My favorite version of this song and one that has been on repeat the last several weeks. Sums up 2016 SO well for me. Best lyrics: "The smell of hospitals in Winter and the feeling that it's all a lot of oysters and no pearls.." The perfect combination of acknowledging the sadness and difficulty while looking forward to the potential happiness in the coming year.
Best lyrics: "I wonder where we're all going, I'm homesick for your primal knowing. I wonder why the wind keeps blowing you through my mind."
Best lyrics: The whole song, really.
For years, I made traditional pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. Everyone loves a good staple, but I'm not a huge pumpkin pie lover. I really wanted a recipe that catered to the more traditional crowd while still giving it a fun twist for non-pie folks like myself. About a decade ago, I received just that. A friend passed along a knockoff recipe for Cheesecake Factory. It is so unbelievably easy and delicious, while still paying homage to its Thanksgiving roots. Since then, I've passed it along to several friends and I'm here to bring it to you too! Try it! You may never want to go back!
What you'll need:
1- 1/2 cups graham crackers
5 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. sugar
3- 8 oz pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1 Cup sugar
1 Tsp. vanilla
1 Cup canned pumpkin*
1/2 Tsp. cinnamon
1/4 Tsp. nutmeg
1/4 Tsp. cloves
Whipped Cream for dolloping
1. Mix crust ingredients together, just until coated and crumbly. Press into the bottom and 2/3's up the sides of an 8" tin pan or baking dish.
2. Bake for 5 minutes at 350 degrees F. Set aside.
3. Combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in large bowl; mix until smooth with an electric mixer. Add pumpkin, eggs and spices and continue to beat until smooth and creamy.
4. Pour into the crust. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until the top turns a bit darker.
. Remove from oven and allow to come to room temperature, then refrigerate.
6. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.
Every year, I host Thanksgiving dinner. It's the one day a year that I really go all out, from the colorful napkins and special tumblers to the menu, typically planned weeks in advance. There are a few dishes, however, that I never have to switch up because they've come to be expected every year.
One of those super popular dishes is my Chipotle-Bacon Cheddar Mac & Cheese. It is SO good! And I don't even really like Mac & Cheese! But this. This is different. It's creamy and cheesy with a little kick and a good crunch from the bacon. I never have leftovers, because it's the first thing everyone scoops up! You're in luck if you've been looking for a side dish shakeup, because I'm sharing it here today with you.
What you'll need:
3 teaspoons sea salt, divided
1 (16-oz.) package cavatappi pasta
2 tablespoons EVOO, divided
1/2 cup butter
1 small onion, diced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups half-and-half
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 cups freshly grated smoked Cheddar cheese*
1 cup freshly grated Cheddar cheese*
1 teaspoon ground ancho chile powder
6 cooked bacon slices, chopped*
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
*If you cannot find smoked Cheddar Cheese, you can also sub with Sharp Cheddar
*Shredded cheese works fine if you don't have time to freshly grate
*I use thick cut applewood smoked bacon, but feel free to mix it up
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Bring 1 gal. water and 1 1/2 tsp. salt to a boil in large saucepan; add pasta. Cook 8 to 9 minutes or until al dente. Drain; rinse with cold water. Toss with 1 Tbsp. EVOO. Pour into large bowl and set aside.
2. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté 4 to 5 minutes or until tender. Add flour, and cook, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until smooth. (Do not brown flour.) Add half-and-half, next 2 ingredients, and remaining 1 1/2 tsp. sea salt, and bring to a simmer. Cook, whisking constantly, 5 to 6 minutes or until thickened. Gradually add cheeses, stirring until blended. Transfer mixture to the large bowl with the cooked pasta. Spoon into a lightly greased 8x8 square baking dish (will fill to top) or 13x9 baking dish.
3. Sauté ancho chile powder in remaining 1 Tbsp. EVOO in a small skillet over medium heat 30 seconds or until mixture begins to smoke. Remove from heat, and quickly stir in bacon and panko until coated. Sprinkle mixture over pasta.
4. Bake at 350° for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden and crisp on top. Serve immediately.
Growing up, we always had canned cranberry sauce. It was a tradition, in fact. Each year, a kid was picked to open the can, and cut it fashionably onto a plate. That was our contribution to Thanksgiving. But last year, I decided to try my hand at making homemade cranberry sauce and I will NEVER go back to canned! It was such a hit and so funny to realize that most of my guests had never had homemade cranberry sauce either. Not sure if that's a southern thing, but I see a common denominator. ;) This cranberry sauce is ridiculously easy to make, incredibly flavorful and not overly sweet. In fact, I'd say it's the perfect amount of sweet.
