I'm in a Transition so I made a Cake

It has been 59 days since my last post and I feel like the Catholic school girl I once was, going to confession to tell my audience in the dark box what I have been up to when he, my audience, had not thought about me or my life since the last time I visited his confessional box. Most of my readers haven't noticed that I'm gone from this world of endless information influx. My need to confess isn't because my readers are clamoring to know what I've been up to. This is about me. It is important to me to address my absence and figure out the words to describe how I went from completing essays with recipes weekly for nearly two years, to not posting a word for 59 days. I can call it busy, I can call it lazy, I can call it writer's block, but it truly isn't any of those things.

When I started writing this blog, it was necessary for me to have a structure to follow. The format of my posts became a way for my writing to exist. As I wrote, I envisioned one of my children, in the future, in their kitchen with the recipe book I had made for them, glancing over one of my stories before making one of their favorite childhood recipes for their family. I pictured them grinning at a memory, or tearing up over one of our shared losses. Every time I sat down to write one of the 86 posts I wrote between June 2013 and January 2015, I thought about my children reading them and it made me happy. The words flowed almost daily. And then, 59 days ago, they didn't.

My writing came to a halt.  Just. Like. That.  Every day I thought maybe I would write a new post. And then I didn't. My mind was working overtime on stories and ideas and creative endeavors. But the words and phrases all stayed nicely tucked away in my mind. I tried a few times to write down a the bits and pieces of stories that were swirling around in my brain. But the writing wasn't spilling out like it had in the past and it showed in the results. I have 35 drafts of posts that read like I am trying to write but don't have anything to say. My mind keeps taking me in new directions that don't fit into the blog format I created for myself. And after 59 days, I have finally realized that the structure that once gave me the ability to write is now holding me back.

I don't have the answer yet. But making this confession is my first step towards finding the new me. And since The Water is (still) Smiling, I leave you with a quote and a cake while I ponder my transition.

"A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you're in and take advantage of it." -Nikki Giovanni

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 Chocolate Date Cake (no gluten, no grains, no refined sugar) (rewritten from Sprouted Kitchen's Flourless Chocolate Date Cake)

1 cup almond flour (almond meal) 1/2 cup hazelnut flour (hazelnut meal) 1/2 tsp salt 2 cups pitted, chopped dates (about 20-25 dates) 1/3 cup buttermilk 5 eggs, separated 3 T cacao powder (or cocoa powder) 1/2 tsp baking soda 7 ounces semisweet chocolate 6 T unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 10" springform pan and line with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine flours and salt. In a food processor or vitamix, combine dates, buttermilk, egg yolks, cacao powder and baking soda. Blend until smooth and mix into to the bowl with flour and salt. Set a pan over a pot of boiling water (but not touching the water) and melt the butter and chocolate stirring until smooth. Mix well into batter. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form and fold into batter. Transfer to cake pan and smooth top. Bake for 30-40 minutes until toothpick comes clean. Cool completely and serve with whipped cream and berries.

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Notes: This cake is not as sweet as many chocolate cakes. It is dark chocolatey which I love, very satisfying so can be served in tiny little slices, and I think it is best topped with plenty of sweetened whipped cream (whip 8oz heavy cream, 3 Tablespoons powdered sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla until thick).

Remember Me with Enchiladas

Martha Stewart wrote a short article in her Martha Stewart Living Magazine this month.It was moving. It was real. It was heartbreaking. It reminded me of my brother Dave.

Martha's sister had died unexpected at age 59 and Martha wasn't prepared. She said she had much more to say to her sister. I recognized that feeling. There are so many days when I talk to my brother out the window, hoping he can hear me. I have had the benefit of years to heal from my loss so my conversations only happen now and then, when he enters my heart for one reason or another. Martha's loss is so recent and raw that I imagine her conversations with her sister are daily.  I feel for her.

There was a poem printed with her article called "Remember Me". It was the poem Martha read at her sister's memorial service. The poem puts into words exactly why I celebrate my brother's December 27th birthday each year with his favorite enchiladas. I first wrote about Reme's Enchiladas a year ago, on the third anniversary of Dave's Enchilada Night so that all of our family and friend's could continue the tradition to celebrate and remember Dave, even if we aren't all together. Remembering is important.

