Some Food Fun on Valentine’s Day

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY to all! 

 Many couples celebrate this day by going out to eat at a fancy restaurant, however this year we decided to spend some quiet time at home, just the two of us.  Our daughter is away at college.  I sent her a nice “care package” last week filled with lots of goodies for the holiday to let her know we miss her. 010

 

Since we were staying home, I thought I’d have a little fun with food today.  Instead of making the same old thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I thought I’d play around in the kitchen.  Okay, so the food wasn’t really gourmet fare, but it was fun to make, healthy to eat and totally satisfying (especially the dessert!)

 Happy banana strawberry smoothie

A strawberry-banana smoothie was perfect for breakfast.  Even the food was smiling (before I wielded my paring knife!)  Made with non-fat yogurt and a drizzle of Agave, this frothy breakfast was delicious, filling and less than 300 calories (based on an average serving.)

 

By the time lunch came along, we weren’t that hungry.  I had some cantaloupe chunks and walnut halves while I made my husband a nice little turkey sandwich on toasted whole wheat bread with a mug of hot skim chocolate milk.    

 

???????????????????????????????For dinner, I decided to make a Shrimp and Broccoli dish which was delicious, easy to prepare and wholesome.  I served the shrimp over a bed of brown rice and a small green salad with lemon squeeze on the side to round out the meal.  Before marinating the shrimp for about 15 minutes in a mixture of soy, garlic and ginger, I put together another heart-shaped happy face for the holiday!

 

???????????????????????????????Being Valentine’s Day, I decided to splurge on dessert and make some of my husband’s favorite cookies, Mint Chocolate Chip, as I spelled out a loving message.  A couple of these delightful chocolate sensations with a nice warm cup of tea really hit the spot.  We plan to spend the remainder of the evening relaxing by the fire. 

 I hope everyone gave and received lots of love today.  And if you have pets, I hope you gave them lots of extra love today too!  Valentine’s Day is not just for lovers, you know…

From CameraPhone 008

“We love the things we love for what they are.” ~ Robert Frost

Memories – So Far Away; So Very Clear

“Pleasure is the flower that passes; remembrance, the lasting perfume.” ~ Jean de Boufflers

While contemplating writing a memoir, I recently began rummaging through boxes full of old memorabilia I almost forgot I had.  Ask anyone who really knows me; I despise paper and if it isn’t needed for tax purposes, personal documentation or other legal matter, more often than not it gets tossed.  So when I happened across clippings, letters and other such papers meticulously stored in several small cardboard boxes, I knew they must be something I deemed worthwhile keeping.

 Steve 19650002Sure enough, opening one of the boxes, I discovered a small collection of faded colored photographs that appear to have been taken in the mid 1960’s.  Instantly, I was transported back in time to my childhood living room.  There was that big old television – with its folding doors which protected me from Mighty Mouse as he burst onto the screen at the opening of each episode.  And there was my brother, mid-afternoon, still in his bathrobe, clowning with my uncle and neighborhood friends.  It’s amazing how many wonderful memories can emanate from one old photograph.

 SJD Ltr1 11_65It’s a shame some of the photos and letters I found in the box were so faded.  Luckily several letters were fairly legible and the photos still had some color to them.  I especially enjoyed reading the letters my middle brother Stephen wrote me while he was away at college.  Twelve years my senior, his writing conveyed levity, tenderness and love.SJD Ltr2 11_65

 

I must admit, reading the part where he asked me if I wanted to “play house” was a little creepy.  SJD Ltr3 11_65Back in those days however, little girls loved to “play house.”  There was nothing wrong with my brother wanting me to visit and help him straighten up his apartment; I was good at cooking, cleaning and ironing even at the tender age of 8.  Other notations regarding schoolwork, music, friends, pets, and especially about my father were heartwarming.  (Curious why he mentioned “witch” in both letters…I was always an “angel!”)

 The last few years have been challenging for my brother.  He faced a series of unexpected and unpleasant situations.  I pray my brother continues to heal and hope revisiting these letters brings a smile to his face.  We may live many miles apart, but he, along with my other brothers and sisters, are always close to my heart. 

 SJD Ltr1 10_66

Discovering these priceless memories help me realize how truly blessed I am.  These are feelings I didn’t recognize as a child.  Today, everything is quick – a text here, a tweet or status update there.  How many people actually take the time to sit down and write a letter?  Not many.  Life is so fast-paced that we often don’t realize how much we are missing.  A simple note or letter is able to bring so much joy to another person, joy that brief electronic communication fails to convey.

