Sara’s Muesli

photo-2Last week my mother-in-law Lillian Saiger passed away and the family sat Shiva in Toronto.  This time I was not the mourner, but the supporter, and watching from that perspective allowed me to see the beauty and choreography of Shiva.  As I sat with my husband, sisters-in-law, and Uncle Dave, I observed the sadness, loss, and the intensity of their mourning, but there were other aspects to this rich tradition.  Friends and family arrived to share stories of my mother-in-law, some even walked in carrying photos, others talked about her recipes.  People showed  their respect by coming by to wish their condolences, but their kindness was also demonstrated as they quietly dropped off a plate of their favorite dishes for the family to share, small gifts meant to console and sweeten the bitterness that the family was experiencing.   Plates of home-made poppy-seed cookies, a loaf of banana bread, a noodle-cheese kugel, Quiche, home-made cupcakes and red velvet cookies.  People provided meals, even from a distance, a salve to help heal the wounds.

I listened to stories of my mother-in-law from people who knew her from various stages of life, and learned all kinds of things that I didn’t know.   She wore bikinis, as a young woman she smoked, she invited my father-in-law on a date soon after they first met.  A South African friend shared that my mother-in-law was her mentor, and told me that when she first moved to Toronto, my mother-in-law took her under her wing and encouraged her to play bridge so that she would meet new people.  I met someone who told me that just after her husband passed away, Lil insisted that she join her for Shabbat dinner.  I watched my children, nieces and nephews come together as part of this choreography, with such grace and beauty, each one finding their unique way to help and support each other and their parents.

Were there any great surprises, not really.  I found out that there was an explanation for why my mother-in-law’s fricassee recipe looked darker and richer than my version. I was missing an ingredient.  During Shiva Lil’s niece Carol told me that when Lil gave her the recipe, she said to add a little grape jelly, grape juice, or even some Manishewitz.  I was so taken aback, how was it that I never knew this, but Carol reassured me that it wasn’t that Lil had intentionally left out an ingredient, but rather that the recipe changed over the years, a work in progress.

On the last morning the Cappe girls provided breakfast, the last meal before the mourners “got up” for the customary walk.  It was the final dance, and after the davening we sat down to a meal that Lil would have approved of, and enjoyed.

Sara’s Muesli

4 cups rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1 cup toasted almonds (chopped or I used almond slivers)
1 cup of seeds (I used sunflower or pumpkin)
1/4 cup chia seeds (optional)
1.5 cups dried fruit (I used raisins and craisins)
1 cup light coconut milk
3 cups milk (I used almond milk)
1 tsp vanilla
4 tbsp maple syrup
Cinnamon (to taste)
1 package frozen blueberries

Toast the oats and coconut on unlined baking sheets at 325 for 5-7 min (take out before the coconut burns)
Toast the almonds on the stove until browned.
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir. Leave overnight and it’s ready to eat the next morning. Serve with yogurt, berries, more nuts or dried fruits. Sometimes in the morning I add in a bit more milk if it’s mostly absorbed.  NOTE: Enough for a crowd and as is customary to say in Toronto, auf simchas.

Enjoy!

Irene

Cottage Cheese Chremslach (Passover)

IMG_0377We use to have really good home-cooked breakfasts when our children were little.  Norm would spend every Sunday morning in the kitchen, trying to please everyone by preparing pancakes, eggs, hash browns, and French Toast.  Despite the complaints, especially if the yolk of the fried egg broke, we knew how much the children enjoyed not only the variety, but the feeling of being in the kitchen, eating as much as they could possibly want, and not having to hurry off to school.

It’s not just the food that I miss, it’s the ritual of waking up in the morning to the smell of something cooking.  Breakfast foods have their own special smells, eggs frying in butter, potatoes and onions simmering in oil, bread that has been perfectly toasted, and of course,  freshly brewed coffee.  It all tastes better when the amount of time you can devote to enjoying the meal equals the amount of time spent on its preparation.  These days, even our Sunday mornings have become so busy, there no longer seems to be enough time to sit around and enjoy a leisurely breakfast.  But Pesach is different.

Since I only make certain dishes during Passover, and try to make those that have been passed down from family members, it seems that the recipes themselves have taken on a life of their own.  Each one is a little reminder of a story, a person, a time or a place.  What would breakfast during Passover be without making Matzoh Brie, a bubbelah, or the cottage cheese pancakes that my mother-in-law Lil used to make.  Whenever I make them, I think of Passover on Chiltern Hill Road in Toronto, and breakfast in Lil’s kitchen.  Norm said his Mom took pride in the fact that she made ” a sponge cake a day” something I have never been able to duplicate.  I don’t remember the sponge cakes, but I do remember the delicious cottage cheese pancakes.  Serve them with fresh berries or a little jam, some coffee, and a side order of time.

Cottage Cheese Chremslach

1 cup cottage cheese (try to get a brand that isn’t too runny)

3 eggs

1 Tb sugar

½ tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup matzoh meal

dash of salt

Butter/oil for frying

Mix all the ingredients and let stand for about 5 minutes.  Batter should hold together and depending on size of eggs, add a little more matzoh meal.  Then pour a couple of tablespoons of oil into a frying pan along with an equal amount of butter.   Using a large spoon, drop the batter into the pan to make small pancakes.  Fry till golden and then flip over.  Makes about 12.

