For all that and more, I am truly thankful

26 Nov

This week I attended the funeral of a friend’s father. In our church alone, two members lost their dads in just two days’ time last week. My friend’s dad was young, just 70, or as they say now, “the new 60,” and similar in age to my own father. As I sat in church on Tuesday morning alongside my friends, I looked through the pews ahead of me at the backs of my friend, her husband, their children and her mother. I watched as they supported each other and as those around them supported them too.

I thought of Thanksgiving, looming just days ahead, and I was sad for them, having to try to celebrate a holiday together so soon after burying the patriarch of their family. What would they have to be thankful for during such a sad, sad time?

But as I listened to the priest speak about the stories that their family would tell for years to come in celebration of this man’s life, stories that may be told over this week’s Thanksgiving dinner around their family’s table, stories that she told during her eulogy of her father on that very day, I was brought back to the words I had just typed that same morning before I left my house, the words that came from another priest in another church at an interfaith service I’ve now been blessed to be a part of for two years in a row. Last year I sat in the congregation with my oldest daughter by my side, my journalist’s notebook and camera in hand, and was moved by the experience of being part of a service that involved so many faithful from all different faiths, joined together as one for one night in celebration of Thanksgiving. This year I was in the choir, joining my voice with those voices around me; people I did not know, from churches and temples I’d never been to, taking my notes for this year’s article in the margins of my sheet music with an orange pen I grabbed from my purse. This time my youngest daughter was now by my side, singing her heart out, while the rest of my immediate family sat in the congregation listening.

I listened on Sunday evening, and the words echoed in my head again on Tuesday morning as I typed, and later as I sat in my pew at the funeral, as I remembered that the Reverend spoke of the paradox of Thanksgiving. He explained how it arose as a national holiday in the midst of extremely difficult times, specifically during times of war, and that although it may seem that out of awful times such as those might come bitterness, anger and ungratefulness, that in actuality, it is out of all those terrible times that people pause to think of what they are most grateful for, and that is the true spirit of Thanksgiving.

I thought of his words as I looked at my friend and her family in front of me, and I thought of their own first Thanksgiving without their father, grandfather, husband or friend, and I realized that out of this most awful and difficult time, they too will truly realize how grateful and thankful they are for all the times they had spent together with him over the years and for the memories of those times they will forever carry in their hearts.

As I thought of their family, I thought of my own. This past week of sadness has, as the Reverend said, made me think of what I am truly grateful for as well. This week of watching my friend mourn her own father and tell the stories of the special times they spent together this summer before he really fell ill, made me thankful for our own times that my family has gotten to spend with my father and the rest of our families as well. Family time is so important to me, and I am blessed to be able to have several generations of both of our families nearby. Our time with them is precious albeit fleeting.

And so, as I close the keyboard today in celebration of another year’s Thanksgiving, I am reminded of what I am truly grateful for, and I am reminded that sometimes it takes tumultuous circumstances to bring us back, to remind us of what the true meaning of Thanksgiving really is. It is more than turkey and pie and all the fixings. It is more than a long weekend out of school and days off from work. It is a reminder to be grateful for our blessings, no matter what they may be, no matter how difficult the times may seem.

For the good times and the bad times, for family near and far, for all that I have, for all those around me, for all of that and more, I am truly thankful.

Be truly thankful for all you have on this and every Thanksgiving Day.

Be truly thankful for all you have on this and every Thanksgiving Day.

 

Pumpkin Palooza…My grand finale: Here’s to friends and pumpkin pie cupcakes

26 Nov

I’m thankful for being able to stay connected to friends from “way back when” who are both near and far.

ORIGINALLY POSTED NOVEMBER 16, 2012

I went to a high school outside of my hometown, with kids from all over my state and a neighboring state. Therefore, I met people there I would not normally have had a chance to meet, had I attended my local high school. Upon graduation we all went our separate ways, but we always tried to keep in touch.

At first we kept in touch by letters and the occasional phone call, but today with technology the way it is, we keep in touch by email and things like Facebook as well.

We’ve attended and/or been in each others weddings, we’ve visited each other when new babies were born, and gotten together when one or another of us were in town, visiting from wherever we had now settled, and even bumped into each other at the occasional swim lesson or scouting events. Each year though, at Thanksgiving, we try to get together to share a meal, whether it’s breakfast or dinner, just to catch up before another year goes by.

The photo here is last year’s picture after our Friday after Thanksgiving breakfast. We have another one scheduled for this year. Pictured here are high school friends Lia, Jenn, Nicole and I. We missed Bethany that year but she’ll be there this year!

A delicious treat!

My friend Nicole is in the fushia sweater, and today’s recipe was posted on Facebook by her, a couple of weeks back. I printed it right away but I only just got the chance to make it this week. She wrote that she’d made these pumpkin cupcakes by Baker Chick for all of the teachers at her school where she is the school librarian. I bet they loved them! I know I did! They got thumbs up from almost everyone here at our house, and I thought they were even better the second day; just like a slice of pumpkin pie in a cupcake wrapper!