 I never did finish the letter to my brother; I wonder what I would have said next…but it would have ended with “Love, your sister Marybeth”  (that’s now my alias!)

SJD Ltr2 10_66Call me old-fashioned or traditional, I don’t mind.  Sometimes I feel I can’t live without all the new technology and make certain I’m current with it, as best I can be.  At other times, I’d rather do things the way I used to, MED 10_66 replylike making bread from scratch rather than using a bread machine (if I had one).  Several minutes of vigorous kneading works wonders for a person’s sanity.  The treasured little box I found brought me back to basics.  I can’t wait to see what other wonderful memories are yet to be revived.

Steve_Mom weddingSteve Hawaii2 2006

A Happy New Year to All!

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
~T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

Kathy_Mary New YearHappy New Year everyone!  Ringing in the New Year with family and friends was so much fun.Now that the festivities of 2012 are over and another year begins, it’s time for some serious work.  I need to make a decision – either quit blogging or write about something I’m passionate about so people will want to read what I have to say.  Does that sound self-centered?  Maybe so, but as far as I can tell, I’m missing something…and I’m determined to find out what that is. AND, I’m NOT a quitter!

 I’ll be starting a new blog soon, keeping this one related strictly to health, diet, exercise, nutrition, etc.  My new one will be more personal/family related.  Separating them will help me focus on what this original blog was intended to be about.skinnymom

 I wrote two “New Yeary” type blogs yesterday, hoping they’d be uploaded before I left for our celebration last night.  Unfortunately, I was unable to finish them before I departed so I thought I’d post both today.  When I searched for them in my computer, they were missing.  I don’t know what happened but I was extremely disappointed; that’s an understatement.  Bloggers knows how long it takes to write, edit, upload pictures and so forth.

 ???????????????????????????????The problem is I wasted precious hours looking for the files rather than just starting from scratch.  Getting frustrated, I scrapped the whole idea and decided to make a nice turkey dinner for tonight.  This would be the last night for me to enjoy any soon-to-be off limit foods, so I had some fun getting Tom ready for the oven, complete with stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans and gravy.  My daughter invited a guest over and we had a delicious meal to celebrate the first day of the new year!  All was well again.

Tomorrow I’ll begin the Beachbody® TurboFire® Workout with Chalene Johnson’s program.  It will be intense but I’m hoping to get more out of it than I did with the prior Biggest Loser program.  The workout looks grueling but I’m determined to do it for 90 days and will be posting my progress daily, along with any other health-related tips, recipes, etc. I come across in the meantime. TurboFire

 My plan is to lose some weight, inches and improve my overall physical health by March 31, 2013 – just in time for Spring.  I’m saving some Christmas cash to buy new spring clothes by then – hopefully in a smaller size!  I’m outing myself – making my goals known to more than just my family and friends so I’m responsible for the outcome.  I’m raising my glass tonight to MOTIVATION!  With a little bit of luck and a lot of resolve, I can succeed.

 Best wishes to all for a Healthy and Happy New Year!

Happiest of Holidays to You!

Tree2Wow, it’s Christmas Eve already. My daughter has been home from college since the 15th and I’m enjoying every minute with her (when she’s not out with her friends!) I didn’t realize how much I’d miss her…she’s matured so much since August. Home for the holidays – what could be better than that!

Last minute shopping, LOTS of baking and cookie decorating and a little more cleaning and I’ll be finished – all ready for Santa to come. Visiting family tomorrow will be wonderful. Brothers and sisters and their families I haven’t seen in a long time will be there too! How blessed I am to have such a large and loving family!

Since the tragedy in Connecticut on December 14th, I haven’t felt much like writing. Too many thoughts were going through my mind and I couldn’t decide whether to write about the holiday season or just wait and treasure the quiet moments shared with my loved ones. Although school is finally over, I have much planning to do for the future. Sometimes, the thoughts of it can be overwhelming.

I did receive a surprise package in the mail this afternoon from my niece andGhost Hunters Book (2) goddaughter who lives in California. She, like me, enjoys reading about the paranormal; however she is also a paranormal investigator. It’s ironic that I never realized this until a few years ago. This afternoon, I received an autographed book in the mail by the author of “Ghosthunting Southern California.” Sally Richards is a friend and member of their “ghost group,” Roadside Paranormal.

Okay, so this gift may not be what you would consider bedside reading during the Christmas holidays, but it’s great if you enjoy reading about ghosts and everything paranormal by the fire on a cold, dark night. I’m looking forward to reading it as soon as I find some quiet time when I’m not too exhausted from the holiday bustle.

