Sunday, June 17, 2018

Almost-Famous In and Out Burgers {Animal Style}#ForAnthonyBourdain

A couple of years ago, I watched a quick video where Anthony Bourdain talked about his favorite restaurant in all of Los Angeles, In and Out Burger. The video stuck with me because I've been to Los Angeles, and I think of it as a food mecca with endless restaurants, all serving some of the most delicious food in the country. Then I watch Bourdain, who has been fortunate enough to try all kinds of food and cuisine, the world over, and he states that In and Out Burger is his favorite restaurant in all of Los Angeles. Kind of mind-blowing, right? 

Bourdain went on to say that every time he landed in Los Angeles he began and ended his trip at In and Out Burger. To paraphrase, Bourdain passionately extols the virtues of and an In and Out burger saying  "good bun selection, good quality meat, reasonably fresh greens and garnishes, no fancy cheese but a good cheese-like substance, and two thin patties that expose the maximum areas of meat surface to the tongue." 

When we dedicated this week to Anthony Bourdain over at I Heart Cooking Clubs I knew instantly what I wanted to make, a knock-off In and Out Burger, Animal Style. Years back Food Network published a knock-off recipe in their magazine that I thought would work well. Trouble was the recipe called for 60% lean beef and to be honest, I've never seen this in any market around. I decided to take a trip to the Bluegrass Stockyards, which is right down the street.

It may seem strange to some to visit a stockyard for meat, but it is actually a beautiful building where farmers buy and sell cattle. There is also a restaurant, gift shop, retail shop, and a meat shop, among other things. I found some well-marbled ground beef that was 73/27 and raised locally. I knew this was the best I could do.

 In the video, Bourdain talks about the burger saying something like "this is like a ballistic missile, a perfectly designed protein delivery system and I like mine animal style, and I'd tell you what this is but I'd have to kill you." A description only Bourdain could give.

It's been years since I've had an In and Out burger and I wasn't sure what animal style was so I looked it up. It appears that Animal Style means that your burger has mustard grilled beef patties, extra dressing, grilled onions, and extra pickles. Sounds like an awful lot of goodness, if you ask me!

These burgers take a lot of time to put together (making the caramelized onions takes 40 minutes alone), but if you have a hankering for a burger piled high with goodies, then this is your recipe! I'd love to be able to tell you that it's a good knock-off recipe, but truth be told, it's been way too long since I've had an In and Out burger to give proper feedback. I can say that the burger has a lot of five-star reviews on the Food Network site. We definitely enjoyed it, especially the caramelized onions, sauce, and mustard-fried patties. It was messy, it was over-the-top, and it was a somewhat obnoxious burger to eat.

In many ways, this burger reminds me of Anthony, full of goodness but oh so naughty. Many thanks to Anthony Bourdain for taking us along on his journey. His stories will definitely live on.

Almost-Famous In and Out Burgers, Animal Style
Adapted from Food Network
Serves 4, or more depending on size

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for brushing
2 large onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
2-pounds ground beef chuck (preferably 60 percent lean)*
4 hamburger buns, split
1/4 cup sliced dill pickles
3/4 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
 4 to 8 thin slices tomato
ground pepper
1/4 cup yellow mustard
8 slices American cheese

Note: These burgers are best if the patties are quite thin. We opted to serve ours as singles, not doubles. I would encourage anyone making this to make their sauce the night before so the flavors have time to meld. Also, the sauce is quite thin when first mixed and will thicken overnight. Be mindful of how much sauce you add to your burger or it will be too messy. One tablespoon per burger is a very good guideline. Also, it would be wise to make the onions ahead of time as well. This helps to speed things along when it is burger time. I was unable to source 60% lean beef so I used a local ground beef that was well marbled and 73/27.*

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the onions and 3/4 teaspoon salt, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and soft, about 30 minutes (if the onions brown too quickly, reduce the heat to low).  Uncover, increase the heat to medium-high and continue to cook, stirring often, until caramelized, about 8 more minutes.  Add 1/2 cup water to the skillet, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer, stirring, until the water evaporates, about 2 more minutes; transfer to a bowl and set aside. (The onions can be made up to 3 days ahead; cover and refrigerate, then reheat before using.)

