Sometimes it’s Best….Part 1

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Sometimes it is best to let others speak. This is written by my friend Rich Beebe who not only lost his wife, Eileen, but also his darling daughter, Meghan, just 9 short months ago. With his permission I am sharing his eloquence and insights. Thank you, Rich.

There is a Silence in My Heart

September 4, 2014 at 7:35am

September promises to be a challenging month: Meghan would have turned 22 on the 22nd. And so the following essay may strike some as being more somber than my other reflections shared these past few months. But, I promise you, there is still hope.

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“And there you are

on the shore,

fitful and thoughtful, trying

to attach them to an idea —

some news of your own life.

But the lilies

are slippery and wild—they are

devoid of meaning, they are

simply doing,

from the deepest

spurs of their being,

what they are impelled to do

every summer.

And so, dear sorrow, are you.”

― Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, Vol. 1

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There is a silence in my heart.

Several years after Eileen died, in a Westover Chapel Talk focusing on my attempts to come to terms with her death, I spoke of finding myself “in the midst of all the strange and hectic activities that occur in the wake of losing a loved one [so that] I found myself busy, pushed and pulled along by the memorial services, forms, notices, phone calls, and other details that crowd around us in the closing out of a life.”

All of those activities certainly were again a part of my life after Meghan’s death, but because of the sudden and traumatic circumstances of her passing, I admit that carrying on with day-to-day life has been complicated by the legal, spiritual, practical, and psychological reverberations that have followed, many of which remain unresolved and will be for months and perhaps years to come.

In the center of all those reverberations, I discovered this silence in my heart. Because of that silence, in the months since Meghan’s passing, I confess that there have been times when I have been pushed forward through my days solely by the mundane but insistent expectations of life:

My dog Calvin – who once was “our” dog Calvin – needs to go outside to relieve himself, and so I get up in the morning; the last yogurt has been eaten, and so it is time to get to the grocery store; the stack of monthly bills grows thicker, and so I need to pull out my checkbook and start making payments; there is just one more e-mail message that needs to be answered at work, and so I stay a little longer at my desk to cross one more project off the never-ending list.

Gas tank to be filled, dishes to be washed, phone calls to be returned. Each little task propels me forward, like little heartbeats that keep thrusting me through my next minute, my next day, my next month.

But, underlying it all is my profound, abiding awareness of Meghan’s physical absence. No more phone calls from Meghan at unexpected times with questions that made me wonder “where did that come from?” or requests that might prompt me to ask her “are you out of your mind?” … no more unplanned trips to Amherst to bring her back home to Connecticut or to visit family in Albany or to travel to some other destination where a friend was awaiting her visit; no more rare but always appreciated Facebook messages from her about a random bit of news or a shared joke about a beloved movie or a favored sports team; no more posting of a piece of music she wanted me to hear or an image of a pair of sneakers she might like as a present (in one of those “hint, hint” messages instantly recognizable to every parent).

And so, there is this silence in my heart: a silence that can suddenly surge outward and engulf me in the middle of my day, or jolt me awake in the darkness of night; a silence that can wall me off from conversations going on around me in the midst of a family party, that can stop me in mid-thought at my desk at work, that can make me feel as if all purpose and reason have suddenly been drained out of my life.

Even in the center of a celebratory moment – hearing news of a fellow parent’s son landing a great job, or of a young friend giving birth to her first child, or of a couple announcing their engagement or the purchase of their first home – even in the middle of my feeling uplifted at the shared news,there is at least a part of me that sinks into that always present silence in my heart. And the small but bitter part of me that resides within that silence places a sharp, little asterisk next to whatever the happy news is, a bleak reminder that this shared life experience – something new, wonderful, exciting, loving,or buoyant – is one that I will never be able to celebrate as part of Meghan’s interrupted life.

Please understand: I do not begrudge my friends or family members the joy and delight that these events bring to their lives; far from it– for I truly do share in their celebration. If anything, I look forward to and need to find these sources of bright relief within the shrunken borders of my life. But I also must admit that my joy and delight is rimmed with envy, first and foremost for Meghan, but clearly and undeniably for me as well. And so whenever I hear such promising news,there is at least one degree of separation in my joy and delight, as if I were emotionally numbed.

But, even while acknowledging all these stony truths, I also know this truth: there still is hope within my silence.

