Thanksgivings 2016

They say old habits die hard.  As for me, this is true.  I still have to write my rough draft and revise it – I just do a lot of it in my head.  I think I’ve written this post about 20 times so far and has taken as many shapes and forms.  While I  for simplicity, it’s not going to be a short post.  This list is in no way comprehensive.  I could type for a very long time and still not be done.  It is apparent to me, and hopefully you, that we are incredibly blessed in many, many ways.  Grab a cup of coffee, a steaming mug of tea, or a beer, and enjoy the ride.

This year I am thankful for so many things (in no particular order):

  • Our daughter’s health.  After watching my friend’s 10-year-old daughter battle bone cancer, and all that comes with it, I have never been more thankful for health.  I can’t begin to tell you all that they’ve been through but I’m a proud member of #mckennassquad.  You can read more and follow their journey here.
  • My health and the health of my family. See above – just because McKenna is 10, it could easily have been any of us.  My sister-in-law is celebrating her first cancer-free milestones.  My dad is 81 – enough said.
  • Our daughter.  She is caring, kind, compassionate, intelligent, funny, sensitive, sweet, and sassy, all rolled up into one beautiful package.  She never fails to amaze us with her unique perspective.  We love to you to the moon and back.epcot_fwrover_20160630_7731311236
  • That I learned young family is more than blood.
  • That Tim and I have a huge village to help us raise Alexandra.  We couldn’t possibly do it without you.
  • That Tim and I get to be a part of all of your villages, too.
  • Our family.  Enough said.
  •  That the people I work with aren’t just colleagues, they are true friends and family.  There are around 40 of us in my building and we have endured more than our share of tragedy over the last few years.  Some days our job is more than any three people could handle, let alone one person.  We prop each other up, cry together, laugh together, go home to our families, and come back to do it all again the next day.  I seriously couldn’t have done this job for so long if it weren’t for each and every one of you.14391023_10209164449642487_463859200522357381_n
  • The amazing people that surround Alexandra and her peers every day at school.  If I had to imagine the ideal place to send her, these people embody that, from the principal to the teachers to the classroom aides to the volunteers.  They are truly the most kind, compassionate, and caring educators I have ever met.  I have no worries when we drop her off each day that she is being taken care of in the best way possible.img_5610
  • My two ageing dogs.  Even though they’re senior citizens and mostly sleep all day, I still love the doggie things they do.  I love that Magda still sleeps outside of Alexandra’s bedroom door each night.  I love that at 12, Milton has learned how to nudge your arm with his nose if you haven’t petted him enough.  I love the sounds they both make when they dream.  I smile when for a minute, they run in the backyard like they’re 3 again.img_4679
  • Having a garage door that works.  Ours broke this week and having to park in the driveway, walk to the front door, and actually use a key reminded me of how spoiled I am.
  • Being able to make Alexandra’s “dream come true” and take her to Disney this summer.  It was an awesome trip.  We made so many amazing memories. studio_stdentr2_20160630_7731599651
  • Finding LuLaRoe clothes.  I get to look really nice but feel like I’m wearing pajama pants and a night-shirt.  Some of the groups on Facebook are really fun to be a part of, too.fullsizeoutput_2017
  • Nerdy friends who get my jokes like this:i-ate-some-pi
  • For having not only enough, but an abundance, and the ability to share.
  • For perspective, as sometimes that’s all we need.
  • A husband who loves me not matter what.  He loves me at my best, my worst, and everywhere in between.  He laughs with me (and sometimes at me), wipes my tears when I cry, and supports every crazy idea I have.  He knows how to help me soar and when to drag me back to earth.  For over 16 years of building our life together, we’ve done ok.img_5013
  • For struggle – what have we learned when things were easy?
  • Alcohol – let’s face it, sometimes that glass of wine at the end of the day is like a light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Leftovers – or we’d be hungry lots of nights.  Ok, so not hungry but we’d spend a TON more on either take out or fast food and we do enough of that already.
  • My students – they never cease to amaze me.  They teach me as much or more than I teach them.  They’ve forced me to open my mind and made me a better teacher and a better person overall.
  • All of the “happy thanksgiving” texts I’ve received so far today – and it’s just past 10 am.
  • You – because if you’re reading this, somehow you must be a part of my life.  Thank you and I love you.

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Johnny Rails Pumpkin Ale – Erie Brewing

What better for the first day of spring than the first day of march madness and pumpkin beer?  Strange, I know – well, not the basketball, but the pumpkin beer.  We tried a pear saisson earlier and it was a bust.  This was a pretty safe bet.

