Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Happy New Year!

New Years Eve often seems to be a low key event for us. We sat around and watched a variety of CBC television shows. We have a bunch of good snack foods and treats for the evening. This year we have had a lower calorie dip that was really good.

Chip and Veggie Dip

1 can Veggie Chili
1 tub fat free cream cheese (softened)
1 c fat free sour cream
1 oz Shredded Cheese

Combine and heat in the microwave. Be creative and try adding different spices. One half cup is worth 3 weight watchers points.

Serve with tortillas chips, vegetables, taco chips.

Tortillas Chips

Cut Tortillas into small wedges and toast in the oven to get them crisp. watch closely so that it doesn't burn.

You can use this dip as one of the layers in a layered dip if you layer with lettuce, tomato, cheese, avocado and more sour cream.

When Bob Got a Stocking

Bob was only 3 months old for his first Christmas in 1955. It was on Christmas Eve that it occurred to his Grandma, Myrtle Marion Cooper, that Bob's parent's may have been so busy with their young family and new baby and the business that they didn't have time to get him a Christmas stocking. She went through her scraps of fabric and found some red fabric to make a stocking and some fur to be it's trim and she had some glitter to write his name and she made him a stocking decorated with a little snowman. Then, so she wouldn't inconvenience Bob's parents, she called a cab. She came over by taxi to bring baby Bobby a stocking. It turns out this wasn't necessary because sister Joyce had already gotten Bobby a stocking with his name embroidered on it. Both stockings are well loved treasures we use as decorations.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Little Toy Trains

When our kids were younger we gave Grandpa Al several little metal toy trains and trucks that we could open and fill with candy. The kids loved playing with the toys when they visited Grandpa. Grandpa's toys have been packed up for many years now and looking at them brings me a sense of loss but this year it needed to be different. We are the ones who are grandparents now and there is a new little train lover in the family. I bought a new train this year with a little lime green roof and put it with the others in easy reach for a 2 year old. A new little one will now have memories of playing with little toy trains at Grandpa's and soon one more little one will manage to grab a train too.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Favorite Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage Rolls are a Christmas essential with our family. We make up a full head of cabbage at a time and hope for leftovers but it usually gets eaten pretty quickly. When served on Christmas eve it is traditional for the cabbage rolls to be meatless. If you do choose to go that route you should increase the amount of onion a bit. Another option wold include some of the very tasty vegetarian meat substitutes that are in your supermarket.

Cabbage Rolls

2 cups rice cooked with 4 cups of water
1 onion coarsely chopped
1 package of bacon chopped fine.
season with salt and pepper to taste.

1 large head of cabbage
1 large can of tomato juice

First cook the rice. You can do this ahead of time and leave in the fridge for a day or two. Fry the onion until golden brown and then remove to a separate dish. Next fry up the pieces of bacon. Because they are cut into smaller pieces they cook quickly and you can do the whole package at once stirring frequently until it is browned and getting crisper. Drain all the fat possible. Add your onion and bacon and seasoning to the cooled rice and mix well. This filling can be made the day before also.

Cut the stem end of the cabbage down down into the head a little bit. I like to then place the head stem down into a glass mixing bowl, add about a cup of water and cover with plastic wrap. I then keep cooking it in the microwave until the leaves are softened and can be removed from the head easily. For larger cabbage leaves cut in half along the vein and try to remove the thicker vein areas of the leaves so that they can roll easier. There are several ways of folding the cabbage around the rice filling. It tends to reflect regional preferences for many Eastern European countries. Our preference winds up with a little triangular packet.

Use a deeper casserole or dutch oven. A quick touch of cooking spray now will help with clean up later. Pour a thin layer of tomato juice on the bottom followed by a layer of few leaves of cabbage on the bottom. Next we need to assemble our rolls and arrange them snugly against each other in layers in the casserole. Top the dish off with a bit more of the left over cabbage leaves and then add canned tomato juice to close to the top.

