Remembering mom through her recipes

Posted: May 06, 2010

At first, Jeannine Ginsburg just intended to put a few recipes in writing - favorite dishes her husband, Steve, could cook for their young sons.

The year was 2008, and Ginsburg's breast cancer was back with a vengeance, metastasizing throughout her body. She began making a "bucket list" of things to do.

Ginsburg, now 53, knew the dishes her family loved: her bean, barley, and mushroom soup; her leek, mushroom, and sweet potato quiche. She wanted Steve to know how to make those for their boys.

But like so many meritorious plans, this one sprouted angel wings. Ginsburg is among those fortunate cancer patients for whom friends weave a tight-knit nest of support. Martha Rappaport, Cathy Vogt, and Kathy Einthoven, all West Chester-area neighbors and mothers themselves, solicited recipes and helped Ginsburg turn her modest vision into a keepsake cookbook with 200 recipes for soups, salads, main dishes, and desserts.

Sales of the spiral-bound book, priced at $12 ($15 with shipping), will benefit the Mommy's Light Lives on Fund, a nonprofit that helps children and teens who have lost a mother find ways to keep her spirit alive.

The book is aptly named Mommy's Light in the Kitchen.

On a recent Wednesday afternoon the Ginsburg boys, Daniel 11, and Adam, 14, joined their mother in making some of their other faves: Chicken Adobo and Asparagus Mushroom Salad (see recipes).

Monica Glass, now a professional pastry chef, was also an important contributor to the cookbook. She used to babysit for the Ginsburg boys when she was younger and lived nearby. Glass joined the cooking session at the Ginsburg house, and brought along one of her contributions to the cookbook: her lemon lavender pound cake (see recipe).

Now pastry chef at 10Arts, Eric Ripert's fine-dining restaurant on the Avenue of the Arts in Center City, Glass was connected to the cause for another reason: Her own mother died of ovarian cancer in 2008. She pitched in with six recipes.

The Mommy's Light Lives on Fund began in 1997, with Mary Murphy, who was being treated for a rare form of cervical cancer. Turning to her son Bryan, then 10, Murphy asked him about "the things we do together that you will miss."

Murphy thought helping her son continue an activity they shared would comfort him and keep her spirit alive. They settled on the tradition of baking cookies at Christmas time.

Murphy believed other grieving children would benefit by continuing their mothers' traditions. With the help of her friend, Laura Munts, Mommy's Light incorporated as a nonprofit in October 1997. Murphy chaired the group's first meeting from her hospice bed, and died in mid-January 1998.

The foundation helps children keep their mothers' spirit alive by continuing a simple tradition once a year, be it planting flowers every spring, baking chocolate chip cookies, or going to the movies on Thanksgiving.

"We facilitate it happening, but we don't participate," said Munts, now president of the board of directors. In this region, the group serves 130 children. Of those, 52 percent are from Philadelphia's medically underserved neighborhoods.

Ginsburg had just finished a round of chemotherapy and was on a break from the grueling treatment when we visited her house for the cooking lesson.

Daniel and Adam, both in Pittsburgh Steelers shirts, laughed and joked with Monica Glass, now 26, who continued to babysit for the boys through her high school years. As recently as 2004, she stayed with them for 10 days when Jeannine and Steve took a trip to Hawaii.

In the kitchen, Adam lobbied for an upside-down dinner that night - with dessert served first. But Daniel was far from disappointed when his mom nixed that idea.

Daniel is a big fan of Chicken Adobo, a traditional Filipino recipe contributed by the mother of a classmate. Chicken thighs or drumsticks are sauteed in garlic, mushrooms, and onion and served over rice with either a lot or a little sauce - simply add more vinegar and soy sauce in equal amounts for a greater quantity.

Jeannine Ginsburg, a stay-at-home mom who clearly enjoys cooking for her boys, made the asparagus and mushroom salad. She puts all the ingredients in a plastic container and shakes it to more easily coat the asparagus with lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard.

Sometimes she is able to use fresh-foraged mushrooms in this recipe, when her husband, a family doctor, gets them as gifts from his patients.

"And they taste like nothing else," she said.

For her pound cake, Glass recommends using either the flower or buds of pesticide-free lavender. Look for "culinary lavender" in specialty shops, she suggests, or pick the lavender from an organic home garden. It's a strong herb, so be precise when measuring.

Glass altered the cake's glaze, adding two extra tablespoons of heavy cream to the recipe to create more of a drizzled effect.