As I pick up each of the pieces of my life … of memories, of emotions, of dreams, of disappointments, of plans, of loss … and I work away at their sharper, painful edges and seek to make them come together again in some pattern that makes sense despite my fears, I still hope that I will somehow reassemble them into some new purpose, some renewed sense of meaning, some reason to push forward.

With the patient reassurance of friends (especially Meghan’s from childhood, school, and college), the unexpected generosity of spirit offered by strangers, and the reigniting of faith, perhaps (and I admit that at this point in my act of re-creation, it is a feeble, flickering “perhaps”) the hard edges of the silence within my heart will soften, recede, and lose strength.

And then, finally then … the sounds of life renewed (albeit borrowed,subdued, and not as sweet as they were before the events of the final days of last year left too much of me wrapped in a dark silence) will somehow return to my heart.

For my sake …

and for the sake of Eileen’s memory …

… but, most of all, for Meghan.

 

Sunny Side Up Fresh Corn Cookies

fresh corn & lemon curd whoopie pies

fresh corn & lemon curd whoopie pies

I refuse to say good-bye to summer. While I am not fond of hot and humid weather that makes my hair frizz like the fur of an angry cat, it is this time of year that doesn’t remind me of my grief. I really am on vacation. There are no holidays, anniversaries or birthdays that make me long for my son to be home. That is not to say that I don’t miss William every minute. That is not to say that I don’t feel sad, but the dread of reminders is not hanging over my head. I want to put those off as long as I can.

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It doesn’t matter what life throws at you, what matters is how you respond

Some say the last day of summer is the first day of school while others say it happens after Labor Day, but take a look at the calendar. Summer is not officially over until September 22, 2014, so let’s continue the summer fun and play with our food.

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Anyone who has ever dined with me knows I can’t stand the thought of a runny egg yolk. I will never eat a poached egg or that fancy ravioli that when one cuts into it the yolk oozes out forming the sauce. BLECH!!! And in the words of the famous Rosanna Rosanna Dana, “Makes Me Want to Die”. Such a surprise that I would make a play on this cookie that looks like a sunny-side-up egg. Delicious!IMG_3216

This cookie is a real summer treat made with a surprise ingredient; fresh corn. Sweet summer corn is readily available in the grocery story and every farm stand across the country. Buy local if you can for the best flavor. Better, yet, pick your own.

fresh from the farm

fresh from the farm

Sunny-Side-Up Fresh Corn Cookies (adapted from Cuisine At Home Magazine)

1 cup all purpose flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ear fresh sweet corn, cooked and kernals cut off the cob (1 cup)

¼ cup buttermilk

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened

½ cup sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 jar lemon curd (store-bought or homemade) http://www.bakepedia.com/egg-yolk-lemon-curd-recipe/

powdered sugar

Heat oven 350F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In small bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In food processor, combine corn and buttermilk until smooth. Press corn mixture through a fine sieve (you should have ½ cup corn liquid); discard the solids in the sieve. In a mixer bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add half the beaten egg (give the rest of the egg to the dog) and the vanilla; blend well. Add flour and corn mixture alternating and mixing after each addition. Chill dough until firm, about 1 to 2 hours. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls (I use a cookie scoop) onto baking sheets 2-inches apart. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies look dry on top and golden around edges. Transfer to wire racks on parchment to cool. Spread half the cookies, on their flat sides with some lemon curd and sandwich with remaining cookies. Dust with powdered sugar. Makes 1 dozen sandwich cookies.

fresh corn cookies

fresh corn cookies

Just Drinks & Joy

drinks for 2

drinks for 2

 

Lemon-Basil Watermelon Cooler

¼ cup chopped, seeded watermelon

ice cubes

2 shots vodka (I like Grey Goose or Ketel 1), optional

4 tablespoons lemon-basil simple syrup (recipe follows)

Pellegrino or club soda

Fresh basil sprigs

Divide watermelon among two tall glasses; muddle the melon. Fill the glasses with ice. Add 1 shot of vodka to each glass, if desired. Add two tablespoons of lemon-basil simple syrup to each glass. Top off with Pellegrino or club soda; stir. Garnish with basil and sip. Makes 2 servings.IMG_3164

Lemon-Basil Simple Syrup

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

12 fresh basil leaves

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

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Stir water and sugar in small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Remove pan from heat. Add basil and lemon zest. Cover and cool. Stir in lemon juice; strain. Syrup keeps about 1 week in the fridge.

