Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Avo Ana's Carrot Cake {Updated!}

There are few desserts that are synonymous with my paternal grandmother, Avo Ana, and carrot cake is most definitely one. This past Friday marked 9 years since her passing. When choosing a dessert for Shabbos there was no question - her carrot cake. As I mentioned when I initially posted this recipe almost a year ago, she would always have it waiting on the kitchen table when I'd walk in for Sunday dinner. There were the typical roast, ribs and trimmings that everyone always made a dash for, but that carrot cake had my name on it.

The first time I made it was two years ago. It was a difficult time and I was desperate for any link back to those Sundays and that time. When I opened her recipe book and found this, I couldn't have been happier. I translated the recipe from Portuguese into English and set out making it. Luckily, it was inherently pareve and needed no work on my behalf, besides the translation and converting her measurements.

This cake is comfort, materialized. It's my cousins running around, my great aunt and uncle watching us lovingly. It's my grandfather at the head of the table observing us all while my grandmother steals the show with her stories, wit and charm. It's laughter, family and memories in every slice. I hope you enjoy revisiting this recipe - one of my absolute favorites. I updated the pictures and directions (after countless times making it now, I've picked up a few tricks!).


Avo Ana's Carrot Cake

Monday, January 28, 2013

One Year Later...

I started this blog a little over a year ago, when my grandmother fell ill. This Wednesday January 30th, will mark the one year anniversary of her passing. I still haven't come to terms with what's happened and it's easier for me to spend every day thinking that she's just at her house in Toronto while I'm in Montreal.

My grandmother was more than just my grandmother. She was a second Mom (I want to mention that I have an absolutely amazing Mom, who has not only made me who I am, but has given me the strength to make my own way, knowing she'll always be there cheering me on. Daddy you're pretty awesome too!). Every day after school I went directly to my grandmother's house. From JK  to grade 12. And when it came to University, I was there everyday too - but that's because I moved in. Yup, other kids moved into dorms and I moved into my Avo's house. She was always there. Always. With a cookie, a glass of milk, an ice cream, a hug. She was always there.

I still don't have the right words to put into context what she did for me and how she made me who I am today. I still don't have the right words to capture my grief. But over this past year I've realized that I do have a lot more than I ever realized I did.

I have incredible memories. Memories of merry go rounds at the cottage and trips to the park. Memories of sitting in her garage in 40 degree weather, playing "school" on a chalkboard she had found for me. Memories of her visiting my first apartment and crying when she saw that I had prominently displayed the picture of my grandfather in my room. Memories of her tasting my first challah and giving me the ultimate compliment, "it takes just like my massa!" Memories of her pride when she met M and her love and support when it felt like no one else had any to offer. I have the memories of sitting with her those last few months, listening to her stories about Portugal, her stories about her in-laws and all the struggles she faced. The jokes she would tell while trapped in that bed. How she would beam when talking about my niece, her only great grandchild (and what a great kid she is!). How towards the end sitting there on Sundays, she thought I was my Mom. How she'd thank me for holding her hand for a procedure when she held my hand throughout my life for everything. This incredible woman, in her darkest days showed me that everyone has strength beyond what they expect. She was the epitome of brave, and she gave me the strength I needed to make decisions I had put off. As awful as those last few months were, I am so grateful for the chance to talk to her, the chance to learn who she was and the chance to say I love you again and again while sitting there and before I left, every single time. I don't know how many other people get to have a grandmother who was a second Mom like I did, but I am so grateful for every moment I had.

When I started this blog, it was because all of her recipes and my paternal grandmother's recipes made me feel like I had a connection. I may have chosen a different lifestyle and a different path, but those recipes, having the scent of their house throughout my apartment, gave me the comfort I needed that they weren't far. Baking is so much more than throwing a bunch of ingredients into a bowl and a pan into the oven. It's about so much more than calories, guidelines and meat, dairy and pareve. Baking brings memories back to life. It makes my kitchen smell like my grandmother's and my apartment as warm as her home. It means that I can share with M food that I grew up on, that was made with such love that you could almost taste it. I don't think it's possible to make one of these recipes without feeling the love and excitement of sharing and recreating these amazing postcards of my childhood. Maybe one day I can make them without breaking into tears when the cake comes out of the oven and I just want to jump up and down that I did it! That I could bring this little piece of my grandmothers into my home.

I hope you'll come back and join me this week as I post an update (every day I'm getting closer to replicating these recipes even better!) to very special recipes. Recipes that have given me comfort this week especially and recipes that have given me a connection to family and memories.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Kosher Connection "Mini" Link Up!

