Poppy Seed Cookies Transformation

Not long ago my friend, Steven, told me he was impressed by how I chose to transform my pain rather than transmit it. Not being the deep thinker that he is I have been reflecting on his comment ever since. The blog has certainly been a sacred space to share pain. A room built on grief, but filled with joy, peace and quiet. We are never not broken, but true strength and courage is never about wholeness. It is the ability to face the darkness, adapt and shine a positive light that honors the dear departed. How else could one celebrate a son so loved? 

Baking is a lot like grief. A process with good days and bad. A transformation through fire. A healthy annihilation of ingredients that are broken down and come back stronger. Love made edible…and that has made all the difference.

Today’s recipe celebrates a lovely mom named Linda. Her daughter, Lauren, took the time to privately correspond with me soon after finding the blog last month. Lauren’s letter certainly helps me understand what Steven was trying to tell me. Here is what she wrote: 

Dear Lisa, 

I came across your blog as I have also turned to cooking/baking as a therapeutic way to deal with grief. I lost my mother in January unexpectedly and tragically. My son (her only grandchild) was 8 months old at the time. It has been heartbreaking. I wept when reading that you lost your son (any mother’s greatest fear) but I am so inspired by your journey through grief and finding a healing path that involves celebrating his life through baking! 

I wanted to reach out and say thank you so much for sharing such a raw and vulnerable part of you. I know you have touched many lives through your work. 

Warmly,

Lauren
 

I wanted to know more about Lauren’s mom. In the words of her sweet daughter:

My mom shared joy and love through food, both cooking and baking. I will cherish memories of time spent in the kitchen together cooking up a feast for family and friends. I saved many of her cookbooks and kitchen items to remind me of her and to feel her presence with me when I cook/bake. 

Linda and her grandson

Yes, to feel her presence. Thank you, Lauren, for celebrating your mom on Good Grief Cook. It’s an honor to share one of her favorite recipes. Here is the precious recipe in Linda’s hand-writing. (If you follow the blog you know how much I treasure anything hand-written).

The cookie batter is very thin. I was worried, but the transformation works. These are perfectly crisp, slightly sweet and with lovely layers of flavor. Baking them to the darker golden brown is the way to a crispy cookie. Bake slightly less if you prefer to mold or transform them hot off the baking sheet. I used a level teaspoon for the small crisps and a level tablespoon for the dessert platter size.

Poppy Seed Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

¼ cup canola oil

½ cup ice water

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

½ teaspoon grated lemon rind

¼ cup poppy seeds

Heat oven 325F. Coat baking sheets with cooking spray. In bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add eggs, oil, water, vanilla, almond extract, lemon rind and poppy seeds; blend well. Drop by level teaspoons (small cookies) or level tablespoons (large cookies) on prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies about 2-inches apart. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until a darker golden brown for crisp cookies. While cookies are warm, using a thin spatula, transfer them to a cooling rack. Makes about 5 to 6 dozen cookies.


How to Celebrate a Life: TEDx Talk & Buttermilk Spice Cake

There is no better way to step outside one’s comfort zone than to give a TED talk. This is public speaking, “ideas worth spreading”, on steroids as there is no podium, a time constraint and using notes is not recommended. It takes courage and a village of support to get it done. As thankful and as proud as I can possibly be for successfully completing a TEDx talk at Furman University, I’m still going to lament the fact that I failed to convey one critical thought even though no one knew what I forgot to say. It’s about that CHOPPED competition. I really want you all to know this:

“What’s most remarkable about my CHOPPED experience is not that I won $10,000.00, but that the victory is the result of the pure love energy of my son.”

Happy birthday William. It’s your day tomorrow. I can’t think of a better gift to give you than this video. I am ever so proud to be your mom. 

If you watch the video I suggest enlarging the screen, so you can get a better look at the power point photos. I think seeing the photos as you listen is critical to better understanding the story.

A grateful shout-out to all those who read my blog, but especially today to Patrice, Betty, Krista and Marcie who inspire me to remain positive. And to the student team of Furman University led by Jacob Lollis there are no words, but love for all your hard work in coordinating such an extraordinary event. Thank you for your gracious hospitality and celebrating William’s life with me.

It would not be a celebration without cake. This Buttermilk Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream comes from Jana Roerick’s book, The Little Island Bake Shop. The warm spices only get more intense as the cake sits, so make it a day or two in advance. I baked mine in 2 8-inch round pans and then deliberately sliced them horizontally in an uneven fashion because I was feeling off kilter. Imperfect is not considered professional, but I think it is so much more interesting. I also added 4 ounces of softened cream cheese at the end of the mixing of the buttercream. The tang of the cream cheese balances out the sweetness of the frosting. I also prefer my cakes naked around the sides. And here is a neat trick. Enjoy a slice or two before your guests arrive and then embellish the inside. No one will know! It gives a whole new meaning to have your cake and eat it, too.

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. ❤