Baba Canuckski

All Babas know that love is a plump perogy!

Leave a comment

Baba Redux


It’s the long weekend in August. The year is flying past with dizzying speed. A lot of things have been going on in my life, big things.  The kind of things that make you sit back and think about your life: what you ‘ve done so far and what you still need to do…

My somewhat maudlin frame of mind is largely because my Dad passed away last month after a fairly rapid and dramatic decline. The nurse part of me was so caught up in managing his illness that the daughter in me didn’t really accept or feel the pain of what was going on over the past six months and it has caught up with me now. Regardless his passing is one of those great life resets. The world looks the same yet it is entirely different.

I am working on clearing up Dad’s apartment. As we pack up his life every crazy little souvenir, every ball cap brings a memory of a life well lived. The real joy though is found in the things he kept that mattered to him. He had an old radio in a leather case that he got from his staff in Cold Lake, the big TD picture in silver dollars made for his 25th year in banking, and beer steins shaped like boots from Munich.  As I packed up his bathroom I found a small box of things he had kept after mom died. In a little fabric bag she had sewn he had her brush rollers. And in another her makeup and lipstick. Dad knew no one would use the rollers nor would anyone have need of the makeup. But nothing was as representative of my mom, and those of you who knew her will understand this, as those rollers and that lipstick- and he needed to keep that.

That’s when the realization flooded over me that its not your investments, your professional accomplishments, your bank account or what kind of furnishings or property you leave behind  that someone will treasure. It’s much simpler . So I thought about what I could keep to most remember my dad. I haven’t come to a conclusion yet, mostly because its too raw right now. Everything I touch I can see him in but it will settle and I know there will be something a simple as brush rollers that will forever be linked to him.

2017 has been a  challenging year. Tegan is still far away. And she’s preparing for her wedding over there while I prepare over here. Its a surreal kind of joyous anticipation, empty yet abundant- I want her here so we can do this together. Actually maybe its not the “doing” its the “feeling” it together. The anticipation, the excitement , the promise. Facetime, Messenger and Skype help but it just isn’t enough somehow. BUT YET I tell myself I have much to be grateful for. I have her. She’s happy, she’s successful and she has Todd.

But 2017 has been good too. Andy has a new hip! And if all goes well, very soon a second new hip. He is at least 3 inches taller and stronger and its like starting life again this time for real!

So here I sit in a gazebo in Northern Saskatchewan reflecting on the emotional and developmental place I find myself in right now. One set of responsibilities ended, a new phase of my life before me, Baba Canuckski redux. Brought back, restored….

What would Baba do? So here’s the thing, Baba  lost a lot of people over the course of her life. But as all Ukrainians ( at least those I know) she was a pragmatist. She mourned deeply but she lived life even more deeply. Life would , as it should, move on.  Things would change, you would manage and you would  continue on and people will still get hungry. Feed them.

Summer Creamed Potatoes with Dill                                                                                                  2 lbs scrubbed new garden potatoes                                                                                                  2 heaping tablespoons butter                                                                                                              3 green onions whites and greens trimmed and diced                                                                  handful garden fresh dill diced                                                                                                        2 cups cream                                                                                                                                            Boiled scrubbed potatoes with skin on in heavily salted water until fork tender.

Melt butter in saucepan and gently saute onion whites and greens then dill Lower heat stir in cream and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour over hot drained potatoes  and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes or longer. Is lovely with fried chicken or pork chops. * if you like a heavier sauce you can make a roux prior to adding the cream but it isn’t necessary as the potatoes have enough starch to add body to the dish.

Dad’s favorite. Enjoy!











Leave a comment

Peace and Pitas

I have been very neglectful of this blog for some time but my sister-in- law Sandii asked me to post my pita bread recipe so here I am a year older (I won’t claim  year wiser) but nonetheless Thanks Be to God, I am here!

Lots has happened since I last posted.  I am still missing Tegan with a ferocity only a mother can understand but I did get a magical christmas gift of four weeks with her and an additional gift of a new son-in-law -to -be, Todd. So now there is a wedding in our future and that happy thought is a pleasant and frequently visited diversion.

2015 was a very tumultuous year. Andy had a period of unemployment because of the downturn in the oil patch but he is now employed in a permanent position and we are slowly getting back to where we were financially. A few good lessons learned -first and foremost is that even if you think you have enough set aside- you don’t. Save more. Aunty Marion and Aunty Eleanor are now in heaven with Mom- probably sighing and shaking their heads at my dusty and rather lived-in house. I miss them both. Family on both sides Laing and Gusnowski have faced challenges and have persevered with the strength that they both hold in spades.Sandii, to whom I am dedicating this post, has been a testament to what living one’s faith  really looks like under pressure and I learn from her positivity and grace.


