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stepping forward doesn’t mean you can’t look back

Recipe: chocolate-dipped strawberries

What does the passage of a year mean? We read so much into the Earth’s completion of her tiny path around the Sun. A way to mark Time because it doesn’t stop for anyone. I never stopped to think much about how we recognize these temporal ticks and why. Not much until my sister died – out of the blue, just like that. No time for good-byes, I-love-yous, what-do-you-want-us-to-dos. That sick and empty feeling sucking the breath out of me every time I came up for air. Stepping out into the night thinking she’d emerge from the darkness and tell me it was a mistake. A terrible mistake, please. Numb mind. Racing heart, aching heart… broken heart.

Not 24 hours earlier, a blanket for Ben? Sure, I could knit one for him. He may tell you his favorite color is pink, but it’s really green – you know, four-year olds. So glad she loved the blanket I knit for Emily. Only 10 days and already full of piss and vinegar, just like me, just like her mom. Love you. Love you too. Our last words to one another.

Just like that.

kris and me

Rummaging through old letters, old photos, I begged with my self from the past. Please, didn’t you take more? Didn’t you write more? Where are they… Why didn’t you save those thousands of emails? Because I always thought she’d be there. She told me it would always be us. I was grasping desperately to hold on to what was left, even though I knew I had what was most important already – in my head, in my heart. I would bring only what I could carry.

Four times around the Sun – I’ve gone in circles. May 1. That pain is still there if I want it, but I leave it be. I hold on to what keeps me going and what made her so dear to me: my best friend, my only sister. Laughter, snarky remarks, hugs, kisses, tears, practical jokes, heart-to-heart talks, phone calls, emails, visits, surprises, gifts, inside jokes, hopes and fears, plans for the future. Don’t mourn. Celebrate.

organic, ripe strawberries

Cooking is big in my family, yet somehow it skipped Kris. Surprisingly, her petite size 0 (yeah, you read that right) body could put away a lot of food – and good food at that. Whenever I visited Kris, I would cook for her and she would treat me to things we both loved to eat. I think she would have enjoyed these strawberries. I know she would have.


For me, the most important part of the recipe is getting your hands on ripe strawberries, and you can only do that in season. I find that organic is far sweeter and more fragrant than conventional and this time they happened to cost the same. I gently wash the berries and then blot them and set them to dry completely. That’s pretty easy to do where I live as the humidity was somewhere around 50%.

64% Valrhona

If your berries are sweet, then a good bittersweet chocolate will play on that sweetness nicely. The Valrhona I used was just sweet enough. I think overly sweet chocolate kills the strawberry. I don’t bother tempering the chocolate when dipping strawberries because there are too many factors that don’t make it worth it for me.


I let the strawberries set up on their tops after dipping, because I dislike the foot you get when you set them on their sides to dry. This is probably one of the more aggravating steps – trying to balance the berries on their tops while wet with chocolate. They tend to tumble about and run into one another and smear chocolate everywhere. Maddening, I tell you.


Once the chocolate has set up in a cool room, I either dip in a different chocolate or do something lazy like drizzle white chocolate. I personally dislike white chocolate, but I find that a little bit adds a hint of sweetness to the shell of bittersweet on the strawberry.

adding visual and flavor contrast

Jeremy tells me the strawberries are perfection. I did take a nibble, despite knowing I wouldn’t be able to taste the full range of flavors because of the chemo. It’s like playing piano with mittens on your hands. However, the berries smelled right and I knew what the chocolate tasted like when I was healthy… Beethoven composed even when he was deaf. Of course, he was a genius and I’m just a tool ;)

to celebrate

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries
[print recipe]

24 ripe strawberries (I prefer organic)
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped (used Valrhona 64%)
1 oz. white chocolate, chopped

Rinse strawberries and gently pat dry. Set on a rack to dry completely. Melt bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler. Dip strawberries in chocolate and shake off excess. Set to dry on a rack (on the tops as shown in the photos) or on parchment (on the bottoms which will give you a foot of chocolate) in a cool, dry location. When chocolate has dried, melt the white chocolate and drizzle over the strawberries. Or, you can melt more white chocolate and dip the strawberries a second time.

