Are you ready for a quick and easy meal featuring fresh, sustainable seafood bursting with the tang and spice of lemongrass and basil? While we are at it let’s keep it clean, healthy and appealing for those on special diets like keto, paleo, gluten-free and pescatarian. Say “hello” to my Asian-inspired roasted sesame crusted cod…
If you are grieving and in need of a New Year’s Resolution I’d recommend choosing a diversion. Something that gives you a sense of control and accomplishment. Going back to work, planning a garden, starting a new exercise routine. Anything that will take your mind off your pain and give it a rest, even for a little while, is part of good grief. While one must go through the pain in order to heal it is also necessary to channel a more positive energy, even for an hour, in order to not be consumed and exhausted by it. Sometimes you just need a break.
Besides dealing with the pain what is also difficult is dealing with the separation from the person you loved. Even though my son was not living at home I did not really feel his absence. Today, technology keeps us soooooo connected. Skype, facetime, cell phones, instant messages…we are all but a click apart. William was such an integral part of my life and now I must learn how to be in a world without him. I am glad the holidays are over. The reality that he will never be home for Christmas or Easter or his birthday again is slowly sinking in. It gives a whole new meaning to the idea of separation anxiety.
By now you all know that my idea of a diversion is getting into the kitchen and banging a few pots and pans together or in this recipe breaking and separating some eggs. When Caitlin and Sam asked for help in making a lemon meringue pie I was all in. This recipe was a winner in the www.betterrecipes.com contest. Meyer lemons are in season, but if you can’t find them substitute a mixture of fresh tangerine and regular lemon juice.
As I watched Caitlin and Sam making this pie together I couldn’t help but be happy. I thought about how separating the eggs into yolks and whites completely transforms the egg into something new and different. Kind of like what I need to do with myself.Print
1 ½ cups (6 oz) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar plus additional for pie edge
½ teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (4 oz) vegetable shortening, cold
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) cold water
1 egg white
Meyer Lemon Filling
7 egg yolks
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup meyer lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
1 tablespoon meyer lemon zest
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
- For the crust combine the flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl; cut in shortening. Add water and mix until just combined. Shape into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill 15 minutes. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface and fit into a 9-inch pie dish. Decorate edge with pastry cut-outs. Line the pie shell with aluminum foil and weigh down with dry beans or pie weights. Place pie dish on a baking sheet. Bake at 375F for 20 minutes. Remove foil and weights. Lightly brush edge of crust with egg white; sprinkle with sugar. Return crust to oven and bake 10 minutes more or until a light golden brown. Reduce oven temperature to 325F. Meanwhile, prepare filling. In a medium saucepan, whisk eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice and zest. Add butter and stir over medium heat for 5 minutes or until mixture thickens and reaches 170F. on an instant read thermometer. Remove from heat; stir in heavy cream. Pour filling into warm pie shell. For lattice topping, beat egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks. Gradually add sugar and vanilla beating to stiff peaks. Pipe meringue over pie in a lattice pattern. Bake 20 minutes or until meringue is golden brown. Cool and chill pie before serving.
*ready made pie crust can be substituted for home made crust
**double the lattice topping ingredients if you want to skip the lattice and cover the whole pie with meringue
- Category: dessert
- Method: baking
Keywords: pie, lattice, lemon meringue, meyer lemon
It’s a very sad day. It’s tragic, horrific and just unbelievable. My friend, Rich, lost his only child, a 21 year old daughter, in a hit & run car accident yesterday. Meghan was standing in a parking lot and the soul-less person who hit her left her to die. So hard to wrap my brain around this kind of act. So hard to accept that she will never play that piano again.
Meghan lost her mom, Eileen, to colon cancer. Eileen was only 48 when she died. So, Rich has lost both a wife and now a daughter. Often people wonder what to do in times like these. How to be helpful to the grieving family? Rich, in his strong and eloquent way dug deep and has made it easy. This is what he wrote on Facebook last night:
Thank you all for the outpouring of love and support, prayers and kind words, sweet remembrances and shared photos – for Meghan, for me (and yes, for Eileen as well), and for our families, friends, and especially for Meghan’s classmates and friends.
My request at the end of this darkest day is simply this:
The next time you hug your loved ones, hug them a little more closely and think, “This is for Meghan.” The next time you tell them that you love them, say it more tenderly and think, “This is for Meghan.” The next time you laugh with them, laugh a little louder, and think, “This is for Meghan.” The next time you do an act of kindness, smile to yourself and say, “This is for Meghan.”
As always, I hold on tightly to Eileen’s favorite quotation: “In the face of uncertainty, remember these two things: you are stronger than you think, and you are not alone.”>>
Today I am asking all my readers to do something that honors Meghan. Any act of kindness in her name will do. Please leave a comment letting me know what it is you said or did and for whom…..a loved one, a stranger…..but don’t forget to say “This is for Meghan“. On January 22nd (Meghan was born on Sept 22nd, so I like the number 22) I will randomly choose one comment and send you this gift: a brand spankin’ new Cuisinart Griddler! This is for Meghan. Let’s spread the kindness and the love and the talent that Meghan so generously shared with those around her.
No words of wisdom today. Just recipes from my 7 fishes Christmas Eve feast as requested by a few readers. Since there were so many courses I did small plates, so I recommend 3 scallops per person for the first dish.
