By Crystal Smith
Aug. 10, 2012. I will go ahead and apologize for writing two sentimental posts back to back. I think we often reflect a great deal when we experience the loss of a loved one and as I’m still in that mode, it’s all I know to write. I promise you a lighter post next week. One of the things that I’ve been thinking about is all the people that have shaped me, guided me, and supported me throughout the past twenty seven years. Mama Esther was one of them, then of course if you’ve read the about section, you know that Mama Jackie is another. There have been so many, but today I’m thinking of my mother, my greatest cheerleader.
My desire to experience the world and live in new places is something that I’m sure would disappoint some parents. I have not really chosen a conventional path. I know this would worry some people, but my mother seems to think I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread. She understands and respects the life I’ve chosen. When I call to tell her that I’m thinking of another move abroad to teach English because “I just have to see this place,” she understands and even thinks it’s cool. She shows her support even though she worries and frets the entire time I’m gone.
I teach English as a Foreign Language at a community college here in North Carolina. I teach because I love to teach. It enriches my life and makes me happy. When I discovered ESL at Wake Tech, I felt like I’d found my dharma. I was working at least eight hours at a staffing agency each day and then I taught for three hours at the end of the day. Even with an extremely full schedule and not quite enough sleep, I left school with a feeling of joy almost every night. Last week I started back after five months away from Wake Tech and I’ve driven home each night with that same feeling of joy. I can truly say that I love what I do. My mom supports this and tells everyone she sees not only what I do, but that I’m most certainly the best at it. I haven’t had the heart to tell her that generally this kind of bragging is reserved for parents of young doctors and lawyers.
My mom isn’t conventional either. She didn’t pack my lunches, cook my dinners, or teach me to sew. What she taught me was even more valuable. She taught me, by her own actions, to be nice and respectful to people from all walks of life, a gift that makes every day more pleasant. She has taught me about health and wellness, not just physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. She taught me about sacrifice and doing things for others. I particularly remember her taking me to a Reba McIntire concert when I was about 9 years old. I was a huge Reba fan, but I’m pretty sure she would rather have listened to someone scraping their nails on a chalkboard.
Sometimes I’m almost embarrassed by how great she thinks I am, but recently I thought of something. She is probably more aware of my faults than anyone else in the world, but like so many great mothers, she doesn’t let me know that she sees any of them.
These little snacks are a favorite of hers. They are so simple it’s almost silly to call it a recipe, but I can’t describe how good this combination is. I’ve tried several dark chocolate candy bars with the same combination of ingredients, but none compare to the awesome texture of crunchy almonds and chewy cherries you get when you make them yourself.
The original recipe is from Ellie Krieger, a registered dietician and Food Network host.
Cherry Almond Chocolate Clusters
Krieger’s recipe calls for toasting the almonds, I enjoy mine raw, but you should toast them if you generally prefer toasted almonds. If you can’t find cherries, dried cranberries are a good substitute.
1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
½ cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped
6 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
Toss the almonds and cherries together in a medium bowl. Line a baking sheet with wax paper.
Melt half of the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over simmering water on very low heat. Remove the top of the double boiler and stir the rest of the chocolate into the melted chocolate. Replace the simmering water with warm tap water to maintain the correct heat for making the clusters. Put the bowl of melted chocolate on the warm water.
Stir the almond and cherry mixture into the chocolate. Use a tablespoon to scoop out clusters. A heaping tablespoon is great for larger clusters and a level tablespoon for bite-sized clusters. I like to make several of both sizes. Put them in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set. You can store and serve them at room temperature. They are also great cold or even frozen.