Pita Bread
1 cup warm water (not hot or boiling)
2 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast
2 1/2 – 3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1-2 teaspoons olive oil (optional)
Form the Pita Dough: Mix the water and yeast together, and let sit for about five minutes until the yeast is dissolved. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour (saving the last half cup for kneading), salt, and olive oil (if using). Stir until a shaggy dough is formed.

2. Knead the Dough: Sprinkle a little of the extra flour onto your clean work surface and turn out the dough. Knead the dough for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the work surface, but try to be sparing. It’s better to use too little flour than too much. If you get tired, stop and let the dough rest for a few minutes before finishing kneading.

3. Let the Dough Rise: Clean the bowl you used to mix the dough and film it with a little olive oil. Set the dough in the bowl and turn it until it’s coated with oil. Cover with a clean dishcloth or plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it’s doubled in bulk, 1-2 hours.

At this point, you can refrigerate the pita dough until it is needed. You can also bake one or two pitas at a time, saving the rest of the dough in the fridge. The dough will keep refrigerated for about a week.

4. Divide the Pitas: Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and gently flatten each piece into a thick disk. Sprinkle the pieces with a little more flour and then cover them with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap wrap until you’re ready to bake them.

5. Shape the Pitas: Using a floured rolling pin, roll one of the pieces into a circle 8-9
inches wide and about a quarter inch thick. Lift and turn the dough frequently as
your oll to make sure the dough isn’t sticking to your counter. Sprinkle with a little extra flour if its starting to stick. If the dough starts to spring back, set it aside to rest for a few minutes, then continue rolling. Repeat with the other pieces of dough. (Once you get into a rhythm, you can be cooking one pita while rolling the next one out.)

6. To Bake Pitas in the Oven: While shaping the pitas, heat the oven to 450°. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to heat. If you don’t have a baking stone, place a large baking sheet on the middle rack to heat. (I use baking sheet)

Place the rolled-out pitas directly on the baking stone or baking sheets (as many as will fit), and bake for about 3 minutes. I’ve found it easiest to carry the pita flat on the palm of my hand and then flip it over onto the baking stone. The pita will start to puff up after a minute or two and is done when it has fully ballooned. Cover baked pitas with a clean damp dishtowel while cooking any remaining pitas.

7. To Bake Pitas on the Stovetop: Warm a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until a few bead of water sizzle immediately on contact. Drizzle a little oil in the pan and wipe off the excess.

Lay a rolled-out pita on the skillet and bake for 30 seconds, until you see bubbles starting to form. Flip and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side, until large toasted spots appear on the underside. Flip again and cook another 1-2 minutes to toast the other side. The pita should start to puff up during this time; if it doesn’t or if only small pockets form, try pressing the surface of the pita gently with a clean towel. Keep cooked pitas covered with a clean dishtowel while cooking any remaining pitas.

8. Storing the Pitas: Pitas are best when eaten immediately after cooking. Leftover pitas will keep in an airtight bag for several days and can be eaten as they are or warmed in a toaster oven. Baked pitas can also be frozen with wax paper between the layers for up to three months.

  • I have never done the skillet- always the oven method. And it works well. Also the dough freezes beautifully.

So Peace and Pitas to all my peoples! Talk soon!

Leave a comment


I feel like I’ve been neglecting Baba’s legacy for the last while.

Last week I made Kai Cee Ming which the Aussies can tell you is fill up the family fast food which is a curried rice and cabbage dish. As you can well imagine at times Kai Cee Ming can hit the colon a bit like a tsunami. I frankly think Andy makes a bit too much of it but nonetheless thinking about cabbage and why us little slavic types either in spite of or because of its room warming properties made me realize I have not given proper homage to that great prairie staple- cabbage or in Ukrainian kaputsa!

I also noted  I have not shared Baba’s Holobsti recipe. Or Grandma’s German Cabbage Rolls. Or Kai Cee Ming.


Cabbage rolls are found in many cultures, and for Ukrainians tiny meatless and oh so savoury cabbage rolls are a must at all special dinners, weddings, funerals and family gatherings. I can make a decent cabbage roll but somehow they just aren’t the same as Baba’s. I watched her make them more times than I can count and I think I do it exactly the same but somehow it just isn’t the same. Part of it might be that Baba preferred sour leaves (as do I) and I rarely make them because my picky Aussie and half Aussies seem to feel that sour cabbage is “rotten”. They are wrong. Because Ukrainian.

