Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pasta with Sausage, Spinach and Mushrooms

I made this about a week after the funeral and it was probably the first food, we enjoyed.

This is the kind of meal, hubby likes, when he arrives home from work.  It has a little bit of everything and is warm and filling.  I got to use up leftover cold cuts, leftover spinach, a can of artichokes which was hanging around too long and a bottle of sundried tomatoes which also was taking up space.

Pasta with Sausage, Spinach, and Artichokes (adapted from Taste of Home )


12 ounces pasta
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/3 pound cold cuts (I used turkey pastrami), chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 cup canned artichokes, chopped
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon parsley
3/4 t. black pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup fresh spinach

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1/3 cup of pasta water. Keep pasta warm.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add meat to pan and cook to just heat.
Add the onions, artichokes, tomatoes, garlic, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper to the skillet. Mix well to combine and cook for 5 minutes. 
Add in the white wine and cook for 2 minutes. Toss in the spinach and cook for another two minutes.
Add the pasta to the pan with the vegetables, along with the reserved pasta water, and toss to combine.

Eat and enjoy.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Butter and Parmesan Linguine - Donna Hay

Am I ever glad, the recipe for WWDH is an easy one, this week because this is my time to jump back in, not to regular posting but to just a little bit, tiny little footsteps.  We do eat and I do cook although, I don't have that adventurous feeling.  My daughter, who was the greatest cook and baker would surely be upset with me.  Her passion for cooking outdid mine by miles.  She would get up, in the middle of the night, and start baking.  Sometimes, when she awoke, the next morning, the food would be gone, eaten by loving family members.

When I started blogging, she sent me a bunch of platters and serving dishes for photographs.  She read the blog and commented on recipes and made constructive suggestions.  I guess one way to keep her memory present here is to continue this blog but it still has to be in my time.

This week, we are making an easy linguine, one I have made variations on, for many years and I love this.  Pasta with a little butter and cheese is always delicious.  A small amount of pepper completes it and makes it perfect for my taste,

Margaret chose this recipe from Modern Classics 1, page 148.  Check out her blog and our other members,  Gaye and Sarah's to see what they have done this week.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Baking is Therapy

I decided to bake the Milk-Chocolate Walnut Coffee Cake  selected by Eileen of One Hundred Eighty Degrees and organized by Joyce of  Kitchen Flavours.  You will find the other bakes at THB.

Since hubby does not like chocolate, I used raisins and walnuts and I think, it turned out well.  I forgot to put the filling in the middle so it is somewhere on the bottom.

I thought, I would add a little about mourning in Judaism.  There are stages of morning,  Right now, for us, this is called the Shloshim which ends 30 days after the burial.  We do not listen to music, cut our hair or go to parties.  The children of the deceased mourn even further, lasting the entire 12 months.  Celebrations are avoided at this time.  The other relatives are over the official mourning period,  Certainly, it is a time to remember the loved one.  Someone has suggested that since my daughter was such a fantastic cook and baker, we make a cookbook with her recipes and hopefully, we will get this done.  We also plan to open a private blog to share our pictures and memories.

It it important, to me, to stay connected in a concrete way as well as a spiritual one.

*I wrote a very abbreviated description of Jewish mourning.  I don't want you to walk away thinking that is comprehensive.  If you are interested in knowing more about the topic, let me know and I will give you the names of some reliable sites that explain this.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Love, Loss and Life and Ina Fridays

I have been doing a lot of thinking of late and much of it brings peace and acceptance.  I have discovered that these three words, love, loss and life are intertwined and the lines can be blurred.  The sadness of the loss is powerful, the memories of my daughter's life are momentous, and the love we had and have is awe inspiring.

She was my first daughter and was always filled with life.  As a child, her spunkiness got her into big trouble. Despite this, how could one be angry when she was always fighting for a cause.  So what , if she told a bully off in no uncertain terms.  So what, if she argued with a teacher who was acting like he was ten years old.  Once again, she was in the right.  This led her to become an adult who fought for the rights of others, fought for the lives of others, fought for her beliefs.

In her years of pain and sickness, she counseled others with her illness, she spoke in public to inform, she quietly listened to others weeping.  Her home was open to everyone and they brought with them both joy and sadness.  She listened and helped when possible.  She happily shared in their successes and pride.

After her death, we found out many accomplishments of hers, including stopping someone from taking her life.  She never said a word.  She just did and continued to do.  That is true life.  Many strangers came to the Shiva. They had never met her, just knew her through email but wanted to share their memories and their loss.

