Black Friday – Avoided

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and all is quiet in the house. And while I love Thanksgiving Day, I love the day after even more. I get to sit in my sweats reading the news or a book. The kids are home, usually sleeping in till noon. Hubby walks the dogs for me. There are plenty of leftovers, so no real cooking effort needs to be made.

Yes, it is the perfect calm before the storm: The storm of festive flurry we call Christmas.

Thanksgiving has a gentle lead up to it. Mother nature does her part, slowing the cycle of life to a dormant state of rest. Plants and animals alike preferring to sleep through winter, to be awakened by springs breath, tickling them to awake. One is busy through Halloween, preparing ourselves for this time of ‘wintering over’. So, by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, attention can be focused on giving thanks, untouched by the other distractions so prevalent in spring and summer.

Thanksgiving is the time of year families turn inward, reconnecting and cherishing each others presence. It is the time of year we seek out those who might not have the blessing of genetically related family, extending the hand of familial friendship, embracing new connections and relationships so that hopefully no one unwillingly spends the day alone. In our home, with the exception of my brother (who drives the long 4 hours in traffic) we don’t have our own extended family nearby. Instead, we have been blessed with amazing family friends with whom we have created our own traditions, and break bread with. Some years our little family has shared the occasion with three or four families, house bursting to the seams with laughter, conversation and joy. Some years it has been quiet and cozy, shared with one other couple or my brother, an emphasis on comfort and intimacy. All have been wonderful and wonderfully different.

When Thanksgiving Day is over, it’s the perfect time for me to pause before mentally and physically gearing up for the chaos that todays culture has created, Christmas. We all try not to get caught up in a ‘keep up with the Jones’ attitude towards Christmas; but many of us have traditions we wish to keep. The result can be a self imposed pressure to fit all that we have individually defined as ‘Christmas Spirit’ into the Christmas season. Ideally, we spread the ‘reason for the season’ throughout the year. But let’s be honest, it is at least nice to have a time of year were we are encouraged and motivated by society and culture to be intentionally giving and sharing.

And so we come back to Black Friday, a nightmare of consumerism, resulting all too often in the most base of behavior. It’s hard for me to fathom the very people who were sharing their time and table one day, embracing the concept of Thanksgiving, are the very same people mowing down their fellow man/woman in a mad rush to be the first at the bargain table the very next day. For those who work this day, I thank you for your patience and service. It can’t be easy to work on Black Friday, but with the demand for the stores to be open, someone must be there to open the doors and ring the cash registers. And ring they do.

I’ll leave the thrill of the sale to others. I am going to sit here with my steaming cup of coffee and give a pass to the madness. As I read the headlines of the morning, history has been a good indicator of the present. I am reminded of an appropriate metaphor: Don’t feed the beast. So, I won’t. Instead, I think I’ll make a leftover turkey sandwich and be very thankful I am home.


Best Cranberry Sauce – Ever!


As I’ve said in a previous post, I have been doing Thanksgiving forever it seems. In what also felt like ‘forever’, I used to subscribe to Martha Stewart, and read her magazines every month. Along with Fine Cooking & Cooks Illustrated, a few years back I began to feel overwhelmed, and so ditched the Stewart subscription and haven’t regretted it since. I love my Fine Cooking (I have all issues dated back to the very first) and Cooks Illustrated, and rely on them solely (along with the web & my cookbook library) for inspiration and education.

Still, I found some real gems in my years of Miss Martha, and this cranberry sauce ever was a definite diamond among the coal.

I ripped the page out when I tossed all the issues, but it doesn’t have the date, nor the issue, so I cannot give proper credit, except that I got it out of a Martha Stewart magazine. One that featured Thanksgiving.

I made this that first year and have honestly never been tempted to try another version since. It is not too sweet, not to tart, has a lovely, complex spice and just a hint of heat. I make this in a double batch because people actually eat it, (unlike the canned ‘stuff’) and it is amazing on a leftover turkey sandwich. Simply. Amazing.

I apologize in advance for not having a display photo. My empty nesting has caught up with me, and I’m a little out of sorts. Normally, I am planning weeks in advance. But, without the kids home to help fix time in place, I’m a little behind. It also appears last year (when I started my musings), I didn’t think to take a pretty picture, so I am going from a photo from two years ago. The above picture is the cooked sauce, sitting in the saucepan. While a gorgeous, staged photo helps draw attention, the lack of shouldn’t stop you from giving this a whirl. This sauce will be competing with your turkey for a starring role.