Or maybe it’s because I miss her so much and want to keep the memory of something that comforting and familiar as her’s alone.

One of my saddest memories is of the day that my Uncle Pete Gusnowski and his son Darren were killed in a terrible car crash.  I can still recall the feeling of unreality and denial; maybe they were wrong, maybe it was someone else’s car; we were all in shock, trying to comfort Baba and one another.

The next morning, very early in the morning, Aunty Ruzycki was knocking on the door, and she said , “I’ve come to help make cabbage rolls”. I remember that with those words the crazy mixed up world that we had been plunged into, snapped, all at once, into focus.  It was  surreal the contrast between the practicality of feeding people who would soon be arriving, and the bizarre possibility that it really was true and something this horrible could really happen to my family. So, a short time later,  there we were gathered around a table  preparing cabbage rolls and food and somehow the world began to slow down and turn right side up again. It didn’t stop the pain of what was going on  but the act of preparing to feed our families was a reminder that life was going to go on.

I don’t want you to link cabbage rolls to sad times but I want you to realize that they are more than a homely little dish of cabbage and rice. They are about being together at special times unlike perogies which are not served outside of everyday meals. They are made usually by a group. They are served at those times when we need to be together- weddings, christenings, funerals, holidays. They are familiar and comforting and someone loved you enough to make them.

So for Baba, for Aunty Ruzycki and for all the other Baba’s who live in my memories please try these cabbage rolls. Be patient and you will get the hang of it and it is a skill you will always have and you will be able to pull these out when your family needs comfort and love.

Ukrainian Cabbage Rolls/ Holobtsi

Step One: Blanche the Cabbage

Choose summer cabbage which is a softer leaf and with veins that are less tough. The broad football looking russian style are the best. Core the cabbage and place into a deep stock pot or canner into simmering lightly salted water. As leaves soften pull them off put on a platter and allow to cool until you can handle them.

Step Two: Cut the leaves

When leaves are tender it is time to prep them. If the leaf is large cut it in half removing the large vein in the center. The easiest shape to roll is vaguely triangular and most often with a large leaf you can get four nice vaguely triangular pieces- two from each half of the leaf. If you are a beginner and you aren’t hung up on dainty little rolls you could use 1/2 of a large leaf (Baba would be having a seizure about now but I won’t tell her). I personally don’t think they taste the same when they are big ,but I don’t judge.

Step Three: Prepare the rice.

In a large stock pot cover the bottom with enough SHORT GRAIN RICE to come up to your first knuckle (the one just below your finger nail). Cover with enough cold water to come up to your second knuckle. Add a good 2 tsp of salt and 1/2 cup butter.  Bring to boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. Put the lid on, turn burner off and leave alone for about 30 minutes or more.

In 30 minutes or so you remove the lid and stir. It should be quite sticky but the water should have absorbed. The rice is not fully cooked at this point! You must  season the filling at this point with salt and pepper. Don’t be scared to taste. (It’s delicious  and hard to stop eating!). In summer if you are feeling frisky you can add some dill to change things up- this is a little trick I learned from the Two Hills Ukrainian Church ladies and it’s a nice variation.

Cool the rice.

Step Four: Rolling the cabbage.

Place a leaf on your non-dominant hand widest edge facing you. With a teaspoon take spoon of rice and as you remove from the bowl press the spoon against the side of the bowl to slightly compress the rice. Then put this compressed “bullet” of rice onto the leaf on your other hand- approximately 1/4 inch from top edge. Press the bullet firmly as you take the spoon away. Flip top of leaf over filling then the two sides then roll up ending with the pointy end. Then the most important step- SQUEEZE. You can tuck in the ends if you need too at this step.

You should now have a nice tight roll. If you don’t have a perfectly shaped leaf don’t panic! If you don’t have enough to flip the edges in don’t panic! As my mom would say “just squeeze like hell” ! The rice is sticky like sushi rice and will hold its shape. Layer in a buttered roaster that you have lined with a few raggy leaf pieces (or sauerkraut if your family won’t protest). It is best to alternate the direction you fill the pan, so first lengthwise then cross etc. When you serve them if the rows alternate they don’t get as broken up.

Try for no more than three layers as the rolls will swell when they cook. At this point you can freeze or cook.