Hint: only buy wild-caught “dry” sea scallops. DO NOT buy scallops sitting in a preservative. Ask your fish monger if you are not sure. The difference in taste is incredible. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels. Season them (both sides) with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Swirl a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of oil (I have been using avocado oil lately as it has a high smoke point, but vegetable oil will do) in a skillet (I like cast iron) over medium-high heat. Sear your scallops about 2 minutes per side or until just opaque. Serve with the slaw which I found on Epicurious.com. I did swap out apple cider vinegar for the rice vinegar only because I wanted the slaw to be a little sweeter. And to get really thin slices of vegetables use a mandolin if you have one. Mound some slaw in the center of the plate and place the scallops around the slaw. Your taste buds are going to be so happy. You are welcome.Print
sauce is adapted from Cooks Illustrated
prepare the stuffed calamari first (see recipe in Notes)
1 1/2 pounds (26 to 30 count) shell on shrimp, peeled and deveined, reserve shells
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup dry white wine (I like Bogle Chardonnay)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (just depends how spicy you like it)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 anchovy fillets
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
Toss shrimp with salt; set aside. Pour tomatoes in a fine mesh colander set over a bowl to drain for about 5 minutes. Transfer drained tomatoes to a bowl and reserve the juice. Do not rinse colander. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add reserved shrimp shells and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 4 minutes or until skillet starts to turn brown. Carefully, add wine and simmer 2-4 minutes or until reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Add reserved tomato juice to skillet; simmer for 5 minutes. Pour contents of skillet into colander set over a bowl. Discard shrimp shells; reserve liquid. Heat remaining olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, crushed red pepper and oregano, stirring for 1 minute. Add anchovies, breaking them up with a wooden spoon. Add tomatoes and reserved tomato juice mixture. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened. Add stuffed calamari, cover and simmer for 18 to 20 minutes, turning once, or until tender. During last 5 minutes of cooking time add shrimp. Stir in basil and parsley. Serve over pasta or with a nice piece of crusty bread. Fry up some tentacles as a garnish to really gild the lily.
6 tablespoons butter
2 cloves, minced garlic
1/4 cup squid tentacles, minced
1/4 cup chopped clams
juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
6 squid bodies
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Melt 5 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, tentacles and clams; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Scrape contents of skillet into a medium bowl. Add lemon juice and panko; mix well. Fill the squid bodies with stuffing (use your hands); secure ends with wooden toothpicks. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in same skillet over medium heat. Add stuffed squid and brown on both sides–just a minute or two per side.
- Category: Main dish
- Method: stovetop
Keywords: seafood, calamari, shrimp, feast of the seven fishes, Christmas eve dinner, fry diabolo sauce
P.S. I know you all are wondering about that framed Christmas card–it was made by my very talented friend Betsy.
When I think about William I think about how much he loved to fish and hunt. While cooking is my therapy I do believe fishing and hunting was his. He loved everything about being in nature and had a great respect for it. He only took from the waters and the forest what he knew he could eat and the rest was returned unharmed. He had amazing vision and often could spy the fish underwater, the deer camouflaged in the brush and the hawk way up high in the trees. We’d be walking a trail when all of a sudden he would spread his arms silently commanding everyone to halt. And then he would point towards some wonderful creature that we otherwise would have missed. It was impressive………
And it was shocking to later learn from his Navy physical that he was color-blind. This disqualified him from his life-long dream of becoming a SEAL. Awe-too bad so sad thought his mother…and the gene for color blindness is passed from mother to son, so it was kind of all my fault. Truly, I felt bad, but at the same time was hopeful that he could do something a little less dangerous. The joke was on me as he later trained in field medicine and became part of the elite Scout Sniper Platoon. Those guys are bad-ass and Will was a natural fit.
It’s Christmas Eve tomorrow and I sure am missing my son and those gorgeous, loving color-blind eyes. He loved the feast of the 7 fishes and he would be right beside me in the kitchen taste testing everything. Tomorrow we will have smoked salmon, crab cakes, seared scallops, shrimp fra diavalo, grilled salmon, calamari and baccala. I love keeping this Italian family tradition alive as much as I love honoring William here on this blog. I know he is here in spirit baiting my hook and rowing the boat.
Probably every Italian family has their own version of dried cod fish salad because there really is no right or wrong except when it comes to rehydrating the salted dried fish. It takes a good 3 days of soaking the fish in cold water changing the water daily. Then just boil it, flake it and start adding the goodness. Lots of fresh lemon juice, fresh chopped parsley, capers, chopped cured black olives, chopped sweet and fiery vinegar peppers, celery, good EVOO and anchovies.
Merry Christmas everybody. May you have peace in your heart and be surrounded by all those you love.
This time of year always finds me “in a pickle” or quandary. I am festive, merry and bright on the outside, but underneath it all is a bit of melancholy. It’s normal and I am getting better at managing that side of me because there is just some stuff better not openly shared. So, why was I so thrown for a loop when I learned there was a side of William he chose not to share with his sailors and marines?
Almost 3 years ago Beau, a marine, and Brent, a navy corpsman, brought my boy home. Sitting on my living room couch thumbing through a photo album of William one of them remarked, “This is not the guy we knew.” The other chimed in, “We never saw him smiling or hugging anyone.” It’s that military training to be tough and unemotional. What a pickle William must have been in as that loving, smiling, bear-hugging side was such a huge part of who he was. Let’s let the photos speak for themselves.
Pretty certain you all thought I’d be sharing some kind of pickle recipe with you today, but I don’t pickle. Why bother when there are so many briny delicious local products to try at the farmer’s market? I will, however, share with you one of my all-time favorite family holiday traditions called “finding the pickle”. It all started when the kids were quite little, but able to help me decorate the Christmas tree. After they went to bed, a final ornament, a pickle or gherkin, in our case, was hidden in the boughs. In the morning, we’d have such fun as Caitlin and William jostled for position searching for the pickle. It was a friendly competition with the most observant receiving an extra gift. It should come as no surprise to Will’s military family that he was quite the eagle eye and usually victorious.
Time to put up the tree and holiday lights. This year I picked out the tree in literally 2 minutes because it was too darn cold and slippery to walk the farm. My one and only was quite grateful for my quick choice and chopped it down before I could change my mind. We missed having William to man the saw and grateful for Caitlin coming by to help decorate. Only those tiny white lights will do and I love how the tinsel sparkles in reflection.
