Tag Archive | Thanksgiving

Tired of Turkey? Optional Thanksgiving Treats

Wild Turkey

Gobble, Gobble… Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

In anticipation of the USA’s annual stuff-our-stomach-with-as-much-turkey-as-possible-a-thon … a.k.a. Thanksgiving, I wanted to be sure that you, dear readers, had a few delicious options for what to do when you are well, simply put – tired of turkey.

Of course, the day after your filling Thanksgiving feast you can always make yourself the traditional turkey sandwich with your leftovers, or simply re-heat the whole meal and enjoy all over again. For me, it usually ends there and even at Christmas time my family is still too tired of the turkey taste to cook another on Christmas Day. Instead, my husband has always prepared a delicious filet mignon with lobster tail meal – and there is never a leftover in sight to have to worry about!

Several years ago at a chain store called Ollie’s, near my mother’s house in a small Pennsylvania town, I bought a set of 10 short hardback cookbooks for $10.00 (LW Press – a division of Publications International, Ltd.). What a bargain, and they are simply adorable! I know, perhaps a strange adjective to describe cookbooks, yet it’s true. Each has a different theme: Comfort Food, Slow Cooker Recipes, Soups & Stews, Favorite Chili Recipes, Hearty Casseroles, Simple Winter Meals, Classic Appetizers, Easy Appetizers, Holiday Appetizers, and Kids’ Favorite Christmas Cookies. These cookbooks are great because rather than search through one big one for a recipe that might suit my craving, I can just breeze through the few pages in the book I’m interested in. All of the recipes are easy-breezy and do not require a lot in the way of fancy, what-in-the-world-is-that ingredient and where in the grocery store would I find it? The cooking directions are clear, and pictures accompany many of the recipes.

Cookbooks

The best $10 I ever spent!

Below, I share with you three of my favorite recipes from the categories of Appetizers, Slow Cooker Recipes, and Desserts. Bon Appétit!

Oh, and of course … let me know if you enjoyed making any of these tasty dishes as well!

Sweet potatoes

Turn these spuds into Sweet Potato Chips! Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Appetizers –

Microwave Sweet Potato Chips

2 cups thinly sliced sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons margarine

Place sweet potatoes, in single layer, in microwavable dish. Sprinkle with water. Microwave at HIGH 5 minutes. Stir in brown sugar and margarine. Microwave at HIGH 2 to 3 minutes. Let stand a few minutes before serving. Makes 4 servings.

 

Slow Cooker Recipes – Cheesy Slow Cooker Chicken

6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 ½ pounds)

Salt

Black Pepper

Garlic Powder

2 cans (10 ¾ ounces each) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted

1 can (10 ¾ ounces) condensed cheddar cheese soup, undiluted

Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

1) Place 3 chicken breasts in slow cooker. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Repeat with remaining 3 breasts and seasonings.

2) Combine soups in medium bowl; pour over chicken. Cover; cook on LOW 6 to 8 hours or until chicken is no longer pink in center. Garnish with parsley before serving, if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

 

 

Mmmmm, Mmmmm, Good! Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Mmmmm, Mmmmm, Good! Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Desserts – Peanut Butter Chocolate Chippers

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter

1 egg

¾ cup milk chocolate chips

granulated sugar

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2) Beat brown sugar, peanut butter, and egg in medium bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add chocolate chips; stir well.

3) Shape heaping tablespoonfuls of dough into 1 ½-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

4) Dip fork into granulated sugar; press criss-cross fashion onto each ball, flattening to ½-inch thickness.

5) Bake 12 minutes or until set. Cool on cookie sheets 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Note: This simple recipe is unusual because it doesn’t contain any flour – but it still makes great cookies!

 

Being Content: In the Midst of Typhoons, Tornadoes, Thanksgiving and Black Friday Sales

By Karen Hendricks

Typhoon Haiyan 2

Debris lines the streets of Tacloban, Leyte island. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Today, as I write this, there are horrific scenes coming out of the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan: complete devastation, bodies in makeshift graves, debris everywhere. The scenes out of America’s mid-west are also disturbing. Tornadoes ravaged Illinois and Indiana last weekend, however, thankfully the death toll was extremely low. Natural disasters are especially hard to comprehend during the holiday season.

