Expressing Gratitude

 

What are you grateful for in your life? Sherri Skanes and Kristina Knight share their gratitude, memories, and even a few recipes as we look forward to the Thanksgiving holiday.

 

 

Sherri Skanes ~ I am thankful for family and soup!

 

 

Ah, Thanksgiving!  It is definitely one of my favorite holidays. When I was a child it was all about celebrating the history of the day in an odd way—making Pilgrim hats and feathered headdresses out of colored paper, then chasing each other around the classroom until our teacher called for “peace” and cookies. As I've grown older I’ve latched on to the essence of gratitude and family that permeate Thanksgiving. Memories of traveling to my grandparent’s home for a meal of monumental proportions where the whole family laughed and sang and ate until we fell asleep now fill my head and shape my heart.

 

Last year I celebrated Thanksgiving for the first time as a grandmother. It was finally my turn to host our family dinner! I tested out different table settings and recipes a month ahead of time. I even bought an antique high chair to restore so my granddaughter could be around the table with us as she experienced her first Thanksgiving. All of my preparation paid off. No kitchen disasters, Stella was thrilled to sit in her first high chair, and everyone ate too much, laughed too much, and got sleepy even before dessert!

 

This year I have yet more to be grateful for. My son and daughter-in-law are expecting their second child in January—a baby brother for Stella! I will soon have two grandchildren to spoil and I couldn’t be happier!

 

Of course I have already been testing out recipes. I take my duties as the hostess very seriously, as did my own grandmother many years ago. I recently discovered a volunteer squash plant in my garden. I don’t know where it came from, as I didn’t plant any. When the fruit finally ripened

I discovered it was butternut squash. As I harvested my bounty, I thought about the many ways I could incorporate them into my Thanksgiving menu. I finally decided on roasting them for soup, and went about experimenting with ingredients and techniques.

 

I accomplished near perfection on the first try, so I quickly wrote it all down before I could forget. Roasting some of the ingredients adds a different dimension to the luscious flavor, and it’s a technique I used last year for Tomato Pumpkin Bisque soup.  Here are the recipes...enjoy!

 

 

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

 

 Ingredients

4 Cups Butternut Squash flesh

3-4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable)

1 shallot, sliced

3 cloves garlic

4 tablespoons browned butter

1 apple, cubed and seeded

1 tbsp dried sage

1 tsp smoked paprika

½ cup heavy cream

1 teeny tiny pinch of chili powder

1 pinch of turmeric (optional)

¼ cup pistachios, finely chopped

4 slices crispy bacon, crumbled

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Instructions

1.  Carefully cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Place skin side down on a baking sheet, along with shallots, garlic, sage, salt/pepper, and apple cubes. Splatter generously with olive oil, cover with foil and bake at 400º for 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from oven and allow it to cool until you can handle the squash.

2.  In a large pot, brown and melt the butter over low heat until it just turns color. While it is browning, scoop meat from the squash with a spoon. Add squash and everything else you baked into the pot, including the caramelized bits stuck to the baking sheet. Add 3 cups stock. Bring to a boil and then turn down heat to simmer about 20 minutes, then remove from heat.

3.  Use an immersion blender to puree the ingredients.** Add paprika, turmeric, chili powder, and heavy cream. Stir to make sure all of the lumps are out, and if not, blend again. If it is too thick, add remaining stock ¼ cup at a time until it reaches your desired consistency.

4.  Spoon into bowls and top with finely chopped pistachios and bacon bits. Serves 4-8.

(**You may use a regular blender for this process, but allow plenty of time for the ingredients to cool completely before you blend them. You will have to do this in batches, then reheat the soup.)

 

If you'd prefer the Tomato Pumpkin Bisque, it is basically the same recipe and procedure, but swapping a few ingredients. Substitute the same 4 cups flesh of butternut squash and apple for Roma tomatoes and a small baking pumpkin. Also exchange the turmeric for a generous dollop of honey. And to make it a true bisque, I top it with a fully cooked medium sized shrimp and a fresh sprig of dill or basil, rather than the bacon and pistachios. Both of these soups are a hearty addition to your menu, and are even more sumptuous the next day…they can be a perfect “leftover” meal in themselves. I recommend smaller portions served during the Thanksgiving meal as one needs to have room for all of the delights yet to be served. Ah, Thanksgiving!

 

Sherri is an aspiring romance writer, and assistant editor for The Pink Heart Society. You can follow her on Twitter.

 

 

 

Kristina Knight ~ I am thankful for RadioMan!

 

 

There are a lot of things I am thankful for this time of year. My faith. My health. The beautiful color in the trees, the smell of bonfires, the upcoming holidays and memories of holidays past. The rush and the hustle, and that look of the sky on that first morning after a heavy frost. I do love fall.

 

Then, there are the people that I am thankful for. My grandmothers for instilling a love of books, my parents for letting me daydream my way through adolescence. Siblings. Childhood friends who worried with me that our costumes wouldn’t be quite right, or that we would get to a house that had no candy left, or that we hadn’t been quite good enough for Santa to bring that one, special gift. I’m thankful to the kiddo for making me a mom. And then, there is RadioMan.

 

He is the person I am most thankful for this time of year. Well, at any time of year, really. I think all romance authors feel their significant other is The Best Ever, and I think we’re all right. The people we fall in love with are the best – for us. The best friend, the best lover, the best hand-holder, and even the best cheerleader. What RadioMan brings to our life is memories. 

 

He’s kind of a stickler for planning the big events in our life—anniversaries, holidays, family trips. Where I would easily go with the flow of a last minute outing, he’s the one checking the times that the corn maze opens or going over, just one more time, the excursions offered on this trip or that. Comparing the amenities at multiple hotels or resorts, the benefits of seats on the left and right sides of a concert stage. The list goes on...

 

Because he is such a details person, we have memory books filled with amazing pictures from a Garth Brooks/Trisha Yearwood concert and images of the three of us free-swimming with dolphins in Grand Cayman and stingrays in Jamaica. Although we all hold our memories in our minds, it is his attention to detail that lets us put a few of those memories on the physical pages of our memory books.

 

Kristina's latest book release is, Perfect on Paper. To find out more you can check out her website, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram

 

What are you most grateful for this Thanksgiving month? Is gratitude something you feel we should express every day, even to complete strangers, or do you prefer to have a special day to give thanks so you can reflect on the gifts you have been given with friends and family? Let us know in the comments or join us on Social Media using #Gratitude (and don't forget to let us know if you try out Sherri's soup!)

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