Mix the mayonnaise, ketchup, relish, and vinegar in a bowl; set aside. Shape the beef into 8 patties (making the patties thin).  Heat a griddle or skillet over medium heat; lightly brush with vegetable oil. Toast the buns on the griddle, split-side down. Spread each toasted bun bottom with about 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise mixture, then top with a few pickles, some lettuce, 1 or 2 slices tomato and another dollop of the mayonnaise mixture; set aside, keeping the griddle hot.

Season both sides of the patties with salt and pepper. Working in batches if necessary, put the patties on the griddle and cook 3 minutes.  Spread about 1 heaping teaspoon mustard on the uncooked side of each patty, then flip and top each with 1 slice cheese; continue cooking for about 2 more minutes or longer, until the desired doneness. Top 4 of the patties with caramelized onions, then cover with the remaining patties, cheese-side up. Sandwich the double patties on the buns.  *Feel free to make single patties as well, which is what I did.

Theme: For A Friend {For Anthony Bourdain} IHCC

 This is the way I will remember Bourdain, down to earth, extolling the virtues of a good burger as opposed to all the fancy restaurants L.A. has to offer. Love his style!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Farmer's Market Salad with Shrimp, Basil Citrus-Honey Vinaigrette, and Herbs de Provence Croutons

Like most of you, I woke up Saturday morning to the devastating news about Anthony Bourdain. I was shocked and saddened to say the least. I immediately thought of the food blogging community and knew this would have a huge impact, but I mostly thought of my best blogging friend, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen. Deb is a much bigger Bourdain fan than me. Over in Hawaii, Deb was sound asleep with no knowledge of the sad news that awaited her.
Hours later Deb and I messaged about the news. Our hearts went out to Bourdain's family and friends, but our hearts also went out to our current I Heart Cooking Clubs chef Eric Ripert, not only because Eric and Anthony were best friends, but also because the news outlets were reporting that it was Ripert who found Bourdain. I couldn't imagine finding any of my friends that way.

It was then we decided to honor Bourdain, as well as Ripert and Bourdain's friendship, with a special theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs next week, For A Friend.  If anyone would like to join in with a dish to honor Anthony Bourdain, please do so. Your dish doesn't have to be specific to any chef or theme. Your recipe can be anything that speaks to you. A comforting dish. A dish inspired by a story or an adventure. A unique one-of-a-kind dish, like Bourdain. It can be anything, For A Friend.

If you would like to participate in our special theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs, please click on the link to IHCC in this post. It will redirect you to our site where you can link your dish, and a picture, to our post and also see the dishes others share.

I urge everyone to continue discussing mental health and suicide. These issues are simply not discussed enough. If you, or a friend are suffering, please know that you are important, you are loved, and you make a difference. Please call 1-800-273-8255, 24/7 for help.

I'll end with my favorite Bourdain quote, and one I tend to live my life by, "Move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else's shoes or at least eat their food. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move. - Anthony Bourdain

Farmer's Market Salad w/ Shrimp, Basil Citrus-Honey Vinaigrette, and 
Herbs de Provence Croutons
Recipe Adapted from Avec Eric
by Eric Ripert
Serves 2

1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and black pepper, to taste
6 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup fresh basil, sliced into ribbons
3 - 4 cups fresh lettuce
1/2 pound shrimp
teaspoon olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
sliced cucumber
sliced tomatoes
 2 slices of country bread
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence

For The Dressing: Whisk the lemon zest and juice, lime zest and juice, honey, and mustard in a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in the canola oil while whisking constantly until completely emulsified.  Add the basil and whisk. Set aside so the flavors can meld.

For The Shrimp: Preheat oven to 400F. In a skillet, or baking sheet, toss the shrimp with one teaspoon olive oil and one clove of minced garlic. Bake at 400F for about 8-10 minutes. (You can arrange the shrimp on a skewer if you like).

For the Croutons: Cut two slices of country bread into cubes. Melt two tablespoons butter and add in about 1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence. You can either toast the croutons in the oven with the shrimp or toast the croutons on the stovetop. I made my croutons on the stovetop over medium heat until the bread was toasty on all sides. It took less than five minutes. Allow to cool.