Turn on the TV or radio (even the :15 ads on Pandora Radio), check your mailbox, pick up a newspaper, and you’ll be bombarded by ads promoting Black Friday specials. The Christmas holiday season however, doesn’t seem to be kicking off on Black Friday. Instead, it’s invading the turkey-induced peacefulness of Thanksgiving evening. Lots of stores are opening their doors Thursday night so that shoppers can allegedly get the best bargains. What happened to the meaning behind Thanksgiving, the thankfulness that we’re supposed to be honoring?

So in the wake of natural disasters, death, devastation and the pure greed of Black Thursday/Friday shopping… I am offering a solution: being content.

Last spring, I wrote about “the margins” in our lives (click here)—the need for unstructured time in which to breathe, reconnect with friends and family and simply “be.” I have since finished reading the book Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. My women’s group had some awesome discussions that are still rattling around in my brain!

One of the lasting impressions from this book is the idea of being “content.” What does it truly mean to be content? I thought I knew… but the book helped me to see contentedness in a new light.

From the chapter “Health Through Contentment,” under the subtitle “Inextinguishable Discontent,” Swenson writes, “Discontent as a driving force for a society might make that society rich, but it will bankrupt it in the end. As the coffer fills, the soul empties.”

I always thought of “contentment” as “happiness,” being satisfied with what I had, what I earned, where I was in life. However since the book Margin is written from a Christian perspective, Swenson defines contentment as a two-step process: not only accepting whatever comes from God’s hand, but also putting our faith and trust in God. It’s having a peaceful, secure feeling that God has our back. It’s “a joy that exists in spite of circumstances and looks to the God who never varies.”

Swenson writes that contentment is not:

  • “the comfortable feeling of well-being when all our needs and desires are met”
  • Pursuit of the American dream
  • Keeping our circumstances under control
  • Pretending that things are right when they’re not

Consulting another source… Being content is defined as “An internal satisfaction which does not demand changes in external circumstances.”—Holman Bible Dictionary

I know it’s a lot to absorb! But more and more, given the headlines, I am trying to be content, at peace, and thankful.

One other area of my life has me examining this feeling of contentment. So many friends of mine are returning to work, driven by a desperate feeling that they need to earn money towards their children’s college fund(s). Let me tell you, as a parent of a college freshman, I can testify that the cost of college can indeed send you into a tailspin. And I don’t blame them for feeling this sense of desperation.

However, I realize more and more that I am not living out “the norm” by stepping off the merry-go-round of crazy-paced, full-time employment while many of my friends are jumping back on that same carousel. Working for myself, enjoying a handful of clients and the work they send my way, has given me wonderful fulfillment, more time for my family and finally—some margin in my life. A combination of factors helps us afford the cost of college: yes, both of our jobs for which we are thankful, but also an examination of our family spending and our efforts to reduce those costs where we can—trimming our phone/cable bills, trimming grocery bills, cutting out extravagances, etc. This helps separate needs from wants. It’s a challenge, in our society, to be content with life and put complete faith in God.

Food for thought, as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday.

Wishing all of our readers a joyful, blessed Thanksgiving—filled with a renewed sense of contentment. 

Typhoon Haiyan

Philippine civilians walk out of what remains of the Guiuan East Central Elementary School in Guiuan, Philippines, Nov. 17, 2013. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Typhoon Haiyan 3

A Guiuan woman stands outside of her makeshift shack in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

 

Celebrating National Adoption Month and the Blessing of Family

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

Those of you who read Mary Ann Filler’s blog, “Change Your Perspective,” were likely as moved as I was. Yet for me, it was more than just her message of looking outside ourselves and our world into that of others to see our blessings.

What actually most impressed me was that she had set out to write on one topic and then–bam–changed it completely because she just had to write about what was in her heart at that moment. That’s what we writers do. We see something, hear something, experience something … and we just have to write it down. Then we find that we just have to share it. And that’s what I felt like I had to do late this Monday night as I sat by the fire, warming my tired and aching back.

For nearly two years now, I have been living (sort of) and dealing (barely) with chronic pain through two conditions. To spare you the details, I will just say that fortunately neither of my conditions is life-threatening. The first actually has now been completely treated and resolved, and the second is getting there.