I am a fan of most things pumpkin but with Little Bug’s cinnamon allergy, I rarely partake in cinnamon-laced anything.  Except beer.  I am fairly certain that she’s not going to end up in my beer since we usually drink it once she’s in bed.  This makes pumpkin beer an extra special treat.

My favorite is still O’Fallon’s Pumpkin but Erie Brewing’s Johnny Rails is a close second.  It’s spicy but the pumpkin flavor is clear.  So many times all you get is the spice and no squash – that can be so disappointing.  The balance is good but it is lacking a bit of the creaminess that I like.  I could drink a few of these given the chance.

Good luck with your brackets and cheers friends!

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Short’s Captain Fantasy

Short’s has to have one of the most impressive brewing portfolios I’ve ever seen.  They do it and do it well.

That doesn’t mean that I like them all.  

Short’s Captain Fantasy falls into the “not so much” category for me.  It’s a pear saisson that has an aggressive hoppy finish.  That means bitter and if you’ve read my other posts, you know how I feel about bitter.  I will say that it did improve as it warmed up but still not to drinkable levels.  If you manage to find some, let me know what you think.

Cheers!

Magic Hat Heart of Darkness

Mister and I are splitting a beet as usual.  He handed me this and it smelled roasty-toasty.  I could smell the coffee.  I didn’t hold out much hope.

I sipped.

I tasted toasty-roasty.  It wasn’t too bitter.  I actually got some banana.  It was surprising.  Not bad.  

Then the char hit.  Wow.  I wasn’t sure I could drink any more.  

But alas, I had another sip.  The char took a back seat and all in all, it wasn’t too bad. 

Magic Hat’s Heart of Darkness is a dark, chocolatey ale that isn’t terribly bitter.  It would make a porter-drinker pretty happy.  I couldn’t slam 6 of them (then again, I don’t think I could slam 6 of anything), but I thoroughly enjoyed my snifter tonight.

Cheers!

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Great Divide Brewing Co. Hoss Rye Lager

We’re having beer two nights in a row.  It’s a record.

I had to pick again tonight and I used the same method as last night – run to the garage and grab.

I picked another winner.  Great Divide Brewing Co.’s Hoss Rye Lager poured a beautiful light amber and appeared to be unfiltered but cleared some as it settled.

It was not nearly as bitter as I would expect for a rye.  It’s hoppy on the nose but malty on the tongue.  I thought it tasted a bit sweet.  Mister just liked it.  Yesterday’s oreo cookie cheesecakes complimented it nicely, too.

Cheers!

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Sweet Potato Bisque

Mister saw a recipe…
Isn’t that where it all begins? He wasn’t sure where. He wasn’t sure what magazine. It was for bisque. Sweet potato bisque. Roasted sweet potatoes at that. “How hard could it be?” He asked.
As it turns out, not hard at all. I roast sweet potatoes all the time. It wasn’t much harder.
I did use an immersion blender for mine. You could use a food processor or blender and do small batches until it was the consistency you wanted. If you didn’t want it smooth, YIU could just simmer the bediddly out of it until the potatoes break down. Your choice and any way you choose will be good.

Just a disclaimer – I am a sweet potato purist. I don’t want ANYTHING on them. No salt. No butter. No cinnamon. No marshmallows. Not even fried. Either roasted with a bit of olive oil or baked and mashed plain. I know – it’s sacrilegious but it is the only way I eat them.
I actually didn’t think I liked sweet potatoes until my mid twenties. I was helping my mom make a casserole for thanksgiving and something possessed me to lick the spoon after mashing the sweet potatoes. They were so good! We added butter and I tried them again. They were a no go. From there on out I eat them plain. Hey… It is a lot less calories…

2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
3 Tbs olive oil
4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp
2-3 cups water

Preheat oven to 350. Soak potatoes in water for 5 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Add to plastic zip-top bag. Add oil to potatoes, zip bag, and mix well until potatoes are coated.
Place in an even layer on cookie sheets. Bake at 350 turning as necessary until both sides are well browned, removing as necessary.
While potatoes are roasting, begin warming 2 cups broth in a large stock pot. As potatoes are browned, drop in the simmering stock. Add stock as necessary. Once all potatoes are in the pot, begin to use a spoon to lightly mash potatoes. Add salt and more broth if needed. It should be fairly soupy and will thicken as potatoes break down.
Simmer 20 minutes.
Add cream and stir. Use immersion blender or other method to purée soup. Add water to desired consistency.

Serving suggestion: top with bacon, scallions, cheese, or homemade croutons

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Individual Oreo cheesecakes

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It is no secret I usually cook a lot on Sunday. I knew I didn’t have a ton of time today as Little Bug had a birthday party to go to today.
I wanted to bake something. More specifically I wanted to bake bread but I knew I didn’t have that kind of time. I also knew I has about half a package of whole Oreos plus some extra crumbs. I had also taken some cream cheese out of the freezer for mister on Friday that he didn’t use. What do you get when you put it together?

