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Category Archives: NaBloPoMo

I Survived NaBloPoMo 2011

I got more than this shirt to show for it!

November 1st I signed up for the Blogher.com National Blog Post Month challenge and committed to write thirty posts in thirty days. While I can safely say that I am very motivated by accountability, it now seems incredible to me that the thirty days is up.

I like to write and words come fairly easy. My posts typically average between 400 and 700 words, of which, practically half is usually taken up by a recipe. This makes it feels a bit of a stretch to actually call it writing. Participating in NaBloPoMo has given me a chance to share some stories in cyberspace which is fun for me. I’ve also had the pleasure of friends telling me they were attempting some of my recipes…or they did and loved the results. Seriously, who wouldn’t want that??

However, blogging about food every day isn’t always easy. Especially when you’re single and there is no one to feed. There were definitely some days when I didn’t want to follow my plan, didn’t feel like cooking (again) and struggled for a message.

Between the planning and shopping, I probably made more trips to the grocery store in the last month than I have in the last 3 years. Some days required more than one trip. Mental note to self: must plan better. A side benefit to better planning is I have thrown out less food.

Then there’s the cooking. And the leftovers. Seriously, my inside and outside freezer are both packed with food. A side benefit here is that I’ve had a few girlie get-togethers to share my bounty. So those people I needed to feed?? Found ’em!
Now that the 30 days is up, I have a few other things to show for completing the challenge (besides the t-shirt):
  • Thirty more posts added to my blog. Considering I only had sixty or so odd posts to begin with, this is an accomplishment. I’m actually close to cracking one hundred posts! Who knows when I would have accomplished this were it not for participating in NaBloPoMo?
  • Readers that I’m not actually related too. This makes me feel kind of official in the blogosphere. To everyone who joined me in November, welcome aboard and thanks for following me.
  • New skills and new ingredients in the kitchen. During my blogging blitz, I definitely tried new ingredient (kale, anyone??) and new techniques. Blogging gave me an excuse to experiment because if it didn’t work, (i.e., the 5 minute ricotta was definitely NOT 5 minutes) I could chalk it up to the cause.

What’s next for Kat?? NaBloPoMo is over just in time for a business trip, followed by La Mama’s milestone birthday celebration, out-of-town company and Christmas.

Throughout December, though, I gotta eat. So, I guess I’ll keep cooking and blogging…just maybe not everyday!
Stay tuned!
 
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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in NaBloPoMo

 

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How to Host a Christmas Cookie Exchange

I’m a HUGE fan of sugar cookies. Case in point, I ended up gobbling all six of the pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies my sister brought over on Thanksgiving for breakfast the next day. That’s right, while the rest of the world was pigging out on leftover turkey and stuffing, I went right for the sugar.

So, the cookie season already started for me. Then, in that weird way that the universe works for me, over cocktails last weekend me and my bestie talked our other friend into hosting a Christmas cookie exchange. In all fairness, the other friend was already half committed to the idea and just need her chums to enthusiastically back her plan, which we did. Of course we did. I’m already having sugar cookie withdrawals and it’s not even December 1st yet.

It’s hard for me to believe this, but I’ve only been to one Christmas cookie exchange in my life and that was only last year. Said event was either poorly planned, ill managed *or* extremely casual. I baked my favorite cookies and went armed with six dozen to swap. I was supposed to end up with six dozen to take home with me but I’m fairly certain that didn’t happen.

No doubt, my BFF will have a better handle on her Christmas cookie exchange. I’m pretty excited because her father was a baker by profession. This, I hope, means the bar will be set kinda high so I should score some majorly good cookies out of it. Sweet!

If you’re not familiar with a cookie swap, it is an awesome way to get a wide variety of cookies without having to spend days in the kitchen baking. It’s brilliant, really! The general jist of the event is this:

  • Bring six dozen cookies nicely displayed on a platter (carefully label any with nuts in case of allergies)
  • Bring an extra basket or large Tupperware container with you
  • Go around the table and takes one to two cookies from each platter until all the cookies are divided up
  • Be ready to share your recipe and/or a story of why you chose the cookie you did

We’re doing our cookie exchange next Saturday. If you love the idea, you might want to get started on your own soon since people need time to prepare and schedules are starting to get a little crazy. I googled “how to do a cookie exchange” and came up with dozens of articles on how to pull this off.

I’m bringing the family favorite, Grandma Millie’s Mexican Wedding Cakes.

Tell me, what’s your family’s favorite cookie??

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2011 in Desserts, Holiday, NaBloPoMo

 

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Grocery Sale Cycles – When Do Things Go on Sale?

I could replace the leaky coffeemaker...

