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celebrating the abundance

November 27th, 2011 | 1 Comment »

The very first time I did NaBloPoMo, it was in 2007 and I used the theme of ‘Food Holidays’ to blog about every day. Did you know that just about every day of the month, and every month in a year has a national food holiday?

For instance, November is National Pecan Month, Good Nutrition Month, National Peanut Butter Month, National Pepper Month, National Pomegranate Month, Raisin Bread Month and Vegan Month.

{{if you’re interested in learning about ALL the monthly celebrations…. go here}}

I first learned about these many years ago when I worked for a produce company and wrote their weekly marketing report. And having those daily prompts to write about made the very first NaBloPoMo really easy to navigate. Since then, I’ve focused on re-introducing past recipes to everyone.

And my Recipe Index has A LOT to showcase. But lately, my eating habits have turned in a new direction, and by the first of the year [[hopefully... right honey??]] my blog will turn in a new direction too, with a re-worked design and a more streamlined Recipe Index that’s much easier to navigate. And in doing so, I plan to likely wipe out several years worth of posts and recipes that have become irrelevant.

If you haven’t been around this blog long, and let’s face it, blog readers are flighty; they come, stay awhile then flit away to the next best thing. But without that history, it’s easy to consider eliminating what you don’t know is there.  I’ve been writing for 5-1/2 years. No one who hangs with me now goes back that far, and frankly, that’s fine with me. The first few years of this blog are scattered, unfocused and raw; like life itself, really, they lacked any kind of direction and my photos were terrible. I’d no more introduce you to those posts than I would eat a block of Velveeta. So, onward and upward.

There is a lot, each year, that I am so thankful to have in my life, and although it’s been the source of a great deal of angst and hair-twisting anxiety for me, this blog is one of them. In going back over the recipes I’ve collected, I’ve watched my life, and my eating habits unfold, change, grow and mature since 2006. I’ve seen photos turn from something that evokes a cringe and an ‘Oh dear….’ to a gasp and a ‘Wow’. I’ve seen recipes develop, tastes change and habits both form and disappear. Friends have come and gone, and family still opens the site with each new post. My boy has turned from a budding adolescent to a mature young man, and Mike and I covered a lot of ground together through these pages.

There is gratitude this time of year, and then there’s celebration, of the abundance, the fruits of our year of laboring through life, the joys of another bountiful harvest (or so it was, in the past) and it all comes together with feasting and family. The personal harvest this year, for me, has been a new-found level of health and well-being, new friends that are blessing me continually, and a bit more financial security, now that I’m working again. In years past, the last few months on the calendar have been filled with panic and fear. This year, these weeks feel much more calm, with far less anxiety. I’m so grateful for that presence in my life. I’m grateful for the willingness from Griffin to explore and be open to navigating the changes in our kitchen as we embarked on healthier eating; I’m grateful for the farmers who worked so hard to share the bounty with us, and I’m grateful for the ability to stretch, explore and learn about new foods, new ways to consume familiar options and the creativity to make it all delicious, fun and flavorful.

 

 

What’s on YOUR plate this month??

turkey hangover, with extras

November 27th, 2010 | 5 Comments »

It happens, right? There’s so much turkey, and celebrating and eating, then more eating and more celebrating and having another piece of pie before we drag full tummies home and into bed, falling exhausted against the pillows.

Then we open the fridge to see all that leftover turkey. That is, if you’re lucky enough to be gifted with leftovers.

I always make more than I think I even need. I’m fine with leftovers, in fact, I love having to re-purpose my food into something else. And this year, with a huge ziploc bag of turkey, I am chomping at the bit to make some awesome meals in the next few days. So, what’s in your plan for that meat? The leftover gravy? The stuffing? Extra potatoes?

These are some ideas for that extra bounty from our holiday.

The simplest of all meals would be to combine turkey, and any leftover gravy that you have and serve it over bread. or leftover mashed potatoes. Or both. Talk about comfort food. This is one of Griffin’s most favorite meals to eat, and I’m sure if I suggest this to him, he will roll his eyes in pleasure, nodding emphatically for me to put it together.

A good frittata is perfect for using up leftovers, and if there are leftover mashed potatoes, you can whip up an interesting version of it by whisking the potatoes and eggs together. This will create a fluffier version of frittata, or make it into a scramble by adding chopped turkey and a little bit of cranberry relish if you have it. Cranberries in eggs is surprisingly good, but just a little as it can easily overpower all other flavors.

Leftover mashed potatoes can be made into Potato Cakes. This rich and comforting food is a rare indulgence in our house, but perfect for those potatoes. Form the mashed potatoes into a cake and dredge it in seasoned flour. Heat a skillet, and melt some butter then place the cake in the skillet and let it sit until the bottom is superbly browned and crispy. Carefully flip it over and do the same to the other side. Be patient and keep the heat moderate, as you will be amply rewarded with a crusty and hot little side for your breakfast.

