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Quick Easy Thanksgiving Recipes

I love Thanksgiving. I love that we take time out of the craziness that is life to be grateful; to say thank you; to enjoy our family, friends, and loved ones. This is something I have purposed to do throughout the year but love that I get a day to do just that. What a wonderful tradition!

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

I hope you do take time to slow down, reflect, and give thanks this Thanksgiving. For some steps on how to get a gratitude attitude (or just some good family ideas), check out my blog on 6 easy steps to a gratitude attitude

But today, I want to talk about food! Although I love the family, memories, and time to slow down, I love (and my whole family) love the food!

My husband and son love the holiday for the delicious tastes and aromas that flood our home. I love the day for the family, the downtime, and the movies. I love snuggling by the fire after a delicious meal and enjoying time with family, friends, and loved ones.

In that spirit, today I wanted to share some good recipes for the big day. I am lucky and Hubby does the turkey (and sometimes ham depending on the number of guests we have). Sides, however, are typically up to me. Here are the top recipes we use that get an ovation every year.

APPETIZERS

Appetizers are so fun! But can be so time-consuming. They are the unsung heroes of the holiday. They waken the pallet and give something for little hands to do while they wait. But kids are fussy (and so are adults around this time of year). Here are a couple of easy appetizers we use for Thanksgiving that add color and are still healthy and easy.

  • Onion Dip (sometimes we make our own, sometimes we buy – depending on the time we have) or Hummus (there is a great recipe in Brain Food Cookbook) with sliced bell pepper, snap peas, broccoli, and carrots
  • Yogurt (we use the Brain Food recipe for ferments which takes 24 hours; if you do not have that time, use almond or coconut yogurt from the store) with sliced apples of all colors coated in a little lemon juice to prevent browning.
  • Tortilla Rolls: As the GIF above shows, this is so good, quick, and brings color to what can easily become a brown table. Just some spinach tortilla rols, sliced bell pepers, spinach, carrots, and I use red onion with a touch of hummas (or your favorite spread), rolled, sliced into one-inch pieces, and set out beautifully. This is easy finger food that will make even the fussiest people happy.

SIDES

Sides can make or break a meal. Ever have a fantastic main dish that only found the accompanying side lacks luster? It can be what drops a review from five stars to three. Here are a few of my favorite unsung heroes of Thanksgiving:

  • Carrots are amazing! But become the ugly duckling next to green beans each year. Although I have grown to like green beans, carrots are my go-to for sides. I use them in everything from carrot fries (as I discovered in this gem for Autism/ADD recovering as well as Paleo/SCD/GAPS dieters) to quick on-the-go snacks without the mess.  
  • When oven and stovetop space is limited, I love this slow cooker recipe for cinnamon sugar-glazed carrots.  I use ghee or plant-based butter instead of regular butter. If I have the space, I truly enjoy this quick brown butter garlic honey-roasted carrots recipe. 20 minutes tops and you have a great yummy side that everyone will talk about.
  • I love mashed potatoes (and so do most of my friends and family). This staple is easy to make with a touch of almond milk. I dress mine up (depending on the day) with herbs and spices including. I like to throw in a touch of garlic and thyme for extra spice. I have also enjoyed replacing potatoes with cauliflower. This is an easy quick recipe for those who do not do potatoes.

SALADS

You cannot go wrong with a good salad. For those traveling and needing to bring a dish, these are quick tasty dishes. With all the treats around the day, a healthy salad is, not only welcome, but needed, colorful, and can tie a meal together. Here are our quick recipes:

  • Chicken Salad:  All you need is to cut lettuce, apples, strawberries, and red onion. Combine that with roasted or baked chicken cut into one-inch slices and your choice of dressing (we like the brand G Hughes and Skinny Girl) and voila! Colorful dish everyone will like.
  • Broccoli Cranberry: This is a fun twist on the traditional salad. Mix steamed broccoli heads, almonds (optional), and cranberries. Sometimes we add chicken or bacon bits (these are easy and do not require additional cook time). We sometimes add onion and sometimes add bell pepper for color. Mix and you are done.   
  • If I am feeling super fun, I use a broccoli grapefruit, and avocado salad. All these mixed with a touch of green onion or shallots and yum yum!