What You'll Need:
12 ounce bag fresh cranberries
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice*
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*To save time (and dishes), I use Simply Orange Pulp Free OJ
1. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until many of the cranberries have burst, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
2. Let cranberry sauce cool in the pan, then transfer to another container, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. It will thicken as it sits as well, for the perfect consistency.
What are your favorite Thanksgiving dishes? Feel free to share below!
A couple of weeks ago, I was caught jamming out during a run, by a friend driving by. She said, "I'd love to know what you're listening to! I don't feel like I have anything good on my playlist lately." I'm no music authority, but it's at the heart and soul of everything I do. Music has always had a profound effect on me, serving me in my greatest times of need throughout life. And also in the mundane. Yeah, I've even made playlists for those seasonal deep cleans of the house. ;)
All of my music is saved either via my computer library or my phone, so it took me a little while to create playlists to share with you via Spotify, but here they are, incase you are also in need.
*Feel free to shuffle through, but the inner nerd in me feels it necessary to disclose that there is a rhyme and reason to song placement. The first song on each is a slower beat for warm-up, halfway through there are a few power songs to re-energize and the last is for cool-down/stretch. Just fyi.
I've been thinking a lot about the concept of time lately. The continuous, sprawling landscape of seconds and minutes, hours and days. The good moments, the bad, the monotony. I think about the saying, "Time heals all wounds." I don't necessarily agree with that. With time, there is the inevitable blurring and fading of those memories, those feelings, I suppose. That very particular way that you felt standing in that very particular moment when life shifted dramatically once more. Day by day, you do begin to confuse all of the specific details. That much is true. The way the lights shone in the room, the beeping of the machines-how many were there again? What you were wearing, the clouds looming ominously outside of the window, was the traffic bad that day? And when there was nowhere else to look and you felt yourself closing in, how you let your gaze slip to the dirty floor. How long had it been since someone had cleaned it? And you mistakenly think in those moments when the floors of the life you had, begin to collapse and shift, that you will remember it all. Every little thing.
Until the days pass one after the other and you realize that you no longer do.
A year goes by and life goes on and you simply can't hold on to everything. Or everyone. I'm constantly learning this.
So here I am, a year after the big move back East, a year above and beneath all of the triumphs and failures of 2016. The laughter and the tears.
Here I am three months after what was indescribably one of the worst weeks of my life.
A lot can happen in three months, however. Here is the running total:
- 1 parent lost
- 1 senseless car accident
- Over 20 physical therapy appointments (and counting)
- Roughly 4 weeks of gritting my teeth through dry needling PT appointments (and counting)
- 1 family dog lost
- 1 hurricane
- 1 trip to Maine and Quebec City, Canada
- 1 Pokemon themed birthday party
- 1 medium-sized move out of Charleston and closer to Charlotte
- 1 week's notice for said move (talk about insanity-though I rocked all 7 days of it)
- 1 old school, 1 new school
- 7 years of marriage, celebrated
- 11 years of ups and downs together, honored
- 1 precious new house on a tree-lined street in what can only be described as suburban utopia
- Countless new friends
- Immeasurable life lessons learned
Time has not healed my wounds, though it has brought me to a place of acceptance. A sacred space of understanding that which we have no control over. I know that I will always feel the loss of my father. Every birthday, every holiday, every time I pass a yard sale or browse a family photo album. Every time I turn on the radio and hear his songs. Every time I think of that unopened National Lampoon's Vacation DVD set that always reminded me of our vacations as a teenager, which he never got to watch. I think of my mother having to leave their home in a few months and I want to weep at the loss in equal measure to advocating for her to go. Nothing lasts forever. This I have had to learn too.
Though time will eventually allow me to function at 100% again, I hope (and sooner rather than later), time will not erase the nerve damage I have suffered from the accident, nor the trauma in dealing with the after effects.
Time does not make us forget those which we have lost or had to leave along the way, but it does lessen the pain most days so that we can continue the work of living and loving. And of finding joy and peace, too.
A few pictures to update:
We march to the beat of time, but we are neither broken nor healed by it. We have to find our own path there, on our own terms.