Will you make soup? That’s pretty standard, especially if you have a turkey carcass to use. I love a good soup, and we eat soup in the wintertime every week. My friend Missy has a wonderful recipe for Creamy Turkey Wild Rice soup on her blog. The photos make my mouth water. That’s the kind of soup that will make an appearance in my kitchen too, as there’s nothing better for a cold night than a warm and creamy, comforting pot of soup. One year I discovered just how good leftover gravy was in making soup. I started a pot of vegetables sizzling before I realized that I was out of soup stock base. I did have gravy, leftover in the freezer so I pulled out the container and chopped out just enough pieces, adding it to the pot with water. It made for a perfect soup.

A quick meal to throw together with leftover turkey could be Turkey Quesadillas. We like to keep tortillas on hand, as well as cheese so that a quick meal can be put on the table when the creativity flow has been stymied. Heat your tortilla in a pan then top with shredded cheese and chopped turkey. If you enjoy them, you could add canned beans too, like pinto or black beans. Top with another tortilla, and cook, turning once until tortillas are crispy and browned. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

A good option for lunch would be a turkey salad. I love Curried Chicken Salad, and substituting turkey is perfect. The recipe I include below calls for dried cherries, but subbing either dried cranberries, or even a scoop of extra cranberry relish would make this really delicious. Bonus points for utilization!

Another favorite salad option, one that would be perfect for lunches at work is this Turkey and Dried Cherry Pasta Salad. Again, sub in dried cranberries, or the fresh relish for a unique taste. And another good salad option, making a hearty dish that’s perfect for a meal or as a side is this Turkey & Wild Rice Curry Salad from Brenda, of A Farm Girl’s Dabbles. I saw her recipe and just about started drooling. I love salads like that; there’s just so much going on in one bowl. It’s a party for anyone’s tastes buds.

And naturally, a turkey sandwich is standard. Jazz it up by spreading your bread with cranberry relish first for a nice twist.

Curry Cashew Chicken Salad
From The Curry Book by Nancie McDermott

2 cups cooked chicken
1/2 c. dried cherries, cranberries or raisins
1/2 c. chopped roasted salted cashews
2 green onions, finely chopped

Dressing:
1/2 c. mayo or preferred creamy spread
2 T. mango chutney or fruit spread of choice
2 t. curry powder
2 t. red wine vinegar
1/4 t. fresh ground pepper
1 t. dijon mustard

Combine chicken, fruit, nuts and onion in bowl. Separately, mix together dressing ingredients and stir until combined and creamy. Pour over salad and stir thoroughly to coat. Chill. Eat.

Turkey & Dried Cherry Pasta Salad

1# pasta of choice
2 c. cooked turkey, chopped
1 c. dried cherries (sub cranberries, or even raisins)
1/2 c. minced red onion
1/2 c. minced celery
1/2 c. chopped toasted almonds

Dressing:
1/4 c. powdered sugar
2 T. white vinegar
1-1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 T. cold water
2 T. poppyseeds
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine cooked pasta, turkey, dried fruit, onion, celery and almonds in a bowl. Whisk dressing ingredients together until smooth and pour over pasta mixture, tossing to coat. Serve topped with extra almonds, if desired.

Many blessings to you and yours

November 25th, 2010 | Comments Off

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone…. and many thanks to you for coming by to visit.

thankful~~

November 24th, 2010 | 12 Comments »

~~ for my health, especially following last month’s car accident.

~~ for the fact that last month’s car accident was not serious

~~ for good insurance, oh thank goodness for good insurance

~~ for the 5 kittens and their mama who were rescued last month, and that someone may open their hearts and homes to them.

~~ for a wonderful, amazing, supportive, loving, accepting, gracious spouse

~~ for the best 16 year old boy anyone could ask for

~~ for the skills of my masseuse and chiropractor who keep me feeling good, and my hairdresser who is nothing short of amazing with both her talent and her personality

~~ for a nice home, good cars, warm clothes, sturdy shoes, hats & mittens, central heat, cozy blankets, good furniture, entertainment and rest

~~ for the food in our kitchen, and the ability to buy what I need

~~ for the warm fuzzy felines that lay all over me purring their love, and for their vet who keeps them healthy

~~ for the fact that life sometimes breaks your heart, then turns around and unexpectedly gives you another chance, a better story, a happier outcome. We would never appreciate those peaks of life if it weren’t for the dark valleys we travel through to get there.

~~ for being able to choose my happiness, for being strong enough to say ‘No’, for the ability to say ‘Yes’, for knowing when it’s time to let others make the decisions, for being wise enough to ask ‘Can you help me?’