DESSERTS

Now to my favorite thing about the Thanksgiving meal – desserts! I love a nice warm cup of coffee or tea and a sweet dessert. Add in a fireplace and great company and you get a touch of Heaven. Here are just a few desserts (because I do love all things sweet) that I enjoy for Thanksgiving. Oh, who am I kidding? All year round!

  • I like pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. I have loved this recipe from Betty Crocker for Pumpkin Cream Cheese pie.  It is easy but prepare to have the pie sit in your fridge for 4 hours before you can cut into it.
  • If you are like me, sweet things are the Achilles heel. So, I love to make individual size things so the sweet is there without the regret later. This is a great recipe for apple pie bites that do not take a lot of time.
  • What good is warm without ice cream? I love to blend frozen bananas, almond milk, and frozen strawberries (no green), vanilla, or melted chocolate (the flavors are limitless) to have a fun tasty dairy-free option. Using a blender, this delicious treat is ready in minutes and does not require the bulkiness of traditional ice cream makers.

There are so many delightful things to enjoy at Thanksgiving. I hope this small list can help make things a bit easier when planning to be at home or travel.

I do hope you have a great Thanksgiving. May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face (Luke 1:78); the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand (John 10:27-28). Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.

For more on Thanksgiving treats and ways to celebrate, check out my Facebook page.

Featured

Three Steps to Thriving During Transitions

Welcome back! For those who have been following, this past year included deployment and a permanent change of station (PCS) move. In the crazy times of being a single parent to moving, tons of transition takes place. And, if you have kids, you know transition means growth. Growth means stretching, growing pains, and (sometimes) regression.

So, I took the past year to focus on my family and ensure we are set up for success in the new city.

This past year has seen deployment and moving for our family. If you have ever had to one or both, you know how stressful it can be. So how do you make it through? Where do you start? How do you face this giant change?

Here are three things I have learned in the process of deployments and moving that I think might help you too.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Bh failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
  • Be Prepared.

As with any change, the more prep work you do the better. Having a member of your family move or deploy is a huge shift in daily living. The balance of daily life changes. Who takes out the garbage? Mows the lawn? Makes dinner? Add into this crazy shift, kids. Kids ask questions (often the ones parents do not have the answers to). Kids act out because they see the unfair nature of sending a family member away for a significant length of time. All this can – and will – lead to disaster if we are not careful.

You have to prep. Spend time talking about the transition with your kids. Let them be a part of the planning process. Let them know you are all on the same team working for the same goal. Let them know where they can partner with you and how they might be able to step up (especially great for pre-teens and teenagers). Let them know how you plan to help them and ask them for ideas on how you can help them.

  • Be honest.

It is easy to get into the mind frame that you can do it all. Be everything to all people. But that is a myth. We all know it. We must be honest – with ourselves and those around us. It is ok to admit you need help. I am so thankful to my friends the Nelsons who came over multiple times to help me fix broken things while Hubby was gone. I am thankful to the Speers who would fix my car when it broke. I am thankful to Keiffers who let us enjoy holidays with them (and the occasional hang out).

Being honest when I asked for help made all the difference in how I processed the day. I knew that there were resources and people out there who wanted to see me succeed.

But honesty with yourself (and those who ask if you need anything) is not enough. You must be honest with your kids and spouse. Kids notice things (usually the stuff you do not want them to). So be honest. Let them the reality of the deployment. Let them know what to expect while the spouse is gone or what to expect when they get to the new house. Just like you do not like to be blindsided by change, kids hate it more. Be honest with them and the doors for open communication. Remember, sometimes just knowing there is someone out there who understands what you are going through is enough to make a world of difference.

  • Be Happy. Do Good.

In America, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  There is a Will Smith movie that shows the struggle on this pursuit of happiness. King Solomon (credited as the wisest man who ever lived) said in Ecclesiastes 3:12-15, “’I know there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live,” and in Proverbs 17:22 he states, “A joyful heart is a good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.”  Happiness and joy are innate in us.

However, today more people are plagued with depression, fear, and anxiety than any other time in history. (I honestly find this ironic since we live in the healthiest, richest, and safest time ever). So how do we stay out of this negative mindset when faced with deployments, moves, and sometimes worse? Follow Solomon’s advice.

