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If you didn’t have the pleasure of knowing my Aunt Joan, then you truly missed out. A beautiful woman inside and out, she epitomized what it meant to be selfless and generous. This Memorial Day, I remember her sacrifice to our country as a Marine, but even more so, as a continuing beacon of hope and strength for our family. Memorial Day is a chance to remember the continuing quest for freedom and to honor those who so bravely serve. Chicago grocery store Mariano’s helps make planning your Memorial Day get-together simple so that you can focus on the truly important things on that day. #MyMarianos #CollectiveBias
The Marines motto of Semper Fidelis means always faithful and after her time serving in the military, she continued to live out this motto in her own life. Each year, she carefully picked out a charity and made donations in our name for Christmas. At holidays and family gatherings, you could always find her in the kitchen, finishing the dishes, and cleaning up, making sure that everyone was enjoying the time together.
One of my fondest memories of her was traveling to downtown Chicago and riding the double-decker bus touring the city like a tourist. We loved going on adventures and finding new things to try (or avoid – like the $8 PB & J at Michael Jordan’s first restaurant!) She lived simply and poured every ounce of her being into her son and those around her. She lived to give. She shared a love of humanity so deeply that I often talk with cousins about how if we were even one-third the woman she was, the world would be an amazing place.
We often laughed about her ability to get creative in the kitchen – whether it was her favorite potato and sausage soup or her bent pancake pan that always seemed to make them look like amoebas, she reminded me so much of comfort food. The type of food you enjoy and savor because it makes you feel warm inside. She had that effect on people.
I used her as inspiration for my recipe post today and decided to add a twist to a classic: the grilled cheese sandwich. This ultimate comfort food has a spicy kick because while she signified comfort to everyone she met, she was also unbelievably strong and sassy. I can remember fond visits to her home in Indiana and enjoying Mexican dishes together. Head to your local Mariano’s to pick up the ingredients to make this spicy Salsa Chipotle Grilled Cheese Sandwich.
The sun was shining so I opted to prep the ingredients outside while the boys played in the yard!
- 4 slices of Mariano's Homemade White Bread
- ½ c. Havarti Chipotle Cheese, grated
- ½ c. Cheddar Cheese, grated
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1 small plum tomato, diced
- ¼ c. diced purple onion
- 3 snips of cilantro
- ½ jalapeno, seeded and diced
- 4 strips of Roundy's bacon
- Cook bacon at 375 degrees in oven until done to your likeness.
- Combine diced tomato, onion, cilantro and jalapeño.
- Butter one side each of two slices of bread
- Heat griddle to medium-high heat.
- Stack bacon and then grated cheese.
- Add two spoonfuls of fresh diced salsa.
- Top with other half of bread.
- Cook until golden-brown on both sides and cheese is gooey and melted.
Ten years ago, my Aunt Joan passed away due to complications from cancer. Our wedding later that same year gave us an opportunity to honor her memory as well by donating to a Marines charity in lieu of favors for our guests.
Not a day goes by that I don’t miss her fiercely. So this Memorial Day, I especially honor her because the Marines taught her something that we could all stand to be more of: selfless. Her always faithful presence lives on to this day. She reminds us just how blessed we are and how life is a gift. Miss you, Aunt.