Keeping secrets from God.

January 28, 2015

There has been a corner of my mind that has been constantly preoccupied with something since late summer. I wrote about the insightful impact that the Birdhouse Project, the incredible hands on self-examination project by Kris Munsch, had on me in early September. I shared that what I had not written on my foundation had nearly knocked me off my chair – but I did not say what or who was missing from my foundation. You can read about my experience with birdhouse building here.

I didn’t even tell Doug who was missing off my foundation. I tried to not even think about it too loudly for fear that someone would hear. We went to the Outer Banks for a week later that September, one of my most favorite places to walk and breathe. Doug and I get up before dawn every  morning when we are there and walk the beach to watch the sunrise, the sky and sand are never the same. One morning, after a storm the previous night, the beach had changed so, the large shelf that had been there was washed away and was smooth, no trace of it left. And a single word came to me, foundation. I shook it off, I did not want to talk about it, after all it was my foundation, my secret.

And everyday since that morning, I see the beach – not the sun drenched beach with pink sky and blue water, but that grey morning with washed away sand. I hear a voice gently asking if I want to talk about it? No, I don’t, especially not with you. The voice didn’t push, didn’t pry, but it would return every so often to see if I wanted to talk about what I saw in the sand. One morning I yelled back at the voice, “I get it, okay. That was my life, washed away in a single wave, nothing is the same. If you remember, it was your wave that washed it all away, I was trying to do everything right, I thought my foundation was built on rock not sand, evidently my life was a sham, thanks for the chat, go away.” I was angry, angry that the only vision that returned from a week at my beloved ocean was the washed away sand, black, beige, and gray. Stalemate.

Mind wrestling with how all the pieces fit, exhausted from keeping a secret, unwilling to share what had unconsciously been revealed. Exhaustion sets in, resistance is lowered, I am ready to move my king and be checkmated, defeat declared, secret exposed. I tell the voice that He was not on my foundation, not Him, nor His Son, or anything related to church made my foundation. The voice tells me that He knows, and I feel no wrath, no disappointment, no accusations of being unfaithful, just a sense of someone settling in for a good talk. The conversation ebbs and flows over months, the truths elusive, one of the hardest lessons I have ever tried to embrace. This is what I do know, God is a gentle Father of conversation, he has no self-inflated ego to be wounded by his absence on my foundation. He is patient, not offended by my pushing away and not wanting to think or talk. He smiles. He waits. He welcomes difficult dialogue, stumbling words, and weary brains. He knows me. He uses what I would eventually recognize as a place of engagement, sand, ocean, foundation, so patient as I shed all the preconceived notions of what it meant. This is a God who loves to dance, and loves to wrestle, I have certainly wrestled with this day and night for months.

The foundation that was washed away was my image of God, the sand being flattened and washed clean was his work being done in me. No surprise to God that he wasn’t on my foundation of my birdhouse, he couldn’t leave any trace of what once was, it all had to be swept away. The darkness and silence like so much cold sand, was his hand. I told him that he was much different than I thought, much different than who they say you are, a half-smile, a nod, then a question, “but who do you say I am?” I halfway voice that I need to return to the ocean to answer that question, to go to that exact spot on the beach, past the last houses, by the tall dunes and see what blows in on the wind.

My head still pounds when I think of Justin, God knows that pounding, he knows the depth of loss and heartache, I don’t have to justify or apologize for my pain to God. I no longer fear the dark, there is nothing in the dark that is not also present in the light, it is just perspective. As long as I remember to keep my hands open, neither grasping to hold on to the past or the illusion that I can control all events, but to simply allow all to be like the ocean and sand. The ocean can be a beautiful mirror, calm and serene, or it can be brutal in its devastation, the sand changes every second, what once was there, is washed away in the next second. The perfect shell, just out of reach forever, the beloved child taken by water, life ever changing.

A gentle, wise elderly priest told me three years ago that I was meeting the God who carried the cross and that all would be different. This is a God whom I can put on my foundation now, and do so with integrity and authenticity, not because I should, but because I can add something else to my foundation, daughter. I am his child, and all can be washed away, but his love and Fatherhood is my birthright and cannot not be taken by wind or wave.

I may assemble my birdhouse now, my hand has stilled every time I have attempted to piece it together, but now I am at peace with my foundation.

…I have stilled and calmed my soul, hushed it like a weaned child.

Like a weaned child held in its mother’s arms, so is my soul within me.  –Psalm 131

IMG_2224-001

 

 

Categories: Dark Night, Faith, Hope, Justin.

