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Food chronicles: November comfort

Yes, it is. This is the Sunday before Thanksgiving! If like me, home cooks from all over are thinking about, planning, and even prepping their Thanksgiving menu extravaganza. In my household, we’ve been talking about the Thanksgiving dinner since the beginning of November.

I made turkey broth with smoked turkey wings three weeks ago. I froze the delicious product. It occurred to me I may need another batch of broth since I make soups weekly and have been using up my stash. Therefore, I’ll be making another batch this Tuesday or Wednesday with the leftover roasted chicken we’ll have for dinner tomorrow. That’ll be the third batch of homemade broth I’ve made in November. My main motivation is the health benefit In case you don’t know, collagen (bone broth is a source) is amazing for hair, skin, and nails.

I wrote my Thanksgiving menu three weeks ago and reviewed it with my husband, Bryan. Since then, I’ve been strategically ensuring I have all of my ingredients. I’m not one to wait until the last minute for something this important.

Yesterday, I was so excited to pick up bags of sweet potatoes from my local grocery store at $0.14 cents per pound. Can you believe that? I bought 12 sweet potatoes for $2.10. The sweet potatoes were the only major ingredient where I waited to purchase because about a week ago a grocer told me that this deep discount was coming. We’re all looking forward to my sweet potato pies. I might do something different with the sweet potatoe side dish instead of making my usual scrumptious mashed sweet potatoes.

This year, possibly today if I’m up to it, I will do something different and make pumpkin bread. I have no idea if I have the right pumpkins considering we picked these up from our churches’ front lawn last month. No, we didn’t steal them. Our pastor told us to take them home.

Beautiful Sunday morning at church. LPC

I don’t want to waste the pumpkins, so I will make pumpkin puree for smoothies, bread, and whatever other ideas I conjure up.

Naturally, because this is turkey month, I’ve gotten caught up in sharing my ideas on the Thanksgiving meal when this blog post is REALLY supposed to be about the other comfort foods I’ve conjured up this month. You know I’ve been cooking up a storm.

I love fried plaintains, which is a Haitian staple. I don’t make them often and I’ve been thinking about why that is. It partly has to do with it being a fried food, which I tend to not consume often. And they are not just fried once, they are double fried. You fry them once, remove them from the oil, then smash them in the plaintain peel, and return them to the oil to fry again.

Plaintains are also in the carbohydrate family. I actually “googled” their health benefits recently, which caused me to gain more of an appreciation for them. They would probably be a regular part of my diet if I liked them boiled like my mom did, but I don’t. No bueno. Fried is best.

A few weeks ago, I decided to indulge and picked up two from the grocery store. I’m so glad I did.

Fried plantains or banan. LPC

Soup is the ultimate comfort food in my book. Last month, my daughter and I took a trip to an Asian Market. I stocked up on noodles and rice. The noodle prices were a bargain for the amount I purchased, but I didn’t think so much so on the rice. Regardless, I also purchased a large bag of brown jasmine rice.

Thai shrimp and noodles soup. LPC

My son and daughter loved this soup. I loved this soup. I woke up one Saturday morning with a taste and believed I could carry out a thai soup. I’m using the word “thai” loosely here, but it worked. I got to use my thai red chilli curry paste, which I’ve had for a while. It was also my first time cooking an egg in liquid. My homemade broth made this recipe SHINE.

I’ve learned the preferred method is to soak rice noodles in warm water instead of boiling them prior to adding to a dish. This epiphany has been “GAME CHANGING”!

My daughter could eat tacos everyday. She loves them. I’ve loved tacos since I was a little girl growing up in Chicago. We all love them and the combinations are limitless. In one week, I made sauteed chicken tacos with black beans, taco soup, and breakfast tacos with scrambled eggs and leftover chilli. All I can say is YUM, YUM, and YUM!!!

Sauteed chicken breasts for tacos. LPC

Sauteed chicken, black beans and pico de gallo. LPC

Finally, I don’t stray too far away from my Haitian roots and the dishes I grew up with. I pulled out my mortar and pestle or “pilon” to make rice and peas with oven fried chicken.

I used my brown jasmine rice, which entailed a longer cooking time and produced a softer texture than I’m used to, but the flavor profile was on point.

Oven fried chicken wings, rice & peas with salad. LPC

Light lesson: It just occurred to me that cooking is an expression of my creativity. I love to cook and being creative connects me to my divine source, which is probably why I enjoy being creative in this way so much. I can’t take credit for linking creativity to God because I’ve read about this before. To make this connection in my own life is reaffirming.

So what sides are you conjuring up this week for Thanksgiving. If not through cooking, how else do you express your creativity?

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The Slow Down

I love the holiday season for many obvious reasons: family time, delicious food, sleeping in, holiday decorations, nostalgic feelings, and connecting with family and friends. There is one more reason I’ve been craving since August: the overall slow down. I’m able to unravel my thoughts after a few days of rest. During the “non-holiday” part of the year, life can be fast-paced, busy, sometimes chaotic…especially my life. If you’ve followed my blog, you’ll know I’ve had a lot going on since 12/26/2017. My Thanksgiving 2018 was no fuss, no travel, no rush, and no stress. I was only surrounded by my husband and children. We made calls to family, but ours was a quiet Thanksgiving. A friend said she might stop by, but there was no pressure or expectation. She ended up not coming, which was worked out fine.