Cook in the oven at 375 degrees for about an hour and a half. You might want to have a cookie sheet under the casserole in case there are any spills. Discard the top protective layer of cabbage which will probably be a bit browned and dry and you will have a casserole ready to serve at the table of traditional and delicious cabbage rolls.

Scouting Christmas Trees

We were involved with Scouts Canada for a long time and our group had a major fundraiser of running a Christmas tree lot at the local community center. The tennis courts are transformed when a little trailer is hauled onto the lot followed by a big truck filled with trees that the Scouts and their families unload into their "holiday location". It is a pleasant way to raise money. The customers are happy getting their trees and are glad to support Scouting. The kids get a real sense of accomplishment while working for their goals. They learning about trees, sales, making change and they enjoy drinking a lot of Hot Chocolate. We still get a fresh tree from there each year. Here is a picture from our Christmas Village scene where we have own little miniature tree lot.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Christmas Grains

With the hopes of a fruitful year to come grains become an important part of the Christmas traditions of farming communities. Both Swedish and Polish culture involved wheat and straw woven decorations for the home and Christmas Tree. Polish Christmas traditions include having some straw or wheat placed under the table cloth. The story is that it represents the straw in the manger that warmed the Christ Child. Another feature of the holiday is a dish called Kutia. It has grain to represent fertility and the future, it has poppy seed to tell us life needs some spice, and honey to wish sweetness and joy in the coming year.


1 cup cracked or pearlized wheat
2 cups hot water
1/2 cup poppy seed
1/2 cup honey
2 cups water

Soak the wheat for a couple of hours in a pot, then bring the wheat to a boil. Mix in the poppy seed. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes to an hour. In the mean time add the honey to the water and bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. Add the honey mixture to the cooked wheat and poppyseed. I found I needed to boil this mixture for a few minutes this year to combine it better and reduce the liquid. It will thicken as it cools and a little more of the liquid is absorbed with standing.

Serve cold as one of the individual dishes of the 12 course Christmas Eve Dinner, Wigilijna.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Is it a Soup or a Sauce?

Bob had an older Ukrainian co-worker years ago that made a sauce that Bob loved. We have always called it "Mike's Perogy Sauce" but Bob has made it for 25 years so I think it is time for a name change. This sauce is actually a classic Polish mushroom soup. The only difference is as soup it is just a little thinner and usually it would be done with a variety of wild and rather earthy tasting mushrooms that are gathered in the fall and strung on twine and hung to dry. I have memories as a small child of going mushroom hunting with my Grandparents a few times. The dried mushrooms are then soaked overnight to soften when one is ready to make the soup

Bob's Perogy Sauce

1 package bacon chopped
1 1/2 cup onions chopped
4 cups sliced or chopped mushrooms
1 Tb Soy Sauce
1 clove Garlic or a tsp minced from a jar
4 small cans condensed cream of Mushroom soup

Fry bacon until crisp. Drain off the fat. Put bacon aside in a bowl. Saute the onion and garlic together until clear. You can use bacon fat if you choose. Also put the onions aside. Next saute the mushrooms until soft and lightly browned. In a sauce pan or slow cooker combine the condensed mushroom soup, bacon, mushrooms and onion mixture. Water it not necessary, but it can be added to change the consistency. Simmer for 4 hours on low heat or on the low setting of the slow cooker. This can be eaten immediately or you can refrigerate over night and heat before serving the next day. The flavor will develop more overnight.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008


We like to make 3 types of Perogy for Christmas Eve Dinner. There are lots of variations but here are a few basics.

The Dough

3 c flour
3 eggs
3 c cold mashed potatoes
1 tsp salt
1/2 c. oil

Beat eggs and oil. Add to rest of ingredients for soft dough. Cover and let rest for 1/2 hour.
Let it rest covered for an hour or so. Roll out and cut in rounds. I use a bigger glass with thin sides to cut my circles.

