Let’s talk about the real Gold Star community and not the current political nonsense. Just for the record when my son died in 2011 I wrote to the then President and the first lady. In my naivete, I thought the President might have some answers and the first lady, a mom like me, would offer some comforting words, but I got nothing. No personal response from those in the White House made me feel like my son’s life didn’t matter. So my advice, don’t listen to what either side is saying right now about Gold Star families. It’s all painful media hype.
Then there is Heather Kuhn. Heather was the Navy Gold Star Program Coordinator assigned to my area of the country. Coordinators assist families with benefit questions connecting them to valuable resources concerning bereavement and financial planning support. They also provide opportunities to celebrate our fallen service member through events connecting the Gold Star community. When Heather reached out about creating this cookbook I was all in.
It really wasn’t a tough choice picking a recipe that William liked best. I did think about his favorite Boston cream pie and even a couple of recipes that he created himself…”waffles supreme” and a sandwich he called “the American Hero”, but clearly this chicken dish was the one he asked for more than any other. He loved a little bit of chicken fried.
I believe we all can relate that when faced with loss and grief and mourning – which is not a phase or a stage, but rather a journey – many fond memories are often brought back with familiar sounds and comforting smells, and the tastes of the meals shared with those we have loved and lost, but cherish still.
I am grateful she was inspired to reach out to Gold Star families and compile a book filled with recipe favorites and memories of our fallen service members. This book is not for sale, but available for free electronically for those wishing to read and honor our fallen heroes.
“Whenever someone sorrows, I do not say, “forget it,” or “it will pass,” or “it could be worse” — all of which deny the integrity of the painful experience. But I say, to the contrary, “It is worse than you may allow yourself to think. Delve into the depth. Stay with the feeling. Think of it as a precious source of knowledge and guidance. Then and only then will you be ready to face it and be transformed in the process.” ~ Peter Koestenbaum
In these uncertain times there is one thing I know for sure. People find comfort in baking bread. Trending all over the internet are the most beautiful moist loaves of banana bread and artistic sourdough boules, baguettes and focaccia. Clearly, there are two kinds of bakers. Those who like to get a quick sweet fix in a banana bread and those that prefer the long, often days process, of an artisanal loaf.
What if we could meld these two unlikely classes of bread into one harmonious loaf? Wouldn’t it be nice….and what if we could all sit around the same table and break bread together?
Yes, let’s do it.
Sourdough baking is not all that complicated once you have become the proud owner of some sourdough starter. Starter is a simple mix of fermented flour and water. It contains wild yeast and lactobacilli bacteria. It is what makes the bread rise. It’s “alive” and it needs to be maintained or “fed”. Sourdough discard, on the other hand, is that leftover starter, not used in the days baking process. Many bakers either throw the discard in the trash or they try to reduce the amount of starter they maintain keeping as little as 10 grams. Still, others, like me, prefer to repurpose it into waffles, crackers and quick breads. A typical starter is equal parts water and flour known as 100% hydration. This makes it easy to swap out some of the flour and liquid by weight in most any baking recipe for the sourdough discard. Here is a link for a full explanation on how it all works: Cultures For Health
Sourdough Date ‘n Honey Banana Bread
1 ½ cups (200 g) all-purpose flour
½ cup (40 g) white whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (150 g) pitted dates, chopped
3 tablespoons hot water
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 over-ripe bananas, mashed
¾ cup (125 g) sourdough discard
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons lemon olive oil or plain olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of a lemon
½ cup chopped candied nuts
Heat your oven to 350ºF. Coat a 9” x 5” loaf pan with no-stick baking spray. In bowl whisk both flours, salt and baking soda; set aside. In food processor, pulse dates and hot water until finely chopped. In large mixer bowl, cream butter and date mixture until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. While mixing, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add banana, sourdough, honey, olive oil vanilla and zest; blend well. Add flour mixture slowly, pausing to scrape down the sides if necessary. Pour the batter into the 9” x 5” baking pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle nuts evenly over top. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until golden brown and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and then gently remove onto a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 1 loaf.