In reflection there is nothing that lights up my life more than the smiles on my children’s faces during the holidays. Like my father I am always happiest when my children are around. In fact, I feel most in balance when I am sandwiched right between them. Like the sweet vanilla cream between those crispy chocolate cookies-perfectly balanced, centered, calm, merry and bright.
Now imagine for a moment how one feels when one of those bright lights is suddenly snuffed out. The entire strand dims and the sparkle disappears. Losing a child turns all is calm to all is upside down and inside out. It’s chaotic night instead of silent night. There is no rest ye merry gentlemen, but plenty of dismay.
Fatigue is not a friend of the grief-stricken. It disrupts the balance of our being and plays havoc with our coping skills. Lack of sleep, restless sleep and insomnia causes a tipping of the scale with one teetering on the edge. Do whatever it takes to get a good night’s sleep. Peaceful sleep is crucial for getting through each and every day. In the long run, it is essential to getting your sparkle and your balance back.
When it comes to recipes balancing your taste buds is crucial. The most delicious dishes have a balance of salty, sweet, bitter and sour in the ingredient list. There is also a 5th taste known as umami which has to do with the savoryness or meatyness of the dish. I also add the 6th sense which has to do with the love one puts into their food. Food from the heart is inspired and has a certain sparkle. With just one bite all is merry and bright with the world.
This is my grand prize winning dish from the Beringer Wine Great Steak Challenge. It’s perfect for the holidays as either a main dish or an appetizer. It’s perfectly balanced flavors are incredibly affordable and will add a certain sparkle to your festive buffet.Print
Grand prize winner of the Beringer Wine Great Steak Challenge
1 cup Beringer’s Founders’ Estate Shiraz
1 cup beef broth
½ cup dried sweetened cranberries
2 tablespoons molasses
1 1/2 pounds flank steak, about ¾-inch thick
freshly ground black pepper
18 cup-shaped leaves of Boston lettuce
½ cup sliced green onions
¼ cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
Heat covered gas grill to high. In a medium skillet, bring wine, broth, cranberries and molasses to a boil. Boil sauce, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 22 minutes or until reduced and slightly syrupy; set aside. Meanwhile, season steak on both sides with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Place steak on hot, lightly greased grill rack. Grill steak 2 to 3 minutes or until well browned. Turn, and grill other side for 2 to 3 minutes or until well browned. Reduce gas grill temperature to medium. Grill steak 7 to 9 minutes or until medium-rare (125 degrees on an instant read thermometer). Transfer steak to a cutting surface; let rest for 5 to10 minutes. Thinly slice steak across the grain. Arrange lettuce cups on a large platter. Fill lettuce cups with steak. Top steak with cranberry-wine sauce, a sprinkle of green onions and cheese.
Serve with Beringer’s Founders’ Estate Shiraz.
- Category: main dish
Keywords: appetizer, steak, beef, party food, lettuce wrap, grilling, 30 minute meal
In honor of all those who lost their lives one year ago in the Sandy Hook massacre.
The only recipe that seems appropriate is an angel food cake. This one is simply covered with sweetened whipped cream and filled with a peach compote, but any fruit will do.Print
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cake flour, sifted
12 egg whites (the closer to room temperature the better)
1/3 cup warm water
1 teaspoon orange extract, or extract of your choice
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- Heat oven to 350F.
- In a food processor spin sugar about 2 minutes until it is superfine. Sift half of the sugar with the salt the cake flour, setting the remaining sugar aside.
- In a large bowl, use a balloon whisk to thoroughly combine egg whites, water, orange extract, and cream of tartar. After 2 minutes, switch to a hand mixer.
- Slowly sift the reserved sugar, beating continuously at medium speed. Once you have achieved medium peaks, sift enough of the flour mixture in to dust the top of the foam. Using a spatula fold in gently. Continue until all of the flour mixture is incorporated.
- Carefully spoon mixture into an ungreased tube pan. Bake for 35 minutes before checking for doneness with a wooden skewer. (When inserted halfway between the inner and outer wall, the skewer should come out dry).
- Cool upside down on cooling rack for at least an hour before removing from pan.
I like to serve it smothered in whipped cream with seasonal fruit
- Category: dessert
- Method: baking
Keywords: cake, angel food, egg whites
…and from me: once your cake is cooled place it on a pretty plate. Whip a cup of heavy cream with a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar and spread over the cake. Fill the center with your favorite fruit.
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.
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.
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.
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.Print
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.
Cauliflower can also be separated into florets instead of slicing.
- Category: side dish
- Method: roasting
Keywords: roasted vegetables, grief lesson, happiness, easy sides, roasted
Those of us who have walked the grief journey know it is a long road of healing. It’s a bumpy road filled with obstacles. As much as I would like to offer some shortcuts through the process I don’t believe I know of any, but there are some important tips to keep in mind. First, during these darker winter months get outside and get some sunshine. A walk or a bike ride is great for easing the pain. Do it with a friend and that is even better. Being socially active provides much needed distraction and offers a “little vacation” from one’s sorrow. Getting your rest and eating a balanced diet goes without saying. Lastly, find a hobby or a cause that gives comfort and joy. It’s the best way to channel one’s positive energy to get over the hurdles. Now, let’s bake! It makes me happy.
One of my greatest baking hurdles was learning how to bake a pie. My mom was a big Mrs. Smith’s fan, so baking pies does not come naturally. It’s been a learning experience having tried every pie dough in the universe and every fruit pie thickener known to man. Double crust pies, crumb pies, lattice pies, meringue pies, cream pies, cookie pies–it’s a long journey, a work in progress and am happy to do it.
The holidays would not be complete without pie. My William’s favorite was apple so that is what I’m baking. The good news about pie is there are lots of shortcuts, so don’t be afraid of getting started. I know many avoid baking pies because they fear the crust. It’s OK to buy the ready made kind, but get the one that can be unfolded and fitted into your prettiest pie plate. Next, core the apples but don’t peel them-saves a ton of time. Thinly sliced un-peeled apples are nutritionally better and the fiber provides a little extra texture contrast in the filling. I believe the peel contains pectin which is a natural thickener, too.
