Thanksgiving Thoughts on Food

I am so excited to be hosting my first Thanksgiving at home! I love cooking, but I especially love putting together fancy meals and feasts like Thanksgiving dinner.  As much as I try to tell myself that food is fuel, it isn’t as simple as that.  There is definitely a Food=Love philosophy that is ingrained in my upbringing.

In addition to enjoying the food itself, there is so much sensory joy that comes from the preparation.  Feeling the textures of crinkly kale, smelling herbs and spices as you measure and chop, listening to the sizzle of oil, and planning out your preparation so that everything is done at once.

Then there is the joy that comes from cooking for others.  Much like knitting a prayer shawl, where the maker prays intentionally while knitting the fabric, cooking for friends and family makes me take extra care with my recipe as I think about the health and enjoyment that my food will bring them.   Preparing and sharing a meal with special people is one of my favorite things to do. Few things bring me more happiness than savoring a good meal while savoring the company of loved ones.

This is why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  The focus is on the people you love, sitting and sharing a meal together.  Such a simple thing, but a such a huge blessing.  Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Catchup Salmon (Don’t Worry, Not Ketchup Salmon)

I had such an amazing weekend.  I went to see my Absolute. Favorite. Band. Ever.  The Pentatonix.

If you don’t know who they are, you need to find them on youtube and watch all their videos, then download their albums, and cry because they are starting a tour in Europe and you can’t see them in concert for a long time.  It was the third time I’ve seen them live, and I will try to see them again as many times as possible.  So Worth It.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not paying.  We got home from the concert at midnight (CRAZY!) and Bryce really doesn’t care what time I go to bed.  I had grandma and grandpa to help in the morning before we drove home, but I still started the week behind in sleep, behind in chores, and behind in food prep.   Thanks to Flylady, my house was still in pretty good shape, but I was definitely playing catchup today.  Thankfully, I had the perfect recipe to make life easier today!

This is one of the best recipes I have in my arsenal, mostly because the effort-in:quality-out ratio is off the charts.   It takes maybe two minutes to prep, and less than 20 minutes to cook.  It is delicious with sweet potatoes for an entree, and I use the leftovers to top my caesar salads for lunch.  Dj will never order salmon when we go out to eat, because this recipe ruined him for all other salmon.  It’s that good.

Full disclosure, part of the greatness is definitely because we have a Wegman’s that provides reeeeallly fresh salmon.  If you can buy fresh fish, definitely do it.  Frozen isn’t nearly as good.

Best Salmon Ever

  • Fresh salmon fillet
  • Juice from 1 lemon, or balsamic vinegar also works well
  • Coarse salt and pepper
  • Dry dill weed.

Put salmon fillet on a cookie sheet (do yourself a favor and line it with foil for ease of cleanup.)  Squeeze lemon juice liberally over the fish.  Sprinkle generously with sea salt, pepper, and dill weed.  Broil on high for 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.  That’s it.  You’re welcome. 😉

Pick-A-Flavor Bar Cookies

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Cool weather always gives me the baking itch. I love the way the oven warms the house and fills it with the scent of deliciousness!  We don’t eat a lot of treat food, but when we do, I try to make it from scratch.  Homemade baked goods are always more “Worth It” than store bought, and I feel like even if it’s not health food, at least I know the ingredients are natural and minimally processed.  I might even sneak some flaxseed or whole grain flours in there….

The recipe calls for a box of cake mix, but it’s pretty easy to find mixes with non-scary chemicals if you look in the natural food aisle, or at a specialty grocery store like Trader Joe’s.

These cookies have the best texture ever — so chewy, gooey, and delicious!  They remind me of the giant cookies I would get at Chocolate World when I was a kid.  The key is waiting until the pan is cool to cut and eat them; this is one of the few baked goods that is NOT the best straight from the oven. (Though that didn’t stop me today…)

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Pick-A-Flavor Bar Cookies

1 18oz box of cake mix (Today, I used a box of TJ’s pumpkin bread mix, which was 17 oz.  It still turned out fine)

1 T of ground flaxseed, mixed with 3 T of warm water and set aside for 5 minutes to gel

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/4-1/2 cup almond milk

1/2 cup mix-ins (candy, nuts, etc) of choice

Once flaxseed has gelled, mix the cake mix, the oil, and the flax gel together in a stand mixer.  Gradually add 1/4 cup of milk to help the mixture come together.  You want the batter to be really thick and sticky, so don’t add more milk than you need!   Mix in candy or nuts.  Press into a greased 8×8 pan and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  Let cool completely before cutting into bars.

Some combos I’ve tried and loved:

Pumpkin Bread mix with chocolate chips

Spice cake mix with walnuts and raisins

Golden cake mix with mini peanut butter cups

Chocolate cake mix with crumbled peppermint bark

Your imagination is the limit!

Daily Routines

This morning was pretty yucky.

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It was the perfect morning to stay in bed, then stay in pajamas, linger over coffee, and maybe watch some Castle reruns on Hulu.  Before my sweet, wonderful little ray of sunshine came into my life, that is probably what I would have done, but Sunshine wakes at 5:30am, rain or shine, weekend, or weekday, so I’d better be ready!  Something that has helped smooth my mornings out is having a routine in place for both Bryce and myself.

This summer, my friend Julie (who also has a fabulous and informative blog) introduced me to Flylady.net, and it CHANGED MY LIFE.  This lady is the a combination of Martha Stewart, your next door neighbor, and the strict elementary school teacher that never let you off the hook for anything, but you secretly loved.  Flylady’s philosophy revolves around having routines in place so that you do a little bit everyday and never get to the point of having do to a lot all at once.   I will definitely be talking more about how I applied FlyLady’s tips to our household in the future!

One of FlyLady’s strongest recommendations is having an evening routine and a morning routine.  Your evening routine sets you up for success the next day, and your morning routine puts you on autopilot while you clear out the morning fog.

In the evenings, my fabulous husband does the dishes and wipes down the counters and sink while I:

  • Prep Bryce’s breakfast (usually defrosting a muffin or making oatmeal to reheat.)
  • Fill sippy cups with milk and water.
  • Pack lunch for myself and Bryce, if it is a work night.
  • Set the coffee maker.
  • Check my calendar and make a todo list for the next day.
  • Shower and blow dry my hair.
  • Pick out my clothes for the next day.
  • Zzzzzzz……

I set my alarm for 6:15, but usually Bryce wakes up earlier.  When I hear him starting to stir on the monitor, morning autopilot kicks in.

  • Brush hair (If I blow dry the night before, it usually looks pretty good, some hairspray and a flat iron fixes any kinks)
  • Contacts in
  • Awesome tinted moisturizer and eye cream (VitaZing and GinZing, both from Origins), mascara
  • Get dressed, all the way to shoes
  • Go in to get Bryce, hold him in a leg lock on the floor while he fights and screams his way through a diaper change and clothing change  (Best part of the morning right there.)
  • Breakfast and coffee is waiting for both of us, and we are both dressed and ready to go for the day!

Even on mornings like today that I would dearly love to stay in my pajamas, I’m always glad that I got dressed.  I feel like a human being, I’m ready to roll if it’s a good playground day, or if we need to run some morning errands.  Also, I want Bryce to have memories of his mom looking and smelling nice!

I know from being a teacher that children thrive on routines.  I didn’t realize until I started following FlyLady’s advice just how much I would thrive on routines as well!