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Vacuuming, Nesting, and Rebirth

January 21, 2015

As I dragged the couch out from the wall to vacuum behind and underneath it with almost fanatical detail, I asked myself what was I doing? Vacuuming was not on my list of goals for the day, not even for the week. We had just vacuumed on Saturday. But there I was running the attachment along all the floorboards and sills, corners and stairs, procrastination? Possibly. Then I realized, after finding a clump of fur hiding and being almost giddy as I was sucking it up, that I am nesting. I recognize this compulsive drive to get everything in order, the energy that comes unbidden to drag the dog bed off to another room, to wrestle with unwieldy furniture so that all is exposed, nesting. Four huge bags ready for Vietnam Veterans to pick up tomorrow morning, closets and drawers completely rooted through, the bookcases that look like a mole ran through them, long standing occupants have been evicted and those left on the shelf are tilting to and fro unused to where they now live – perhaps they are even wondering if they are next. Nesting, I have been here before, this I understand. Shelves, mantels, walls, rooms, clean, open, some might say empty, I say pregnant with possibility. See this fits, I loved being pregnant, the happiest moments I have ever known. Birthing, not so much. Scared me beyond any fear I had ever known, and yet there was no way around it. I told anyone who would listen to me when I was in labor with Justin that I would come back tomorrow to do this, I just couldn’t today. Not much has changed, birthing still scares me.

Since September I have felt like my skin is too tight, and the sensation distracting, this last month I have used the term “distracted living” in describing myself. The chrysalis finally cracked last week, I was standing at the kitchen window and was grateful to have been able to capture my thought at that moment, here is what I wrote in my journal:

“I think I almost get it. Justin is dead. I can’t change that, ever. But I can resolve to be open to the pain and allow it to sculpt me. To carve out that which is not human in me, to smooth the rough edges, at the same time allowing rough, growing edges.”

That was my last entry in my journal, a recent gift from our surviving son, Ryan, it is an app for my iPhone called Lumen Trails, it is a wonderful tool for capturing thoughts and ideas in one place. Please don’t misunderstand my thought, I have not been in denial of Justin’s death, but there is a rebirth happening, both his and mine. I am a mother, a woman, giving life is what I do, it’s what I know. I have spent hours in silence, not thinking, just being, waiting for the chrysalis to drop off, to honor the shell that held new life, to be still while new wings, vulnerable and wet, dried and strengthened. And I read, a most insightful book, a book that left me sobbing at the table as I recognized myself. As I was reading The Holy Longing by Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, I found the validation and strength I needed for labor, the mystery and wonder of rebirth contained in the paschal mystery as we live it in our own lives. The deaths we die, the grief and mourning, the necessity for grief and mourning, allowing our dead dreams and past lives to ascend to the Father and await the new spirit that he has to give us to live our new lives. The old does not fit anymore, the metamorphosis is complete. The new embrace of spirit and flesh, the communing of new born with mother.

This rebirth does not mean that my bereavement is over, by no means, it is the deeper embrace of who I am as a bereaved mother. It is the embrace of the knowledge that I can’t speak our child’s name out loud to that child’s father without tears, it is the knowledge that the birthing process can be long, but we can labor together to embrace the new life given. Even our marriage must die and be reborn, accepting the new spirit of married life as bereaved parents.

Legacy. Now this woman past the years of childbearing will give birth once again, to herself and to Justin’s legacy. I have pages of Justin’s favorite quotes and insights culled from stacks of notebooks and journals, he left us his soul print. And so I find myself in labor again, so familiar, the waves of pain, the brief respite, the sweat and tears, the feeling of being stretched beyond endurance, but the promise of Justin’s legacy, what will be his lasting memory inspires me to see this creation through to fruition.

I give all my dead dreams and hopes to the Father, no one takes them from me, I lay them down of my own free will, I watch them ascend as gifts to the Father, they were good dreams and hopes, and now I await the new spirit that he has for me to live my new life.

I think I can safely put away the vacuum.

Categories: Doug, Faith, Grieving, Justin, Ryan.

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Not becoming a food blog, but I was asked to…

January 8, 2015
They remind me of Mary Poppins, "practically perfect in every way."

They remind me of Mary Poppins, “practically perfect in every way.”

The blog is a great way to capture recipes that folks have asked me to share. This recipe for mini-lasagnes has stood the test of being frozen, transported, forgiving to being made with what is on hand, protein rich, not intimidating to eat or serve, and low carb friendly. Food is a bridge builder, it has a language all its own that needs very few words. I can still remember each food item that people brought to us when Justin was killed, those memories stay with us. This is one of my favorites recipes to make when I don’t feel like eating or when someone or a family needs a pick-me up meal. The little lasagnes smell wonderful as they are being baked in muffin tins or re-heated, they don’t mind being frozen, and they keep for a couple of days after baking in the fridge.

