365

perfect 365. That is the number of times I’ve gone to sleep without you by my side.

“If anything ever happened to you, I would die,” I once said to you.
“No, you wouldn’t,” you responded, with a certainty that I found mildly irritating at the time.

And you were right. Because the strangest part of having my worst nightmare come true is that I have had to keep on living. Sometimes I don’t want to, if I’m being honest.  But I do. If someone had told me that I could survive even a day without you, I would never have believed them. But here I am. 365 days later.

“Matt is gone.”
Those are the words that changed my life forever.  One of our dearest friends whispered them into my ear on that horrible day, and then he scooped me up, and carried me into the house, where the rest of our friends were waiting. When I heard their sobs, I knew it was real. I remember thinking to myself “There is no bottom. This is it. There is nothing worse than this.” Followed immediately by the thought that “I have to find a way to survive this. It will be hard.  But I will have to push through. It’s the only way.”

And then it all becomes a blur.

“I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this.” I whispered in my broken voice, over and over and over again.
“Breathe, Jen. All you have to do right now is breathe,” another sweet friend coached. And for a while, that was all I was capable of doing. Just. Breathing.

I didn’t cry right away. In the movies, people always wail uncontrollably.  For me, the tears came later.  It wasn’t until my mom arrived, that it all finally broke open. She remained faithfully by my side, sleeping next to me at night, for the weeks that followed. But in those initial moments, I was stunned. Just. Stunned.  And raw.  So, so raw.

No one told me that I would cry so many tears that my eyes would literally chap.
No one told me that I would gag on solid food for days on end.
No one could tell me how to do any of this….because my grief for you is as unique as the love that we shared.

Oddly, as I look back, the thing that now stands out to me about those first foggy weeks is the love.  It’s an intensity of emotion that is difficult to articulate.  Losing you somehow brought us all together.  Walls came down. Edges were softened. I remember how grateful I was for every small act of kindness.  Gary, on our front steps, holding flowers with giant tears in his eyes. The unending smorgasbord of food (really, really good food, I might add), often from complete strangers. Prayers. Hugs. Community bike rides in your honor. There was overwhelming heartbreak, engulfed by a wave of unfathomable love.  It was in those first days, when everything else was stripped away, that I truly understood that we are all here to help one another…and that love is indeed all that matters.

Remember, Moosty, how you had to drag me away from Portland? Kicking and screaming. Reluctantly, I gave in to starting a new life, in a small town.  We found our home and filled it with love and friends. And now I can’t imagine going through this anywhere else.  Did you know?  Did you know that you would leave so soon? I often wonder if you placed me in the  cocoon of our small but mighty town, because you knew that they would take care of me in your absence. You would be so, so proud of them, Moosty.  All of our friends – from near and far- have been my army, and have rallied in an inspirational way. Thank you for bringing me to this place that has become my sanctuary, and to this community that has become my family.

There is so much love for you here.  Do you feel it? I hope that you do.  I don’t think you ever knew how much people loved and respected you. Your family and friends work hard to honor you every day. Your humble spirit would not be comfortable with all this adulation…but you are so worthy of it.

klee_lap

People who didn’t know you often ask about the “Live Like Matt” slogans that are all over town. Stickers. Art. Posters. My Facebook feed is flooded with Live Like Matt profile pictures. Your name is everywhere. You are everywhere. How can I possibly articulate what it means to live the way that you did?!
To fill each and every day with adventure.
To do your absolute best at all times.
To cultivate meaningful relationships.
To make things better, not just for your own enjoyment, but for the good of the entire community.
To rule from the heart, and never ever from the ego.
And you managed to do all of those things with incalculable humility and grace.

You made other people want to step up their game, in the best possible way. I certainly did not know that life could be so good – so full – until you came along.  And while my heart breaks at the thought that we only had eight precious years together, I know that I am not the same person that I was when you showed up on my front porch that day nine years ago.  We packed a lot into those short years, Moosty, more than most people do in a lifetime.  Yes…you were a game changer, in every way. And I knew it from the start.

livelikematt

I never knew I could love another human being as much as I love you.  And even though this grief is as profound as that love, I would do it all again. I would still choose you. Over and over and over. Because even after all of this, you…are the best thing that ever happened to me. Being your wife has been the biggest honor of my life. There is a special place in my heart…only for you…that I will carry with me until we meet again. You are my sun and moon. Always.