Step Five: Cook

Add about 1/2 cup water and a few dots of butter  OR 1/2 cup chicken broth. Cover and bake until cabbage is tender- at least one hour on 350 degree oven. To serve saute butter and finely chopped onions until onions are translucent pour over and enjoy. DO NOT- I REPEAT DO NOT PUT TOMATO SOUP ON THESE CABBAGE ROLLS. THAT IS THE NEXT RECIPE (SORT OF)

German Cabbage Rolls -Halushki

Step One- as above

Step Two- as above except cut leaves larger. you can use the whole leaf but try and trim the large vein down to make it “flatter”

Step Three- as above

Step Four- The Meat.

To the half cooked rice add 1 lb of ground half beef half pork mix. Add 1/2 large onion finely diced or grated. Salt and pepper to taste  or you can use seasoned salt too. I have trouble eyeballing the seasoning for these so I often cook a spoonful in the microwave to see if I have the seasoning right.

Step Five- Rolling the cabbage rolls

With these larger rolls it works best to roll on the cupboard. I lay the leaf down put filling on leave, but a lot more of course then m  roll. Grandma often put some Sauerkraut in the bottom of the roaster and sometimes she actually cooked them in a stock pot on the top of the stove. Your choice. Fill your roaster or pot. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup water and bake or simmer until cabbage is soft. IF YOU CHOOSE you can sub the water for one can undiluted tomato soup. To be honest at least 1/2 the time Grandma Feser and the Aunties do not put tomato sauce- your call. I think it really makes two very different dishes. I love them both so hard call.

Grandma and Baba together

Grandma and Baba together

Australian NOT Cabbage Rolls- Kai Cee Ming

The first time I had this dish was at Andy’s Nana Clarke’s house. It looked a bit suspicious but trying to be polite I ate it. Tegan was about 8 months old and she tucked in so I figured it must be good. This is family approved crack. It is that good. It gets better the longer it is left over which is never long. I have made a number of adjustments from the original Laing recipe- mostly because I didn’t have a recipe but just worked it out on my own but this is the version Tegan knows so it is the one I will record. Canadians- I know we didn’t grow up with curry- DO NOT PANIC – this is so good you will get over your fear!

1 cabbage roughly shredded

1 lb ground beef

1 cup rice

1/2 onion chopped

1 cup celery diced

1 cup green beans diced

1 tbsp oil / butter


1-2 tbsp curry powder

1 tbsp soy sauce (China Lily is best)

Melt the butter/oil in large deep frying pan.  Brown meat and add curry nearing end of browning. Add cabbage rice onion and other vegetables. Pour over enough water to cover and simmer slowly adding a good 2 tsp salt as it begins to simmer. Cook slowly until water is absorbed, cabbage is tender and rice is cooked. There is no wrong way if the water is gone and rice and cabbage are not cooked add more water and continue to cook. Taste and add soy sauce or salt. Here’s the secret- let this brown nicely at the end of cooking. The sugars in the cabbage and rice will form a savoury crusty bottom then

using a spatula turn the crust up .

Straight up- this looks rough. But OMG it is so good. Serve with crusty buns. Canadian Laings like to pile the Kai Cee Ming onto the bun like a little curry open face sandwich. Don’t judge. This is yummy.


Leave a comment

There’s nothing chicken soup can’t fix

May was not a stellar month in our house this years. For those of you in Alberta you will know that we are in the midst of a recession and our oil industry is reeling with oil prices that have plunged from over $100 per barrel to below $60. Our oil towns are ghost towns and Andy was a casualty as well, his business put him on temporary layoff until work picks up- they hope by July- but I have to confess, I am a bit less optimistic.

These first weeks in June has been full of angst. Worried at home about how Andy is doing, worried at work about how we should move forward, my younger kid turned 20 and is heading on a cross Canada odyssey , my older kid in Australia seems to have found a very nice young man who is making her smile a lot ….

So to “check in”  today  I feel: worried, anxious, happy, excited, weary, wary, sulky, rebellious and hopeful. Or in fewer word, just plain uncomfortable.

The other morning I mentioned  to Andy, in passing,  that I had been craving chicken noodle soup . At noon he called me to say that he (and Dad) were making noodles. And he had chicken broth in the slow cooker.

I arrived home to a wonderful smell that anyone in my family reading will immediately understand. Homemade chicken noodle soup. The quintessential Gusnowski, Grassl, Feser, elixir of life. AND all of the week’s angst slipped away. I was suddenly a kid in my Grandma’s kitchen smelling rich savoury slightly peppery smells and on the table, draped over tea towel covered chairs were large round discs of pale yellow dough drying. Grandma would roll them up jelly roll style and then very skillfully slice them paper thin into fine noodles. We would get to fluff them out as she cut them and then we had to wait ever so patiently while they dried until it was time to drop them into the soup.

