Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Family Easter Traditions

Easter is a time for reflecting and remembering the
greatest sacrifice of all!

As a small child I remember my father calling us all
(8 children + my mom) into our living room.
There he read to us from the Bible, the Easter Story,
followed by having us all kneel as he said a very long prayer
(or at least it seemed very long to us at the time).

My parents would spend long hours at church where they
practiced confession, fasting, holy communion and prayer.
Us little ones usually stayed at home with one or two of our older siblings
during those services.
Even though I don't recall too much about those times I had a strong sense
that Easter was a sobering time as Christ's crucifixion and resurrection were
observed with much humility and honour.

Special food was prepared for Easter Sunday and the "Easter Bunny"
came to fill up our winter hats and toques with chocolate and small gifts.

Over the years we have made new traditions and added some new
foods to the Easter table.

Here are a few of my favourites:

Easter Dinner is usually a roasted "Bone In" ham with buttery scalloped potatoes, coleslaw, mixed vegetables, homemade mustard, fresh baked bread, and lots of desserts!

Onion skin dyed eggs were and still are a family tradition.

My mother's table usually included a red kidney bean salad with sliced hard boiled eggs on top. It was always served in a green glass bowl.

My Mom would often serve her freshly made donuts (fetkucha) that were served with the season's fresh maple syrup. Always a wonderful treat. Another favourite was Mom's yeast coffee cakes, sprinkled with cinnamon and coarse sugar. Several of my siblings still make these each year.

The last few years I have adopted a Russian Mennonite tradition of baking Paska Easter Bread. It is so delicious and has a very good chance of remaining our wee family's tradition for years to come, especially when we've added a Swiss Mennonite twist by dunking this delicious bread into maple syrup.

Another little tradition I've adopted is making a Polish Butter Lamb. My Mom ordered these from our neighbour for each of our wedding tables - a bygone Amish Mennonite tradition.

My sister and brother-in-law have hosted the Leis Family Easter dinner on Good Friday for many years. A delicious Easter Ham, bbq'd farmer's sausage, scalloped potatoes, pineapple rings, sweet corn, and a broccoli casserole is always served. The "pot-luck" salads and desserts are amazing and delicious.

Angela's adorable stuffed egg bunnies!

Our immediate family dinner was on Easter Sunday
and we had the joy of having them here for the very first Easter since 
they have moved back to Ontario!!
Daffodils were picked,
"eegs" were hunted and gleefully found - even during the meal blessing!
So much fun ....

Till next time ........ eating lots of left-overs and feeling blessed!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Whoopie Pies

Apparently Whoopie Pies are considered an Amish Mennonite dessert/cookie/cake
and recipes for them appear in many Mennonite cookbooks.
I don't recall my mom ever making these but they truly are delicious.

I was inspired to make some for our Easter gathering and for
an upcoming curling banquet - they sort of look like curling rocks, right?

Here is the recipe I used:
(It comes from the "Stack Your Dishes" recipe book published
by Conrad Grebel University College)

Whoopie Pies
Makes approx. 35 whoopie pies

1 Cup shortening
2 Cups sugar
2 eggs
1 Cup sour milk - I used Buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla
4 Cups All-purpose Flour
1 Cup Cocoa Powder
2 tsp. salt
1 Cup hot water mixed with 2 tsp. Baking Soda

Blend the shortening, sugar and eggs. Add the milk and vanilla. Mix together the flour, cocoa and salt and blend into the wet ingredients. Dissolve baking soda in the hot water and add to the creamed mixture - beating till smooth. Chill the batter for a few hours (I chilled mine for 1 hour). Drop by tablespoonful (or use a cookie dough scoop for consistent size) onto greased or parchment lined baking sheets. Bake at 400F for 8 to 10 minutes. They puff up nicely into soft muffin top shapes. Cool completely.

Traditional Filling:
1 1/2 Cups shortening
6 Cups icing sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
Milk to moisten

My Filling:
I couldn't bring myself to make a filling with that much shortening and icing sugar so I found this recipe that worked great and tastes wonderful:
2 egg whites (I used pasteurized liquid egg whites since raw egg whites are not recommended for small children)

I will be using this for my Paska Spread as well.

2 Tbsp. vanilla
4 Tbsp. All-purpose flour
4 Tbsp. milk (I used light coffee cream)
4 Cups icing sugar - divided
1 1/2 Cups butter - softened
Beat egg whites till stiff. Mix in the vanilla, flour, milk, and 2 Cups of the icing sugar. Cream for 2 minutes. Add the butter and remaining 2 Cups of icing sugar. Beat until fluffy. When cakes are completely cool, spoon or pipe filling onto half the cakes, cover with the remaining cakes to make a "sandwich". They freeze well.