The holiday slow down is my time to refuel, realign, and re-engage with my family and myself. I planned an extra day off work today because I like to be off on Cyber Monday (although my holiday money hasn’t arrived yet 😑). I also prefer not return to work on a Monday after an extended weekend off. Ironically, my plans for today includes catching up on some office work, but it will be balanced with some pampering, organizing, and getting up to speed on my personal affairs.

Although I’m slowing down, I fully recognize that for many people, this is the time of year for what seems like endless shopping, holiday parties, and overall doing and buying stuff. Even the driving on the roads tends to being more frenetic and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more car accidents this time of year. I don’t want to fall into the trap this season. Yes, I will Christmas shop (mostly online) as I do have 2 children, but it will not be the mindless, overconsumption of stuff.

There’s something to be said for giving yourself what you need and creating a space for it to happen. I’m grateful I can create this space for myself.

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Gratitude 

I’ve had a wonderful time enjoying my Thanksgiving holiday being in the house with my family. For an introvert like me, it has been a slice of heaven. I’ve read, slept, cooked, and watched mind-numbing t.v. My children might feel otherwise. Unbeknownst to them, I’ve been soaking up their chatter, laughter and conversation. I didn’t host anyone for dinner this year, which hasn’t been the case for a long time.  It was just us and that was plenty.

I’ve read countless articles on the benefits of being grateful and of expressing gratefulness and I absolutely agree. I’ve also read passages on being grateful for all experiences, good and bad. In the past year, I’ve experienced so much (breast cancer, mom’s death, husband’s health struggles, son’s struggles in school) and I’m still here to tell you about it. I have 2 healthy children and a husband who loves me.  I’m healthy. I have the support of my family and friends. I have a job with health insurance. I have peace of mind and contentment. I can go on, however, I want to point out that wish I could turn that grateful button on when I’m in the midst of a gut-wrenching problem or one of my self-inflicted ruminating tirades.

For me, it takes work to be grateful. In case you are one of those people rolling your eyes at me, hear me out. I believe being grateful and expressing gratitude is a practice. I have an awareness that there are some mental deficiencies in me that trigger self-sabotage and other unpleasant outcomes if I don’t keep them in check. I constantly have internal conversations with myself to lighten the atmosphere in my mind because I can “go there”.  Inevitably, no matter what perceived turmoil I’m experiencing, eventually things settle down and I can see the whole picture for what it is.

If it takes work for you to be grateful in the midst of challenging times, don’t despair. I know  I’m not alone. Be persistent with your positive self-talk. Surround yourself with the things and people that bring you joy and remind you why you’re grateful. Spend time alone. Let go of things you can’t control. Read books and articles on gratitude. Pray. Repeat…

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Gratitude

This is the time of year for giving thanks, so it’s no surprise that I’m about to lay out exactly what I’m thankful for in this post. Before I do, I will point out that practicing gratitude on a daily basis is something I’ve aspired to do over the years.  At one time, I arranged for each of my kids and my husband to have their own gratitude journal. I personalized each journal with their name followed by a heart ♡ that I drew myself. The plan was for us to write or draw what we were grateful for when the urge hit.

Looking back, that was my attempt to instill the love of journaling into my kids. To my chagrin (I may be exaggerating), I don’t know what happened to those journals. I was just kidding myself thinking my husband would do it, but for a time I think he used it to write his notes from church. I’m not even sure where mine is, but I’ve had so many journals over the years it’s likely somewhere. My daughter loves paper, notebooks, and journals, and she never really learned to use the whole book before starting a new one. Occasionally, a journal that’s been missing or forgotten would pop up in a corner after months. That’s the case with these gratitude journals. One popped up a few months ago and I thought to myself, “Oh look. I remember you”, and kept on walking.

In the world we live in today, there is so much competition, so many choices, and so many opinions. I sometimes get frustrated reading the comments section on social media posts because people can be rude, mean, and thoughtless.  There are also many pleasant, thought provoking, and affirming comments, but I hate it when I get blind sighted by mean, rude, thoughtless ones. It does give indication of how people across the world think, even if folks are hiding behind a different persona than when not on social media.  All of this can be overwhelming, making it difficult to hear our own voices. I suspect that if I’m feeling it, someone else is too.

I did a quick superficial google search to compare the definitions of gratitude and thankful and they are generally synonymous. A very slight difference is that the definition of the word gratitude includes the word “expression” (i.e., expression of gratitude).  Thankful is described as a “state of being” (i.e., of being grateful/pleased). Both can be used as an expression and both can be used as a state of being. Feel free to research these nuances on your own, but I’ve used them synonymously in this post.

It is so important to be grateful for the little things as much as we are grateful for the big ones. This year, I’ve been living more in the present than ever before. Here’s a short list of what I’m thankful for:

  1. God bestowing His love and favor on me
  2. Waking up
  3. The love and support from family, friends, and all my social connections (church, fitness)
  4. My mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical (actively working on the breast cancer) health
  5. Cooking nutritious food that tastes good for my family…like the homemade sweet potato pie I made shown in the picture 😉
  6. Our cozy home
  7. Creating memories with my loved ones
  8. My little, furry nuggets of love (i.e., my 2 kittens and cat. (Update: the cat, Baby, passed away.)
  9. Being a compassionate person and choosing a career in social work that serves people that are marginalized, poor, and unseen/forgotten
  10. Doctors, nurses, and other medical and health professionals that truly care about what they do
  11. The wealth of information that is available and accessible
  12. Living in the USA

Happy Thanksgiving!  Update: Happy “week after” Thanksgiving!  I hope you spend every day expressing gratitude.