Struggle/Strength and a little cake!

Thinking Part  knee

It has been almost one year since I have written in my blog. I am ready to get back! However, presently I am limited in my baking abilities because I recently had knee surgery.  Over the years, I had dislocating knees. As a result, I damaged ligaments which created more instability in my knees. The surgery that I had is called a tibial tubercle osteotomy and a medial femoral patellar ligament reconstruction.  I had a two in one deal! The doctor realigns the knee tracking, places two screws in my tibia, takes a part of my hamstring and reconstructs my medial ligament. Yes, it was not pretty. It has been 10 weeks and I have made significant progress. Today was the first time I actually walked on the treadmill, scary and exciting! Through this recent experience I have suffered with pain and discomfort. I had this surgery on my other leg ten years ago. This time it was different as there was more to reconstruct.

I have learned a great deal through this grueling process. I have definitely struggled through it. There were days of pain, anxiety, sadness, loneliness, frustration and even thoughts of regret as to why I had put myself through this. Through the struggles, I am now realizing that my strength (physically and mentally) is right here! With most struggles, there is heart-break. If you are lucky to get through life’s struggles, you can revisit your strength and drive to make things better. It is clear that, struggle is related to strength, in that not only do you need strength to get through it, but that in the process you may realize you have more than you think. By strength I mean the inspiration, motivation, energy and action to move through/with that struggle.

I remember a few weeks ago, I experienced significant anxiety about falling and walking on my crutches. I was so fearful that I was scared to stand up from a chair. I fought with my fear and eventually I had to stay still with it, make peace and accept it. Even though it is not as intense, I continue to have fears about falling or my knee dislocating. I am learning to physically and psychologically maneuver and learn from this fear.

I did come across a video of a man  Arthur Boorman called Never ever give up. This video showed his story of not being able to walk without braces for several years and then he transformed  into being able to walk, run and master yoga. It is a wonderful and touching story. His story truly did inspire me because he did fall several times. He got right back up. He said “just because I can’t do it today doesn’t mean I’m not going to be able to do it someday”. He made significant progress because of his tremendous efforts; it was not due to wishful thinking and or hoping!  I too have been working hard. Action is more powerful than any thought or image of wanting something to be a certain way.

There were people who were by my side and took care of me when I needed it the most. I love them for it and am so grateful that I got to realize their love and concern. My mom, age 80 and my dad age 83 along with my husband were the main supporters in all of this. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I was disappointed by some people in my life who I had expected would be there to offer moral support and or a meal. However, as we all know, people will disappoint you.

Overall, through this ongoing struggle, my strength, ability to challenge myself physically and mentally are reinforced. I will continue to do this daily for the rest of my life. I have made a commitment to continue my strength training as part of my lifestyle. It is a main priority. Prior to the surgery I had been enjoying my exercise routine at Fitness Mogul in my town.  I was so happy when over one year ago, Rachel Schoenstein the owner had decided to open her studio up in our town! She has become pivotal in my strength, health and wellness. I am unable to go to her classes right now but I am working with her through personal training. Her knowledge in training got me fit prior to the surgery and now training with her has been so crucial in gaining back my confidence!  She is the best! In addition I am still in physical therapy.

I  continue to explore the positives of this struggle, as it is not over and I am sure there will be ongoing pain and challenges. It is really fascinating that this surgery could even be performed. Science is AWESOME! I am thankful to my surgeon! There are two quotes which I can’t help but think of that relate to this recent struggle. Here they are…..

“I have concluded through careful, empirical analysis and much thought that somebody is looking out for me. Keeping track of what I think about things, forgiving me when I do less then I ought, giving me strength to shoot for more than I think I am capable of. I believe they know everything that I do and think and they still love me and I’ve concluded after careful consideration that this person keeping score is me.” – Adam Savage

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”- James Neil Hollingworth

Baking Part

Since I am limited in mobility  I slowly made this cake. My mom was going to help me by making the filling. All I did was take a Betty Croker yellow cake mix and follow the directions. I baked the cake in two pans.

betty cake (1)2cakes

My mom was supposed to make a chocolate filling for the cake but oh boy you should have seen this filling, it was not chocolate and there was nothing creamy about it. We gave up on the filling. Then I made Bakerella’s recipe for chocolate ganache which is as follows:

  • ¾ heavy cream
  • ¼ butter
  • ¾ cup semi-sweet chocholate chips.

