Lesly Weinstein and Heidi Czutrin became fast friends when they met four years ago on the oncology floor of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children—where both their sons were being treated for leukemia.
Czutrin’s son, Marky, now seven, is in remission. Weinstein’s son, Owen, sadly died in 2018 at age 14.
After his death, Lesly and her husband Peter started the Owen Weinstein Fund for leukemia research at SickKids.
Czutrin has been a key supporter of the fund since its inception and with her friend, Caryn Levin, has been raising money through “Marky’s Sweet Treats.” Their latest project is a 100-page digital cookbook with recipes from Anna Olson and Christine Cushing, among other chefs.
Marky’s Sweet Treats Bakebook is being published in September, which is both Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and Owen’s yahrzeit.
The idea for the book grew out of a small bake sale that raised funds for SickKids. After 2018, the money was directed to Owen’s fund.
A year later, the bake sale morphed into a major block party with a DJ, children’s entertainment and a raffle with prizes from local merchants that brought in $23,000.
“We love the bake sale,” Weinstein said. “It was a party and a great project.”
With the limitations of COVID, there was no bake sale in 2020, but this year the women came up with a new fundraising scheme—a digital cookbook.
It was designed by Stacie Scherer, a professional graphic artist, who volunteered her services.
The cookbook, in which 80 per cent of the recipes are desserts, will be sold for $30 through the SickKids website.
As part of the fundraising venture there will be five virtual-baking demonstrations led by well-known Toronto chefs and authors, including cooking teacher Carolyn Cohen, French chef and cookbook author, Bruno Feldeisen, and Lisa Gnat and Julie Albert, authors of the Bite Me More cookbook series. (The cost for each webinar is $15.)
Marky Czutrin and Owen Weinstein both endured arduous treatments for their leukemia. Marky, now in Grade 2, is enrolled at the south campus of Bialik Hebrew Day School. He goes to SickKids for bi-weekly check-ups, Heidi said.
“His team is satisfied with how he is doing. He’s on medication a couple times a day, which is nothing compared to what he was on before.”
Following his diagnosis in 2017, he had 15 months of chemotherapy. When he relapsed in July 2018 he had a bone marrow transplant.
He relapsed again in March 2019 and received CAR-T cell therapy in June of that year.
Lesly said her late son Owen was one of the first patients at SickKids to get CAR-T therapy as part of a trial. Now it’s approved and commercially available.
She stressed the importance of funding for childhood cancer research. “Owen is not here, but he would not have lived as long as he did without the research.
“Owen never said ‘no’ to clinical trials. People were always asking for him to participate in different research studies and he always said ‘yes.’”
This recipe was submitted by Chef Avrael, 10, a Top 3 finalist on Junior Chef, which aired on Food Network Canada. The recipe comes from Avrael’s great-grandmother, Ethel Friesen:
ETHEL’S RHUBARB UPSIDE DOWN CAKE
1/2 cup (125 ml) butter, softened, plus extra for greasing the pan
2 cups (500 ml) granulated sugar, divided
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla
Pinch of salt
2 cups (500 ml) plus 2 tbsp (30 ml) all-purpose flour, divided
4 tsp (20 ml) baking powder
2/3 cup (180 ml) milk
8 cups (2 L) rhubarb, cut in 1/8-inch pieces
1–2 tsp (5-10 ml) cinnamon
Icing sugar for dusting (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C) and grease a 9-inch x13-inch pan (23-cm x 33-cm)
Base: Sift 2 cups of flour in a bowl with the baking powder and set aside. In a large bowl or a stand mixer cream the butter with 1 cup of sugar. Add the eggs, vanilla, salt and beat well. Add the flour in 3 additions, alternating with the milk. Set the batter aside.
Rhubarb Topping: Place the rhubarb pieces in the prepared pan. In a new bowl combine the remaining (1 cup) sugar and (2 tbsp) flour with the cinnamon and sift over the rhubarb.
Bake: Cover the rhubarb with the batter and bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes or until the cake is lightly browned. The centre will be firm. Cool the cake in the fridge (in its baking dish) for about 20 minutes. (The cake will not get cold).
To Serve: Use a spatula to loosen the sides and turn the cake upside down onto a serving platter. (Optional) Dust with icing sugar for presentation.
Note: The amount of sugar added to the rhubarb can be cut in half for a stronger rhubarb taste.