Posts Tagged ‘thanksgiving’

It’s been a while since we have cooked together on the blog. I’m not sure why I’ve been so delinquent to share fun recipes with you, but Christmas seemed like a good time to share a recipe I’ve made with success for the holidays a couple of years in a row. While turkey and stuffing is standard for Thanksgiving, it might also be on your menu for Christmas, as it was for Bart and me when we invited a couple of friends over for smoked turkey this weekend (this might just become a tradition). I like this recipe for bread dressing and wanted to share it with you!


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Bart and I spent Thanksgiving down in Raleigh (where else?) with family last week. Since his sister is due with her second in January, she won’t be able to travel over Christmas, so we decided to all meet there for Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday festivities.

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I sincerely wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving today. Even if times are tough or things are rough, let’s remember all of the blessings we do have and appreciate the opportunity to grow through hardship.

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” (‭Psalm‬ ‭9‬:‭1‬ ESV)

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Thanksgiving may be a distant memory now, but that didn’t stop the Taylors from preparing a Thanksgiving-style feast for our friends on Friday evening.

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Today I have a buffet of topics that are cooking at the Taylors’ house this week (and they all, ironically, happen to be food related), so grab a fork and spoon and let’s dive in.

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I want to wish you all a happy Thanksgiving today! It’s also the first day of Hanukkah, so holiday greetings to those celebrating the Festival of Lights, too.

Last year, Bart and I had just moved to the DC area one week before Thanksgiving, so we celebrated the day by ourselves and eating on a plastic folding table.

It was a fine holiday, and we were thankful to be spending it together after just starting a new journey. But we’re very thankful to have friends and family to spend the day with this year.

I hope that, whatever our circumstances today, we still can count our blessings and appreciate the good things we’ve been given.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)

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For some reason, I volunteered to bring three separate desserts to Thanksgiving tomorrow at our friends’ house. I’m not sure what got into me, but the compulsion to make copious amounts traditional holiday treats proved stronger than reason.

I decided to make a pecan pie, a spice cake, and a pumpkin roll. I’ve made pecan pie before and I make spice cake all the time, but a pumpkin roll is a mysterious and unknown object to me. I had never heard of such a thing before I met Bart, but it’s a standard treat and family favorite that his mother makes every year. She gave me the recipe a couple of years ago, but I’d never considered making it before. It looked complicated and intimidating. I also don’t usually love pumpkin flavored treats. However, my friend Kenda gifted me with a charming little pie pumpkin and a recipe for pumpkin purée this fall. I roasted and puréed it a week ago, and with this star ingredient now sitting in my freezer, I decided this was finally the moment to tackle this new holiday treat.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. The first task for the pumpkin roll is to prepare your pan for the cake part. Grease a 15″x10″ jellyroll pan or lipped cookie sheet and press a sheet of waxed paper on the bottom and sides. Grease the waxed paper, too. Make sure to get the sides of the pan; I missed these, and removing the paper was more difficult there.

Now, make the batter for the cake. In a medium bowl, combine 3/4 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and about a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice (I made my own from cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice, and it ended up being a little over a teaspoon).

With a mixer, beat three eggs, then add one cup of sugar, one teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 2/3 cups pumpkin purée. Here’s my homemade batch thawed and ready to go, but you can use canned if you are a normal and sane person who hasn’t roasted his own gourd.

Now, slowly incorporate the dry mixture and mix until just combined. Pour this into your lined pan and bake at 375 for 11-13 minutes, or until the cake springs back to the touch.


While the cake is baking, lay out a cotton tea towel (basically, any towel that is woven like a sheet and not terry like a bath towel) and sprinkle it with powdered sugar. I used a small wire strainer to disperse.

When the cake comes out of the oven, it’s time for the most terrifying part. Carefully flip the pan over and turn the cake out onto the tea towel, then free it from the waxed paper. Now, starting from one end, very gently roll up the cake and towel. Fervently pray that the cake doesn’t split. Be thankful when it doesn’t.