For the best apple flavor use a variety of different apples and don’t over sugar or over spice; a half cup of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon plus a pinch of salt is just right to enhance the apple flavor. I also like a 1/4 cup of fresh or frozen cranberries ground into the mix instead of lemon juice. The tart berries balance out the sweetness of the sugar and add a rosy glow of color.
There are numerous ways to crimp the pie edges. One of the easiest and prettiest will make use of that scalloped edged sugar spoon that sits in your junk drawer. Just press and seal all the way around. Finally, toss out the aluminum foil and go buy yourself the William-Sonoma silicone piecrust protector. It prevents pie edges from over-browning and takes 1 second to apply; never wrestle with aluminum foil again. Worth every penny.Print
Store-bought or homemade pie dough for double-crust pie
8 medium-size baking apples, cored, thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh or frozen cranberries, finely chopped in food processor
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon sugar
- Heat oven 400F.
- Roll out pie dough to fit pie dish. Fit one crust into bottom of pie plate.
- In large bowl, toss apples with cranberries.
- Mix ½ cup sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt; sprinkle over fruit and toss to mix.
- Spoon fruit mixture into prepared crust.
- Top with remaining crust; seal edges, flute and cut steam vents in top of pie.
- Brush lightly with egg white and sprinkle with remaining sugar.
- Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.
- Category: dessert
- Method: baking
Keywords: pie, cranberry apple, seasonal baking, holiday, fall season
I wonder how William would feel about my mission taking on the Naval Safety Center. As one who never needed anything “fixed” by his mother he’d probably encourage me “to get over it and let it go”. However, finding a cause that celebrates one’s child and may benefit others helps to give some positive meaning to the tragic situation. Maybe one can make a difference, so another doesn’t find themselves here. Maybe change is possible. It’s about an ounce of prevention. Choose a cause.
For the last two years my mission has to do with educating those in command of the Naval Safety Center. Not that these folks need educating about sleep deprivation, but they sure could use some impetus to implement some common sense rules related to its risks. My goodness the military has rules about everything–where to go, how to dress, what to do and what to eat…..how about a rule to protect those who at a given moment really can’t protect themselves?
Most are well aware of the scientific evidence that cognitive deficits of sleep deprivation kick in early and linger and that the incidence of motor vehicle fatalities is higher among those military that have been deployed. Our government spends millions of our hard earned tax dollars on educational safety programs for enlisted young men and women seemingly committed to the goal of zero preventable losses. Sailors and marines are required to take classes on everything from personal protective equipment to travel risk planning throughout their careers. Hmmm–with all this education these young sailors and marines should be able to take care of themselves.
Oops-we forgot about the facts on sleep deprivation: the cognitive impairment, the poor reaction time, the slowing of the reflexes and “the impairment which is like being drunk” according to one correspondence. Don’t they get it? All the education in the world doesn’t matter when one can’t think for oneself. It’s common sense that a commander would never turn over the car keys to a sailor who had been drinking, so why doesn’t the same rule apply for those who have been sleep deprived due to a course of special training? It’s an easy rule: Go to sleep. No liberty for 48 hours. I’ll keep you posted when I hear back from Naval Safety Command on my latest suggestion.
In the meantime, here is a super easy recipe that is a family favorite. There are no hard and fast rules to the recipe, so feel free to experiment with it. Only 4 ingredients, so buy the very best products available. Delicious on a crusty Italian roll or over some cheesy soft polenta.Print
such an easy crowd pleasing recipe
1 pound Italian sausage links, hot or sweet or combination of both
3 bell peppers( red, green), seeded and sliced
1 large onion, sliced
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes (splurge on the San Marzano)
- Heat oven 400F.
- Place sausage in a roasting pan. Roast about 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides.
- Add peppers and onions, roast for 10 minutes.
- Add tomatoes and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes or until bubbling.
- Remove foil and bake for another 10 to reduce some of the liquid.
- Category: main dish
- Method: roasting
Keywords: Italian sausage, casserole, easy dinner
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.Print
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.
- Category: dessert
- Method: baking
Keywords: bread pudding, fresh picked, blueberries, summer sweets, coconut pudding, challah
Celebrating the holidays is especially difficult after losing someone near and dear to the heart. It can be such a time of sadness and of dread. The loss hits hard. It’s a time when one feels like burying their head in the sand rather then planning family gatherings and buying gifts. I remember our first Thanksgiving and Christmas following my son’s death. I could not stop crying. I could not be in my house. Thankfully, my brother and sister in-law offered to have Thanksgiving at their beach house and my father in-law invited us to North Carolina for Christmas. It was the great escape from so many happy holiday memories. It was a relief to not have to decorate, plan a meal or see an empty chair at my dinner table.
The holidays will never be the same and will always bring some sadness, but I can assure that with time it gets a bit easier. It becomes a time to decide what you can still be grateful for. For instance, I can truly say that I am so grateful for the 23 years I had with the most amazing son on the planet. I am grateful that I can still hear his voice and feel his hug. I am grateful for all the times he made me laugh and let me take his picture as I see his dazzling smile and loving eyes in so many photos. I am grateful that he is still with me in spirit and that his energy is ever present giving me peace in my heart. And isn’t having peace in one’s heart what the holidays are supposed to be about? Yes, I have many things to be grateful for.
There isn’t a more peaceful place for me to be than at the beach. Luckily that is where my family is headed this Thanksgiving. What a blessing to be surrounded by family and friends. We will all be banging pots and pans together, enjoying an amazing feast, playing bocce in the sand and searching for sea glass along the shore. We’ll remember all the reasons why we are grateful to be together.