The recipe states that these cupcakes puff up when cooked and then shrink back down, which is exactly what they did. Baker Chick also says that the fact that they shrink down is great because it gives you the perfect place to squirt some whipped cream, and she was right about that as well.

This was an easy recipe and didn’t take too long. I found my cook time to be slightly longer than the 20 minutes stated, but I just kept checking them every 2-3 minutes til they were done.

I hope you get a chance to try these out this week! Thanks to Nicole for sharing, I’ll see you soon! Thanks to Baker Chick for a great recipe!

Two bowls, simple ingredients.

PUMPKIN CUPCAKES
INGREDIENTS

2/3 cup all purpose flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 15-oz can pumpkin puree

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup half and half

 

Cupcakes puff up when they’re first cooked….

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper or silicone liners. *If using paper liners, lightly coat them with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice.

In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and half and half until well combined.

Add in dry ingredients and whisk until no streaks of flour remain and batter is smooth.

Distribute batter evenly in the muffin tin. (they should be about 3/4 of the way full.)

Bake for 20 minutes. Cool cupcakes in pan. (They will sink as they are cooling.)

Chill cupcakes before serving. Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

…..and shrink down when cooled.

Makes 12

Pumpkin Palooza Recipe of the Day: Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

24 Nov

This new recipe got all thumbs up this weekend!

ORIGINALLY POSTED NOVEMBER 13, 2011

This weekend I tried a new recipe that came across my virtual “desk” last week. The recipe was from Babble’s Family Kitchen blog that I follow on Facebook. The recipe, for Pumpkin Swirl Brownies, reminded me of a recipe my college roommate used to make for Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies, and it’s made basically the same way except using pumpkin instead of peanut butter.

I must say, I am not the neatest dessert-cutter. All my squares are all different sizes, but really they’re all going to the same place, right? These Pumpkin Swirl Brownies were really, really delicious! The recipe was very easy. Try it and see what you think! Here it is, as I found it on Babble last week. Apparently, the person who posted it had seen it on several other blogs as well.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup butter
6 oz (6 squares) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or 1 cup chocolate chips)  I used the chocolate chips.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups solid-pack pumpkin  (I used one 15 oz can of Libby’s canned pumpkin.)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg (It says Nutmeg is optional, but I did use it.)

DIRECTIONS

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter an 8×8-inch or 9×9-inch baking pan. (I used 11×7 but would use 9×13 next time. They were super-thick.)

2) In a small saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over medium-low heat, stirring until smooth.

3) In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

4) In a large bowl, beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla for a few minutes, until fluffy; beat in the flour just until combined.

5) Divide the batter between two medium bowls (about 1 and 1/2 cups of batter per bowl) and stir the chocolate mixture into one bowl. Stir the pumpkin, oil, cinnamon and nutmeg into the other bowl.

6) Transfer half of chocolate batter to prepared pan, smooth the top and gently spread with half the pumpkin batter.

Here’s how it looks when you drop the large spoonfuls of batter on top of the two layers, before you swirl.

7) Drop large spoonfuls of chocolate and pumpkin batter on top, then gently swirl the two batters with the tip of a knife (just a table knife, so you don’t scrape the bottom of the pan with a sharp tip) to create a marbled effect.

And here’s how it looks after you do the marbling effect with your butter knife.

8) Bake for 40-45 minutes, until just set. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Makes 16 brownies.

Pumpkin Palooza Recipe of the Day: Cranberry Pie

21 Nov

My Thanksgiving Day Cranberry Pie

Each year for Thanksgiving we go to my aunt and uncle’s for a huge family Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because of all the food with none of the stress of buying gifts. I especially like it because we have A TON of desserts, homemade pies and desserts of every flavor in the world it seems. In the past I’ve been assigned a pumpkin pie, a squash pie or an apple pie. Last year though, I was given the choice to bring whatever I wanted. I decided to walk on the wild side as they say, and try something new. I saw this in a magazine last fall and I was determined to try it out. It was delicious and I’ll be making it again this year.

At the time I could not remember where I had found the recipe, but I believed that I had ripped the recipe out of Country Living . The author of the recipe is Chef Joan E. Aller, author of Cider Beans, Wild Greens and Dandelion Jelly.

CRANBERRY PIE

Makes 1 pie  (8 servings)

Working time 15 minutes

Total time 1 hr 5 minutes

INGREDIENTS

1 nine inch pie crust

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries  (1 twelve ounce bag)

1 cup sugar (divided 2/3 cup  and 1/3 cup)

1 heaping Tablespoon all purpose flour

1 egg white

1 cup heavy whipping cream

DIRECTIONS

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out piecrust and arrange in a 9″ pie pan.

