I guess I thought this would be easier. The surgery is one thing - long, scary, difficult, but in the end it ends. And mom gets moved out of intensive care and the scar heals and I think my life can resemble normalcy again. Only it can't. This long haul part- the weeks of chemo, the 24 hour nursing, the constant complications and medications, I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to support my mom, work at my job, maintain my household and some semblance of my own life, while constantly commuting between two cities. If I'm not with my mom consistently, I'm out of the loop, I hear about doctors visits only after they happen and crises only after they're fixed. But I can't just abandon my job and my friends because I'm afraid when I need them they might not be there.
So I'm not good at this. I'm trying but I'll be the first to admit I haven't quite found a balance that's working. And in the meantime, the little things I am good at - my job (hopefully), feeding people, knowing about obscure spices, those little things help remind me that I'm competent at something.
I made this recipe for my office the other day, after a rare weekend when I had time to bake. They're very simple little pastries with apricots placed over puff pastry so that they end up looking like sunny-side eggs. They're very easy and I think quite cute. When so many things in your life are disappointing, there is something so satisfying about watching people enjoy something you made, and even ask you for the recipe. So here you go:
Apricot "Sunny-Side Up" Pastries
Extrapolated from something I saw Julia Childs make once.
1 box puff pastry, thawed
1 recipe vanilla pastry cream, recipe follows, (or substitute prepared/purchased vanilla pudding)
2 cans apricot halves or 16 poached halved fresh apricots
1/4 cup apricot jelly
1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Use an overturned glass or circle cutter to cut the pastry into rounds. Use a rolling pin press down on the center of each circle so that it is more of an oval shape (the edges will be thicker than the center of the pastry, this will enable the pastry to puff up around the apricots.
2. Place rounds on a greased or lined baking sheet and top with a dollop of pastry cream/pudding, spreading the cream slightly into a circle. Top each round with one apricot, cut side down, or two apricots for bigger "double-yolk" pastries. (at this point assembled pastries can be refrigerated, covered, overnight). Bake 25-35 minutes, or until puffed and golden and brown on the bottom.
3. Warm the apricot jelly in the microwave/small saucepan until warm and liquid. Use a pastry brush to brush the top of the apricots with jelly so that they remain moist and shiny. Serve warm or at room temperature.
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten to combine
1. Bring the milk, 1/4 cup of the sugar, butter, salt and vanilla bean to a gentle boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat.
2. Whisk together the cornstarch and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Add the eggs to the cornstarch and mix into a smooth paste.
3. Slowly, and in small amounts, whisk a little of the hot milk into a the egg mixture. (this is called tempering the eggs, which you need to do to get them to the same temperature of the hot milk in the pan, so they won’t curdle.) Once the egg mixture is warm to the touch, pour it back into the milk in the pan.
4. Return the custard to the stove and bring to a boil, whisking continuously for 2 to 3 minutes, so that the custard is thick and does not taste grainy. Optional: press pastry cream through a sieve for ultimate smoothness.
5. Refrigerate with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface until ready to use.