In our house, family gatherings = food. Every Friday night, my husband and I pack up the boys and head to my parents' house two streets away, for dinner. It's not usually fancy, but we all look forward to this communal meal, especially my sons, who know that Nana and Pocky (don't ask!) keep the BEST desserts. Which, to them, means Little Debbies.
Sometimes we throw together a pasta dish, sometimes we roast a chicken and make rice, sometimes we grill. But the food is just the excuse to bring us together, to spend some time as a family and catch our breath at the end of a hectic week. It's our signal that the weekend has begun, and even if we are scheduled up to our ears, it's the cue for us to relax and let the stress of the week go. It doesn't hurt that we polish off a bottle or two of wine in the process.
When I was growing up, we had BIG family gatherings with my dad's family for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. I have many, many cousins and the holidays all saw a packed, noisy house with tons of food and roaming children. We rotated where each holiday was held every year, because it was so much work -but it was always fun. As my cousins and I grew older, into our teen years, we began to disappear after dinner, heading out to the pool hall (where my male cousins taught me pool -or tried to, anyway) or even just to sit out on the front stoop, away from our parents. Sometimes I miss those days. Things seem pretty simple when you are fourteen, stuffed full of your grandma's mashed potatoes and laughing at your cousin's goofy antics.
Holidays now are much quieter, since most years it's just my husband, my parents, the boys and me -but they can be just as enjoyable, I've found. I get to spend more time actually talking to my parents and husband, and the boys always like being the center of attention, so that works out well for them. I've also found that the holidays are less stressful; more about the process of cooking, and watching football, and putting together puzzles and Lego towers. I'm looking forward to watching Ralphie be humiliated by having to wear that big pink bunny suit, and getting to see all the balloon floats in the Macy's parade.
I'm looking forward to setting out the china and crystal, since we only get to use it two or three times a year. (Five and three year old boys -do I really need to say anything more?)
And this year I have something extra to look forward to! My cousin is flying up from Florida to share Thanksgiving with us, and the boys are SO excited. It will be nice to have a guest for the holiday. I enjoy all the little things you do when you have company... like clean.
I have much to be thankful for this year, and I think I will make it my own personal goal to stand still at some point on Thursday, and just take it all in. So, remember, when you are stressing about getting all the food to the table at the perfect temp, or when someone tracks dirt into the house, or when you send your spouse out for cranberries and they come back with jelly in a can- take a deep breath, relax and be grateful for what you have. And don't forget to save room for dessert....
Here's a recipe that I decided I want to try this year. I love cranberries, and take every opportunity to use them when cooking for the holidays. Happy Turkey Day, everyone!
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter (or margarine)
1 1/4 cups cranberries (fresh)
1/2 cup chopped pecan (or walnuts, if you prefer)
1/2 cup butter, room temperature (or margarine)
3/4 cup white sugar (I prefer to use brown sugar all the way through)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (if you want whole wheat, use pastry flour b/c it's not as heavy)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Wrap the outside of a 9 inch springform pan with aluminum foil to prevent leaking. (You can also use a regular cake pan, but line it first with parchment paper, leaving some hanging over the sides for easier removal from the pan.) Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar and 1/3 cup butter. Bring to a boil, then pour into bottom of springform pan. Sprinkle with cranberries and pecans.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream. Pour batter into prepared pan.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto serving platter and carefully remove pan. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream.