Yesterday was Memorial Day.
Evidently there’s a bit of controversy about it on the internet because some people get angry when people tell each other, “Happy Memorial Day!” I guess some people don’t feel it’s appropriate to express happiness for their freedom.
I for one AM happy to remember all of the brave people who fought for my freedom. It IS a happy day. Because without them, and their willingness to fight for what they believed in and for the freedom of people who can’t fight or don’t fight, our lives would look entirely different. I know people miss their loved ones who gave their lives, that’s understood. So while we mourn for those relationships lost, we can still celebrate their bravery and character.
My mother’s father was killed in a motorcycle accident when my grandma was pregnant with her. Prior to that, he was a POW. He was missing for quite some time. Little did anyone know that he would come home only to be killed in a hit and run accident. Little did anyone know that her future second husband would be part of the first group into that POW camp to rescue him.
My mother and I didn’t have the opportunity to get to know her father of course, but the man who freed him ended up being a wonderful father to my mother and her brothers and the best grandpa I could have ever hoped for. He loved me dearly. He taught me how to ride a bike and he let me dig around in his tools in the garage. He took care of me when he fed me too many tacos and I threw up all night long. I got to sit in a rocker on the porch with him and take sips of salted beer during long, hot, summers. He let me ask questions. He was patient with me and always happy to see me. Their house was my favorite place to be in the entire world. I took afternoon naps on the couch with him and Punkin, their weiner dog. I got up when it was still dark to eat smiley face chocolate chip pancakes and bacon with him before he left for work in the mornings.
The best part about my grandpa was his character. I’ve never met anyone who rivaled it. He wasn’t perfect, they swore like truckers in the garage when he and his friends worked on cars together, sometimes he was a little prejudice. He was born in a different time and a different world. He was real and not afraid to show he cared or to show he was angry or to say he was sorry. He loved “his girls” and I never once doubted it even when he got so ill with leukemia and it tried even his nerves of steel and made him grumpy.
He taught me what love looks like. True, imperfect, love. He and my grandma were a wonderful team. They worked together like a well oiled machine. Smooth and humming along. All parts working together to keep it whole. He worshiped her. He willingly and lovingly raised her three children alongside her and believe me, it wasn’t an easy task. He was the backbone of our family. This man who rescued my mother’s father from torture and certain death. Amazing! I wish everyone in the world could have the opportunity to have a man in their life like that. What a different world it would be.
Without the bravery of my grandpa, my mother’s father likely would not have made it out of that POW camp alive, he was in very bad shape. I remember my grandma saying that when he finally came home he could only stomach ice cream. No one was allowed to touch him to wake him or to startle him. He needed lots of healing.
Imagine if none of that had ever happened? My mother wouldn’t even exist and neither would I. That series of seemingly terrible yet brave events, created an entire life for us.
I love how God always has all the details worked out.
So when I say, “Happy Memorial Day!” I mean it in the best of ways. And I am consistently reminded when I take the time to pay attention, that everything happens for good reason whether we understand it or whether it hurts initially.
We spent the early morning washing windows and tending to a few chores. The afternoon was spent on the patio in the sunlight and fabulous weather enjoying a lovely lunch of assorted goat cheeses, hummus, a cucumber and tomato salad with avocado, and two varieties of gluten free crackers. We found a new flat bread cracker that was delicious!
When I think about the abundance of that, I’m reminded of the story my grandma told me about how my mother’s father had made friends with a guard in that POW camp. The guard would bring him bits of bread and food and tell him when they were doing inspections so he could hide whatever he needed to hide. My grandpa and his fellow soldiers were always working on a plan of escape. That guard was also the reason my grandma finally found out through the grapevine on the radio and through letters from people all over the country, that my grandpa was no longer missing in action. That guard relayed notes to someone who spread the news…wouldn’t it be fantastic to figure out who that was?
They survived on bits of bread and tiny scraps….a sharp contrast to the abundance we have. We have that because of the people who fought for our freedom. Imagine if we weren’t happy about that? Celebrating it? Then what on earth was it all for?
We finished the day with a steak dinner and delicious dessert. Because in my family, food and gathering together and celebrations, always went hand in hand. My grandpa would have wanted us to celebrate the bravery of others. To remember and be respectful but not mourn to the point that we can’t celebrate the opportunities and doors opened that their bravery provided us.
This chocolate cake is AMAZING. Versatile for cupcakes, snack cakes, birthday cakes, trifles, or whatever you like. It’s incredible moist and delicate but holds together very well and is wonderfully flavorful without being overly sweet.
For The Strawberries:
Stem and slice 2 cups of fresh organic strawberries. Sprinkle with 2-3 generous Tablespoons of coconut sugar and set aside stirring occasionally for a few hours. You can also do it the night before and refrigerate them.
For The Coconut Whipped Cream
Pour 2 cups of chilled (overnight) 100% coconut milk into a stand mixer and attach the whisk. Whisk on high (you may need to cover your mixer with a hand towel) until it thickens to medium peak. Add 2-3 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract and 3-4 Tablespoons of powdered sugar. (You can also use powdered coconut sugar…but your whipped cream will be a tan color. Or, you could add a couple teaspoons of cocoa powder and do chocolate whipped cream.) Continue whisking on high about 2-3 additional minutes until thickened and chill in the fridge until ready to use. Sometimes it will separate just a bit at the bottom after being refrigerated but it doesn’t ruin the consistency or taste of the whipped cream. Just pour it off!
Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake
*This recipe is grain free and dairy free. It will make two 8×8 square pans or two 8 inch cake pans, or 24 cupcakes. For this recipe I did the 8×8 pans and stuck one in the freezer for later use. One 8×8 pan yields 9 servings.
*This recipe is adapted from Satisfying Eats
Preheat oven to 350° line two 8×8 inch square pans with parchment and spray with coconut oil.
1 Cup of Organic Coconut Flour
3/4 Cup of Organic Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 Cups of Coconut Sugar
2 teaspoons of Double Acting Baking Powder
2 teaspoons of Baking Soda
1/8 teaspoon of Sea Salt
8 Organic Eggs
1/2 Cup of Earth Balance Soy Free Dairy Free Butter
2 Tablespoons of Pure Vanilla Extract
1 Cup + 1/2 Cup of Organic Full Fat Coconut Milk (set 1/2 cup aside)
1 Tablespoon of Decaf Instant Coffee
1/4 Cup of Dairy Free Chocolate Chips or Chopped Dairy Free Dark Chocolate
Add the dry ingredients to a stand mixing bowl and whisk together. Add the coffee to the coconut milk and stir to dissolve. Add the eggs, butter, vanilla, and 1 Cup of the coconut coffee milk. Mix on medium to blend well, scraping down sides. Let the batter rest for 5 minutes. Add the 1/2 Cup of coconut milk and mix on medium just until combined.
Bake for 25-27 minutes. Cool completely before serving.