Thoughts of Thanks

My original intent was to get the mandatory blogger’s list of holiday-spurred thanksgivings up by Monday of this week. Did not happen, obviously. That’s fine though, this is more timely anyway.

However, the reason this was not posted two days ago is because I haven’t accomplished too much of anything over the past two days. Mostly because I’ve barely left my bed during the past two days… not like in a depressing, hidden under the covers with a pint of Moose Tracks ice cream way. No, it’s been more along the lines of taking a “lazy day” to the utmost extreme (borderline too far) in completely checking out from real life. This experience may just go down in Darcy history as one of the most indulgent, rejuvenating and comfy time warps in my college career. And I dig it.

That said, for some reason, I’m having a shamefully tough time transitioning back into society, so bear with me if I sound a touch off. The past 48 hours were somewhat odd, but oh so wonderful. Mercy, those hours rich in reading, HBO and bed picnics did me good. I am beyond thankful for that Twilight Zoneish mental vaca.

Balsamic Green Beans with Mushrooms & Mint
Photo by Lyric Lewin

And I’m thankful for not having had to make the journey alone. I’m thankful to have hooked myself a guy who values a rare and deep dosage of  R&R as much as I… a guy who finds laying around with me, watching Girls and munching on cookies, homemade GooGoo Clusters and a 22-lb cake to be the right kind of way to spend his birthday.  I’m thankful to have found the right kind of guy.

I’m thankful that I opted for a nontraditional, low-key Thanksgiving this year. And I’m thankful that my dear old dad opted to travel here and share it with me.

I’m thankful for my stellar family that I’m going to miss out on seeing this holiday. They truly are something else.

I’m equally thankful for my equally stellar Ampersand magazine family here in Athens. It feels darn nice to be a member of one of the most talented and inspiring families in the history of forever.

I’m thankful for every friend who invited me home with them to join in their family’s turkey day festivities. Of course, I’m thankful for all my friends who didn’t too. I’m awful at saying no.

I’m thankful for goat cheese and bourbon. Lord, yes.

Spiced Bourbon Sweet Potatoes with Walnuts & Goat Cheese
Photo by Lyric Lewin

I’m thankful to feel oddly at peace right now, standing on the precipice of a really weird and shaky transitional phase in life.

I’m thankful to have been introduced to Duck Dynasty the other night. You know it’s quality entertainment when it’s addictive and disturbing, all at the same time.

I’m thankful that I have no inclination whatsoever to freeze my junk off in a Black Friday shopping line so that I can stampede some Super  Target at 4 a.m. with a gut full of poultry and potatoes to get 40% off of a flat screen TV that I have no need for. It’s a dangerous situation from any way you look at it, but some people live for that rush. Bless them.

I’m thankful for the unexpected, but seriously great, things that have come my way this year.

I’m thankful for any opportunities that I may come across  in the year to come.

I’m thankful that even though I tend to resolve a lot of situations with a stick or two of butter, next to no one compares me to Paula Deen anymore.

Pumpkin Cornbread
Photo by Lyric Lewin

And last, but no where near least… I’m thankful that we’ve finally hit the feasting season.

Hope everyone has a delicious and relaxing turkey day. When in doubt, try a slice of every pie along the dessert table. Just to be safe.

Photo by Lyric Lewin

Turkey Day Twists

Pumpkin Cornbread

Recipe by Gina Yu

Pumpkin’s potential spans far beyond recipes from the can. Think outside the pie crust and allow this autumnal icon to provide sweet depth to other aspects of your Thanksgiving spread.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • ⅔  cups light  brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon molasses

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and grease an 8-by-8-inch square baking pan.

Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, spices and brown sugar.

In a small mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs; then stir in the pumpkin, oil, and molasses.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until combined.

Pour the batter into the pan, smoothing out the top. Bake 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm with butter.

Spiced Bourbon Sweet Potatoes with Walnuts and Goat Cheese

Don’t mar the Southern sanctity that is sweet potatoes with a sugary casserole uncomfortably straddling the line between side dish and dessert. Instead, by highlighting their natural sweetness and matching it with a note of savory spice, we bring you a sweet potato dish with all of the richness and less of an identity crisis.

  • 3 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch wedges
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • ¾  tsp ginger
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • coarse salt to taste
  • ¾ cups shelled walnut pieces
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into pats
  • 5 ounces goat cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and arrange  the sweet potato wedges in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Add the brown sugar, spices and bourbon, then toss to combine. Season lightly with salt. Bake until sweet potatoes are tender and glazed, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, tossing the mixture every 30 minutes. In the last 15 minutes of cooking, toss in the walnut pieces. Remove from oven and gently stir in the butter. Crumble the goat cheese over top before serving

Balsamic Green Beans with Mushrooms & Mint

The instinct behind classic green bean casserole is a spot on: green beans, mushrooms and crunch. We’re simply canning the cans in lieu of fresh produce and boosting the flavor with garlic and mint. You won’t miss the “cream of” element in this recipe with the bright bite of our dressing.

  • 3 lbs fresh green beans, washed trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 teaspoons finely minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
  • 8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, cut into pieces
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • ½ cup chopped fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ⅛ tsp black pepper
  • ½ cup seasoned bread crumbs

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the trimmed green beans and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until bright green. Drain and immediately rinse with cold water, set aside.

Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When butter has melted, add the shallots and garlic. Saute until shallots begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the sliced mushrooms and allow to cook 5 minutes longer, until mushroom begin to release their liquid and shallots are translucent. Toss in the green beans, and turn the heat to high. Cook until beans are heated through, about 2 minutes.

Add in the balsamic vinegar, sugar, mint leaves, salt and pepper. Saute about 3 minutes longer. Remove from heat and toss in the bread crumbs. Serve warm.

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