Archive | December, 2013

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Cranberry Apple Chutney

18 Dec
This was delicious and will be on our table for Christmas Dinner next week!

This was delicious and will be on our table for Christmas Dinner next week!

We are food and cooking TV junkies. We watch all kinds of cooking shows at our house from Diners, Drive-ins and Dives to Restaurant Impossible, and more.

The bad thing about that is I’m constantly hungry because we’re always looking at food and it always looks delicious.

The good thing about that is we get some great inspiration from the things we see made on TV.

A few weeks back, Don saw a Cranberry Chutney cooked on television. It looked so good that he decided that he too, wanted to make a Cranberry Chutney the next time we had pork for dinner. He bought all the ingredients, throwing in some apples as well, and we planned the meal for the night of our kids’ Winter Recital for Dance. We’d be gone all day and coming back in time for supper.

Before we left, Don pre-cooked the chutney and we took a sneak peek at it. It looked delicious and smelled delicious! We took a taste. DELICIOUS! When we came home later that evening, all we’d have to do is reheat it. The pork went into the crock pot and off we went.

Sure enough, we came home starving and we couldn’t wait to dig in to that night’s dinner.

The chutney Don had made was amazing along side (or on top of) the pork roast. We had sauteed green beans, baked potatoes and homemade applesauce as well. The meal got all thumbs up all around and we’ve decided to have it again for our Christmas Dinner. I can’t wait!
I am sharing Don’s recipe with you today, inspired by the many TV shows we watch about food. If you’re looking for something new and different to do for your Christmas Dinner, I encourage you to give this recipe a try!


I love how the fresh fruit looks in the pan all together. The colors are so wintry and fresh!

I love how the fresh fruit looks in the pan all together. The colors are so wintry and fresh!


One bag of fresh cranberries (12 oz.)

3 medium sized Macintosh apples, diced

1/4 cup raisins

1/3 cup orange juice

1/4 cup honey

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

salt and pepper to taste


Combine all ingredients in pan.

Cook on top of the stove until cranberries begin to pop and apples have softened.
Orange juice should reduce down.

Monday Musings: Giving in preparation for receiving

9 Dec
December, a month when we get so much from others, is a great time to focus more on the gift of giving to others and spreading peace.

December, a month when we get so much from others, is a great time to focus more on the gift of giving to others and spreading peace.

Christmas is coming!

In our house, the countdown is on in a couple of different locations around the house. We’ve got a countdown to Christmas written on the fridge memo board and we have a Christmas House countdown where each day, beginning with December 1, you open a window of the wooden house which has a tiny treat inside. You eat the treat, and wait for the next day when you do it again. At our house, each day has three M&Ms inside: one for each kid. Every year they await the day we decorate our living room and the Christmas House comes out of its box and goes onto the hutch next to our Nativity scene.

This year though, there’s an added twist to our countdown house. Just before the start of the month, a friend of mine, Gina, sent me a link she thought my kids would enjoy. The link, to 100 Days of Real Food, contained 25 business card-sized messages which each fit nicely, one per day, in the windows of our Christmas House, along with our three M&Ms. I read through the messages which gave daily Random Acts of Kindness (RAKs) and I loved the idea of including them in our countdown to Christmas. The RAKs gave ideas about sending a note to someone you haven’t seen in a while, or helping a parent/teacher/friend/sibling, and things of that nature.

What I liked most about this new idea was that it encouraged the kids to think about other people every day over the next month. I think overall we do a good job of raising our kids to think of other people, but this month-long activity would really put the focus on good deeds as the kids anticipate the arrival of Christmas.

I decided to write them a letter explaining to them this new twist that would be appearing in the Christmas House on the first day and every day throughout the month, and leave it for them propped up in front of the house for that first morning. I told them that there was no pressure here, that whichever of the RAKs they could accomplish would be one more nice thing than they might have normally thought to do on any given day and would brighten someone else’s day. I did not take away the treats, as I didn’t feel the need to erase one tradition in order to add in another. I placed an empty vase behind the house, and a post-it note sized note pad next to it. I asked them to fill out a piece of paper each time they accomplished one of the RAKs and throw it into the vase.

This was not to keep score, or to track who is doing RAKs and who isn’t. There will be no comparisons in the end. It was strictly a visual for them: at the end of the month they will be able to “see” what a difference they’ve made in other people’s lives through the season of Advent as they watch the vase go from empty to full.

Now that it’s begun and we’re a week in, I find it interesting to hear them talk about how this or that RAK  is one they already do frequently or one they’ve recently done for someone, or to hear them thinking about ways to accomplish that day’s RAK. It’s just nice to hear them talking about putting other people before themselves. It’s also neat to find other things we’ve done throughout the day and note that they’re also RAKs even though they weren’t necessarily the suggested ones in the window that day. This weekend for example, they made pillowcases for Kids Conquer Cancer at their sewing class, we bought a toy doll for a three year old girl who lives in a local shelter for our church’s giving tree, we bought pajamas for a school pajama drive, and we donated money to a charity for foster teens by attending a local fashion show for which their ticket prices went towards Christmas gifts for the teens. Having regular opportunities to talk about these actions reminds them that they truly do a lot of “good deeds” as the days go by.