Joyful Steps & Key Lime Pie Cake

key lime pie cake

Of course, grief comes in many different forms cancer being one of them. Losing ones hair, a breast, a voice….a loss is a loss is a loss. It’s terrifying. I remember Bill’s only fear of being sick was the possibility of leaving his children too soon….fatherless. He never could have imagined he would live only to lose his son. It just is not natural for a parent to lose a child.

722226138110But today we celebrate because we can. The goal continues to be to bring joy back into our lives. One joyful step at a time. It’s Bill’s birthday week and what is not to celebrate. I am so very thankful to have the guy still around. If you need the voice of hope when it comes to cancer one can certainly look towards him. Back in 1998 he was given a 25% chance of surviving 5 years. It’s wonderful to beat the odds. IMG_3059

Let’s eat cake, but not just any cake. We are having tart, pucker power, key lime pie cake. It takes a few steps to put this yummy concoction together, but if you like tart this cake will make you happy. I guarantee! Bake this cake and feel the joy.IMG_3053

Key Lime Pie Cake

Step #1: Make the curd the night before

Key Lime Curd

1 ½ cups sugar

1-cup key lime juice

4 eggs

1 stick unsalted butter, sliced into 8 tablespoons

Whisk sugar, key lime juice and eggs in saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Add butter and continue whisking until curd thickens and begins just to bubble; cook 1 more minute. Remove from heat and strain through a fine mesh to remove any bits of over cooked egg. Cover and chill. Makes 3 cups.

Step #2: Make the cake layers

 Lime Scented Cake

1-cup cake flour

¾ cup all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ cups sugar

grated zest of two limes

4 eggs, room temperature

2 tablespoons key lime juice

Heat oven 350F. Spray three 9-inch cake pans with no-stick baking spray. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper circles. Spray parchment with baking spray. In bowl, whisk both flours, baking powder and salt; set aside. In stand mixer bowl, beat butter, sugar and zest until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add lime juice; blend well. Fold in flour mixture by hand until fully incorporated. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Turn out the cakes onto a wire rack, peel off the paper and allow to cool completely.

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Step #3: Make Frosting

Lime Meringue Buttercream

3 egg whites

10 tablespoons sugar

10 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon key lime juice

pinch salt

Place egg whites and sugar in the metal bowl of a stand mixer. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk the egg whites and sugar until the sugar dissolves and the mixture reaches 140F on an instant read thermometer. Transfer bowl to stand mixer and using the whisk attachment at medium speed whisk mixture to stiff peaks. The bowl should now feel cool. Switch whisk attachment to paddle attachment. Reduce speed a notch lower and start adding butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, making sure each tablespoon is well mixed before adding another. It may look curdled, but that is normal. Now beat for 10 to 15 minutes until smooth. Add lime juice and salt; beat well.

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Step #4: Assemble Cake

Place 1 cake layer on serving plate. Top with 1/3 of the lime curd. Place second cake layer on top and spread with half of the remaining lime curd. Top with remaining cake layer and remaining curd leaving an edge of about ½-inch. Place about ½ to 1 cup of buttercream into a piping bag with a star tip. Spread remaining buttercream on sides of cake. Pipe buttercream around top edge of cake and at bottom edge. Dust cake rim and sides with finely crushed graham crackers. Serves a at least 10 joyful souls.

Help I Need Belgian Waffles

Belgium Waffles

Belgium Waffles

It has been a great week filled with happy news. Cait & Sam closed on their new house! At first, I did not see “the vision” of what this neglected structure could be, but after getting down and dirty ripping up old carpet to discover oak floors and cleaning the fireplace soot from old Pennsylvania stone the charm of the “good bones” has won me over.

house

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Cait & Sam will restore this home to its former beauty. Better, yet, together, they will fill this house with love, family gatherings and special memories. Isn’t that what investing in a house is all about? Add a garden and life is good.

cinderella pumpkin

cinderella pumpkin

By now you must have figured out I am too tired (from house renovations) to talk about grief. It takes a certain amount of brain power to intelligently discuss that subject and right now I have none. Actually, being totally distracted by hard labor did remind me of something and that is that helping someone else achieve a goal is a great feel-good exercise. We should all do it more often. If grief is getting the best of you lately, give it a try. Volunteer, help a neighbor or call a friend or family member and see if they could use a hand. Your life will be brighter!

