Salted Chocolate Almond Butter Cookies - Gluten Free

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It is safe to say that while I find baking and cooking with out Ryan's playful chatter and strewn toys across the tile floor, I certainly still hold a deep love for creating in the kitchen. It hasn't been easy to get back in there and while some of you might not see just how hard it is ... You'll have to trust me when I say,  not having my son running in and out while I'm in the kitchen is something I'll never get used to. Ryan was always in the kitchen with me. YES, I do believe he is still with me ... but he really isn't  w i t h  me. [Insert sharp pain in the heart here.] I severely miss doing all things with my Ryan.  This battle of doing things with out my child is constant. It is a true battle. Everyday I cry and a lot of times I feel so alone and defeated. However, while I do feel like crap covered in more crap most of the time, I am constantly working very hard on conquering this battle and all the others that come with losing your three year old son in a sudden second. 

Ryan wants me to win. Being very competitive myself, I want to win these battles too. 

This new life of mine, I am learning it day by day. And while I may win a few battles, they sometimes come back the very next day. And I believe that is okay, I believe that is normal. I believe I will fight these battles everyday for the rest of my life. They just may get easier as time goes on. I don't know. I just have to find the strength to fight again and again. I have to let myself feel Ryan's will for me to win ... I have to let myself feel the want to win too. If I want to win, I can. 

The kitchen battle though has been won (for now) by my strong will and need to create sweet and tasty things. Also, my husband was getting hungry.  ;) I definitely stayed away from the kitchen for a long time, and while I love restaurants and take out Ryan was most likely screaming "Get back in there! I want to see you make cookies and 'cuc-cakes'!" (cupcakes as Ryan would say) So, I had no flour but I had gluten free oats I use to make oatmeal in the morning with. I also felt the need to bake and really I just wanted a cookie. 

I hope you enjoy these as much as I did. I hope that when you find yourself fighting your own battles, strength will wash over you and push you to win. Please know, I am rooting for you. These battles we face, some are quick and others (like the ones I have) are terrible and last for what seems like forever. I will tell you the same things they tell me. 
They tell me God has a plan. 
They tell me you are strong. 
They tell me there is a light at the end of this darkness. 

But ... until we see the damn light, we will eat cookies and keep fighting. 

---


Salted Chocolate Almond Butter Cookies - Gluten Free


What You Need
- 3/4 cup of gluten free oats. I find mine at Trader Joes. 
- 1 cup smooth almond butter. Make sure it is un-salted. 
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup raw sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
- 1/2 a bag of semi-sweet (or dark chocolate depending on what you love) chocolate. 
- 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt. 

What You Do
- In a mixer toss in GF oats, both sugars, baking powder and almond butter. You will want to have it continue mixing until everything is incorporated. 
- Next add the egg and vanilla. Mix for at least a minute or more. If your dough looks a little dry add a few drops of water until it comes together. Be careful to not add to much. 
- Once the dough is glossy and forms a ball, place on parchment paper. Roll your dough up in the parchment paper and let it chill in the refrigerator. Let the dough chill for at least an hour. 
- When it is time to bake, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. 
- Line your baking sheets with parchment paper. 
- Measure out your dough and roll balls that are 1 1/2 tablespoons in size. 
- Bake for about 10 minutes. Take out the cookies and let them finish off cooking while still on the baking sheet. 
- The sugars mixed with the GF oats in this dough make the cookie somewhat chewy in texture. When the sugar bakes in heat it melts, so when you pull the cookies out they will look semi un-done and flimsy. This is why you leave the cookies to finish off cooking on the baking sheet OUT of the oven. Once the cookies have cooled and stiffened you can move them to a cooling rack to await their chocolate. 
-In a double broiler (or microwave) melt the chocolate. 
-Once the chocolate is smooth and melted dip the cooled cookies. I dipped them half way so you can still see the texture of the cookies. Plus, it is easier and keeps your hands semi clean. ;)
-Place the chocolate dipped cookies back onto the cooling rack and sprinkle the sea salt on them. 
-Once the chocolate has hardened they are good and ready to be devoured. 





