Archive | November, 2014

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.

 

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: TacosĀ  *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

Fun Friday: Weelicious Pumpkin muffins with cream cheese frosting

7 Nov
We needed a Fun Friday snack. It was only Wednesday, but we needed it.

We needed a Fun Friday snack. It was only Wednesday, but we needed it.

We’re having an awfully rough semester. Since August 26, we’ve been hit with “flu-like” viruses, pneumonia, sinus infections and bronchitis. We’ve had ambulance rides, hospital visits, doctor visits and prescriptions galore. My husband had two weeks of jury duty. I think I visited my local CVS at least 25 times in October alone, and I’m not really even exaggerating. We get a $5 reward every time we fill ten prescriptions there. We have three people (the maximum allowed) registered for the reward program and I think I’ve earned $15. Throughout all of it, I’ve been fighting something upper respiratory, myself and I can’t really say I’m coming out the winner in this fight, either.

It’s only November 7.

It’s been a long couple of months, with trying to still stay on top of work, school, birthdays, holidays, food drives and all the other daily “stuff,” but we’re surviving. We’re getting through it and trying to keep all our chins facing in the upward direction. We’ve had plenty of bright spots mixed in throughout the rough spots and we try to make those our focus. We have wonderful friends and family who check in daily, weekly, and more. We know of people who are worse off than we are. Things could be much worse.

Even still, some days we need a little bit of help.

Enter the delicious pumpkin muffins with cream cheese frosting from Weelicious.

I have been getting the Weelicious emails in my inbox for a couple of years now. My wee little ones are not so wee or so little any longer, but I find that her recipes are great for all ages.

Because we needed even more help seeing the bright spots on this particular day that I tried these, I made them into Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins with cream cheese frosting, because chocolate chips make everything seem better.

And they did.

It leads though, to our previous conversation: are they a muffin or a cupcake?

I put in chocolate chips, so that might mean cupcake. If they were just pumpkin, that could mean muffin for sure. But with chocolate chips AND frosting for those who chose to use it, it might be a cupcake.

Honestly, with the week we have been having, I didn’t care.

Pumpkin-chocolate chip-frosting-muffin-cupcake.

They were our after-school snack, late night snack, breakfast and lunch.

Whatever they were, they were delicious. Weelicious did not disappoint. She never does.

Here is her recipe, so that when you’re in need of a pick-me-up you can give them a try. We loved them!

If you love them too, you might want to sign up for the Weelicious emails as well.

WEELICIOUS PUMPKIN MUFFINS WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (I used “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter to suit our dietary needs.)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • cream cheese icing:
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened (I used 1/3 fat cream cheese to suit our dietary needs.)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. 2. Place the first 5 ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. 3. In a separate bowl whisk the remaining ingredients.
  4. 4. Add the dry ingredients into the wet and whisk until just combined. *This is where I added in about a cup of chocolate chips.*
  5. 5. Pour into greased muffins cups 3/4 full.
  6. 6. Bake for 20 minutes.
  7. 7. To make the frosting, combine all ingredients and beat for 1-2 minutes, until fluffy
  8. 8 . Cool, frost and serve.

 

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Soup for everyone

5 Nov
Three soups that are quick, easy and can all be done simultaneously.

Three soups that are quick, easy and can all be done simultaneously.

Earlier in the school year I did quite a bit of food preparation ahead of time, making and freezing foods for future use. One thing I’d wanted to do but hadn’t had time to do, was make and freeze some soup.

Recently when I had one child home sick for an extended amount of time, I had an afternoon where I’d have a couple of hours to make some soup. The only question was, what kind of soup? Everyone has a favorite. I love cream of broccoli and creamy cauliflower soup, as does my oldest daughter, who happened to be the one home sick. But, my other daughters and my husband, they love the cream of tomato soup that I’ve been making lately and my middle daughter in particular had been asking for it quite often.

When I thought about the recipes though, they were all pretty similar. Other than the actual vegetable for each soup, namely broccoli, cauliflower and tomato, the base ingredients and instructions were all pretty similar: onion and chicken broth. The tomato soup had a few extra spices thrown in, and the broccoli soup had celery added in and some milk and flour at the end, but ultimately I realized that I could actually make all three at the same time, almost like an assembly line: cut up all the onion, divide it into the soup pots, cut up each veggie and add them in, and then simmer. If any additional steps or ingredients were needed, it wasn’t all that hard to do. Nothing was complicated, expensive or time-consuming. In an hour I’d be done. The tomato soup has an option to put in tortellini and shrimp at the end, but this time around I was doing it without those last two ingredients mostly because that is what had been requested.

Just like that...three soups, done and everyone's taste buds were happy!!

Just like that…three soups, done and everyone’s taste buds were happy!!

Although I cried a lot of tears cutting up all those onions, overall it was a great experiment and all went off as planned. I had enough soup for whoever wanted whatever kind they wanted over the next couple of days, and then using quart-sized bags, I froze the rest. We already had a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon where a few of us had soup for lunch from the freezer, and there’s still more for whenever we need it, whether it’s for an after school snack, a lunch or a dinner where someone doesn’t like what’s on the regular night’s menu.

Since these soups have already been featured on my blog, I’m putting the links below so that you can refer to them if you’d like to make any or all of them for yourself. The weather here is starting to cool down and it will be nice to have some soups for the upcoming chilly days and nights ahead!

Here are the links for you.

If you’d like to make the Cream of Broccoli Soup, click here.

If you’d like to make the Creamy Cauliflower Soup, click here.

If you’d like to make the Creamy Tomato Soup, click here.

Enjoy!

Go Orange: it’s a wrap

3 Nov

whole bag of chips go orange 4This weekend marked the end of another Go Orange for No Kid Hungry fall food drive for our family. We reached far and wide this year and our drive expanded even further than we had imagined possible.

Next year, we’ll plan to reach even further and wider!

Please take a moment to read all about it on my new Go Orange for No Kid Hungry page, which you can find at the top of The Whole Bag of Chips. There you’ll find a recap of this year’s event as well as an earlier post with other important links and statistics about hunger.

I’ll add to that page in the future as well, so I hope you’ll stop by often!