For the Love of Traditions & My Non-Traditional Cranberry Sauce

I will freely admit that I absolutely adore good old long-standing traditions.  There’s nothing better for me than carrying on one of our family’s (too) many traditions.  Perhaps it’s my inner control freak exerting it’s will . . . or just the fact that I love the comfort that repetition brings, or the fact that as a kid, it seemed like we had very few family traditions (things always seemed to change from year to year) . . . it doesn’t really matter; I just love to repeat certain things over and over and over again.

Since the Husband and I host Thanksgiving every year, I can indulge freely in my love of traditions.  While little things have changed (we now have a “kids” table, and we smoke the chicken instead of roasting it, and I no longer create elaborate hand-made place cards), the menu and the cadence of the day have pretty much stayed the same over the last 10 years!

Ironically, it was my quest to make handmade place cards ten years ago that led me into a scrapbooking store that led to a whole lot of magic in my life including some pretty amazing friends.

But I digress.  After we eat our traditional meal, the kids will all change into skeleton jammies and we’ll take a picture of them all together on our living room sofa. This tradition started when I just had the Older one . . . I expanded it when I had the Little one (I LOVE when the kids wear matching jammies), and then just kept expanding it as more kids entered the family.  This year, though, I had a REALLY hard time finding skeleton jammies in a size that would fit the Older one.  A sign that he really is growing up.  And an indication to me that I’m not going to be able to keep ALL of my traditions alive as the kids get older.

Oh well, for today, anyway, I’m going to enjoy all the traditions that I can squeeze into this one too-short day.  And tomorrow, as we indulge in our annual post-thanksgiving leftover sandwiches, I can start in on organizing my Christmas season traditions (I may have already purchased the chocolate advent calendars for the kids along with a few sets of matching Christmas jammies).

Maybe after Christmas I can work on letting go of some of my crazy obsessions with traditions…

Now for the Cranberry Sauce part of this post.  The ONE item on our Thanksgiving menu that has never stayed the same from year to year is the cranberry sauce.  Some years we are able to pick the cranberries from the cottage.  And some years, we can’t.  Some years, I make a recipe that calls for a bag of cranberries to be dumped into a pot along with a jar of red currant jelly – you melt it all together until the cranberries burst and then cool it down and serve (sounds kinda gross, but it’s good and it does work).  And other years, I have tried different recipes.  Last year, and this year, I made the following recipe.  There are many versions of this floating around the internet.  Personally, I like cranberries, so I don’t like much else in the sauce, other than cranberries – i.e., i don’t add in spices, zest or anything else.  If that’s what you like, go nuts and add away!!!

Cranberry Sauce

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 12oz bag of cranberries

3/4 cup orange juice

1/2 cup raw honey

Directions

  1. Dump the cranberries into a colander and pick through them; discard any little twigs or shrivelled cranberries.
  2. Place the picked-over cranberries into a small saucepan along with the orange juice and honey.
  3. Heat the mixture on medium heat for about 25minutes.  The longer you cook it, the thicker the sauce will get.  By this point, all the cranberries should have popped and the  mixture will look a nice deep “cranberry” colour.
  4. Cool, and serve.

Thankful

Today, I am overflowing with thankfulness.

What started out as a nice Thanksgiving dinner in our small condo; an excuse to get our parents together and use all the “good dishes” the Husband and I had received as wedding gifts earlier in the year has grown to a big family gathering.  Gone are the days of soft background music, adult conversation, and lingering over coffee and dessert at the table; in it’s place we’ll have the sound of 10 little feet running around the house, the happy cries of a new little baby, shrieks of delight and loads of giggles, and a playlist courtesy of Disney.  And we couldn’t be happier about the glorious chaos that it will be.

This weekend is my absolute favourite weekend of the year.  I get to spend today and tomorrow in joyful preparation for this annual dinner.  I love every minute of being in the kitchen and of tidying the house (made much easier thanks to all the tidying that’s been going on here over the last few weeks).  And I love how our family can now operate like a well-oiled machine.

And as I move about the house this morning, getting set for the cooking that lies ahead, I’m able to quietly think about why it is that I feel so gloriously thankful.

I’m thankful for the Husband and how incredibly close we are; and the fact that we have found little ways to honour each other on this weekend (he sends me flowers and the pecan pie I serve is made specially for him).  I’m thankful for the kids and how excited they are to help with the preparations (how far we’ve come from the year I was 9 months pregnant with the Older one to now when he’s right beside me peeling and chopping potatoes).  And I’m thankful for all our extended family to make the journey to our house and help make this weekend so special.

Of course, there are a million more things that I am thankful for right now; I’m thankful for where I am right now in my life.  I’m thankful for my friends who make each day a little brighter, (and who have encouraged and supported me with this little adventure into blogland).  I’m thankful for the joy that I have found in the gym; in how my body can now move, the strength that I have developed, and the anticipation of the strength and movements that will come in the future, and of course, for the people that I get to spend my time in the gym with (I believe you know who you are).  And I’m thankful for the gift of the future and being able to quietly wait and see what it will bring.

I wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving.  And I hope you too are overflowing with thankfulness this weekend.

And if you are looking for a little something else to be thankful for . . . try this recipe for pecan pie.  I have worked with this recipe for years now.  But, due to the influence of the Coach, I modified it last year and replaced the corn syrup with maple syrup.  It worked out beautifully.  Feel free to use corn syrup if you are partial to it, but the maple syrup is better for so many reasons.  I use the America’s Test Kitchen pie dough recipe (yes, the vodka REALLY works).  But again, due to the Coach’s influence, I use only butter (so where it calls for shortening, I just add in more butter).  It seems to work fine, and I’ve had no complaints.

Brad's Pecan Pie

  • Servings: 1 12-inch pie
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

4 eggs

1 1/3 cups sugar

1 cup maple syrup

8Tbs melted butter

2 tsp vanilla

2 2/3 cups pecan halves

2Tbs bourbon

Directions

  1. While the butter is melting, put the eggs in a bowl and whisk them well.  Add in the sugar, maple syrup and vanilla and mix well.
  2. When the butter is melted, add it to the other liquid ingredients and mix well.
  3. Dump in the pecans and, using a spoon, stir so that all the pecans are coated in the liquid mixture.
  4. Pour the mixture into a large (12″) pie plate that has been lined with pie dough.
  5. Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes, or until the centre of the pie is fairly set (the pie may jiggle a little, but it will solidify as it cools)
  6. As soon as you pull the pie out of the oven, sprinkle the bourbon over the pie.  It will sizzle and smell amazing!

*Note that this recipe can easily be halved and made in a more traditionally-sized pie plate.

**You can also sprinkle a few Enjoy Life chocolate chips on the bottom of the pie BEFORE you add in the pecan/liquid mixture if you want a really decadent dessert (I do this some years, and some years I don’t)

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