Normally, there are a variety of Thanksgiving foods that I feel “meh” about – I’m not crazy about the jellied cranberry sauce, wobbling gently on its plate, or plain corn or beans. However, this year, the family outdid themselves, and all kinds of food perfection made it to my plate:
- The turkey was good, juicy and flavorful, but also had a crispy coat of bacon put on it before being set in the grill to cook.
- The salad was all picked fresh from my brother-in-law’s garden, and those carrots, radishes, and greens were life-giving in an otherwise heavy meal.
- The mashed potatoes, stuffing, and green bean casserole got mixed up on my plate, and I have no regrets: everything was creamy and delicious and spiced with simple pepper, salt, and garlic.
- The sweet potatoes didn’t have extra sugar on them, but they had butter and cinnamon which brought out all the best flavors of sweet potatoes.
- The pecan pie was almost entirely pecans, with just enough of the sugary binder to hold it all together, and a homemade crust that just tasted like flaky layers of butter… mmmm. We ate at 3pm and so this was also my “dinner” at 9.
- Treats like homemade chex mix, chocolate toffee, and thumbprint cookies abounded.
One of the cousins, K, talked about how much she’s enjoyed eating on Whole30, a program I’ve heard about and have considered trying. Husband and I are now resolved that January will be our Whole30 month, which will not be particularly easy but we think it could be good for some of our least healthy cravings to die down (many friends have said they just don’t want cheese and grains as much after the experience). Anyone know and like Whole30? Anyone know it and think it isn’t so great? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
In Grand Rapids, Michigan, I drank a cafe cortado made with almond milk and was grateful that little bits of my Spain experience were still possible in my journey in the States. Cafe cortado is simple despite the fancy-sounding name – it’s a shot of espresso with just a little bit of foamed milk, which means its smaller than a cappuccino but less harsh than taking a shot of espresso alone. Cortados on break from teaching in Spain were a quick pick-me-up – I don’t make espresso at home but small coffees still make me smile.
Last Friday, Husband and I helped out with a friend’s pop-up fundraiser; he’s hoping to open his own business and he turned a cool loft space into a real party atmosphere, complete with band. Husband and I were mostly there to be at the party, but we volunteered for one chore: helping to wash out glasses after people finished their drinks. We ran into the back, scrubbed up the glasses, and got them ready to be used again. It was a nice break from socializing with a bunch of people we didn’t know well, but it was also so nice to see R’s face when the whole place was packed and people were enjoying the atmosphere so much.
I remember thinking that rather than being tired, I was enlivened: so energized by the feeling of gratitude we got from having friends like this, from knowing a few folks in town and feeling included. This is how I feel this Thanksgiving: like my gratitude to the world, to friends and family and the school that employs me, propels me forward and keeps me grounded. Gratitude reminds me that everyday problems are solveable, and that by almost any comparison I care to come up with, I have so much more love in my life than I could imagine.
The propelling makes me want others to share the riches of having a growing community, of knowing others deeply and connecting in spite of differences. I am not outgoing every day of the week… or even any day, if it gets bad. I think that so much of what our nation and our world need are people finding ways to connect to each other, finding the common ground they have or, failing that, building some common ground through sharing activities, experiences, and food. A lot of people are getting together with family today who don’t agree with them on much, but hopefully they can agree on the deliciousness of cranberry relish and the satisfaction of a tummy full of turkey. I hope that ground can build some gratitude in a year when we all haven’t been behaving that well; that gratitude can carry us, I hope, into 2017.
I’m nervous, because I haven’t “thrown a party” in the States ever, because I’ve never had my new graduate school friends over to my apartment… I’ve never even had an apartment to myself before! So many firsts happened, when I got fancy cheese (I see manchego in the picture – a hold-over from Spain, where I had lived until 3 months before this party… I think I remember always worrying that people thought I was boring when I talked about it, because I was always thinking about it in those months). People had fun at the party though – my good friend E first really hung out with the boy who would become her long time love (they’re still together, nearly 4 years after that party!), I met people I still like and respect now, and we enjoyed sitting in the hammock on my tiny, rickety balcony. I cannot say I miss that time, with all the vulnerability and new-ness of life in the States again, but I can say I’m proud of my past, brave self!
I remember this one coffee shop in my college town had the best pastries – they never had a wide variety, but of the 2 or 3 things they had, everything was always delicious. My favorite was the muffin with cream cheese in the middle – it was so decadent and added a rich tinge to anything I was eating that day. Not to mention, muffins are so light and airy – it’s a wonderful juxtaposition.
In my attempt to not be a burden on the family Thanksgiving celebration, I was determined to make some breakfast treats, as I mentioned in Adult Children and Family Holidays; one of those things was a batch of these blueberry cream cheese muffins! Crazy For Crust has this wonderful recipe, which worked up exactly as she said. I didn’t do the streusel – lazy – but I am confident they would have been even better with that added!
My favorite step was definitely putting a dollop of batter, a gem of cream cheese, and then another dollop of batter on top – it was a fun construction inside some cute parchment paper muffin tins, and after they cooked all brown and caramel-y, they stored really well in a big gallon plastic bag for the trip to see the in-laws! I cannot recommend these enough as an alternative to grabbing grocery store or coffee shop pastries – fast and simple!
The key first step to a great soup or pot pie is this: a pat of butter, a pile of onions and carrots and celery, and the exquisite heat that brings their flavors together. Veggies are beautiful in many forms, but I’m especially grateful for this combination when holidays are coming around – so comforting and fresh smelling and savory!
A key ingredient in so many of our dishes, torn-apart pieces of chicken sizzling with olive oil and spices were the key ingredient in today’s Beautiful Food: Chicken Pot Pie and also in so many other dishes. I never let it last this long, but it’s a great thing to keep in you freezer for faster meal prep!