Heat cream and butter in a saucepan until melted and remove before it starts to boil. Place the chocolate chips in a small bowl and pour cream over them. Let sit for a few seconds and stir until completely incorporated and smooth. Let cool and spread over cake. You can poke holes in the cake and let the ganache run through.

I didn’t know it was going to be so messy. It ran over the dish and then my niece and brother started to make art of it! So funny, but it did tastes like a Picasso!  I was surprised that my family loved it so much. I only have these treats in moderation.Since it had been my birthday recently, I was due for a treat! I hope you enjoyed this post. Try the recipe it will be a crowd pleaser.

ccake eatencakeYUM!

Stay well everyone! Keep active and hold on to your strength!

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Seriously, Fruit Tartlets with Mike and Terry!

I was very impressed by comedian Mike Birbiglia’s short film “2Fresh 2Furious” with Terry Gross. If you love them like I do, you must see this, it is brilliant!  I LOVE this!! Here is the link.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTVFNZKuN-g

So of course this got me Thinking and Baking!

After I watched the clip, I started to wonder what it might be like to have both Mike and Terry over for a little dessert and coffee. I think they are so talented and bright, did I mention funny?  I have been a huge fan of Terry Gross for several years.  She has inspired me to think about what it might be like to sit across brilliant people and just talk to them, pick their brains a bit and gain insight into their lives. As a psychologist, I have this kind of experience, but have more expectations on me than an interviewer. Terry has influenced my thinking regarding asking questions in general.

Brief history of my respect for Terry, Mike and don’t forget Barbara!

As a child, I was captivated by Barbara Walters’ inquisitive nature and her willingness to “dig deep” and ask personal, sometimes, “elephant in room” kind of questions. I thought she possessed much courage to ask those types of questions. She was my heroine and I continue to admire her very much.  Terry is another one of my much-loved interviewers. She is awesome. I love her voice. I love her style and her calm, cool thoughtful, well researched and always curious questions. Her even-tempered wit and expressions are admirable. She is my star!

Mike Birbiglia is a comedian who I also find to be interesting and of course funny. He is one my comedic favorites. I have listened to a great deal of his comedy. I have gone to a few of his shows.  I think his facial expressions, tones and the “look” in his eyes are hilarious.  Especially when his bright blue eyes open wide and he says “OOOOHHHHHHhhhh NOOOOOoooo” in a deep yet sort of slow motion kind of way, at least for a panic situation. So when I saw two of my adored people in this short film it was out of this world! Mike’s spectacular short film made me feel like I just wanted to scream funny and I sure did! After I saw it once, I then encouraged my husband to watch it. He is a big fan as well! I watched it again with him and we were laughing as if we were two little kids laughing at poop and fart jokes! You know how that goes. It’s the funniest thing in world!  I watched in a sort of positive disbelief (if there is such a thing). Terry Gross was out of character and so amusing! Terry was a great sport in the film! It must be tricky when you are poking fun at yourself.  What a great thing to be able to not take ourselves so seriously! It captured Terry’s personality with a great little edge to it! I think it is splendid and deserves great praise! I just loved it! Genius!

Thinking Part

So this left me thinking of what I would bake for the two of them if they came over to my home.  Seriously, yes you read it right, if they came over my home! It could happen! I know Mike likes pepperoni pizza so I would probably order that as a big appetizer. Maybe make a salad on the side to make it healthy? No doubt, the main course for our visit would be the dessert! I think it would be nice to nibble on some mini fruit tartlets while sipping on our cappuccino and talking. (I’ll get back to the cappuccino in another post!) I would tell Terry how much I respect and appreciate her work. I would ask her what she enjoys most about her career. I don’t know if words could actually express how much I appreciate her! What a talented woman! I would tell her that I aspire to foster the confidence and calm that she transmits. I  love the scarf she was wearing in the film! Yes I’d tell her that too! I would also say this “well Terry, thank you for joining us, I really love what you do. You are very inspirational. If you decide to retire someday, keep me in mind!”

