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Practicing gratitude

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I am trying to practice a little more gratitude today. There have been a lot of things going on in our lives recently. So much change. It’s a little overwhelming. Family, health, jobs. I can’t imagine what the future holds right now and it’s a little scary out there.

In spite of all that, though, I am grateful for what we do have. A wonderful, supportive network of friends and family (even though most of them didn’t help us move. AHEM.). Fantastic kids: even as they drive us crazy, they are the most wonderful thing to happen to us. (And dang, our kids are FUNNY, y’all.) Great family: even as our holiday plans change unexpectedly, they worry about us and want to help. We lucked into having an awesome family, for which I am truly, truly thankful.

My sons just had birthdays, turning 4 and 1. The time goes so fast! I love those little boogers to death. I am honored to be their mom. My husband is pretty awesome, too, but don’t tell him I said that. Between his crazy kids and crazy wife, he is either crazy himself or a very, very patient man. Love you, hon.

I hope you get the time to enjoy your family and think upon all you DO have, rather than what you don’t. Happy Thanksgiving.

More Thanksgiving – Cranberry-Lime Salsa

One more bonus recipe for you – and it’s one of my favorites. Hubby makes it nearly every year and it’s perfect on the turkey, or on leftover turkey sandwiches. Cranberries with just a hint of heat. Divine. Yes, it has salsa in the title. And yes, we found it originally in a California cookbook, of course. It’s worth trying and super-easy to make. And when you take the seeds out of the pepper, it’s not that hot. Leave the seeds in if you want some extra heat. Try this and you’ll never go back to canned cranberry jelly.

Cranberry-Lime Salsa

12 oz. bag fresh cranberries
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. lime juice
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
3 scallions (green onions), chopped finely
1 jalapeño, seeded & minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt & pepper to taste

1. Take a medium saucepan and add your cranberries and some cold water – enough to cover. Bring it to a boil & cook for a couple of minutes — just until the cranberries begin to pop. Drain.

2. Grab a large bowl and combine the lime juice and sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Then stir in the cranberries and the rest of your ingredients. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Flavor is best when you let it stand at least 30 minutes before serving. Better yet, make it the night before and put it in the fridge to let the flavors meld even more. You can serve it cool or room temp – depends on your preference.


A stress-free Thanksgiving

Maybe Thanksgiving can’t be totally stress-free if you’re cooking for a large group, or even just your family. But you can take steps to reduce your stress. Choose simple side dishes that are flavorful, but not time-intensive. Use a crockpot. Or two. Or even have your guests bring several sides while you concentrate on the turkey and gravy.

Last year, I made dinner for us, the daughter and her boyfriend, and the bro- and sis-in-law. That’s not a large group for most people, but it’s about the max we can fit in our small place. And with a small kitchen, large meals aren’t easy. But it can be done.

The rolls I love to make (Pioneer Woman’s No Knead Dinner Rolls) can be started a day or two ahead of time and stored in the fridge. My candied sweet potatoes can be partially done the day before and refrigerated until you’re ready to pop them in the oven. And you can cook your dressing and green bean casserole in crock pots. Just get things ready early, pop them in the crockpot, and you’ve got two side dishes with minimal fuss.

Speaking of dressing, my mom usually makes hers from scratch using stale bread and homemade cornbread. It’s really good. And I need to learn how to make it. But to shorten things, I use a box of stuffing. Yes, I do. But to make it more my own, I sauté an onion and some celery and add it to the mix. I also add dried sage (I really like a lot of sage in my dressing). Add those things, and use chicken broth for your liquid and it’ll taste just as good as homemade!

Here are a couple of recipes for some tasty side dishes that aren’t too hard to make. I really like the carrots, while the entire family just LOVES the sweet potatoes. I believe I originally found these recipes in my Better Homes and Gardens CookBook. I have a newer edition (the pink plaid one), but I actually prefer the recipes in the much older edition my mom gave me. I need to put it in another binder, though, as it’s falling apart. There are some seriously good recipes in there (the cinnamon rolls are amazing) and it’s a great reference. I’m constantly looking up cook times for meat and veggies – it has several references based on the type of cooking you’ll be doing.

On to the recipes!

Candied Sweet Potatoes

4 med sweet potatoes (~2 lbs)
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 c tiny marshmallows
(you could also use chopped nuts, but we all prefer the marshmallows – it really makes the dish, trust me)

1. Peel your sweet potatoes and then cut into 1 1/2″ chunks. Cook them in just enough boiling water to cover until tender – about 10-12 mins or so. Drain. (You just barely want them tender, or they’ll overcook later.)

2. Transfer to 2-qt baking dish. Add melted butter & brown sugar, stir to combine.

** Now, you can stop here if you’re doing prep the day before. Just cover and chill up to 24 hours. When you’re ready to start again, uncover and bake as directed in step 3. Don’t forget to let it come to room temp before putting it in the oven. Cold dish + hot oven = broken dish & a big mess. **

3. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 mins or until potatoes are glazed, stirring gently twice during baking. Then sprinkle on the marshmallows and bake an additional 5 mins more.

Brown Sugar-Glazed Carrots

1 lb. med carrots peeled (baby carrots will also work just fine)
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Cut carrots in half, cross- and length-wise.

2. In med. saucepan, cook carrots covered in a small amount of boiling salted water for approx. 8-10 mins or until crisp-tender. Drain and remove from pan. (You definitely want the carrots on the crisp side so they don’t get mushy.)

3. In same pan, combine butter, brown sugar, and salt (a dash). Cook and stir over medium heat until combined, then add carrots. Cook uncovered, about 2 mins, until glazed. Stir frequently. Then season to taste w/black pepper.

There you go – a couple of my Thanksgiving standbys. If you want the green bean casserole recipe, it’s always on the side of the french-fried onions can. And yes, I do make it every year. Total comfort food for us.

What’s YOUR favorite side dish for Thanksgiving?  

Grateful

I am thankful.

For family. Good food. A warm home. My job. My coworkers.

For turkey-induced naps. Pumpkin pie piled high with whipped cream. Sage dressing. Candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top (heavenly!). Really good gravy.

For my husband. His help in the kitchen, around the house, with our son. His love. His smile. His laugh.

For our son. His giggle. His dimples. His yummy, munchable cheeks and toes. His smile.

There’s so much more, really. That only touches the surface of how blessed we really are. Right now I’m just busy enjoying it. I hope you are, too.

Looking forward

Food, food, food, gotta clean, food, food, vacuum, food, pick up toys, food, food, foo—ooh, something shiny!

That has been my mind today. Planning. Trying to get things done. Hoping I don’t forget anything terribly important. For a large part of the day I ran around the house without sitting. I was afraid that if I sat down I would lose all momentum.

I got a lot of prep done. Probably could have done more, but I was tired. Fortunately, hubby will be helping me in the kitchen so I don’t have to shoulder everything alone. He’s an excellent prep chef (and more, really, but tomorrow he’s working prep) and will probably do a lot of chopping and sautéing for me. If our kitchen were bigger, we could cook together. Instead we’ll be taking turns. One of us at the stove, one at the cutting board. When we can.

Since we have to wrangle the little one and keep him away from the hot stove and flying knives, I think one of us will be out of the kitchen most of the day. Unless daughter shows up early, in which case we can rely on her to entertain the boy. (One can only hope.)

In spite of having a lot still to do (I really only have a head start on one dish), I am looking forward to tomorrow. We haven’t hosted Thanksgiving ourselves before. I get to have the food exactly the way I want it, we don’t have to leave the house, and we get to spend time with family.

That, to me, has the makings of a perfect holiday. And I am grateful. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. I hope your day is filled with love.

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