I am a chunky monkey – the result of what I’ve been cooking lately. A diet of nothing but butter, sugar and flour for five months has taken its toll on my booty. I’ve been trying to get myself back in line – taste testing only a smidge of a recipe and freezing the rest – or giving it away to grateful neighbors.
But, you see, ‘just a taste’ is not enough for me because, well, I have dessert FOMO. If I don’t eat at least one confection each and every day, I’m convinced I’ve been deprived. So, I came up with this dessert that feels like decadence rather than depravation. There’s no butter, no refined sugar and no flour. That’s a triumph for me considering butter, sugar and flour are the Holy Trinity in my world. The Greek yogurt is as creamy as a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream, but packed with protein. The apples and cinnamon provide classic holiday apple pie flavor and the healthy-fat walnuts add the necessary crunch. It’s simple, nourishing and satisfying – and a foil to dessert FOMO.
Cut apple into quarters and then cut quarters into 4 slices. In a medium sized skillet, combine apples with water, cinnamon and salt. Bring to boil over medium high heat then reduce to medium low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until apple slices are tender, 8-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place yogurt on serving platter. I made a yogurt timbale by lining a ramekin with cheesecloth, pressing the yogurt into the ramekin and then inverting the timbale onto the plate, but you can also just scoop it prettily onto whatever dish you are using.
Arrange warm apple slices on and around yogurt and sprinkle with maple walnuts. Serve warm.
*Maple walnuts can be made by combining 2 Tablespoons walnuts with 1 Tablespoon maple syrup in a small sauté pan. Heat ingredients until maple syrup is vigorously bubbling, reduced and evenly coating nuts. Cool and break nuts apart before using.
Thanksgiving isn’t the time for experiments. The family gathered around our table crave the classics – the flavors from childhood Thanksgivings past. But, I’m never satisfied with the classics – even new classics. I want to play. When I hit upon “The Ultimate” sweet potato casserole recipe, I swear it will be my go-to recipe for all the years to come. Yet, by next November, there are three new recipes I want to try. I’m always experimenting, always trying something new…except for my Cranberry Sauce. What could possibly be special about cranberry sauce? The C-sauce doesn’t play starring role. Frankly, it’s not even a co-star. Cranberry sauce lands somewhere in the chorus, but I couldn’t imagine my Thanksgiving table without it. And it has to be this version. The warming spice and tart cherries pair perfectly with the cranberries – elevating the sauce just so, but not too much. Classic, with a twist. So, from my Thanksgiving table to yours…
If rituals provide us solace by allowing us a tiny bit of control in a world that is essentially mysterious and uncontrollable, then what happens when our rituals disintegrate?
I’m facing the fast approach of two long-held family rituals – Thanksgiving and Christmas. With both parents now dead, I’m not sure how to face these holidays. My family celebrated in my childhood home until about eight years ago, when the tradition moved to my current home. Each year, the foundation of these rituals crumbled a little bit – first with my father’s passing and then as my mother’s illness stole her mind. Last year’s attempt was feeble and now, with her death, these traditions seem hollow – out of habit rather than heart.
For this Thanksgiving, my inclination is to run away. There’s a yoga retreat (retreat – the perfect word) a few hour’s drive from my home. Here, I can practice my yoga, soak in a hot tub overlooking the ocean, graze on healthy food prepared by someone else – and hide from the reality of my world.
Yes, I realize this is escapism, but what are my options? I can host Thanksgiving again, hoping that a least a part of my family shows up. I can volunteer at a soup kitchen, as other holiday orphans do. Frankly, the thought of scooping congealed over-salted gravy on cardboard turkey and flavorless stuffing doesn’t warm me – even if it is for a good cause (yes, I realize I need to work on my altruistic and compassionate tendencies…knowing you have a problem is the first step, right?) The other option is staying home alone or tagging along at a friend’s dinner – pathetic options even to my own ears.
My mother is smearing feces on her bathroom walls. She’s also urinating in her closet at night. No, she’s not insane. She has Alzheimer’s – and it’s getting worse. This was the recent report we received from her assisted living facility. Happy Thanksgiving, right?
She slept through Thanksgiving last night. You can call me compassionless, but I think it was for the best. It was a quiet dinner with my sisters, unlike our rambunctious extended-family meals. My sister compared it to dining in a restaurant – good wine, good food, candlelight, adult conversation and a little jazz in the background – then mom woke up, talking crazy like a street person.
We made her a plate and finished our wine as she ate, ranted, and rambled. During our earlier dinner, we discussed inviting neighbors or friends over – and then I see her and realize it’s almost impossible. Perhaps they would be more empathetic than I? I ask myself how bad she’s going to get. My answer is: much worse.
Alzheimer’s can be hereditary. There’s a window of time between when you discover you have Alzheimer’s and when the dementia advances until you can’t remember. This morning, I wonder what I would do if I found myself at that juncture. My response is sobering and frightening.