Then we would hover around the pot because once they went in they only took moments to cook and if you weren’t quick someone would manage to get their bowl first and they would pig out and leave the dregs for the ones who came last. You had be one of the first because the first noodles were firm, or “el dente” as I now know the Italians describe it, the later noodles while still yummy lacked that elusive firm satisfying bite. The noodles were super long but to cut them was unthinkable you had to slurp them. Some of my less sophisticated cousins put ketchup in the soup- you know who you are! Actually mom did too- I think it’s a Goodsoil thing. But the best thing was the taste it was always just peppery enough that your nose ran and the flavour was rich and so so savoury. And as soon as you ate it you knew that everything was ok in the world.


There are some smells that always bring comfort like baby lotion, vicks vapo-rub, really good coffee (sorry Australians you won’t understand that! hahaha) and Grandma Feser’s Chicken Noodle Soup. These are smells that  will always mean love.

Some of you who were around to remember will know that my mom made Noodle Soup for about 60 people the day after our wedding! That’s when you know its real……

Chicken Noodle Soup- Our way

chicken pieces or whole chicken ( I prefer back and necks)

1/2 onion

1 stalk celery

1 carrot

1 large tablespoon of pickling spice (yes for real) and make sure there is a decent amount of red pepper flakes.

Water to cover. All of these measurements are eyeball- more people expected? more chicken/veggie/water- it’s not hard.

Liptons  Noodle soup mix or Oxo cubes

Put all ingredients except Liptons or Oxo, into a slow cooker or stock pot. Simmer gently, skimming any protein that rises to the top, until chicken is tender and falling off the bones. With slotted spoon remove the chicken. You can cube chicken and add to soup later, or reserve for another use like Chicken a la King.

Drain the soup through a mesh strainer to remove all the spice bits. Return soup to pot and onto high heat. When it boils add 1 or 2 flavour packages of Lipton’s noodle soup. When stock cube has dissolved taste soup for seasoning. Very rarely will you need to add anything except maybe a dash of Tabasco if you want more heat.

Bring soup to boil and add dry noodles and boil about 1 1/2 minutes serve and slurp

Egg Noodles

2 eggs for every one cup of flour (approximately). That’s it.

You can mix in a bowl until you have a stiff dough. Then roll out into large circle. Leave to dry for 30 minutes roll up jelly roll style and cut by hand. Fluff noodles and dry before cooking.

OR you can use a food processor and make your dough in which case you are aiming for large crumby looking mix that hold together when you press it with your hands. Press into discs and feed through first the roller of a manual pasta cutter to the right thickness, drying between each rolling- then cut with thin fine noodle setting.


Make your egg/flour dough and drop by lumpy teaspoonfuls into the boiling broth.

This is what Heaven smells like…..



The Care and Feeding of Family

Time has certainly passed quickly and I feel a bit negligent in my passing along of recipes and love to my girl in Australia. The months are speeding and while the sting of Tegan being so far away is no less acute, I guess I have learned to accept that she can get along without me and and be happy- and that ultimately that’s a good thing. She is her own self- not a mini me (well maybe just a little bit !). Maybe that’s the real pain in letting go, knowing that my daughter’s life is her own- it’s not my “do over” and with her so far away I can’t micro-manage her to avoid the kinds of mistakes I made, take chances  I didn’t take, dress better, walk taller, be stronger…

I have to accept that I had my time and now she has hers.

mom:kid pic

She’s doing great without me- it saddens and gladdens me to say! She even has made perogies so therefore ,ipso facto, my familial/cultural obligation to spread the word/love/etc has been successful! But there is still more family love to spread…

In my continued quest to send love to my daughter via loved family recipes, I considered that I didn’t want to under-represent the impact my mom had in passing along love via food . My mom liked to tell  me how she grew up a tomboy, more comfortable in the barn than in the kitchen. But you couldn’t tell that by the meals she served to her family and guests. Guided by her mother, her sisters and her mother-in-law (Baba) she became one of the finest cooks you could ever meet.

Mom loved to feed people. When I brought Andy home from Europe looking a bit emaciated after months of toasted cheese sandwiches and he foolishly told her he had never been “full”- the gauntlet was thrown. Until the day she died, keeping her son-in-law from going hungry  was her full time concern. And Andy was only one of her favorite pets to feed and she knew everything about what he liked  and what he didn’t from how he took his coffee to his preference for vanilla icing over chocolate icing on chocolate cake.