Although certainly this does at the end of the day make me grateful, those who have been through the same thing know that non-stop chronic pain and all that goes with it–pain management regiments, endless doctor’s visits, various treatments and procedures, and some big lifestyle changes really affects you and your family.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am especially thankful for the endless and unconditional love, support, and grace I have received from my family. Although just a small one–comprised of my husband, son, and dog–the three of them have helped me hold my life together when I have felt it coming unraveled. The best part about my family? It was not built by blood–it was built by choice and by love.

Few of the people I consider extended family are biologically related to me. As far as I’m concerned, whoever created the expression “blood is thicker than water” was wrong. In my experience, those have generally not been the people who have been a part of our lives. Rather, it has been those who have come into our lives and stayed, who have become a part of our family by choice.

November is National Adoption Month. President Obama wrote a powerful and stirring proclamation to mark the month as such, and to let the world know what a special way adoption is to build a one’s family. I share it with you at the end of this post, and encourage you this Thanksgiving and the rest of this month to do three things:

1) Count your blessings – all of them, no matter how small.

Recently, one of the specialists I am working with delivered a difficult message to hear: I will not be able to run again. As a former avid runner, who found great peace, solace, comfort, and even triumph over life’s many trials through running, I was devastated. That is, until I realized that I have been, over time, replacing that activity with another–Middle Eastern dance. It is a doctor-approved activity I can safely do with my condition and it actually strengthens my body. Oh yeah, and I’m good at it–blessing counted!

2) Support and uplift all those people you know who have dealt with infertility and loss of children, and who have struggled to build their family. Celebrate with those who have finally done so through adoption.

Recently, I talked with a cousin of mine who had suffered miscarriages as well. For her, even though she is now a grandmother and that time of great sadness was so long ago, discussing it still brought her to tears. The pain never goes away.

Also, it hurts when an adoptive family is shut out from extended family activities and doesn’t feel embraced by those around them. It is, quite simply, not their job to have to fight to be included, or to feel welcomed and embraced. Rather, it is the job of the adoptive family’s extended family members and friends to go out of their way to make extra sure they are being sensitive to that adoptive family, and to see that they feel welcomed, embraced, and included. Your acceptance and love will mean more than you could ever know to them – please read my blog, “Supporting Adoptive Families” for some ideas on how you can be that special person in their lives!

3) Look around to find people who can fill the shoes of anyone biologically related to you who, for whatever reason, isn’t willing to be a part of your life.

For awhile, my husband and I were really feeling down about this issue in our lives. It took us awhile to process through it, yet finally we made a decision to stop wallowing in the loss, change our perspective, and begin building our family through those whom we choose and who choose us. Our spirits have now lifted greatly, our feelings of sadness and loss have dissipated, and – best of all – our little boy is going to grow up around some pretty fantastic and loving people!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, and happy National Adoption Month. Here’s to our families–no matter how they are built!

NATIONAL ADOPTION MONTH, 2012

– – – – – – –

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

As a Nation that believes all children deserve the chance to reach their full potential, we have a fundamental responsibility to ensure each of them grows up knowing the love and protection of a permanent family. During National Adoption Month, we give voice to children who are still waiting for that opportunity, celebrate the bond that unites adoptive parents with their sons and daughters, and recommit to providing every child with the care and security that will nurture their development and well-being.

Later this month, many Americans will also mark National Adoption Day by completing a foster care adoption and embracing a new member of their family. Driven by reasons unique to their households but united by the spirit of compassion that moves all who choose to adopt, these parents will take up our country’s most important task — the work of raising our sons and daughters. As we celebrate the contributions of adoptive parents across our Nation, let us also strive to eliminate discriminatory barriers that would separate foster children from a loving family. Adoptive families come in many forms, and it is essential that all qualified adults have the opportunity to care for a child in need.

My Administration remains committed to helping every child find a loving home. We have partnered with faith-based and community organizations across America to help connect children with adoptive parents, and we continue to work with State, local, and tribal governments to improve child outcomes; enhance safety, permanency, and well-being; and support adoptive families. I was proud to sign the Affordable Care Act and the International Adoption Simplification Act, which have made it easier for families to adopt, as well as the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act, which will help reduce the length of time young children are without families. We have built on those efforts as part of the National Adoption Campaign, which continues to bring adoption and foster care into our national conversation.