It’s a strange thing to know the exact moment when your life has changed forever. As I sit and write this, I am not the same person who collapsed into the loving arms of a friend 365 days ago.  I’m still not entirely sure who, exactly, I am on my way to becoming….but whoever that person is,  I hope that she does good things.  Because I know that you would want that for me…you would want that for all of us who miss you.  We will endeavor to live like you, Moosty…to Live Like Matt. Because that… is the only way.

buterfly

Float on, my sweet, handsome, wonderful man….I will see you again someday.  Until then, keep sending the butterflies…and know that you are loved beyond measure.

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Easy Weeknight Pho

Image

I keep meaning to post this, but then life gets crazy and…blah blaaah blaaaaah.  

We’re all crazy busy…which is why you need this pho in your life.  It is NOT fancy pho.  I repeat.  This is NOT fancy phoking pho.  This is I-just-worked-all-day-and-I-might-die-if-I-don’t-eat-pho-right-now pho.  It couldn’t be any easier.  Most of the ingredients are easily kept on hand for emergency pho situations: 

RECIPE (serves 2 big eaters)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups hot water
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
4 or 5 whole star anise
Dash cinnamon (or 1 cinnamon stick)
Dash cloves (or 5 whole cloves)
6 turkey meatballs (Trader Joe’s frozen – green and white bag)
4 oz flat rice noodles
Fresh basil for garnish
other optional garnishes: cilantro, fresh lime, sriracha sauce, hoisin sauce, and sliced jalapeño

Saute onion in a little grapeseed or olive oil until golden.  Add crushed garlic and cook one minute more.  Add broth, water, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, star anise, cinnamon, and cloves, and let simmer for 10 minutes.  Taste the broth and tinker with it until your pho cravings are satisfied (the recipe is merely a suggestion).  Add turkey meatballs and simmer for another 15 minutes, until heated through.  Follow package directions on your rice noodles, drain, and divide into bowls.  Add meatballs, broth, and whatever garnishes you have on hand.

If you’re not racing to get into your fuzzy pants and watch Game of Thrones, then I suggest THIS RECIPE from the Steamy Kitchen blog.  It is my go-to weekend pho. It’s more labor intensive….but definitely worth the extra effort.   

 

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things I like: sweet potato + pomegranate salad by love & lemons

salad

photo credit Love & Lemons

This salad was featured on Love & Lemons right after Christmas. Isn’t it PRETTY?!  I’ve made it so often that my husband politely asked when we might try something new.  Never.  The correct answer is: never.  I am utterly addicted.  For quick assembly, I typically prep all of the ingredients at the beginning of the week.  Chop and roast the sweet potato, then store it in the fridge.  Make a big batch of the dressing to use throughout the week (or just use your favorite balsamic or champagne vinaigrette).  Trader Joe’s carries shelled pistachios – just chop ’em up and toss ’em in.  And, if you are not a big feta fan (my husband is not), you can easily substitute soft crumbled goat cheese.

My favorite part of the prep is the pomegranate. I refrigerate the seeds in an airtight container, and use them all week long.  There are many ways to de-seed a pomegranate (I have a friend who swears by the under water method), but I  prefer to beat the hell out of it with a wooden spoon.  Cheap therapy.  Here is a great video of Martha getting the job done…just make sure to wear an apron, because girlfriend is not kidding – it is messy business.   Enjoy!

click here for RECIPE

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Beautiful.

“It’s time to post something on your blog again.”

A friend recently informed me that it is time to get back on the blogging horse.  She’s right, of course.  “But how?”

This blog has always been a creative outlet for me.  It has been a place for me to share, with my family and dear friends, those things that bring me joy.  So, when something really awful happened in my life, I wasn’t sure how to proceed with this space.  A clever post about pancakes just seemed so…trivial.  Until now, inaction has been my preferred course of action.  Baby steps.