To energize myself after the holidays, I have Chalene Johnson’s TurboFire workout to begin. That was a gift from my oldest brother who had great results from following the Beachbody workouts with Tony Horton. He’s 16 years my senior and in better physical condition than I am. That doesn’t say a lot for me and my exercise regime to date! However, what’s better than the New Year to begin a new routine?

My low-cholesterol eating plan has been working out pretty well. I’ve maintained a 4-lb. weight loss…not really too concerned about losing more until after the holidays. I just can’t resist the treats that are abundant this time of year. Moderation is the key and I’m permitting limited amounts of sweets while I continue eating lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in place of sugary foods.

White chocolate Cranberry cookiesI have to say I’ve made Teresa (Can’t Keep Out of the Kitehcn)’s White Chocolate and Cranberry cookies…and they’re delicious. Bringing them tomorrow along with a couple of others. My camera is so bad; can’t post too many pictures…but rest assured, dessert will be delicious!White chocolate Cranberry cookies1

 

 

My daughter, as tradition, opened one of her gifts tonight and loved the Vera Bradley travel case we bought her. It’s perfect for her little lotions and make up things and matches her purse. She was thrilled! Santa was good and we can’t wait till tomorrow.vera bradley

As long as we’re healthy and happy, what more could we ask? I hope everyone who reads this has a wonderful and peaceful holiday. My best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year! Thanks for reading!

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.  ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Season of Giving

 “Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” ~ Hamilton Wright Mabievanessa xmas baby

What is it about the words HOME and HOLIDAYS that bring a sense of warmth and comfort?  Or do these words represent something sad and painful.  Is your family intact or splintered?  Do you live by yourself but visit your family on the holidays or are your loved ones far away? 

There’s no escaping the Holiday Season.  It’s everywhere you look.  Sadly, it has become overly commercial; lacking the true meaning of the season.  But there is a bright side…for everyone, no matter your religion or lack thereof, age, gender or race.

H earth  O rnaments  L ove  I cicles  D ecorations  A ngels  Y ule

S nowflakes  E ggnog  A tmosphere  S tar  O rchestra  N ew Year

vanessa xmas youngMy baby (she’s 18 already!) won’t be returning home from college until mid-December.  She always helped decorate and I miss her greatly.  My DH?  Not exactly the decorating type (but he’s good for lugging the decorations down from the attic!)

All the outside decorations are up and I’ve begun the inside, but something tells me to wait until my daughter returns to complete the task.  On the other hand, I’d like to have it fully decorated, with the exception of the tree (which we always do TOGETHER), so when she walks in the door, she’ll see our home in all it’s fine holiday glory.

 Decisions, decisions.  There are still the tasks of mailing holiday cards, purchasing and wrapping presents, making and decorating food gifts, last minute cleaning, visiting friends and attending a holiday party.  But that’s not what’s important.

NYC Soup Kitchen Christmas I’d like to visit a shelter, hospital, soup kitchen or food bank and give something to those who don’t have all the blessings of the holiday season that I do.  It’s a time of new hope and love.  It’s a time of giving and sharing.  Life is too short to rush through the season.  Others less fortunate need some holiday spirit too.

 V & Mom XmasI think everyone can find a little time and bring cheer to someone who is without hope, who is sad or lonely during the holidays.  Santa may not be real (I didn’t really say that) but I believe in angels.  Will you be an angel this year for someone who needs one?  I pray you will.

 “At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you took me in.’ Hungry not only for bread — but hungry for love. Naked not only for clothing — but naked for human dignity and respect. Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks — but homeless because of rejection.” ~ Mother Teresa

Happy Thanksgiving and Then Some…

I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving as much as I did.  Once again, I shared mine with many family members and once again, although I was careful to avoid vegetables in creamy sauces and gravies, I will admit I had my share of desserts.  I couldn’t help it; there were so many to choose from and I don’t like to waste food.  Actually that’s only one part of it. 

The other truth is two-fold; I missed seeing my daughter for the holiday (she remained near campus with family friends) and I was quite frustrated that we’ve been without hot water for three weeks due to a defective tankless water heater that crashed during the storm.  I do not do cold showers! Those two situations contributed to my mini-meltdown and emotional overeating where I broke my low-cholesterol meal plan for several days.  Yes, those are also poor excuses. 

