I should forewarn you this is a pretty personal story for me to tell and also touches upon my own beliefs. It doesn’t mean my thoughts are right, for everyone or that you have to agree. Everyone is entitled to their own ways of thinking and understanding life and thus, this is mine…There I was, standing in the most beautiful garden I had ever seen. I couldn’t quite take my eyes off all of the vibrant colors. It was just so… beautiful, so vivid. As my eyes scanned the scenery I realized then that I wasn’t alone. I was surrounded by my family, my mom, sisters, brother, cousins, aunts and uncles. As I weaved my way through the familiar faces my eyes caught sight of someone standing in the center of it all. Someone whom I haven’t seen in quite some time, my grandmother. She stood there looking so peaceful and angelic as I slowly made my way toward her. I couldn’t quite take my eyes off of how beautiful she looked, smiling, with warmth in her eyes, the way I remembered her before she became sick. I wrapped my arms around her resting my face on her shoulder. I told her how it had been so long since I had seen her. She comforted me, reassuring me that she is always with me. Then, as if on cue, I began crying onto her shoulder. I could feel the sobs deep within my belly and felt like I might never stop. In that very moment of embrace my eyes opened and I was staring at a dark ceiling speckled with the faint glow from the street lights outside. I was in bed. I had been dreaming. I felt a tear run down the side of my temple, and then another. I couldn’t forget the colors, the words, the comfort I felt from her arms that held me. It was as if… no, no, but yet, it was just so vivd.
I don’t even remember closing my eyes again after that but when I woke up, it was morning. I pulled myself out of bed and groggily made my way downstairs into the kitchen. When I walked through the doorway I stopped suddenly, eyes wide and my breath caught in my throat. It took me a moment to process what I was looking at. Flying from one end of the kitchen to the other and back again was a small female purple finch (I honestly had no idea what kind of bird it was until I looked it up after the fact). The only thing in that moment I could think of was, “How in the heck did a BIRD get into the house with no open doors, windows or fireplace?”. Then, the obvious occurred, I needed to find a way to let this little Houdini back outside. I slowly crept toward the back door at the other end of the kitchen being cautious of the bird’s whereabouts. As I made my way across the room it flew in the opposite direction, into the living room and perched itself comfortably on a branch of the Christmas tree. After opening the door I stealthily, still hunched over, crept toward the tree, noticing how peaceful it looked attached to its branch as it sat watching me approach. I managed to make it to about an arm’s length away and I stopped. We looked at each other as if questioning what the other might do next. It felt like an eternity as I admired its beauty among its peculiar environment. Then, as if it had had its fill of my curiosity and the holiday decor it spread its tiny wings, flew back into the kitchen and straight out the door without hesitation. If I didn’t know any better I’d have thought it knew exactly where the exit was. I stood there still slightly hunched over and let out a breath. I actually think that may have been the first one since I had entered the kitchen. I sat down on the floor where I had been standing, pulled my knees into my chest and my eyes began to water. I could feel a familiar tightening in the back of my throat.” Could it be?” I wondered, “Could that have been her? Like REALLY her?”. I closed my tear-filled eyes and began to replay the dream and the events just moments ago in my head. Just then as if I was once again asleep I felt the same sort of comfort as when her arms had held me.
It was in that very moment as I sat hugging my knees on the floor that I truly understood what love is. Like real, true, unbreakable love. Believing in my grandmother’s ability to wrap her arms around me as if to hold me up when I may (even unknowingly) need it most showed me that I’m never truly alone, that she is always with me even if no longer in a physical sense. I also realized then that a love that powerful can turn even the tiniest of a moment, like a bird in the Christmas tree, into a miracle.
Celebrate the holiday season with this magical little breakfast. This Hazelnut French Toast in a Mug is the perfect comfort food for one that you can make in only minutes! It’s gluten-free, dairy-free and packed with lots of protein and fiber to keep you full until lunch. Breakfast for dessert that’s refined sugar-free and guilt-free? If it wouldn’t make a mess I’d say it’d make a great stocking stuffer!
Hazelnut French Toast in a Mug
Serves: 1/ Prep time: 5 minutes/ Cook time: 2 minutes
- 2 slices of Udi’s Gluten-free Bread (I used millet and chia for this recipe)
- 2 large organic eggs
- 1/4 c unsweetened almond milk (or any dairy-free variety)
- 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp hazelnut extract
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 tbsp raw hazelnuts
- organic powdered sugar (optional)
- additional maple syrup (optional)
- Cube the bread into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
- In a large, microwave-safe mug whisk the eggs, almond milk, maple syrup, hazelnut extract, cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Add the bread cubes to the mug and gently stir to coat all of the pieces with the egg mixture.
- Place the mug in the microwave on high for 2 minutes to cook. (NOTE: the contents will start to rise about halfway through. Open the microwave and allow the mug to cool slightly then restart the time until you reach the full 2 minutes.)
- Carefully remove the mug (it will be hot) and let cool for a couple of minutes.
- In the meantime, place the whole hazelnuts in a sealable plastic bag and (this is the fun part) smash with a wooden spoon or rolling pin.
- When ready to enjoy, sprinkle the French Toast with the crushed hazelnuts, additional maple syrup and powdered sugar if desired.
Nutrition (per serving w/o toppings): 400 calories, 40g carbs, 18g fat, 27g protein, 15g sugar