This year I am grateful for the vegetable garden that keeps on giving. I am amazed that I grew these pumpkins from seed in a plot of ground no bigger than 2 by 4 feet. The pumpkin vines were out of control, but never mind about that. Just yesterday I roasted the baby pumpkin to try out this new recipe I created using some Martha White self-rising cornmeal mix. It is surprisingly moist with a pleasant kick from the warm spices. Hope it makes its way onto your Thanksgiving table or holiday brunch. Let me know if you try it. And if you don’t own a Lodge cast iron skillet that is a must have on your Christmas list.Print
2 cups self-rising cornmeal mix*
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated preferred)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup mashed pumpkin**
3 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup olive oil
Heat oven 425F. Heat a lightly greased 10-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, stir together the cornmeal mix, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cayenne in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, pumpkin, eggs and olive oil. Add the pumpkin mixture to the cornmeal mixture, stirring just until moistened. Carefully spoon the batter into the hot skillet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick or wooden tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Slice into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.
*if cornmeal mix is unavailable substitute 2 cups white cornmeal, 2 tablespoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt
**if using canned pumpkin, spread it out on a few layers of paper towels to absorb some of the moisture. It is shocking how much liquid gets absorbed into the paper towels.
Note: to roast the pumpkin all I did was plop the whole pumpkin into the oven-safe skillet and roast at 400F for about an hour or until it is soft and skin is turning dark orange. Cool. Peel away the skin and remove the seeds and stringy stuff inside. Then I put all the pumpkin meat back into the skillet and over medium-low heat cook it for a good 10 or 15 minutes, stirring with a heat-safe rubber spatula, to smooth it out and remove as much moisture as possible. The pumpkin gets sweeter and a little darker in color as it caramelizes. Cool and use in all your favorite pumpkin recipes.
- Category: quick breads
- Method: baking
Keywords: corn bread, pumpkin, side dish
Mionetto prosecco recipe contest finalist
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup poire William (pear brandy)
1 slice peeled ginger
4 slices pear
In small saucepan, over medium heat, swirl sugar, poire William and ginger until sugar is dissolved; cool. Remove and discard ginger. Spoon 1 ½ tablespoons of syrup in each of 4 flute glasses. Top with prosecco; gently stir. Drop 1 blueberry, 1 raspberry and 1 pear slice in each glass.
- Category: drinks
Keywords: sparkling, prosecco, cocktail, fresh fruit, the red, white and blue, celebration
Fight or flight survival mode kicks in pretty much immediately with the news of a sudden death. There is an explosion going on in the brain and devastation in the heart. How does one pick up the pieces and move forward? How can one think or do anything? Does one take cover or run away? One can’t breathe as the heart races for answers. Inability to make a decision turns me into a robot. I am happy to hand the remote control to whoever will take it. Being a robot is how I survived the first week.
Thankfully, certain extraordinary friends took the remote and led me around. This is another key way to be helpful when one just doesn’t know what to do. Don’t be afraid to simply ask, “what do you need right now to survive this?” Then spring into action with whatever talents you can offer. Food, yard work, babysitting, running errands……..
Jason, the navy chaplain who delivered the blow offers to plan the funeral, but Dennis, a friend and pastor who knows William doesn’t hesitate to collaborate. Dennis goes above and beyond traveling from his church in Massachusetts during Easter week. My friends, Carol, Ann, Bev and Diane, spring into action offering their homes to any marines and sailors coming to the services. They know it is important to me to have these special visitors feel like family. My friend Lynn flies in from TN and never leaves my side. She helps me get dressed, tells me where to be and makes me eat. She is watching over my husband and daughter, too.
When Maria, whose daughter is a close friend and schoolmate of William’s, calls to be helpful my only response is, “I think I need to have a party after the funeral. I always do all my own cooking for parties, but I don’t think I can do this. Can you please recommend a caterer?” Maria takes care of it. The next thing I know we are having a wake on William’s 23rd birthday and a funeral and a party at The Taft School that honors my son like I never imagined. Between six to seven hundred people show up to celebrate him. He is clearly “more bad-ass today (even in death) than he was yesterday”. So many to thank! Yes, help me keep up with correspondence.
That “bad-ass” phrase is one of William’s favorites and one he often uses to describe his learning of survival skills in the woods. I remember him wanting to read everything about marine, Scott O’Grady who was shot down in Bosnia in 1995 and survived 6 days in enemy territory before being rescued. Will, age 7, is fascinated by the fact that O’Grady evades detection by camouflage and survives by eating ants.
Fast forward to the teen years. One of my all-time favorite Will Keys stories involves Pastor Dennis’ daughter Abby. William and Abby are long-time friends and spending the summer together life guarding at the local lake. One day Abby comes home from the lake and asks her mother, “Mom do you know that ants taste sour? Her mother responds, “no, and how do you know?” Will got me to try some today.” My boy had some kind of charisma and loved a girl who had a taste for adventure! So, Abby, this recipe is for YOU! It might be a fun little appetizer for your Thanksgiving feast.Print
15 Athens mini fillo shells
1/3 cup whipped cream cheese
¾ cup small dice celery hearts including the tender leaves
3 tablespoons raisins (black ants) or dried sweetened cranberries (red ants), chopped
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon bottled poppy seed salad dressing.
Fill each shell with about 1 teaspoon cream cheese. In bowl, toss celery, raisins or cranberries and salad dressing. Spoon on top of cream cheese.
- Category: appetizers
Keywords: phyllo cups, kid friendly, snack time
Sudden death makes grieving a bit more complicated. It has to do with the unspoken word. No chance to say “sorry” or “love you” or “thank you” or whatever else needed to be said. If I could give one piece of advice about any unfinished business, it would be to forgive yourself and talk to your loved one now because he/she is listening.
Much of the high school years for William and I were difficult. We butt heads a lot. The truth is I was an overprotective nag who did not choose her battles wisely. Clearly, I did not understand his military dream and my instincts led me in a direction that only a parent like me could understand. I needed to protect him from himself because no one else would.