I recognize, however, I’m human and am getting back on track.  I’ll just need to do an extra half hour of exercise daily for the next two weeks to avoid the extra holiday weight gain.  You would think that lugging pots of hot water to and from the bathroom every day to wash up would be exercise enough.  (You would think!)

Before my daughter comes home for winter break, I want to get the house in order, decorate, do some Christmas shopping and finish my last class with flying colors.  I spent half the day testing light strings and three hours attempting to wash windows.  We had windows replaced throughout the house as we remodeled and although the new ones are beautiful, the double panes with the insulated inserts are extremely difficult and time-consuming to remove and clean.  Thank goodness they only need to be done once a year, with the exception of the insides.  My fingers are beginning to feel like alligator claws.

If it weren’t the fact I’ve been out until after 2am for the past few nights, I think I’d have more energy to do some meaningful writing.  On a positive note, catching up on some much needed sleep should put me back in the race.  The next set of holidays is quickly approaching and there’s so much to do.  I love busy but I like it better when it’s on my own terms.  Tomorrow I’ll be back to my healthy eating and exercise again and can organize my schedule for decorating, shopping, cleaning, cooking and finishing school. 

 With so much going on in the next month or so, it’s important I take time to reflect on what is important and sacred in my life.  I’m looking forward to a new year but don’t want to rush what’s left of this one.  Life is too short.  I’d like to take it one step at a time, savoring each precious moment.

 “I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” ~ Agatha Christie

Traditions and Customs: Do They Impact Our Lives?

With the holiday season upon us, I like to ponder the many traditions and customs our family has passed down through the generations.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Years are among the most popular of the many holidays celebrated with great joy at this time of year.  Celebrations of family, home, community, spirituality, good bounty, gift-giving, and revelry are prevalent.  Even those who live by themselves, without family members or other loved ones nearby can find love, comfort and happiness during the traditional festivals. 

We may consider traditions and customs similar; however, according to Merriam-Webster, “a custom is a practice common to many or to a particular place or class.”  On the other hand, “a tradition as an inherited, established or customary pattern of thought, action or behavior, such as a religious practice or a social custom.  Traditions are representative of a person’s culture.”When I was a child, our home barely accommodated six children and two parents, yet we always found room for relatives to celebrate the holidays with us.  This meant not only setting up several large tables in the dining room and living room but in the basement as well, to serve our many guests.  I recall my brother and I having to surrender our bedrooms, as several distant relatives chose to stay on with our family for several days or longer.  Looking back, I find it amazing how we accommodated all those people with only one bathroom!

As my older brothers and sisters started having families of their own, the celebrations grew more contemporary; however we still preserved the traditions and customs of the previous generations.  A favorite tradition is the Easter egg-roll and hunt which began when my nieces and nephews were old enough to maneuver the egg on a spoon; a generation later, their children were doing the same and soon, another generation may begin.

Of course, most who celebrate the more common American holidays still have the traditional turkey feast on Thanksgiving, complete with a vast assortment of autumn vegetables and fruit pies, not to mention stuffing and gravy.  And I’m sure I’m not the only one who has countless photos of family members with puffed cheeks as they blow out their birthday candles; always an attractive photo.  We generally eat similar food on the same holidays too; Lamb on Easter, Fresh Ham on New Year’s Day, Corned Beef and Cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day, and Turkey on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  There are rituals surrounding religious services, and customs of opening or exchanging gifts, stringing popcorn, decorating wreaths and trees, sending cards, putting up lights and so forth, which make the holidays so enjoyable.

Traditions, customs, rituals and habits all have their place in our society.  Even if you don’t celebrate any of them, you’ll find yourself entangled in the labyrinth of holiday madness no matter where you go.  From crowded airports and rail stations, to post offices and banks, garden centers, grocery stores and malls; the masses are in full swing when the holidays come around.

It’s nice to take time and reminisce about the holiday traditions and customs we hold near to our hearts.  Having a large family is wonderful at this time of year however even if I found myself away from home, I would still be able to enjoy the memories and continue the family practices of my past.  To me, traditions ignite the embers in a dormant soul which brilliantly surge with the first spark. 

Dropping supplies off at our parish food bank followed by church services is the prelude to Thanksgiving morning.  I’m looking forward to watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television this week, as I’ve done for many years, as I prepare an assortment of baked desserts and side dishes to bring to the celebration at my sister’s house.  I hope to enjoy a day of gratitude, hope and customarily traditional activity with many family members as we pray for blessings on all.