Happy 4th Birthday Ryan

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It definitely wasn't something I was totally looking forward to.  
Sometimes it takes every fiber in my body to just get out of bed and look semi-presentable. How would I have the energy or courage for that matter to celebrate my son's birthday? 
My son who is no longer physically with us. 
How do you muster up all the qualities necessary to 'celebrate' when all you are currently equipped with are qualities of grief and sadness? It is hard I tell you. The hardest thing I've ever had to do. So hard, but yet, with the grace of God and Ryan by his side we were able to do it. Like really do it. Dan and I blew celebrating our son's birthday our of the damn water! (enter fist bump emoticon here)

Happy Birthday to our dear Ryan Cruz. 

Our baby sure did love Disneyland. I love Disneyland and it was a pure joy of mine to share that love with my son. We took it to the next level by going at least once a week...but seriously the smiles and laughs (and copious amounts of churros) we shared within those Disney walls are priceless. They bring tears to my eyes now, but I hold onto those memories so tight and think of them often. 

It was a no brainer that we would celebrate Ryan's birthday at Disneyland. We planned a few things, but really we just all donned our Ryan shirts and let the day fall into place. It was truly magical. My son had saturated Disneyland...I mean he seriously was everywhere. I saw him in everything and most importantly we all saw him shinning through our smiles and laughter. We did everything Ryan would have wanted us to do and then some. We bought bubble guns and ate lots of churros. We rode Ryan's favorite rides and never waited in a line longer than two minutes. We ate his favorite candy, Ring Pops. We ran through the park flashing 'Happy Birthday Ryan Cruz' signs. We hugged one another tight and looked up into the bright blue sky, constantly wishing our little man a Happy Birthday. 

In the afternoon we sang Happy Birthday to Ryan and released red balloons. We all cried. We cried and held on to each until we couldn't see his red balloons in the sky anymore. There were a lot of tears swept up with waves of calm and happiness. It was as if Ryan had his little hand on each of us. He kept saying " Guys, it is ok to cry, but I want you to have fun too. I want to have fun."

Overall, it was Ryan's biggest birthday yet. I'm so proud of my Ryan, he is finally four. He has been wanting to be four since he turned three. "When I turn four..." he would always lead with that and then ask for something outrageous. I'd always say "We will have to wait and see once you turn four dude." Oh wow, what little did I know then. Never did I imagine this...

Up in Heaven Ryan is telling everyone "When I turned four my parents celebrated me at my favorite place, with my favorite people doing all my favorite things." 




See what I mean? Ryan was everywhere, shining down on us. 



I see Ryan's shadow mixed with mine. If you open your heart and look, you can see his wild hair. 


We all had 'Ryan' leather bracelets made. That poor lady deserves a medal for dealing with all of us! She had twenty of us all asking for different things and they were all perfect. A few of us also got Olaf keychains because Olaf is Ryan's favorite. Ryan sings 'Suuuuummmmmeeerrrrr' and just adored that dorky little snowman. And now we love Olaf too. 


Ryan's favorite candy are Ring Pops. We had them at his service and we had them on his birthday too. My sister brought a giant bag and we took a group photo with all of us eating them like he used to. Of course I can't find the photo...I'll have to share it when pops up. 









Happy 4th Birthday Ryan Cruz. 
Mommy and Daddy love you and will continue to celebrate you with every step forward we take.


Soul Cycle

Monday, August 11, 2014

When you find something that helps with handling such terrible grief you tell everyone you can. When you find something you love you scream it from the mountain top, right? You try to get everyone on board, because "You guys! I found this amazing thing and I'm telling you it is more than just what it seems...it is a million times more." That is how I felt after my first Soul Cycle class. It was about 4 weeks after I lost my son and my friend Elizabeth was inviting everyone to try Soul Cycle with her. I thought to myself, why not. It might make me tired enough to where I can actually fall asleep tonight. I remember thinking something about endorphins and endorphins are supposed to make you happy...I was desperate to feel anything but what I was feeling. And so I signed up. 