With Mike, I would love to ask him how he processes the ongoing reframe of his everyday life situations and transforms them into funny matters.  I would want to know how, other than using comedy, how he has coped with his medical issues. I would tell him, “Mike, you are a riot and I love what you do, can me and my family tag along with you on your next tour?” I have not yet seen his new movie that is out called “ Sleep walk with me”  however, I will soon. I am sure I it will have me “in stitches” as they say!

Even though there is so much meaning that we can assign to various situations, for me it is helpful to not take ourselves so seriously at times. Terry was able to have fun with her own style of how she relates to others. Through Mike’s creation,  she spun herself into a dichotomy of her personality. It was funny because it was dichotomous to her real self. We can do this too. We can have fun and joke with who we think we are. Stop taking yourself so seriously all the time! We only have a little time on this great planet that we are spinning on in this fascinating universe. It is so amazing that as Elton John would say, “it’s a little bit funny.”  So , Terry and Mike “I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words how wonderful life is while you’re in the world!”  It’s been fun to share my fantasy scenario, (well it could become a reality, maybe I will send Mike and Terry an invite). Okay, now I will move on to the baking.

I think I would make Mini Fruit Tartlets for my wonderful guests. Let me tell you why! You see, Mike is the fruity, jokey one and Terry is the sophisticated, warm one, like a tart!Together they could make a fruit tartlet. I would explain this to them while I presented the tartlets!

Baking Part

I tried this recipe and it was great!

Mini Fruit Tartlets

Here is the link to the recipe from My Recipe.com

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/mini-fruit-tartlets-50400000110054/

You will notice that this recipe calls for a jar of lemon curd.  Since I could not find the lemon curd in my local grocery store, I decided to make my own. I adapted the recipe for the lemon curd from the book “Baking Illustrated”, by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. This book is a must for a baker! It is packed with tested and retested recipes!

Here is the link to the book.  http://www.cooksillustrated.com/bookstore/detail.asp?PID=247

Lemon Curd Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup juice from 2 lemons
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk, ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoon heavy cream
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

You will need to heat the lemon juice in a nonreactive (glass, ceramic, stainless steel) sauce pan over medium heat. Eggs and yolk are whisked in a nonreactive bowl; then gradually whisk in sugar. Pour the hot lemon slowly into the eggs, then return to the saucepan and cook on medium heat. Stir constantly with wooden spoon till thick enough to stick to spoon. Remove pan from heat and stir in the cold butter until fully combined; stir in rest of ingredients and then pour through a strainer into a nonreactive bowl. Cover and refrigerate the curd until needed.

Delicious!

Cappuccino for you!

Tray of tartlets for you!

Let me know what you think!

Love,

Maria

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Sarina’s Blueberry Bundt Cake and the Stars

Comare Sarina and me a few years back!

Sarnia’s Blueberry Bundt Cake and the Stars!

Recently some of my friends and family members have experienced losses, illness or injury. At times, I have felt helpless in their suffering. However, I feel that they are resilient and will endure. I can appreciate the love of family and friends, as it can carry many through in their days of harshness. I have realized that although we assign meaning to so much, for me, many situations are random and it is often how we decide to cope with them that ultimately determines the path.

I have recently been learning more about the universe. I will post more on that at another time. For now, I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that there are 400 billion galaxies and that we are made of the same stuff that make up the stars! We come from the stars! I am so intrigued that I am exploring possibilities of more formal education into astronomy and astrophysics! I am so appreciative of the beauty that abounds science and reason! We are all stars! Speaking of stars, I thought about my “Comare Sarina”! She is one of my superstars!

My dear Sarina recently was hurt and is recovering. I have thought of her often and am wishing her a speedy recovery. Growing up, I always looked forward to being around Comare. She told it like it was! She did not “sugar (yum) coat” and was not soft-spoken! I loved her sense of style. Comare is Sicilian, need I say more! She wasn’t and isn’t the traditional woman. I appreciate that she is not afraid to just be herself and forget about what others’ think! Power to her! Comare is a strong lady and I know she will bounce back as that is her way! In honor of her I made this Blueberry Bundt Cake which is her recipe. She gave this recipe to me a few years ago.  Hammonton, the town I live in is the “blueberry capital of the world” so they say. Since the blueberries are everywhere I had to make and share  with you. Thank you Comare, I love you and am wishing you a speedy recovery!!

