I am thankful for the four very large butternut squash that a friend grew in her garden... she had so many that she gave me four. In order to see a size comparison I have the gift next to a squash I bought, a pear, and my 3 quart crock pot.
Yesterday (Wednesday) the kitchen and I had some good bonding time since I had the day off of work. The day started as a "slow" day, the kind in which I prepare oatmeal with pumpkin, carob chips and a pot of hazelnut flavored coffee. I take an hour to sit and eat while everyone else sleeps or goes to work while I reflect on life. During my reflection time I grabbed my journal to write a few things down, but I grabbed the wrong journal. I have kept a family memory book of holidays beginning in 2004 in which I start the holiday season writing a "state of the union address" then each member of our family start this season writing five things they are thankful for. I included a record of all the happenings from Thanksgiving to New Years including lists of the gifts we received, my favorite recipes with our reactions to new ones tried, and ways we want to change to make things more meaningful next year. Sentimental feelings ran high as I looked through this book and this is where I began to journal.
Part of my feelings were sadness that I almost forgot this treasure in my "busy-ness" of life. My reflection time took me back to where I was last year at this time, hoping for a teaching position after finishing my license and debating whether to close the doors on my business or stay on part-time. At the same time I was adjusting from being a full-time home school mom into a full-time away from home employee so that DH and I could build up our retirement fund and get the kids through college. My son is now in college full-time and my daughter enrolled full-time into public high school full-time which she wanted and we reluctantly agreed. I have to admit I appreciate hearing her talk about what she liked while being a home schooled student now that she faces a different type of education. DH is very happy with the position he was promoted to at his day job and enjoys his time being the sound engineer for a christian rock band and I have enjoyed traveling around with them. Although this year has been a time of grieving the end of where we have been and who we used to be, it has also been exciting as we transition into where we are now. Exciting, but not without several growing pains which we are dealing with ... "What does not kill me will make me a better person."
A summary of 2007 with one word TRANSITION.
We also put up our little tree the day Friday (today ... as I finish the blog entry I started on Wednesday). I snapped a picture of my favorite kiddos and one of our dog's, Ricky. DD is in charge of holiday decorations and it looks like we are going to have a blue and silver theme this year. Soon I will replace the picture on the wall with a window like mirror under which out hanger for 4 stockings will be hung. I think the challenge I will give the family this year is to create their very own stocking to hang there this year, something that will creatively express who they are this year and what is important to them.
I am also thankful for the opportunity to be able to reflect on our transition, that says we made it through. At one time in our life DH and I stepped away from our "normal" life (trusted in God, sold the house, home schooled the kids, grew a large garden, started a "hippie" business, etc) and followed our hearts. Before we started that journey we both agreed that even if we failed, failure would be better than wondering if or living in regret of never trying. We did not fail, we have been blessed. I hope that your holidays are the same, hope filled and if difficult that they be internally satisfied in the midst of it.
NOW I INVITE YOU INTO MY KITCHEN ...
How about a sip of brew inspired by Dreena's ED&BV (p. 227) MULLED CRAN-APPLE CIDER. It snowed in my state on Thanksgiving Eve so I filled Crock pot #1 with this wonderful potion to sip on this chilly evening and then let it stay on warm until we finished it for breakfast. I had to use what I had on hand and ended up making enough changes that I will share my recipe with you.
DORI's MULLED CHERRY-APPLE CIDER
Place the following in the crock pot and allow to cook on high for 2-3 hours, then switch to warm.
1 - 12 oz container frozen cherry-apple juice concentrate (thawed)
3 - 12 oz "cans" of water (juice prepared as directed on the can)
In a tea bulb I placed 5 -1" cinnamon sticks, 10 allspice seeds, and 4 whole cardamom pods. I placed this in my juice and added 1/4 tsp nutmeg, a sprinkle of KAL brand stevia extract, and 1/2 tsp orange peel powder. A sliced up an orange in thin slices and placed about 6 slices, cut into quarters in my crock pot with the juice and spices. Dreena said with her recipe that you could add a few splashes of rum or brandy if desired.... sure I would desire to, but I have none on hand. I still have an unopened bottle of Cranberry Crimson wine from Christmas 2006 sitting on my shelf, I received 2 as a gift and emptied one with the help of 6 friends. I plan on taking it to a dinner we will be going to at my aunts house.