I fell in love. 

Soul Cycle is not a cure. Most definitely not. But what it does, is forces you to clear your mind and free anything that is weighing you down. It brings out so many emotions for me. I let myself feel everything, I keep all the good and toss all the negative aside. I cycle myself to a better me and for forty five minutes I can throw my entire being in that damn bike. I can be angry and take it out on the bike. I can be happy and dance on the bike. I can be sad, cry and scream on the bike. 
At the end I feel refreshed. I no longer feel defeated. My soul feels strong and for a few hours after I feel happy and OK with how my life is at this moment. 

When the Soul Cycle in Pasadena reached out to me and asked if I would like to host a ride for family and friends I jumped at the chance. You don't have to be going through something terrible to enjoy Soul Cycle. You can be the happiest and still benefit from this class. Anything you feel you take to Soul Cycle and you let it turn you into a better person. I wanted to share that with everyone. I wanted to share how amazing this work out can really be. It can be different for each and every one of us. So, I extended the invite to all my lovely Instagram friends too. We were blown away by the response! 

The night was something else. It was all things amazing and incredible to meet so many new people who have had our son on their hearts. The entire time my husband and I felt so blessed and we really did feel Ryan amongst us. All of it was beautiful and I hope to do it again in the future. 



One thing though, taking photos of people pre and post work out isn't that glamorous. However, everyone was so extremely happy and in the end we were all giving each other sweaty hugs. 


Red balloon sign in sheet the lovely Soul Cycle girls made for us. 






Huge HUGE thank you to these girls. Everyone who works at Soul Cycle Pasadena is beyond nice. 
They made the event seamless and I love them. 
I guess endorphins really do make you happy...


We also had the best after work out treat on the planet. Thank you to Sweet Clementine's Popsicles for making us delicious Lemon Buttermilk popsicles to enjoy after working our butts off. 
I hope everyone loved them. Also I wish I could always have one after working out!


Dan and I wouldn't be where we are right now with our incredible family. We are thank God everyday for blessing us with such strong support. For our family we are grateful. 





Thank you to all the sweet souls who came to the event. Thank you for coming and thank you for becoming our friends through this pain we are experiencing. We are grateful and so happy to have shared this wonderful night with you all. 


One Year Does A Difference

Monday, August 4, 2014

It was one of those perfect days. When you wake up and the sun is on your side. Your eyes sort of flutter open and sleepy stretches easily flow through your limbs. You have no care in the world, except to make sure everything is packed before check out.

Stumbling down to the lobby for a latte in last nights concert tee and sweats I felt light and happy even. I hadn't woken up like this in three months. I ordered a large iced coffee and a cookie for later. Taking my time up the elevator back to our room, I let myself think about this time a year ago. This same day last year I woke up happy, excited. The sun was on my side. My eyes fluttered open and sleepy stretches flowed through my limbs. I had not a care in the world, except to make sure everything was ready before I walked down the aisle.

On our one year anniversary Dan and I sit and look the same. But, oh how we have changed. Most of the change happened in the last three months...and still is happening. We sit heavy with grief however, light gleams through. That light shows in our smiles and our strong desire to live even with these holes in our hearts.

Back in our hotel room. I climbed back into bed with my latte and cookie, listening to Dan's soft snores. Every two or three minutes his arm would twitch. A sign of deep sleep for him. I sat there thinking about all we have endured and tears came. Tears fell with every thought. I thought about the three of us having the best time at "Mommy and Daddy's party!", that is how Ryan referred to our wedding day. And it was a party. I let myself think 'what if'. Which is this slippery slope and it gets me into trouble mostly. Because I'll sit and think of impossible 'what ifs' and make myself sick with sadness.
But really, what if Ryan was still here?
Then I stopped, and thought come on. You are here now, eat your damn cookie and relax. And in that moment a sense of sweet calm washed over me and my brain began to think about all that we will encounter, rather than what we have endured thus far.