Today is Cyber Monday when the rabid pursuit for deals continues on from Black Friday. Certainly this would be a good time to pick up new kitchen appliances if you need them. I have a coffee maker that has leaked for the better part of two years. My solution has been to use a cute kitchen rag (which I change out by season) to sop up the water. Perhaps I will actually replace the darn thing soon.

Many people wait for Black Friday and Cyber Monday to stock up on Christmas gifts and other stuff…much of which they probably don’t need. However, year round we all need household supplies and we all need to eat.

Knowing when to stock up on certain grocery items and when to wait until things go on sale means smarter shopping. Getting the best deals and planning for the whole year can help with shrinking food budgets. Even without being an extreme couponer, if you understand what goes on sale when, you can save money.

This list is compliments of my friend Brigitte who saves a lot of money using coupons. She sent it to me a few months ago. I’m not certain where she got it from so it remains uncredited.

Shop on, fine readers!

December

Holiday Dinner: Egg Nog, Deli Platters, Instant Potatoes, Gravy Mixes, Frozen Pies, Cranberry Sauce, Jello, Marshmallows. Sour Cream Dips, Crackers, Chips, Soda, Ham
Baking: Flour, Sugar, Butter, Cream, Cake Mix, Brownie Mix, Muffin Mix, Breads, Pie Crust, Marshmallow, Whipped cream
Canned Foods: Soup, Broth, Condensed Milk, Vegetables, Fruits, Spaghetti Sauce
Seasonal Produce: Anjou Pears, Bok Choy, Bosc Pears, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Dates, Grapefruit, Haas Avocados, Kale, Kiwi, Kumquat, Lemon, Napa Cabbage, Oranges, Sweet Potatoes, Red Cabbage, Rutabaga, Savoy Cabbage, Spinach, Winter Squash, Yams, Turnips, White Potato
Clearance: After Thanksgiving and After Christmas Sales

January

National Oatmeal Month: Quaker
Diet Foods including: Healthy Choice, South Beach, Lean Cuisine, Special K, Kashi, Smart Start, 100 Calorie Packs, Yogurt
Super Bowl Sunday: Pepsi, Coke, Chips, Dips, Cheese, Sandwich Items, Crackers, Snacks, Wings
Seasonal Produce: Oranges, Pears, Grapefruit, Tangerines, Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chard, Collards, Kale, Kiwi, Avocado, Cabbage, Spinach
Clearance: Christmas Decorations, Toys, Wrapping Papers,
Winter Health: Cold Medicines and Vitamins

February

National Canned Food Month: Canned Fruit, Pie Fillings, Vegetables, Meats: Tuna, Chicken, Salmon
National Hot Breakfast Month:  Malt O Meal, Oatmeal, Eggo Waffles, Syrup
Valentines:  Chocolate, Hershey’s
Chinese New Year: Soy Sauce, Teriyaki Sauce, Noodles, Canned Water Chestnuts
Seasonal Produce:  Artichoke, Asparagus, Raspberries, Potatoes, Strawberries, Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chard, Collards, Kale, Kiwi, Avocado, Spinach

March

Frozen Food Month: Ice Cream, Frozen Vegetables (Boxed, Bag, or Steam), Frozen Meals, Foster Farms Chicken, Waffles, Pizza
Seasonal Produce: Artichoke, Asparagus, Haas Avocado, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chard, Collards, Fennel, Kale, Leek, Lemon, Lime, Mushrooms, Spring Onions, Orange, Peas, Radish, Rhubarb, Spinach, Strawberries, Tangerine

April

Easter:  Ham, Eggs, Spices, Baking Supplies: Sugar, Spices, Baking Mixes, Chocolate Chips, Butter, Coconut, Marshmallows, Brownie Mix, Cake Mix
Earth Day: Organic Foods, Energy Saver, Reusable Totes
Seasonal Produce: Artichokes, Asparagus, Beets, Broccoli, Cabbages, Carrots, Grapefruit, Haas Avocado, Mushrooms, Onions, Peas, Rhubarb
Clearance: After Easter sales

May

Memorial Day: BBQ Sauce, Condiments, Charcoal, Salad Dressing, Potato Chips, Dips, Grilling Meats, Hot Dogs, Hamburger Meat, Marinade, Salad Greens
Paper Products: Plates, Utensils, Insect Repellant, Sunscreen
Cinco De Mayo: Salsa, tortillas
Seasonal Produce: Artichokes, Asparagus, Avocado, Beans, Green, Beets, Blackberries, Carrots, Sweet Vidalia Onions, Peas, New Potatoes, Raspberries, Strawberries

