Mom Advice: listen to me

addition of fresh berries-good job Bill

addition of fresh berries-good job Bill

Yesterday was my 58th birthday. It was a joyful occasion. I was completely pampered by my daughter, my son in law, my husband and friends. I am a lucky lady. Still, I stole a quiet moment to be with William all because he wrote me a letter. If you ever wonder why I write this blog I think this will explain it. Here are a few excerpts from his letter. Will's Letter Will was in Afghanistan by the time I got the letter Now for some mom advice: If ever you love someone Write them a letter A handwritten letter No email No text If ever you love someone Tell them why In a letter Folded and saved in an old box And if ever you are gone That handwritten letter now yellowed Will be treasured, unfolded and read Over and over and over And if ever you wonder Will it be enough Be sure It will always be the best gift ever

Tough Question & Easter Muffins

muffinsIt’s a common question and one that bereaved parents fear. How many children do you have? Pretty normal conversation in most social situations, but no easy answer if you are the one who has lost a child. How does one respond when someone asks, “how many children do you have?” How does one communicate about the loss of a child? How much information does one share and with who? Do I tell my story or strip it down?

"I have a daughter and a son"

“I have a daughter and a son”

When we moved to our new neighborhood I wasn’t prepared for this distressing question. Totally caught off guard, it hit me like a ton of bricks triggering tears and then apologies. It forced me to confront William’s death. It brought an upsurge in my grief. I felt embarrassed in front of new acquaintances and I felt sorry for the people who asked. As much as I wanted my privacy it felt wrong not to tell them about William. I needed to validate him no matter how painful the conversation.100_1937

With time the tough questions get easier to handle. I am prepared and comfortable with the answer, “I have a daughter and a son”. If I don’t want to share anything more I quickly change the topic. It works for me. How do you answer the tough question?

I highly recommend these no-fade baking cups

I highly recommend these no-fade baking cups

When it comes to baking I always have a lot of questions. Baking is a science after all. For instance, what the heck is white whole wheat flour? I have been baking with it for years, but never gave it much thought until creating this muffin recipe. Is it really whole grain flour or a refined mix of some kind? Turns out it is a whole grain flour made from white wheat as opposed to red wheat. It is simply lighter in color, milder in flavor and softer in texture. All of the good nutrition that one comes to expect from whole grains is in there. None of it has been stripped away.

white whole wheat flour

white whole wheat flour

Your Easter bunnies will love these muffins filled with dried fruits, carrots, coconut and whole grains. They are best served warm. If you don’t eat them all on day 1 then just refresh them with a 15 second nuke in the microwave.muffins

Be Fruitful Whole Grain Muffins

1-cup all-purpose flour

½ cup white whole wheat flour

1-cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)

¾ cup flax seed meal

½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking soda

1-teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup chopped dried apples

½ cup golden raisins or chopped apricots

¾ cup milk

2 eggs

1-teaspoon coconut extract

Heat oven 350F. Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners. In large bowl, whisk flours, coconut sugar, flax seed meal, coconut, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt, until blended. Toss in carrots, apples and raisins or apricots. In another bowl, whisk milk, eggs and coconut extract; add to dry ingredients and mix just until dry ingredients are moistened. Don’t over mix. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups (about 2/3 full). Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Brushed By An Angel’s Wing & Bread

smokehouse cranberry cheese bread

smokehouse cranberry cheese bread

This week I believe I was brushed by an angel’s wing; one belonging to my dear, sweet mother in law, Renetta. Monday was her birthday and on that day the finalists in the 2015 National Festival of Breads was announced. And, yes, yours truly is among them. It’s an honor. What touches my heart about this whole thing is not so much that I won, but that the recipe I created for this contest was actually inspired by Renetta and days spent visiting her in Vermont. Is it just coincidence or is it Renetta continuing to comfort me? Are there angels among us? What’s your story?

William & Grandma Keys

William & Grandma Keys

Renetta was a fabulous and very health conscious cook. She was the first to teach me the importance of buying local in support of the farming community. One of my favorite memories is taking a ride with her and the kids to the smokehouse and sugar shack. There we would sample and buy the farmer’s smoked cheeses (the kind dipped in red and white wax). The smoked cheddar and gouda were delicious whether she was slicing it up for a sandwich on her homemade bread or grating it into her mac n’cheese. smoked cheeseAnd what a treat for my kids to experience the collection and boiling down of sap into maple syrup at the sugar shack. We all looked forward to Grandma’s famous “Vermont Sundae”, vanilla ice cream with warm, just harvested, real maple syrup poured over the top. Drool worthy memories! I am grateful for them and for the inspiration they provide for my award winning recipes today. Can’t go wrong cooking from your heart. Renetta would be happy and proud and I am not surprised that she is still watching over me. Still miss her very much.

I cannot share my bread recipe with you just yet, but here is the official announcement from the National Festival of Breads including yummy photos of all the other winners.