Here it is….

My Fancy Written Recipe ;)

Ingredients:

  • Approximately one pint of Blueberries
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of oil (vegetable)
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 3 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • cinnamon – approximately a teaspoon, I eyeball it!

Of course you have to start with some fresh Top Crop Blueberries, sweet and yummy!

Washed and drained blueberries.

Wash and drain the blueberries, sprinkle a little flour and sugar so that the moisture is absorbed. Set these aside.

Mix the dry ingredients first and then add the rest.

Mix it up!

Fold in your blueberries! Then spray your bundt cake pan with non-stick spray of your choice. Pour into your bundt cake pan.

Ready to go into the oven.

Then bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until golden and toothpick comes out clean.

Have yourself a piece!

Top with whatever your heart desires. I like vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or even cream cheese! Enjoy!

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“Top of the Crop” Guacomole Recipe

Guacomole Greatness

I gave myself permission to deviate a little, today’s post is not about baking. I couldn’t help myself, I wanted to share this because it was sooo good!

Last week  for dinner I wanted to make fresh guacamole as part of a Mexican themed meal. I wanted a really fresh tasting salsa with no added junk! My wonderful husband who is always trying to support me, offered his kindness by going to the grocery store to pick up some items! He called me from the store to ask which salsa he should get. He came across “Top Crop Fresh Salsa” . He said “it looks fresh, natural and healthy as you like it, should I get it?” I told him,  “yes, let’s try it!” Well, it was love at first bite!! It was so delicious, with all natural ingredients including tomatoes, green and red peppers, red onions, cilantro, garlic, etc. All GOOD STUFF!!  We devoured it with some blue corn chips.

I had an idea to mix it into a guacamole recipe.  The salsa really did the trick! This was one of the best guacamole dips I had made in my life! Yes, I loved it!

I live in Hammonton so I am very lucky to have this local produce; Donio Produce/Jersey Fresh” Here is their link check them out!

http://www.donio.com/Sb3iw3drpyjnvfo551df5k1qw))/default.htm

Maybe you can contact Top Crop/Donio Produce and have them ship some to you or your local store!!! It’s definitely worth it!

Thank you so much Donio Produce for “Top Crop, Fresh Salsa”!! LOVE IT!!

Here is my Guacamole recipe, adjust to your liking:

  • 2 ripe avocados – peel, cut and place in bowl
  • Approximately 1 teaspoon or to your taste of McCormick’s Perfect pinch Garlic and Herb- salt free seasoning
  • Dash of Onion powder
  • Approximately 1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
  • Fresh cilantro to taste
  • At least 3 tablespoons of Top Crop Salsa, it’s up to you!

First squash the avocados. I used a simple mashed potato hand masher, then stir in the rest of the ingredients and waaallaaa it is done!! Easy and little time to make! Go for it!

Look how fresh!! Yum!

 

Finished product!

In terms of thinking, yes I was doing it! Even though it wasn’t baking I had some reflections.

If you are open to notice and appreciate it, the “Top of the Crop” or the “best of the best”, is there in the unforeseen day-to-day setting.  I was reminded that in the unexpected circumstances of life, you can find happiness. I didn’t expect to come across such a delicious, healthy salsa and have it complement my guacamole so nicely. This “pint-sized” unexpected situation fostered a little piece of joy that was extended to my dinner, to my family, my night and my life! See if you can cultivate openness and mindfulness for those unexpected events. They have the potential to blossom into delight!

Enjoy!

Maria

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Coffee Cake and a little Comfort

Yesterday I was looking for a good recipe for Coffee Cake. I was craving an old-time kind of taste. Coffee cake and coffee, I imagined, now that is cozy! I came across a favorite of mine the Pioneer Woman she is fabulous and I went with one of her recipes. Here is the link with the recipe http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2010/06/the-best-coffee-cake-ever/. I modified in two ways,  1) by using Saigon cinnamon instead of the regular cinnamon which to me has more of an intense taste to it! 2) I did not cook the pecans in it as my son has a nut allergy. Well it came out terrific!  The Pioneer Woman calls it the “Best Coffee Cake Ever”, and I think I have to agree.