June

National Dairy Month: Eggs, Milk, Ice Cream, Cheese, Cream Cheese, Butter, Yogurt, Whipping Cream, Whipped Cream, Cool Whip
End of June is Fourth or July Sales: Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, BBQ Sauce, Ketchup, Condiments, Charcoal, Salad Dressing, Potato Chips, Dips
Seasonal Produce: Apricots, Blackberries, Blueberries, Boysenberries, Cherries, Corn, Cucumber, Eggplant, Grapes, Honeydew, Nectarines, Peaches, Potatoes, Raspberries, Red Onions, Squash, Summer, Strawberries, Sweet Vidalia Onions, Tomatoes, Watermelon

July

National Ice Cream Month
More 4th of July BBQ Sales: Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, BBQ Sauce, Ketchup, Condiments, Charcoal, Salad Dressing, Potato Chips, Dips
End of July: Back to School Sales Begin: Crayons, Pencils, Folders, Binders
Seasonal Produce: Asian Pears, Bartlett Pears, Beans, Green, Blueberries, Corn, Cucumber, Eggplant, Figs, Garlic, Grapes, Nectarines, Onions, Red, Valencia Oranges, Peaches, Sweet/Bell Peppers, Plums, Potatoes, Summer Squash, Tomatoes, Watermelon

August

Back to School: Pudding cups, Lunch meat, Lunchables, Bread, Cold Cereal, Waffles, Lunchboxes
Disinfectant:  Clorox, Purell
Clearance:  Insect Repellant, Sunscreen, charcoal
Seasonal Produce: Gravenstein Apple, Haas Avocado, Green Beans, Beans, Berries, Corn, Cucumber, Eggplant, Figs, Grapes, Melons, Onion, Peaches, Bartlett Pears, Bell Pepper, Plums, Raspberries, Squash, Summer, Tomatillo, Tomato

September

Back to School Sales through Labor Day:  Crayons, Pencils, Folders, Binders
Diabetes: Bayer Glucose Meters, Glucerna Cereal
Seasonal Produce: Apples, Artichokes, Beans, Bell Peppers, Chili Peppers, Cucumber, Eggplant, Grapes, Onion, Valencia Orange, Asian Pears, Bartlett Pears, Pomegranate, Squash, Tomatillo, Tomatoes, Winter Squash
Baby Items: Major Baby Equipment, Baby Safety

October

Halloween: Candy, Fresh Pumpkin
Beginning of the Baking Sales: Canned pumpkin, Evaporated Milk, Baking Chips
Daylight Savings Time Ends Promotions: Alarm Clocks, Batteries, Safety Equipment, Smoke Detectors
National Seafood Month
Adopt a Shelter-Dog Month: Pedigree, Purina
Seasonal Produce: Almonds, Apples, Artichokes, Arugula, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbages, Chard, Chestnuts, Cranberries, Lemons, Parsnip, Pears, Pomegranate, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin, Spinach, Squash, Winter, Turnips, Yams

November

Hot Cocoa, Coffee, Tea
Baking Sales in Full Swing: Nuts, Chocolate Chips, Evaporated Milk, Sweetened Condensed Milk, Coconut, Cake Mixes
Canned foods: Soup, Broth, Vegetables, Fruits, Spaghetti Sauce
Thanksgiving Items: Turkey, Canned Pumpkin, Stovetop Stuffing, Betty Crocker Boxed Potatoes, Gravy Mixes, Frozen Pies, Cranberry Sauce, Jello, Marshmallows
Seasonal Produce: Anjou Pears, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbages, Carrots, Celery, Comice Pears, Cranberries, Kiwi, Lemons, Orange, Potato, Squash, Yams
Clearance: After Halloween Sales

 

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Kitchen Basics, NaBloPoMo

 

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Banana Bread Bonanza – One Recipe = 3 Loaves

Picture of 3 large loaves fresh out of the oven

In my mind, the Monday after Thanksgiving officially marks the start of the Christmas holidays. Unlike most Americans, I don’t do Black Friday. Blessedly because of my family’s Secret Santa tradition, I only have one present to buy…but that is for another post. On Black Friday, I’m still usually working on Thanksgiving leftovers. This year, my kitchen was still recuperating for hosting dinner. It takes me a while, anyway, to switch gears. So, Monday it is. Start of the week and start of a new season.

I also equate the transition from November to December as autumn into winter (ahem, even if it is still sunny and 75 in Phoenix much of the time). This means all things pumpkin, or otherwise fall-related, are over. No more pumpkin bread for me. I’ve mentally moved on to banana bread (the making of which was a holiday tradition in our family when I was younger.)