Enjoy,

Irene

Rolled Biscuits

biscuit 2Having grown up in New York, I couldn’t imagine a childhood free of snow, so each year, around  Christmas time, we piled our kids into the car and drove them to the mountains surrounding Los Angeles.  There were day trips to Angeles Crest, the trunk of the Volvo Wagon holding plastic saucers and black garbage bags, perfect for sliding down the snow-covered hills.  Some winter vacations were spent visiting Bubbie and Zaidie in Toronto, there we would walk our children to Cedarvale Park so they could sled in the very same spot where Norm and his sisters had gone sledding as children.  There were occasional December trips to NYC, making sure that we took the time to show the kids the Christmas windows,  an annual ritual from my childhood, made all the better if the day involved gently falling snowflakes while strolling down 5th Avenue.

When they were slightly older, we discovered Mammoth, an easy five-hour drive from home.  We put pillows and blankets in the car and on the way we listened to Burl Ives,  and sang civil war songs from our collection of worn and tattered song books.  Arriving in the town of Bishop always meant a stop at Schat’s Bakkery to buy delicious Sheepherder’s bread for sandwiches, and cinnamon bread for breakfast toast.

There were ski lessons and snow boarding lessons.  While Norm and the kids were on the slopes, I spent the days seated by the large glass window in the ski lodge, with my magazines and books piled on my table, and a mug of cocoa as my only companion.  I passed the time quietly, my only other activity was my frequent  glances through the window, hoping that I would see them coming down the mountain,  still in one piece.  We would always have lunch together, and then they would head back out.  One year, my friend Fredda and I made Cholent for lunch, and actually transported it to the ski area, ladling out hot steaming portions to our grateful skiers, who may have been embarrassed by their mothers, but still ate with relish.

There were specific restaurants we went to each year.  One was Blondie’s Kitchen and Waffle Shop, a small breakfast place with checkered tablecloths, and a down home atmosphere, the kind of place I still love.  The breakfast was always good, and the portions generous.  Eggs came with a side of biscuits, my first introduction to what blossomed into my ongoing love affair with those small and simple quick breads.

We haven’t been to Mammoth in years.  One of my children still actively skis, and all the kids live on the East Coast where they have plenty of snow.  Norm and I are still  in warm and sunny Los Angeles, where today, I am remembering it all and making biscuits for breakfast.  Happy Holidays!!!

 

biscuit 1

Rolled Biscuits 

2 cups all-purpose flour 

1 tsp sugar

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

6 Tb cold butter, cut into pieces

3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Using a pastry knife or two forks, cut butter into mixture until it begins to look like cornmeal.  Make a well in flour mixture and  add milk.  Place mixture on lightly floured board and  knead  for a minute or two, just enough for dough to hold together.   Gently pat dough  down and out, using your finger tips, till you have a 1/2 ” thick rectangle.  Cut rounds out with a medium-sized glass by pressing down, not twisting.  Bake biscuits on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 10-12 minutes.   Makes about 10 biscuits.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

Cheesy Grits

I had forgotten how dark, how quiet, and how peaceful it is to be out in the woods.  The pleasure of being temporarily disconnected from things that beep, light up, or plug-in, is an added bonus.  For many years we took a yearly trip to the national parks with my parents and sister.  After  joining us on a trip to Sequoia, we quickly realized the benefits of having that kind of family time together, there were few distractions, lots of unstructured activity, and no fixed schedules.  My parents and sister were troopers and year after year they drove up treacherous mountain roads, participated in nature walks, attended the evening ranger talks, and stayed in places that were not particularly luxurious.  During those trips my parents often shared their own memories of going to the woods in Poland before the war.  My mother talked about the delicious mushrooms that she picked and dried, to be used in soups all year long.  My father spoke about the gypsies that came through each year, setting up camp in the woods, entertaining the locals with their small circus act.  Those trips were definitely planned by Norm, who always insisted that we start at the visitor center and who always left the parks with a patch that he planned to sew on a wool blanket one day.

This past weekend we went camping for the first time in many years.  I loved every minute of it and on Sunday morning when I knew that we would have to pack up and leave, I stayed in our small two-person tent as long as I could.  It had rained the night before and I was enjoying that cozy feeling of being warm and comfortable in a very small space.  Eventually I got up and walked out into the crisp morning air, and there stood Norm, still a Boy Scout at heart, slowly stirring a pot of grits, frying up eggs, making fresh coffee, and buttering up the toast.  When we came home, I was still thinking about all those past trips that we had taken with our children and parents and realized that something was missing.  This time Norm forgot to buy a patch.  I guess we’ll have to go back soon.

Cheesy Grits

1 cup Falls Mill White Corn Grits.

1 Tb sweet butter

dash of salt

8 oz. sharp grated sharp cheddar cheese

Place grits in bowl and cover with water, and stir so light bran will rise to the top.  Carefully pour off water and light bran. In the meantime bring 2 cups of water to a boil with 1 Tb butter and 1/2 tsp salt. Add grits and reduce heat to low, cover pot and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Grits should be thick and creamy.  Add cheese, ground pepper, and a little milk if needed.  Serves 4
Enjoy,

Irene