IMG_8238_2

photo credit In the Moment Photography

Here I am, with my dad, on the happiest day of my life.  Last November, we said goodbye.

And while, for the most part, I have found peace with the fact that my dad is no longer here – in the physical sense anyway, there are still moments when I feel like I’ve been kicked in the stomach.  Loss is never easy.  Heartbreak comes in many shapes and sizes.  There are days that I feel completely myself.  And days that I just want to stay under the covers.  I went to coffee with a friend who told me, “the strangest thing is that life just moves on.  You still have to do your laundry and make dinner.”  She knows.  She’s been there.  And she’s right.  Life just keeps chugging along….and so will I…without my dad.

I’ve written and re-written this post countless times.  Everything that I say seems horribly inadequate.  So, I’ll end with a song.  It will always remind me of him.  I can still hear his voice singing along to it.  Someday, I may actually be able to listen to it without bawling my eyes out.  Until then…

Dad, you are so beautiful.  I hope that, wherever you are… you feel that now.

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Mixed Berry Jalapeño Pie

It seems only fitting that I should be writing a post about pie, as today marks the 100th birthday of the queen of all things delicious.   She taught so many of us control freaks to step outside of our comfort zones, and to be creative.  Happy birthday, Julia!  Thank you for inspiring us to love being in the kitchen — and for showing us that it’s okay to take risks! 

This little creation required a bit of experimentation, as I found myself with an abundance of summer berries, and….jalapeños.   While I love the sweet and spicy combination in jams, I had never really thought about using it in a pie.  After a little encouragement from my sweet friend, and goddess of all things pastry, I got to work.

I should probably preface this by stating that pie dough scares the crap out of me.   Seriously.  Maybe it’s the science that intimidates me, but I always feel like I’m doing it…wrong.  Then I hear Julia whisper, in the back of my brain somewhere, that “the only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”   And  I remind myself that anything with an abundance of flour and butter can’t be that bad, so…what the hell?!  For this pie, I referred to the basic pie dough recipe in my Bible of baking.  My main take away is to chill the pie dough thoroughly….and…use butter flavored Crisco for the shortening.  Lots of buttery goodness = delicious pie crust.

It must have gone well, because this is what the pie looked like 4 hours after coming out of the oven:

Just follow the directions for the dough, and while it is chilling in the fridge, toss together the following in a bowl:

Mixed Berry Jalapeño Pie Filling:
3 Cups Blueberries
3 Cups Blackberries
1 SMALL jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs removed, finely FINELY minced (seriously, NO chunks!)
1 Cup Sugar, plus extra for dusting
2 Teaspoons juice plus zest from one LIME
3 Tablespoons Minute Tapioca
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, cut into pieces
1 Egg White

1.  Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position, with a baking sheet on it, and preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Roll the bottom layer of dough into the pie dish, then let it rest in the refrigerator while you mix the berries and roll out the top sheet of dough.
2.  Toss together the fruit, pepper, sugar, lime, and Minute tapioca.  *I actually used half of a pepper because my jalapeños are melt-your-face-off hot.  Let it sit while you roll out the top layer of dough.
3.  Roll out the top layer of pie dough.  Take the pie dish out of the fridge, fill it with the berries, scatter the 2 tbsp of butter over the top, and roll the top layer of dough over the filling.
4.  Trim the edges to about 1/2 inch, and tuck the dough underneath itself, so the edges are folded and flush with the pan.  You can then use your thumb and index finger to make a nice pretty edge.  Cut a few holes in the dough to allow for ventilation.  Brush with egg white, and sprinkle a little sugar over the top.
5.  Place the pie on the baking sheet in the oven, and turn the temp down to 425 degrees.  Bake for about 25 minutes.  Turn the oven down again, to 375, rotate the pie, and continue to bake for about 30 minutes more.  If the edges start to burn, you can take a long sheet of foil, and cut a hole out of the middle, to protect the edges only.  Let the pie cool completely on a wire rack, as it will take time to set up.  

adapted from Baking Illustrated

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sausage + potato + kale skillet

On Thursday evenings, you can typically find us wandering around the Gorge Grown Farmer’s Market at the HR Middle School.   We always look forward to hitting up the food carts and shopping for local goodies with our friends.   My new BFF, coincidentally,  is the dude who hands out cheese samples.  Seriously, who doesn’t love Free Sample Guy?!  Heaven.