congrats on your new home

congrats on your new home

By now you must have also figured out that today’s recipe has something to do with pumpkins. They are not only decorative, but delicious in so many recipes both savory and sweet. I love growing my own and surprisingly my garden is filled with them ripe for the pickin. Yes, it is still summer, but what’s a girl to do, but give you a pumpkin recipe. Especially since my dear hubby surprised me with a Waring Pro Professional Double Belgian Waffle Maker including a recipe for pumpkin waffles. This morning I surprised him with a well deserved treat. Enjoy.

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Success in life & the kitchen

 

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Pesto Grilled Cheese  Croutons

Fresh Tomato Salad with Pesto Grilled Cheese
Croutons

Bessie Anderson Stanley wrote this poem in 1904. She won $250.00 in a poetry contest which paid off the mortgage on her house. This famous poem grabbed my attention just yesterday as my nephew, Jeremy, read it at at his grandfather’s funeral. Naturally, it had me thinking of my William, too.

Success

He has achieved success
who has lived well,
laughed often, and loved much;

who has enjoyed the trust of
pure women,

the respect of intelligent men and
the love of little children;

who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;

who has left the world better than he found it
whether by an improved poppy,
a perfect poem or a rescued soul;

who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty
or failed to express it;

who has always looked for the best in others and
given them the best he had;

whose life was an inspiration;
whose memory a benediction.

At the ripe old age of 90, still living in his own home and cared for by 3 loving sons, my father in-law, Loren D. Keys, Jr. lived a most successful life by any standards. An accomplished banker, world traveler, avid bird watcher and reader of the Wall Street Journal this poem fit him to a tee and made sense.

Grandpa Keys

Grandpa Keys

His death, although sad and painful, made sense, too. The family could see it coming. There was time to put feelings in order. We, along with him, could prepare. It was anticipated. Unlike sudden death and loss, there was a valuable period of time to look into each others eyes and say, “I love you” and good-bye. One has to be grateful for that.

Keys Family Photo

Keys’ Family Photo

Loren’s greatest measure of success is suggested by the line, “the love of little children”. He helped raise up 10 grandchildren who loved him dearly. Missing from this photo is grandson #1..the darling Zachary. He along with my William pre-deceased their grandfather.

fresh pesto

fresh pesto

Success in the kitchen begins with seasonal fresh ingredients. From the backyard garden or a local farm fresh ingredients can’t be beat in flavor, color and texture. Cooking in season is the way to roll. Right now my garden is filled with fresh basil, flat leaf parsley and grape tomatoes which brings this award winning recipe to you. The pesto is inspired by Marcella Hazan. The only thing different I do is add a cup of fresh parsley. I think it gives the pesto an extra bright green color and some added sweetness.

Fresh Tomato  Salad with Pesto Grilled Cheese Croutons

¼ cup prepared basil pesto

4 slices thinly sliced firm white bread, crusts removed

1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced

2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing on to bread

2 cups (1 pint) mixed cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

10 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced plus fresh sprigs for garnish

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 small fresh chile pepper, seeded, thinly sliced into slivers

2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese

Spread pesto over two slices of bread; top with mozzarella in a single even layer. Cover cheese with another bread slice forming a sandwich. Brush both sides of sandwich with olive oil. Grill sandwiches until toasted golden brown on both sides; set aside on cutting surface. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine all tomatoes; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the basil and chile pepper over the tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar; toss gently. Divide salad among 4 serving plates. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Slice grilled cheese sandwiches into bite-size pieces; arrange on salad plates. Garnish with fresh basil sprigs. Makes 4 servings.

BLENDER PESTO

(From Marcella Hazan’s The Classic Italian Cook Book)

2 cups fresh basil leaves (see note below) 1⁄2 cup olive oil 2 tablespoons pine nuts 2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed with a heavy handle and peeled 1 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 2 tablespoons freshly grated Romano pecorino cheese 3 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature

Put the basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic cloves, and salt in the blender and mix at high speed. Stop from time to time and scrape the ingredients down toward the bottom of the blender cup with a rubber spatula.

