From the outside, my December probably looks like that of everyone else's: scouring stores and the internet for gifts, raking through stacks of cookbooks for recipes, attending holiday parties and dinners, and trying (keyword here) to balance said parties and dinners with smoothies and salads.
However, despite all the Christmas preparations, I’ve internally been preoccupied with a different countdown. Yesterday marked one year since I nearly lost my hand in a car accident and, as you can imagine, the events of that day have been weighing quite heavily on my mind. Thoughts of the crash, the horrific aftermath that ensued, the incredibly long year that followed left me feeling detached, anxious, and easily overwhelmed.
Yet, when yesterday finally rolled around, all I felt was joy, relief, and gratitude. You see, in the past few months, I’ve been learning about the power of gratitude—particularly in response to anxiety. Recent studies have shown that even the simple act of asking yourself the question—“What am I grateful for?”—triggers a neurological release of “feel good” chemicals in our brains.
In anticipation of Sunday, I began to put this knowledge into practice by writing a list of things I was grateful for each night, as well thank you cards to close friends and family. Although I felt heartened by these exercises, I still only had loose plans for the anniversary itself, and was nervous about how I would emotionally process it. It wasn’t until a yoga class on Friday that I truly felt the switch.
Throughout class, the instructor kept emphasizing choice. Before we entered each pose, she would stress that although she was guiding our practice, we ultimately chose how to approach and experience it, taking variations as we saw fit. These reminders were nothing novel, but as I took my downward dog, something inside me clicked. Choice! Life, like yoga, is ultimately all about the choices we make and, when things are beyond our control, the perspective we take in approaching them. My impending anniversary was no different. I decided not only the way I spent the day, but also the mindset.
So, I chose to mark the day as a celebration—of how far my hand has come and the unwavering support network that saw me through my trials. All these months, I prayed for and relentlessly worked towards regaining the ability to cook and bake like I did before; to have my food bring together friends and family and nourish them, body and soul. To wake up on Sunday morning and have the agenda and ability to do exactly what I thought was lost to me a year ago was empowering and exhilarating. How could I feel anything but gratitude and joy?
That afternoon 12 family members and I came together in my parents’ little dining room to eat a few of my favorite pies that I baked—a classic apple with rye crust, a cranberry lattice tart from the Fields of Green cookbook, and a chocolate silk pie from Greenwood Gourmet that was by far the winner of the three. It was a celebration of me, of them, and of everyone who had a part in my story this past year. I rode this wave of love and joy until the very last moments of the day, allowing it tuck me into bed that night.
In light of the past few days, I want to thank you—whether you’ve been reading this blog from the start or for the first time—for taking the time to read this, and share with you the power of gratitude. What are you grateful for today?
Cranberry Lattice Tart
Adapted from Fields of Green cookbook
2 ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted cold butter, cubed
2 egg yolk
6 tablespoons cold heavy cream
ice water as needed
3 cups (1 bag) fresh cranberries
½ cup water
⅓ light brown sugar
12 dried apricots, chopped
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier liqueur
1 egg, plus 2 teaspoons milk or cream, lightly beaten for egg wash
2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar
For the dough: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the cold butter, toss to coat, and place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Remove the flour-butter mixture from the fridge and use your fingers to squeeze each cube of butter into a flat sheet. Toss the butter in the flour as you go, incorporating the flour into the flat shards of butter as much as you can. The idea is to create thin, flat shards of butter that range from about the size of a dime to about the size of a quarter.
Whisk the yolk and cream together and add it to the mixture. Using a gentle, open hand or a rubber spatula, stir the yolk-cream mixture into the flour. See if dough is hydrated—you know this when you squeeze the dough into clumps and it doesn’t fall apart. If not, continue to add more water, a few teaspoons at a time. Press the dough together, cut it in half, form into discs and wrap each disc in plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least one hour before using or, ideally, overnight.
For the filling: Cook cranberries together with the water, sugar, and dried apricots in a small saucepan over medium heat until they pop, about 10 minutes. Add ¼ cup of liqueur and cook for 10 minutes more. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of liqueur. Cool completely.
To assemble: Preheat the oven to 375ºF and place a rack in the bottom of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out one disc into a roughly 12-inch circle, about ⅛ -inch thick and place it into a 9-inch tart pan. Press the dough into the pan and trim the edges. Place the tart into the fridge while you roll out the other disc into a roughly 12-inch circle, also about ⅛-inch thick. Cut circle into 12 1-inch strips.
Fill the tart with the cranberries. Lay 6 strips over the filling, evenly spaced, and then weave the remaining strips diagonally into the first. Trim the edges so that they are even. Freeze or refrigerate the whole tart for about 15 minutes, or until the crust is very firm. When ready to bake, brush the dough with the egg wash, and sprinkle all over with Turbinado sugar.
Put the pie on the baking sheet and bake for about 40 min, or until the filling is bubbling and the crust is a deep golden brown. Cool slightly before slicing.