares and serve with  a dollop of whipped cream and topped with a cherry.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Chocolate K'mish (Komish) - It's all in the way the cookie crumbles

They say that some of the strongest memories and associations derive from food experiences and tastes... have you ever found that a certain smell or scent transported you back to an earlier time in your life? 

Passover eating restrictions begin around the noon hour on the first Seder.  Coincidentally, that's about the time that I would be overcome with a sudden, desperate hunger for sweets and treats.  Davie and I would devour the Manischewitz chocolate chip cookies and the Streits' chocolate nut cookies while Mom was busily preparing for the Seders.  They were so delicious, and just crumbled in our mouths.  The texture was so unique and light, that it was impossible to eat just one!  By the time Mom would discover us, the box would be empty.

Well, this is exactly what happened when I took my first bite of Bubbie Lou's Chocolate K'mish (aka Komish Broyt).  Join me, won't you, as we go back to the beginning...about 40 years ago.  

I'm sorry to say that I've never been fond of represents a week of dining purgatory for pasta, no bread, limited chips and cookies as Mom would ration them - Kosher for Passover ("KLP") goodies were (and still are) very expensive.  Mom would buy a limited number of bags of chips, and even fewer boxes of cookies. Toss in one bag of bazooka gum, a couple of bags of coconut-covered marshmallows and some fruit jellies (I cannot stand the sight of fruit jellies, let alone the taste!) and that was it for the week.

Fast forward to the present.  When I buy KLP treats I cringe at the prices of sweet treats...especially given the fact that I can make nosherai (nibbles) that are just as good for a fraction of the price.  But nothing I've made ever compared to the amazing crumbly chocolate chip cookies from my childhood. 

You may point out that it's July, and Passover has passed (excuse the pun).  Why, you wonder, am I going on and on about these cookies?  Funny you should ask...the other week I was itching to make a new sweet treat.  I perused Bubbie Lou and Mom's recipes and found one for Chocolate K'mish.  I was so excited ...Carlo loves anything chocolate, so these were sure to be a huge success.

I had to stock up on a couple of ingredients that weren't in my cantina - one being ground almonds.  I proceeded to make the K'mish recipe, and found that they were crumbling a little as I sliced the loaves into cookies.  I thought nothing of it, and returned the cookies (which are very similar to biscotti) to the oven to dry out.  When they were done, and cooled, I took a taste and lo and behold, all these memories came flooding back to me - the texture was just like that of the Passover chocolate chip cookies!  It must be the ground almonds (replacing half of the flour in a regular mandelbroty recipe) about coming full circle!

Bubbie Lou's Original Recipe Card
(with cooking stains to boot!)
I think I am the biggest fan of this new cookie, but Carlo likes them he says "he never met a cookie he didn't like". 

From my family to yours, I hope you enjoy these Chocolate K'mish as much as I do.

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

Bubbie Lou's Chocolate K'mish


  • 7 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1C sliced almonds (don't use whole almonds, because too difficult to slice loaves & cookies crumble)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1C white granulated sugar
  • 1C oil (I prefer canola)
  • 2C crushed/ground almonds
  • 2½C flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • cinnamon sugar (blended) to taste

Preheat oven to 350˚. Beat eggs, sugar and oil in mixer.  Combine dry ingredients separately and then add to mixture.  Blend in sliced almonds and chocolate chips.  Separate dough into 3 parts, and pat down into 3 greased (I spray with Pam) loaf pans.  Bake for ½ hour.  Remove loaves from oven and reduce oven temperature to 225˚.  Allow loaves to cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pans and slice while hot.  Place on lined cookie sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.  Return to 225˚ oven for 2 hours to dry out.  

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Happy 4th of July - Red, White and Blueberry Trifle

I  wanted to take a moment to wish all my friends, family and readers celebrating American Independence Day a very happy 4th of July!

If you're looking for the perfect light and refreshing dessert to compliment your 4th of July BBQ, why not try a red white and blueberry trifle?  Using a clear bowl (for full effect) simply alternate layers of white cake (cut into bite-size squares), whipped cream, sliced strawberries and blueberries, and toasted almond slices, finishing with your own pretty design on top.  Chill until you're ready to serve this delish dish!

From my family to yours, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito!

Naomi's Trifle


  • white cake, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 large tub of cool whip (or full serving size of home-made whipped cream, you can use non-dairy as well)
  • 1 lb.  package of blueberries, rinsed
  • 1 lb. package of strawberries, rinsed and quartered
  • 1 package of sliced almonds, toasted 

Bake your white cake, and allow to cool before cutting into bite-size pieces.  (I like to make cupcakes and then cut them into eighths - less crumbs).  Using a clear bowl, layer the ingredients, starting with some whip cream at the bottom, covered by fruit, nuts and then white cake.  Continue layering until you reach the top of the bowl, finishing off with a layer of whipped cream, your own design with the berries and sliced almonds!  Refrigerate until you are ready to serve.