It made no sense that at age 17 he could sign on that enlisted dotted line rather than go to college. He was smart, had his whole life ahead of him and wouldn’t that life be better with a college education, a bit more age and as an officer? Like my father I was determined to offer my children the best education I could. So off to one of the best high schools in the country he would go. Surely, he would change his mind and aspire to higher education like his peers.
OK, I admit I was wrong. While William flourished socially and athletically, he did just enough to get by academically. At this time in his life he just wasn’t interested in math or science or thoughts of college and I mistakenly thought I could change that. When I think about all those times I was breathing down his neck about homework, or being upset over grades or him not living up to expectations it makes me sad that I wasted so much precious time rather than seeing the road less travelled was the perfect path for him.
William graduated Valedictorian (OMG) of his navy corpsman class. There never was a doubt in my mind that when he loved something he could and would do it better than any one else. His Navy mission is what he loved and I finally came to grips with that. I apologized for being the nag. I admitted I was wrong. He understood my fears and I understood his dreams. These were the best words ever spoken in addition to “I love you no matter what.”
Don’t let the sour moments cloud all the good. Let them go. Where there is love there is forgiveness. Now, forgive me for sharing this most delicious sour cherry pie because I am not certain that sour cherries are readily available right now–maybe frozen or jarred. Certainly tuck it away for when you want to celebrate one of our great military leaders, George Washington, come February.Print
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chilled leaf lard or shortening
¼ cup unsalted cold butter
4 to 6 tablespoons chilled ginger-ale
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon sugar
3 (24 oz) jars pitted sour cherries (6 cups)
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 ¼ cups sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
1/4-teaspoon Asian 5 spice powder
1/3 cup quick cooking oats
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup chopped almonds
1/3 packed cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4-teaspoon Asian 5 spice powder
1/3 cup butter
- For crust blend flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in lard or shortening and butter with a pastry blender until mixture forms pea-sized crumbs. With a fork, stir in just enough ginger-ale until dough holds together. Divide dough into 2 disks, one slightly larger than the other, wrap and chill while preparing filling and crumble.
- Drain liquid from cherries reserving ¼ cup. Place cherries in large mixing bowl. Add almond extract to reserved cherry liquid; pour over cherries in bowl. Mix sugar, cornstarch and 5 spice powder; blend well. Sprinkle sugar mixture over cherries and gently fold to combine; set aside.
- For crumble, in a medium bowl, mix oats, panko, almonds, brown sugar, flour and 5 spice powder; cut in butter till mixture forms coarse crumbs.
- Heat oven to 500F.
- On lightly floured board roll out larger disk of dough to fit a 9-inch pie dish; ease crust into pie dish.
- Pour cherry filling into crust. Sprinkle crumble evenly over cherries.
- Roll out remaining dough and cut into strips. Weave strips over top of pie forming a lattice. Press ends of strips into crust rim. Fold bottom pastry over strips; seal and crimp edge.
- Brush the lattice crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
- Place pie on a baking sheet. Place pie in oven. Immediately reduce oven temperature to 425F. Bake pie for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375F and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until filling bubbles and crust is golden brown.
- Cool. Garnish with a few fresh cherries, if desired.
- Category: dessert
- Method: baking
Keywords: cherry, pie, Asian dessert, crumble topping, lattice crust
Very early this morning I had a whoosh moment with William. I woke up as I often did (life in the military) worried about him, but as if he were still alive. I was dreaming that he was taking a nap and I needed to be quiet, so as not to wake him. His scout sniper platoon training often deprived him of sleep and that deprivation was the most likely cause of his accident. I felt that bear hug squeeze that only he could deliver. It is a sweet moment. He must be liking the blog as he did this recipe for a crowd pleasing chili.
Military wives and mothers are an amazing group of women at least the ones I have come to know. They are loyal, loving, dedicated pillars of strength. One deployment after another they hold down the fort, alone, with great care and devotion. They are so very protective of their children. I have never met Charlena and Laura Beth, but they knew William. He was “like family”, so ventured out to find me. They bravely stepped forward to share “William” stories and surrounded me with their tender touch. I love them, am inspired by them and thank them for THEIR service.
If there is one thing a person can do to facilitate healing it is to share stories of the one who has been lost. Don’t be afraid to tell the good, the bad, the ugly and the funny. One does not really know one’s child until others start sharing their personal interactions and secrets, which are now safe to tell. Many tales began with, “If he knew I was telling you this he would kick my a$#!” which always drew laughter.
Write your story in a card or a letter or tell it over the phone. Grab some coffee and come by the house to share a story. In this day and age deliver it by email or private message or instant message. I’ve heard tales from his “brothers”, classmates, teachers, friends and family from far and wide. Every sweet word is cherished, treasured, welcomed and healing.
Clearly, one of life’s sweet moments is William’s homecoming party from Afghanistan. It was just 3 years ago this month. His favorite chili is on the menu. What makes it special is the touch of sweetness it gets from real maple syrup. No other sweetener can match the flavor and richness that maple syrup brings to the table. It brings back memories of a sweeter time when the kids were little and we tried to make our own maple syrup. We tapped the trees, collected the syrup and then nearly stripped the wallpaper from the kitchen walls as the boiling process created so much steam. Lesson learned—buy it at the store! Learn about it here: pure canada maplePrint
crowd pleasing chili with a touch of chipotle
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced chipotle chili in adobo sauce
1 pound diced chicken or turkey
1 pound Italian sausage, casing removed
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 to 2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
1-teaspoon ground cumin
1-teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1-cup low-salt chicken broth
1 (15 oz) can small white beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen sweet corn kernals
¼ cup chopped fresh herbs like cilantro, basil, flat-leaf parsley
- Heat oil over medium-high heat in Dutch oven or large stockpot.
- Add onion and bell pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
- Add garlic and chipotle; cook 30 seconds or until fragrant.
- Add chicken and sausage; stirring, until no longer pink.