All we will encounter together. There is something extremely beautiful about our situation and even in the depths of darkness it can be seen. Our life and all the greatness we will encounter can be seen. Not specifics, no, those are still being worked out by God and Ryan. Those two are diligently planning our great path. So, ok sorry, I guess it can be felt rather than seen at this point. Yes, because I can feel it. I can feel that there is great coming for us. We can feel it.

When Dan wakes up there is this unspoken "I know this is painful, but we can at least celebrate us today" in the air. There were lots of hugs and kisses. Happy Anniversary whispered back and forth. We know Ryan is jumping all around us. We feel that too. And then it was as if Ryan was speaking through Dan as he said "I have a gift for you...but first lets find donuts!"
And my heart swelled because here I am feeling all these feelings of sad and yet I feel like I won the jackpot at the same time.

In the end, one year does a difference make. And that difference has sent us on a journey we didn't want to take. However, here we are falling in love all over again, with more strength than you can imagine. More strength than we even knew about.


Our perfect day, brought to you by my terrific selfie skills...


We stayed at the Ace in Downtown Los Angeles. The coffee and black and white cookies were the best. Although the rooftop pool and bar were also the best. It was the perfect place for our quick stay. 


The Rockefeller in Manhattan Beach is beyond delicious. If you are ever in the area...eat there. 
Go for the donuts...



After donuts went to the beach. Took two naps and one swim in between.



We had big plans to head out for a fancy steakhouse dinner. But that second wave of energy never hit. Plus we are creatures of habit and were more starving than wanting romance. Dinner was a big feast at PF Changs. We both had wet hair and sand between our toes. 

Cheers To One Year




Learning To Be Two

Friday, August 1, 2014

With our one year wedding anniversary upon us, it feels as if we have really been put to the test. We have been through the absolute best and the absolute worst this past year. After this first year we stand here with tear stained cheeks, holding hands ready for whatever else God and Ryan have in store for us.

Although we always refer to us as a family of three, the truth is physically we are two.
There is nothing I hate more than trying to understand, physically it is just us two. 
I do not understand. I am trying every day. 

The last three months have been awful and good. Ugly and beautiful. Happy and always sad. The last three months Dan and I have been learning a lot about ourselves and each other. We have been coping together. We have been learning to be two, just us two.
This grief seems to be all about balance at this point. At least that is what I am slowly figuring out. The two of us are balancing between all the different emotions we feel through out the day.
Day by day.

I don't know what the future holds for us, but I know in my heart and soul it is going to be great. Better than great. It has to be.

I can't say for certain that we won't go through more bad times, but I know in my heart and soul the good times will out weigh the bad.

What I DO know for sure is that there is no one I would rather do life with than my husband Dan.
We may have been dealt the most crappiest hand known to all, but we are still playing our cards.
Still surviving, still together, still in love.

We are learning to be two
... with our third above us. 

---

Happy One Year To Us










Grateful In Between Sadness and Anger

Sunday, July 27, 2014

I go days with feeling too exhausted to do much but just lay on the couch. Most days I force myself out of bed and into clothes. The amount of strength it takes to go to work everyday is something I can barely explain. A lot of times the pain feels so physical, like I can actually feel my heart hurting or my head so full of fog I can't see clear.
Some days are good and maybe easy. Some days are hard and definitely terrible.
Each morning is a toss up.
Over the past few days I have realized a new feeling though. This overwhelmingly warm feeling of gratitude. I seriously feel grateful. It feels weird saying this because I lost a beautiful piece of me and here I stand now grateful?  Is that even possible?

I feel grateful when I look into my husbands eyes and hug him tight.
I feel grateful when my family makes me laugh and I'm able to act silly.
I feel grateful for my friends, new friends and the strangers who pray for us.
I feel grateful for the time I had with my son.
I feel grateful to be a mother. A special mother. Ryan's mother.
I feel grateful for the future.