To Assemble The Salad: In a large bowl, toss the salad with the desired amount of dressing. I added sliced cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, but you can add whatever you like. Any kind of olive would be especially nice with this salad. Arrange the salad in a bowl, decorate with homemade croutons and shrimp. Drizzle the shrimp with a bit of the dressing, both for looks and taste. Serve immediately!

Follow This Link To IHCC

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Giada's Pizza Di Spaghetti

I've been very busy reorganizing my cookbook collection and cataloging an updated list of all recipes I want to make. Recently, I had a pile of Giada's cookbooks and I was astounded to find that after years of making Giada's recipes, I somehow managed to have nine whole pages of her recipes I wanted to make! Time to get busy!

This Pizza Di Spaghetti is a recipe I've always wanted to make but never got around to for one simple reason, it requires leftover spaghetti. In my house, there is no such thing as leftover spaghetti. My husband and daughter make sure there are never any leftovers. So, for this recipe, I made a batch of spaghetti with a simple tomato sauce and allowed it to sit on the counter to cool for about 20 minutes. That is about as leftover as it's going to get around here!

 Pizza Di Spaghetti is essentially a fried spaghetti pie, so I got out my best nonstick skillet and mixed the "leftover spaghetti" with the eggs, Parmesan cheese, milk, and salt and pepper. I turned the skillet to a medium heat and tried to fry the spaghetti mixture. After a few minutes it became clear the mixture was adhering like glue to my nonstick pan, so I got out my cast iron pan, and switched the mixture over to the cast iron. The cast iron was better, but still somewhat of a mess.

I've been cooking for a long time, and I used two really good pans, and I had all kinds of trouble trying to flip the Pizza Di Spaghetti. The one cup of Parmesan cheese in the mixture proved to stick to both pans, regardless of how much olive oil I added. Finally, after dirtying a sinkful of dishes, and using a large baking pan to aid in flipping, I was done. I was also frustrated.

You can see that my Pizza Di Spaghetti is a little dark in places. I'm really not sure how the dark spots could be prevented since the copious amounts of cheese darken quickly before the egg in the dish is fully cooked, even at a lowered heat. This dish didn't work for me for several reasons.

First, I never have leftover spaghetti. Second, this is a finicky thing to make and requires lots of effort and dishes. Third, this dish requires adding unnecessary calories, in the form of added cheese, eggs, milk, and quite a bit of oil, to spaghetti AND finally, this Pizza Di Spaghetti is just ok! Spaghetti, or even reheated spaghetti, is definitely way better. So, save yourself the calories and dishes, and in the odd case that you do have leftover spaghetti, just reheat it!

Now, it sounds like I'm fussing, but I've actually started to like it when I discover that something isn't for me. I know it sounds bizarre, but I actually become stressed out about trying to fit in all the things I want to do, or see, or eat. I find it ultimately helpful when I come across something that I don't like because it usually allows me to cross off several things on my list. This dish is a perfect example of that. I can now cross off any and all Pizza Di Pasta dishes on my list from Giada and anybody else. I have learned that I like the original pasta dish best the first time around, or even reheated, and that I don't need to fuss about with any leftover pasta concoctions. I consider that a win!

Pizza Di Spaghetti
Adapted from Everyday Italian
by Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 4

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cup leftover cooked and sauced pasta
1/2 cup olive oil

In a large bowl, beat the 1 cup of Parmesan cheese, the milk, eggs, salt, and pepper. Add the leftover pasta and toss to coat.

In a 10-inch diameter, nonstick saute pan, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the pasta mixture to the pan, spreading evenly. Cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 8 minutes. Carefully invert the pasta mixture onto a plate, then slide it back into the pan. Continue cooking until the bottom is golden brown and the mixture is heated through about 6 minutes. Transfer the pasta mixture to a serving platter and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cut into wedges and serve warm. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Eric Ripert's Baby Potato Salad

I have been dieting for the past three months, and it has been going really well, but one of the things I have been craving like crazy is potato salad. I haven't stopped thinking about it for weeks! So, imagine my delight when I was looking through Eric Ripert's recipes and found a simple recipe for this Baby Potato Salad. Score!

Ripert's recipes can be somewhat fussy and require lots of ingredients and steps. Since it's a holiday weekend, and I didn't have hours to spend in the kitchen, I was thrilled with the ease of this recipe. Baby potatoes, a homemade mayonnaise, mustard, and chives. It couldn't be less fussy if it tried!