Let this cool on a wire rack for a little while; about an hour worked for me. In the meantime, wash dishes, bake two cakes (since the oven is already preheated and you’ve overcommitted yourself on desserts), wash dishes again, then prepare the cream cheese filling.

With a mixer, beat one 8-oz. package of cream cheese, softened, six tablespoons of butter, softened, and one teaspoon vanilla extract. Slowly combine one cup of sifted powdered sugar. Normally, I am too lazy and jaded to sift my powdered sugar, but I did it this time out of pure fear of somehow messing this recipe up. I used the same strainer employed for dusting the tea towel.

Carefully blend until smooth. Despite sifting, mine was still lumpy. I feel vindicated to never sift again.

Now, unroll your cooled cake and carefully spread the filling over it. I tapered the thickness down at one end where the roll ends so it wouldn’t squirt out the seam.

Finally, roll the cake and filling (not the towel!) into final form.

Wrap snugly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. I think this will help fill in any gaps between layers, or that’s what I hope, since mine is not all that beautiful looking at this point. Dust with powdered sugar if desired, then slice and serve. I haven’t gotten this far yet, so I have no beautiful final photos. But regardless of how it looks, Bart sampled a nibble of the cake and scraped the bowl of filling, so he assures me it’s going to be delicious. And at the end of the day, that’s what matters!

So, thanks Connie T. for the recipe, the inspiration to try something new for the holidays, and the confidence to bring copious amounts of food to share with loved ones! (I have to be nice to my mother-in-law; she’s a regular reader. 😉 Fortunately, she’s great and makes it easy!)

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Evidently, November is a popular month for challenges. There’s NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month) and, of course, Movember/No-Shave November (I’m not participating in any of these). I’m even sporting the Eating-Out Challenge here on the blog. But another month-long movement that has really turned into an internet tradition over the last couple of years is “Thirty Days of Thanks.” I have seen numbered status updates popping up all over Facebook since last Friday. Seeing their posts makes feel a bit like a delinquent for not participating on there, but that doesn’t mean at all that I am not thankful or grateful for a very blessed life.

There are the obvious things I’m thankful for: my faith, my husband, my family, a new house, good health, my job, plenty of food on the table. I’m also thankful for the many extravagant privileges I am afforded by my situation, like having the funds to splurge on fun things now and then, being young and able and free, and getting to spend many years of my life studying so I can have a career, not just a job. Not only am I thankful for these things, I am humbled to list them specifically; when I see them written out, they seem so frivolous compared to the struggles faced by many around the world.

My friend Bobby Pruett from Boulder introduced me to the idea of “blessed to be a blessing” during the years I was in school at CU. That phrase was the mantra of his family and the focus of his whole ministry to students at the university. In Genesis 12:2, God directly tells Abraham that He would magnificently bless him. But God doesn’t stop there; He clearly indicates that the the blessings given to Abraham are given with the full intent of their being poured out to others. There is no expectation of the blessing being given to Abraham and his descendants for their own pleasure, with a little of the bounty rubbing off on other people if they happened to wander by while it was wafting through the air. The reason for the blessing was to pass it along; Abraham was to be the curator of blessing, a vessel poured out, a distribution center.

In light of these things, I am reminded of all the blessings I receive, and I, as a spiritual descendant of Abraham, have an obligation to pay it forward. While I am so caught up in the things I have, like a new house or a job or family, I forget that those things aren’t just for my own enjoyment. Thanksgiving isn’t just about giving thanks; it’s about identifying my blessings like resources and finding out how I can use them to improve the lives of people around me. For me, this means doing my job well and providing a quality service for those who depend on it. I also should focus less on doing things to my new house and more on using it to help people who need a place to stay or to feed someone who could use a break from buying groceries and fixing a meal. I can use our ample space to entertain, to enjoy the company of friends and to build our relationships. Time is a big one–am I wasting it playing Candy Crush and watching TV, or am I investing it in relationships and my own personal development? November is a timely reminder to not get tunnel vision about my own self, but to think about others.