God has proven to me over the past weeks there are still beautiful things to be grateful for. At first I couldn't see it. My eyes so clouded with anger and disbelief of this new life. Now I can see through the cracks of pain the beauty of all to be grateful for. Trust me...it is a slow process. But I feel the power working within me.

I will tell you, being grateful is the hardest thing to be in a time like this. It is so easy to be angry all the time. I do still feel angry. I feel sad always. I understand that the feeling of sadness will never go away. I feel heart broken when faced with other mothers who get to hold their babies. However, it is worth trying to feel grateful in the midst of anger and sadness. Because it is my faith and gratitude that is keeping me alive.
At least that is what I believe.
This feeling of gratefulness is proof there will be more, much more for my husband Dan and I.

This is all new to me...Writing it out helps me understand it better. 
I am trying. I am trying so hard to explore my grief and really feel all there is to feel.
Thank you for listening friends.





---

Recently, my husband Dan and I have been up to really nothing. We are staying with my family and learning everyday how to get up, get dressed and live with out our son. We have been working a lot and planning a few getaways. We are dreaming of the future and allowing ourselves to think about what exactly does our life look like now ... physically just us two. We are learning how to work with this balance between immense sadness and hope. We are starting to feel the limbo between our old life and our new one just around the corner. There is no rush, but lots of dreams. All dreams I believe powered by our son and his want to see us happy and strong.

I share on Instagram almost daily, about what it is I'm feeling or doing. Below is everything we do in between. Below is how we are getting through each and every day.

Life For Us Right Now Looks Like...
Lots of movie dates with buttered popcorn and sour candies.
Lunch dates while we are at work. Putting work aside and escaping for an hour with my husband is the greatest relief.
Jumping in the pool and letting the sun kiss our skin.
Lots of gym time and letting our bodies feel strong with exercise.
Forcing ourselves to work, and learn the ropes of living with this hole in our hearts.
Late nights watching funny SNL clips or action movies.
Very little sleep actually, sleep still isn't easy.
Helpful therapy sessions followed by ice cream cones.
Family dinners every night and deep hearty laughs that make us feel normal.







Brown Sugar Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

Monday, July 7, 2014

Lately, I have had zero desire to bake or do much of anything in the kitchen. I think about how I always had Ryan with me in the kitchen and we would make anything and everything. Now, it is just me in the kitchen and if I am bring honest ... It sucks being alone in there. I miss him grabbing my legs, his chatter and his little voice always asking to taste and help. I miss him dragging in his foot stool from the bathroom to get a better look. And every once in a while when he couldn't care less about what I was making but still wanted to be in the kitchen, he would bring in his toys and play around my feet. Then he would find something else interesting or daddy would come home and they would go play outside. Leaving me in the kitchen, and I would step on a car or plane toy and scream because stepping on tiny toys hurt! I would yell for Ryan to come pick up his toys and remind him if he is going to play with something else, then you have to clean up this mess first. 
My heart hurts. So bad. I miss being a mom. I miss my son. 

A few weeks ago a stranger from New York sent me a giant box. You know those white boxes with iconic black lettering on it? When I say giant I mean giant. So, my whole family is there because it is big and I'm saying out loud I didn't order anything from here! I undo the ribbon and there is a tiny, tiny card. When I say tiny I mean tiny. I open it and read, my family yelling "what does it say?!".
It says...
Jacqui,
We don't know each other, but your story has touched me so much. 
Please keep baking. Ryan is so proud of you. 
HUGS all the way from NYC. 
The Robitaille Family.

In that moment I started to cry. I cry from reading three words 'Please keep baking'. Then I pulled the tissue and bubble wrap and tears came out so hot and fast. My whole family was teared up and really we all were floored by the immense love this stranger had showered us with. Inside the giant box was everything you could ever want while baking. The gadgets were nothing compared to her simple note that urged me to step back into the kitchen, with out my son, and continue to do something I love. Their hugs from a far gave me courage and showed their faith in me. It was all nothing short of amazing and in that moment it was everything I needed. Because right now I am living moment to moment. Some are really bad, some are violent and nasty, some are fine and some are full of love and glimmering hope. So this hopeful moment led me back into the kitchen and I decided to make these. Probably the worst thing for you because they are stuffed with margarine and sugar...but really who cares. 