Now I'm sure the whole point of this recipe is to make the mayonnaise yourself.  I have no doubt that his homemade recipe for mayo is on point and makes the whole dish extra special. However, homemade mayo with egg yolk and all that oil isn't the healthiest for my diet, so I opted to use a store-bought light mayo. Blasphemy, I know.

In addition, Ripert's recipe didn't call for hard-cooked eggs and potato salad isn't potato salad without them, so I had to add a few in. The result was delicious and the potato salad really hit the spot! This was the perfect side dish for our Memorial Day cookout, alongside some burgers, corn on the cob, and watermelon. Summer is officially here!!

Baby Potato Salad
recipe via bon appetit
by Eric Ripert
8 servings

2 pounds baby Yukon Gold or red-skinned potatoes, about 36, unpeeled (cut to your preference)
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Notes: In the interest of making mine a bit lighter I used a light mayo in place of the homemade mayo.  I also used standard mustard in place of spicy brown mustard. I like hard-cooked eggs in my potato salad so I added four hard-cooked eggs, three diced into the salad, and one cut in half to garnish the top. I also halved the recipe.

Place potatoes in a large pot and add cold water to cover by 2 inches, season generously with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently until potatoes are tender, 20-25 minutes. Drain and let potatoes cool slightly. Peel, if desired.

Meanwhile, whisk egg yolk and vinegar in a large bowl; season with salt. Whisking constantly, gradually add oil, drop by drop at first, and whisk until mayonnaise is thick and creamy. Whisk in mustard.  

Add warm potatoes to bowl with mayonnaise and toss to coat; season with salt. Fold in chives just before serving.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Eric Ripert's Crab Gratin

This has to be one of easiest recipes Eric Ripert has in his entire collection. A quick mix of ingredients spooned into a baking dish, topped with breadcrumbs, and broiled for 5 minutes. This takes less than 10 minutes from start to fnish.

I will warn you that this recipe is vague. He doesn't indicate what kind of crab, mustard, or how much lemon you should use. I think the reason it's so vague is because he uses the best quality crab, and when you use the best quality crab, the rest doesn't matter. So to be clear, use good crab!

Also worth mentioning, when I've had crab gratin in the past, it has always been full of cream and cheese. This is not that type of gratin! There is no cream. There is no cheese. If there is a healthy crab gratin, then this is it! In fact, there is only one tablespoon of mayonnaise and one tablespoon of creme fraiche in the whole gratin.

This is a very light and mild crab gratin.The emphasis is really on the crab. The first time around I enjoyed mine on a piece of toast because, as I've said a million times, I am obsessed with food on toast. However, I will say that I enjoyed this best with veggies. It was a great dipper for celery, carrots, and really good spooned onto some cherry tomatoes.

I know people shy away from adding lots of seasoning to crab as to not take away from the taste of the crab. I understand this, and tend to agree, but with this dish I definitely feel like it could use a little sauteed garlic and onion and/or a sprinkling of Old Bay seasoning. I really feel like this would be just the right thing to help bring out the crab flavor.

Eric Ripert's Crab Gratin
Recipe adapted from Avec Eric
by Eric Ripert
Serves 4

8 ounces crab meat
1 tablespoon creme fraiche
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon mustard
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons chives, sliced
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven on the broil setting. In a bowl, combine the crab, creme fraiche, mayo, mustard, lemon juice, chives, salt and pepper. Mix together and put into the dish. Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs. Bake in the oven on broil for about 5-6 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the crab is hot all the way through. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

For Garlic Lovers Only!

If you're a garlic lover, like me, then these five recipes will
have you swooning in absolute delight! 
(click on the recipe title to be directed to the original post/recipe)

Let's sum this up real quick. I made these for my husband and I. While he was outside I ate them all! He didn't get any. I didn't mean to do it, but well.....they were so good I couldn't stop.

This is one of those staple weeknight dishes. Chunks of chicken marinated in garlic, a good dose of black pepper, soy sauce, and chili powder. Cooked in a wok where the outside goes slightly crispy. So flavorful and so good!

