Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Herniated Disc, Gabby's Lemonade and Lemon Bars

Never has an platitude struck a chord with me so resoundingly as "When life gives you lemons . . . " has as it has this past year for me!

If dealing with breast cancer -- surgery, chemotherapy and radiation (plus another detour or two on this road to recovery . . . but more about that another time!) wasn't enough, now I have a herniated disc!

Throughout my treatment -- since February -- I have consistently complained about terrific pain in one leg.  At first, I had an ultrasound to rule out a blood clot. There wasn't. After more consultations, a couple more tests, and plenty of pain medication, an MRI revealed I had a herniated disc. I'm going to physical therapy, will get a steroid epidural shot in a couple weeks (scheduling!!!) and hope all that does the trick. If not, maybe surgery.

Ironic, isn't it, that this problem isn't directly related to the cancer treatment.

What a year! But I'm making the best of it. "When life gives you lemons . . . . "  As I said in my first post about my treatment, there have been plenty of silver linings.  There have been times, for sure, that I've been tempted to roll up into a little ball, wail "Woe is me!" to myself and wallow in self pity. But how worthless!  I've witnessed so much good, so much generosity, it would be a sin not to acknowledge and celebrate all the blessings that have enveloped me. And give back.

My friend Susie's granddaughter, Gabby, certainly is a great example of that.  When her grandmother (her mother's mother, not my friend Susie) was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, Gabby decided to donate the money she raised at her lemonade stand to the Clarion Hospital Cancer Center, MY cancer center, too, where I'm receiving my chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Gabby's grandmother has since passed away, but in the those years since that first venture, Gabby's little curbside lemonade stand has grown exponentially.  This year, Gabby's family had T-shirts made and the proceeds from the sale are going to the Cancer Center. The lemonade stand has also gone "on the road" and has made guest appearances at several local retailers this summer. And a Pittsburgh TV station featured Gabby on the evening news.  All proceeds from this year's events are also going to the Cancer Center. What a wonderful way to celebrate the memory of Gabby's grandmother. Gabby's making some great lemonade.

I happen to love all things lemon-y. So it was natural for me to make -- on one of my baking therapy days -- lemon bars.  Since Mr. Rosemary is a chocolate, not lemon, fan, after sneaking a few off to the side for myself, I took them to our neighbor Dude, last weekend where his family was gathering. They were scarfed up in no time. I wish I would have saved a few more.

These take a little time and effort. Squeezing fresh lemons for juice and grating their rinds is well worth that extra effort. There may be easier ways to make lemon bars, but this was a little therapy for me, after all.

These have just the right amount of tart and sweet -- and the shortbread crust is melt-in-your-mouth delectable.

Pretty close to making lemonade!

Lemon Bars
from The Pioneer Woman
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon Salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1-1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
4 whole large eggs
Zest and juice of 4 medium-sized lemons
Powdered sugar, for sifting

For the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan with butter.

Stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter to the bowl and use a pastry cutter to cut it all together until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. (Or pulse together in a food processor a few times.) Press firmly into the prepared pan and bake until golden around the edges, about 20 minutes.

For the filling: Stir together the sugar and flour. Crack in the eggs and whisk to combine. Add the lemon zest and juice and mix until combined. Pour over the baked crust and bake about 20 minutes.

Allow to cool in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours, then sift powdered sugar over the top before cutting into squares.