Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Going Around the Table

When I was a little kid, whenever Thanksgiving rolled around, my parents insisted that we go around the table and share what we were thankful for. Those moments have long since passed, but it's one of my warmest memories from this special holiday, Thanksgiving.

Looking back on those memories around our rarely used dining room table, tears well in my eyes. They are beautiful memories, and I wish I had been a little more thoughtful on a few of my turns (especially during those, ahem, teenage years). As a mother of two young children now, I want to make sure they have beautiful and fond memories of their Thanksgivings past.

This year, we're spending Thanksgiving with my husband's family. They don't go around the table and talk about what they're thankful for, but it's a celebration of thanks nonetheless. Since we won't be sharing our thoughts tomorrow, I thought I'd share them now.

As asked by my daddy for so many Thanksgivings, "Elizabeth, what are you thankful for this year?"

I am thankful for my beloved daughters. They are my light and my reason for being. I love them with my whole heart.

I am thankful for my husband, my rock, my best friend. I thank him for the gift of our two darlings. I thank him for loving me with all my flaws.

I am thankful for my family--my parents, siblings, my niece and nephew, my in-laws and extended family. I really am a lucky lady.

I am thankful for my friends.

I am thankful for finding a craft (cooking!) that fulfills me, and I thank my husband for supporting me in all the homemade craziness.

I am thankful for the recipes passed to me by family and friends. Thank you for helping warm our hearts and fill our tummies.

I am thankful for a job that's challenging and keeps me on my toes. (Though, I'd be even more thankful if my schedule calmed down a bit.)

I am thankful and grateful for all that we have, and will try harder to give more to those who have less.

So, now, in my family's tradition and as I wipe tears from my eyes, it's my turn to ask, "What are you thankful for this year?"

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Game On

So, last week, the dearly devoted hubby bought a two-pound bag of cranberries. He bet me a margarita if I could use the entire bag. Since then, he's agreed that for each cranberry-laced goodie I make, I get a margarita. Yum! As of tonight, I've baked my way through half the bag, and plan on using the other half this weekend when we host our annual Fauxgiving with some friends.

This week, the hubby raised the stakes by buying a three-pound bag of pecans. (Can you tell that we've recently become Costco members?) I plan to blow his mind this week by using both "secret" ingredients later this week. Maybe that'll earn me a Mai Thai ... on the beach ... in Hawaii. (A girl can dream!)

In all reality, I wish I was a little more creative with these secret ingredients. As my husband told me this week, out of all the recipes we can make, we only cook a fraction of 1 percent of what's out there. 

Is that another challenge? If I could muster the strength, I might try a "365 homemade dinners expedition," making a different homemade gem every night for a year. But, with a crazy work schedule -- that isn't showing mercy -- to weekly migraine attacks (how much fun is that? *noted sarcasm*), I'll just do these little friendly bets with the hubby. Who knows? Maybe in January, I'll kick off a 90-day bet of 90 different, unique homemade dinners for 90 days. Anyone can do anything for 90 days, right? Right?


A perfect way to celebrate a summer-like
November evening
Well, between now and then, I took my beloved's statement as a challenge. Last night, I kicked off a new recipe voyage with pulled pork, chow chow and potato salad. I think that choice was a winner. Afterall, I stumbled across this posted on his Facebook page last night:
"99 percent of the time, my mouth, esophagus, stomach and brain are pleased and more than satisfied by Elizabeth's cooking. But tonight? Holy Moses. Another stratosphere of cooking and pure deliciousness!"
I'll take that as a "win!" And the girls agreed. They loved the "chicken." Let's face it, when you're 2 and 3, everything is chicken. And, they loved the chow chow and baked beans. We need to work on the potato salad, though.