What you will need on hand, this will make approximately 36 mini-lasagnes.

 

Two 25 ounce jars of marinara sauce
1 32 ounce container ricotta cheese
1/2 cup to 1 cup Parmesan cheese
3 eggs
2 packages wonton wrappers
1 lb of some sort of meat browned and drained. I use Italian sausage. Meat is optional
5 cups or more of shredded mozzarella cheese or Italian blend
Salt
Pepper
Garlic powder
Nutmeg
Fresh herbs if you have them – no worries if you don’t
Preheat oven to 375F
I first cook the Italian sausage, breaking it up in the pan and getting it nice and brown. Once it is cooked, drain on several layers of paper towels. Feel free to use more than 1 lb of meat, I find that one pound gives nice flavor without being overpowering. I have used ground round, bison, turkey sausage, use what is your favorite.
While your meat is draining, assemble the ricotta cheese filling for your lasagnes. I use whole milk ricotta, part-skim works also, this recipe is very forgiving. If you have fresh basil or parsley, mince it finely to use in the filling. Don’t make a special trip out for fresh herbs.
Ricotta, parmesan, and fresh eggs. I use extra large, use what you have available.

Ricotta, Parmesan, and fresh eggs. I use extra large eggs, use what you have available.

Garlic powder, salt, Italian herbs, fresh ground pepper, a dash of cayenne, and freshly grated nutmeg goes into the ricotta filling.

Garlic powder, salt, Italian herbs, fresh ground pepper, a dash of cayenne, and freshly grated nutmeg goes into the ricotta filling.

Place the ricotta cheese, eggs, and Parmesan cheese in a mixing bowl. I don’t measure the spices. So to taste, add salt, fresh ground pepper, garlic powder, some Italian herbs (I like the little grinders), and freshly grated nutmeg. Not too much nutmeg, you just want a hint to compliment the cheeses. Then I get out one of my favorite kitchen tools, the blender stick. Makes short work of making a smooth, creamy filling for your lasagnes.

Blender sticks are great for kitchen tasks like this one.

Blender sticks are great for kitchen tasks like this one.

Smooth and creamy. If adding fresh herbs, do so now, after blending your cheeses and spices together.

Smooth and creamy. If adding fresh herbs, do so now, after blending your cheeses and spices together.

Mix your cooked and drained meat with your choice of sauce. I use Mezzetta’s or something similar, yes, it is more expensive, but look at the ingredients – no sugar. Reducing carbohydrates is a necessary way of life for me, so I have an eagle eye out for added sugars.
Marinara works great, their pizza sauce is really good also.

Marinara works great, their pizza sauce is really good also.

No added sugar. Very important to me.

No added sugar. Very important to me.

Add your cooked and drained meat to the marinara in a large bowl.

Add your cooked and drained meat to the marinara in a large bowl.

 Grab two or three muffin tins, I prepare and bake one tray at a time, but it is nice to have the others on top of the counter waiting. Spray one muffin tin generously with cooking release spray, I love the Pam Coconut oil spray. Open a package of wonton wrappers, carb friendly little lifesavers is what they are, so easy to work with in recipes.
My new best friends in the kitchen.

My new best friends in the kitchen.

Tuck one wonton wrapper into each muffin cup.

Tuck one wonton wrapper into each muffin cup.

As you can see in the picture above, place one wrapper in each muffin cup to form your first layer. The ricotta filling goes in next. I use a number #60 scoop, two teaspoons, a generous scoop. Using a measured scoop makes this step go very quickly and neatly.

I used a #60 scoop, two teaspoons for first layer of ricotta filling.

I used a #60 scoop, two teaspoons for first layer of ricotta filling.

A generous tablespoon of the sausage sauce goes on top of the ricotta filling.

A generous tablespoon of the sausage sauce goes on top of the ricotta filling.

Next a layer of shredded cheese, I never measure the shredded cheese layer.

Next a layer of shredded cheese, I never measure the shredded cheese layer.

Second layer. I usually place the wonton wrappers over the cups and then tuck them all in.

Second layer. I usually place the wonton wrappers over the cups and then tuck them all in.

Ready for the second layer of ricotta filling. Same #60 scoop.

Ready for the second layer of ricotta filling. Same #60 scoop.

Second layer of filling.

Second layer of filling.

Second layer of sauce.

Second layer of sauce.