Today I also buckled down and finally baked the Easter bread (Paska).
I think it's famous!!!

Post update - here are the finished "rocks" (I don't think anyone recognized
them as curling rocks - sigh...) I could use some decorating tips!

Till next time ........ preparing my heart for Easter.

Friday, April 7, 2017

April Winter

A sudden unwelcomed blast of Winter in April
has me thinking warm thoughts of just a few weeks ago in the sunny South!

The robins are confused and may even be thinking of heading back there?
I know those thoughts have crossed my mind ...

The bunnies are nibbling at the tulips, the frozen pine tree branches
are groaning in the never-ending wind, my tan is fading fast,
and the "outside" work is at a stand still.

Not these bunnies :)

Spring will come - right?

Never mind, this gives me a chance to catch up where I left off
at the beginning of March and get back at a project or two that puts me
in my happy place.

This quilt obsessed me in January and February
and once I finally
got up enough nerve to start it - it was time to head South.
I may get the piecing done yet this Spring
(it is Spring isn't it?)
however, the assembly and quilting will have to wait.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love trees.

The fabrics for this are absolutely
beautiful and I have the perfect place to
display it - one day ...

The best part about being home is this little person.
She's our love bug and sunshine and we missed her and her mommy and daddy
SO much!

We had some FaceTime with her while
we were in Florida and her daddy
sent us these pictures.

We just saw close-ups of her sweet smile
and teeth and sounds of M-Wah kisses.

This made my heart ache - what a little love.

Glory be - the sun is shining and the snow is melting on the South Side of the House.
It's all good.

Till next time ... I am so thankful for opportunities to travel, to love a grandchild, to spend time crafting, and a warm home to enjoy - never mind the weather.
Those images of Syrian children on the news these last few days has made me so sad. All I can do is pray that the horror will end!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Glamping Breaky II

We have been enjoying our vacation in Florida!
Another great breakfast is pancakes,
especially with some fresh maple syrup we brought from home.
These cakes are so fluffy and yummy.

My sister Evelyn gave this recipe to me some time ago
and it's our favourite.
She calls it their cottage pancake recipe.

I mixed the dry ingredients at home so that only the 
egg, oil and milk needs adding to prepare.

Pancakes at the Cook’s Cottage

1¼ Cup sour milk (if no sour milk, substitute by putting a cap of vinegar into measured milk and let stand for 5 minutes).
1 Egg
2 Tbsp. oil
In separate bowl:
1 Cup Flour
1 Tbsp. Sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
Mix well – add the sour milk and beat.  Let stand till thickened.
Pour onto well oiled hot pan or griddle.   This recipe makes approx. 7 pancakes.

Our little piece of heaven here at one 
of our favourite Florida State Parks.
Morning walks before breakfast couldn't be more pleasant!

Grayton Beach State Park

More about this to come ....

Till next time .... 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Favourite "Glamping" Breaky

Last Spring when we glamped our way westward,
stopping to visit some dear friends in Iowa,
they generously gifted us a huge bag of homemade granola for the road.
It must have been several batches.

Trese and Dale

This recipe has become a favourite and a must have when we 
go on the road with our little RV.

Trese’s Granola

4 cups old fashioned oatmeal
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup coconut
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla or almond extract, as desired
¾ cup raisins
¾ cup dried cranberries

Set the oven for 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 1 jellyroll pan, (with sides).  Mix the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. Whisk the corn syrup and vegetable oil and the vanilla or almond extract well. Add this to the oatmeal mixture and stir thoroughly with a large spoon.
Pour mixture onto greased jelly roll pan and even out the mixture on the pan.
Bake for 15 minutes for 4 cycles, stirring well between each 15 minute cycle. The granola is done when it has a medium brown color throughout. Place into a large bowl to cool. Stir in the raisins/cranberries and enjoy.
Trese says:
* I make 3 of these at a time, so I always have an extra gallon sized bag of granola to share with those I love.

So glad we received this love gift.
Strawberries are in season where we are right now and this,
with a dollop of delicious organic yogurt
is the perfect way to start every day ...

Till next time ..... hope strawberries will be in season soon where you are too!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Museum Quilts

A recent visit to the Edison and Ford Winter Estates
in Ft. Myers Florida
was a chance to look back into history
about the time that my mom and dad were born - 1916

These beautiful estates with wide porches and immaculate gardens
felt like an oasis from the busy city streets all around them.

We peeked into the windows and listened to the walking audio tutorial
as we wondered around the grounds and gardens.

That's us peeking into the Ford family's Dining Room! Cuppa tea anyone?
The farmer was intrigued by the brilliant inventions of these two men
and stopped to read all the information boards and watch the videos and studies.