If you love hummus then this is THE recipe to try! Oh my goodness, this is perfection. A smooth creamy hummus made from scratch with 6 cloves of garlic, topped with crispy chunks of lamb, buttered and toasted pine nuts, and a garlicky lemon sauce. It is one of the best dishes on my site!

 This is a dreamy weeknight chicken dish that screams with flavor. How can it not with 25 cloves of garlic? That is a full two heads of garlic! Saying that it is garlicky, but not overpowering. The good news is that it comes together quick enough to make on a weeknight.

If you want a good laugh, click on the recipe above, and read my original post.  This corn is absolutely delicious, but please do yourself a favor and remove those pesky husks before you start prepping or cooking this dish. This one is so delicious. Summer on a plate! 

The Gift Of A Mother's Smile

You never know when a moment will strike you. The most powerful moment I ever had happened on a cold December day, just like any other. I was sitting across from my youngest in a room filled with machines that were beeping and blinking. People of all ages filled the room with every type of injury, some very severe. The room was a little unsettling. Somewhat numb, I shrugged my shoulders and went with it. I had just been through the hardest thing I had ever faced. I could do anything now. Except, I looked across at my youngest, my tough 11-year-old boy, and I noticed an expression on his face I'd never seen before.

It took me back. The poor kid had just been through hell. We all had. Cancer. It had just come knocking on our door. It came like a thief in the night announcing its arrival in mid-June, crippling her by July, and stealing her away in September. My mom, my best friend, my everything. The youngest grandparent. The one full of life. The one who was always there. The one who never missed their games, concerts, awards, or big life moments. She was the Hippie Grandma with the free-spirit and the rebel heart, and we loved her for it. She was our biggest cheerleader. She was our rock, and now she was gone. Just like that. It was difficult for me to process. It was impossible for the kids.

We were all still reeling from that when Jackson fell on the playground at school and broke his elbow. It was Halloween. Jackson had always been tougher than nails. This was his third break and he handled it better than anyone. No tears. Super brave. We were told it would be an easy recovery. It wasn't.

Days later they said he would need surgery to reattach the tip of the elbow. Being back in the hospital with him so soon after my mom died was tough on me. Jackson had a field day. He treated it like a learning experience, asking questions and taking it all in. Surgery went well. There was some pain but he was happy to be on the mend. After surgery, he had to be recast. He was prepared for a normal cast, but his new cast was gigantic. It ran the length of his arm and it was so big and thick it weighed down the whole side of his body. It wore him down.

One night he told me that something felt wrong under his cast. I made a doctor's appointment for the very next day. Everyone, including the doctor, thought I was being over the top when I asked for the cast to be removed so we could check. Believe me, this was one time I didn't want to be right, but unfortunately, I was.

When they removed the cast they noticed something strange. The wrapping under the cast was adhered to his arm. Sealed onto his skin. We weren't prepared for that, or for what happened next. Little by little, they peeled the wrapping off his skin. Through tear-filled eyes, Jackson yelled, "stop,'re peeling my skin off." When they finally removed the last of the wrapping it took our breath away. His whole arm was raw. Jackson had been right. Something was wrong under his cast.  It was a staph infection.

For about one full week, his arm was so raw it literally stuck to everything. It was either hold your arm up in the air or let it rest and get stuck. He was miserable. The arm couldn't be cast, but still needed protection, so he was unable to attend school and had to be on homebound. Eventually, the antibiotics cleared the staph infection and the arm healed enough to wear a sling. After a few weeks, the break was considered healed. he couldn't bend his arm.

So here we are. Sitting in the physical therapy room and for the first time in his life, Jackson is looking at me wild-eyed and full of panic.

I was deeply tired of being strong and my mind started to race. I had simply had it. I wanted my mom. I needed my mom. I wished she were here with us. I wished she was sitting across from us right now. What would she say? What would she do? How would she make it better? Then it hit me. Like a ton of bricks.

Tears came to my eyes and a shiver shot down my spine. After months I could finally put it into words. What I had been missing all these months and what I was wishing I could see at that moment was my mom's smile. The smile that reassured every fear. The smile that says I am here, and because I am here, everything is going to be okay. The smile she reserved only for me, and then later for my kids. The best gift you could ever receive, a mother's smile.

