24 June 2020

Family, Friends & Fireflies (plus a Recipe: Morir Soñando Cookies)

I just finished completely rebuilding my website (the first time I've ever coded an entire website without starting from a cheater template--Please take a look around, and let me know what you think!) and as I was going through the content to figure out what to keep, I seriously considered deleting this blog. After all, I haven't posted anything since 2017, and I know myself. I probably won't ever post regularly again. And everyone knows that an outdated blog isn't a good thing.

But then I started scrolling through my old posts, and I remembered how much I loved sharing bits of myself with you.

Yes, I have an "about me" page on my website. But to really know about me, you have to know about my  brain tumor. And the way I get unbelievably excited about little things. And my obsession with Crock Pot cuisine. And my absolute love of books, and all the ways they help me make sense of my world. And the way I can make a surprisingly delicious cookie out of literally everything.* 

And the way my friends and family are my entire world.

So here's a post to say I'm back! And in the spirit of all the things that this space is for me, I'm including all of the things that make me love being here.

A book:

Cover of GHOST SQUAD by Claribel Ortega

A few weeks ago, I finished reading GHOST SQUAD by Claribel Ortega, and it was amazing!
Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd's witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely's firefly spirits before it's too late. 

This is a REALLY fun book with lots of laugh-out-loud moments, two best friends who are the absolute definition of "friendship goals," and an adorable cat that probably everyone who reads it wants to adopt in real life. But more than that, it's a book about family, both biological and the family we find along the way. And it's about those connections that last forever. Even beyond the grave. 

Lucely's fireflies felt so familiar to me in so many ways. I don't often get a chance to see and chat with my deceased ancestors, but I know they are there for me, lifting and helping me when I need their strength. Like when my Grandpa came to sit with me through my radiation treatments. And whether you believe in those beyond-the-grave connections or not, I think we can all agree that our families shape who we are and how we see the world. I'm so glad that I got to be a part of Lucely's world for a little while!

A connection (or two):

Claribel Ortega is one of the sweetest, fiercest human beings I have ever met. She is quite vocal in her support of her friends. She's not shy about standing up for what's right, even when I know it's really difficult for her to do sometimes. And she's really good at reminding me that I'm worthwhile. I count myself lucky that I got to know her before she was famous! (She reminds me a lot of Syd, Lucely's amazingly fierce, sweet, and funny best friend in GHOST SQUAD.) 

And I've been waiting to read this book since she mentioned it just briefly way back when we first met all those years ago. (I'm not even sure if she had started writing it yet, or if she was just still playing with the idea.) So of course I had to get a copy as soon as it was available. I dove into the story full of expectations. Which character would I love the most? Would I fall in love with Chunk, as so many of the lucky folks who got to read advance copies did? Would I identify with Lucely? Or Syd? (For the record, Tia Milagros is my favorite!) I didn't expect my favorite part of the book to happen in the first chapter. But when Lucely sat down to a breakfast that included pitchers of fresh juice and morir soñando, I literally squealed with delight!

I didn't grow up with the amazingness that is morir soñando on my breakfast table. I didn't know what it was until a few years ago, when Hermana Ward, one of the missionaries here in the Maryland Baltimore Mission back in 2016/17, and another one of my favorite humans, gave me a cookie challenge. "There's an amazing Dominican drink called morir soñando that literally translates as 'to die dreaming.' Can you make that drink in cookie form?"

Well, first I had to get to know the drink. And oh my goodness! Yum!! If you haven't had this on your tastebuds, you absolutely need to fix that situation now. 

Go ahead. 

I'll wait. 

See what I mean? It's fantabulous, isn't it???

So I knew the cookies representing the drink had to be flippin' phenomenal, or they would never live up to they hype. 

Most of the recipes I create are all about simplicity. For this one, I pulled out all the stops. It's a bit more complex, and definitely a special-occasion treat, but literally every single person who has ever tried these cookies has fallen in love with them. (One of my friends even asked if she could lick the plate when they were all eaten!)

So... in honor of two of the best humans I know, and one of my new favorite books, I present to you...

A recipe:

Morir Soñando Cookies

Orange Cookie 

1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
¾ c. thawed orange juice concentrate
2 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. orange extract (opt.)
¼ c. cornstarch
4 c. Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 GF flour

Cream butter and sugar together. 

Add eggs, orange juice, soda, salt, cornstarch, and orange extract, as desired. 

Beat until light and fluffy (approximately 5 minutes on high). 

Stir in flour, just until fully incorporated. 

Drop by teaspoon-sized scoops (I use a small cookie scoop to make sure they're all the same size, but you can just use a spoon, if you want) onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 9-10 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Vanilla Buttercream

½ c. butter
½ tsp. vanilla
1 c. powdered sugar

Whip all ingredients together in a medium-sized mixing bowl, until light and fluffy. Frost cookies.

Orange Glaze

¾ c. thawed orange juice concentrate
¼ c. butter

Boil orange juice concentrate down to ¼ c. syrup.

Beat in butter (I use a rubber spatula and beat it in by hand, but you can use a mixer if you like). 

Chill slightly. (15-20 minutes--just enough so that it won't melt the frosting) Then, drizzle over frosted cookies. 

Serve right away, or place back on the parchment-lined cookie sheet and freeze for later. (I actually love these right out of the freezer. They're soft enough that they can be eaten frozen, and one of my friends described them as a "Creamsicle on Crack.")

So there you go. I'm back, and I'm excited to share a bit of myself with you all again. I've missed you. I've missed this. 

(*disclaimer: I haven't yet tried literally everything in my cookie-making adventures, because there are about a zillion ingredients in the world ... but I have managed to succeed so far in every challenge that I have been given. So I'm gonna claim that "literally" and wear it with pride.)