Mom was a bit of an encyclopedia of people’s food favorites. She could tell you the favorite food of almost all family members: Aunt Pauline loved sweet buns and kobassa, Uncle Ray loved butterscotch pie; Uncle Pete loved chipits chocolate chip dessert-she could remember all of these things without trying because it mattered to her.

Right about now there will be those of  you about now saying, OMG is everything about food with this family? Well actually, yeah it is. You have to realize that what I am talking about is not so much just about the actual dishes. Its about what they represent and what they mean to both the cook and his/her diner.

For the cook this is about concern, caring and nurturing. Giving joy and comfort to people you love. It is less “mushy” and sentimental than little notes with hearts tucked in your lunchbox. It’s different than, “you’re awesome” stickers on the apple in your lunch box,  it’s genuine because it takes your time. You have to intend to prepare food for others. You have to plan, shop, prepare, cook…

For the diner/guest its about protection, contentedness and knowing that you have a home where you are cared for and about. Someone took time to make something for you. They could have gone shopping or to a movie but they didn’t they did this for you.

In my mom’s case she poured everything she had into making sure her guests and family knew that they were cared for. Like Baba she wanted to care for   you. She wanted you to be full, content, safe and preferably in her home- at her kitchen table. A meal was never as satisfying as when it was shared with family or good friends.

Tegan’s favorite was Grandma’s Sole Florentine. So here it is for Tegan and for the rest of you. Make someone feel cared for and enjoy!

Sole Florentine

2 packages frozen spinach thawed and well drained.

6 sole fillets

2 tbsp butter

1 1/2 tbsp flour

1 chicken bouillon cube or (don’t know why it tastes better) one seasoning cube from a Lipton’s Noodle Soup Package

2 cups water

8oz cream cheese

salt pepper paprika

Place the well drained spinach into a 13/9 pan which has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Layer the fillets over the top.

In a saucepan, make a roux of melted butter and flour. Do not brown the roux but leave pale.  Remove from heat pour in water and whisk until all roux is incorporated and begins to thicken. Stir in seasoning cube and cook for a couple minutes on low. Stir in cubed cream cheese stir until smooth and even golden color and taste for seasoning.

Pour sauce over fish and spinach. Give a sprinkle of paprika.

Bake at 350 for about 35-45 minutes or until the edges are bubbling and starting to turn golden.

Serve with rice.

PS- you can never make enough of this stuff.

Leave a comment

March- A love/ hate relationship


March has never been my favorite month. It’s muddy and dirty. It’s hot then cold. It teases you with spring and shirt sleeve weather and then turns on you with 2 feet of snow. I think usually I put my coats and boots away 5 times before it takes.

I like to think that my distaste for the mess that is March comes from my mom and her sisters. The “clean team” as I think of them, valiantly have battled the mud that is March for many many years. Most of them are farm wives and if you visited them in March you would usually arrive to see them on their hands and knees scrubbing the front entry, wiping down the shoes and boots and setting out new clean rugs in a (futile) attempt to keep the place clean. Cleaning is their mission from God- and damn it they will prevail!! Never a muddy entry way would be seen in any of the Grassl girl’s homes!

You must understand the pressure that arises from this high familial performance standard. So March is gross anyway and now it arrives just to make me feel guilty because my entry doesn’t look like my Aunties or my moms. Really?

I have cultivated an alternate approach to coping with March.  A bigger darker colored rug. (Mom would be freaking out about now J….)I still hate the mud; I just don’t feel that mission from God thing…

In 2010 my dislike for March got a bit stronger. March 1, just 9 days before her 71st birthday my mom passed away. So March, which is always yucky, earned an even worse reputation. This year my Uncle Ed suddenly passed away on Mom’s birthday, March 10. What the …? Is this all necessary for an already unpleasant month?

But there you have it, all the many reasons I don’t like March. But at the same time there are a few things I do have to admit are pretty good about it. One is that spring really is around the corner the second, and the best, is Easter Bread.

Some of you will have had my mom’s special Easter Bread. It is only available for a limited time once a year and it is amazing. 15 eggs and ½ lb of butter (you are not seeing things) that is indeed the key! It tastes like cake and bread had a baby- a beautiful beautiful baby!

Before you log off and dismiss me as a pusher of highly saturated animal fat consider this, for traditional Ukrainians who observe the Lenten fast. This bread would be light at the end of the 40 day desert of fasting and abstinence from dairy and meat. A beautifully braided loaf, which is taken to church and blessed on Easter Sunday morning, is the centerpiece of the Easter breakfast table. You only eat it once a year. So in an 80/20 situation (80% of the time good/ 20% of the time not so good) consider this your once a year cheat meal.