Second layer of shredded cheese. Ready for the oven now!

Second layer of shredded cheese. Ready for the oven now!

As you can see the order is: wonton wrapper, ricotta filling, sauce, shredded cheese, second wonton wrapper, ricotta filling, sauce, and cheese. The first tray is ready to go into the oven at 375 for about 18 minutes. Every oven is different, check them at 15 minutes, they could go as long as 20 minutes. When they are all melty and crispy brown on top, they are done. Trust me, you will know, you will open the oven door and be so delighted with the vision.

Sigh, Just gorgeous.

Just gorgeous.

Allow this first tray of mini-lasagnes to cool on a rack while  you assemble the next tray. They are piping hot and will set up a bit as they cool. I use a flexible spatula to remove them from the muffin tins, but only after they have cooled a bit.I get about 36 mini-lasagnes from the above ingredients. I usually have some left over sauce and shredded cheese, but that isn’t a bad thing at all. Serve the leftover sauce with the mini-lasagnes, or freeze it for another use. You will most likely have leftover wonton wrappers also, wrapped tightly, they freeze beautifully – but, I do have something fun you can do with the leftover wonton wrappers!

Bake off the rest of your trays and allow to cool before removing from the muffin tins. I usually remove them and allow them to cool a bit more before tucking them in the refrigerator. To freeze them, I wrap each mini-lasagne individually and place in a large airtight container and place the container in the freezer. Wrapped individually they are easy to pull a couple for lunch or dinner. Defrosted in the refrigerator, they take about a minute in the microwave – every microwave is different.

Perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or bedtime snack.

Perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or bedtime snack.

I promised something fun with the leftover wonton wrappers, little mini apple pies. Brushed with melted butter and cinnamon sugar, it is an apple pie that I can have and not fret about the excessive carbs.

Preheat oven to 375.

Line a baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper. Put down a single layer of wonton wrappers. Place a single, generous scoop of apple pie filling in the center of each wonton wrapper. I make my own filling. No recipe – a couple of older apples sliced in a saute pan, a bit of butter, your favorite apple pie spices, and a sprinkle of brown sugar. Cook the apples down until soft and mash them up a bit.

Take a pastry brush dipped in water and brush the edges of the wonton wrapper with water, place a second wrapper as “lid” over your apple filled first layer. Press down on the edges of the wonton wrappers so they stick together. Brush with melted butter.

My scoop is no where near centered. But it was close to midnight. At least the apple filling was on the wonton wrapper.

My scoop is no where near centered. But it was close to midnight. At least the apple filling was on the wonton wrapper.

Exposing my dark side, so messy and imperfect.

Exposing my dark side, so messy and imperfect.

Brushed with butter and ready for the oven. Butter makes everything better, even imperfect pies.

Brushed with butter and ready for the oven. Butter makes everything better, even imperfect pies.

Out of the oven, brushed with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. A delightful treat that does not wreck my carb count for the day.

Out of the oven, brushed with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. A delightful treat that does not wreck my carb count for the day.

Bake at 375 for 10 – 12 minutes, they will get browned and smell delightful. Take them out of the oven and brush again with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. They are pretty hot, so let them cool for a minute or two before you try one. We usually end up standing in the kitchen eating them right off the tray. If you have any left, cool on a rack, although they are best fresh baked, they aren’t bad a couple of hours later either.

The kitchen is where I feel most connected to my family, I am used to the ghosts that haunt my kitchen, they hang around and laugh with me, sometimes at me. I never know whether to be dismayed or impressed by the mess I can make in one small kitchen. Even a mess, it is my comfort zone, a place of warmth, memories are free to come and go as they please, the tea water is nearly always ready to be put on, I can even find space on the counter for a proper tea cup sometimes. May your kitchen be a place of warmth and good memories also.

Love, Terri

 

 

 

 

Categories: Nutrition, Recipes.

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Springerle, the keeper of Christmas Memories, a recipe.

December 25, 2014

No other cookie is so evocative of Christmas memories than Springerle, just opening anise oil releases a multitude of Christmas ghosts. There was always Springerle at Christmas, money was always found for baking supplies, and the ingredients for this seemingly intricate cookie are very humble. I have been asked to share our tradition of Springerle and I do so happily, I don’t believe in keeping kitchen secrets, food is only fun if shared. But please, this is just one way of making Springerle, not the best way, not the way that

Springerle

Springerle, a little too browned, but still beautiful.

will provide you with picture perfect embossed ivory cookies, it is just the cookie we grew up with, everyone’s favorite eating cookie, anticipated all of December. It is the cookie that I can still see my mother’s hands mixing and cutting, she had the softest hands of anyone I ever knew, hands that could soothe a baby like none other, hands that could untangle the most intricate knots, hands that were busy her entire life doing good.

