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Giving Thanks

My Thanksgiving plate: smoked turkey, green beans, macaroni and cheese, mashed sweet potatoes, dressing, mixed greens (collard, mustard, turnip), potato salad, and cranberry sauce. I made all the sides, except for the greens beans (made by our friends). My husband smoked the turkey and a pork butt. Everything was delicious!

Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving in the U.S. and I’m carrying the gratitude with me into this week. It’s true there is something to be thankful for every single day, even every moment, no matter how small. The Thanksgiving holiday reminds me to slow down and count my blessings. Thanksgiving kicks off my favorite holiday season.

Last year we drove to Chicago and spent the time with our family. That was so special because our time together is precious especially after my mom passed away. I think we all sense our time on this earth is limited and so we’re more intentional about making the time for each other. I like to say that I’ve been fueled up (with love) after those visits.

My nieces, siblings, and kids. Thanksgiving 2021

My daughter, Elise, and I Thanksgiving Day 2022

This year, we celebrated the holiday with friends. So many people have moved to Texas from other places so it’s not uncommon to not have family near. I was excited about cooking for friends. And it dawned on me this would actually be the first Thanksgiving in our new home. Being in a new home is and of itself something to be thankful for. We moved into our freshly built home about a year and 8 months ago so I’m not sure how long I can call it new. Whatever the case, since the pandemic we haven’t really had people over.

I made things easier on myself by keeping the menu simple. My husband, Bryan, decided to smoke the meats (turkey breast, turkey legs, and pork butt), which means I was responsible for cooking the sides.

The PREP

We began prepping the weekend before Thanksgiving by taking the meats out of the freezer to defrost in the fridge. On Tuesday, Bryan seasoned the pork and brined the turkey parts. I chopped up all my vegetables for each dish and put them in baggies that I labeled. I also made a big pot of liquid gold aka turkey broth. I also roasted about 10 sweet potatoes for my mashed sweet potatoes and sweet potato pies. In my grocery shopping, I purchased some time saving items like preboiled eggs, herb croutons for the dressing, and cornbread mix. And something I’ve never done for previous Thanksgivings most likely because I didn’t have the space was use my CROCK POT. I had her set up on the island.

This Ninja cooked up my greens and smoked turkey like a charm.

It was certainly a blessing to serve a bounty of food and be surrounded with loved ones and friends. Growing up in poverty, I’m reminded of how far my family has come to make a better life for ourselves and our children. What we didn’t have in financial means, we were rich in faith, hope, and love. The part of Thanksgiving that I will take with me everyday is to often show appreciation to the people who love and show up for me, to extend extra care and grace to others, to be encouraging, to demonstrate compassion to myself (first) and others, to help where I can, and to reflect more on what I do have rather than what I don’t.

What are you thankful for?

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Soups On: Fall Favorites

It’s been a while since my last post, but rest assured, I’ve been busy doing the things that feed my soul (pun intended) and giving myself some extra grace. These last few months have been rough on my family. My beautiful mother in law passed away in September and my brother in law has been ill most of 2022.

Like many of you, I wear multiple hats as a working mom, wife, caregiver, sister, friend, boss, etc. Information on self-care is so prevalent nowadays and it’s no wonder because self-care is essential to mental well being. I believe this so much that my whole blog is about self-care. You may hear about common self-care activities: take a bubble bath, journal, go shopping, exercise, get a massage, get a manicure/pedicure, read a book, take yourself out to dinner, sleep, etc.

Self-care can actually be anything that fills you up rather than depletes you. You don’t have to do a bunch of things all the time. You don’t have to spend money you don’t have. Self-care is also not just about doing things which can be exhausting, especially when you’re under stress. Self-care can be about being: self-compassionate, authentic, aware, quiet, at peace, etc. Self-care can be about choosing one thing in a moment.

I personally have my “go to” self-care activities that fill me up (pun intended). One thing I love to do for self-care is cook. And I just don’t cook anything..I’m intentional about cooking healthy and nutritious food. It fills me up (pun intended) because I’m being creative, concentrating on the food rather than the problem, giving my taste buds and my family something to look forward to, and will be filling my body with a bountiful medley of deliciousness which will bring about a host of other benefits.

When we returned from Chicago in early October, I started a 10-Day Soup Challenge brought about by my favorite people at www.simplegreensmoothies.com.And this challenge couldn’t have come at a better time because I ate many of the calorie dense Chicago delicacies (pizza, Italian beef, Chinese food, gyros) and was in need of a reset.

Something different about this challenge is that I didn’t make it to all 10 soups. I was getting back to my home and work routine, so I was a little busy. In fact, I didn’t even do the challenge for the 10 days. I completed 8 recipes so that means there are still 2 recipes I didn’t get to. I started the challenge a day late and it probably took me 3 weeks to complete 8 recipes, BUT I DID IT. Now you get to enjoy my photos which I took myself. You can find the recipes on the http://www.simplegreensmoothies.com website. I blogged about my first soup challenge here: Bring on the soups

Keep in mind, I’ve modified the recipes in different ways and it’s been too long ago for me to remember what I modified for each one. My general approach to recipes is to use them as guides. You can do that when you know what you’re doing.

I hope these soups inspire you to cook more of your meals at home, try new recipes, and eat well.

  1. Potato Comfort Soup
  2. Spiced Lentil Soup
  3. Bieler’s Blended Vegetable Soup
  4. 1-Pot Vegetable Soup
  5. Vegan Tomato Soup
  6. Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup
  7. Thai Coconut Soup
  8. Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

1. Potato Comfort soup with kale croutons- This is a favorite I’ve made many times and served with homemade garlic bread. The added cauliflower was pleasantly sneaky.
2.Spiced Lentil Soup – I first tried red lentils in last fall’s soup challenge and I’ve been hooked every since. Delicious.
3. Bieler’s Blended Vegetable Soup – This was a new recipe and it surprised me. Never have I ever blended zucchini, green beans, and celery with a few spices before. I served with a scrumptious salad on the side. This one was a favorite, along with the other 3 blended soups, particularly because I could sip from a mug and consume all the nutritious goodness rather quickly.
4 1-Pot Vegetable soup -This reminded me of the “vegan” chicken noodle from last November, no tofu in this recipe. It was very good.
5. Vegan tomato soup – This was a repeat recipe from last fall’s challenge and it was just as good this time. Pictured are the vegetables simmering before I blended them. I get excited thinking about all the nutrition in this pot: zucchini, carrots, onions, celery, garlic, tomatoes, and spices. This blended soup was another favorite.
6. Slow cooker minestrone – This was a new version of minesteone that pleasantly surprised me. The butternut squash added an irresistible sweetness.
7. Thai Coconut soup – This is an old favorite that I’ve made a few times over the years. However, this was my first time using frozen zucchini spirals. They made my life so much easier in that moment. Sometimes, you need a break. It was also very comforting.
8. Vegetarian tortilla soup – This was a new version of tortilla soup that surprised me. I’ve never cooked a soup with actual tortilla chips (used store bought) in the broth. This was the 4th blended soup that was one of my favorites. I topped it off with my homemade oven baked tortilla chips & a side of one bean taco.
Of course, I used my homemade liquid gold aka vegetable broth in each recipe, which added even more robust flavor and nutrition.