Day: November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving for One

So yummy and doesn’t it look pretty? I think I got the table setting right.

As I mentioned in my last post this Thanksgiving week has been a little different for me.  For the first time in several years I didn’t go to California to visit my folks and for the first time since my mission I didn’t see any family.  I must admit, I had moments of sadness throughout the weekend but I tried to look at it as an opportunity for growth.  There aren’t many new experiences that come my way at 31 so why not take advantage of the one’s that do? (Blowing out my back at the 5k didn’t help much!)

In the months proceeding the week I thought I’d be having thanksgiving day meal alone and I looked up and down the blogosphere for someone doing a thanksgiving for 1.  Is it even possible to make a feast for one or is the idea oxymoronic? Could it be done?  I decided to take up the challenge and I’m here to tell you it can! (went to my friends house for actual Thanksgiving day meal which I was grateful for)

Here’s what I did:

turkey, 2 kinds cranberry sauce (love!), mashed potatoes, stuffing muffin, crescent roll, turkey, gravy

Week before- purchased all ingredients so no stressful holiday grocery shopping.  Next time will get smaller turkey breast but leftovers never hurt anyone.

Tuesday- Made cranberry relish-  Wagner family classic very simple.  In food processor or blender pulse cranberries, whole orange rind and all cut into chunks, 1/4 c sugar, 1/2 pecans/walnuts.  You can make it without the nuts but it makes it healthier and cuts the sweetness.  You can add more sugar if you like it sweeter.   I made a big tub because it lasts forever and I love it. I actually used agave but you could use any sweetener.

Wednesday- Made

pecan and pumpkin tarts

chocolate pecan tarts- 2/3 c sugar, 1/3 c butter, 1 c corn syrup,  3 eggs, 1 c pecans, 1 lindt salted dark bar chopped into small pieces.  Mix all together put in keebler mini graham cracker tart pans. Bake 350 25 min or until fork comes out clean.  Top with REAL whipped cream

Friday- Make pumpkin tarts- 3/4 sugar, 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 large eggs, 1 15 o can pumpkin, 1 15 o can ev milk.  Mix together put in keebler mini graham cracker tart pans.  In this case I actually prefer the graham cracker crust.  It doesn’t get soggy like pastry.  Mix 1/4 brown sugar, pumpkin bar mix, pecans for topping sprinkled on top.  Bake 350 20 min or until knife comes out clean.  Top with REAL whipped cream

The pumpkin tart may be the find of the project.  Really yummy and with the smaller size it makes for easy portion control.  Always nice for thanksgiving!

Saturday I was going to do more to prepare but my back had gotten blown out from the 5k on Thursday and shopping was all I could get through.  (I did way too much shopping this weekend but it was a lot of fun!)

Sunday- This was the big day.  Rubbed turkey with butter and put it in the oven before church.  Stuffed it because I forgot to get citrus/herbs for cavity.  (The one thing I did make too much of was stuffing).  I also put the yukon golds in some water in the crockpot before church.

turkey breast is smaller and I mainly like white meat anyway.
yukon golds in the crockpot! Perfectly done when  I came home from church!

I also made the stuffing.  It was a lot of fun making something different than my family would make.  It was a cornbread stuffing with turkey sausage, celery and onion. I just used a boxed cornbread stuffing cubes but not stovetop.  Cooking it in the muffin tins helps with portion control and makes it easy to freeze for cooking for one.

stuffing muffins

Once I got home from church I sliced the turkey, mashed the potatoes, heated up the stuffing, made the gravy (probably hardest part!), heated up crescent rolls from the can and made salad dressing.  The sale was simple arugula with a pomegranate blood orange vinaigrette (blood orange juice, cider vinegar, pomegranate seeds (which kind of have a cranberry feel to me.  Love them!) and agave, very simple!).  The combination of the sweet, tart and spiciness of the arugula was awesome!

salad was another winner. fresh arugula with blood orange pomegranate vinaigrette. (no oil and you did not miss it at all)

With a glass of apple cider everything was perfect!  It all tasted great and I didn’t end up with tons of leftovers.

leftovers.

I also rewashed and reused pans and other equipment along the way so I only used 1 load of dishes and it took me about 45 minutes to clean up from the whole meal. Awesome!

