Taking a Chance & a Brain Freezing Granita

margarita granita

A chance meeting on a plane ride from Kansas to Philadelphia blessed me with a new friend named Valerie. We met for coffee today and she gave me the most beautiful book.book

I immediately turned to April 16th which is the day my son died to read: “there is a reservoir of love and compassion in the human community. We don’t need to be afraid to show our vulnerability, because to mourn when we are bereaved is not a sign of weakness but a stepping into the circle where all the brothers and the sisters can put their arms around us and hold us close, if we give them a chance.”

Smokehouse Cranberry Cheese Bread

Smokehouse Cranberry Cheese Bread

The words bring me to what I did just 2 nights ago. I took a chance and gave a bread baking class to 6 total strangers. Min, the hostess, found me on Facebook after learning I was a CHOPPED champion and winner at the National Festival of Breads. She knew my story and she reached out. Min, like Valerie, is that part of humanity that is filled with love and compassion.The group wanted to pay me to teach them how to bake bread, but I offered to do it only if a donation could go to the local food pantry in memory of my son. We baked, we shared a meal and our stories. I celebrated William the best way I knew how teaching kind folks how to bake. We laughed and yes, I got a little teary, but the important thing, I let them in and fell into the “reservoir of love and compassion.”

tree heart photo by Bev Poulin

tree heart photo by Bev Poulin….if ever there was a reservoir of love and compassion

Now back to Valerie for just a another second. I almost screwed up our coffee date due to what I like to call brain freeze. Since losing William my brain gets a little muddled and I notice I am no longer “as sharp as a tack” (my dad used to say that). Just can’t keep track of dates and times among other things like I used to. So, in honor of my brain freeze, Valerie, this one is for you. Thank you for the book and for taking a chance on me. You better eat it slow.

right out of the blender it is more like a sorbet

right out of the blender it is more like a sorbet

Fresh Fruit Watermelon Margarita Granita

6 cups cubed red seedless watermelon, frozen*

2 limes, peeled

1 orange, peeled, seeded

¼ cup water

4 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons tequila

2 tablespoons cointreau or other orange flavored liqueur

To freeze watermelon place it in a single layer on a foil lined rimmed baking pan; freeze several hours until solid. (I usually just do this the night before or early in the day). Combine all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. Can be eaten right away which makes it more like a sorbet or pour mixture into a metal 8-inch pan and freeze until solid. Scrape with the tines of a fork and scoop into serving dishes. Garnish as desired.

Here comes the brain freeze! And if you really want to take a chance try it with a sprinkle of chili powder on top. It is my new favorite way to eat all things frosty.

avocado ice cream topped with chili powder

avocado ice cream topped with chili powder

Mystery Solved with a Frozen Treat

pineapple cucumber soy sorbet

pineapple cucumber soy sorbet

On the banks of Lake Elise

I saw you on a lily pad

Smiling, sitting Indian style

With your arms reaching up and out

I reached to you and was happy

But then the sun rose

To tear-filled eyes

Dreaming again

thank you for the whoosh moment  Kathy Adamson Romaniello

thank you for the Lake elise whoosh moment Kathy Adamson Romaniello

on the happy banks

on the happy banks

It remains a bit of a mystery how my son died that night and it’s a mystery how one can be happy and sad at the same time. It’s complicated and twisted when it comes to grief. The obvious is that one who has lost their person will always have a sense of sadness. That cannot be changed. With time, however, the sadness becomes more manageable and doesn’t interfere with day-to-day activities. Is there an occasional meltdown? You betcha, but those episodes are much more short-lived and usually triggered by, at least in my case, fatigue. A good night’s sleep and coping skills are restored. What’s your trigger? Identify it and try to avoid it.

so unlike him this photo always cracks me up

so unlike him this photo always cracks me up…thank you Van Sant family for this photo

Welcome happiness. It’s a choice. It’s all around us. See it in a stranger’s smile, smell it in the garden, feel it in a warm embrace, hear it in a song. To choose happiness and to feel joy is an option we all have. It celebrates your person. Reach up and out and embrace it.

a typical day at the beach with Andrew, Tyler and William

a typical day at the beach with Andrew, Tyler and William

And speaking of a meltdown, what a warm summer it has been. Want to know what makes me happy this time of year? It’s ice cream, gelato, sorbet, sherbet and well you get the picture….oh, wait-did I say frozen snicker bars? Yes, all kinds of frozen treats put a smile on my face. It’s no mystery that to make a tasty freeze only a blender is required.