“A love for tradition has never weakened a nation; indeed it has strengthened nations in their hour of peril.” ~ Winston Churchill

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Faulkner

You never know what you’ll find when you dig through drawers you haven’t searched in a long time.  Today, I relocated my diary…from 1969.  Talk about a time warp!   Was I really that obedient, naïve and typically pubescent back in the day?  How refreshing to remember…all hope is not lost!

Although I didn’t write in it daily, some of the postings brought me back to a time when life was much simpler…or so I thought.  The first entry was on New Years Eve, January 1, 1969.  I recall being with my two cousins and my brother while our parents were out reveling.  How many people actually have a mini-description of that date?

I’ve noticed through my diary, how often I wrote about doing the dishes, peeling potatoes, vacuuming, watching TV, playing piano, doing a crossword, playing or even being tired.  I also noticed on days we were at my brother/sister-in-laws, or sister/brother-in-laws, we came home very late (or early morning…5 am?)

Another thing that amuses me is my handwriting which was so very sloppy compared to that of high school.  Some later spelling entries are almost unforgivable!  I received an “A” in both Penmanship and Spelling in grammar school but the writings in this diary are atrocious! Guess there’s no pardon by an aging perfectionist!

Oh, yes.  January 16 I was an innocent young girl having a dream about “Owen.”  I vaguely remember a boy with that name…hmmm.

Okay, I was in 7th grade when I penned these entries; still very young.  As a matter of fact, TOO YOUNG, but then again, in today’s society, my dreams and fantasies are realities to some children nowadays…how sad. 

Childhood seems to be waning: adulthood seems to begin at 12, with the ignorance of an infant.

 Even back then, I was concerned about my report card.  A 75 would never do.  I’m sure the teacher made a mistake and the correct grade was  85.3. 

 It’s sad that today, it’s acceptable not to strongly encourage children to study hard and do better in school…it seems everyone gets an award for “trying.”  But how hard do children really try?  Distractions such as TV, Xbox, Wii, Internet, etc., are everywhere.  How often do children pick up a book on their own just to “read?”  Seems to be a foreign concept unless you own a Kindle.  Then again, Smartphones take priority. 

I remembered the “Blizzard of ’69” after reading my diary.  School was closed for two weeks.  I’m sure that made my parents very happy.  However, since we were still amused and occupied with recently acquired Christmas presents, snow days weren’t qute as bad as they could have been.

Notice the note on February 11 as “Diane’s Birthday.”  Diane was then and still is my BFF.  We remember and celebrate each other’s birthdays every year, to this day.  How wonderful is that!

March 7 was actually one of several clippings I pasted from the TV news about a “great” movie; this one was the 1961 “All Hands on Deck” I saw featuring Pat Boone and Barbara Eden.  It seems we were always over my sister Kathy’s house.  NOW I REMEMBER WHY…My sister was the first to have children in our family; I used to babysit for them ALL THE TIME, lovingly I might add, while my sister, brother-in-law and parents used to play cards!  Damn, I never even got paid! LOL

 Oh, this one was a gem.  Visiting my brother and sister-in-law’s house and writing about the “celebrities” I liked very much (at such a tender age)…  Bobby Sherman, Robert Wagner, James Conrad, David Hedison, Dom DeLouise.  My favorite female was Carol Burnett!   I still love Carol!

I eliminated a few more personal entries that only “girls” should discuss…but yeah, they were recorded in my diary and are beautiful to remember.  Could you imagine what I’d be writing online if the internet were available back then?

Just think…this was the stuff I used to think was important enough for me to write about back then.  Today, it’s finances, food costs, gas prices, mortgages, healthcare, taxes, exercise, tuition…and more. 

Oh, how I sometimes long for the younger, softer, innocent years of my youth! 

“Keep a diary, and someday it’ll keep you.” ~ Mae West

Jack of All Trades, Master of … Few?

Waking to a blanket of fog engulfing the cul-de-sac this morning was not exactly motivating; however, I managed a good breakfast, some exercise, taking care of kitties and checking e-mail, eager to begin my day.  While preparing breakfast, I had to acquiesce; I’m just not proficient at some of life’s little skills.  Then again, neither is Martha Stewart; how disappointing.

For your amusement, I’ve created a list of some common endeavors which seem to evade the OCD in me.   Can you identify with any?

Sectioning grapefruit   -By the time I’m finished, it looks like something the cat hacked up.

WordPress, Pinterest   –Still trying to get the knack of these sites.  And I joined Pinterest because?  Certainly not because I enjoy spending countless hours looking at dog and cat photos, although I’ll have to admit, they are adorable!