Love.  Just ask her husband.   Just ask her children.  Just ask her parents.  Just ask her friends.  I think, I can safely add, just ask her acquaintances.  She loved freely and with an open heart.  As her Mommy, I felt special and cherished.  She was so wise, I would go to her for advice.  I often wondered, where she came from with her special traits.

Loss.  I keep thinking of what I want to tell her and I have learned to talk to her, in my  head, and hope she can hear me.  Her presence feels real and whether it is or not, it comforts.  I miss my little girl and grown-up lady and I have been blessed to have her, in my life and now in my loss.

My prayer for all of you is to be blessed with children like this, children who fill your lives with warmth and smiles, hugs and kisses, stories and mementos.  We get more from our children than we can possible give to them.  I am so thankful for this.

I found this old post with a main dish from Ina and I am putting here to keep myself current without effort.

Baked Potatoes Stuffed with BBQ Chicken   adapted 
1/2 cup(s) shredded cooked chicken
1/4 cup(s) shredded carrots
2 tablespoon(s) barbecue sauce   (Recipe Below)
2 teaspoon(s) light ranch dressing  (Bottled)
Bake 3 large potatoes at 400 degrees for 1 hour.  Remove from oven and slice through the middle so that you have two separate halves.
Combine chicken, carrots and barbecue sauce in a bowl.Spread ranch dressing on the baked mashed potato. Top with the chicken mixture which is pushed down, pulling up some potato to mix gently.
Return to oven to heat for no more than five minutes.
Barbecue Sauce   -  Ina Garten    (I made approximately a third of this recipe.)
Makes 6 cups
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (1 large onion)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup tomato paste (10 ounces)
1 cup cider vinegar (I ran out of cider vinegar so I subbed in red wine vinegar)
1 cup honey
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
leftover fried mushrooms and red peppers (1/2 cup)
In a large saucepan on low heat, saute the onions and garlic with the vegetable oil for 10 to 15 minutes, until the onions are translucent but not browned. Add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer uncovered on low heat for 30 minutes. Use immediately or store in the fridge.  The photo is missing the barbecue sauce.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Random Thoughts

Although I am not up to blogging normally, I do realize, this is a good time to share random thoughts and perhaps to even share a little about the Jewish customs, at the time of mourning.  Right now, nothing seems real in my world.  I am functioning and doing what must be done but there is still a fuzziness surrounding me.

To ground myself, let me start with "shiva", the week after the funeral, when we sit with other mourners.

"......... once shiva begins, the focus shifts to the mourners. The mourners experience a week of intense grief, and the community is there to love and comfort and provide for their needs. This is a critical point, for if one must feel the heart-wrenching pain of grief and loss, it should be done at a time when all those around are there to help and comfort.

The laws of mourning have the purpose of focusing a person on their own spirituality. We experience an overall feeling of physical discomfort as we totally focus on the soul of the one who has departed. We de-emphasize our own physicality by not pampering our bodies, so we remember that what we are missing at this time is not the physical person who is gone, but the essence of who that person was, which of course is their soul."

The first few days, we sat with my grandchildren, my daughter's husband and my children. These were the days we shared among ourselves and those who came to visit, memories and feelings. There was a lot of raw emotion and I found the tears of my grandchildren (grown or almost grown) overpowered my own feelings.

Each family member was attempting to take care of another. We had 13 mourners sitting shiva. That means 13 directly connected relatives (immediate family).

Relatives, friends and community members come to visit and we learned much about our daughter that we did not know, none of us......... She did much good in her life, including talking someone out of committing suicide (a complete stranger). People who never met her traveled from other states to comfort us. They shared their relationships with our daughter, mother and sister and each tale was one of goodness and comfort. She never shared all the mitzvahs (badly translated - good deeds).

The grandchildren have not fallen far from the tree. They are following both their parent's paths and are continuing to reach out to others. We were totally impressed with how they shared and how they mourned. The love in the room was overpowering and helped tremendously. The loss is ours. She is in a better place and she used her life wisely. We have marvelous memories to help with the intense loss we felt.

Seeing total unity in three generations of our family made me think, we must have done something right. We had to play a small part in their development. If you are a parent, you probably know, how at times, we question our decisions with our children. I am sure, we make lots of mistakes but I think, leaving a family with love, respect for each other and unity must say something.

Enough for now. We do have to eat although I have had little desire to cook and certainly not to experiment. I did make a mac and cheese, last night, that turned out a bit different. the sauce was mainly goat cheese, mustard, lemon juice, Romano and Parmesan with some spices made into a creamy sauce. I hope, I can recreate this in the future. It was a nice change and easy to make.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wedding and Funeral

My grandson got married one day and on the next, his mother, my daughter died.  At this point, I don't know when I will return but not as quickly, as I thought.