Laugh. Laugh often. Enjoy the small things so you can appreciate the big ones. Do good. Get out of your own head and help someone else. Volunteer. Write a letter of encouragement. Have a cup of tea with your elderly neighbor. Be happy. Do Good.

Deployments and moves are hard. That is reality. But they do not have to be destructive or tough. Remember, you got this. All you need is to be prepared; be honest; be happy and do good.

For more on deployments and PCS moves, check out my Facebook page.

The Power of Books

open brown book page
Open brown book pages

My son did not speak till late five years old.  I remember praying he would just say a word of what he wanted or needed instead of throwing a fit to communicate.  There were some nights it was just so exhausting not knowing how to help him help himself. 

I quickly realized I had two paths.  I could simply complain about my son’s inability to speak or I could attempt to help him figure out this essential skill. 

I chose the latter.

Know you are not alone.  According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, approximately 7.5 MILLION people have trouble using their voice.  And, most people have trouble communicating in written form too.  Communication is HARD.

Here are the four steps I used to get my son from speechless to not shutting up.

Boy in Grey Jacket Reading Book
Boy in Grey Jacket Reading Book

Don’t hold back. Babies can read.  Did you know that?  Research has found when a mother frequently spoke to their infant, the child learned almost 300 MORE words by age 2 than their peers whose parents seldom spoke to them.  More surprising is that by age 2, a child’s brain is as active as an adult.  By age 3 it is twice as active – and it STAYS that way. 

Woman reads with baby

Read to your child. Often. Reading to your child allows them to experience shared talking.  They see it visually as they hear it aurally.  This means their brain is double engaged. This is the best way to stimulate language and cognitive skills.

Child in long sleeves and trousers reading a book
Child in long sleeves and trousers reading a book

Comic books!  I hear a LOT a kid won’t read because they think it is boring.  Coming from this author, editor, and avid reader – YOUR KID IS RIGHT. The problem is not with reading, it is the material.  Find what excites them and read that!  For us, it was Disney Comic Books (also limits screen time so win–win)!

Women and girl lying in bed holding a book
Woman and girl lying in bed holding a book

Ask Questions.  Too often we read a book to a child and then simply kiss them goodnight.  We do them a disservice.  Ask them about what they are reading.  Is it interesting?  Is the character sad?  How would they feel in a similar situation?  What do they think the place looks like?  Asking allows them to interact with material not just lay there like a dead fish.

With these simple steps (and a slew of speech and language therapy), my kid went from non-communicative to never silent!  You can watch him on his Youtube Channel where he creates, reads, dances, and just gets all-around silly.  Just sit back, relax and watch as your child begins to open up.

Spencer gives a class presentation on Albert Einstien

The Moment

When one pictures parenthood they see themselves as perfect parents with perfect kids. Children will be well behaved and, if all goes according to plan, will be captain of the football team or dance diva and go to the best colleges on a full ride. Parenthood is supposed to be filled with lots of girl scout cookies and football games. (Don’t believe me, just get a load of the Netflix show Yummy Mummies!)

No one expects news from the pediatrician, “Your child has some special needs.” Cancer. Downs Syndrom. Autism. Those scary words are not on the top 100 of what you want to hear from the doctor. I have heard it described as a feeling of being put in shackles.

Immediately upon hearing that your child will have more needs than a “streamlined” “average” “normal” child, your life changes. You enter the grieving period. You grieve the football star. You grieve the dance recital. You grieve the sleepovers and parties. You grieve a life you planned for your kid…and yourself.

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. These are the five stages of grief. As a parent with special needs, you will (and we did) go through all of these stages…again and again. But, I would argue, every parent goes through these stages over something about their children.

I know parents who grieved because their child didn’t grow up to the NFL football star. I know parents who grieved because their child chose college instead of military service (and viseversa). I know parents who grieved the loss of children. With children (and here is the part they don’t tell you), you will grieve…at some point…over something. Anyone who says something different is selling something.

That can’t be right!

