Saturday, March 24, 2012


Those of you who have any background in Dutch will recognize that "koek" is the Dutch word for cake.  I call this recipe "Deet's Koek" after the woman who gave me the recipe.


3 cups of white flour                                    
1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour              
2 cups of white sugar                                  
1 tsp salt                                                          
1 tsp baking soda                                        
2 tsps baking powder                                
1 tsp nutmeg                                                
2 tsps ginger                                                
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cloves
2 tsps cinnamon
2 tsps instant coffee
1 cup of maple syrup
2 1/2 cups of cold water
1 - 225 gram container of Deluxe Glazed Mixed Fruit                                                                        

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Mix the syrup, cold water and Glazed Fruit in a 4 cup measuring cup.
Dump the liquid into the dry and mix well.
Turn into a 13 x 9 cake pan lined with baking parchment.
Bake in center of oven for 1 hour at 350º.

When cool, cut lengthwise into 3 long loaves or short way into 4 short loaves.
This freezes well.

Notice that there is no fat or eggs in this recipe.

If you are acquainted with Voortman's Honey Cake (which comes in a long, narrow loaf), you'll find this very similar in texture and taste.

After the Second World War, many, many Dutch immigrants came to Canada.  There was then and still is now in the Netherlands strong feelings of connection with Canada because Canadian troops liberated the Netherlands at the end of WWII.

The Voortman brothers were part of that immigration and ended up near Hamilton, Ontario where Jim's family also settled.  In fact, Jim's oldest nephew married a daughter of one of the original Voortmans.  Jim can remember the brothers baking cookies in their mother's oven, and going around peddling them.  Most of those Dutch immigrants were very hard workers, and used to living very simply, a result of having lived through the years of occupation when many of life's necessities were lacking.  So the brothers worked hard, and soon had built up their business to a large, successful company.

Try the recipe and think of the many contributions immigrants (of all nationalities) make to the rich cultural mix that is Canada.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Quick Note

Things have been just wild here for the last two weeks.  Trips here and there, music festival, concerts, and a computer down.  The computer is at the repairman waiting a decision: repair or forget about?  So I don't have access to my photos or to my address book.  When that's all straightened out, I'll be back.  See you then.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Weather Note

Just a quick little note to say that today many places in Alberta reached record-breaking high temperatures.  Here the wind was boisterous all day, and at 5 p.m. the sleet and snow arrived.  Everything is totally white again, and the current temp is -12ºC.  Just what we expect in March.

Today my students and the string group played in the local Music Festival.  We did a terrific job.  Tomorrow I'll tell you more about it, and try to get hold of a picture of the group.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Really Great Cranberry/Bran Muffins

As usual on a Saturday, there's something in the oven.  Yesterday it was whole wheat hamburger buns and a loaf of whole wheat bread.  Today it was Apple Coffee Cake for breakfast.  Out of 9 squares of coffee cake (I ate one) there were only two left to put in the freezer for another time!

Since we're leaving early tomorrow morning (shortly before 6:30 a.m.) and tonight's the night we're supposed to turn the clock ahead by one hour (meaning we'd have to get up about 4:45 a.m. by the old time) we made the jump ahead by an hour last night.  We're already on Daylight Savings Time here.

I forgot about that this morning and, thinking it was already 9:30 a.m.,  at 8:30 a.m. I phoned some violin students' parents to make arrangements for Monday lessons.    Woke up one mom, and haven't heard back from the other mom yet.  That was embarrassing!

Right now there are a dozen Cranberry/Bran muffins in the oven, intended for an easy breakfast that can be eaten in the car tomorrow morning.  The original recipe came from The Lighthearted Cookbook, and was labelled Cranberry-Orange Muffins.  Ingredients have been taken out of the recipe, and other ingredients added, so I think of it as my own recipe now.

First you need to make some homemade cranberry sauce.  Forget the canned stuff!  Here's how to do that: Put 2 cups of frozen cranberries (I like President's Choice from Superstore) in a saucepan with 1 cup of water.  Bring to a boil and simmer a few minutes until the cranberries begin to split.  Add 1 cup of granulated sugar.  Bring back to a boil, stirring in the sugar.  When it's all liquified, remove from heat and let cool.

I make this ahead of time when we are having chicken or pork for dinner.

In a 4 cup measuring cup (or small bowl) place:
1 cup of quick oats
3/4 cup of natural bran (I prefer oat bran)
1 cup of white flour
3/4 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 cup of brown sugar (I prefer Demerara)
1 1/2 tsps of cinnamon
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
With your fingers, blend all these ingredients, making sure there are no sugar lumps.  Then add:
1 1/3 cups of cranberry sauce
1 egg
1/2 cup (or so) of low-fat plain yogurt
3 TBS of olive oil (or canola oil)

Gently mix ingredients together, until all is moistened.  You may need to add a little more yogurt or some skim milk to get a good batter.

Spoon into muffin cups, mounding up the batter for a good sized muffin.
Bake in a preheated 350º oven for 25/27 minutes.

Very best when eaten still warm from the oven!  But they freeze well, and warm nicely in a microwave later.

I always turn my baking half way through the time, to ensure an even finish.

You see the empty jar behind them?  It's out there to remind myself to make some fresh mayonnaise.  Do you know how to make mayonnaise?  It's very easy, and, like most home made things, better than store-bought.  But it will have to wait for another day, because I used my last egg for the muffins!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

True to Form

Statistically, Alberta gets the highest amounts of snow in March, and we are running true to form here this year.  Snow started falling yesterday morning about 9 a.m. and fell throughout the day and through last night also.  About 8:30 this morning I went out the back door to do some shovelling, and this is what it looked like.

That's a cedar wrapped in burlap for the winter to protect it from wind and sun scald.  The area in front of it is part of the back patio, just flat paving, but the piles of snow from shovelling are starting to add up!

At 8:30 the snow was still coming down and there was a lot of wind, blowing it around into some pretty impressive drifts.  I doubted that I could get the car out of the driveway, and if the storm continued, we'd be snowed in for sure.  So I made some phone calls and cancelled the violin lessons that I was scheduled to teach today.

Fifteen minutes later the snow stopped.  The sun struggled to break through the overcast, only partially successful.  It wasn't very cold, about       -8ºC.  The snowplows went past on the road a few times, and I started to feel pretty foolish.  It wouldn't have been so hard after all!

Then S. arrived at 10 a.m. to work in the greenhouse transplanting pansies and petunias.  She drove a little way into the driveway with her four-wheel drive vehicle and decided to park it right there before she got in too deep.

I went out to the greenhouse, and on the way discovered that the driveway was covered with at least a foot of heavy, wet snow.  In places the wind had piled it up in 2 to 3 foot drifts.  I guess I was right to cancel after all!

Now around 4 p.m. the sun is out shining brightly. The world glistens with beauty. These trees with their ice-covered branches are glowing like crystal.

The forecast for the rest of the week is fine with warming trends and sun in store.

We're very happy to have this moisture-laden snow.  In many ways it's better than rain because it will melt and sink into the ground, and run into the dugout to provide water for irrigation of our landscape next summer.  We need the moisture badly as we had very little rain last summer and ended the season with very dry soils. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Sad Visit

Sunday morning we left at 6 a.m. to give ourselves an extra half hour on a three hour trip.  It was good we did that because for about 1/3 of the way the roads were completely snow covered.  It was difficult to see where our lane was, so we took it slow and careful.  Just like the tortoise, that's the way we "won" our race, arriving about a half hour before the church service began, just a nice, comfortable margin.

We enjoy these Sundays out when Jim is preaching at one church or another.  Especially enjoyable are the times we go to southern Alberta where we have many friends, and even more old time acquaintances.

After the second service we drove into Lethbridge to visit our elderly friend in the care home.  I think she never really knew who we were this time.  Other visits it's obvious by the way her face lights up that she's glad to see us, but that didn't happen on Sunday.  It's hard to carry on a conversation with her any more, but we usually take along something to help.  Often we take a photo album of one of the cruises that I went on with her.  She says she doesn't remember anything of them, but enjoys seeing the pictures.

This time we had a large dark chocolate bar, the flat, scored kind.  She has always enjoyed dark chocolate and likes to have a piece before bedtime.  She did seem pleased with it, but tried to give it back to us to take along for our way home.  Then I gave her the shawl I had knit for her.  She admired the softness and the lovely colours, but seemed puzzled about what it was for, so I demonstrated by putting it over my shoulders.  Then I draped it over her shoulders, but she immediately said, "Take it off" which I did. She folded it and placed it on the table in front of her, stroking it now and then.

The wording on the chocolate wrapper caught her attention, and, pointing out the words she read, "Extra Dark" and then "Extra --- " and asked, "What does that mean?" referring to the French word "Noir."  (Canadian packaging is labelled in both English and French, since they are the two official languages.)  We explained it was French for "Dark."  Every few minutes she returned to the wrapper and read the words again, and again asked about "Noir."

We had noticed this repetition last August already when she continually commented on the dress I was wearing.  It seems that she is at a loss in terms of making conversation, and gets focused on one item.

This is a woman who was smart, adventuresome and often acerbic.  She traveled widely, married late, and was widowed twice.  She has twelve step children, and many (step)grandchildren, just one of whom lives nearby.  When I mentioned that he and his wife were expecting their second child in two weeks, she replied, "I don't care."  The only time we saw a glimmer of the old Hilda was when I said we would be having supper with her step son and his wife, and she said, "How BORING!!" which was one of her favorite comments over the years.

When we were about to leave, I put my arm around her, told her we love her and gave her a kiss on the cheek.  She kind of "harumphed" and wiped the kiss off her cheek.

I had tears in my eyes when we left, the first time that she didn't walk to the door with us to say goodbye.