Springerle can be started right after Thanksgiving, they are a cookie that only gets better as it mellows in a cool place in cookie tins. Aged, they make the perfect dunking cookie, we grew up dunking anything we were eating in our coffee, it’s what we did. Fresh, they are airy and soft, intoxicating with anise aromas. Don’t fret about making the perfect cookie, you are making memories, and the memory will be perfect.

Springerle

(Adapted from the recipe found in my mother’s favorite cookie book, “The Christmas Cookie Book.” Out of print, but well worth stalking Amazon for a copy.

4 Eggs at room temperature. I used extra large because that is what I had in the fridge.
2 Cups of sugar
4 Cups of All Purpose Flour. I use King Arthur unbleached all purpose flour, it is so consistent in texture.
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder. Open a fresh can, it is worth it.
1/4 salt Please no iodized salt, so icky
2 Tablespoons of melted unsalted butter
1 Teaspoon of pure Anise Oil. You can substitute extract, but flavor will not be as intense.

Anise seed

In the bowl of your mixer start beating the eggs that you have brought up to room temperature. Cold eggs are cranky. Add the sugar slowly, this will take some patience, but just don’t dump two cups of sugar on top of your eggs. I have in the past tried all sorts of sugar to achieve the perfect cookie, superfine, confectioners, and have settled on just regular sugar, I always have it on hand and with proper mixing it dissolves just fine. You will want to beat the eggs and sugar until it is beautifully light and fluffy, could take as long as 10 minutes, under beating will give you a flat and hard cookie. Scrape the bowl down frequently, making sure to get down to the bottom of your bowl.

Light in color, needs another minute for texture.

Light in color, needs another minute for texture.

In a perfect world you have already measured one cup of flour, fluff and spoon, please no scooping, you want your flour light and airy when measured. One can always add flour, once it is incorporated there is no getting it back out. To that one cup of flour, blend in your baking powder and salt. I have used Hartshorn (Bakers Ammonia) in place of baking powder in years past, as it is more traditional, but then you can’t eat the raw dough and it smells like ammonia. I credit my strong immune system to the regular eating of raw cookie dough with my mother. I also didn’t care for the texture once baked, just me – some folks would not make Springerle unless they used Hartshorn, and yes, it is a product derived from deer bones and antlers.

You also want to have your two tablespoons of unsalted butter melted and cooled, into the melted butter measure your one teaspoon of anise oil.

With your mixer on the lowest setting, blend in the one cup of flour that has the baking powder and salt into your wonderful fluffy egg and sugar mixture. Gently blend in a second cup of flour. Next add in your melted unsalted butter that also has your anise oil, take a second to just breathe in that wonderful scent. Continue to gently add the last two cups of flour, keeping your mixer on low. Stop your mixer once everything is barely incorporated, scrape down your beaters and hand mix everything until it is nicely blended. Now I dump all that lovely dough into an airtight container and throw it in the fridge to rest overnight. For many years we cut our Springerle without resting the dough, mom always cut her dough fresh, I also learned to swear in German quite effectively from her as she wrestled with fresh dough and intricate designs. Refrigerating the dough allows everything to firm up and come together.

No more machine mixing, just gentle hand mixing.

No more machine mixing, just gentle hand mixing.

Your dough has chilled overnight, the cats are napping, take a few moments to prepare everything you will need beforehand. Baking sheets, I prefer rimless for Springerle, parchment paper, chilled dough, pizza wheel cutter, unsalted butter stick, anise seed, ruler, Springerle rolling pin or board, pastry brush, sifted confectioner’s sugar, cutting board, and some nice calm music.

Mise en place

Mise en place

Prepare your first baking sheet with three strips of butter and sprinkle anise seed down each strip.

Baking sheet with parchment paper, three strips of butter, sprinkled with anise seed.

Baking sheet with parchment paper, three strips of butter, sprinkled with anise seed.

I prefer using a Springerle board, the designs of the rolling pin are the ones of my childhood, but I never mastered the pin, I prefer the board. For the size of my design board, I use 7.5 ounces of dough, scales are our friend. I use confectioner’s sugar to liberally coat the cutting board and the the design board. I have used flour, I much prefer confectioner’s sugar for dusting. Pat or roll your dough to about 1/2″ thick or a wee bit less, too thick and your cookies will be gargantuan, too thin you end up with hockey pucks.