All of this meandering brings me around to my “go big or go home” philosophy. Seriously, if you’re going to turn on the oven, break out all the ingredients and lug the big huge mixer from the pantry, why make one loaf when you can make three?? Last year I invested in three 9 x 5 non-stick loaf pans from WalMart. I think they were $5.00 each. OMG, I have truly gotten my money’s worth on that purchase.

If you’re looking for an easy gift this holiday season, look no further than baked goods. If you’re looking for hostess gifts for parties, again look no further. A bonus is that the loaves freeze well. In the unlikely event you have leftovers (or you like to plan ahead), you can wrap the loaves in foil and stow them away. I tweaked the measurements from a recipe from the Joy of Baking. Again, I’m pleased with the results and I hope you will enjoy them too.

Ingredients:

  • 3 sticks butter, softened
  • 2.5 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 9 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1.5 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional

Directions:

  1. Spray three 9 x 5 loaf pans with non-stick spray. Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  2. Cream butter, sugar, eggs, bananas and vanilla together in a large bowl. I use my KitchenAid stand up mixer until step 4.
  3. Add the baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; mix well.
  4. Add the flour and loosely blend in to the wet ingredients.
  5. Optional: fold nuts into mixture reserving some to sprinkle on top.
  6. Pour the mixture evenly between the 3 loaf pans.
  7. Place side by side on a center rack in the oven and bake for 55-65 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 3 large loaves or 36 slices.

Kat’s tip: Per the Joy of Baking, “Don’t over mix the batter. You do not want it smooth. Over mixing the batter will yield tough, rubbery bread.” Um, yeah. What they said.

Nutritional Information:

Calories 223.6  Total Fat 8.8 g  Cholesterol 51.2 mg  Sodium 236.5 mg  Potassium 150.3 mg  Total Carbohydrate 34.2 g  Protein 3.2 g

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2011 in Breakfast, Desserts, Holiday, NaBloPoMo, Scratch cooking

 

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No-Roux Turkey and Andouille Gumbo

Cajun style gumbo thickened with okra

It has been my tradition every year to make turkey broth from the frame and then use it to make turkey gumbo. Exactly one year ago I spent hours trolling the ‘net for other gumbo recipes. In the long run, I decided I like my recipe the best for ease of cooking and minimal cooking oil.

If you read yesterday’s post, you’ll know that I make my turkey broth the same way I do my chicken broth. I trim as much meat as I can off the frame, break it up to fit better in the pot and let it simmer for a few hours. Armed with boatloads of turkey broth and lots of dark meat from two turkey frames, I ought to be swimming in gumbo by tomorrow.

I posted my chicken gumbo recipe before so I’ve adapted it for the post-Thanksgiving tradition. Assuming you’ve made the turkey soup and picked out the leftover meat, this recipe may take a couple of hours to cook but it’s mostly unattended and the results are worth it.

I marked this as one-pot cooking because technically, you could cook it all in the same pot. You could brown the sausage first in a large stock pot, added the veggies to saute and then started stirring in the broth. I prefer to saute the veggies in a non-stick pan since I’m still scarred from my first attempts at this recipe when I used fresh okra and it burned. If you ask me, fresh okra is a pain in the pan to cook with; its slimy, takes forever to cook and burns in the blink of an eye. These days I’m pretty committed to using frozen okra. It cooks up quicker and is WAY less messy to work with. Just another little tip from Kat to keep your cooking easy 🙂

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 quarts turkey broth
  • 2 to 4 cups leftover turkey (white and dark meat)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen okra, chopped (see footnote)
  • 1 can small can tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 to one pound andouille or smoked sausage, diced
  • 1 tablespoon The Pampered Chef® Creole Rub, Old Bay Seasoning Mix or other Cajun spice medley
  • Parsley

Directions

  1. Chop vegetables and sauté in a non-stick pan over medium heat until onions are soft (about 5-10 minutes)
  2. Add okra and cook over very low heat, stirring constantly until slime is gone being careful not to let the mixture burn (about an hour for fresh okra or 10-15 minutes for frozen and then thawed okra)
  3. Sprinkle flour evenly over vegetables and stir until flour disappears
  4. Add tomato sauce. Cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. Transfer mixture to large stock pot and slowly add 6 cups of turkey stock. Cook 30 minutes.
  6. Add 8 cups of stock, sausage and seasoning mix. Simmer on medium heat for one hour.
  7. Add turkey. Cook for 30 minutes over low heat. Stir often to avoid burning the bottom.
  8. Garnish with parsley. Add salt, pepper and season to taste.
  9. Serve over rice
 

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Turkey Tortilla Soup – Low Fat and Healthy

Finish that leftover turkey for good!