Vitamix frozen beauty

Vitamix frozen beauty

My garden (which always makes me happy) is overgrown with cucumbers. Did you know that cucumbers have a prickly surface? I had no idea until I grew my own. Ouch-really prickly! And did you know that the borage flower tastes like cucumbers? How convenient that they are both ready for picking and eating at the same time (as long as you don’t use chemicals on your plants). Add some fresh pineapple, a few fridge staples and a high speed blender and we are in sweet frozen heaven. Happy summer-no ice cream maker necessary.

fresh cucumbers from the garden

fresh cucumbers from the garden

Fresh Pineapple Cucumber Sorbet

2 cups fresh pineapple chunks, frozen

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut into chunks, frozen

½ cup silken tofu

½ cup plain Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons agave (adjust to your own desired sweetness)

1-teaspoon fresh lime juice

1 or 2 leaves fresh mint, optional

Place all ingredients into blender* in order given. Start on low speed and increase until mixture is smooth and well blended. Serve immediately.

Note: If you own a Vitamix use the Frozen Dessert setting

Note #2: if you prefer to drink your frozen concoctions just add some soy milk or juice to the blender and mix to your favorite consistency

no borage-use mint and another pretty flower for garnish

no borage-use mint and another pretty flower for garnish

Waldorf Salad Refresh with California Walnuts

get your creative juices flowing

Get your creative juices flowing

You all know me by now. I just can’t resist a recipe contest that requires me to think way outside the box. Add in the fact that I am required to use ingredients that I already know and love and I am all in. Ingredients like healthy California walnuts, crisp sweet-tart apples and crunchy celery are already in my fridge and pantry, so let’s get started recreating a something new and different Waldorf salad.

California walnuts, apples and celery add healthy crunch

California walnuts, apples and celery add healthy crunch

The Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City is well-known for its luxury accommodations as well as its famous salad. Checking out their restaurant menu the current version of the salad includes apples, candied walnuts and celeriac which got me to thinking how to re-mix, remake and refresh those ingredients into something unexpected and delicious.

building the perfect sandwich

building the perfect sandwich

Like I said you all know me by now, so I bet you’re not surprised I created a fantastic grilled cheese featuring some fresh ingredients. Doesn’t every restaurant menu need the perfect grilled cheese sandwich? Don’t you just love to order that soup and sandwich combo like grilled cheese and tomato soup. It’s such a classic. What makes mine Waldorf Astoria worthy? Without a doubt it is the candied California walnut pesto that makes this “refresh” fantastic.

The Waldorf Salad Grilled Cheese with Candied Walnut Pesto

The Waldorf Grilled Cheese with Candied Walnut Pesto

The Waldorf Grilled Cheese Salad Sandwich with Candied Walnut Pesto

1 small clove garlic

3/4 cup packed basil leaves

¼ cup fresh celery leaves

2 tablespoons walnut oil

¼ cup California Walnuts

½ teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

2 slices firm white bread

1/3 cup shredded smoked gouda cheese

1 tablespoon finely chopped celery

½ pink lady apple or apple of your choice, thinly sliced

1/3 cup shredded gruyere cheese

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

2 grapes, optional

With food processor running drop garlic through feed tube and process until finely minced. Add basil, celery leaves and oil; pulse until combined. Add walnuts, sugar and salt; blend until smooth scraping down sides of bowl, if needed. Spread candied walnut pesto evenly on 1 side of each bread slice. On top of the pesto on 1 slice of bread, evenly layer the smoked gouda, celery, apple slices and gruyere. Cover sandwich with remaining bread slice, pesto side down. Gently press sandwich together. Spread half of the mayonnaise over top of sandwich and place mayonnaise side down on non-stick griddle. Grill sandwich, over medium-low heat, for 3 minutes or until golden brown. Spread remaining mayonnaise over bread before flipping to brown the other side. Sandwich is ready when both sides are golden brown and cheese is melted. Top with a skewered grapes, if desired.

Waldorf Salad Grilled Cheese

PS: For the carnivores in the group…if you must…add some high quality cooked crispy bacon on top of the apples. Or get your own creative juices flowing and refresh your own Waldorf salad.