7.5 ounces of dough, your weight may be different according to your mold.

7.5 ounces of dough, your weight may be different according to your mold.

1/2 inch thick or a wee bit less. Depends on your dough texture and how hard you press down.

1/2 inch thick or a wee bit less. Depends on your dough texture and how hard you press down.

I measure everything.

I measure everything.

I use a "Life of Christ" board. This is a picture before I brushed it with confectioner's sugar. Don't be stingy, coat well, prevents stickage.

I use a “Life of Christ” board. This is a picture before I brushed it with confectioner’s sugar. Don’t be stingy, coat well, prevents stickage.

And if your dough is cold enough, and you have been generous with dusting your mold, and the stars are aligned, this is what you will have when you gently peel off your mold.

I press down fairly hard to get good definition.

I press down fairly hard to get good definition. It never gets old, I find the designs enchanting. Unless they stick, then not so much.

A sharp pizza wheel aides in getting clean crisp lines in cutting apart your Springerle.

A sharp pizza wheel aides in getting clean crisp lines in cutting apart your Springerle.

Slide a spatula under each cookie to transfer to your already prepared baking sheet.

Slide a spatula under each cookie to transfer to your already prepared baking sheet.

A beautiful sight.

A beautiful sight.

Now repeat the process. Liberally brush your mold with confectioner’s sugar before each use. Dust your board, dust everything. And even with dusting everything with confectioner’s sugar, sometimes the dough will stick, it happens to everyone. Just breathe, take a swig of whatever spirit you are soaking dried fruit in for stollen, clean your mold, dust everything, dust your dough you have patted out, and try again. I throw my scraps right on the scale and add fresh dough on top to reach the desired weight.  I also keep the dough that I am not working with in the refrigerator, cold dough behaves better.

IMG_7239-001I usually get around 36 cookies from each batch, it all depends on the size of your cookie. Springerle need to sit for at least 12 hours before baking, can go as long as 24 hours. I usually let mine dry for 18 hours. The resting allows the design to set. We keep our house cold and I have the perfect room where the trays can be undisturbed. If you skip this step, you will lose your design. I do double batches and it ties up all of my baking sheets, so work this resting time into your cookie schedule. I use our mom’s cookie sheets for Springerle, they are close to sixty years old, she kept them spotless.

Our mom's cookie sheets. Over sixty years old, best pans ever. She taught us the value of respecting our tools of our craft.

Our mom’s cookie sheets. Over sixty years old, best pans ever. She taught us the value of respecting the tools of our craft.

The Flight into Egypt. I love how a cookie can tell a story.

The Flight into Egypt. I love how a cookie can tell a story.

Your cookies have rested and you are ready to bake. Preheat your oven to 350. Here too I have tried all sort of temperatures and combinations. For years I have baked at 350 for 5 minutes, then lowered the temperature to 300 for 10 more minutes of baking. This year I settled on baking at 350 for 10 minutes and then checking every minute to pull them at the right time, about 12 minutes was good. I don’t fret about them getting a little brown, or puffy. I don’t take mine out halfway and bang them on the counter so the cookie falls and the design pops, I don’t take a clean cloth and press down the cookie after baking so the design is more forward. I just bake them until they are right. We like our Springerle soft on the inside, fragrant with anise, crisp on the outside, just lightly brown on the bottom. You will find your own way how you like them best.

See, a little brown, but they are still beautiful to me, a little puffy, but soft on the inside.

See, a little brown, but they are still beautiful to me, a little puffy, but soft on the inside.

Allow them to cool on racks until completely cool. Then store in tins.

Allow them to cool on racks until completely cool. Then store in tins.

You will always have some “scraps” left after the last cookie is molded, they were highly prized in our house. Mom would bake them off and fill the house with the scent of Christmas. Little tastes of Christmas joy. Springerle improve with age, or can be eaten fresh, wonderful with tea or coffee, pair nicely with wine, sometimes we would have little tiny glasses of Anisette to go with our Springerle on Christmas Eve.

I am including some pictures of our mom’s original book, she never thought a house complete without a Boxer or two, she loved her dogs, and they loved mom, and they loved eating her cookbooks. We did our fair share of writing in her books also, and we would each read this book from cover to cover every year as the author wove a magical tale of Christmas baking.

The hard cover is long gone, was loved away, possibly aided by a dog.

The hard cover is long gone, was loved away, possibly aided by a dog.

Mom's handwritten note about sugar and flour, she tinkered with recipes also.

Mom’s handwritten note about sugar and flour, she tinkered with recipes also.

Our handwritten notes.