The kitchen is clean, the china is put away, the floor has been mopped and Thanksgiving is over. But the leftovers remain. If you’re feeling like you overdid it yesterday, this recipe brings a light, clean and healthy way to use up the remaining turkey. It’s low calorie, low-fat and high on protein. Bonus points for it being a warm meal that is filling, too.

The cleanest way to make this soup is with homemade turkey stock. I’ve posted my sinfully easy way to make homemade broth before. Exactly the same process can be used with the turkey bones. Be warned you will need a really big pot for this. My family does a pretty good job of getting all the stuffing out so I throw the whole bird in, stuffing bits and all. You may be surprised at how much meat comes off the bones. Be careful when straining the broth; turkeys have some skinny, sharp bones that chickens don’t have. Obviously you don’t want these ending up in your soup.

I love to use dark meat in recipes like this because it strings up so nicely. This recipe words equally well with leftover chicken or turkey. Likewise you can get away with using canned chicken broth; just watch the sodium content.

Traditionally tortilla soup is topped with tortilla strips, hence the name. This soup is so flavorful that I usually forgo them but I have been known to top the soup with diced avocado, cilantro or shredded cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups turkey (dark meat), chopped or diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 4 oz can chopped green chiles
  • 1 15oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups broth (chicken or turkey, homemade preferrable)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup corn, frozen and thawed

Optional garnishes:

  • Crumbled tortilla chips
  • Diced avocado
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Shredded cheese (cheddar, fiesta blend or queso blanco)

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in large dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions, garlic, bell peppers and saute until the vegetables are soft and the onions are translucent.
  3. Add the diced chile peppers, tomatoes, broth and spices; bring to a boil
  4. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes
  5. Add the turkey and corn; simmer 5 to 10 minutes until heated through

 Serves four

Nutritional info (sans any garnishes)

Calories 238  Total Fat 8.8 g  Cholesterol 59.5 mg  Sodium 822 mg  Potassium 414 mg  Total Carbohydrate 15.7 g   Protein 25.1 g

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2011 in Low fat, NaBloPoMo, One pot cooking, Soup

 

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Thanksgiving Nostalgia

My first Turkey circa 1995

I spent every Thanksgiving with my parents (and grandparents) until I was 21. To my recollection, we had the same menu each year; roasted turkey, crouton stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, rolls, squash from a box that only my mother ate and cranberry sauce from the can that only Grannie ate. Some twenty odd years later, not much has changed menu-wise.

But, I have changed. For most of my twenties and thirties, I lived away from my family. I always made it home for Christmas but couldn’t always swing the extra trip home for Thanksgiving. For all intents and purposes, I became a Turkey Day orphan.

Whilst I was living on my own, far removed from my family, I was fortunate to be adopted by friends who took me in and shared their traditions with me.  It was with my favorite foster sisters (you know who you are) that I survived the dreaded “pink stuff”and “orange stuff” which was whipped and then topped with baby marshmallows and/or fluff. But, it was also through the girls that I learned to savor barbecued turkey, wrapped in bacon and slow roasted on a Weber grill. Oh, and gin martinis! My stand-in families from the South introduced me to oyster dressing, wilted spinach adorned with bacon, and a different sweet potato recipe every year which was always decked out in butter, brown sugar, maple syrup and pecans.

The picture above commemorates my very first turkey. I was living in New Orleans at the time. My Dad, bless his heart, called me at oh-six-thirty his time, to give me step-by-step instructions on how to grease the bird. It was like being inducted into a secret club. I remember feeling surprised and touched by this feeling of home even though I was on my own. (If you’re reading this, Dad, I love you!)

Being safely ensconced two time zones ahead, though, I felt liberated to create my own menu. I bucked tradition and made a wild rice stuffing. I sautéed zucchini and yellow squash to have something green on the table. There were sweet potatoes alongside the mashed potatoes. And, corn bread instead of rolls. It was my kitchen, it was my menu and it was AWESOME!

As I write this, I look back and see the influences of the people I’ve met and the places I’ve lived mapped out in my menu choices. I am thankful for everyone I have had the good fortune of breaking bread with. I am forever grateful for the families that took me in.

Ten years ago, I moved to Phoenix where my parents and most of my siblings live. Today the festivities are at my house. I feel truly blessed to share this day with my own family. Plus, as the host, I get the benefit of pushing the traditional menu (see paragraph one) boundaries just a bit.

This Thanksgiving I am especially thankful for God’s grace, his abundance, and all the blessings I enjoy. I wish you and your family abundance, prosperity and many blessings today as well!

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2011 in Holiday, NaBloPoMo

 

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