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

Crushed Cupcakes For Your Valentine

My Crush Cupcake

My Crush Cupcake

In the best case scenario, love would not bring pain. Yet, in our world that is the reality. We love someone. We lose someone and we must experience the pain and the grief. I am grateful every day that my William felt the love of family, but it is that deep love that makes mourning so difficult. At first you feel like you won’t survive it. You’ve been CRUSHED. Then comes a kind of angry sadness as you confront the fact that your loved one is really gone. It’s like a part of you has died along with him or her. Then those intense feelings slowly decline and you reenter the world as someone sort of new. Someone you didn’t know you could be.

love you forever

love you forever

Is the pain of love and loss worth it? Absolutely 100%! Here comes Valentine’s Day. It is one of those love-hate holidays for most. Hopefully, you have a Crush on someone and here is a simple way to show it. Buy a can of orange Crush soda and with a sharpie pen a sweet message on the can. Then…..print out this recipe and give it to them so they can bake you these cupcakes.

Orange Crush Soda Cupcakes

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon fresh orange zest

1/8 teaspoon orange oil

2 eggs

2 cups cake flour

1/4 tsp. baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup orange Crush soda

Heat oven 350F. Line cupcake tin with paper liners. Cream butter, sugar, zest and orange oil with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time beating until well incorporated. Mix flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually add in dry ingredients alternating with orange soda, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat one minute until all is thoroughly mixed. Scoop batter into prepared liners filling ¾ full. Bake 20 to 22 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool and frost. Makes about 16 cupcakes

FROSTING

1/2 cup unsalted butter, 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon grated orange zest, 2 drops orange oil, pinch of salt, 2-3 teaspoons fresh orange juice. touch of orange food coloring, optional

Beat all ingredients together adding just enough orange juice to make a fluffy frosting

Bitter-Sweet Tears & Biscotti

Bittersweet Almond Biscotti

Bittersweet Almond Biscotti

Recently a friend asked if there were any days when I just sobbed the kind of tears that took one’s breath away? She was worried about another friend who seems to not have grieved at all over the loss of her son because she never sees her cry. Surely, we all grieve differently. Surely, her friend is crying. There are just times we are desperate to pretend that we are not the poor moms who have lost our children. We just want it to be the way it used to be. We deal with the devil bargaining to get our children back; to go back to normal. We don’t want to cry.

The lack of tears in the public eye helps to shield those around us from our pain; a kind of mothering protective effect. Maybe there is a fear that if we are crying all the time then no one will want us around. There is a real fear of isolation and abandonment by all the others in the world we love. I totally remember my “poised” days when I did not cry in front of others only to retreat to the privacy of my bedroom to scream my head off and punch pillows. It was only me, myself and I in my weakest and saddest moments. It’s just the way it is. It is sometimes easier and safer to cry alone.

It’s been 2 1/2 years since I lost my son. I still cry. It is normal. Any little trigger that reminds me of William can set me off. I thought I got through Thanksgiving unscathed. However, the morning after, while walking the dog on the beach, there were construction workers fixing a house ravished by hurricane Sandy playing country music on the radio. William and I shared a love of country music. It was the Rodney Atkins song, “If Your Going Through Hell” and the lyrics, “Used the needle of your compass, to sew up your broken heart”……….. it made me think of William and how he gave me the call name “broken compass” because I have no sense of direction and can’t find my way out of a box. I spent the morning crying on the beach. Just me, myself and I…and the dog who loves me no matter what.

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“But the good news is there’s angels everywhere out on the street Holdin’ out a hand to pull you back up on your feet”. It seems to take less time to recover from moments like those on the beach. There is a neighborhood holiday cookie swap tomorrow and baking cookies helps me snap out of my funk.  Inspired by a bottle of Bella Gusta blood orange EVOO I decide to create a biscotti. It’s a lightly sweet, crisp almond cookie with just a touch of orange and chocolate bitterness. It’s great for dunking in your favorite holiday beverage.

Bitter Sweet Almond Biscotti

  • Servings: 2 1/2 dozen
  • Print

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sugar

finely grated zest of 1 orange

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup blood orange extra virgin olive oil

2 cups sliced almonds, divided

1 egg white, lightly beaten

4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate, melted

Heat oven 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Reserve 1/4 cup of flour. In bowl, whisk remaining flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In food processor, combine sugar, zest, eggs and almond extract until blended. With food processor running, add the oil. Reserve 1/3 cup of almonds. Add remaining almonds to mixture in food processor; process until almonds are finely chopped. Add the flour mixture; process just until the dry ingredients are moistened. The dough will be sticky. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Add reserved flour and knead to make a soft, non-sticky dough. Divide dough n half. Shape each half into a 8 x 2-inch rectangle; place rectangles 2-inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Brush tops with egg white and sprinkle with reserved almonds. Lightly press almonds to adhere. Bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting surface and with a serrated knife cut into 1/2-inch slices. Lay slices back on baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, turn cookies over, and bake another 10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Cool and drizzle with melted chocolate.