Potato and Cottage Cheese Filling

Peel and cook the potatoes and mash. Mix cooled potatoes with dry curd cottage cheese at a ratio of about 3/4 potato to 1/4 cheese. That's it!

Sauerkraut Filling

Buy a glass jar of sauerkraut which is usually found in the pickle aisle. Peel and chop 2 onions and fry the onions and saurerkraut in a bit of butter.

Prune Filling

Simmer prunes or other fruits in a bit of water or it is nice cooked in fruit juices until it is very soft ans mushy. Other dried fruits or combos of fruit are good too. Think about apricots, raisins, dried cherries and so on.


Hold ane stretch the dough round in the palm of your non dominant hand. Put a small amount of the filling in the center of each dough round. Dampen one side of the circle with a bit of water on your finger and stretch the dough in half over the filling and pinch into a half circle.

Set the perogies on a flour dusted towel as you work on them and cover with another towel or plastic wrap to keep things soft until you are ready to cook them.

Heat water to a slow rolling boil and slide your perogies in a few at a time. You will find that after a few minutes the perogy will start to float and that lets us know they are done. Scoop them out of the water and in to the bowl with a bit of butter or oil to keep them from sticking to each other.

Serve with butter, sour cream or for special occasions... Bob's Mushroom Perogy Sauce.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Making Kisses

When I was a little girl the best thing about these kisses was the different food colors we added or sprinkles to the tops of the cookies. Now I think the best thing is that the extra egg whites can get used up. These keep well, and they certainly look cute on a desert tray.

Meringue Kisses

3 egg whites at room temperature
1/8 tsp salt
1 c sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla or half tsp. vanilla with a half tsp. lemon juice
you can add 2/3 cup of chopped nuts if you wish.

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F.
Beat the eggs and salt until it is foamy. Add the sugar 1 teaspoon at a time and beat continuously with the electric mixer until the meringue is very stiff. Beat in the flavoring. If you are adding nuts fold them in now. If you want to color them you can divide the meringue and add colors as you wish. If you want to put sprinkles or crystal sugar, do it before baking.

It is easiest if you line your cookie sheet with parchment paper. Drop the meringue by the spoon full. I try to make a bit of a swirl or a curl at the top. Bake at that low temperature for an hour. You can just let it cool in the oven over night.

Bow Ties

I have fond memories of making these little treats with my Mother and my Polish Grandmother. They are called Chrusciki in Polish. Martha Stewart made these delicious treats on her show but here is my simple version the way the women of my family have made it. I usually make this Polish cookie at the same time as I make the Swedish Rosettes so that I can get the fried items done at once.

Bow Ties

4 egg yolks
1 whole egg

1/4 c. sugar
2 Tb butter
1 Tb brandy
1 1/2 c. flour

I just mix the first 5 ingredients up and then add enough flour to make a still dough and then roll out the dough dusting the surface with part of the flour. Cut it into narrow strips. In the center of each strip you will have to cut a second little slit. You take one end and pull it through the hole and it make a look like a knot. Deep fry until golden and crispy. Dust lightly with icing sugar while still hot. They keep well at room temperature but are really subject to humidity so I usually put them in a cookie tin with a few layers of paper towel.

The next question is What do I do with those left over egg whites??

Christmas Rosettes

A favourite treat in our house are Desert Rosettes. It is a popular Scandinavian treat that are light and crunchy and keep well. They are lovely on the plate with a dusting of icing sugar, a little dollop or whipped cream and top with a bit of fresh berries or a teaspoon of jam. Lingonberry jam would be perfect. You need to have the rosette irons to cook it with and a container to heat oil in. I like an electric frying pan because the heat is controlled .

Dessert Rosettes

2 eggs slightly beaten
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 c milk
1 c flour
1 tb vanilla/ lemon extract

Add sugar to eggs then add milk. Stir in dry ingredients and beat until smooth. Fry in 3 inches of oil at 375 degrees F.