When the ingredients are evenly blended, pour into a bowl and beat in the two grated cheeses by hand. (This is not much work, and it results in more interesting texture and better flavor than you get when you mix in the cheese in the blender.) When the cheese has been evenly incorporated into the other ingredients, beat in the softened butter.

Before spooning the pesto over pasta, add to it a tablespoon or so of the hot water in which the pasta has boiled.

*Note: The quantity of basil in most recipes is given in terms of whole leaves. American basil, however, varies greatly in leaf sizes. There are small, medium, and very large leaves, and they all pack differently in the measuring cup. For the sake of accurate measurement, I suggest that you tear all but the tiniest leaves into two or more small pieces. Be gentle, so as not to crush the basil. This would discolor it and waste the first, fresh droplets of juice.

Serves 6.

Summer View: Will’s Bench &Grilling Tips

 

Grilled Steak

juicy grilled steak

Will’s Bench at Lake Elise in Middlebury, CT  is a wonderful place to sit and watch the world go by. Peaceful and filled with wildlife, the area is perfect for bird watching or fishing for large mouth bass. Dogs sniff the banks and often dive in for a cool swim. I especially love sitting on the bench on a summer morning having coffee with old friends. The kind of friends that are tried and true, have been around through thick and thin and after all these years are still willing to sit in silence and shed a few a tears or laughs recalling the antics of our kids. The morning mist rises off the clear water flecked with lily pads as the warmth of the sun breaks through.

BFF's Bev & Carol

BFF’s Bev & Carol

Friends like Bev and Carol are priceless. Every griever needs at least one Bev or one Carol in their life, but preferably both. They are the kind of selfless people who know how to step outside themselves for the good of another. It comes natural to them. Their simple presence creates a safe and comforting atmosphere that invites the sharing of feelings and healing. So much healing has taken place on this now weathered wooden bench on the edge of a lake–even on the day that bird pooped on my hand.

summer view from the bench

summer view from the bench

Another summer view

 

 

 

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IMG_0211Let me know if you ever get to Lake Elise, but until then let’s get grilling. We all love a good steak, so it being summer let’s share a few grilling tips plus a delicious recipe that also includes grilled watermelon. That’s right-grilled watermelon.

  1. Take the chill off your steak by removing it from the fridge 30 minutes before grill time. It will cook more evenly.
  2. Pat the steak dry with paper towels to avoid steaming the meat.
  3. Crank your grill up to HIGH. Lightly grease the grate.
  4. For gorgeous grill marks and delicious caramelized flavor follow the 10-2 rule of grilling (see recipe for explanation).
  5. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

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Grilled Steakhouse Rib-Eye & Watermelon Wedge

1/2 cup dry red wine

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ cup blue cheese dressing

4 (1-inch thick) ribeye steaks

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

1/2 small, seedless watermelon, rind removed, cut into thick wedges

¼ cup crumbled blue cheese

2 green onions, thinly sliced on bias

8 fresh mint or basil leaves, thinly sliced plus additional sprigs for garnish

Heat grill to high. In small saucepan, over high heat, combine, wine, honey and Worcestershire sauce. Bring sauce mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until reduced to a syrupy consistency; set aside. Season steaks on both sides with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Place steaks on hot, lightly greased grill rack pointing one edge towards 10:00. Grill 2 to 3 minutes creating well-browned grill marks. Rotate steak so that same edge now points toward 2:00. Grill 2 minutes. Now repeat process on other side of steak. Reduce heat to medium. Grill steaks, 3 to 4 minutes more or until medium-rare (125 degrees on an instant read thermometer). Transfer steaks to plate; cover with foil and let rest 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, season watermelon with salt and pepper; place on lightly greased grill rack for 2 minutes per side or until charred grill marks begin to form. Arrange steaks and watermelon on serving plates. Drizzle dressing over watermelon. Drizzle wine sauce over steaks. Sprinkle with green onions, herbs and blue cheese. Garnish with fresh herb sprigs. Serves 4.

perfect grill marks following the 10-2 rule

perfect grill marks following the 10-2 rule

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memories & Recipes: Please Share

low country potato salad

low country potato salad

Have you read The Giver by Lois Lowry? It is the story of a frightening world where freedom of choice has been taken away. It is a world of government-controlled sameness devoid of emotion and memories. There are vivid scenes of infanticide and elder euthanasia that brings this one to tears. Thankfully, the main character, a 12-year-old named Jonas, is about to set this world on fire. He is “the Receiver” of the memories and quickly learns it is just too much for one person to bear.