---

One of my favorite things to eat is cinnamon rolls and making them from scratch is really rewarding. Plus, if you have overnight guests and bake them cinnamon rolls to enjoy in the morning you become a rock star. So, I'll teach you how to be a baking rock star ... 

Brown Sugar Pecan Cinnamon Rolls



What You Need
- one package of dry yeast
-one cup warm water
- 1/4 cup sugar
-pinch of salt
-2 tablespoons of melted margarine (for the dough mixture)
-1/3 cup margarine (for the pecan mixture)
-2-3 tablespoons softened margarine (to spread on the dough after rolling out)
-1 egg
-4 cups flour (plus extra for rolling out dough)
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-2 tablespoons corn syrup
-1 cup chopped pecans
-1/2 cup sugar
-2 teaspoons cinnamon

What You Do
Start the day before you want to eat your cinnamon rolls. The dough has to rest at least overnight before you roll it out and bake it. 
- Use a mixer and in your mixing bowl add the package of dry yeast with the warm water. The warm water helps the yeast bloom and this whole process should smell like your making soft pretzels. Which might throw you off, but stay focused because at the end of all these steps will be a sweet reward. 
- Once the yeast is some what dissolved add the 1/4 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of softened margarine and one egg. Mix these until fully incorporated. 
- Now, slowly mix in the flour and pinch of salt. Adding a little at a time so you don't make a flour mess and so the dough mixes smooth with no flour lumps. 
- Be sure to not over mix your dough. Once the dough is smooth and slightly sticky stop the mixer. 
- Coat a separate large bowl with cooking spray and place to the side. 
- Spray one of your hands with cooking spray and pull the wet dough out of your mixing bowl and place in the large coated bowl. 
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in your refrigerator over night. You can make this dough up to four days in advance and just let it hang out in the refrigerator. Any longer than that and the dough will go bad. 

- After you let your dough rest, it is time to roll it out. 
- Coat a large surface area with flour and place your dough in the center. Use flour to kneed it into a ball shape. Coat your rolling pin with flour and begin rolling out your dough. This part always gives me trouble because it isn't like cookie dough where you can roll it and it stays still. The yeast in this dough gives it a rubber band feel and it takes a lot of muscle to roll it all over and have it stay rolled out. If you have any tips on rolling out dough please tell me. 
- Once your dough is rolled out mix the 1/2 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of cinnamon.
- Rub your dough down with 2-3 tablespoons of softened margarine and then sprinkle on the sugar and spice mixture all over. 
- Once coated, begin rolling your dough. 


- Once tightly rolled up, use a knife and cut the edges off. 
- Now, leave the dough for a second and in a bowl mix 2 tablespoons of melted margarine, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of corn syrup and 1 cup chopped pecans. Pour this mixture into the pan you will bake your cinnamon rolls in. Make sure to coat the pans with cooking spray first. Spread out the sticky pecans so it creates a bottom layer on your pan. 
- This dough usually makes around 10-13 cinnamon rolls. Depending on how large you cut them. Once you cut your rolls you can see how big of a pan you will need. 
- Place your cinnamon rolls on top of the pecan layer and cover with a damp paper towel. 
- Leave the covered rolls for about an hour. You will see the rolls rise and get bigger.



- Once you have waited for the rolls to rise. Bake them for about 30-45 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven. They will be golden brown and bubbly once they are ready to come out. 
- While still hot, place a large plate over the rolls. Protect your hands with pot holders and flip the rolls onto the large plate. Use a butter knife to spread the gooey brown sugar pecan mixture all over and between the rolls. 
- Serve them warm and enjoy these sticky sweet treats!



Thank you to the Robitaille Family and to every single one of you here with me. Helping me through each one of my moments. 

 

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