So there I would be, hating March, and I would arrive home to see the baby quilt on the counter with crown shaped golden loaves nestled on a soft pillow bed of quilt. This is critical because the bread is so tender when it comes out that you must rest it on a soft surface until it is cool. That was some consolation for the yelling that mom would do when I dragged in March mud.

This is a recipe that takes some finessing. It is a bit complex and takes time. I really do recommend a dough machine like a Kitchenaid or a Bosch in order to get a good result. But it is so worth it and it freezes well.


Special Ukrainian Easter Bun (Paska)

4 quarts flour (warm)

3 cups milk

1-2 packages yeast

15 egg yolks

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup butter melted

1/4 lb raisins (golden)

Rind of 1 orange or lemon (mom used orange)

1 tsp vanilla

Dissolve yeast in lukewarm milk. Let bloom. Beat egg yolks until light. Add sugar and flour to make sponge. (Works best with kitchen machine and dough hooks) Knead for half an hour (honest that’s what the recipe says!) Slowly knead in butter the fruit rind, raisins and vanilla.  Then slowly add the remaining flour until you have a soft but elastic dough that looks smooth. But into greased bowl and rise until double. Punch down and pan into round or cylindrical loafs. Let rise until double. Bake in moderate (350 F) oven until golden and loaves sound hollow when tapped.

* Mom always turned the loaves out onto a soft quilt or doubled towel on their sides as they are very tender.


What to do with 15 egg whites? Well pre Andy my mom made chiffon cake. Chiffon cake for those who may not recognize the name is a type of cake made in an angel food pan that is a cross between angel food and a butter cake. It has a fine moist crumb and was common when I was a kid at bake sales and special dinners. Favorite flavours were maple, chocolate or lemon.

Post Andy- Pavlova. My mother in-law came to visit and marveled at my mom’s ability to produce the most amazing marshmallow like creations that were at least 4 inches high- that is until she found out that mom used 15 whites and not the traditional 4-6. Cheating but really who cares? So now Andy knows that when I make Easter Bread he gets a Pav. Win win .

Chiffon Cake

2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt.

Sift these into a bowl Make a well and add:

1/2 cup vegetable oil

5 egg yolks

3/4 cup cold water

2 tsp vanilla

2 tsp grated lemon rind

Beat these into flour mix until smooth. Then in a separate bowl :

1 cup egg whites (approx 8)

1/2 tsp cream of tarter. Beat until very very stiff. Then slowly fold in batter mix from above- fold only til “just” mixed. Pour into ungreased angel food pan and bake at 350 for about 50 minutes.

When done invert pan until cool. (Mom used a pop bottle).


Maple Pecan: omit vanilla and rind. Change sugar to 3/4 white and 3/4 brown sugar- sifted. Use maple flavouring and add one cup finely chopped pecans.

Orange: omit vanilla and rind use orange juice instead of water. Frost with orange icing.

Cherry Nut: omit lemon use 1/4 cup maraschino cherry juice and 1/2 cup water in place of cold water. Fold in 1/2 cup  finely diced cherries and 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts.Paska



Leave a comment

Oh my God I am my mother!!

When you are the parent of adult children, you think that it should be clear sailing right? Bwahahaha Picture this Edmonton, January 2015, it’s cold enough to freeze brass monkey balls, you’ve got one kid in Australia who tells you she met someone and they are going out and the other kids who lives with you heading out with your husbands expensive new truck: you ask the one in Australia to text when she gets home. She thinks it’s because you’re nosy but really you are just sure any guy she met is a serial killer and you want to know she lived through the experience. you ask the other one what time he’s coming home he says he has to work the next day so you assume at a reasonable time, right?

3 AM (6 AM Perth time) no male kid home yet, no communication from the Perth kid. Facebook, who knows all says she hasn’t been active in 11 hours. You get up check your phone, nothing. You check the driveway, no truck. You open the door to better hear sirens, nothing. So you text the missing kid with truck. Finally at 3:15 you receive “ok”. at 3:35 you tentatively ask if he is planning on coming home. 3:45 he texts to say he’s looking after girlfriend who celebrated a bit too hard. You give up and at 4:10 fall asleep.

9:oo am cat sits on your face. Husband gone to watch car shows. Still no Charlie, Facebook says oldest kid not virtually present for 13 hours. You know she’s dead because its clearly time she was up and she would have been online….

I wrote this a couple weeks ago and came back to night to finish my thoughts and instead of finishing my lyrical prose about the fear only a mother can know and  I realize I have become my mother.