For breakfast we enjoyed the hot fruit drink served with muffins loaded with carrots and apples from Ken Haedrich's cookbook called COUNTRY BAKING. Although this book is not vegan, recipes can easily be transformed. I know Dreena has a good carrot and fruit filled muffin in her EDV cookbook or maybe it is in VLV cookbook, I've made them. The ones I made now are a bit more decadent and carrot cake like.
DREENA'S ED&BV Sweet Potato Lentil Chili: I made this in the crock pot on Monday night and enjoyed bowls of this for snacks and several meals after. I find Dreena's use of lemon and lime juice in soups unique to what I have cooked before. This was a change that my salty pallet had to adjust to, but now I really find it refreshing. I also found some 2 cup freezer containers made by ball. Although I enjoy homemade canned soups off my shelf, I like the convenience of freezing away one or two left over servings to use as I need. When I know I want to eat one ahead of time I place it in the refrigerator to thaw, ready to heat and eat.
The Everyday Slow cooker byRobin Robinson ... PUMPKIN BUTTER. I made this last year in and noted in my cookbook that I loved it, this year in order to avoid redundancy I noted that I REALLY loved it. I placed this wonderful stuff in 1/2 pint jars and hot water bathed it in my large slow cooker. 7 jars were covered with water, cooked on high 5 -6 hours, and removed to rest on a towel for 12 hours. The jars sealed "pop" immediately after taking them out of the crock pot. This was convenient I said to myself. I wish that I could have canned pint jars this way, but they won't fit I would have to take my other canner out to accomplish this task. Note that I peeled and cut the squash in to take out the seeds, I added the large pieces to my crock pot with the spices and a little onion. When all was done I blended combination smooth with my hand blender. I made mine sugar free and liked it very well. My recipe follows:
GRRRR'''' I entered this recipe once already, but then my computer froze as I tried to e-mail a video at the same time I was working on this. Anyways, here goes round two.
DORI'S STEVIA PUMPKIN BUTTER
Note: I doubled the recipe and canned 7 jars 1/2 pint jars to give as gifts for the holidays.
2 pounds of butternut squash
2 cups of apple juice
1 tsp KAL pure stevia extract powder
1 Tbsp blackstrap molasses
1 Tbsp good quality cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
Combine all in the crockpot and cook on high 4 hours (or so), low for longer.
Blend with a handblender. Place in jars and process can if desired. I did can the 7 half pint jars in my 5 quart crockpot. I did this by preparing the jars and lids, placing the jars in the crockpot, fill with water. Cook on high 6 hours. I heard the jars seals within 1 minute of taking them out of the crockpot. This would be similar to the hot water bath method. The water was boiling in the crockpot when I took the jars out. The apple juice might cause this recipe to have an acceptable acid percentage for water bath canning however I would recommend perssure canning per the canning instruction book for pumpkin pie mix.
On Thanksgiving day two new recipes I tried were Marie Oser's "The Enlightened Kitchen" cauliflower in "cheese" sauce on page 163. This was a bit heavy on the nutritional yeast and needed a little shake of salt, but I really liked this dish. I added green peas after I snapped the picture which really made a difference in appearance. Overall Ilike this dish and will probably make it again.
DH and the kids really loved a cheesy corn and macaroni casserole that I used to take to potlucks years ago. This year they bugged me figure out how to make it so we can have it again. Here is the vegan result:
DORI'S CHEEZY MAC AND CORN CASSEROLE
In the crockpot combine the following (we doubled the recipe listed):
1 - 14.5 oz can of whole kernel corn with it's juice
1 - 14.5 oz can cream style corn
1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
1 cup cheddar style cheese (a good melty kind)
**I used some homemade chedda' created by Bryanna Clark grogan.
1 Tbsp earth balance margarine
Cook on high about 3 hours, until the macaroni is cooked and the extra juices are soaked up. Serve. On Thanksgiving day our crockpot was the first dish emptied.
Robin Robinson's "The Vegetarian Slow Cooker" green beans Provencal also made an appearance on my Thanksgiving table. I was a bit heavy on the pepper accidentally, but I still liked this recipe consisting simply of petite diced tomatoes green beans, onions salt and pepper. If you want a creamy mushroom sauce type bean she has a recipe for this in her book also. I am planning on trying it when I get some fresh mushrooms.
To conclude I will have to admit the autumn (harvest time) is my favorite time of year, but this season definitely comes in a close second.