I was more interested, it seemed, peeking into the bedrooms with the quilts and antique furnishings.

My favourite one, "Tree of Life"
So beautiful in the red and white fabrics!

Another favourite - Red and White Four Hearts Quilt!!!

It was such a lovely day to stroll through some amazing history.
So glad we went.

Me and Mina Miller Edison - she hailed from Akron, Ohio (Menno roots perhaps lol?)

If you ever get the chance, you should see this great museum.

Until next time ....... enjoying some sun and fun.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Rocks and Loaves

On the weekend our curling club held it's annual
Valentine Bonspiel.
The roads were horrid but that didn't stop us ...

It was a fun day and the food, as always, was delicious and
beautifully presented by some of the club member's spouses and families.

This is a day we all look forward to each winter.

Today the weather has turned to icy rain - ugh!

So what's a gal to do on a rainy, icy February day?
Perfect timing to bake some bread ... right!?

Two loaves of our forever favourite "Miriam Bread"
(I looked back in my blog recipes and couldn't believe
that I had never posted this delicious bread)

My cousin Miriam makes this bread recipe all the time
and generously shares it with our church family and friends
at potlucks, family reunions, and such.
She even bakes many, many loaves to distribute to her neighbours
and friends on Hallowe'en along with the children's treats!
Can I say, she is almost famous for this yummy bread.

And why not make a savoury kringle bread as well!
You will see a past post on this bread if you click the above link.

This time I changed up the filling a tad (since I didn't have any fresh herbs on hand to use this time).

2 Tbsp. Ground Flax Seed
1 Tbsp. Poppy Seeds
1 large garlic clove - minced
1 Tbsp. chopped sun dried tomatoes
1 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
Before baking I sprinkled the dough with some coarse salt and sesame seeds.

Some baking to warm the hearth and home.

Now I might bake a carrot cake - just because I've been craving it.

Till next time ... stay safe where you are - so many storms passing through these past few days!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Butter Tarts and Celebrations

In celebration of Canada's 150th Birthday Year,
I've been gathering up some of my "uniquely Canadian" recipes.

Butter Tarts are quintessentially Canadian - right? eh?
As much as they are also considered a Canadian Mennonite tradition.

This is my attempt at making some butter tarts.

I will also try to make my sister Evelyn's butter tart recipe next time,
which is quite different from this one.

One can never have too many butter tart recipes!

Aunt Sarah’s Butter Tarts

Aunt Sarah (Gerber) Leis – Dad’s youngest sister, who just passed away in June of 2016. These were my favourites and I remember having these at Aunt Sarah’s while hanging out there with my cousin Doreen. The pastry is unusual, rich and almost cookie like made with brown sugar. My Mom had this recipe written out on a scrap piece of paper as “Tarts from Sarah L”.

Cream together ¾ Cup Lard and ½ Cup Brown Sugar. 
Add 1 egg and ¼ Cup Sour Milk
Mix into 2 ½ Cups Flour, ½ tsp. baking soda, and ¼ tsp. salt
Roll out and line tart tins – approx. 2 doz.
½ Cup melted butter
½ Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cup corn syrup or maple syrup
2 eggs
Mix in order given. Fill tart shell and bake at 400F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F for another 15-20 minutes.
“She puts some raisins and pecans in each shell and then fills with filling”

Hint: I rolled the dough (which is quite hard to handle) into two logs and then refrigerated them for a good 1/2 hour. I was then able to cut each log into 12 equal parts/disks for easier rolling and handling. The shells were cut with a glass bowl which is 4 1/2 inches in diameter and it worked out well with less handling and waste.
The filling only filled 20 of the 24 shells? I have an idea that Aunt Sarah's tart tins were not quite as deep as mine.
I made them plain - without any raisins or nuts.

Another very Canadian celebration happened a few weeks ago.

Our friend Ali became a Canadian citizen!!
We felt so privileged to take part in this special ceremony and  it
made us so thankful to be a citizen of this fine country.
Ali was thrilled and had worked so hard to achieve this special reward!

This past weekend
a fancy customer appreciation dinner for the farmer's 
branch office was held at the beautiful
Langdon Hall in Cambridge - what a treat!
Well done Oak Tree Financial ...

Our menu included amazing beef tenderloin, trout, flavourful squash soup and the most interesting chocolate mousse dessert!
The appetizers were so pretty - dips for beet chips and veggies
and a cheese tray with piles of raw nuts and dried fruit - so delicious.
Canadian Cuisine at it's best!

I think there will be many more Canadian celebrations to come
during this special year 2017.

Happy Birthday Canada!

Till next time ...... do you have a favourite butter tart recipe?