Thousands of children living in America hope for the comfort and safety of a loving family. This month, we pay tribute to the dedicated professionals who help make those children’s dreams a reality, sharpen our resolve to find a permanent home for every child, and celebrate the stories of all whose lives have been touched by adoption.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2012 as National Adoption Month. I encourage all Americans to observe this month by answering the call to find a permanent and caring family for every child in need, and by supporting the families who care for them.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.

BARACK OBAMA

Homemade vs. Store-Bought and Other Life and Death Situations

By Karen Hendricks

Thanksgiving is that one time of year, even more than Christmas I believe, when we prepare homemade dishes.  “From scratch” is the catch phrase.  Traditional, tried-and-true family recipes return to our tables year after year.  Although I love revisiting these recipes (they are like old friends), sometimes it’s fun to shake things up a bit with a new recipe or two, wouldn’t you agree?

For example, there are just too many delicious dessert recipes and not enough time to try them all!  So although we normally have a traditional apple or pumpkin pie, I will often make, or our guests will often offer to bring, NEW exciting dessert creations every year.  Great fun!

But in terms of the traditional main dishes of Thanksgiving, it feels like breaking a sacred code, to consider deviating from your family’s most favorite recipes.  Imagine hearing a collective intake of breath if you announced that this year you just plain didn’t make (fill in the blank with your prized recipe here).   Has your family ever experienced this catastrophe?  When I worked full-time, I would stay up all hours of the night in order to prep for the traditional main dishes of Thanksgiving.   I did not want to break tradition!  No wonder the turkey made me super-sleepy the next day.

One of my grandmothers was famous for asking, “Is this home-made?” or “Did you make this from scratch?”  Heaven forbid, if a mix was involved, she was not interested.  The joke was on her though, when several times she found out AFTER eating a piece of cake, AND complimenting the baker, that that delicious cake actually originated with the dreaded cake mix.  But the funniest irony of them all was… she herself didn’t bake at all!  Family stories, especially those told in the kitchen, are a wonderful part of Thanksgiving.

For my traditional, German grandmother, store-bought dishes just wouldn’t do especially on a holiday like Thanksgiving.  Maybe that is why it is engrained in me.  But I am starting to soften, and I don’t think it would be a crime to take shortcuts, use mixes or even consider store-bought pies (gasp).  After all, whether you are working part-time or full-time, juggling a career and family, time is precious and the bottom line is… the most important part of the holidays is spending time together.  If you have the time to prepare homemade dishes, they can be wonderful times spent with your children, teaching them how to make these treasured favorites.  But if you don’t have time to make everything you want from scratch, don’t stress.  There’s bound to be family drama with or without your favorite dishes on the table!

I’m going to share one of my family’s favorite recipes, featuring corn as an ingredient.  I love the golden color of corn dishes, as a reminder of the colorful fall season.  This recipe comes from an early 1970s edition of Informal Entertaining Country Style by the Food Editors of Farm Journal.  It was given to me by my “other” grandmother, “Nannie,” (not my traditional, German “Grammy”).   I first tried this recipe a year or two after my husband and I married, and it’s been a favorite ever since, 20+ years later. The original recipe calls for canned corn, but I’ve always used frozen corn instead.

Scalloped Corn

  • ½ c. chopped onion
  • ½ c. chopped green pepper
  • ¼ c. butter or margarine
  • ¼ c. flour
  • 1 ½ t. salt
  • ¼ t. pepper
  • ½ t. dry mustard
  • 1 ½ c. milk
  • 2 lb. frozen corn, thawed a bit
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • ¾ c. cracker crumbs (saltines or Townhouse work fine)
  • 2 T. melted butter

Cook and stir the onion and green pepper in ¼ c. butter or margarine until the onion is tender; do not brown.  Remove from heat and stir in the flour, salt, pepper and mustard.  Cook and stir over low heat until mixture is bubbly hot.  Remove from heat and gradually stir in milk.  Stir and heat to boiling; boil 5 min.  Stir in corn and eggs.  Pour into greased 2-qt. casserole dish.  Combine the cracker crumbs with 2 T. melted butter; sprinkle over top.  Bake at 350 degrees 40-45 min.

*I have prepared this dish the day before; stored it in the refrigerator and it reheats beautifully.

Many blessings to you and your family this Thanksgiving!