- Add tomatoes, 1-tablespoon chili powder, maple syrup, cumin, salt and pepper; stir well and cook for 10 minutes.
- Add broth; bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes.
- Add beans, corn and additional chili powder, if desired; cook 15 minutes. Stir in herbs.
Leftovers taste great spooned over a baked potato with cheddar cheese.
- Category: soups
- Method: stovetop
Keywords: main dish, stews, chili, chicken, Mexican, chipotle, crowd pleaser
It is a rainy Saturday morning in Connecticut on April 16, 2011; a good day to make lentil soup and prepare for the Easter week ahead. Like many families, the kids are coming home for the holiday and thoughts of sandwiching myself between my two babies fills my heart with fun anticipation reminding me of just how blessed I am. It’s delightful to be planning a menu around their favorite dishes. As my thoughts turn to Crispy Coconut Chicken Dippers with Wowee Maui Mustard the doorbell rings.
Through the window are two men in uniform. My heart begins to race and before I say hello I ask, “Why are you here? He has been safely home from Afghanistan for 6 months. “ All I could do was invite them in, turn off the soup, wait for Bill to come home and hope to wake up from this nightmare. My head is spinning handing the military chaplain a photo album illustrating the last 5 years of William’s life and commitment to the Navy. The only sound comes from the front porch where the Navy and American flags are trembling in a rain of tears.
Cooking and baking are so very therapeutic. There is nothing like getting into the kitchen and banging a few pots and pans together to de-stress and express something from one’s heart. The food is about who I am, where I’ve been and those who inspire me. It’s a generous piece of me on a plate. Find something you are passionate about and just do it. Be inspired by the ones you love and the ones you’ve lost. Out of chaos comes creativity and our very survival depends on that.
As I am constantly tinkering with my recipes I rarely make the same thing twice. This recipe is an exception. After all it is one of my children’s favorites and won the “Kid’s Category” at the Southern Living Magazine Cook-Off in 2005.Print
winner of Southern Living Magazine recipe contest
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup lime-flavored seltzer water
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut *
1 cup fine dry breadcrumb
vegetable oil ( for frying)
Maui Wowee Dipping Sauce
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup red pepper jelly
3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1. Cut each chicken breast into 4 to 6 (1-inch) strips.
2. Whisk together flour and next 4 ingredients in a bowl. Combine coconut and breadcrumbs in a large shallow dish. Dip chicken pieces in flour mixture, and dredge in coconut mixture.
3. Pour oil to a depth of 2 inches in a deep skillet or Dutch oven; heat to 350°.
4. Fry chicken, in batches, 2 to 3 minutes or until golden. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt, if desired. Serve with Wowee Maui Dipping Sauce.
To make the dipping sauce simply mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
Unsweetened coconut works well, too. I like Bob’s Red Mill unsweetened shredded coconut
- Category: chicken
- Method: frying
Keywords: main dish, appetizer, deep fry, winner, kid-friendly, dipping sauce
Faith and chicken tortilla soup provide comfort for some, but not all.
People who have religion and a strong faith in God are to be admired. It seems they can weather any storm, any hardship and all tragic events that come into their lives. They believe in God’s plan and that God is in control. Their trust in God is unwavering. They understand this world is not paradise and pain and death and dying are inevitable. They believe suffering happens for a reason. Each crisis is looked upon as a learning experience and a reminder that following in the steps of Jesus Christ brings relief and hope.
Honestly, I hate God’s plan for me and every other mother who has lost a child. As spiritual as I am, I am not particularly religious. Raised by a strict Catholic mother and a father who thought the Catholic church was nothing more than a big business my upbringing was filled with catechism questions and doubts. In fact, later in life, all I ever prayed for, “Please Lord keep my children safe”, so you can imagine my current dilemma.
As much as I tried to get religion, I am my father’s daughter and can’t rely on faith to help me through this. However, William believed in God and that has helped. In his final preparations for his Afghanistan deployment he carefully packed his favorite prayers. He relied on God to get him through a crisis. He was also prepared to die believing that we would all see each other again. The thought that I will see him again warms my heart and fills me with joy. Walking in his light and being more like him–maybe that is God’s plan.
The weather has turned cold. Time for a comforting soup. Quinoa Chicken Chowder warms the soul while nourishing the body. It’s important to take care of oneself before, during and after the storm and an easy one-pot meal that includes all the food groups helps. Enjoy this award winning recipe. It dates back to 1997 and took first place in the Gold Kist Farms Winning Taste Recipe Contest.Print
- Melt butter in Dutch oven or large stockpot over medium heat.
- Add chicken, quinoa, potato, onion, peppers, and garlic. Cook, stirring, until chicken is no longer pink.
- Add broth and corn; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until quinoa is cooked and potatoes are tender.
- Add milk, salt and pepper; cook until just heated through.
- Remove and discard chipotle pepper (or if you like it hot mince it up and add back to the soup).
- Stir in cilantro.
- Ladle soup into serving bowls and top with cheese and tortillas.
- Category: soup
- Method: stovetop
Keywords: stews, chicken, comfort food, Mexican, quinoa, winner, quick and easy
What does the Pillsbury Bake-Off and the Navy have in common? Well, it is about life changing choices. Like “nothing ventured, nothing gained” or “taking the road less travelled”. It’s taking one step forward into the unknown. That first step of change can be exciting, scary or not whatever you expected it to be.
Anyone who enters recipe contests completely understands the notion of being bitten by the contest bug. That is what happens to me after Pillsbury names my “Glasnost Apple Pie” a finalist in 1990 (Bake-Off #34). What??? I won??? Hard to believe taking that first step with my little recipe makes me realize that some one besides those who love me like my food. Nothing would ever be the same. My very first contest experience was incredibly fabulous and the funny thing, I did not win a dime. So, it wasn’t about the prizes, but the experience. It was life-changing as my passion for cooking turned into a lucrative hobby.