~~ for being able to see that the little things in life are often far more important than anything else

~~ for family, as imperfect as they are

~~and last, but most definitely not least, I am incredibly thankful for the ladies who give me reason to smile every day, regardless of how close they are to me, or even if I’ve yet to meet them in person; wonderful and warm women who support me, encourage me, inspire me, humble me, remind me of who I am, and love me anyway. Women who seek me out, who point me out, who rave over what I do and jump with glee when they see me. Women who give me bone-crushing embraces while smiling to the end of the universe. Women who share their lives, their expertise, their failures and victories, their beautiful children, their humor and grace, and most of all, themselves……. people like Liz, Missy, Molly, Tracy, Darcie, Jennifer, Liz, Samara, Jen, Stephanie, Shaina, Crystal, Anna, Heather, Monika, Kristen, Chris Ann, Trish, Jen, Laura and Barb, Cindy ……. I suppose if I’m going to be thankful for these wonderful ladies, and the presence of them in my life then I need to also be thankful for Twitter because without that platform, and without me jumping in to it headfirst just one year ago, I wouldn’t have met any of them. And to try and stress how much it’s changed my life, and how grateful and thankful I am for them…. well, I would need an entire post to do that.

Giving thanks……

November 24th, 2009 | 6 Comments »

I’m finding more and more, and sometimes quite rapidly, that what brings me the most pleasure in life is really quite simple.

Whether it’s a shock of color discovered on my daily walk, or the foods that pass through my life, I’ve learned, with some astonishing insight, that often the greatest pleasures we can embrace are found in the tiniest of places and means.

There’s a lot of fodder in the blog world, at least in the North American contingent, regarding preparations for Thanksgiving. I’ve been skipping a lot of these posts, and not because I’m not interested, but mostly because it seems that there is a huge amount of anxiety involved in putting this meal together and making it perfect and I just can’t read about it. Where has all that come from?Somehow, some standard has been ridiculously raised and everyone is straining to jump to new heights, to take a day set aside for gratitude and thanks and make it perfect, flawless and exacting. Mark Bittman even talks about it, and gives a timely and very wise message to cooks everywhere. ‘Just Chill’ he says. He nails this one.

I used to be that way, that awful anxious and stressed person, endlessly making lists, sweating through details and cringing if foods came out less than perfect, and I am really thankful that it’s quietly slipped out of my life. Making my way through life is often all I need for producing an inordinate amount of anxiety, and when I step in my kitchen, I don’t want to be in a position to add anything to that. My kitchen should relax me and strip the rest of the world away. It’s in there that love should surpass most anything else.

These days I’m pretty thankful for that love, in any form it takes. There’s my family, a terrific husband and a pretty amazing teenager, and I’ve got my sibs who provide yet another constant. There are my amazing friends who can both hold a mirror up to me with exceptional grace and then catch me when I see what’s in it. And there’s my huge extended family on Mike’s side that fills me to overflowing. When I think about all of that, I could be reduced to tears from the gratitude I feel.

And my family, well all they really want is to come together and dwell in that love. They aren’t here on Thanksgiving for a feast beyond all belief. They don’t want to be “WOW”ed by the food, in fact, they react often with disappointment when I wander off the playing field and start tossing experimental ideas in the air. The playbook of their holidays is tattered at the edges from overuse. But it has a worn and familiar feel that they need. When they walk into my house, it’s more about who stares back at them from across the flickering candles. It’s about returning to better times in our lives when we had no idea what it was like to be a grown-up. Now I can take those tastes, the ones that stem from years of tradition, and I can make them better and more modern and they look to me for that. But they also just want their mashed potatoes, their gravy with some lumps and a pan of stuffing that they can attack and conquer. They know that I can make it all delicious, so all they really have to think about is whether or not they should refill their wine glass, which game comes out next, or the remembrance of some far distant holiday memory that still brings peals of laughter even when told for the hundredth, no, thousandth time. What’s on their plates is important, but it never has to be perfect. The setting, the faces and the laughter is perfect enough.

And I’m so very thankful for that. This past year has been challenging in so many ways, and the one comfort I’ve derived through this madness that is my life is what happens when the stove comes on and my hands become busy. I pour it all into my food, so my food can give it all back to me; the comfort, the solace and the firm realization of good that I find in my meals. But the simple truth is, I could share a takeout pizza with my guys at home on any given night and as long as I’m staring at their faces, what’s on my plate is irrelevant. Mike’s serious back injury this past May was a huge perspective shift. And Mike and Griffin, my whole world, were both in the car when it was totaled in July. Then, in September, my beloved Harmon was diagnosed with cancer. Holidays always bring about emotions that rise and fall every year: I lost a sister almost 18 years ago. My mother died unexpectedly 15 years back. The holes in my family portrait are acute and tender, and that is never going away. Between now and the end of the year, I feel those losses deeply. And it makes me that much more thankful for everyone who still sits down at my table, who asks for pumpkin pie, who loves the crunchy edges of the stuffing almost as much as I do, who cares little for something extraneous or unusual. Perfection is impossible, and family is forever. I know which one is so much more important.

My hope for everyone is that somewhere in the chaos of your family traditions and meals that you stop to embrace what you have, the faces that smile at you and take the time to appreciate them deeply. Be very thankful for the food on your table, whatever form it takes,  as we celebrate through some very tough times. Please remember that not everyone is as fortunate as you may be. Show gratitude. Speak tenderly. And have a wonderful, feast-ful, delicious and tantalizing Thanksgiving, from my house to yours.