Remember Me To the living, I am gone. To the sorrowful, I will never return. To the angry, I was cheated. But to the happy, I am at peace. And to the faithful, I have never left. I cannot be seen, but I can be heard. So as you stand upon a shore, gazing at a beautiful sea -- remember me. As you look in awe at a mighty forest and its grand majesty -- remember me. As you look upon a flower and admire its simplicity -- remember me. Remember me in your heart, your thoughts, your memories of the times we loved, The times we cried, the times we fought, the times we laughed. For if you always think of me, I will never be gone. -Anonymous

Happy Birthday Dave!

davebday

David Alan Flick 1957-2011 *****

Reme’s Enchiladas Makes 20 enchiladas

Salsa: 20 fresh tomatillos 2-4 jalapeno chiles (depends on how spicy you want it) 1/4 medium yellow onion 1 clove garlic 1/2 bunch cilantro, stems trimmed 2 tsp salt

Take outer dry skin off tomatillos and put into a pan of water to cover. Add the whole jalapenos and bring to a boil. Boil about 3 minutes and drain. Take the tops of the jalapenos and put all the ingredients into a blender. Blend until smooth. Set aside.

Filling: 3 lbs boneless, skinless, chicken breasts 1 T. chicken bouillion (caldo de pollo)

Put the chicken and boullon in a large pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and boil 15 minutes. Take off heat and let rest, covered, for 30 minutes or more. Remove cover and leave in liquid to cool. When cool enough to handle with your fingers, drain chicken and hand-shred into very small pieces. Put in a bowl and set aside.

Assemble other ingredients for preparation: 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, cut into thin slices (shredded) 6 fresh radishes, sliced very thin 16 oz. Mexican Crema Acida (high fat sour cream) 8 oz Queso Cotija, (dry, hard, Mexican cheese) grated to very fine crumbles 30 fresh corn tortillas 2 T. vegetable oil

Preparation: Heat oil on medium heat in large flat pan. Pour salsa into the pan until about 1/2” deep. Fry for 30 seconds then stir until incorporated. Turn heat to low. Using tongs, lay a tortilla into the pan covering it in sauce. After about 15 seconds, flip it over, leave for another 15 seconds, then lift over the pan to drain. Lay at one end of a serving dish, fill with shredded chicken and roll up. Repeat, stacking rolls up against each other until you reach the other end of the serving dish. Spread crema generously over the top of the tortilla rolls. Cover rolls liberally with shredded lettuce, spoon queso cotija down the center, and sprinkle with radishes. Serve immediately with remaining green salsa in a jar to spoon on top. For a spicier topping, re-blend a portion of the salsa with extra chopped chilis.

Note: While best if they are served immediately, these are also quite delicious when heated up the next day. If you know you will have a lot leftover, it is best to leave off the lettuce, cheese and radishes and add after reheating.

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Louis Zamperini's Life-Saving Recipe

The best-selling novel Unbroken tells the true story of an inspirational man, Louis Zamperini,  who persevered through unbelievable hardship and forgave every mistreatment he suffered.When the invitation came inviting me to hear him speak, it went into my calendar in pen. I wouldn't miss it.

It was a private engagement at a house in Portola Valley, California. We were about fifty guests for an educational afternoon and everyone was abuzz with excitement for the exclusive presentation ahead of us.  Upon arrival, our hosts gathered the guests to explain what was ahead for us.  It was important to understand that Mr. Zamperini usually sat in a private room prior to an engagement to save his energy. He was 96 years old and this was to be one of his last private appearances. Most of his time in the coming years was to be devoted to his upcoming movie, directed by Angelina Jolie. But today, he chose not to sit alone before his talk.  He decided he wanted to sit outside on the patio in the sunshine, enjoying the beautiful day. We were about to enter the patio for refreshments so it was requested that while it was fine to talk to him, try to speak one at a time and not swarm him.

By the time I walked out to the patio, there was just one guest sitting with him on a large couch. It was quite a warm day so I thought I would say hello and offer to get Mr. Zamperini something to drink. As I sat down next to him, another man leaned in quickly with a bit of a protective stance and introduced himself, "Hi, I am Luke Zamperini, Louis’ son." I stood back up to greet him and in a subtext possibly only apparent to me, I wanted to rest his mind that I would treat his father with the upmost of respect. Luke and I had a nice conversation about where they lived (Hollywood Hills) and their drive up that day and other pleasantries until he felt I was properly vetted to speak with Louis. Luke was a kind and gentle man who clearly adored his father.

