In Loving Memory of Brenda J. McGraw – My Mother

Mom - Top Pot

This blog entry is dedicated in loving memory of my mother, Brenda J. McGraw, who recently passed away following a very violent death, to which I bore witness. Human beings are very strange creatures, and there is no way to describe some things that they/we are capable of doing. But someone recently reminded me, instead of focusing on the pain and terrible things that we sometimes encounter in life, to feel all of the love and beauty that our friends and family and being on this earth can offer. Life is short, so make each moment count.That is why I’m posting this blog entry and listing some of her favorite recipes. Newly responsible for her possessions, I’ve been going through her extensive old card and photo collection that she felt too guilty to throw out.  I found letters written to my grandparents while she was studying in the 60s. Folded up was her weeklong journal entry written about my birth. Reading these words, and seeing all of the cards and pictures she kept that I’d given her throughout the years erased any possible doubts of her knowing how much I really loved her and vice versa.  We had our ups and downs and sometimes strained moments, as many mothers and daughters do, but the strength of the love we shared would always overcome any arguments or misunderstandings. She will always be with me, and she knows how much I truly love and cherish our precious time on earth together.

Serves 6

2 tbsp. Butter
2 Onions, medium, chopped
1-2 Garlic cloves, minced
2 cups Vegetable broth
2 cups Filtered apple cider or apple juice
2 lbs. Butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
2 Anjou or Bartlett pears, large
1 stick Cinnamon
Freshly grated nutmeg and ginger, to taste
1/4 cup Cilantro, finely chopped
3/4 tsp. Salt
1/3 cup White wine, dry
1/2 cup light cream
Pepper to taste

Sour cream
Chopped chives or sprigs of cilantro

In a large soup pot, heat the butter and add the onions and garlic. Sauté until golden, then add broth, cider or juice, squash, and pears. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cilantro and salt. Add wine, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer to food processor in batches and purée. Transfer back to pot, fold in cream, and add pepper to taste. Serve hot topped with dollop of sour cream and garnished with chopped chives or sprigs of cilantro.

(Otherwise known as Swimming Angel)
Serves 4

2 Bunches Spinach (Blanch in water with oil to make spinach greener)
1/2 lb. (225g) Chicken breast sliced thin against the grain
7 oz. (200g) Coconut milk
2 tbsp. Peanut sauce
Garnish: Ground roasted peanuts

Blanch spinach quickly in boiling water with a drop of oil. Remove to a platter and drain excess water. Cook chicken in coconut milk in frying pan until almost done. This will take approximately 10 minutes on medium heat. Remove only chicken from pan and place on top of bed of blanched spinach. Pour peanut sauce over chicken before serving.

Serves 8

1 1/2 lbs. Jumbo or large shrimp, peeled, deveined and rinsed
1 tbsp. Curry powder
1 tbsp. Garam Masala
1 tsp. Minced garlic
1 tbsp. Vegetable oil
1 tbsp. Tomato paste
1/4 cup Coconut milk
1/2 tsp. Sea salt
1 tbsp. Fresh lemon juice

Place shrimp in bowl. Add curry powder, garam masala, garlic and oil; stir to coat. Heat a large skilled over high heat. Add shrimp and sear, shaking skillet until they begin to turn pink, about 2 minutes. Whisk tomato paste into coconut milk and add to shrimp. Cook, stirring frequently, until shrimp are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add more coconut milk if mixture too dry. Sprinkle with salt and lemon juice. Remove from heat.
Serve with rice.


Unsalted butter and flour for the cake pan
12 oz. Semisweet chocolate, grated or broken into small pieces
1 tsp. Rum
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) Unsalted butter
1 cup Sugar
6 Eggs
1/2 cup Flour

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with buttered parchment paper or waxed paper. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, stir in the rum, and remove from the heat. In a mixing bowl, with a whisk or an electric beater, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs and flour, 2 eggs and 1 heaping tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the melted chocolate and mix well. Pour the batter into the cake pan and place in a larger baking pan half filled with hot water. Bake for 1 hour, testing to see if a toothpick comes out clean. Serve hot or let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto racks.

2 Replies to “In Loving Memory of Brenda J. McGraw – My Mother”

  1. I’m speechless. What a lovely tribute…I hope you are finding some peace.
    My closest friend’s sister was murdered by a neighbor who decided to self-medicate. When she asked him to turn down the music, her life ended that night.
    It’s a beautiful thing that your mother saw you fulfill your passion. Stay strong.

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