Tonight, I tried for a second win.  If last night's dinner was a homerun, then tonight's was only a double. (Hey hubby, look, a sports metaphor!) I didn't get any rousing kudos and I certainly didn't get any public accolades on Facebook. (*sniffle*) I thought dinner was delicious: rouladen and spaetzel. Maybe he was bitter that I had him helping skim the spaetzel or whisk the gravy. But, the kiddos agreed. Our oldest wouldn't touch the stuff, even though she's a bacon fanatic. The littlest one liked the spaetzel and loved the soup (er, gravy). But, she wouldn't even try the "chicken" tonight. 

Rouladen and spaetzel
For dessert, I made fresh cranberry and chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. (If I had only thought of adding some pecans to the batter.) So, maybe with the cookies, it was a triple, when all is said and done. 

But after this weekend, and after my lovely husband's little seemingly innocent comment, I'm on a new mission: not only to come up with homemade meals as often as we can (we're averaging six days a week), but now, to find unique meals to expand our portfolio. We want to expose our children to all sorts of yummy things. And on a good night, when they're not intent on eating a bowl of Cheerios, perhaps they'll taste something unique that they love ... like chow chow. 


* * *
Fresh Cranberry and Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies (Courtesy of Coconut and Lime)

 Ingredients:

Fresh from the oven:
A unique cookie recipe
that uses FRESH
cranberries, not craisins!
1 1/2 cup fresh cranberries3/4 cup dark brown sugar3/4 cup flour1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats1/4 cup semisweet mini chips4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature1/4 teaspoon salt1 teaspoon vanilla paste1 teaspoon baking powder1/4 teaspoon ground ginger1 egg

Directions:Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper*. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, vanilla and sugar. Add the egg, beat until fluffy. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, and oatmeal. Mix until well combined. Fold in cranberries** and chips. Place 1 tablespoon sized blobs of dough on the cookie sheet (about 1/2 inch apart) and bake for 12-14 minutes or until they look "set" and the bottoms are just brown. Carefully, remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Yield: about 2 dozen cookies



Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Bet ...

So, yesterday, my husband and youngest daughter decided to do Mommy a favor and do the grocery shopping. Without a list. Without telling me. As a surprise. (I was with our other daughter at gymnastics.)

Yes, I'm sure you can see where this is going.

Although he had the best of intentions, we'll have to go back to the store today for some staples he overlooked -- like, um, milk -- but he had the best of intentions. But, my husband also likes to be clever. He thinks it's cute. (Eh, it's somewhat endearing ,*smile*.)

Anyway, when he walked in the door, he was so proud of himself.

"I have a bet for you," he said with a smile on his face. "And if you can do it, you get a margarita."

Well, anyone who knows me knows I love a good margarita. And a good bet.

So, he pulls out a three-pound bag of cranberries. 

"You have to find something to do with all of these cranberries," he said. "And then you get a margarita."

Really? How is that fair?

Pumpkin cranberry bread.
Every time I make a recipe, I should get a margarita. 

Right??

So, I started the bet yesterday by making pumpkin cranberry bread. Well, that only takes care of 1.5 cups of the berries. And, slap forehead, he likes the bread so much, he declared last night that he'll start buying a "surprise ingredient" each week from here on out. (Since when did I wake up on the set of Iron Chef?)

I still have well over two pounds to work with. So, I do not see a margarita in my future any time soon. According to the bag, the cranberries will stay good for four weeks, so I have some time. I do plan on making some hearty cranberry sauce for our annual Fauxgiving we host with some friends the week before Thanksgiving. But, I need some other ideas. 

Anyone have any good cranberry recipes out there? I really would like a margarita.

* * *

Pumpkin Cranberry bread (Courtesy of Ocean Spray)


Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups Ocean Spray® Fresh or Frozen Cranberries, coarsely chopped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350ยบF.

Grease and flour an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pan.

Combine dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Combine remaining ingredients, except cranberries, in a separate mixing bowl. Add to dry ingredients, stirring just until dry ingredients are moist. Stir in cranberries.

Spread evenly in a loaf pan. Bake 1 1/2 hours or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. Remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes one loaf.