Giving Thanks and Food

As we all know, Thanksgiving is on Thursday. It’s scientifically one of the best holidays – parades, football, food, booze, family/friends that are your family, and food. I’m also a sucker for taking a moment and counting our blessings. We should do it all of the time, but life gets crazy and we end up spending much more time counting the wrongs. With that in mind, some of us here are sharing what we are taking a moment to appreciate and a favorite recipe. Because thanks and food – they’re good for you.

Recipes include mashed potatoes, two sweet potato dishes, pimento cheese potato gratin, bourbon pumpkin cheesecake, cranberry sauce, pineapple stuffing, apple/cranberry pie, cajun cornbread stuffing and a vegan pumpkin pie. I’m incredibly hungry after putting this all together and I’m rethinking my menu. Again. Please feel free to share your favorites in the comments!!


I have a life I love. It’s completely different than I ever envisioned, but I really fucking love it. I love my guy and my boys. I love my family and I miss them more than I really ever admit. I love my friends, old and new. I don’t love my job, but I like it well enough and it pays the bills and I leave at the end of the day and can live my life. I get to cook and bake regularly. I get to read amazing books and watch awesome movies and spend time with people I love every day and I am happier than I’ve ever been.

But, right now, I just want to say how much this blog has meant to me. It was a hare brained idea that I didn’t really think would go anywhere, but I was bored and needed an outlet. I had no expectations. And it’s turned into this completely rad part of my life. I am so grateful to all of our contributors, regular and guest. I’m thankful every time someone reads one of our posts or shares or comments or likes. I’m excited about what we’ve done and what we’re doing and what we have planned. Thank you all.

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are actually super simple and worth the extra effort because you feel like a rockstar and can be all smug when serving them.

  • 3 lbs potatoes, peeled, diced into roughly 1 inch cubes (I prefer gold potatoes, cuz I’m fancy like that)
  • 1/2 c. cream/half & half (I use the fat free stuff, which makes no sense when you think about it, so don’t)
  • 1 stick butter
  • salt & pepper

Put the potatoes in a big pot, fill with water so they’re all covered, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, let simmer away until you can easily crush a potato with a fork. (While you’re waiting, put the cream and butter in the microwave and heat them until the butter melts.) Drain the potatoes and put them back in the empty pot, get to smashing with a potato masher (I like to think I’m crushing my enemies). When the potatoes are close to smooth, add in half of the cream/butter and salt and pepper to taste (you’ll use more of both than you’d expect). Stir, adding cream and seasoning until you get the consistency and taste you want. Put your smug face on and serve to your adoring fans.


As an adult I feel like I have so much more to be thankful for than I did when I was a kid; but then again my main priority in life is no longer playing Super Mario Bros. until my thumbs are bleeding, although my son did tell me two days ago that I was the best Mario Bros. player and the way I can clear the lava level is AWESOME!!

The holidays are my favorite time of the year and there is no better way to spend them than with family. I love my family more than anything; I love to spend time with them no matter what we are doing. They are always there for me no matter what. If I ever need anything I can call them and they will help me out in any way they can so they are who/what I am most thankful for.

I would like to share my family’s favorite Thanksgiving recipe, Sweet Potato Soufflé. I am asked to make it every year and every year I am happy to do it! I got this recipe a long time ago from a morning radio show here  in Sacramento, I always hated sweet potatoes so I never ate them and figured this sounded good so I might as well give it a shot, I did and it was delicious.  I hope you’ll give it a try, I know there’s a lot of not so good for you ingredients but, who cares?! It’s Thanksgiving and that is what stretchy pants are made for!

Sweet Potato Souffle

  • 4 large sweet potatoes (NOT YAMS)
  • 1 Yam
  • 4 Tbsp Salted Butter
  • 2 Eggs
  • ½ Cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 tbsp Orange Juice
  • 1 Tsp Cinnamon
  • ½ Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Real Vanilla (I like Trader Joe’s Bourbon Vanilla)
  • 1 Tsp Maple Flavoring
  • ¼ Cup Whole Milk (I use heavy cream)
  • 1/3 Cup All Purpose Flour


  • Sweetened Coconut Flakes
  • Mini Marshmallows
  • Shelled Pecans

You can use one or two or all if you want – I use coconut flakes and marshmallows