33 nibbles at “stepping forward doesn’t mean you can’t look back”

  1. Peter says:

    A moving tribute to your sis and gorgeous chocolate covered strawberries. Share the strawberries and share your story.

  2. manggy says:

    I’m so moved by your sentiment that to comment on the beauty of your writing and the loveliness of the berries would only be trying to distract myself (as usual) from the raw, bitter/sweet emotion. I’d noticed your tribute to your sister on the main site, I could tell that you were really very close.
    I hope it gets much easier to celebrate with time :)

  3. Woolly says:

    This is a really good post. I felt your emotion as I read it. I hope things get better with time. Never easy losing someone so close to you. Those strawberries you made look amazing.

  4. Bridget says:

    Beautifully written (and photographed), Jen. Your family has faced some really difficult challenges. Good for you for doing your best to get stronger as a result.

    You make me appreciate my sister (and my health) so much.

  5. Shell says:

    What a touching tribute to a sister, you once again reminded me what is important.
    May you remember the wonderful times with her.
    Those Strawberries look wonderful as do all the food you make. You are an amazing cook!

  6. Holly says:

    While I’ve never posted, I’ve been a reader for quite a while now. This beautifully written post honors your memories of your sister and brought emotions to the surface for me as well. Thank you for that. It was a perfect reason to come out of my “lurker” status. I hope the passing time makes your celebrations happier and your memories stronger. Thank you for making me more thankful for my only sister.

    Your photography is always breathtaking…

    Good luck to you in your battle. You deserve to win!

  7. Gretchen Noelle says:

    What a beautiful, touching post about your sister. Sorry it was sudden, that can be such a shock, such a loss.

  8. jennywenny says:

    Very pretty, I was watching Jaque pepin dipping strawberries in caramel only yesterday, but I think chocolate is much better.

  9. Amanda says:

    Thank you for reminding me how precious life is. Nothing is as tangible as it seems and you should savour life and those who you love because one day they might be gone. Like your sister, your strawberries are beautiful.

  10. syd says:

    Having lost my only brother, I understand your pain. You have my heartfelt admiration for this lovely tribute.

  11. Kitt says:

    Those strawberries look like genius to me.

    What a lovely tribute to your sister. A reminder to savor the moments we have.

  12. White On Rice Couple says:

    Seeing your opening photograph, I had to walk away, wipe away my tears & take a deep breath.*Giving you a big hug right now* Thank you for your beautiful tribute and reminder to love, live and celebrate our precious ones everyday.
    I’ll take about seven of those beautiful strawberries right now to help me feel a little better . As a matter of fact, I think I’ll go give the pups an extra pat on the head and a big bone today.

  13. Laura @ HungryAndFrozen says:

    What a beautiful post :)

  14. Holly says:

    Such a wonderful post and such beautiful pictures!! Thank you for sharing.

  15. Sheryl says:

    What a beautiful photo of you and Kris. It is my fortune to have known you both. Love you, Jennifer!

  16. Hillary says:

    That last picture is a keeper. It puts the giant tuxedo strawberries I saw at a sweet table to shame:

    Nicely done!

  17. Christine says:

    Jen – I always admire the way you can find a way to write about difficult things with such candor and charming humor. This tribute to your sister is really beautiful (in both the words and the photos) :)

  18. peabody says:

    Yes, don’t mourn…celebrate. And what a way to celebrate! What an amazing tribute to your sister.

  19. Shoshanna says:

    The ones we love will always be in our hearts; regardless of where they are. You wrote a moving tribute to your sister and brought most of us to tears; thank you for sharing your story. Personally, I sincerely admire your strength through all of this and to share this must have been difficult. All my best wishes and big hugs go out to you Jen.

  20. Susan at StickyGooeyCreamyChewy says:

    Oh, Jen! How I wish I could give you a big hug! I know how hard it is to attach words to such strong, raw emotions, but you did it with such beauty and eloquence. What a lovely and moving tribute to your sister! I admire you so much for your warmth and your tenacity. It makes me incredibly sad to know that you’re in pain.

