From the Heart

Today, I could not help but want to repost this old Valentine’s day blog. It truly is one of my fondest memories of William. Thinking back on that visit with him always makes me smile. He was the master of fun surprises.

I continue to be inspired by his amazing brave and caring energy which brings me to this weekend’s TEDx talk. Truth be told I wasn’t exactly sure what a TEDx talk was when I accepted the invitation. I just knew it would be one more way to celebrate Will’s life, so of course I said, “yes”.

Little did I know that being invited to do a TEDx talk is kind of a big deal. Little did I know just how terrified I would be as I prepared for it. In between panic attacks over the last several weeks I prepared 7 pages of my thoughts. Too much I fretted, so whittled it down to 4. I attempted to memorize a speech. Practice, practice, practice. It felt like I was jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. It felt all wrong.

Several supportive friends suggested, “just speak from your heart”. I am taking their advice and feeling less anxious. To just simply speak from the heart feels right.

To further ease my anxiety I thought it a good idea to bake cookies for all 300 people in the TEDx audience. Baking cookies is much more therapeutic than public speaking. Just sayin’. I’m bringing the original Sweet William’s Inspired and Spirited Chocolate Chip Cookie and a Salted Chocolate Whiskey Shortbread because I wanted a heart shaped cookie.

The cookie dough for the shortbread contains no salt, so don’t hesitate to generously top each cookie with a good sprinkle of finishing salt. I highly recommend The Spice & Tea Exchange Chocolate Sea Salt for its sweet smokey flavor.

Salted Chocolate Whiskey Shortbread

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon whiskey (Jack Daniel’s recommended)

4 cups all-purpose flour (King Arthur Flour)

1 cup chopped bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate

Chocolate Sea Salt or your favorite finishing salt

In large bowl, beat butter and sugar for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. On low speed, add egg, vanilla and whisky; blend well. Gradually add flour until fully incorporated. Stir in chocolate. Dump dough out onto some plastic wrap. Gather it up into a flat disk. Wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Heat oven to 350F. On a silicone mat or lightly floured surface roll dough to 1/8-1/4-inch thickness. Cut out desired shapes with cookie cutters. Re-roll dough scraps as needed to cut out more cookies. Sprinkle cookies generously with finishing salt. Gently press salt into cookie with your fingertips. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes for 1 1/2-inch size cookies or until edges brown. Cool. I made about 200 cookies with a small heart shaped cutter.

On this Valentine’s Day I hope you are surrounded by those you love most. ❤

High-Rise Banana Muffins

It’s that time of year that I like to clean out my cupboards, pantry and freezer. I pride myself on keeping my baking and cooking equipment organized, but by the end of 2018 everything seemed to be in a tangle.

Inspired by 3 over-ripe bananas discovered in the depths of my freezer it was time to use them up along with a bunch of random paper cupcake liners and near empty containers of spices and extracts. Baking some warm healthy muffins would help me clean things out. And bonus…we get delicious muffins for breakfast.

Today, I bring you a banana muffin that actually tastes like bananas. Tip: bake with over-ripe bananas for the very best flavor. Most muffins I have had in the past are loaded with spices, so they taste more like ginger or cinnamon or chai rather than fresh bananas. While this recipe has a touch of spice the banana flavor and aroma really comes through due to the addition of some banana extract. I love this McCormick brand because it truly does enhance the banana flavor without any weird artificial taste.

You will notice that this recipe starts at a high oven temperature of 425F. before dropping down to 350F. The initial high heat is what gives these muffins the high-rise. As for mixing…you know the drill. Mix the dry ingredients with the wet just until moistened, so they bake up tender. Please feel free to toss in any other healthy ingredients you like. I’m a freak for chia seeds, but some toasted nuts could be good for a bit of crunch

1 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour

½ cup King Arthur white whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 over-ripe bananas (frozen and thawed)

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (or 3/4 cup if you like them sweeter)

6 tablespoons coconut or avocado oil

1 egg

2 teaspoons McCormick banana extract

1 tablespoon chia seeds

Heat oven 425F. Line muffin tin with paper liners. In medium bowl, whisk both flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg; set aside. Peel thawed bananas over a large bowl, catching any excess liquid. With electric mixer on low mash up the bananas. Add brown sugar, coconut or avocado oil, egg, extract and chia seeds; blend well. Add dry ingredients and blend at low speed just until moistened and batter is smooth. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake for 5 minutes and then turn down oven to 350F. Bake 15 to 17 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tips on Peeling Back the Layers

IMG_6048

onion flowers

It was mid-March 2011 when I last spent time with William. Who knew it would be my last real conversation and final hug good-bye? And so it begins this time of year when I feel like I can’t catch my breath. It’s an uncontrollable anxiety that just won’t go away. Sleep escapes me often waking in the middle of the night with tears in my eyes. “Just breathe” is my mantra. This, too, shall pass, but when? It’s been 7 years. How many more layers are there to this grief thing?

100_2653

Truth is that I am just a little frustrated with myself. Why does working through grief take so long to resolve? I know the answer. There is no end to it, but I want there to be. It’s difficult wanting something one knows can never be achieved. Acceptance will come. Just breathe.

DSCN0489

I want to reach in and hold your hand

 

Need a food analogy? Recently, I saw a lovely oil painting of an onion. Quite detailed in shades of black and brown I wanted to reach in and peel away some of its dried, fragile outer skin. In its darkness, I knew peeling back the layers would bring tears, but also that aromatic freshness that makes cooking with onions so delicious, so delightful and well, healing. It’s the same with every onion. It’s never going to be different, but there are ways to deal with it. How do YOU do it?

fullsizeoutput_54ae

A small tabletop fan blows the sulfuric onion fumes away from you…no more tears

There are lots of tips on how to slice an onion without crying. Chilling it and not cutting through the root don’t work for me. Wearing glasses offer zero protection from the noxious fumes, but blowing the fumes away from my cutting board with a small tabletop fan works like a charm. Try it. No more tears. You are welcome.

IMG_6464

Now, if onion is to be eaten raw in a recipe like a salsa I suggest soaking chopped onion in cold water to rinse away some of the pungent juice for a milder flavor.

IMG_6223

Grief is like the biggest most pungent onion in the garden. Peeling back each layer brings on tears. It’s painful, but healing. It’s never going to be different, but there are ways to deal with it. How do you get through your day?

IMG_9614

My son was killed on April 16th. His birthday is April 22. It’s a rough week for a lot of people. I want to dedicate this blog post to my friends Carol & Bev. They  are how I feel God’s presence. They hold me up when I can’t hold myself. They struggle along with me, so they jump in the car and make the long trip. They bring food and wine and laughter. They let me be me and it is such a relief. May you all have a Carol & Bev in your life. ❤

IMG_5668

And a special shout-out to Patrice, Debbie, Wendy and Irene. Friends who remember and continue to celebrate him through me.

If you care to leave a comment today make it a happy thought, a joke or a fun William story….or even your favorite cooking with onion tips.

thank you