Here’s some things I learned from the experience:

1. To quote the amazing Judith Jones “Some say Why would I want to go to all that trouble just for me? My answer is: If you like good food, why not HONOR YOURSELF enough to make a pleasing meal and relish every mouthful.”  Cheers to me!

2.  There seem to be people from a certain generation that have a hard time with spending time alone.  Someone said to me this week “You went to the 5k alone”. My friend piped up and said “Rachel does lots of things alone…”.  I felt proud that I am challenging stereotypes and expectations for single women.  I hope I never stop! (Goodness knows I’m buying a house alone I should be able to eat thanksgiving by myself.

3.  As far as the meal itself pick 2 or 3 sides to make from scratch (I chose mashed potatoes and stuffing, my favorites).  The rest was more assembled like the salad or cranberries.  The rolls aren’t super important so I didn’t make those from scratch.  I eat sweet potatoes all the time on my diet so to me they don’t seem that special so I opted out of those.  Whatever you like.

4.  Then plan it out over a couple of days so that you aren’t so overwhelmed both with prepping, cooking, and most importantly cleaning!  Make the dessert the day before or buy those from a good bakery (or the rolls, or whatever you have that’s quality.  You could even buy the turkey and then focus your efforts on cooking sides.

5.  Don’t forget little details like real whipped cream and cranberry relish.  If your family always has a pickle platter have pickles.  Or if you secretly hate the family jello salad don’t make it!  That’s the great thing about cooking for yourself you can do whatever you want.  If you want to make turkey curry go for it.  Want to try sugar free recipe, go for it.   Want to make collard greens or eat ham instead of turkey do it!

6. Think of phase 2 recipes for leftovers. I’m already thinking of all the way to use up leftover mashed potatoes and turkey.  Cooking everything in smaller containers like the tarts or muffin tins makes them easy to freeze and eat later if you get sick of the leftovers.  Come January a turkey dinner may hit just the right note!

7. Because you are cooking for 1 live a little.  Buy lobster or mussels, get the good french butter or be like me and get a massage while on break!  There will be plenty of your life when you are scrimping and saving every cent to pay for kids and retirement.  An occasional treat for a single’s dinner is highly worth it!  Plus, you can afford to go organic, get grass-fed meat, artisan bread.  Whatever excites you!

8. It is a lot of work and goodness knows I too often shirk the responsibility of cooking for myself but I promise you (and need to tell myself too) that it is worth it.  It is always more satisfying than the flimsy mediocre alternative.

9.  I did little things throughout the meal to make it a little bit healthier.  For instance, I used milk instead of cream in the potatoes. I used turkey sausage in the stuffing, the salad had no fat and used agave for sweetener, no pastry made the tarts lighter (and I think better), agave in cranberry relish and not much of it.  Again, those are the kinds of individualization you can do when cooking for yourself that are hard with family that are used to things the same way.

Again from Judith Jones:

“There is something about going home at the end of the day or giving over a quiet Sunday afternoon to cooking- smashing the garlic, chopping an onion, getting all those good cooking smells going, stirring and tasting mindfully, and then adjusting the seasonings- that makes us feel creative.

It is a comforting form of relaxation- something that is needed in our busy lives.  I always love the moment of drama, too, when everything comes together and I quickly dish up my handiwork arranging it pleasingly on a warm plate and then take it to the table where I set a place for one with a cloth napkin in a family napkin ring.  I light the candles, turn on some music and give thanks.

I wouldn’t miss this pleasure for anything!”

Me either!

10. Cheers to doing one more thing on my own, even feasting!

Apple cider toast. Cheers to one more milestone and a delicious meal!

Officially a NaNoWriMo WINNER!

So its official I have completed the 30 day NaNoWriMo challenge!  Here is the certificate to prove it.  I’m really proud of my accomplishment.  I’m proud that I finally, however, incompetently put pen to paper and wrote my story.  I have thought of those experiences from 2007 over and over again and now they have been written down.  I look forward to editing, changing things around and making it as good as it get can be.  Then I am going to bind it and keep it as a prized possession.

In the meantime I am already thinking about what to write next year.  It is a lot harder because this was my one big idea.  I had practically written the book in my head a million times and had practiced many of the events on this blog.  I may not have that luxury the next time around.  I could do a sequel but that would’ t really be my life at all as the character gets married at the end and I clearly am not married. I think I will just have to find another way to write about God and the Workforce but in another set of characters. Hmmm…

Well, I thought since I am ‘finished’ meaning initial output done I’d give you one more snip-it of the book.  My friend Polly read it and she enjoyed it.  I hope you do as well.  This is a closing scene when the character has just had her last day at the job she is quitting.

