Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things

Reasons to be thankful

on November 28, 2011

My Christmas mincemeat ready for giving

Last week I finished the Christmas baking  – that’s mincemeat,  cake and pudding (still thinking about Stollen although I’m not sure it’s worth it when there’s only going to be the 4 of us at home this year!).  It’s about now I start getting frustrated because I’d like to get ahead by making the chocolate truffles we give as gifts to teachers of weekday school and Sunday school, but I can’t because they have a very short shelf-life, so instead I have to satisfy myself with the conventional weekly kitchen activity, including the Wednesday baking.

Last week was Thanksgiving (in America – I’m aware that Canadians had theirs ages ago) and I found a great recipe for encapsulating the flavour of pumpkin pie, which I tried once and adored, into the more portable form of a muffin.  There are several such recipes out there but the one I used was by smitten kitchen and I was really pleased with the way it turned out.  I was nervous, because when I went to the shop in Jesmond where I’d been assured they sold all kinds of international delicacies including the stuff I needed for this recipe I found jars of pumpkin purée rather than the canned, solid-pack pumpkin detailed in the recipe.  Now, I’ve only spent three weeks of my life in America and that was during the month of August when nobody is thinking about pumpkins or Thanksgiving, so I’ve never seen what canned pumpkin looks like, but I was anticipating (from the phrase “solid-pack” that it would be something like the inside of a cooked pumpkin or squash, compressed and possibly even sieved.  The contents of the jar I had picked up from the shelf was nothing like that – I could see even with the lid on that it was a thick liquid which was moving around and like, well, a purée, because that was what it was.  It was like baby food before they’re ready for the kind with lumps.  The ingredients stated that it contained pumpkin, water and salt and I was convinced I’d got the wrong stuff.  However,  when I asked an assistant she told me that “all the Americans” buy that stuff for Thanksgiving so I decided to give it a go.  When I came home I did another panicky Google for the difference between pumpkin purée and solid-pack pumpkin and apparently it’s the same thing.  The critical thing, apparently, is to make sure it isn’t “Pumpkin Pie filling” which I’m told has all manner of things added to it.  So I went for it and was very pleased with the outcome.

I’ve made enough muffins in my time to know what consistency I’m looking for in terms of pre-cooked batter, so I decided if it looked too watery I’d add more flour and hope for the best, but that wasn’t necessary.  Whereas I’d normally add liquids such as milk, water and juice to a muffin mixture, this just listed the pumpkin along with some oil and egg, so when it was mixed with the dry ingredients the consistency was very similar to my usual batter.  I’d doubled up expecting to make 24, but unfortunately even following the instructions about filling the cases 3/4 full, I was only able to make 21.  Well, 20 and a half, to be honest.  But they were amazing!  Despite its still being November and therefore a snack-free zone, I had to taste them (come on, I’d never made them before and I was going to serve them to guests!..) so I ate a quarter.  And also another quarter because it was so delicious!  I’d recommend them to anyone – they’re so easy to make and very yummy.  I was planning on putting a photo in but sadly I didn’t get to them with the camera in time and they’ve all gone.  I’m thinking of making a few more this week for some people who didn’t manage to get one, so I might manage to insert  a picture then.

So the tradition with Thanksgiving, as I understand it, is that along with the yummy food and the family get-togethers, everyone takes a moment at some point during the festivities to list their reasons to be thankful at that time.  I think that it’s so easy to get bogged down with the negatives in life and this is a lovely way of making ourselves look positively at what is good about it.  I am thankful for many things – mostly predictable things such as my husband and my children, my house, my friends and my ability to share my home and food with them so regularly (I have an irrepressible need to feed people!).  I’m thankful for the fact that God loves me and that Jesus died so that my rebellious attitude, which would otherwise be a barrier between me and God, could be dealt with and I can have a relationship with the God who made me.  I’m thankful that my husband didn’t lose his job 2 weeks ago when 200 others in his company did, and that the tests I had at the hospital showed that I’m absolutely fine.  Those are important.  But I’m also thankful for frivolous things too – the fact that Christmas is coming and I can have 2 weeks of being with my lovely family doing fun things and never going outside if we don’t feel like it.   For the choir I’m part of which gives me an opportunity to sing beautiful things with other people, and because we all work together bringing in our own bits it sounds AMAZING!  That, as international communication becomes easier and more common, we can share traditions from other countries around the world, including the lovely idea of Thanksgiving, as well as its newer counterparts Black Friday and Cyber Monday (whilst there doesn’t seem any sign of a long weekend holiday on this side of the Atlantic, it’s nice that we can enjoy some of the benefits of the occasion)!  It’s important to be thankful for everything, whether it seems “worthy” or not, because God gave it to us.  One of my favourite Bible verses is 1 Timothy 4:4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.  It’s wonderful that my Heavenly Father cares when I’m excited about my Christmas pudding or a book I’m enjoying.  So I need to make a point to thank him more.

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