Fixing hair   –I’m blessed with a full head of hair; however, it takes at least 40 minutes to blow dry and style and that’s just to get it looking neat.  Putting it up, braiding, clips, etc., I’m all thumbs.

Water-skiing   –Not in this lifetime.  Why can’t you just start in a standing position?

Making homemade pasta  -Damn eggs keep sliding over the flour well!

Electrical wiring – Amps, volts, ohms, watts, neutral/ground, breaker/fuse, pigtail, busbar, gang, splice, Yikes!

Planting tulip bulbs  –Wondered why the stem was so short; guess I should have planted the root side down???

Pruning trees/shrubs  –What pruning, just chainsaw the hell out of them!

Making Pot Roast  –Nothing beats my sister Kathy’s pot roast; but I can make a kick-ass chili!

Clipping cats’ nails   -Not unless they’re dazed and confused first.

Using an iPod  –My daughter donated her old ones to me…haven’t used one yet.  What’s wrong with the radio?

Source code  –Per Wikipedia, “…any collection of computer instructions (possibly with comments) written using some human-readable computer language …” Human computers or computer humans?

Zumba   -Another reason to wriggle, writhe, bump and bounce and pull my back out!

Photography/Videography  –So many buttons, so many accessories, so little time to understand what they all do.

Sewing tulle  –I’d rather get a root canal.  Needle gets caught in holes all the same.

Angry Birds  – Have no clue what this is, how to play, never owned a Wii or Xbox, etc. but I used to play a mean game of PacMan…waccka, waccka!

Bra shopping   –Natural breasts slope; so why make rubberized bras that look like they’ll cover torpedoes?

Choosing between a comma and semicolon -MS Word keeps highlighting my commas, wanting me to use semicolons when they should be used for emphasis, no?; yes.  Arrggg.

Skimcoating   -There has to be an easier, faster, less dusty way to make a wall smooth.

Competing with my sisters in Scrabble   -I’m the youngest and they cheat…enough said.

Surviving the NY Times Sunday Crossword with my brother I’m the youngest and he’s the oldest…and he doesn’t cheat; he’s just too smart for me!

Hope you enjoyed my bit of joviality for the day.   Peace – Out ;D

“If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” ~ Thomas Edison

A Sweet Diversion

I’m going to take my mind off the elections today, temporarily, to focus on the next major holiday coming up on the calendar, Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday because I’m usually in the company of family, and lots of them.  I can recall Thanksgivings from the time I was a child and every one of them were special. 

 For almost twenty years now, my eldest sister has had Thanksgiving at her home.  Her five married daughters and their families are always on hand as are some of my other brothers and sisters, often with their grown children or grandchildren.  Nobody comes empty handed.  The food is served buffet style and there’s usually enough to feed an army.  Of course, donations are always made to the food banks at our churches and communities before Thanksgiving to help those less fortunate.

 My sister’s home is very cozy and everyone always finds a place to sit and eat.  Many hands help prepare the food, set the table and clean up afterward.  There’s usually enough time in between or after dinner, watching football games, a movie and dessert to play a board game or two.  Scattergories, Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit or Scrabble are some of our favorites.

 One of my favorite desserts, provided I haven’t stuffed myself with appetizers or dinner, is cheesecake.  For Thanksgiving, I like to make a Chocolate Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake which, for me at least, combines the best of both worlds!  Here is the recipe I’m trying this year which is almost identical to the ones I’ve already tweaked from other cookbooks:

 Chocolate Swirled Pumpkin Cheesecake (courtesy of MomsWhoThink.com)

 Ingredients:

  •  1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate mini chips, divided
  • 3 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

 Directions:

 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 9-inch springform pan.

 2. Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and granulated sugar in medium bowl. Press onto bottom of prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup chocolate chips.

 3. Microwave the remaining chocolate chips in medium, uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on HIGH power for 30 seconds; stir.  If necessary, microwave at additional 10- to 15-second intervals, stirring just until chips are melted; cool to room temperature.

 4. Beat cream cheese, granulated sugar and brown sugar until smooth; beat in pumpkin.

 5. Beat in eggs, evaporated milk, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg. Remove 3/4 cup pumpkin mixture; stir into melted chocolate.

 6. Pour remaining pumpkin mixture into crust. Spoon chocolate-pumpkin mixture over top; swirl.

 7. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes or until edge is set but center still moves slightly. Cool in pan on wire rack.

 8. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Remove side of springform pan, serve.

 “A dessert without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye.” ~ Anthelme Brillat-Savarin