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Extras

Some Hurts Heal Only with Time

Grieving Over a Recent Loss

I didn’t have my regularly scheduled post up last week, because I had to travel out of town, back to Dallas for the memorial service for my dad. My mom asked me to write the eulogy or similar for the pastor to read, so I did, thinking about not only his life with my mom (they were married 53 years), but about the memories I had of him, growing up and even my interactions with him recently.

Papa with grandkids
My mom and dad with my two youngest daughters.

Even now as I sit here writing this, my eyes are tearing up, thinking about the fact that I won’t get to see his face or hear his voice again, at least not for a while if I live a long life.

My dad was diagnosed with non Hodgkin’s lymphoma almost a decade ago, however with his treatment and prayers, he made a full recovery. It was around that same time, either before or after, that he had to have a double bypass, but again he pulled through. Shortly afterward he had some growths on his scalp and face that were related to lymphoma called follicular lymphoma, although they are typically slow growing cancers. My dad chose to go through radiation, because he didn’t want surgery, however he didn’t have to have chemo.

In the intervening years, my dad’s oncologist would do scans to make sure he was doing well, though one thing I’ve learned through this process with my dad is that lymphoma doesn’t go away; it’s always there, waiting to strike again.

My dad with my youngest sister and me
My dad, center, with my youngest sister on the right, and I’m on the left.

It was in March of last year when the Pandemic had shut everything down that my dad started having pain in his leg, similar to sciatic pain, running all the way down to his toes, however because everything was shut down, he could only have virtual visits. He was prescribed medication, although it didn’t help. He had at least two more virtual visits, all in the middle of the shutdown, to no avail. He was at the point where he couldn’t walk. He was told to get a massage, but that made him hurt more.

In June, when Dallas opened back up, my dad was sent to a specialist, who paid particular attention to his past cancer and asked questions about his scans. My mom texted me, when they got the results the morning after his MRI, ‘It’s cancer.’ I was in shock. And scared. My dad had health issues in the past, although it was this most recent one, where he was at the point where he couldn’t walk, that concerned me the most. My younger sister and I weren’t sure if that was his death sentence.

Family photo at birthday party
My dad closest to the center, my mom across from him, my oldest sister next to her, and my brother in law on the other side of my mom.

From that moment on I did all I could to be available to both of my parents and to visit as much as I could. There were countless doctor appointments my mom had to take my dad too, not to mention several ER visits that we couldn’t help her with, not with COVID dictating everything and the care people are receiving.

I watched my dad waste away as his illness weakened him, though he hardly complained. I wanted to rage at the doctors, his oncologist, the inept hospital staff that kept insisting he had COVID when he couldn’t breath, and the powers that be to help my dad, to let me see him, and to give him dignity in his final moments. And I think I still feel all of those things, that rage, that hurt that my dad had to go through everything he went through. I feel robbed by COVID and the restrictions being placed on hospitals when a person doesn’t have it. We have masks, we have thermometers, we even have tests. No one should be left to die without their family, and no one should miss the opportunity to say goodbye.

family collage
Collage of my dad with his kids or grandkids.

I know what I’m experiencing is fresh; I certainly haven’t completely processed that my dad is gone. When I was at my mom’s house, there were a lot of other people around, so there were distractions, and I could also pretend he was at work. Next time I don’t know how many diversions there will be, or if I’ll be able to imagine he’s just working.

I want to say something witty, to bring this all together with my blog, however I can’t, not right now, because I’m too sad to do that, although I wanted to share what I was going through. Maybe in time I can, but not right now.

Memorial pic of family
All of the family–my mom, brother and sisters, and grandkids after the memorial service for my dad.
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Extras recipes

Chicken Soup With Acini Di Pepe

This chicken soup with Acini di Pepe recipe was passed down through the generations on my mother’s side. It goes back when, I’m told, her ancestors lived in Sicily till they emigrated to New York.

My mother learned this recipe from her mom. And she probably started making it by the time she was a pre-teen. Then she handed it down to her daughters. It’s one of my kids’ favorite things to eat when they go to her house, even if it has stewed tomatoes in it. Even though it can be considered an old recipe, it’s quite simple to make. And I’ve even made some tweaks of my own.

Ingredients for Chicken Soup with Acini di Pepe

 chicken soup with mixed vegetables in cream colored bowl
  • 2 chicken breast halves
  • 1 Tbsp Better Than Bouillon Roasted Chicken Base
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 small diced red onion
  • 2 diced celery, leaves removed
  • 1 diced carrot or 10 oz package of mixed vegetables
  • 1/4-1/2 cup fresh or canned whole tomato, diced or pulsed in food processor
  • 1 Tbsp dry parsley
  • And 1/2 cup Acini di Pepe (Da Vinci is the brand I use)

Instructions

  • First, cook chicken with 1 Tbsp Better Than Bouillon chicken base in 2 1/2 quarts of water over medium high heat. When it starts to boil, lower to a simmer, and put a lid on the pot.
  • Next, when the chicken is cooked, check if it has enough salt, and add salt to taste, if needed.
  • Then, remove chicken and shred once it’s cooked through.
  • Add pepper, onion, celery, tomatoes, and carrots or mixed vegetables to pot, and simmer for 9 minutes.
  • Next, add parsley, and increase heat to medium high, to get water boiling.
  • And add Acini di Pepe last, when everything is cooked, and cook for 8-9 minutes more in boiling water.
  • Then put shredded chicken back in pot and heat through.
  • Finally, serve immediately.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and if you make this soup, please let me know what you think! Also, feel free to change it as you like!