These. Yes they are as good as they look.
The nice thing is that they are only 150 calories each but I could eat them all. I did manage to wait until I wouldn’t burn myself before I ate one but they really were best once they were really cold.
Unusual for me but I didn’t make many changes – only one actually. I swapped plain yogurt for vanilla Greek. It was what I had on hand and it worked beautifully.
I will be making these again (and again). I love that they are an individual portion – great for both my own portion control and for group gatherings. No more messy knives laying around! If you wanted to fancy them up a bit for a party, top them with a bit of whipped cream (I believe in the real stuff sweetened slightly but have been known to use a can of whipped heavy cream in a pinch) and sprinkle with a few more cookie crumbs. They would be great with a streak of strawberry sauce, too.
Enjoy!

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Atwater Cherry Stout

Mister and I decided to split a beer tonight but I had to pick it. That can be a daunting task when there are approximately 60 different options, many of them dark stouts which are not my favorite. I decided to just go to the michigan fridge (the garage) and grab a bottle.
I pulled out Atwater’s Cherry Stout. It pours a beautiful deep red-brown that speaks to the cherry flavor hidden within.
Upon the first dip mister declared it delicious. I started a new medication for migraines last week that has made carbonated things taste flat and a bit off. Even with that at play, I like this beer. It is dark, roasty, and toasty but not bitter. The cherry is present yet not medicinal as I find in many berry-based drinks.
We have yet to actually go to Atwater and see the brewery but the more of their beer I try, the more I want to go. If you get a chance to try this one, let me know what you think.
Cheers!

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Short’s Honey Badger

An American Black Lager brewed with Orange Blossom Honey…1553162_10202874701296266_699510632_o

It’s dark, no doubt.

The flowery-ness is very forward and the orange blossom comes through pretty clearly.  The beer itself isn’t bad but I don’t care for the finish.

Mister like it.  He can have it.

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French Onion Soup

French onion soup.  Just the name sounds fancy – It’s French after all.  I love French onion soup but I hate paying for it in a restaurant.

A while back I decided to scour Pinterest, where else, for the ultimate recipe.  I scoured.  I scoured some more.  I was confused – I assumed by the price you pay, it was an intricate recipe.  That didn’t make sense if I was reading the recipes right.  Caramelize onions, add beef broth, some spices, some wine and simmer.  Could it be that easy?  Really?

Yes.

It really is that easy.  There are a few tricks I learned but the process is simple.  You can scale it up or down depending on your needs.  Since we eat a lot of soup and it’s a great lunch, I usually make a healthy pot.

Some things to know:

  • When you’re caramelizing the onions, don’t add salt right away.  It draws the water out of the onions and makes it take longer to caramelize.  Add a bit of brown sugar when the onions are starting to get soft and turn brown.
  • It brings out the sweetness in the onions and really helps them brown well.
  • Don’t overcrowd the pan with onions.  While it’s tempting to try to do this all in one batch, it actually is a bigger pain and takes longer.  It is also much easier to burn the onions.  Don’t do it.  Just don’t.
  • I use a touch of dehydrated garlic and shallot to bump the sweetness.  I buy mine here and here.
  • I also like  shallot pepper seasoning for a hint of herbs.  Mister uses this on EVERYTHING but tarragon isn’t my favorite so I use it sparingly.  It really gives a nice flavor to the soup, though.  I used 1/2 tsp.

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs yellow cooking onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 tbs butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, divided
  • 2 Tbs salt, divided
  • 8 cups beef broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 bouillon cubes

Melt half the butter in a large frying pan over medium low heat.  Add half the onions.  Let cook slowly stirring occasionally.

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After approximately 15 minutes, you’ll see the onions start to get some brown color.  When they look like this, sprinkle 1 Tbs salt on them.

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Keep stirring and browning.  When the look like the picture below, sprinkle half the sugar over the top.

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Keep cooking until all the onions are brown and extremely soft.  They’ll look like the picture below.

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Dump the onions in a stock pot.  Add the beef broth and turn on low.

Repeat the process of caramelizing the onion with the other half of everything.

Once the onions are all in the pot, add the wine, water, bouillon, and any other seasonings you’re using.  Simmer 20 minutes (or longer).

You could use a crock pot instead of simmering this on the stove.  It’ll just be a little longer of a process but would taste equally delightful.

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You can top with croutons and cheese – if you do, broil the cheese until it gets bubbly and brown.  Delish!

Be sure to share this soup – you’ll have a lot of friends you never knew you had!

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