sharing some memories

Sharing some memories

 

memories of great friends

Fun Family Memories

Like Jonas, I agree that memories are meant to share. After William died the best gifts given to me were memories of him. The personal stories provided a glimpse into his world through the eyes of others. I learned so much about him from friends, family, classmates, military brothers and sisters. They felt so very privileged to know him and were delighted to share a few tales. It was the good, the bad and the ugly of William. It was comforting. For the most part it made me laugh and to this day thoughts of these memories continue to heal me. I would be lying, however, if I did not admit to at least one story that made me cringe. Trying to put that one out of my mind and forgive the one who shared it.

memories of great friends

Memories of great friends

So if you ever find yourself wondering what to say or write to someone who is grieving…Share a good memory of the deceased. And if you live close and feel the need to stop by share a family favorite recipe. Bring your most comforting dish. It is a sign of your love and caring. Don’t forget to share a copy of the recipe.IMG_0845

I never quite understand those who covet their recipes. Guarding grandma’s secret sauce mix or worse, yet, sharing a recipe, but omitting an ingredient on purpose. I, on the other hand, think it the ultimate compliment when one asks me for a copy of a recipe. Recipes like memories are meant to share. Enjoy. This one brings back memories of my days in the South.

Low Country Style Potato Salad

12 small (1 pound) red-skinned potatoes

2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning

½ pound large shrimp, shelled, deveined

1 cup fresh cut or frozen sweet corn, thawed

2 links fresh andouille sausage, casing removed

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup chili sauce

2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley plus additional for garnish

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons prepared horseradish

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 rib crisp celery, chopped

4 green onions, thinly sliced including some of the green part

2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped

Place a metal steamer basket in a large pot. Add water to a depth of 2- inches. In a bowl, toss potatoes with vinegar. Drain vinegar into pot with water; bring water-vinegar mixture to a boil. Toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon old bay seasoning; place in steamer basket, cover and cook 20 minutes or until tender. Transfer potatoes to a plate; let cool. In bowl, toss shrimp with remaining 1-tablespoon old bay seasoning. Place shrimp and corn in steamer basket; cover and cook 3 to 5 minutes or until fully cooked. Transfer to plate; let cool. Meanwhile, brown sausage in small skillet, breaking up into crumbles with a wooden spoon; set aside. In small bowl, whisk mayonnaise, chili sauce, parsley, lemon juice, horseradish and Worcestershire sauce; cover and chill dressing until ready to assemble salad. Cut potatoes and shrimp into bite-size pieces. In a large bowl, toss potatoes, shrimp, corn, half the sausage crumbles, celery, green onions and eggs with the dressing. Place potato salad on a large serving platter. Sprinkle with remaining sausage crumbles and garnish with parsley. Serves 6.

 

 

 

 

Grief & Treats From Mother Nature

wouldn't it be fun to pick cupcakes in the garden

wouldn’t it be fun to pick cupcakes in the garden

Good grief and nature go together like basil and tomatoes. There is no escaping it. As much as I thought I could take a break from grief there is so much about Mother Nature that keeps it right on the edge of my mind and in my heart. William was such an outdoorsman. As a kid, he loved everything about playing in the woods. His passions included hunting, fishing or just being with Mother Nature. Fond memories include playing eye-spy searching out critters hiding in the brush. He was happy.

in the Adirondaks: photo courtesy of the Van Sant family

Our new backyard (we have lived here 2 years now) brings William into my heart nearly every day. This week there are dancing blue birds, red tailed hawks, overhead, teaching their babies to fly and just this morning 4 young bucks butting heads—the latter brings an automatic, “Good Morning, William” from my lips. It makes me happy.

my yard: photo by Carol Walsh

my yard: photo by Carol Walsh

As always I am thankful to have these moments with William and to live in such a beautiful place. I am also thankful that the deer have kept their distance from my garden and that Mother Nature has provided us with an abundance of delicious fruits and vegetables for me to play with in the kitchen.