I do want to continue and I do want to share and as soon as I am stronger, I plan to be back and I am hoping, with some good thoughts and great recipes.

I thank you for your kind thoughts and condolences.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Maple Noodle Kugel - Blog Direction

Quick, Easy, DeliciousI would like to continue my train of thought from the last post about changes to this blog.  Besides adding a new dimension of life in school, I want to focus on my cooking and baking.  I asked myself  questions and the answers made my think, quite clear.

To work in my schedule, I want to make quick and easy and delicious recipes.  That was the initial intent of this blog but at that time, I was labeling these recipes, as special.  They are not special.  They are what makes me a cook.

I learned a long time ago that the difficulty of a recipe does not make its merit.  There are times two or three ingredients, mixed together, make magic.  Usually, they are not as beautiful or intricate as those that we put hours into.  I don't have those hours, not if I want to keep my life to open to family,  job and other interests.

Life throws us curves and we can only go with them and make the best of them.  At this point in my life, we have two biggies going on and the need for that QED cooking is even more than it used to be.  This is what I plan to share with you.

Recipes that come together with less effort and don't take an inordinate amount of time to cook are what is on my menu.  I will still find these in cookbooks, magazines and online.  I will rely on cooks like Donna Hay who pull this off with ease.  Donna who is the basis for two groups, I participate in, has ingredients that are usually in my pantry and her recipes surprise me, week after week, with the ease they are made.

If you take a good look, I think you will find that some of our "famous" chefs, Ina, Paula, Mark Bittman, Nigella, Giada, Tyler Florence, Rachel and all of our first name friends have recipes that are easy to make and yet seem to come together with deliciousness.   The mark of a good cook is not how long s/he spends in the kitchen.

Let me add, I certainly appreciate the masterpieces made many of you bloggers.  I would love to have a few bites of these beauties.  I just don't want to make them.  So look for some recipes that you will be able to make with a minimum of fuss but that should be a pleasure to eat.

We will start with this Maple Noodle Kugel by Estee Kafra who is the focus of my cooking, these days.

Maple Noodle Kugel


1 package fine noodles (I used a thin gluten-free spaghetti since I have not come across fine noodles that are GF).
4 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup crumbs (I used cornflake crumbs that are gluten-free - you can use bread crumbs)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon white pepper (I used black.)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook noodles according to package directions for al dente.  Drain.

Place all of the remaining ingredients into a bowl and mix well.

Add noodles to this mixture.  Mix them in.

Place noodle mixture into a nine inch round pan (square is fine also).  Sprinkle top lightly with additional cinnamon.  (I am sorry I did that.)

Bake in 350 degree 0ven for 50 minutes.

Estee recommends brushing top with maple syrup  after it is done and is still hot.  It seeps through the entire kugel and you  have more of a maple taste.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Pecan Crunch Cake ---- Still Having Blogging Difficulties

Hi Everyone,

I am still can't access my blog normally.  I call my route in, the back door, and I am hoping someone relates to the problem and can help me.  Google has stopped responding so I am sitting out here on a cloud, in the sky, just floating around, not being able to ground myself and walk into my blog through the front door.

This feeling of floating is not a bad one and I have enjoyed a full week off.  I had hoped, there would be a solution and since there is not, I plan to hobble along.  I do miss my blog.

I have had a lot of thinking time and in that span, idea after idea popped up and then of course, disappeared. I must carry a small notebook with me to jot down these thoughts.

I was giving consideration to what changes, I would like to make.  I know, my dream has always been to mix my new passions, teaching and cooking.  I have never found a way to mix the two.  I could use some thoughts from you.

I came to writing something about my teaching day and then talk less about the food and share a recipe.  I don't want a traditional teaching blog with methodology and teaching ideas.  I want the flesh and blood of a classroom.  What are children like today?  What challenges do they face in and out of class.  Since, I teach boys in a Jewish school, there are some differences from this and the public school but school is school and children are children.

I will say the the "difficult" children are more interesting.  Those kids who do well easily, behave beautifully, care about others and just shine are not as exciting.  They are loving and wonderful boys and they are as complex as their classmates but from the point of view of a teacher, they are a true blessing and less challenging, although there is  huge challenge in finding work that will keep them occupied in a positive way..

Yes, part of the allure of teaching is the challenge.  If I can reach the heart of one child, the frustration found on the path getting there is worth it.  I do  believe, we are in this world, to make a difference and this, for me, is the place, I choose to make it.