And on a related note, I’ve always wondered–doesn’t there have to be an object of thanksgiving? Typically, when you give something, there has to be an recipient of the transaction. Therefore, if we give thanks, it makes sense that we should be giving thanks to the source of what we are thankful for. Since I believe all things come from God, I clearly should turn my gratitude to Him foremost, even though I don’t nearly as much as I should (even then, it’s impossible to express adequate thanks for everything He has done). We also have so many people around us–family, friends, maybe even people we don’t know–who give to us, be it their love or time, or things we need or extras we enjoy. Be sure to thank them as well and let them know they are appreciated.

This holiday season, I encourage you to think about all the things that you do have in your life. Don’t take them for granted. Appreciate them; think about how you can pay them forward to others. Most of all, consider where these blessings come from and give ample credit where credit is due. I’m speaking primarily to myself here, but I hope you also enjoy this season on a deeper level this year by paying forward the things you are thankful for and expressing your gratitude to those who deserve it.

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Now that we’re fully moved in and partially settled, Bart and I are trying to return to some semblance of normalcy in our daily routine. One thing that has been unusual and pervasive for us over the last half a year or more is eating out multiple times a week. We enjoy going out for a meal as a fun activity now and again, but we were relying on restaurants for food more than we typically do.

One reason for this increase in eating out was house-hunting; we would be out almost all day on Saturdays and Sundays and need to eat between showings. Another reason was my periodic lack of motivation and inspiration in the kitchen, which happens to us all at some time or another. Then, during the final weeks of packing one kitchen, moving, and unpacking into another one, we were forced to eat out with abandon as we had limited resources to cook our own meals.

Needless to say, this dining schedule begins to add up considerably in cost as well as health. It’s easy to toss a few twenties or your credit card at the check when you finish a meal without thinking, but when I stop to really look at the dollar amount of some meals, I can hardly believe I’m willing to spend that much on one meal, especially when I would balk on spending that much on an item I would use every day at home. Now, obviously we have to eat, and that does cost money, but I can cook so much cheaper at home, and most of the time it’s just as tasty. Also, we are used to eating pretty well when we cook, but when I go out for a meal, I’m definitely not ordering a salad with a side veggies. So, it seemed like November would be the perfect time to get back to our normal routine, but with a kick. To keep us motivated, Bart and I have instituted an Eat-Out Challenge for the month of November.

Here’s how it works for us. We set a budget for eating out the entire month, and we do not exceed that dollar amount by November 30 (with some flexibility for unexpected things, like guests or travel). When we did this previously in Colorado, we were able to meet or beat a goal of $100 most months, which for us translated in about one restaurant or casual dining meal per week. Here, things are pricier, and we think $125 is a good goal to shoot for. If I were brave enough to calculate an estimate of our eating out expenditures for October, I think I might faint over the difference in those two numbers, but it’s totally doable. Plus, all that money saved could be used for something else fun, like fixing up the house.

To kick start our challenge, we are instituting a mini-challenge of not eating out for an entire week. That will be more challenging if we have plans to be out on Saturday, but we can work around it. That will also make our next restaurant outing more special.

I also decided to incorporate one more challenge for myself this month. As we’ll be eating at home more, I’ll need some extra motivation for cooking interesting meals. So I’ve decided to try four new recipes this month, approximately once a week, to keep it interesting in the kitchen. Bonus points if my new recipes put my fancy Wolf oven and gas cooktop through their paces. If I come across a real winner of a recipe, I’ll be sure to share. We’ll also be in Raleigh with friends for Thanksgiving, so that would be a great opportunity to try a new holiday dish.

I’m actually looking forward to this challenge. We’ve been so scattered lately that doing something like a challenge means we’re settled enough to focus on a project other than unpacking. It’s also a nice twist that it naturally involves spending more quality time in our new home.

Do you have any goals for the new month? There’s never a better time to try something new!

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