Last week, Nelson Mandela passed away. At 95 years old, he was one of the worlds most prominent examples of a peacemaker; someone who dedicated his lifetime to being a truly good, peaceful person. As we sat in church this past Sunday morning, our pastor spoke about Mandela and his calling. He talked about what a leader Mandela was, what a role model he was for living a truly peaceful life. The pastor reminded us that we are all called to something bigger than just our own daily lives and responsibilities; although clearly we’re not all called to do such a huge job as Mandela, each thing we do makes a difference in the world.

Since the Newton CT. shootings at Sandy Hook last year, there are many people who chose last year and are choosing this year, to do 26 RAKs in December to honor the 26 victims of that shooting. I loved that idea as well. What a wonderful way to honor the victims of such a violent tragedy, by working to spread peace to others.

I feel like our 25 days of giving to others is an example of the little things we do in our lives that make a difference in the world, no matter how small. I’d never dare to even compare myself or my family to Nelson Mandela, but I do believe that we make a difference. I know we do. We are helping to spread goodness and peacefulness to others. We’re focusing on it a lot during Advent, as we prepare for Christmas, but it’s something we’ve built our family morals and values on as well, and we focus on it year-round.

I’m enjoying watching our vase fill with RAKs as the days go by, and I’m sure that this new type of countdown will be something we will add to our Advent traditions again next year. I’m certainly thankful for my friend Gina, that she came across this and thought to send it our way.

No matter what you celebrate or how you do it, I hope that your holiday season is peaceful and wonderful!

Monday Musings: Traditions

2 Dec
The Thanksgiving table is never too full, we can always fit one or two more guests!

The Thanksgiving table is never too full, we can always fit one or two more guests!

Thursday was Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays for a few reasons. First off, the obvious: dessert. But really, more importantly than that, I love it because of the traditions that surround us at Thanksgiving each year. Some traditions started before I was married with kids.  Watching the Macy’s Day Parade has been a favorite Thanksgiving morning tradition since I was a kid myself. Thanksgiving dinner has been hosted by my aunt and uncle for as long as I can remember, and they do a phenomenal job. It’s always a huge meal, a huge crowd and pretty much anyone and everyone is welcomed to our table each year. This year, five tables stretched end to end, filled with laughing, talking and even some tears as we remembered those who weren’t able to join us this year.

As parents, traditions are definitely something we wanted to pass along to our kids, but they’re also something we wanted to create with them as well. We passed along the love of the parade to our kids; now we watch as a family each Thanksgiving morning. We eat the same thing for breakfast each year: my Pumpkin Cranberry Bread, grilled to perfection. We spend Thanksgiving day from about noon through after dark, at my aunt and uncle’s house, having a huge, multi-course Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends; new and old. I bring the same pie every year to add my contribution to the plethora of desserts: my Cranberry Pie.

I was so happy to read about all of the memories we've helped to create for our kids as they've grown.

I was so happy to hear about all of the memories we’ve helped to create for our kids as they’ve grown.

Interestingly enough, we were riding to school on Wednesday morning when Elizabeth mentioned that she hoped the rain that day would not continue into the next, because every year we take a walk down to the beach during “the soup break” between courses at dinnertime. She said she wrote about that in her journal, and then proceeded to tell me all about her Thanksgiving journal entry.

I was stunned as she spoke, detailing for me all the things she wrote about in her journal entry that she was looking forward to having, eating, seeing or doing the very next day. As I drove her to school, listening, I swallowed a lump in my throat.

I was so happy to hear the details that she remembered from each year’s Thanksgiving, but I was all the more thrilled that the foundations we’ve worked hard to instill in them, the love for tradition and family and memories has carried on from us to them. They love the things about Thanksgiving that we love as well. They look forward to those traditions now, as much as we do, as well as some new ones we’ve peppered in, here and there.

After Elizabeth told me about her journal entry, I asked her to see if she could bring it home for the long weekend so that I could read it and photocopy it for some of our family members who I thought would enjoy it as much as I did, including my parents and my aunt and uncle. I made a few extra copies, just in case anyone else wanted one.

When my uncle mentioned Elizabeth’s Thanksgiving journal entry over dinner, someone asked her to read it out loud. I didn’t know if she would or not-there were 34 pairs of eyes waiting for her response-but she did. She stood up and read all about her Thanksgiving, and she did a great job. A few people actually cried as they listened to it, showing that our shared traditions mean as much to them as they do to us.

I believe that traditions are passed on and that they are also created. It doesn’t matter so much what the traditions are, but more so that they just are; that traditions exist within a family. They represent the foundations of our family and the values that we hold true. I am glad to see that our kids love both kinds of traditions as much as we do; both the ones we’ve passed on to them, and the ones that have been created since we’ve had them. I know that in the future as times change, our traditions may change as well, but I also know that if we need to let go of some old traditions, we will be making new ones in their place.

And it’s my hope, that no matter what, my children will take at least some part of our Thanksgiving tradition; something that means so much to each of them, and pass it along to their families one day in the not-so-far off future as well, and add it to the traditions that they too, will be creating.