  21. Nina says:

    I have my sister around every day and your post reminded me that I should verbalize my feelings to her more often….as for the strawberries.they look incredible…

  22. Mrs Ergül says:

    ni hao yong gan. I’ve always admired the braveness in you. writing is a good way to let go of some pain and you can write so beautifully, it’s charming. This is a very nice tribute to you dearest sister. Take lots of care Jennifer.

  23. Nicisme says:

    Thank you for sharing Jen, that is a beautiful photo of you both.
    I am going to stop messing on the computer and go and call my sister.

  24. KatieC says:

    Oh, my heart goes out to you, Jen, across wind-scoured mountain ranges and lush valleys and through ranches and cities and mountain towns. I am so sorry for your pain, but awestruck by your ability to turn grief into celebration, to turn loss into memory. Here’s to you.

  25. Madam Chow says:

    Thank you for another wonderful post.

  26. Maja says:

    A hug.

  27. Steph F. says:

    Love and support from another one of your readers.

  28. jenyu says:

    Peter – thanks, that’s sweet of you.

    Mark – it has, thank you :) She was a vibrant woman, full of life and love. She’s a big part of who I am and I hope the way I live my life is testament to the love and joy we shared. Cheers, my friend.

    Woolly – thank you , sweetie.

    Bridget – good on ya. No regrets, hon.

    Shell – well, if we can all remember what is really important and precious in life, I think we’re all the better for it.

    Holly – absolutely. I have to say that my sister and I never questioned if we loved one another, never hesitated to say so. I think she knew I loved her every moment :) Thanks for the kind wishes.

    Gretchen – thank you.

    Jennywenny – oooh, I kinda like the caramel too!

    Amanda – yeah, life is too short to let stupid things get us down. Celebrate. Thanks for the kind words.

    Syd – I’m so sorry. I hope with time you are able to heal. Peace.

    Kitt – thanks.

    WoRC – oh, thanks hon! xxoo Those strawberries were at their peak ripeness! A day later, the last three were just over the tipping point (according to Jeremy). Hope you’re pups enjoyed the extra lovin’.

    Laura – thank you!

    Holly – thank you for stopping by :)

    Sheryl – you’re so sweet. Kris thought the world of you, as do I. Love to you too. xxoo

    Hillary – thanks.

    Christine – ah, you’re always too flattering! But coming from you in particular, I really appreciate it. xxoo

    Peabody – thanks, lady :)

    Shoshanna – thank you. It does get a little easier each year and I don’t know if that’s just because of the passage of time, the fading of memories… ?? Or maybe we aren’t meant to live with this kind of heartache indefinitely? I just think she’d want us to be smiling rather than crying. xxoo

    Susan – sweetie, thanks for the hug! I think it’s only painful once in a while, but mostly when I think of Kris I smile and laugh. I guess without pain in life the joys wouldn’t be as sweet. So I consider myself fortunate in how much happiness I find in my life and the degree to which I can appreciate it. Thanks for the love, hon.

    Nina – great! sisters are like no other :)

    Mrs. Ergul – thank you, you’re so sweet.

    Nicisme – terrific! xxoo

    KatieC – *hugs* and thanks :)

    Madam Chow – thank you for stopping by!

    Maja – hugs back to you and thanks.

    Steph – thank you :)

  29. Tartelette says:

    I am glad you let us get to know your sister through your eyes and your writing. I am really really sorry for your pain and your loss, you know that. The bright vibrant red of the strawberries and the pastels of the tulips are just beautiful, just like you guys.

  30. cindy says:

    What a beautiful picture of the two of you. And what a beautiful tribute. And those strawberries don’t look half bad either.

    God–losing one daughter and watching the other face a life-threatening situation must have sent your parents around the bend, no? Not that most parents don’t start out half way there anyway.

    I’m so glad you’ve been able to move to the place where you celebrate.

  31. jenyu says:

    Tartelette – I know, my dear friend. Thank you for your sweet comment. xxoo

    Cindy – you hit the nail on the head. It’s been toughest on my mom which is partly why it’s important to stay positive and strong for the rest of my family :) Thanks.

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