Thank you in advance for your feedback.  It’s still in a rough state so please bare with me. Just enjoy some early, exciting, writing in its raw form.  Plus this is a pretty romantic section, so enjoy that!  I enjoyed writing it and can’t wait for it to happen to me in real life! 🙂

I have decided to be happy because My Life is God’s and He is happiness.

LEAVING

As I descend the stairs I feel like an astronaut who is  about to take the big step onto a new planet.  Each one feels important like a plaque should be put in that honor stating ‘Rachel took the leap of faith here”.

Sometimes I still wondered why God was asking me to do something so strange?  Quit my job with nothing to fall back into?  Who does that especially in this economy?  Evidently I do. I finally reach the bottom of the stairs and open the door.  With the fresh air my brain is flooded with thoughts but  I am drawn back to the scripture Jamie read to me the other day:

“That you may love the LORD your God, and that you may obey his voice, and that you may cleave unto him: for he is your life, and the length of your days: that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore unto your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them..”

“He is my life” I am putting it in His hands.  A rush adrenalin crawls up my spine and I feel ticklish all over.  It’s like happiness is bursting out of me from every pore.  Setting the box down for a minute I raise my hands high into the air and let out the loudest ‘Yes! I did it” I possibly can. For a moment I am dancing and I’m a terrible dancer!  The smile on my face is wide and a million pop ballads embracing freedom and adventure pop in my head.  That person they are singing about is me.  I’d done it.

In the middle of my revelries I feel a tap on my shoulder.  Looking around I see that it is Oliver and he gives me a huge hug.  “Congratulations.  I’m so proud of you for taking this big step”.

“I’ve never felt so great in all my life.  I did it!  The thing I didn’t think I could do for three years, I did!” I raise my arms to the sky one more time and let out a little ‘Hurray!’

“So what do you think you want to do with all your free time?” he asks

“Well, I’ll be looking for a job mostly but I have lots of projects like my college scrapbook to work on.  I would love to volunteer maybe go and tutor for Dr. Thomas for free.  That would be the best!  We will just see what life throws at me and where God wants me to be”.

All of the sudden his voice sounds a little nervous and I wonder why.  “What about doing some wedding planning?”

“Oh that could be a fun career” but before I can go on Oliver is on his knees in front of me with a ring.  It’s a princess cut ring small stoned ring with a the most beautiful platinum band”  I look at it and him with amazement.

“Will you marry me?” he asks

“Yes, of course, I will marry you!” I quickly reply and put the ring on my finger.  It seems to have always been there along with my necklace around my neck.

“Yes, yes, she said yes!” he says to nobody and we kiss but this is a kiss like never before.  Long (way past our 20 seconds), soft and tender and then rough and passionate.  I never want it to end. Without helping it I start to cry a little bit and put my head on his shoulder.

“What’s wrong he asks” hoping I haven’t had a change of heart.

“Now this is the BEST day of my life!” As I stood there with my head on Oliver’s shoulder I knew I would always look back on this moment as perfect.  Life would get hard again, I’d feel anxious and stressed, maybe even panic, but I would always have in my pocked that I had gotten through these 3 years.  I had learned to pay attention when God tells you to ‘make a change’ and that the more you fight Him the unhappier you will be.  I’ve learned that God has patience and he gives us far more blessings than we deserve, especially when we aren’t listening to him.  I’ve learned that diving into nothing is the greatest feeling a girl can have.   Most importantly I learned that my happiness matters to God, and that He really does love me.

Life is going to be good for Rachel Wagner former employee of Marshall Plastics.

“ka,ka,ka”  I hear and look around me on the top of the patio ledge is a crow getting ready to fly off into the distance. “ka,ka,ka”.  It rings in my head and I look at Oliver and smile.  He has work to do but I give him a sweet and simple kiss and then it gets longer and harder.  Perfect.

“Have a great day at work” I say with a wink and I hold onto his hand until it is just fingers and we finally let go.  “See you later tonight”.

As I get into my car, I let out a large long sigh.  “It is done.  Thank you God.  We did it!” Just as pull out of the parking lot the Clocktower ticks loudly and I push the gas pedal.  “Done and on my way to a new adventure”.