Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

What a wonderful time of year it is!  Family over, an incredible meal on its way, the Macy's Parade on TV and later, Detroit vs. Chicago football.  I think it's my favorite holiday of the year. I know, however, to stay out of the kitchen on Thanksgiving.  I love to cook, but in our home the ladies own the kitchen today, and are working harder and faster than a NASCAR pit crew on race day!

Most of all we need to remember, that it's a day for gratitude.  In the United States, no matter what our economic lot, we all have blessings afforded to us by the grace of God and through our Constitution. We can worship God as we please, we can peacefully protest, our children receive a good education. Can we complain that our freedoms aren't "free enough" or how our education system could be better?  Of course.

A few years ago my salary was twice what is now, and I took it for granted.  I felt like I deserved more, yet I had a hard time controlling my spending.  I still feel like I deserve more and still have a hard time controlling my finances.  My situation is not uncommon, as a matter of fact its the norm of America, and some things will never change.  As Americans, individually and as a government, we need to work on that.  But if you're reading this story right now, chances are you are not homeless and went to the public library to read it on their free internet enabled computers.  You're more than likely reading it from your home computer or mobile device.  You are blessed.

I work in a prison, mostly in the hospital hospice unit, and I am inspired every day by inmates that are thankful that things aren't worse for them.  They appreciate the chapel volunteers who come visit them, the coffee cake for breakfast on Tuesday, the annual piece of processed sliced turkey once a year on Thanksgiving, and the warm sunshine on their face out on the recreation yard. Some inmates are mean spirited and bitter of course, but many whom I see and talk to express feelings of gratitude for the simple privileges that they have been granted.  Everyday one particular inmate says hello to me, and when I ask how he is, he cheerfully responds, "I'm blessed by the Best". He's serving a life sentence.  That's when I start counting my blessings.  See my story All Things Good, if you need help in counting your blessings.

Last Sunday we had our annual Thanksgiving dinner after church.  That reminded me to count my blessings of community, good friends who care and the solidarity of fellow Christian believers.

I provided below my Dutch Oven Potatoes recipe at the pot-luck dinner as I promised on Twitter, @guskoerner.

Tools, ingredients and instructions:
1 - 10-12 inch cast iron Dutch Oven or camp stove oven
2 - big spoons, 1 regular, 1 strainer
1 - heat source to 350 degrees F. (range or campfire)
Cooking time 1 hour.
Prep. time 1 hour.
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5 pounds of potatoes. Whatever is on sale. Cleaned and chopped into uniform cubes 1/2 to 3/4 inches.
1 pound of bacon
1 large onion, chopped to 1/2 inch pieces, not too fine or course.  Kids hate large onion pieces.
12 fl. oz. of liquid such as 1 can of lemon/lime soda, or beer or water
1 stick of butter (1/4 pound)
2 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

I prepared my meal indoors using the stove and oven, but could have also used hot coals outside. Here's how to make it...In the dutch oven on the stove, medium heat, cut up and fry all the bacon.  I use scissors to cut up the whole pack at once into 1/2 inch lengths across the grain into the hot pot.

When the bacon is done, strain them off into a bowl and fry the chopped onion until browned and translucent. When the onions are done, spoon the onions and bacon fat out and combine with the fried bacon already set aside.

In the hot dutch oven, use all the liquid to de-glaze the bottom.  Scrape gently with a spoon to get all that yummy bacon and onion unstuck from the bottom, being careful not to nick the seasoned cast iron.

Warning  - a dutch oven full of potatoes can easily weigh over 10 pounds, and combined with the heat and awkwardness of putting it in and out of the oven is a potential burn hazard.  Please use good, oven mitts and be very careful.  You may need assistance.

Preheat your oven now to 350 degrees.  Add 1/2 of the cubed potatoes to the oven, salt and pepper liberally, add 1/2 of the bacon/onion mixture spread across the top.  Add the remaining potatoes, salt and pepper liberally, and the spread out the remaining bacon/onion mixture.  Put on the lid and bake the dutch over for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven, stir the entire pot and add the butter evenly over the top in 1/4 inch slices.  Bake for 30 more minutes.  Remove the dutch oven from the oven/heat, stir the pot well one more time, add the cheese evenly across the top, put the lid back on. It will stay warm, for at least 2 hours.  Let it rest for 20 minutes before serving.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and we miss our dear friends and family.  God bless our troops!

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