Denial

When my husband found out our little guy had Autism denial was the word of the day. He blamed our son’s behavior on teachers and babysitters. He blamed the delay on lack of routine due to deployments. Autism just could not be true; not for his son…not for our family. Surely the doctor was wrong…surely there was a need for a second opinion…surely this life long diagnosis was not meant for our family.

I came into the picture later in our son’s life. Children were never really a part of what I thought my family life would include. So, as marriage was a packaged deal, I skipped to step six. But many of my friends have told me story after story of denial. It is from their stories that I write today.

Frustration overload

Anger

Hubby never really got angry. He skipped the next two steps…once he came around.

Anger is something I can relate to. With Autism there is never a dull a moment. For every two steps forward, with every small change, one can “regress” four steps back. This gets old fast.

This stage of grief comes in waves for me.

When I see my son make so much progress and then we get orders to move and behaviors I thought we had overcome a long time ago come back; when hormones begin to hit and my son has more challenging behaviors; when no one comes to his birthday party because he is considered the “strange” kid; when no one wants to babysit because they do not understand the diagnosis I get angry. I get angry at the diagnosis. I get angry at life. I get angry at me for not knowing how to better understand or handle a situation. I even, yep, I get angry at God for allowing something like this.

Now, please don’t hear this as life is angry. It is in no way angry. These are just stages that we go through as life molds and changes with us. We have learned to celebrate life. But I would be lying if I said I never got angry over the reality of life with special needs.

What if…

Bargaining

For some of my friends the bargaining starts with God. “God, if you take this from me, I will go back to church” or “God, if you take this from me, I will volunteer more in my kid’s classroom and be a better parent.”

My husband and I both skipped this step. Perhaps because he is logical and just deals with life as it comes and I already believe God has the best plan for me to give me a hope and future. But this stage is often a long-lived stage.

Depression….took second place at State Champions

Depression

When I found out that my little guy had autism…well, I did not deny at first…I skipped to the sixth step. But when I realized his nieces and nephews of the same age were joining sports teams and having play dates and birthday parties, I jumped to depression.

The life of a parent with special needs is a lonely life. People, in general do not understand (or do not want to) the reality of life with special needs.

Many times, when I would reach out to family and good friends, I learned quickly that many challenges with special needs need to be faced alone within our immediate family. Instead of support, I learned we got pity, ignorance, and family and friends withdraw. You quickly learn who your true friends are…and they are few and far between.

For me, add in being a military wife and moving every few years, I have found finding friends and keeping them to be much harder.

A complete family

Acceptance

This is sort of where I came into the process. Because my husband and son are a packaged deal, I just came to terms with the fact that my life was forever changed by the sweetest and most challenging kid I could ever imagine.

It was at this stage I started researching.

I researched what caused Autism (spoiler alert – NO ONE KNOWS). I researched cures for Autism. Guess what? There is none. I researched what effects those with Autism and how to make life easier for them.

There is so much out there! From ABA therapy to diets to vitamins, this field is young but connected. I have learned so much!

One in fifty-nine children, according to the CDC, has Autism. Autism occurs in all races, ethnicities and socio-economic classes. It is the fastest growing diagnosis in America. But it is also the least studied. Yet, nowhere in the research did it say this was a life-ending diagnosis. Nowhere did the research say life stops because of this diagnosis. Nowhere in the research did it say this was the person.

With a variety of tactics and lifestyle changes, my family is more and more healthy because of this diagnosis. We eat better. We spend more time together. We even communicate better – believe it or not.

For those wanting to know right away what we did to get my son from not talking to talking or from not being able to hold a broom to hitting a tennis ball with a baseball bat, I promise to share.

The Moment

For those who just found out their child has a special need or life-threatening condition, it is a process. No one expects you to have all the answers. And the stages will come and go in waves…if you are anything like me.

But, you are NOT alone! No longer should we be a community that hides away. Reach out for help. If you’re angry, be angry. If you are scared and depressed, reach out! No one should have to walk through life alone.

Man is not an island. There are probably more people than you know in your life touched by this need or that need. Go for a cup of coffee and vent or watch a good documentary or enjoy listening to the problems of others (believe me, it really helps to know you are not the only one with problems!)

But, please, don’t let the circumstances of life dictate how you live it. You are the rudder of your ship. You get to choose which way you go.

Choose life. Choose hope. Choose joy.