2) Pour cranberries into crust to form a thick layer.

3) In a medium bowl, sift together 2/3 cup sugar and flour.

4) In a separate bowl beat egg white until stiff peaks form. Then fold into flour mixture. Slowy stir in cream until combined.

5) Cover cranberries with remaining 1/3 cup sugare and then pour cream  mixture on top.

6) Bake pie for about 10 minutes.  Then lower oven to 350 degrees and bake for about 40 minutes more.

7) Let pie cool completely before serving.

Pumpkin Palooza Recipe of the Day: MaryLou’s Sweet Potato Casserole

19 Nov

This is MaryLou. She makes a kickin’ Sweet Potato Casserole!

ORIGINALLY POSTED NOVEMBER 22, 2011:

Who is MaryLou, you ask? She’s my mother-in-law and she makes the best sweet potato casserole EVER!!  She knows how much I love it, and even if it’s NOT Thanksgiving, she’s often made it when we visit. I am always sure to sit myself next to the Sweet Potato Casserole at the table, whenever she makes it.

Since 450 miles is a LONG way to go for a bite of her casserole, she let me have the recipe in November 2004. I am now sharing it with you. You are very lucky. :)

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups sweet potatoes boiled and mashed

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/2 cup margarine

Mix thoroughly and pour into buttered casserole dish.

TOPPING INGREDIENTS:

1 cup light brown sugar packed

1/2 cup flour

1 cup chopped pecans (this is a 6oz. pkg. halved pecans or so my notes say)

1/2 cup margarine melted

Mix with fork and sprinkle on top

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes

“Sit down and enjoy!”

Pumpkin Palooza Recipe of the Day: Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

17 Nov

Done….

Originally posted on November 14, 2011

The recipe I’m sharing today is one of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes. Each year this is what we have for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning, and we grill it, which is superb! The kids all watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade while they eat their grilled bread. I also usually make mini loaves of this to give the individual teachers as a gift, as well as two loaves to put in the faculty rooms at the kids’ school and my husband’s school as a thank you to everyone. Last year I think I tripled the recipe, if I remember correctly and had to mix it in a huge stock pot. Not sure what my plan of attack will be this year, but I have already stocked up on my cranberries and my pumpkin!

Enjoy!

PUMPKIN CRANBERRY BREAD

INGREDIENTS

2 cups pumpkin puree (1 can of One Pie Pumpkin = 2 cups)
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
4 eggs, large
1/2 cup Canola or Vegetable oil
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
12 ounce package of fresh or frozen cranberries

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease loaf pan(s). You can either use two large loaf pans or 3 mini loaf pans.

Beat together pumpkin, sugar, water, eggs and oil.

Sift in remaining ingredients except cranberries. Mix just until smooth.

Gently fold in cranberries.

Pour into loaf pan(s) and spread evenly.

Bake in the center of oven for 60 – 70 minutes for large loaves, less time (40-50 minutes) for smaller loaves or until toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Do not overbake or bread will be dry.

Cool in pan on a rack for 10 – 15 minutes. Turn bread(s) out onto rack and finish cooling.

Bread may be made in advance, covered and chilled for up to four days.(When I make two loaves for us I often save one to eat and keep one to freeze to eat at a later date.)

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Two weeks of meals

12 Nov
Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted our two weeks of meals menu, and I always get great feedback from readers when I do. Therefore, I’m sharing our current menu plan with you today. Hopefully it will provide you with some dinner ideas and inspiration.

If you’re a new reader, this is how we generally try to plan out our grocery shopping every two weeks on pay day. We create a two week menu and try to stick as closely as we can to it. It almost never stays 100% on track, so we almost always have some carryover for the next two weeks of meals.

We have found that this is the best way for us to stick to a budget and to always have a (relatively) healthy, homemade meal for our family to eat together every night. It doesn’t always work out perfectly, but it’s better for us than not planning at all.

Week 1:

Sunday: Corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots

Monday: Tacos  *This lends itself well to taco salad or seven layer dip with chips for lunches the next day. This time around it was the dip, last time we had them, I did taco salads.

Tuesday: Lasagna

Wednesday: Pork chops and applesauce (homemade)

Thursday: Choice of hot dogs, hamburgers or chicken burgers

Friday: Pot luck dinner at Girl Scouts

Saturday: BBQ Ribs

Week 2:

Sunday: Dinner at friends’

Monday: Shepherd’s Pie (this was a ‘cook once, eat twice’ extra Shepherd’s Pie frozen from a previous month)

Tuesday: American Chopped Suey pasta bake

Wednesday: Lemon Basil Meatballs and egg noodles (this is from the make ahead meals Pampered Chef party that I attended in September)

Thursday: Dinner out, Girl Scouts are touring a local eatery, so we’ll be eating there afterwards

Friday: Pizza

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