There is a scene from the classic holiday film, Home Alone, where Kevin McAllister goes out to find Santa Claus. Kevin has spent several days home alone, without his very large, annoying family. He has enjoyed every minute of the solitude, eating whatever he wants, watching movies he would not be permitted to watch, and even going shopping on his own. Yet he seeks out Santa Claus to ask for only one thing this Christmas: he wants his family back.
Life is like that sometimes. We only realize what we are grateful for when it’s gone.
About a year ago, I began a gratitude practice. I decided to take a moment at the end of each day to focus on what I am thankful for. There’s an “app” for that – I downloaded “Gratitude Rock” to my smartphone and set a reminder to make an entry in its journal every day. The holidays can be a very depressing time of year for some people. And I was surprised to find myself feeling blue, in spite of all the festivities going on around me. The gratitude practice really helped. It didn’t take long for my mood to turn around. And I noticed something else too. It wasn’t “stuff” that I was grateful for – it was people.
I was thankful for my family who helps me with my Christmas tree tradition. Even though they have their own tree to deal with, they take time to help me. We set out very early on a Saturday morning, bundle up, and trudge through a local tree farm to cut down the perfect Spruce. My sister and brother-in-law and my niece help me set the tree up in my tree stand and get it turned around just right. Then they go off to do the same thing at their own home. My Dad joins in too, helping me get all the lights on it. Then my daughter and I spend several weeknights decorating it. When it’s all done, that sparkling evergreen is a wonderful symbol of family connection and love.
There is no better reminder of the abundance in our lives than when we sit down to a massive table spread with Thanksgiving dishes. Our senses are overwhelmed by all the colors, textures, and flavors of this special meal. We are compelled to sample everything! Along with our turkey this year, we had cranberry sauce, potato filling, sausage stuffing, green beans and asparagus, creamed corn, and salad with hot bacon dressing. The people in our lives are a lot like this. Some tender, some sweet, some kind of sour at times, and maybe one that’s a bit burnt around the edges. Yet I appreciate all of them and the lessons and love they have given me.
In honor of this mixed assortment, and with a heart filled with gratitude, I give you another installment of Kitchen Therapy. Here’s the recipe for my contribution to this year’s Thanksgiving spread.
6 T butter
18oz. frozen pearl onions
4.5 C chicken broth
3 T chopped fresh thyme
1.25 C wild rice
1.25 C white rice
6oz. chopped dried apricots
1 C dried tart cherries
1 C raisins
1 C chopped pecans
Melt 2 T butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until browned, about 15 minutes or more. Season with pepper and a little salt. Never rush to caramelize your onions. All those browned bits of deliciousness are the signature of this dish! Set onions aside for later.
Bring 4.5C broth plus 1 T thyme to a boil in a large stock pot. Add wild rice, bring back to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add white rice, cover, and simmer until all rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes longer.
Stir in apricots, cherries, raisins, and up to 2 T of thyme (to taste). Cover and simmer 3 minutes. I love this dish for its contrast of sweet and savory, along with the mix of textures. The wild rice and pecans are crunchy; the aroma of thyme and saltiness of the broth are balanced with the sweetness of the fruit.
Stir in onions and 4 T butter. Mix in pecans. Transfer to a greased casserole dish. Serve immediately. Or keep at room temperature and re-warm in oven prior to serving.
© Vulnerable Path, 2014