I have been doing a lot of cooking and have tons of recipes that have not been blogged.  When I made this Pecan Crunch Cake, Hubby was one happy camper.  It had all those special elements, he loves, crunchiness in the right place, a soft cake, and lots of  flavor.  This is another recipe from Estee Kafra's Cooking Inspired.  I adapted this slightly.

Pecan Crunch Cake

Cake Ingredients: 

3 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups gluten-free flour mixture
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon rum extract

Crunch Ingredients:

1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons gluten-free flour (brown rice)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground  ginger
4 tablespoons oil
1/3 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup shredded coconut (If your are not a fan of coconut, I am sure, it would work without it.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a bundt pan (I used a 10 inch) with baking spray.

Crunch - Mix all ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Cake - In the bowl of an electric mixer, place all ingredients, in the order, listed.

Mix with the paddle attachment in electric mixer.  Mix until combined.

Pour one third of the batter into bundt pan.  Cover with half of the crunch.  Repeat layers once, ending with the batter.

Bake  for 55 minutes or until thin knife comes out clean.  Cool for five minutes.

Remove cake.  Remove pan .  Cool completely.  Eat and enjoy.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Spinach, Mandarin and Almond Salad

I have not gotten access to my blogs but I have found a back door, so to speak, which does get me here.  Of course, each time, I can't find it and search for a while before I have arrived here.

The blog is like a little house with a front door and a back door.  Right now, the front door is locked and I at first, felt helpless as to what to do.  Actually, I still  feel pretty helpless.  I have written to Blogger and they are attempting to help me.  Hopefully, I will be able to come in through the front door again, soon.

I am happy, we built this Blogger cottage with a back door though.  Can you imagine having no way in to your home or blog.  I could write a great story about the family who could not get into their home.

I had been, in the middle of sharing some of Estee Kafra's recipes with you and then I ran into blog trouble and some complications in life in general.  Hoping to get back to myself and to changing this blog a bit.

I have not used mandarin oranges in a salad in a while.  There was a time, this was the big thing, and I threw them into dishes often.  Then there were less recipes with the canned oranges and I was just as happy.  When I first saw this recipe, I was going to sub in some fresh fruit, but now mandarin oranges are unique.  The salad was great and the mandarin  oranges were just right.  I would make this with sliced pears in the future.

Spinach, Mandarin and Almond Salad - Estee Kafra


1 lb fresh baby spinach leaves, washed and well dried 
½ cup red onion, thinly sliced 
1/4 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced  (Looks like it got hidden in there.)
½ cup carrots, grated 
½ cup dried cranberries 
¾-1 cup canned mandarin oranges, drained and patted dry 
black pepper to taste
¾ cup toasted slivered almonds 

Honey-Mustard Dressing

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup honey
¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Freshly ground pepper


Wash spinach and dry thoroughly. Combine spinach with onion, bell pepper, carrots and cranberries in a large bowl.

Combine all of the dressing ingredients and place everything in a mini food processor and blend until smooth. Chill before serving.

At serving time, combine spinach mixture with salad dressing, mandarin oranges, salt and pepper; toss gently to combine. Transfer to a large platter or serving bowl and sprinkle with almonds or pine nuts. Serve immediately.

Eat and enjoy.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Blueberry Yogurt Cake - Donna Hay and My Blog Problem

In case, I disappear, I want you to know that I can't access my blog.  There is no login on top and although you can see the blog, I don't know how to get to the dashboard.

So what am I doing here?  Accidentally, through some backdoor, I arrived but I am not sure, I can do this again.  I have no idea what I did.  Since, I am here, I want to share this delicious cake with you.  It is my pick for WWDH, Wednesdays with Donna Hay.  I selected it because I know that hubby always wants a new cake, a rather plain one with nothing but nuts or fruit inside.  This fills the bill.  

I used frozen blueberries since it is off season.  The recipe was an easy one but I say that every week.  Donna is a realistic chef and makes cooking and baking easy.  Rarely does one of her recipes take more than 30 minutes.  Her recipes are also usually delicious.  We have liked almost everything I have made.

******Please check out our other members and see what they have made this week. Gaye, Margaret, Sarah and Kayte.*********

I am also using this for IHCC who this week is celebrating time for tea.  I think this pairs beautifully with a cup of tea although my preference would be coffee.  I have not cultivated a taste for tea.

Go on over to I Heart Cooking Clubs by clicking below and see what other members have made for their tea parties.

IHCC Donna Hay Badge resized