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

Almond Crisps

IMG_1008Our Mishloah Manot arrived on the East Coast today, and though it may be too late to share this recipe in time for  your mishloah manot, I promise that these cookies are worth making any time, even after Purim!

Preparations began last Sunday morning with a trip to Trader Joe’s to stock up on baking supplies, and as you might have seen on Facebook, some packages of quick cooking grains.  By 10:00 a.m. I was home, in the kitchen, and had my radio turned on to my favorite station (the one that plays lots of Pink and Adele).  I rolled up my sleeves, divided my counter space into three stations, and after several hours, had three varieties of cookies ready to freeze (so they would stay fresh before shipping), and one batch of spiced nuts cooling on the stove.

In the afternoon I went to Sawtelle Ave. with a friend, a street filled with Japanese markets and shops.  I love going there, the prepared foods smell great, the produce is beautiful, and even though it’s just a few miles from my house, it’s a whole different world.  We did some shopping for the Purim baskets, ate some sushi, and headed home.  On Thursday, the gift baskets were assembled, packed and shipped.
 
Now what? I sit back and wait for the reviews and the comments.  They will come, and I am ready for them, feeling a little bit nervous, and of course, curious as well.  In the meantime, I am enjoying a delicious glass of wine with an almond crisp.  Hope they’ll enjoy them too.  Chag Purim Sameach.
 
Almond Crisps   adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz

8 tablespoons butter, unsalted, cubed

1 1/3 cups Turbinado raw cane sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/3 cup  water

2 1/3 cups  flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat with the sugar, cinnamon, and water.  Stir until the butter melts but don’t allow to boil.  Don’t allow the sugar to completely dissolve.  Remove from heat and stir in the flour, baking soda, and almonds until well mixed.  Line a 9-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap and press the dough into the pan so the top is smooth.  Chill in the fridge until firm.        IMG_1004

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Remove dough from loaf pan and place on wooden board.  Using a very sharp knife, slice the dough as thin as possible, across the width.  Thin equals crisp!!   Place cookies on parchment paper covered baking sheets and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the undersides are golden brown.  Flip the cookies over and bake an additional 10-15 minutes, until the cookies are crisp and deep golden-brown on top. The baking times depend on how thin you cut the cookies.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

Almond Stacks

IMG_2361She would fold a towel and place it on the window sill, pull over a chair and then peer out the window. High above the Grand Concourse, she looked down and watched what was happening on the streets below. That was how my mother spent her afternoons once her chores were completed and before we sat down to dinner.  She looked peaceful and happy in that position and looking back, I now realize that it allowed her to be alone without feeling lonely.  After a while, she would end up in the kitchen, making dinner and baking cookies.

Our family is very good at enjoying periods of quiet and inactivity, although some of us prefer company even in our quiet moments.  This past Friday after attending an early morning Bris, followed by a day of work,  I came home to an afternoon where I was completely free to do as I please.  It was a beautiful day and in spite of a week where the news was filled with tragedies, nothing is more life affirming than being around a newborn.  With another Bris to look forward to, plus a graduation, two wedding showers, five weddings, and two Sheva Brachot, life is sweet.  So, after sitting in my yard and looking out at my garden, now in full bloom, I went into my kitchen and baked cookies.  Almond cookies, crunchy and sweet, my mother would have loved them.

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This recipe was given to me by a friend with very little instruction.  It took no time to make, nice when you are in rush and even nicer when you have the time to enjoy one freshly baked, in your yard with a cup of coffee.

Almond Stacks

3 cups sliced almonds

3 egg whites

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place parchment paper on two cookie sheets.  Mix ingredients well, it is a loose batter, and spoon onto the cookie sheet.  You need to keep mixing the mixture in between spooning.  Bake till golden brown, about thirty minutes.  Allow to cool completely.  Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Enjoy,

Irene

Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot and Almond Biscotti

Soft, chewy cookies or hard, crisp ones?  As with many foods, over time people develop preferences. I am a firmly entrenched fan of the hard, dry, crisp variety of cookies.  I like them to have enough substance to withstand being dunked in my coffee without melting or disintegrating. In addition to density, I like texture, so I prefer that the cookie includes nuts, chocolate chips, or both. Over the years I have tried various Mandelbrot and biscotti recipes and have found that these two recipes are among my favorites. The Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot recipe is actually a Passover recipe that was given to me by a friend of a friend.  We like it so much that I now bake it all year round. The Almond Biscotti recipe was adapted from one of Judy Zeidler’s cookbooks.  It has a more traditional flavor and is reminiscent of the Mandelbrot that I grew up with.

My mother would often visit family members and end up in their kitchen cooking.  I remember her making schav borscht in Micheline’s kitchen and chopped liver in Tante Marisha’s kitchen.  She enjoyed pitching in and being helpful, and it created a feeling of togetherness.  Although I have cooked in my daughter Shira’s and my cousin Micheline’s kitchens, I sometimes end up transporting challot or cookies from my kitchen in Los Angeles.  It is an expression of my affection, a way to let someone know that I was thinking of them even before I arrived at my destination. This morning I baked both Almond Biscotti and Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot (with Norm’s help) to take to Houston, Texas, where I will be attending my future daughter-in-law’s bridal shower.  As Marcella Hazan the famous cookbook author once said, “After all, what experience of food can compare with eating something good made by someone you can hug?”  Cookies and hugs, perfect.

Almond Biscotti

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp each of baking powder and baking soda

1/4 tsp kosher salt

3/4 ground almonds

1/2 toasted silvered almonds

2 eggs

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

1 egg white

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place dry ingredients in a shallow bowl and mix. Create a well in the center and add eggs, vanilla and sugar and quickly incorporate flour.  Divide dough into two equal portions. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper and, using oiled hands, form dough into two logs.  Brush with beaten egg white. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden. Move logs to a board and carefully slice on a diagonal. Return to cookie sheet, cut side up, and bake for an additional 10 minutes on each side.

 

Loretta’s Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot

3 sticks margarine

2 cups sugar plus an extra 4 Tbs for sprinkling

6 eggs

2 3/4 cups cake meal

3/4 potato starch

1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp cinnamon

2 – 12 oz. bags of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Reserve 4 Tbs sugar and mix with 2 Tsp cinnamon and set aside. Cream sugar and margarine. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg.  Add dry ingredients.  Divide dough into 4 equal portions and with oiled hands, form 4 loaves, divided between 2 greased cookie sheets.  Sprinkle each loaf with an equal amount of the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Bake for about 45 minutes. Slice loaves and place Mandelbrot cut side up, sprinkling with more cinnamon sugar.  Return to oven and bake another 10-15 minutes per side or till crispy.

 


Enjoy,

Irene