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Peel the sweet potatoes and yam, cut into quarters
  3. Bring a large  saucepan of water to a boil and place peeled yam and potatoes into boiling water for 10-15 minutes or until fork tender
  4. While potatoes are boiling, combine all remaining ingredients (except the toppings) in a large mixing bowl
  5. Drain sweet potatoes/yam,
  6. With an electric mixer, mix potatoes for 3-5 minutes or until creamy. You are looking for  the consistency of mashed potatoes
  7. Add the bowl of remaining ingredients and mix for an additional 3-5 minutes
  8. Place potato mixure into a greased/buttered 9×13 glass casserole dish (this is what the original recipe says to use, I, however have always ended up with way too much potato mixture and end up with 2 casserole dishes  full)
  9. Place baking dish in the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes, then remove
  10. Increase oven temperature to broil
  11. Top soufflé with desired toppings
  12. Broil for 3-5 minutes or until top is browned, watching VERY closely. This is where your soufflé can go from awesome to destroyed very quickly
  13. Remove from oven and serve immediately


This year I am thankful for my husband and my son, although I am always thankful for them. They are pretty much my favorites, even when they are being buttholes. I am also thankful for my dumb dogs. They are fuzzy and annoying and I love them. Prozac, butter, Target, children’s television programming on demand, Candy Crush and Pinterest are also high on the list. Lastly, I am very thankful and humbled to be a part of this incredible group of women, writing the good fight and generally being awesome.

This year I am contributing this amazing dish to my family’s thanksgiving celebration at my in-laws house. I have made this Pimento Cheese Potato Gratin recipe by the Lee brothers several times now and it’s always a hit. Words of wisdom: if you own a mandolin slicer, use it! But maybe exercise caution because every single time I pull it out of the drawer, I end up at Patient First missing a large chunk of flesh from one of my fingers. That is definitely a holiday DON’T.


This year I am thankful for many things. Richmond, our wonderful city, tops the list. I am thankful for Richmond’s renewed commitment to the visual arts, with wonderful community opportunities like the Street Art Festival, and the Richmond Mural Project. Its gives our community an extraordinary opportunity to view some of the world’s premiere artists. At the same time these events give locals artists, like myself, an new and wide open arena to create and grow in a way that is unique to our city. It is also an environment which allows for some great art-centered non-profits to grow and thrive. Which can only mean good things for creative future generations.
I am also thankful for my ever-growing family. I got engaged this year to a man who loves me and has stepped gracefully into the role of “new” parent. I am hosting this year’s Thanksgiving at my home, and I am grateful my parents are travelling past the Mason-Dixon to spend it with us. In getting engaged, I have also gained a wonderful new mother-in-law, sister and brother-in-laws, and a niece and nephew- Which is why I am sharing my Thanksgiving recipe, named in my niece’s honor – Caroline’s Cranberry Sauce.
Caroline’s Cranberry Sauce
  • 2/3 c. Sugar
  • 2/3 c. Orange Juice
  • 1/4 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 12 oz. (one whole bag) Fresh cranberries
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring up to a simmer over medium heat- you should hear the cranberries popping. I usually let it simmer for about 30 minutes (adding more OJ if needed). Cool before serving, if serving immediately. This year, I doubled it and canned in 16 oz. Bell Jars, Processing in a water bath for 20 minutes. It filled about 3 jars.

I’m gonna go ahead and be thankful, as always, for the wonderful people I have in my life. I’ve been so fucking lucky to have people like I have on the daily to help me not be a pile of anxious, depressed nerves or help me with my kid or get me drunk or teach me new things or be generally amazing. My son and I are incredibly fortunate to be a part of the amazing network of people here, and I can only hope that I’m half as good to these goofy-ass motherfuckers as they are to me. With no hyperbole, I’d be a mess without them.

I am also thankful for Joe Manganiello for reasons that are so fucking obvious, and also for Gingerbread Stout, and also that Nazareth wrote the song Hair of the Dog because that song is the most badass song ever written. And pumpkin pie and also whiskey. I’m thankful for a lot, every day.

Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake

For Crust:

  • 2 cups crushed gingersnaps
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • ½ stick unsalted butter, melted

For Filling:

  • 4 8oz packages cream cheese (for the love of god, nothing low-fat or fat-free)
  • 1 ½ cups sugar (I use brown, but either will be awesome)
  • 3 Tbl flour
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 15oz can pumpkin (NOT PUMPKIN PIE FILLING)
  • 3 Tbl bourbon
  • 2 tsp vanilla

For Topping (if you want):

  • ½ 16 oz container of sour cream
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp ginger

Start by making the crust. Preheat oven to 325. Mix together gingersnaps, spices, and butter until moistened. Press into 9” springform pan. Bake for 8 minutes, allow to cool. (Maybe make it the night before?) (Sure, why not?) When cooled, double wrap the bottom of the pan with aluminum foil.