The other guest talking to Louis got up to leave and gestured to me, suggesting I sit down for a chat. I sat down, said hello, and asked Louis if he would like something to drink. He said with a big smile, "I thought we would have a photo taken. I smiled back and said I thought that would be very nice. He replied ,"I have this knee and this knee,” gesturing to his left and right. I laughed and moved in next to him. Seeing that my weight probably doubled his, I chose to ignore the knee suggestion. Then he whispered, “But you can't tell Angelina Jolie because she would be jealous." I laughed again, put my arm around this adorable flirtatious man and photos were taken. Hubby rushed over, seeing me sitting with my arm around Louis, and said he needed a photo of this too. I introduced Louis to Hubby and without missing a beat, Louis grinned mischievously and said, “Well...if that is your husband.... “ and he scooted even closer, put his arm around me and whispered, “I hope he doesn't have a temper!” He just couldn't get any cuter.

Feeling my time was up, I proceeded to thank him and moved to leave. He leaned towards me and asked how many people were in attendance that day. When I told him, he said that usually there were at least hundreds. He spoke very quietly and when I leaned back in to hear him, he began to tell me stories. He talked about his upcoming movie, Angelina whom he loved, Brad whom he wasn't so sure about, and his son Luke whom he was so appreciative to have with him that beautiful day in Northern California. Fifteen minutes later, he hadn't stopped talking and I hadn't asked a single question. He was quite the charmer.

He was also an amazing story teller who had me laughing from the first moment I sat down. We were finally politely interrupted by the meeting organizer and I was told that I had to let Mr. Zamperini rest. I hadn't meant to keep him talking so long. I just couldn't walk away mid-sentence from my unbelievably charming 96-year-old companion! I told him he was going to be speaking soon so I had to go get seated and I gently slipped away before he could say another word.

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Thankfully, I had not worn him out. His on stage performance was captivating. And as I had experienced first hand, he had no trouble telling a story. Forty-five minutes passed without him stopping for a breath. He told stories about events of over sixty  years prior with exquisite detail, finesse and humor. He talked of forgiveness, faith and perseverance. He spoke of love and victory, illness and despair, and his kidney cure of drinking red wine every day. He spoke without notes, without a plan and without need for prompting. He spoke from his memory and his heart. It truly seemed as if he could talk all night and never run out of things to say.

Storytelling was an integral part of Louis’ survival. Storytelling kept he and his companions sane during the darkest of times. When they were starving on a raft adrift in the ocean for 47 days, Louis "made breakfast, lunch and dinner" by leading the men detail by detail through his mothers Italian recipes, describing each ingredient and each step and finally, how it all tasted. He said the men got a bit greedy and soon they were asking for brunch as well!

Luke Zamperini also spoke. He spoke of what it was like to have Louis as a father, to have a hero as a father. For Louis wasn’t just a figurative hero, he was actually featured in a comic book series. Luke would show his friends the comic books featuring his dad and be so proud that his father was not only a hero but a superhero! But, for all the fame and fortune his Dad received over the years, the most important thing to Luke was that his dad took the time to be his dad. That was really all that ever mattered.

Louis Zamperini passed away on July 2, 2014 at age 97. I thought about Luke that day.  I thought about the devotion and love he had for his father. I thought about Louis and the gifts he gave not just to his family, but to the world. His story of perseverance inspired so many others during his lifetime and his movie, the movie he spoke of when I met him that day, comes out this December 25th and will carry his inspiration forward to generations more.

It was an honor and privilege to meet Louis Zamperini and his son Luke. They sparked something in my soul that will not be soon forgotten. They were a living example that no matter what you accomplish in life, being part of a family that supports one another, any type of family that you choose, is the biggest accomplishment of all. And if you happen to find yourself in an unthinkable situation, that family and the stories and recipes you learn from them, may just save your life.

“The world, we'd discovered, doesn't love you like your family loves you.” -Louis Zamperini

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Louis Zamperini's Life-Saving Recipe (by Cynthia Spivey)

Louis' Thoughtful Ingredients: “All I knew was that hate was so deadly as any poison and did no one any good. You had to control and eliminate it, if you could.” “I think the hardest thing in life is to forgive. Hate is self destructive. If you hate somebody, you're not hurting the person you hate, you're hurting yourself." "When you forgive, it's like it never happened. True forgiveness is complete and total.” “God knew my needs and took care accordingly.” “I was raised to face any challenge.”

Preparation: Absorb the above list of Louis' thoughts. Mix Louis' ideas with your own beliefs. Set aside for the time you need to allow the concepts to mingle. Fold in a few emotions and stray feelings. Top with copious amounts of forgiveness and then try to live each day with your beliefs and intentions etched in your mind.

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