Monday, December 12, 2011

{a breath & a bite} Family IS everything & The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap recipe Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti

As I sit here writing this, I realize that I am so distracted it’s really difficult to think about cookies and holidays and all the material trappings of this time of year. It’s hard to remember the excitement I felt just three weeks ago while I was developing my recipe for my participation in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. Instead, I sit here, in the hospital, surrounded by family – some of whom have flown in from out of town – praying together for a miracle that will save my Auntie Sally.

Walking into the her room in ICU is both frightening and saddening. The brightness of the hospital lights, the whirring of machines that are keeping her breathing, cleaning her blood and feeding her all bring a lump to my throat and threaten to loosen tears from my eyes. She is fighting for her life.

She’s had a cough and cold for a while. Last weekend it was really bad. Finally, on Wednesday, my grandmother decided to call an ambulance to bring her to the Emergency Room. She was admitted and the calls went out informing the family. At first, we were told it was pneumonia and she would need to be in the hospital a few days.

But by Thursday, it was clear there was something more going on and they ordered another round of tests ... That’s when the worry started to set in.

Four days ago, I saw her in her room as she came in and out of consciousness, alert enough to know I was there, telling me to go home and be with my doggy and not to worry about coming back in the next day. She would be fine she insisted.

Today, sedated, medically paralyzed as to minimize the “waste” of oxygen, she is not the same person that sat among us two and a half weeks ago at our Thanksgiving table.

They’ve identified the secondary infection: Legionnaires. The doctor says she quite possibly could have had the bacteria for years in a dormant/semi dormant stage.

I looked up the disease.

The internet can be a scary source of information. 50% survival rate. 50%. That’s without other complications. Complications like pneumonia. Like impending kidney failure. Like diabetes.

It’s Monday morning now. I started writing this post yesterday but had to put the laptop away for the day. It was too hard to organize my thoughts …

I try to remain strong. I try to embrace my faith and know that ultimately I must accept God’s will. My Auntie is a woman of exceptionally strong faith. Wavering in mine at a time like this, my Auntie Syl reminded me last night, will only dishonor my Auntie Sally. Nonetheless, I had a meltdown last night for the first time since she was admitted.

Heaving, can’t breathe, fetal position, sobbing. So hard and so loud that my fur child couldn’t stand it. She went from calmly laying next to me with her little head using my leg as a pillow to jumping back and forth from one side of me to the other, trying to hump my arm, my leg, my head as it rocked on the pillow, lick my tears, howling along with me. They say that cocker spaniels are extremely sensitive to their human’s emotions. It’s one of the reasons you aren’t supposed to raise your voice when reprimanding them. A slight change in intonation and they can sense something is up. So I try not to cry in front of her but this … this is simply too much to keep inside.



Little gifts in the mail 
I had been so busy last weekend that I got my cookies out for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap a day late.


I chose to make chocolate pistachio biscotti, making a trial run to take to work. After they passed the test there, the cookies were ready to be baked once more, packaged and sent out.

My recipients were:
Christine from Ruminations on Food
Nick from Macheesmo
Nicole from Sweet Peony

Wednesday evening I received my first box of cookies from the Swap. It was the first day of Auntie’s hospital stay. I’d planned on going to see her after work but re-injured my bad knee getting into the car. So I called her instead and spoke to her on the phone a few minutes. Then settled in to rest and enjoy a cookie from Sara over at The Little Bite.


Coconut Macaroons. Although not crazy about coconut, these cookies were moist in the center and after partaking of a few, I found them rather delicious. Thank you, Sara.

Thursday, after the definitive diagnosis of pneumonia, I made sure to get to the hospital. Auntie was still awake then but barely. Worn out when I left for home and my fur child, I found the second box of cookies. This time, they were from Lisa of Tequila Cupcakes.


Ginger Spiced Cookies. They were an instant pick-me-up. Soft, warming and comforting. And I couldn’t help but think, Auntie might like these. Thank you, Lisa.

Friday, Auntie was moved to pulmonary ICU which is where she is still. That’s when they sedated and intubated her. I left work early Friday, unable to concentrate and afraid I’d make a costly mistake. Seeing her there that first day, her chest rising and lowering more regularly, less labored due to the help of the machine, she looked like she was just sleeping. The beeping of the machines around us told me she wasn’t. I cried a little, I spoke to her. Told her she HAD TO FIGHT! Told my Grandfather it wasn’t time for him to walk with her.

My sister flew in from Arizona Friday night. I waited at the hospital as she was coming straight there. We all hugged, we all prayed. After she got a chance to visit with Auntie for a while, I said goodnight to my Auntie and drove my sisters home.


And the last box of cookies was waiting for me. Chocolate Cranberry Biscotti from Hannah 1/2 of Cats and Commas. Thank you, Hannah. A biscotti, a cuppa tea, a half hour of playing with my fur child and I was nearly calm enough to attempt sleep.