Now! On to the fun part. Preheat the oven to 325 if it isn’t there already from the crust. With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until nice and smooth, like Keith Sweat. Beat in the sugar, then the flour and spices. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Then add pumpkin, bourbon, vanilla, and probably a little more bourbon because WHY NOT. Okay, here is where people get scared of cheese cake but, really, just follow the fucking directions; 1.) Put the foil-wrapped springform into a roasting pan. 2.) Fill the roasting pan with HOT WATER til it creeps up an inch or 2 up the side of the springform. 3.) Put the roasting pan into the oven and bake til the cheesecake is just set in the middle. This could take from 1 hour, 45 minutes to 2 hours.

When it’s finished, remove the roasting pan from the oven, and remove the springform pan from the water. Allow the cheesecake to cool on a cooling rack. Remove the foil when you’re able to touch it without burning yourself like an idiot. Allow to cool completely, then run a sharp knife around the edge. This prevents it from cracking too bad. Chill overnight in the fridge. If you’re so inclined, make the topping and plop it on there. (Just mix the shit together). I’d allow it to chill in the fridge an additional 2 hours if you put the topping on but I’m not the boss of you. Eat, and enjoy, and make sure my dad isn’t around to drop it on the floor. Happy Thanksgiving!

I don’t know what I was grateful for last year, but I’m willing to bet I’d snort this cherry soda out of my nose if I’d written it down and year-later-me could read it now.  This year, my family grew – and I’m most thankful for that.  I’m thankful daily that my son is alive, that he giggles, and that he’s perfectly himself.  I’m thankful for my husband, who’s kind and silly and generous and mostly keeps his cool when I lose mine, and who always makes me laugh.  I’m thankful for my family, who’ve buoyed us for the last eight months, kept a roof over our heads and our baby out of daycare.  I’m thankful for this crumbly house, because it will always be our first house together, even if it will never have been ours alone.  I’m thankful for our persnickety weird old dog.  I’m thankful for our health insurance, second opinions, third opinions, specialists, nebulizers, and developmental clinics.  I’m thankful for a boss who’s a leader and a team that’s a family and a job I don’t hate with hours that allow me make and eat dinner with my family.
I’m thankful for the women in my life.  All of the amazing, brave, wonderful, inspiring women.  The women who write for this blog.  The women who are actually willing to join the board of this little newborn non-profit.  The women in this book club.  The women I don’t know doing things I can’t fathom every day, that are infinitely harder and more respectable than my eeky little American existence.
But of all the women I know, I’m most thankful for my mother.
Mom, if you are reading this, thank you for driving four hours round trip every week to spend at least two days watching my son.  For understanding when I do things differently than you would.  For being gentle. For giving and forgiving.
I love you.
And I love it when you make this for me, which is why I made you dictate this recipe to me just now.
Praline Crusted Sweet Potato Casserole


  • 2 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes (about five medium)
  • 2 TB butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract


  • 2 TB all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 TB cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 400
  2. Bake sweet potatoes on baking sheet for one hour or until tender
  3. Reduce oven temp to 350, let potatoes stand until cool to touch (about 20 minutes), peel and mash.  Beat mashed sweet potatoes and all other filling ingredients on medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.  Spoon mixture into an 11 x 7 inch baking dish, coated with cooking spray.
  4. Prepare topping: pulse flour and 1/4 brown sugar in a food processor until combined. Add butter and process 45 seconds or until mixture resembles coarse meal; stir in pecans. Sprinkle topping over filling in baking dish, bake at 350 for 40 – 45 minutes or until topping is golden brown.


Some things I’m grateful for about my ex-husband: I’m grateful he agreed to have children when I wanted to be a mother. I’m grateful for some of the experiences I had with him: long boarding at the beach, using a chainsaw to chop wood before winter, living in a trailer in West Virginia with no hot water at one point and an opossum waking me next to the bed in the middle of the night, and learning to appreciate the simple life…I’m grateful my kids are part Cherokee and French because of him. I’m grateful I got to meet his French grandmother before she died and learned to make steak with blue cheese and rosemary potatoes like she used to make for him. I’m grateful he leaves us alone now and is not a part of our lives now, so that we have room in our lives for someone else, and that I’m sure he’ll agree if the girls want to see him in the future. I’m grateful that my kids are perfect (as every parent’s kids are), and that some of his good qualities I see in the children: he was the life of the party and liked to make people laugh; Mary can be very outgoing, and said yesterday, “I knew I could make you laugh!” He was very knowledgable about outdoor survival, and he was good at communicating with people, both in English and in Spanish. He learned Spanish from traveling the world as a Marine and taking up with the guys who spoke Spanish, because he felt those were the guys he fit in with. Mary and Lily are both very smart and sensitive. Sometimes Mary’s sweet little laugh reminds me of him, how I believe he might have been as a little boy. Whether or not that’s true, I’m grateful for their existence, which would not be without him, so I’m grateful for him.