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Take the zucchini (please take some) for instance. I only planted 2 seeds and I have more than I know what to do with. It’s been grilled, roasted, stuffed and pancaked, but my favorite new recipe are these little cakes. Enjoy!

Yucatan Squash Cakes

3 cups white whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur brand)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch cayenne pepper, optional

1/2 cup cocoa powder

4 large eggs, room temperature

2 ½ cups granulated sugar

½ cup canola oil

¾ cup applesauce

¼ cup unsalted butter, melted

3 cups shredded zucchini, lightly tamp it down into the cup

Preheat oven 350F. Lightly grease or line 2 ½ dozen muffin cups with paper liners. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cocoa powder into a large bowl, then whisk until blended and set aside. 

 In mixing bowl, beat eggs on high speed with an electric mixer for 2−3 minutes gradually adding the sugar. Beat until mixture is pale yellow, thick and creamy. Add oil, applesauce and melted butter; beat until well mixed. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and fold gently by hand until dry ingredients are completely moistened and mixed. Stir in zucchini. Using a standard ice cream scoop, fill muffin cups about 2/3 full. 
Bake 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in cupcake comes out clean. Cool. Dust with powdered sugar or add a chocolate glaze or frosting, if desired, but really not needed. Makes 2 1/2 dozen cupcakes

Birthday, Basil & Cheesecake, Oh, My!

 

Basil Infused Strawberry Cheesecake

Basil Infused Strawberry Cheesecake

It was a 11 years ago, on her 18th birthday, when I presented Caitlin with 18 hand-written love letters. It was an annual event for me to write my baby girl a letter on July 14th and stash it away in a “treasure box”. Now, as she was leaving the nest, it was time for my first-born to have them. Hopefully, seeing herself through a loving mother’s eyes and remembering all the goodness she had brought to our family would give her strength and wisdom as she set off on her own.

Cait & Sam graduate

Cait & Sam graduate

As parents, Bill and I could not have been more proud when Caitlin graduated with honors in economics from Wake Forest University. Wow!-we thought, money well-spent. She was on her way to her first big job in Philadelphia and the huge responsibility of seriously paying her own bills (woohoo!) Pretty sure there were times when she wished she was back in college, but she perseveres receiving promotion after promotion. Hello Ms Marketing Director.

marriage

And then came marriage and one of the happiest days of our lives. Hello, Mrs. Pemberton. Tomorrow she turns 29 and I realize I owe her way more than a love letter, but that is between me and her.

love my baby girl

love my baby girl

I will, however, share with you her favorite dessert which is cheesecake. Inspired by the plentiful basil in my garden and the juiciest, ripest strawberries ever this recipe is cause for celebration. Happy Birthday dear Caitlin!

cheesecake

Basil Infused Strawberry Cheesecake

1-cup heavy cream

8 fresh basil leaves, plus additional for garnish

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Crust

1 cup crushed chocolate cookie crumbs (18 Nabisco Chocolate Wafer cookies)

2 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons melted butter

Filling

3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened

¾ cup sugar

3 eggs

1 pound fresh strawberries (reserve 9 berries for garnish and puree the rest)

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream

Heat oven to 325F. In a microwave safe measuring cup heat heavy cream on HIGH for 1 minute. Bruise basil leaves lightly with your fingers and submerge in hot cream; set aside to steep. Mix cookie crumbs, sugar and butter until crumbly; press over bottom of 9-inch spring-form pan; bake 8 minutes. Cool on wire rack. In large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, strawberry puree (you should have about 1 cup), vanilla, ¼ cup of basil infused heavy cream (cover and refrigerate the remaining basil-cream mixture) and yogurt until well mixed. Pour batter into crust. Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until center is just set. Do not over bake. Cool to room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator to chill completely. Run a knife around the pan sides. Remove sides of pan. Remove basil from chilled cream. Add powdered sugar and beat with an electric mixture to stiff peaks. Garnish top of cheesecake with basil-whipped cream, reserved strawberries and basil sprigs, if desired. Serves 12.

Tips:

#1 place a piece of plastic wrap over the bowl of your food processor before securing the top to keep the top from getting dirty (since I hate washing the top)

puree the strawberries in a food processor

puree the strawberries in a food processor

#2 use a flat bottom cup to pat the crumb crust into place and the back of a spoon to smooth around the edge

easy crumb crust

easy crumb crust