We returned from a quick trip to Ohio on Tuesday and I always come back feeling emotionally exhausted and a little bit heartbroken. The older I become, the harder it gets to willingly fly 1,100 miles across the country and live my life in what feels like a completely different Universe.
We returned from a longer visit in December and I don’t think I ever fully recovered from the weightiness of that trip. Since then, I’ve spent far too much time sobbing in the shower or at the dinner table, all because there’s a looming gray cloud that reminds me that I’ve not been such a great sister/daughter/granddaughter since we moved to Denver half a decade ago. In fact, I’d go as far to say that I’ve kind of been an asshole. And it’s not cool to be an asshole to your family – especially not when you have a family like mine.
My priorities were different back then. All I wanted was to get the fuck out of small town Ohio and away from the people and their narrow mindedness, but I don’t mind them anymore. I think that comes with the fact that I’m very much firm in my beliefs and am able to overlook the ignorance, or at least laugh when I go to the local Kroger and the checkout lane with the transvestite working is always (ALWAYS) open, even when all the others have painfully long lines. I fly through that lane and usually want to turn around and yell SUCKERS! but I never do. I just carry my groceries out to the rental car with a big smile that eventually fades and turns into tears because how awful it must be to be surrounded by such animosity and cold heartedness on a regular basis.
Right now I feel numb. Regretful, but mostly numb. And every couple hours I entertain the idea of hopping on a plane that will take me to the tiny airport that sits a mere 30 minutes from my Oma and Opa‘s house. We’d sit around their kitchen table and drink coffee, and eventually my Opa and I would break off and go out into the game room, where we’d sit across from one another in two oversized recliners. He’d tell me stories about his mother (my Great Oma) and the war and how he had to duel with a Frenchman to win my Oma’s heart, back in the 1960s. What I would give to be sitting across from him right now.
But as numb as I feel, I also feel immensely lucky that my family loves me despite the fact that I didn’t make enough time to visit them in the five years we’ve called Denver home. And although I tend to feel guilty and awful about a situation that was entirely my doing, I feel like this is my year to make it up to them (and to forgive myself). So we’re flying back to Ohio in June for a good three weeks to celebrate my beloved grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Then again for my Opa’s 75th birthday, for Thom’s favorite holiday (Thanksgiving), and for baby Jesus’ supposed birthday. And I’m sure there will be a surprise trip thrown in there at some point because have you ever traveled halfway across the country to surprise people who aren’t expecting you? It’s one of the greatest, most exhilarating feelings in the world.
Since we just returned from Ohio, bowels aching from the general lack of fresh produce and my Oma’s home cooking (Thom misses it already), I couldn’t bring myself to make and photograph the cherry hand pies I was originally going to share. Instead I made something that’s naturally sweet (and dare I say healthy?) and perfect as an afternoon snack or evening nightcap. Something I think my Oma would dump in the trash, but something I think she could learn to appreciate, too.
Notes: If you don’t own a mini cheesecake pan, you can prepare this recipe in a muffin pan lined with paper cups. Or in a round 6-8″ tart/cake pan, like this. You can use any combination of citrus juice you want – I used a variety of oranges and half of one lime. You could also substitute pomegranate juice, blueberry juice, cherry juice, etc. The addition of beet is optional but without it the cream is flesh colored and not all that pretty. So if you’re making this for guests, I highly recommend adding something that will give the cream a bit of color.
RAW CITRUS CREAM CAKES
1 cup raw pecans
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Small pinch of Himalayan salt
4 medjool dates, pitted and soaked 20 minutes
1 1/2 cups cashew pieces, soaked at least 4 hours or overnight
3/4 cup fresh squeezed citrus juice
Thumb sized chunk of red beet, for color
8 medjool dates, pitted and soaked 20 minutes
Coarsely chopped pecans
Lightly grease a 12 cup mini cheesecake pan with coconut oil; set aside. In a food processor fitted with the S blade, blend the pecans, coconut, and salt into a fine meal. Add the dates and pulse until combined. The mixture should be crumbly, but should stick when pressed together. Divide the crumble between the wells and firmly press it into the bottom. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until ready to use
In a high powered blender, such as a Vitamix, blend the cashews, juice, beet, and dates on high speed until a creamy mixture forms; about 1-2 minutes. Divide the cream between the cheesecake wells and freeze until firm, about two hours. Remove the mini cakes from the pan and transfer to an air tight container for keeps. When ready to serve, let thaw for 20 minutes then top with flaked coconut and chopped pecans. Cakes will keep frozen for up to 6 weeks.
Yield: 12 servings