The cake can be made in 12 single-serving-sized Bundt pans (bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes) or in one large Bundt pan (bake at 325 for 45 to 50 minutes).

Jeannine Ginsburg said she first saw a newspaper article about Mommy's Light in 2001, just after her initial diagnosis. Daniel was 1 at the time. She clipped the article and set it aside, thinking, she said, "I might need this."

Even though her prognosis is not hopeful, her sons are not yet enrolled in Mommy's Light.

"Later," she said, "they'll choose their tradition."

Asparagus Mushroom Salad

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 pound asparagus, trimmed

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, minced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

4 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/2 cup basil, chopped and loosely packed

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. Steam asparagus for two minutes. Immediately put in ice water.

2. Whisk lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, and garlic in a bowl. Gradually add olive oil and pepper.

3. Drain asparagus and cool.

4. Toss asparagus with half of the dressing to coat. Toss the mushrooms and basil with the other half of the dressing. Sprinkle over asparagus. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.

- From Kim McGaughey for Mommy's Light in the Kitchen (

Per serving (based on 6): 91 calories, 3 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams sugar, 8 grams fat, 1 milligram cholesterol, 48 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.

Chicken Adobo

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1/4 cup vegetable oil (divided use)

10 chicken thighs and/or drumsticks

4 garlic cloves, minced

Mushrooms, to taste (if desired )

1 small onion, sliced thin

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup vinegar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1. Heat half the oil in a large nonstick skillet and brown chicken, trimmed of fat, on all sides until no longer pink.

2. Using the remainder of the oil, saute the minced garlic, mushrooms (if using), and sliced onion in a separate pan until golden brown.

3. Add the garlic and onion mixture, along with bay leaf, vinegar, and soy sauce, to the chicken. Heat to boiling and continue to cook, covered, over medium heat until sauce thickens and chicken is cooked thoroughly. Stir occasionally, adding the salt and pepper. Remove bay leaf and serve with rice and your favorite vegetable.

- From Liz Beasley for Mommy's Light in the Kitchen (

Per serving (based on 6): 495 calories, 34 grams protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, trace sugar, 38 grams fat, 159 milligrams cholesterol, 501 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.

Lemon Lavender Pound Cake

Makes 12 miniature cakes

Butter or nonstick cooking spray and flour for cake pan

For the cake:

2 tablespoons dried lavender, coarsely crushed or ground

3/4 cup buttermilk

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter, room temperature

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

2 yolks

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the glaze:

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

3 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1. Generously grease Bundt pans with butter or nonstick cooking spray and dust lightly with flour, knocking out excess. Do not preheat oven.

2. Sprinkle the lavender into the buttermilk and let sit for 10 minutes. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.

3. Beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about five minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl using a rubber spatula. Then beat in the whole eggs and the yolks, one at a time, beating only until incorporated after each addition. Mix in the zest, lemon juice, and vanilla. Mix in the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Beat the final addition only until smooth. Do not overmix.

4. Spoon the batter into the Bundt cups, filling each only three-quarters full and distributing batter evenly among the 12 cups. Tap each pan several times on the counter to eliminate air bubbles and level the tops. Place both pans in the cold oven and turn the oven to 325 degrees. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the tops (which will eventually become the cake bottoms) are risen and golden.

5. Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 30 minutes, then run a thin knife around the outer edge of each cake to loosen and unmold by inverting the pan over a wire rack. The cakes will be right-side-up at this point.

6. To prepare the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, heavy cream, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Stir with a rubber spatula until the glaze is smooth and of drizzling consistency. Spoon the glaze over the top of each slightly cooled cake, letting some run down unevenly on the sides. Sprinkle the lemon zest over the glaze and serve.

- Developed by Monica Glass for the Culinary Media Network

Notes: When preparing the Bundt pan for baking, thoroughly grease and flour the molds to ensure that the cake will release easily from the pan.

This recipe calls for six 2-cup mini Bundt pans to make lovely spring gifts, but feel free to use whatever size pan you desire, as this cake bakes well in a variety of pans - two 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pans or one 10-by-31/2-inch Bundt pan. Just be sure to adjust the baking time, as the larger pans will take a bit longer.

Do not open the oven until at least 30 minutes into baking so your cakes will not fall.

Per serving (based on 12): 475 calories, 6 grams protein, 70 grams carbohydrates, 50 grams sugar, 20 grams fat, 151 milligrams cholesterol, 279 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.

Copies of "Mommy's Light in the Kitchen" will be for sale at 10Arts Thursday through Sunday or through the organization:; phone 610-458-1690. e-mail:

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