Those of you who knew her will know exactly what I mean and you’re smiling aren’t you? My mom made worrying an artform. She could find something to be fearful of in almost every situation ever encountered. When I was a teenager it made me crazy and  I vowed I would be different. I would let my kids experience life, I would so. Yeah well, it sounded easy and I am a work in progress. I don’t stay awake (most of the time) I have only internationally texted Tegan once in 9 months. It’s small but it’s progress- don’t judge!

My lenten sacrifice is to give up worrying. Again those of you who are now rolling on the floor laughing stop it! I am making a real and concerted effort not to waste time on things I can’t change and to have faith that nothing will happen that I can’t deal with. I will check in on this sacrifice in a couple weeks stay tuned.


charlie brown worry

Sooooo, I have been meaning to share my mom’s bun recipe for a long time. This is probably her most famous recipe. All of our friends and family have enjoyed these soft sweet buns with Rogers golden syrup or jam or better yet liver sausage (that’ s pate for you non Prairie folks and it is so not gross it is yummy).

At one time my mom made buns for at least four or five people every Friday. She could churn out dozens of buns without breaking a sweat- and be done in time for her soaps in the afternoon. She just said that they were so simple they made themselves. We loved bun days because on bun days we got shooksa or kuchen (more on those below) or cinnamon buns. When I took up the torch of making buns for my own family I introduced stuffed buns.

When she passed away I inherited her Bosch mixer and apparently it is magic. I have never had a failure with this recipe- either that or she gifted me with some skills before she left us.


Perdue Buns

1 cup vegetable oil

4 cups warm water

2 pkgs rapid rising yeast

3/4 cup sugar

2 tsp salt

10 cups flour

Mix oil water and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Stir in about 2 cups flour or until a runny batter like consistency. Add yeast mix a bit then salt. Slowly add remaining flour until a soft smooth dough is formed. Place in lightly oiled bowl and cover to rise in a warm place. When doubled punch down and form about 48 buns  on greased trays. Bake at 350 until golden. These freeze very well.

* some of you “crunchy granola types” are likely freaking out about “white” buns. Fugedaboudit! BUT you could substitute whole wheat flour. I have done it although I usually do a 2/3 to 1/3 sort of thing because brown flour does not have the gluten that white does so the loftiness of the buns is different if you sub out all the white flour.

Shooksa– Elephant Ears, Beaver Tails etc

This is a little gem that Grandma Feser made us. It is basically fried dough.

Pinch of a piece of dough stretch with your fingers and fry in hot oil turning when golden. Serve dusted with sugar or drizzled with Roger’s Golden Syrup.


From  Grandma Feser through my mom to me.

Take portion of dough and press into a 13×9 greased pan. Press to about 1/4 inch thickness. Lightly butter the dough. Cover the dough with fruit of your choice, sliced apples, blue plums, rhubarb , blueberries. Sugar the fruit liberally with brown sugar and add any spices you fancy like cinnamon ginger cardamom whatever works for you.

Make a crumb with a 3-4 tbsp of butter, brown sugar and flour. Work until you have crumbly texture. Sprinkle over fruit layer. Let kuchen rise for about 15 minutes and bake at 350 til golden. Using a spatula, turn out onto waxed paper and cool.

Cinnamon Buns

Roll out a rectangle of dough about 12-16 inches long edge and 8 inches short edge. Butter to within 1 inch of edge. Sprinkle liberally with brown sugar, cinnamon and finely ground pecans. Roll up from long edge across. Cut with sharp kife into 2 inch rolls. Place cut edge up in greased pan  allow to rise until double. Bake at 350 til golden remove from pan to waxed paper, when cool ice with cream cheese icing.

Stuffed Buns- be inventive and make up your own filling

Filling 1: Brown 1 lb lean hamburger. Drain. Mix in 1/4 to 1/2 cup pizza sauce, 1 tbsp oregano and  handful of shredded mozzarella cheese.

Filling 2: Fry 12 strips bacon until almost crisp. Drain on paper towel. Crumble in bowl and mix in a couple diced green onions and a cup of grated cheddar cheese.

Filling 3: Brown 1 lb hamburger. Drain. Add 1 can mushrooms and 1 can mushroom soup. Bring to slow simmer, add 1 onion soup packet. Salt and pepper to taste.

FOR THE AUSSIES- Kai Cee Ming is amazing in these buns. Warm up to serve.

Pinch of piece of dough flatten in your hand and put a spoonful of filling in center. Pinch up dough around filling sealing well. Place on greased cookie tray and allow to rise. Bake until golden. These freeze well and work really well for school and work lunches.


Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. Lao Tzu