This recipe is so easy to make and tastes so good. I made it for a potluck and everyone wanted the recipe. It’s so simple kids can help, or you can make it with them hanging off your legs! It’s a tradition from my family in Pennsylvania.  (To make it healthier, you can use whole grain bread and less sugar; it still tastes good.)

Pineapple Stuffing 

  • 2 cans crushed pineapple
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 10 slices bread, torn
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Soften butter.
  3. Add sugar, cream together.
  4. Add beaten eggs.
  5. Fold in pineapple and bread.
  6. Put in casserole dish.
  7. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.
  8. Sprinkle cinnamon on top.

The time is upon us. That magical time where my husband and I are at each other’s throats trying to load everything into the family vehicle, our son is yelling at us because we are not watching him spin around for the 394,857,634,895,764th time, and our dog is doing her best to be directly in front of us every step of the way. Ah, the annual family trip to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving, honestly, does not differ much from any other time we visit my parents. On each trip I am always grateful for the existence of bourbon and the fact that my parents have a nicely stocked liquor cabinet. On Thanksgiving, just as on our other visits, I can count on listening to my father tell us all how he just wants to paint and how much he hates things. So. Many. Things. And everyone can depend on my sister and I reverting to the age of twelve and calling each other “butt munch”. And for all of this I am truly grateful. This is how my family communicates. We are sarcastic. We gripe about things. We are immature. (My dad is nearly sixty and STILL makes fart jokes when he is cutting cheese for the cheese plate.) They get on my ever-loving nerves, but every time I am around them I understand a little bit more of why I am the way I am. So, to show them that I care, I try my hardest to give them type 2 diabetes.

This year I am making two desserts and the dressing. I am always in charge of the dressing so I can make sure it remains outside of the turkey cavity (#vegetarian).  And because I really do love my family, the desserts I’m making are catered especially to two of its members, my sister and my dad.

As I said, my dad hates many things, so to see him happy I am making him his specially requested apple/cranberry pie.

My sister hates most pies, excepting those of the chocolate or peanut butter persuasion. So, for her, and a little bit for me, I am making a bourbon pumpkin cheesecake.

Oh, and I can’t forget my son, for whom I am also extremely grateful. He has wanted a pumpkin pie since we picked pumpkins for Halloween, so tonight I made him a pumpkin pie that will remain at our house.

As for the stuffing, my parents cheated this year on their turkey and bought a Cajun seasoned one from Popeye’s. To compliment their Cajun turkey I found a Cajun cornbread-stuffing recipe.

And they all better damn well like it or I’m done with them…until Christmas.


Thanksgiving is a time of year when everyone reflects on the things in their lives that they are thankful for – home, job, family, health. I am thankful for all of those things, everyday. I am thankful that both of my children (while at this very moment make me want to run away and join the circus) are for the most part happy, healthy kids. I am thankful for them everyday. I am thankful for my loving husband and how understanding he can be (I swear I will clean the house….soon-ish). I am thankful for my (insane) family. I am thankful for my messy house and my dirty clothes. I know that sounds a little weird but to me it means I am putting the right things first in my life. I am playing dress up and having tea parties. I am planning teacher meals and running book fairs. I am running to dance and basketball.  I am making memories with my kids and honestly that is what I am most thankful for this year. That I am here, that I am able to be a part of their lives and that I will hopefully be healthy enough to continue this crazy journey for many years to come. We have had a lot of loss in our family in the last year and a half. It makes me sad that those people are not here to see and share in our lives, but one thing I have taken from it all is you must live life to the fullest. You must make the most of everyday. That sounds cliche and a it is, but it’s true. When you’re young you feel like you have the rest of your life to do things, but once you are older you come to realize that tomorrow is not a guarantee. So I say dessert for breakfast (occasionally), why not! And drinks at noon, well that’s never been something I have had a problem with. Always saying “I Love You” before you leave and never taking things too seriously. You need to take pictures and take a moment to just breathe once in a while. I’m not slowing down, I am just enjoying the ride. And I am thankful for every insane moment of it!

Derby Pie

15 oz Pie Crust (this time of year no one will know the difference if you buy one frozen or make it yourself, just sayin’)

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup bourbon or water (I always use bourbon but I figured I would give you choices)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 2 teaspoons cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Fit pie crust into 9-inch deep dish pie pan, fold and crimp edges.
  2. Sprinkle pecans and chocolate into the bottom of the pie crust and set aside
  3. Combine corn syrup and next 3 ingredients in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. Whisk together eggs and next 4 ingredients. Gradually whisk about one-fourth hot mixture into egg mixture; add to remaining hot mixture, whisking constantly. Pour filling into prepared pie crust.
  5. Bake at 325° for 55 minutes or until set; cool on wire rack.

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