The cookies arriving in the mail where little bright spots in an otherwise difficult time. And I’m thankful to be a part of such a supportive online community.

Family is everything 
It’s 10:30am now. I haven’t left for the hospital yet but I just got a call that my Auntie is worse than she was yesterday. They are changing her breathing machine to a stronger one and will resume the dialysis they started Saturday morning. My heart is heavy.

There is so much guilt. Guilt for the arrogance I had thinking that we have more time – enough time – to say and do the things we should be doing all along. All the times I said we’d do this or that, all the times I felt impatient or short with her are haunting me, no, strangling me making it hard to breathe.

I want more time.

But the truth is we don’t know, do we? How much time we have with the people we love.

We can’t waste it.

Please, don’t waste it.


Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti with Rum and Cinnamon
Makes 4 dozen

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tablespoon dark rum
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups raw pistachios
1/2 cup evaporated milk, poured into a shallow bowl
3-4 tablespoons course sugar such as turbinado
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until creamy. Switch to the whisk attachment. Add the eggs, vanilla, and rum. Beat on medium high until smooth.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the cocoa powder, instant espresso, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add the pistachios and combine.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and use a wooden spoon to mix the dry ingredients into the batter a cup or two at a time. Incorporate well.

Divide the dough in half. Place each half in the center of a baking sheet. Dough will be sticky. Once on the pan, dip your hands in the milk and shape the dough into a long slightly flattened log. It should measure out to about 12 inches long by 3 to 4 inches wide. Repeat with second half. Pat down the top of both logs with a little more milk and immediately sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the logs.

Bake the logs for about 10 minutes then switch their positions in the oven. Bake for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven and move the logs onto wire racks to cool by carefully pulling on the parchment paper. Let the logs cool for 15 to 20 minutes.

Using a serrated knife, cut the logs into 1/4- inch slices on the bias (diagonally). Return the same parchment they were baked on to the cookie sheets and arrange the slices on them. Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool completely.

When cooled, melt the chocolate in a microwave or by using a double broiler. Place the cookies on a wire rack and place the rack over the cookie sheets or on top of newspaper. Use a tablespoon to drizzle the chocolate over the biscotti. Place rack in refrigerator for chocolate to set up.

Biscotti can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week or placed between waxed paper and sealed tightly, they can be frozen for up to a month.

How you can play next year
Want to participate in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap next year? Sign up here.

11 comments:

Lisa @ TequilaCupcakes said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your aunt, Anita!!
I'm glad you enjoyed my cookies :)

Hannah 'Denver' D said...

I am also really sad to hear about your Aunt. My very best to you and her both! (Also, I just wanted to comment at how beautiful and crisp your biscotti look! Mine weren't, ha. I am glad to hear that they were enjoyable, though.)

afotogirl said...

@ Lisa and Hannah: thank you. This is the hardest thing I have had to deal with since my mothers fight with cancer a few years ago. So many emotions. And yes, am still enjoying both your cookies.

@hannah: I have never made biscotti before so for me, it really helped to do a run through. :) I thought they might be a bit on the thin side... Especially afte seeing how thick and crispy yours came out. :) but, it's all about the taste, right? And both of our biscottis taste quite yummy.
Thank you ladies!

Linda CS said...

I am so sorry for what you and KittyCat are goind through. truly truly sorry. big bear hug and kiss.
Linda

Christine said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your Aunt -- I'll keep you both in my thoughts and prayers.

I SO enjoyed your biscotti cookies! They were delicious! I'll be posting about them soon, once I can stop eating them long enough to take pictures :)

Nick (Macheesmo) said...

These biscotti were amazing Anita!

Thanks for sending them. I'm really sorry to hear about your aunt.

Fran@fransfavs.com said...

I am terribly sorry to hear about your aunt. My heart, too, is heavy during this holiday season because my mom is in the final stages of ovarian cancer. I will be losing her in the new year to come, and the thought is unbearable. The only brief respite I have is when I have my nose in my own blog and other blogs. The distraction is so welcome and so needed. I have enjoyed discovering your blog. I, too, recently made a chocolate biscotti. I'm 100% Italian, so I do enjoy a good biscotti. My best wishes for your aunt's complete recovery. Stay strong.
http://www.fransfavs.com/2011/12/chocolate-biscotti-with-sliced-almonds/

vanillalemonade.com said...

Sorry to see the rough time! Time is precious-

This post is a great reminder to all, keep you loved ones close!

Alyssa said...

I'm so sorry to hear that your aunt has been hospitalized, especially during the time of year that is supposed to be so joyous. I'm glad you were able to do some baking and enjoy the Cookie Swap, even as a distraction. I'm keeping you and your family in my thoughts.

afotogirl said...

I am deep in the grip of grief so forgive this mass thank you. I feel blessed to be amongst such a supportive community. Thank you, everyone for your words of encouragement and support. May your holidays be filled with love and your new year filled with joy and good health.
<3

Nicole G said...

May God rest her soul in peace!