I closed my eyes for a second to envision it. Why was my mind still racing? Why did it all come down to her smile? Because her smile was more powerful than words. It said everything. It was everything and now I was robbed of that. It was at that moment I knew that her smile would be the one thing I would miss the most for the rest of my life. It resulted in a terrible feeling of despair that burned in the pit of my stomach. I wish no one had to know that pain.

This in itself was a powerful moment, but what happened next was even more so. I started to feel angry thinking about how my mom was taken so soon, at 64. One month away from retirement and so many things she wanted to do. Then I thought about my dad's mom, my Grandma, who died from cancer at 56. Then suddenly, again like a ton of bricks, I'm 42. What if I am like them? What if I only have 10 or 20 years? Oh no, I thought. What about my kids? Oh, my day they will be sitting somewhere, just like I am, missing me and wishing I was there with them. One day they will feel this same pain, this horrible aching feeling. An emptiness like no other.

The light came on. It was as if my mom was cheering me on again (and boy oh boy....if you knew her at all then you know she really and truly was cheering me on, even from heaven) saying "come on, Kim, you've got this" and it dawned on me. One of the most profound moments I've ever had. She was telling me that it was my turn to give the gift of a mother's smile. It was as if I could hear her say "I didn't want to leave. I fought as hard as I could because I wanted to be there for you and the kids more than anything. Please do this for me. Give the gift of a mother's smile to my grandchildren. Give this gift as often as you can because there will come a day when you will be gone too. Use the time you have left wisely. It is a blessing."

The shivers came again. It was a moment I'll never forget. It gave me clarity and with that came peace. My mom could no longer smile at me, or hold my hand, or walk into the room for a chat. She could no longer do these things, but I could. For now, I had the blessing of time and I could do all the things she no longer could. I could do this for her. I could do this for my kids.

Ironically enough, my mom used to always say when things get tough you "gotta get a plan." When I was stressed or worried she would say "well, let's get together a plan." Funny enough it works. Getting a plan is always the hard part. Putting the plan into action is the easy part. This newfound clarity was the only plan I needed. I had been worried I was going to have to figure it all out on my own, but she still played a part in helping me put a plan together. I imagine she always will.

It may sound like all of this took a long time, but these thoughts raced through my mind in a matter of minutes. I had been in such deep thought I forgot where I was. I looked up at Jackson and he was still looking at me all wild-eyed. His face was twisted up in worry and I'm sure he was wondering what they were going to do to him, and if it was going to hurt.

I suddenly knew what to do. I looked at him and I smiled real big. A smile that said it all. I was filled with emotion. I watched as his face relaxed and I could tell he was comforted. He smiled back real big and said "why do you have tears in your eyes?" I answered him with "I'm just so happy to be here with you. Everything is going to be fine." It was the first time I actually believed everything would be fine. This moment had given me the peace I was looking for. I could feel the numbness that surrounded me start to melt away. I had a plan now.

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss my mom. I wish I could pick up the phone and call her. I'd love to hear her voice, her advice, and her loud laugh. I'd give anything to see her walk in the door again. I miss all of that.

But, that smile. Oh, my goodness. It took all this time for me to realize that my mom's smile was the most beautiful gift I ever received. It held the power of the greatest love, a mother's love. It is the one thing I hold closest to my heart now and it still does it's job. I still see it when I close my eyes and it still gives comfort. It still says it all.

This powerful moment saved me. I am at peace now. I don't know if I have 10 years, or 20. Maybe I'll be blessed with even more. What I do know is that I'm going to live them well, and with purpose. I am going to make the most of my life and be the best mother while I can. I hope you are inspired to do the same.

I wrote this as one last Mother's Day gift to my mom. I know somewhere she is smiling down on me saying "this was the best gift of all." I hope that it is. I hope that one day my kids read it and are inspired to put it to use for themselves. I hope they pass it down in honor of my mom. I hope they tell their kids that her beautiful smile was the inspiration for this.

While I wrote this for my mom, I'm going way out of my comfort zone to share this for all mothers. Please do yourself, and your children, a favor and give the gift of a mother's smile as often as you can. It doesn't matter if your child is 6 or 66. Watch the look on your child's face. Know that your smile holds an amazing power and although it is sad, know that one day you will be gone, and the memory of your smile will carry your child through. It is more powerful than words. It is the most beautiful gift you can give. I know because my mom taught me that.