The holidays are always a bit hectic, but when you throw what feels like a torrential amount of medical issues into the usual mix, they can be downright crazy.

On Dec. 12, I was feeling pretty confident that I had everything under control. We had already traveled to Rhode Island and cut down our Christmas tree. I had ordered almost all the gifts that we needed and had about half of them wrapped.

I even considered doing Christmas cards, which I haven’t found time to do in several years. That’s how confident I was feeling.

And then I fell down. Badly.

It doesn’t help that it was my own fault. I went out to the mailbox around 5:30 p.m. to get the mail before I started cooking dinner.

Since our daughter Jessica and her family of five planned to spend Christmas on the Cape, she shipped all of her presents here. The volume of daily mail was fairly overwhelming. Since it was getting dark around 4:15 around that time of the month, it was already very dark during my mail trek. A weird shaped carton was in the mailbox, so I was looking down at it as I walked back to the house.

Watching where I was going would have been smarter. The Kitchen Genius lived up to the second part of his nickname by commenting, "It was dark. How did you think you would read the label anyway?"

I ended up tripping over a giant planter by the edge of the driveway. I flew over it and landed hard on my palms and my knees on our brick walkway. Ice and a few days helped my knees and wrists heal, but I had also seriously messed up my back.

An X-ray and MRI later, it was revealed that I have a disc extrusion in the lumbar region of my back with nerve impingement (hence all the pain and muscle spasms). Since I have not been able to bend over or sit down since then, it took an army of angels in my family to help.

KG took over most of the cooking, dish washing, laundry and cleaning chores. My Aunt Sandie wrapped the rest of our Christmas gifts.

Somehow Christmas was still wonderful, until about 10 p.m. when our granddaughters Lilia and Chloe spiked fevers of 104 degrees. Their parents went straight from our house to the Emergency Department at Cape Cod Hospital. One had a UTI and both had viral infections. Luckily none of the other 24 or so people who celebrated with us got sick. Phew!

Until Jessica’s hands turned quite blue. It’s happened before and the only thing that anyone can figure out in the medical world is that its probably the result of stress. She’s convinced that raising three teenage daughters might actually be the end of her, but at least she doesn’t have any kind of rare disease.

When our two month old grandson, Matthew began vomiting for 24 hours after every feeding on Saturday, KG and I went to the store to buy Pedialyte and picked up his sister for an overnight stay. We’re still waiting for more testing to see what is causing his problems.

It feels a bit overwhelming, but honestly the only way to handle life is to carry on and be thankful for all of the good things. I have an appointment with a neurosurgeon at Tufts on Monday, and hopefully he will have a solution to my back problems.

We managed a perfect gluten-free two weeks during Jessica’s 10 day visit and pulled off a joint birthday party for Chloe and our niece Vanessa during my brother Scott and his family’s visit to the Cape. Another brother, Rich, and his family also visited during the holiday season.

All of this meant that poor KG was tuckered out from cooking for over 20 people multiple times over the course of two weeks. By the time our last big family dinner before Jess and her family headed back to California occurred, he was ready for a return to our quiet life.

When I questioned his decision not to make dessert that night, he gave in and made the most beautiful (and gluten-free) flan that I have ever seen.

It was a huge hit with everyone, so this recipe will become part of our entertaining repetoire. It is deceptively simple for how elegant it turns out.

 

Perfect Flan

(Inspired by Olivia’s Cuisine)

Serves 8 to 10

 

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

2 cans sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces each)

3 1/2 cups whole milk

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium saucepan melt the sugar over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and watching carefully to make sure it caramelizes without burning. Once the sugar is golden brown, carefully add the water. Stir it gently until mixture thickens a little.

 

Pour the caramel into a 10 inch angel food pan that has a solid bottom. Swirl it to cover the entire bottom and then put the pan in the refrigerator for a few minutes (at least 5 minutes) until it hardens and becomes firm. This ensures that the caramel and flan mixture remain as separate layers.

 

In a large blender or food processor, add the sweetened condensed milk, whole milk, eggs and vanilla. Blend until completely smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes. Pour custard mixture on top of firmed caramel and cover the angel food pan with aluminum foil.

 

Place flan in a pan large enough to fit it in with some space around the edges. Fill the large pan with hot water until the water level is about halfway up the angel food pan. The water bath method of baking is essential to create the silky smooth texture because it helps the flan cook more slowly. Place in oven and bake for 1 1/2 hours until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

 

Let flan cool completely in fridge about four hours. To serve, run a knife around the edge of the flan to loosen it. Place serving plate over the top of the angel food pan and then flip the pan. Then sit back and wait for the compliments.