Snoop through our basket and you will likely find tons of fresh produce, tubs of ridonkulous almond butter, and this pork sausage from Rough Swan Ranch.  My friend raved about it, so we gave it a shot.  And now, we may need to purchase a separate freezer, just so I can store this stuff throughout the winter.  This ain’t no Jimmy Dean, folks.  It is absolutely worth the few extra bucks as it: A) comes from happy pigs and B) is freakishly delicious.  It’s fair to say that we are addicted.

Technically it is labeled as “breakfast sausage”,  but I have been using it to cook up “dinner skillets” all summer long. Variations have included white cannellini beans and grilled corn.  Our garden potatoes are ready, so lately I’ve been using those.  Come this fall, you’d better believe that I’ll toss some sweet potato into the mix!   My husband has proclaimed, on more than one occasion, that THIS is his favorite meal….EVER.  It’s simple and rustic – total cowboy food.

SAUSAGE + POTATO + KALE SKILLET
1 Lb. bulk breakfast sausage (Rough Swan or any other QUALITY sausage)
1 medium onion, diced
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
dash red pepper flake
1 Lb. baby red or yukon gold potatoes, cubed
1 bunch kale, shredded (ribs removed), yields approx. 4 cups
salt and pepper to taste

PREHEAT oven to 425 degrees.  In a cast iron (I use my 10 inch), or any other oven proof skillet, brown the breakfast sausage over medium heat.  REMOVE sausage with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel lined plate.  ADD the diced onion to the pan, WITH the sausage grease (don’t look at me like that, just DO it), and saute until soft.  CRUSH the garlic into the onions, add a dash of red pepper flake, cook until fragrant.  ADD the potatoes to the pan and coat evenly with onions and garlic.  SEASON with a bit of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, then let the potatoes cook for about 2 minutes on the stove.  TRANSFER the skillet to the oven and let the potatoes bake for 18 minutes.  CAREFULLY remove the skillet from the oven (uh, don’t grab the handle).  ADD the shredded kale and breakfast sausage to the skillet and mix it all together.  The skillet will be HOT, so keep that mitt on!  RETURN the skillet to the oven for about 7 minutes longer, until the kale is wilted to your satisfaction (it should have some crispy edges).   BAM!   Giddy up.  

Variations:  Depending on what is in season, sub any of the following for the potatoes: white cannellini beans, roasted corn, sweet potato, etc. The sky is the limit!  

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Filed under gorge grown, meat, pork, quick and easy

Campfire Paella

I’m ALIVE!  If you were afraid that I had been taken hostage or trapped beneath heavy furniture, fear no more!  We have been busily checking items from our Summer List, which has left me little time to blog.  So, to all ten of you who read this thing (Hi, Mom!), I apologize for my radio silence.  I’m pretty sure that all will be forgiven once you see what we’ve been up to.

We spent last weekend riding our bikes along this river…

after camping with our good friends Jeff & Tina on this lake….

where we stuffed our bocas with this grilled deliciousness:

I know.  That last photo is a real jaw dropper.  If you know me at all, you know that my love affair with Spain began long ago.  By no means do I consider myself a paella snob, but baking it in a dutch oven just seems so wrong.  I’ve been obsessed with making this dish over an open fire since watching Mario and Gwynnie’s food tour of my beloved España.  Guess what?  It was so easy!  And FUN!  Our fire pit was equipped with a large steel grate, but you could easily do this on a BBQ grill.   My paella pan will never be the same, but hopefully it will never see the inside of an oven again, as THIS is the only way that I  intend to make it from here on out.  This recipe is adapted from Christine Gallary’s post on CHOW, using my 13.5 inch pan (scroll down to the end if you just want to get to the recipe):

Step ONE:  Build a medium sized fire and let it get going.  It doesn’t need to be huge (you don’t want to singe your eyebrows), just big enough to tickle the pan.  Then saute yo’ meat.  We used chicken andouille sausage and boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  When they are cooked through, remove with a slotted spoon, retaining the juices.