Best Ever Cranberry Sauce

2 C Fresh Cranberries, cleaned, picked over. (should be about 1 bag, exact measuring is not necessary)
3 tbsp Cognac (what the heck, make them generous tablespoons!)
1 C Light Brown Sugar, packed
1/4 C Fresh Orange Juice
3 whole Allspice
2 whole Cloves
4 Black Peppercorns
1/2 tsp Red-Pepper Flake (Make sure your pepper is fresh. If it’s not red in color, but brown, it’s old.)
Cinnamon Stick (about a 1/2 inch piece)
Cheesecloth & twine to make a spice bag

(Note: I double this recipe, be sure to double your spices as well)

In your saucepan combine the berries, cognac, sugar and juice. Lay a square of cheesecloth on the counter, add your spices to the center, gather up the edges and tie with cooking twine, leaving some string to hang it with. Nestle it in with your other ingredients in the pot, trying to keep it submerged the whole time. You can use a spoon to poke it down until the bag is saturated. I wrap the excess twine around the pot handle a couple of times and loop the end through the hole at the end of my pot (my pot handle has a hole on the end) to keep it in place and away from the flame. (no one wants a visit from the fire department prior to the holidays!)


Bring the mixture to a boil, and then cook it at a simmer for about 20 minutes. (The berries will turn translucent) Turn off heat, and let cool. You may remove the spice bag now, or leave it in to allow the flavors of the spices to really bloom. Just know, it WILL get more spicy.

When cool enough to handle, wring the bag of all the juices you can. I really like to extract as much flavor as possible. Stir to combine. Toss the bag, and you’re ready to serve.

I make this at least a day in advance, although you can make it the day of and serve warm. I just prefer to let the flavors marry and get all happy. Then the day of Thanksgiving (or whenever, this is too good to save for only one day a year) bring back to room temperature before serving.

If you give this a try, let me know how your family liked it!

(**yay! I figured out how to eliminate the breaks in the recipe, so no more spaces in-between ingredients!!!! I am not the most tech savvy, but I do know how to cook! )


Celebrating America’s Independence Day

Celebrating America's Independence Day

Independence Day.
The 4th of July.
Grilling out, hot dogs, burgers, apple pie and fireworks.

All these things we have come to represent the celebrated American holiday we call, the 4th of July.

While pleasant, those things are most certainly not what the 4th of July is about. Consumerism has done a bang up job of perverting yet another great celebratory day (Christmas and Thanksgiving are two of the most prominent offenders) but this one deeply touches my heart, crying out for liberation from it’s trite food fest moniker.

Independence Day. What does that mean anymore to the average American? What does ‘Independence’ mean to other peoples in other countries? Really, ask yourself that very question, because I don’t think it’s contemplated enough.

What exactly does celebrating the Independence of America from Britain mean?

What it means to me is perfectly stated in our Country’s Declaration of Independence.

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”

(click on photo to read the entire Declaration)

As you can see, this was no ‘willy nilly’ band of rebel rousers who just didn’t like the King. This was an assembly of thoughtful, intelligent, well-read, articulate and worldly men who understood that our basic human rights come from ‘Natures God’, and not a king, dictator, tyrant, nor any man, and that freedom is a right, not a privilege.
That is critical to understanding American freedom, which is vastly different than say…the Egyptian freedom so newly won, and quickly deteriorating.

Why has America retained it’s freedoms so long? Because we have always understood that the giver of those basic freedoms (Life, Liberty, Happiness) is a higher power, NOT a human being. It is the responsibility we have to Natures God to be a good, moral, and virtuous people that has made America exceptional in the history of humankind. It is the fact our life, our freedom and our right to pursue happiness are not to be taken by a state nor another human that makes our founding different and unique. It is the right to own the fruits of our hard labor that defines ‘American Exceptionalism’.

There is a reason why in the period of a few hundred years, America has grown from a small band of colonists to the global superpower it has become. Our fundamental way of thinking is entirely different from the rest of the world. That is not bragging, it just is. People come from all over the world to America, seeking the freedom to prosper. Yes, the freedom to prosper means the freedom to fail, but that is a critical tool to learning how to succeed. One must fail.

Today, I don’t know how many Americans under the age of 50 really understand what the Declaration really means and what the Framers intended. How many even read our Constitution and know anything beyond the 2nd Amendment? For America to remain free, these must be taught, discussed and reflected upon.

So, I encourage you to take a moment in all the festivities and ask your family and friends:
What does America’s Independence mean to you?

And if they say BBQ’s and beer, might I suggest you read the full Declaration to them.

Then light up those fireworks, and teach your children why we light them. Not only will they have fun, but there is a richness heritage to the meaning behind it. That will enrich not only them and yourself, but also our country.

Happy Independence Day America.
God Bless this Nation.