Our handwritten notes.

Memories

Memories

Don’t wait until next Christmas to try your hand at Springerle, they are wonderful any time of the year and the winter months are great months to experiment with new techniques and recipes. Nothing quite tastes like something you have created, there is something intangible that feeds the soul when it is baked with love.

Much peace to you and your house.

Categories: Christmas, Recipes.

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The Burden of a Christmas Visit Not Made

December 24, 2014

Unending rain this week, shunning the stores as much as I can, furtively looking for grave wreaths at the stores I did visit. I bought new ribbon to make bows for the wreaths, we have a stack of grave easels in the garden shed to attach the wreaths to and affix in the ground before the headstones. But here it is Christmas Eve and we won’t be going to the graves. This will be the first Christmas that we will not have made a visit since Justin’s death. I lay awake last night, conflicting emotions, guilt, sorrow, loneliness, my head pounds.

I want to go, I don’t want to go, I want to lay wreaths at my parent’s graves, at my brother Vincent’s grave, and then the last visit is to Justin. My heart sits there sometimes, as close to his earthly remains as it can be, remembering.

I realize why I hesitate to go to Justin’s grave, it is not the same as visiting my parents or my brother. To stand at your child’s grave feels different, confusing, strange, disorienting. Vulnerable. There is no where to hide standing at Justin’s grave. I have no computer screen, no safety of the walls of my home, no car to hide in. Open. On all sides. No bushes or trees to give some essence of protection, exposed. My naked grief which cannot be contained at that bit of earth, raw, bleeding, sobs escaping. My head pounds.

Standing with the father of that child, a moment more intimate than the moment that gave that same child life. No privacy of the moment. Exposed in our grief, separate, unique, forever joined, forever isolated.

Enveloping silence, the walk back to the car. Boxes of tissues are kept and reached for, there are no words. Bottom lip swollen and raw from biting it, attempting to feign some sort of control. My head pounds.

That small bit of earth, it is not all we have left of him, but it is a place of meeting, a sacred moment, a time of recollection, communion, it is pilgrimage, removed from all that is comfortable and familiar.

The mud and grimness I cannot bear this week, the sea of grey stones, wet with rain. Forgive me son for not honoring your grave this Christmas, you are in our every thought, our every breath. You are in every batch of cookies, every purr of your beloved felines, each quiet moment. Merry Christmas Justin.

 

Categories: Christmas, Justin, Uncategorized.

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Grief, nutrition, and really good beef bone broth.

December 3, 2014

Grief and nutrition are intertwined, we need to eat, we don’t want to eat, nothing is appealing – or, all the wrong things are appealing. You know that you should shop and cook, but you arrive at the grocery store and everything looks foreign, or there are too many memories. Cooking can be the same way, I would open the refrigerator and stare, open the cabinets and stare, be hungry, but clueless what to do next. Grief and stress take so much energy, the body needs nutrient dense foods that are easily digested and absorbed, that soothe the knotted gut, and tend to the soul also. Beef bone broth has been that soul food for me. Easily sipped, warming, soothing, and it makes the very best soup. Many people have asked how I make my bone broth, and the blog is the easiest way to share my method. Please, this is not the only way to make bone broth, might not even be the “right” way, it is the process that has evolved for me. Perhaps you will find this a starting place and discover your own methods, your own tricks and special touches, that is really what it is all about, making it your own.

Start with good bones, marrow, knuckle, shin, ox tail, a combination of all of them. No worries if you can’t get ox tail, but do try to treat yourself to some shin bone. I use grass fed beef bones, they cook cleaner, I have no foam when simmering the bones. I always roast the bones first, this is not a step to skip. Roasting the bones gives you great color, flavor, and aromas. I roast onions and carrots with the bones, organic onions are the best, I throw the skins in for more caramel color. I often give the entire lot a rub down with tomato paste, it will caramelize in the oven and add to the color and flavor. Good sprinkle of kosher or sea salt, I do not use iodized table salt in my cooking or baking.

I line a sturdy half sheet pans with sheets of aluminum foil to aid in clean-up. Roast for an hour in a 350 degree oven.

I line a sturdy half sheet pan with sheets of aluminum foil to aid in clean-up. Roast for an hour in a 350 degree oven.

Your house will start to smell wonderful and this is what they will look like after an hour.

Gorgeous. Roasting makes all the difference.

Gorgeous. Roasting makes all the difference.