Step TWO:  Add your onion and saute until golden.  You will need to rotate the pan often to ensure even cooking.  This is where a nice pair of LONG tongs comes in handy (we lost ours, so I had to improvise).   Once the onion is nice and caramelized, throw in your garlic, salt, paprika, and a huge pinch of saffron threads.  Coat the onion evenly.  Stir in your diced tomatoes, with juice, and give it a good stir to mix it all together.

Step THREE:  Add your bomba rice, coat with tomatoes and spices, then add white wine.  Let the wine cook into the rice a little bit, then add in the chicken broth.  Mix it all together.  Try to look like Clint Eastwood while you do this (Matt calls this my smoke face).  Now comes the hard part:  DON’T TOUCH IT!  Seriously, keep your grubby little paws OFF the paella.  You want a nice crusty layer to form on the bottom of the pan.  This is called socarrat, and it is delicious, so LEAVE IT ALONE.

Step FOUR:  Let the rice simmer for about 15 minutes,  rotating the pan occasionally so that it cooks evenly.  Then, in an even layer, without disturbing the rice, add the meat back into the pan.  Top with an even layer of peeled shrimp (tail on looks real pretty, but we are roughing it here, folks).  Let the shrimp cook for another 10 minutes or so, until done.   If you don’t feel like they are cooking, you can cover the pan with a layer of foil.

Step FIVE:  Remove the pan from the fire.  It will be HOT, so find a safe place to let it rest.  Cover it with foil and let it sit for about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with parsley and fresh lemon.  Then DIG In!  Make sure to get some of the socarrat from the bottom of the pan.  ¡Delicioso!

Oh.  And did I mention dessert?  Sit down, I’m not done here.

I’ve also been obsessed with making Campfire Orange Cakes since seeing them featured on Emily’s and Alice’s blogs.   We opted for choco cake mix, because that’s how we roll:

But you could use any type of cake mix that you like.  Just follow the directions found on their blogs and you will be in HEAVEN.

As per Em’s recommendation, we saved the scooped out orange flesh for our juice the next morning.  Holy orange balls!  We were so glad we did.

And that, my friends, is how you stuff your face on a camping trip!  Jeff and Tina, thank you for being such gracious hosts and guinea pigs!  When can we go again?!

CAMPFIRE PAELLA
(This recipe is for a 13.5 inch pan.  Increase rice to two cups and total liquids to 4 cups for 15 inch pans)
1 (15 oz) can fire roasted, diced tomatoes
1 (16 oz) bag peeled shrimp
1 teaspoon paprika (plus more as desired)
salt and black pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
2 large links of chicken andouille sausage, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more as needed)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced or crushed
1 large pinch saffron threads
1.5 cup bomba rice (you can sub arborio or valencia)
1 cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
Serve with lemon wedges and freshly chopped Italian parsley

1.  Over a medium campfire, equipped with grill, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a 13.5 inch pan.  Add sausage and chicken thighs.  Cook through, then remove with slotted spoon (retain the juices).  

2.  Add more olive oil to the pan, then add diced onion.  Cook until soft.  Add garlic and a teaspoon of salt, paprika, and large pinch of saffron threads.  Coat evenly.  Add the can of diced tomatoes, with juice, and stir to coat. 

3.  Add bomba rice, stir until evenly coated with spices and tomatoes.  Add wine and let simmer for a minute or two, until about half of it cooks out.  Add chicken broth.  Don’t touch from here on out!  Let it simmer for 12-15 minutes, rotating the pan occasionally.  Add an additional splash of broth if you find that it is cooking too quickly out of the pan.

4.  Add the chicken and accumulated juices in an even layer.  Press into the rice a bit, using the back of long tongs.  Add shrimp in an even layer and continue to cook for about 10 minutes longer.  If it’s not cooking, cover – carefully – with foil. 

5.  Remove the pan from the fire, and carefully cover with foil.  It will be HOT.  Let it rest for 5 minutes.  Serve with fresh (Italian) parsley and lemon wedges.  

Original recipe found HERE

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