What do benches and blueberries have to do with each other? Well, it has to do with some of my fondest memories of my family and friends back in Connecticut. On one warm day in July, my friend, Carol, organized a venture out to a local farm to pick blueberries. On this particular day, as we headed in to get our filled buckets weighed, the screaming came out of nowhere. Without warning all my friends were suddenly standing behind me. Completely bewildered by their scared behavior, I said, “WHAT?” As they were hugging my back and pushing me forward, they pointed to a garden snake crossing our path. Well, I nearly peed my pants (sorry) responding, “What am I? Your secret service agent waiting to take the bullet?” In reality, I was quite flattered that they looked at me as the strong and brave protector. It certainly was how most saw my son, William.
Soon after the news of William’s death Carol went into organization mode again and this is where benches come in. She mobilized an entire community to join in to celebrate William with a memorial bench placed at his favorite fishing spot along the shores of Lake Elise. It is a protected place where one can enjoy the beauty of the lake and remember the boy who often went out of his way to make one feel loved, respected and protected. I love visiting this place with family and friends. After a bit of tearful silence we usually, without warning, turn to laughter, recalling the mischievous boy who made us so proud to be a part of his life. Lake Elise is worth the trip. Drop me a line if you ever take a seat on Will’s Bench. To those who have lost don’t hesitate to build a memorial celebrating your loved one. It is a good thing.
So, if blueberries and benches have something in common why not blueberries and coconut. Luckily, winter fresh and frozen blueberries are readily available this time of year. Paired with coconut the blueberries make for a most memorable and comforting bread pudding. Kind of like a warm hug from an old friend.
[recipe title=”Blueberry Coconut Bread Pudding” servings=”8″]
1 (8 to 10 oz) loaf challah bread, sliced into 1-inch cubes
1 ½ cups winter fresh or frozen blueberries, divided
1 (15 oz) can sweetened cream of coconut
1 1/3 cups milk
¼ cup sugar
1- teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon coconut extract
½ cup shredded sweetened coconut
Garnish: powdered sugar, mint sprigs
Spread 2/3 of the bread cubes over the bottom of a 9-inch square baking dish. Sprinkle 1 cup of blueberries over the bread. Top with remaining bread. In small saucepan, over medium-low heat, stir cream of coconut, milk, sugar, vanilla and coconut extract just until the sugar is dissolved and mixture is smooth. The mixture will be warm, but not hot. In large bowl, lightly whisk eggs; add warm milk mixture and blend well. Pour milk mixture over bread in baking pan. Using the back of a spoon gently push bread down into milk mixture. Sprinkle top with remaining blueberries and coconut. Bake 50 minutes or until puffed and golden. Serve warm Dust with powdered sugar just before serving.[/recipe]