View from Will’s Bench & Holiday Gifts

cranberry apple relish

cranberry apple relish

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but before we head into the dead of winter lets take one last look at autumn. The view from Will’s Bench in the fall is glorious. It is the best time of year to visit New England.

Will's Bench Middlebury, CT

Will’s Bench Middlebury, CT

Who doesn’t like rainbows and a pine forest? I can’t help but think of my boy when I see the sun shining down on the water in such a colorful way. He’s out there, casting a line just happy to be. I can almost see him. There is a scent of pine still on his sweatshirt.

the rainbow shot

the rainbow shot

And to the one who always leaves flowers I wish you peace and hope always, but especially during this holiday season. Thank you.

peace and hope

peace and hope

Whew! I feel much better now that I have put the fall season behind us…and you have to believe that I really do actually enjoy the Christmas season. I miss William terribly, but I have to rejoice in the thought that I had his bright light in my life for 23 years. How lucky am I to have loved such a son. And to have so many in my life who continue to love and honor him, too. William is the gift that keeps on giving.

can't have an empty jar

can’t have an empty jar

Do you love a homemade gift as much as I do? Nothing better than a gift from someone’s heart. Homemade means someone has given you their precious time. It can’t be bought. It’s priceless. So, this recipe for cranberry-apple relish was born because I was feeling guilty about simply opening up a jar or can of cranberry sauce and tossing it on the table at Thanksgiving. Pressed for time I just didn’t think anyone would care about cranberry sauce, but the thought of not doing something homemade for such a special event got the best of me. Thankfully, I got it done. The jar was practically licked clean by my guests and my darling daughter announced it was the best cranberry sauce she had ever eaten and could I make more. So I did and so should you.

honey to your taste

honey to your taste

Cranberry-Apple Relish

  • Servings: 2 1/2 cups
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1-cup water

½ cup sugar

1 (12 oz) bag fresh cranberries

1 Meyer lemon or medium-size orange, grated zest and juice

1 large honey crisp apple, peeled, grated

½ cup honey

pinch of Alaskan alder smoked salt or finishing salt of your choice

½ cup toasted chopped pecans, optional

In medium saucepan, over medium heat, combine water, sugar, cranberries, lemon (or orange) zest and juice, apple and half the honey; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring mixture occasionally, pressing cranberries with the back of your spoon against the side of the pan insuring all have popped. Taste and add additional honey to your desired sweetness. (I use the whole half-cup if using the Meyer lemon instead of an orange). Simmer until the mixture is thickened. Cool. Stir in salt and pecans, if desired.

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For a nice gift pour into sterilized jars while still hot. Seal and wrap with a decorative ribbon.

The Miracle of Roasting

IMG_2443Tis the season of comfort and joy, but if one is grieving over the loss of a child it feels like anything but. Time to dig deep. Time to remember the reason for the season.  Let’s push the source of our greatest sorrow aside for a just a bit and celebrate our greatest joy. Our children. Trust me on this one. You are stronger than you think.

There is nothing more joyful than the birth of a child. As a physician assistant I delivered quite a few babies. It was a miracle every time and the glorious experience never got old.  I hoped to be a mom one day myself. It was “the job” I looked most forward to.

I remember every detail of the birth of my children like it was yesterday. Secretly, I prayed for a girl and wow did I deliver! My miracle is perfectly beautiful and loves me like no other. Two and half years later I am blessed with William. Let the fun begin. So many treasured memories to wrap myself up in; warm and fuzzy all over.

Christmas in San Diego

My most precious gifts. Christmas in San Diego.

Caitlin is the daughter that dreams are made of. She is my greatest gift and always will be. She is my reason for getting out of bed in the morning. Something I never thought I could do after William died. Without ever knowing she handed me the “shovel” so I could dig deep. It takes a while, but the time will come. The strength to dig deep is inside of each and every one of us. Find a reason to emerge from that dark hole. Ask for help if you can’t see the light.

While the parent is supposed to protect the child somewhere along the way our boundaries get blurred and roles get reversed. Truthfully, Caitlin and I have exchanged very few words about William’s death. Maybe there are no words for the death of a young son and brother. But healing begins with a few words. “Mom, we will find happiness again, I promise”.  Much like her brother, my daughter is strong and confident and determined. She follows through on her promise with a little help from a guy named Sam.

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Next to her birth, Caitlin’s wedding is one of the most joyful experiences of my life. I did not know I could feel that kind of comfort in my heart again. The year leading up to the big day is filled with priceless moments, laughter and I’d be lying if I didn’t say a few tears. But I let it go. I open my heart to the possibility….that I can feel joy again and I do. You can, too. It’s a very real miracle.

Sicilian Roasted Cauliflower

Sicilian Roasted Cauliflower

In my cooking world there is nothing more miraculous than the transformation taken on by raw vegetables when roasted. How anyone can bite into a raw mushroom, broccoli floret or chunk of cauliflower and enjoy it is beyond me. But take those same vegetables, roast them up and I am in veggie side-dish heaven. My dear Caitlin taught me the virtues of roasted cauliflower (I love that this apple didn’t fall far from the cooking tree), so this one is for her. I love her more than I can say. She is my greatest gift this Christmas season.

Sicilian Roasted Cauliflower

1 head Cauliflower
3 Tbsp Olive Oil, divided
½ tsp Kosher Salt
¼ tsp Ground Black Pepper
2 Tbsp Non-pareil Capers, drained, rinsed
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
¼ cup Golden Raisins
2 Tbsp Pine Nuts, toasted

Heat oven 450F. Cut cauliflower into 1/2-inch thick slices. Place in a large baking pan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss around. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, turning twice, until tender and golden. Meanwhile, warm the remaining olive oil and capers over medium heat. In a large serving bowl, toss cauliflower, warm caper oil, lemon juice, raisins, and pine nuts. Season with additional salt, pepper and lemon juice, if needed. Serves 6.

Helpful Tips: Cauliflower can also be separated into florets instead of slicing.