Change Your Perspective

(Photo Credit: AP) Absorbing the impact of Hurricane Sandy

By Mary Ann Filler

I am thankful!  I am thankful for many things, including the love of an amazing family, a roof over my head, clothing and food.  I am thankful that we live in a country that allows its citizens to vote for our leaders and worship freely.  I hope that you have a thankful spirit as well.  If not, then consider changing your perspective…

As I sat down to put the finishing touches on what I thought would be my next blog, I just couldn’t bring myself to complete it.  I was writing about meal planning and preparation. However, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and an election that has divided our great country seemingly right down the middle, it just didn’t seem fitting or proper to blog on such a mundane topic.  Instead, I thought that we all might benefit from gaining some perspective.

While reading news items online regarding the hurricane victims, I saw an image of two elderly people rooting through a dumpster for food and was brought to tears.   How humbling of an experience that must have been.  Perhaps there was a time just a few short weeks ago that they had plenty or even an abundance of food to eat.  Then, I got to thinking that for some of our fellow Americans this is indeed a normal occurrence.

(Photo Credit: Jonathan Vigliotti, Twitter) Desperate families in East Village dumpster dive for discarded groceries.

(Photo Credit: Reuters) Hurricane Sandy victims are helped by a volunteer to load food and other items from a FEMA and American Red Cross aid and disaster relief station in the hard-hit Staten Island section of New York City November 2, 2012.

(Photo Credit: KatieCouric.com) Jon Bon Jovi makes sandwiches for hurricane victims at his soup kitchen in Red Bank, NJ.

Admittedly, there are times when I struggle to prepare meals.  Not because my family lacks resources, but because we’re spoiled.  Our children have had the luxury of picking and choosing what they “like” to eat rather than eating because they are hungry.  Of course, they will tell you that they are “starving” and want to know when dinner will be ready.  But, in truth, they do not know what it is to go hungry; nor do I for that matter.

Seeing people in these hurricane ravaged areas who have perhaps never gone hungry a day in their life, has given me something to consider as I catch myself “complaining” about food preparation.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook, but my biggest dilemma is what to have for dinner.  Now that seems so trivial and ridiculous.

When considering others who are less fortunate, there are other domestic duties that can be thought of with a new perspective.  For example, when I go into my laundry room and the laundry is piled to the ceiling, I can look at that pile in a new light.  My family is well clothed.  If any one of the members of my family was no longer with us, I would not have as much laundry, but would that be better?  I have the resources of clean water and a washer and dryer.  For many in our country and world, these basic needs are not met.

Photo Credit: David Handschuh, New York Daily News. Photographer David Handschuh explains just how devastating this storm has been for the New York City community. “I’ve covered earthquakes, hurricanes and a slew of disasters both man made and natural around the world for the Daily News over the last 25 years, but the level of damage and the amount of destruction I witnessed in Breezy Point, the Rockaways and along Cross Bay Blvd. is of unbelievable proportion.” Here, some of that damage is seen in Breezy Point on Nov. 1, 2012.

There is another area that I believe we all might benefit from some perspective.  How about the recent election?  Did your “man” win?  As I’m writing this, our country does not yet know who will be our president the next four years.  Regardless of the outcome, I hope that all of you will consider that there are countries in our world that don’t have the right to vote.  Recently, I read that the Chinese delight in speculating whether President Barack Obama will fend off Republican challenger Mitt Romney, but they are more captivated by Americans’ ability to vote for their leader. Their own leaders are distant figures whom they have no way of replacing.” (US Election Fascinates Chinese; some envy voters, 11/5/12, Didi Tang, Associated Press).  We have the right to vote for the leader of our country, and if we don’t like the outcome we have another opportunity to make a change in four years.

Before I close, I just want to mention that one of the greatest ways to change your perspective is to take action.  This time of year presents many opportunities to reach out to others who are less fortunate by giving of your time, talent or resources.  Please consider doing what you can to ease the suffering of our fellow human beings.  For example, to donate to the victims of Hurricane Sandy, via the Red Cross, click here.

In a little over two weeks’ time we will be gathering around the Thanksgiving table and reflecting on that for which we are thankful.   My hope is that you won’t wait until that time to think about all of the blessings in your life.  Change your perspective and remember, “someone else is happy with less than what you have.” (author unknown).