These past few weeks, when it comes to cooking, the quicker, easier and smaller the better! This link up could not have come at a better time! I haven't been feeling my best lately and meals have turned into somewhat of a competition with myself. Who will give in first, me or the time it takes to prepare/ bake a dish? I can't complain though, M has been beyond incredible picking up (and rocking!) what I haven't been able to recently! But there's very little that can keep me out of the kitchen! The withdrawal from the mixer and new bread machine (more to come on that very soon!!) is just too much.
So back to this fantastic mini idea! Mini meals have been getting me through. The smaller and easier to eat the better. And given that my appetite has decided to make a comeback, I've been looking for smaller yet still substantial options. So what's the first thing I look to when I want something quick, easy and filling? My best friend, pastry dough.

I'm pretty sure pastry dough is magical. It takes all the work out of prep for you, makes food look presentable with minimal effort, is versatile enough that it can be used anywhere from breakfast to dessert to classic appetizers and opens the door to so many creative possibilities. I love it. My freezer ALWAYS has a sure supply ready to go.
And here's a fun fact about this itsy bitsy balebusta... I get all weird every time I pass pastry dough in the grocery store. I start to panic trying to remember how many packages I have at home... And before you know it I have 2 in the cart and I'm feeling better about life. Then I get home unload the groceries only to have to make room in my freezer for the pastry dough next to the 3 full packages sitting there from previous trips.  I used to do this with non-dairy whip topping as well until M put a stop to that (I almost needed a whole freezer for those little containers...). Moral of the story? Do inventory before heading to the grocery store... Or just avoid the frozen section altogether...

You're still here right? Beyond all this crazy is a really great recipe, I promise!
So, remember back a few months ago I experimented with mini pies (actually ohmygosh it's already been SEVEN months since summer?! Where is time goingggg?). Well I decided to use what I learned from that experience and apply it to these quiches. The muffin tray coupled with the pastry dough and the one bowl for prep, basically requires no effort on your part besides very minor clean up and being patient enough to wait to cool off, rather than eating them directly out of the oven!
These are quite substantial. The tuna provides a heavy filling and the subtle flavors of the hummus, garlic powder and paprika compliment it perfectly. The pareve cream additions, help to add a smooth consistency and bind it all together seamlessly. The pastry dough remains flakey and serves as the ideal bed for the mixture! These would be great served individually for the fish course on Shabbat or as appetizers before a get together (or if you're me, they're pretty fantastic at about 4pm on a Sunday when you're looking for something in the kitchen and can't make up your mind about what you want to eat...).

I hope you enjoy and come back soon for cookbook reviews, a new addition to the itsy bitsy balebusta kitchen (in the form of a bread machine!) and more! Be sure to check out the other mini recipes in this month's Kosher Connection link up. You can find the links below!


Mini Tuna Quiches
Yields 5-7 mini quiches

250 grams pastry dough* (about half a package)
1 can of tuna
2 tsp of mayonnaise
1 tsp pareve sour cream
1 tsp pareve cream cheese
1 tsp hummus
dash of garlic powder
dash of paprika
1 egg (beaten)
sesame seeds for garnish
sliced, pitted olives for garnish

Prepare the muffin tray (I used a vegetable oil spray and liberally sprayed each tin).
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F
Roll out the puff pastry dough to half an inch thick, and cut it into 5 - 7 squares (they don't need to be even or neat).
Press each square into a muffin tin.
Brush with egg.
In a medium sized bowl combine the tuna, mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese and hummus. Stir to combine.
Sprinkle the garlic powder and paprika overtop. Mix.
Scoop about 2 tablespoons of the mixture into each prepared puff pastry cup.
Brush the top of the mixture with beaten egg.
Sprinkle sesame seeds, overtop.
Add a few sliced olives to the center of each cup.
Bake at 350 F for 25-30 minutes.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from tin. If required use a dull knife to loosen the pastry dough so that it pops out (I was able to just pick each one out without any prep!).

*if you feel so inclined, Joy of Kosher has a fantastic puff pastry dough recipe that you can make from scratch! It can be found here: Joy of Kosher: Make Your Own Puff Pastry

Yeah That's Kosher Travel Recipe Roundup!

Head on over to Yeah That's Kosher! for a great roundup of recipes that travel well! You'll find Itsy Bitsy Balebusta's, Pizza Muffins included among the recipes gathered. It's a fantastic resource for recipes for your next road trip, flight or even handy snacks to have in the car for long, snow-delayed drives home! 

Yeah That's Kosher! is a great resource in and of itself for Kosher Travel information, tips and guides! Check it out!