Four years later I landed a finalist spot again. This time the whole family was flying to the Del Coronado Hotel in San Diego to enjoy Bake-Off #36 festivities and the family vacation of a lifetime. Can you imagine a private party at Sea World? My kids thought I was a genius. While I prepared Middleberry Scones my husband and children were out at the beach. Bill later tells me that William was completely captivated by some US Navy SEALS who were out in the cold Pacific practicing maneuvers. When he asked his dad to explain who these guys were and what they were doing he declared, “I am going to be one of those guys some day.” He was only 5 years old when he made that life-changing decision. He never wavered from the dream of joining the Navy.
Losing William in a tragic accident is the sudden destruction of the world I know. Unanticipated death is so shocking and overwhelming; it is incapacitating. I did not see it coming and I am not prepared to defend myself. There are not enough coping skills in my arsenal to save me from this pain, but there is a daughter who over time digs down deep and gently pulls me up from the depths of despair. There is also an unexplained energy. It comes in the physical form of a heart, a squeeze like a bear hug and vivid dreams. And it comes at unexpected times. I call them “whoosh moments”. Psychiatrists and psychologists are quick to write that these incidences are the griever’s inability to accept the unacceptable. I say the MD’s and the PhD’s don’t know Jack or I mean Will. Some day I will explain.
William accompanied me to quite a few cook-offs. He was like a good luck charm always encouraging me to just do my best and have fun. He made me feel like a winner much like all who were ever in his presence. I am so very proud to be a Navy Corpsman mom and thankful for all the special memories of my sweet William. He was the best of the best. And to all of those who love him, too, or ever lost a child, I promise he/she is with you. Choose not to suffer. Choose to celebrate his or her life. Please share YOUR whoosh moments.
Next month 100 finalists will by vying for a 1 million dollar prize at the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off. For 1 lucky winner it will surely be a life changing experience, but maybe for the other 99 as well. In the meantime, enjoy my prize-winning Middleberry Scones with a cup of tea and celebrate all the life changing choices and whoosh moments in your life.Print
I lived in Middlebury, CT when I created this award winning scone recipe
1–1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. grated orange peel
1/4 cup butter or margarine
2/3 cup half-and-half
1/3 cup raspberry or strawberry preserves
1 tsp. sugar
Spread and Garnish
1 (3-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
16 fresh raspberries or strawberries, if desired
1 tsp. grated orange peel, if desired
Heat oven to 425ºF. Lightly grease cookie sheet. In large bowl, combine flours, 2 Tbsp. sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and 1 tsp. orange peel; mix well. Using fork or pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In small bowl, combine half-and-half and egg; blend well. Add to flour mixture. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn dough out onto well-floured surface; knead lightly 4 times. Divide in half; pat each half into 8” circle. Place 1 circle on greased cookie sheet; spread preserves to within 1” of edge. Place remaining circle over preserves; pinch edges to seal. Sprinkle top with 1 tsp. sugar. Cut into 8 wedges; do not separate. Bake 15-18 minutes or until edges are golden. Cut through scones. Serve warm with cream cheese; garnish with berries and 1 tsp. orange peel.
- Category: quick breads
- Method: baking
Keywords: scones, jam, award winner, breakfast, brunch, Pillsbury Bake-Off
Once the news got out the food started arriving almost immediately and in enormous amounts. Neighbors arrived with hot coffee and bagels. The local grocers hand delivered pans of baked ziti, large trays of deli meats and cheeses all rolled into neat little packages. There were decorative trays of salads with tomato roses and steaming aluminum containers of chicken marsala. Next came those beautiful edible arrangements of fruit and even the florist got involved showing up with an herb garden.
Finally, let’s not leave out the UPS man and his near daily visit over the next month carrying boxes of cinnamon scented coffee cakes, buttery cookies and more gourmet gift baskets of goodies than can be counted. It was an amazing outpouring of love and sympathy from family and friends, but I could not eat a single bite. In fact, in the first week, after the tragic news was delivered, I lost 11 pounds. I suddenly lost my child. Shocked and confused, I had absolutely no appetite. So, I wondered what was the deal with all this food? How could anyone think I could eat at a time like this? Chef Art Smith helped me understand. In his book, Back To The Table The Reunion of Food and Family, he sums it up nicely:
Food As Love
Few of us think of food only in times of celebration.
We also think of it in times of sadness and need.
Cooking for others is a way to extend your heart.
It has been 2 1/2 years since I lost my son. I have vowed to follow in his light, to celebrate his life rather than mourn his death and with this blog step out of my comfort zone much like he did throughout his life at home and in the military. He encourages me to write about the sad experience of losing one of my life’s most precious gifts. From my heart to yours enjoy this recipe inspired by my sweet William.
Thanks to my friend Debbie Vanni for the Art Smith Book from her culinary cellar.Print
thin and crispy cookie
2¼ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
12 Tbs. (1½ sticks / 6 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temp.
1 c. firmly packed dark brown sugar
½ c. granulated sugar
1 Tbs. light corn syrup
1 large egg, at room temp.
1 large egg yolk, at room temp.
2 tablespoons good bourbon or whiskey (William liked Jack Daniels)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 (12 oz) bag Ghirardelli double chocolate bittersweet chips
- Heat oven to 325° F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
- In a large bowl, cream butter, both sugars and corn syrup on high. Beat in egg, egg yolk, bourbon and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and mix the flour mixture in gradually until just combined.
- Stir in chocolate chips.
- Drop onto prepared sheets in 2 tablespoon (1 oz.) cookie scoops, leaving 2-inches between each cookie.
- Bake until cookies are lightly browned on the edges (rotating pans halfway through if baking two at once), 18 to 20 minutes.
- Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Once you’ve scooped the dough into balls, you can freeze them like this on the trays. Transfer the frozen balls to a freezer-safe zippered bag for up to 1 month. Do not thaw before baking.
- Category: cookies
- Method: baking
Keywords: chocolate chip, courage, grief, dessert, snack, inspired, spirited