Here is the best part of it, when the cake came out of the oven the whole house smelled of cinnamon!! My son was coming home from school and I opened the door to greet him and he said “oooh what did you bake I smell something good”. He soon proceeded to take several tastes of my cake going back and forth from the kitchen to the living room, like a little squirrel gathering nuts! He loved it.

Here are some other joys about it! Prior to my son returning home from school, I was outside talking with my neighbor. When my son came home and opened the front door, my neighbor who was standing outside  also smelled the sweet aroma of baked goods!!!!! She asked what I was making and I told her.  Of course, she smiled.  Later after the cake had cooled a bit, but was still warm I brought her a piece to share with her husband. She was thrilled and hugged me for it!!  WOW!! NICE! Now even though, it was only a piece of cake, I felt that I had given away a little piece of happiness and sprinkled it with cinnamon!! That’s what it’s all about for me, spreading some joy! I was very happy inside to share this and feel that I was a nice neighbor, especially when in today’s world we don’t even know our neighbors.

This morning I had a piece of coffee cake with my coffee and I thought, “this is simple happiness”. Yes I already had my protein through an egg and some Vitamin C with orange juice. So the latter part of my breakfast was a little piece of comfort.

I had comfort in that the coffee cake symbolized to me, something simple, something that goes far back. I remember as a child thinking grown ups had coffee cake with coffee and this was an American type of thing. Growing up in an Italian family, coffee cake was a bit foreign, however when I saw my parents indulging in it, I thought “wow, they are Americanized” and I suppose I thought they were getting comfortable with the American traditions. So it made me feel more comfortable, especially since I  didn’t start to speak English until age 6.

So even though coffee cake is on the surface a treat, underneath it for me, I experienced a feeling of snug comfort and peace.  There was a fulfillment in giving to others a little joy, and giving some comfort to the self! I hope you can make this recipe and enjoy the pleasure of it!

Love,

Maria – Baking and thinking!

 

 

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Bagels and Basics

I made fresh bagels the other day and boy were they delicious. I know that we shouldn’t indulge in carbs. but a fresh home made bagel sure does taste great with cream cheese!! The recipe came from the Better Homes and Gardens Complete step by step cook book it is a classic I love it! The bagels are simple with only a few ingredients. Yet there are many steps involved with making them, including waiting for the dough to rise, boiling, baking, broiling. However, with these many steps a very basic, simple bagel is made! There was a great deal of pleasure in making these and I was reminded of the simple, basic step by step procedure in life and how it actually can be nice! A bagel is basic and yet a little complicated to make, just like many things in life! As I grow I really appreciate the “basic” and find great comfort and solitude in it, for this is where I came from. Basic is sometimes underrated. So for today, I think I will focus on the beauty of basic. There is simplicity everywhere and we can create and bring it into our lives. I want to stay with the basics, it feels good!!

Love ya,

Maria

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Blueberry scones and joy.

The other day I baked blueberry scones. It gave me so much joy. There is nothing like fresh organic blueberries in your scones! I thought about how this simple abundance gives me so much joy. I wanted to share it with others. I did give some scones to my parents who enjoyed them. While I was baking the scones I watched old episodes of The Lucy Show…boy she was so funny. I loved her simple ways. I think there should be more of us who don’t take things so seriously. Although I didn’t do anything extraordinary by baking scones and watching a funny show. I did get to reflect on how much I appreciate the simple joys in life and how much it is nice to share in the joy. I plan to contribute to other’s well-being and help the planet and our humans. I know how valuable it also is to find that peace and joy no matter how simple or brief with in ourselves. I plan to keep doing this in small by steady amounts. For now I am signing off with more thoughts on the way.

This morning I downloaded the e-book The China Study. This book is about the truth behind health and nutrition. I can’t wait to read and learn! I will have to post some of my thoughts.

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