There was no way all those bones were fitting in one pot, so I did two pots of broth. Fill a crock-pot or two and let them cook all night. Fill one crock-pot, one soup pot on the stove and keep an eye on both. Or let two pots merrily bubble away on the stove all day. Cook them for at least 12 hours, overnight is tremendous. Fill your cooking vessel of choice with the roasted bones and veg and then with filtered water of your choice. The water you use is important, water is 99% of your product, if you would not drink the water, don’t use it for your broth.

Heavy bottomed stock pots are terrific. I have them both filled with roasted bones.

Heavy bottomed stock pots are terrific. I have them both filled with roasted bones.

Happily simmering away.

Happily simmering away.

The most important step in bone broth is the straining of your broth after it has simmered. You aren’t going to use the veg that you have roasted and simmered, they have had all the goodness beat out of them. I usually fish the veg out first and place them in a large colander over an even larger work bowl, squish all the good broth out of your onions. Don’t squish the carrot. Clean your colander of the onions and start scooping out the large bones. The marrow and shin bones I place on a platter so that I can rescue the marrow and pick the meat off the shin bones. I will show you what I mean in pictures.

Straining the chunks of veg and bones.

Straining the chunks of veg and bones.

Straining catches all the bits of bone, or whole peppercorns if you like to add those to your broth.

Straining catches all the bits of bone, or whole peppercorns if you like to add those to your broth.

Marrow bones and bones with meat go on a platter.

Marrow bones and bones with meat go on a platter.

These are marrow bones that have already shared their goodness.

These are marrow bones that have already shared their goodness.

The marrow. Can seem a bit scary, but it is full of goodness. Once you blend it in with the broth or soup, you will never know its there, but your body will thank you.

The marrow. Can seem a bit scary, but it is full of goodness. Once you blend it in with the broth or soup, you will never know its there, but your body will thank you.

 

Meat picked off the bones ready to be divided between containers of broth.

Meat picked off the bones ready to be divided between containers of broth.

Once you have all the large chunks out of your broth and your colander cleaned, pour the contents of your stock pot into the colander that you have nested in a large work bowl that can take heat, I use stainless steel bowls. You are going to see why this step is so important, there are all sorts of little bits left in the bottom of your pot, you don’t want those in your broth. You are working with piping hot broth, so use care.

Rich broth is hiding under that fat layer.

Rich broth is hiding under that fat layer.

 

I rinse out my stock pots and if I am feeling particularly obsessive, I will strain the broth again into the stock pot from the work bowl. It usually is not necessary.

I rinse out my stock pots and if I am feeling particularly obsessive, I will strain the broth again into the stock pot from the work bowl. It usually is not necessary.

I adjust my seasonings once the broth is completely strained but still hot. Use a spoon to clear a bit of the fat away and taste the broth. Add kosher or sea salt to taste, the heat from the broth will help dissolve the salt. I sometimes add a tablespoon or so of organic Better Than Bouillon beef base, sometimes I don’t.

Your broth is too hot to be placed in the refrigerator or containers for freezing, this is where the cold weather comes in handy. I put my pots right outside on the porch. I cover the lids with foil for extra protection and let nature chill my broth. If the temperature outside is too moderate, create an ice bath in your kitchen sink to quickly cool the broth. Once cooled you can divide the broth up in containers and tuck the marrow and meat in those containers. You can leave some in your refrigerator for sipping, it is very good for breakfast, or make wonderful vegetable soup. Bone broth freezes beautifully and it is nice to be able to pull a container for a nourishing meal.

Two 13 cup containers ready for the freezer.

Two 13 cup containers ready for the freezer.

Cooking for me has been a way to reinvest in our lives, a healthy channeling of energy and love. I cry when I cook, I think of Justin and picture him walking into the kitchen and telling me how amazing the kitchen smells. I miss Ryan, I wish he was close enough so that I could feed him. I think of Doug working hard as Bob Cratchit for Marley, and all of a sudden the dishes are nothing. The trail of mess, and trust me, Doug does not call me “Mrs. Make A Mess” without just reason, but the trail of mess is a trail of love. Soup made with bone broth has become a favorite meal for the brew crew, the aromas of grains steeping mixed with soup simmering, crusty bread, all signs of life and love.

I hope the above is helpful for those who want to make their own bone broth, just jump in, it will be better than anything you have ever tasted, your house will smell wonderful, and you will feel a certain contentment that comes from being creative in the kitchen and nourishing those who sit at your table. They are priceless you know, those faces around your table, nothing else truly matters in this world except those we are given to love and care for, their time with us can be so fleeting.

May your kitchen be filled with all good things,

Love, Terri

 

Categories: Brothers, Doug, Family, Justin, Nutrition, Recipes, Ryan.

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