Categories
Extras recipes

Polish Cabbage Pierogi Recipe

Every New Year’s Day I grew up having pierogis and gwumpkies (or golumpkies) at my maternal grandparents house until we moved away from Arizona. That’s when I was entering the 3rd grade. Pierogis are one of my favorite foods, probably because there’s a mixture of dough and butter. But it’s the Polish cabbage pierogi recipe I’m going to share, that I love the most.

Pierogis are filled dumplings. And they’re mostly associated with the cooking of Central and Eastern European Nations. However they go by different names in those nations. In Poland they are referred to as pierogis. Though, in Russia, they are known by vareniki.

In this recipe, the pierogis are filled with cabbage. But, more commonly, they are filled with potatoes. In other nations, they fill theirs with meats. I imagine the choices can be endless, although these are the traditional selections.

Ingredients for Filling for Polish Cabbage Pierogi Recipe

  • Cabbage
  • 1 Small Onion
  • 3 Tbsp Butter
  • And Salt and Pepper to Taste

Ingredients for Dough

  • 2 1/2 Cups Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 Egg
  • And 1/2 Cup Cold Water

Instructions for the Filling for Polish Cabbage Pierogi Recipe

  • First, chop onion and shred cabbage.
  • Next, cook onion and cabbage in 3 tbsp of butter in frying pan on medium-low heat; season to taste w/ salt and pepper.
  • Then, simmer until tender.

Instructions for Dough; and Putting it all Together

  • First, sift flour and salt together, and then add egg, and work ingredients into a dough, gradually adding 1/2 cup cold water.
  • Next, knead dough on floured surface until firm and smooth.
  • Then roll into ball and let it set for 10 minutes beneath a warm inverted bowl.
  • Next, take 1/3 dough at a time, roll thin, and then with a biscuit cutter, cut dough into circles.
  • And place a spoonful of filling in center of circle, fold in half and press edges together and crimp to ensure seal.
  • Then drop pierogis into boiling, salted water, and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Finally, after pierogis are filled and cook, pour melted butter over them.

These are my all-time favorite pierogis. However, I have also had them with fruit filling as a dessert, and they were unexpectedly wonderful. As I’ve mentioned before, I have some Sicilian in me on my mother’s side, because her mom was Sicilian. Though, I’m also Polish, which comes from my mom’s dad.

Holiday Traditions

When we lived in Arizona, meals at my maternal grandparents house were always a treat. Because, not only did they have quite a spread, but it was very ethnic; Italian on one side and Polish on the other side.

Gwumpkies or golumpkies, aka Polish stuffed cabbage rolls, was another Polish dish my grandpa would make for New Year’s day. This also features cabbage. However, rather than stuffing the cabbage, the meat and rice is stuffed into cooked cabbage leaves.

That’s not a recipe that I have ever cooked personally. Though my mom still faithfully prepares a lot of the recipes that were passed down to her.

What are your favorite holiday recipes? Is there some favorite dish that was handed down in your family? Or is there something that you make every year that gets requested? Please feel free to share, because I love trying new recipes!

I hope everyone has a blessed New Year’s day and a safe, healthy, and prosperous 2021!

Categories
Extras recipes

Papatelli

This recipe is one that’s been handed down to me from my mom, which was handed down to her from her own mom; then back generations, originating in Sicily. And they resemble biscotti in a lot of ways, only they are Sicilian cookies. Also, when looking up Papatelli, I saw pictures of them that looked like biscotti. However none looked quite like the ones passed down in our family. They also sound like Italian pepper cookies, in the way that the recipes resemble each other with similar ingredients. Though our cookies are called Papatelli. I hope you enjoy.

Ingredients for Papatelli

  • 3 Cups Flour
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Cocoa
  • 3 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp each of Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg, and Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Orange Rind with juice
  • 1 Cup of Raisins
  • 12 oz of Sliced Almonds; (recipe originally calls for 1 lb, but we add a little bit less)
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil; (I use Grapeseed Oil)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Milk for Moistening; (just a splash to moisten the dough)
papatelli dough
The remaining dough after rolling up half into the shape of a sausage.

Instructions

  • First, preheat oven to 375°.
  • Next, measure and mix all dry ingredients, except raisins and nuts.
  • In separate bowl, beat eggs, vanilla, orange juice, and vegetable oil.
  • Then, gradually add dry mix into the wet mix, mixing on low to medium speed. And add splash of milk as needed.
  • Last, add nuts and raisins, and continue to mix by hand, adding more flour to your hands if needed to keep dough together.
  • Then, on a floured surface, split dough into 2 and roll out like sausages, 1 inch wide and slice diagonally, ~ 1-1.5 inches long.
  • Next, place the dough 1/2 inch apart on baking sheets.
  • Then bake for 15 mins.
  • Finally, cool and enjoy!
Sicilian pepper cookie or papatelli dough
What the dough ends up looking like.

Now everyone in my extended family makes these cookies with a white glaze for extra sweetness. However we don’t, since my daughters and I love these cookies just as they are out of the oven, once they’ve cooled. The blend of spices, chocolate, nuts, and raisins make these cookies the perfect snack. Furthermore, they’re deceptively easy to forget how many calories you’re ingesting. We can readily eat several of these before a meal, after a meal, or in place of a meal. But I wouldn’t recommend it.

Sicilian pepper cookie or papatelli

What are your Christmas traditions? Do you have a favorite cookie recipe that you make in your own family?