Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Recipe Borrowing: Sweet Potato Chili


This year marked the second annual Thanksgiving weekend chili supper among the Lew Crew, the Andersons, and the Jenkinses — three families who have known each other since before their adult children were born. Last year, I brought my own Crock Pot of vegan chili; this year, I provided Brittany’s sweet potato chili I’ve read so much about. [Praise be to the Blog Gods who make so many delicious, healthy recipes available to the masses.]

I was really excited about this get-together for many reasons. For starters, I hadn’t seen any of my dear old friends since last New Year’s. There’s Kaitlynn, who is a year older than I; Scott, who is my age; Shannon, who is a sophomore in college; and Bethany, who is a junior in high school. As we’ve gotten older, even as we’ve spread out across the state, we’ve become a much more cohesive — if not albeit less mature — group. It’s nice to see everybody after the hubbub of Thanksgiving has passed but the families are still all together.

For another reason, I love trying new recipes and experimenting with new eats with my fam. Perhaps against my better judgment, I cooked and served a brand-new recipe on the same day. Normally, if I’m not the only one trying a new recipe, I like to taste-test it first to make sure it’s fit to serve people. Ya dig? This year, my family was hosting the chili supper, so my chili had to be extra-incredible!

For another reason, this is the first chili “season” I’ve eaten meat since I was in 8th grade, so it’s been quite awhile since I savored various chilis. And finally, it’s really meaningful to see all of these almost-family members, because our family moved five years ago out of the neighborhood block we all shared for so many years. Scott works in Northern Virginia, Kaitlynn works in Richmond, Caroline and Shannon and I are in school in totally different parts of the state, and Bethany is still too young to rage 😉 I kid. But it’s getting harder and harder for the three families to pull off lengthy gatherings and then drive our separate ways. These days, no one seems as gung-ho to either host or attend a late-night fiesta, so it’s a real treat when we can pull off something like this with everyone in attendance.

And now, for your dining pleasure…

Here’s what you’ll need to make (my edited version of) Brittany’s sweet potato chili:
Prep time: 10 minutes, cook time: 90 minutes
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper — cored, seeded, and chopped
1 red pepper — cored, seeded, and chopped
2 jalapeno peppers — seeded and diced
2 medium sweet potatoes, diced
3 2 large cloves garlic, minced
2-3 1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1-2 1 tsp basil
1 bay leaf
14.5 oz. diced tomatoes
28 oz. vegetable broth
30 oz. black beans — washed, rinsed, and drained
juice of one 1/2 lime
garnish: chopped fresh cilantro, chopped scallions

1. Heat oil in large pot on medium-high.
2. Add onion. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes or until tender.3. Add bell pepper and sweet potatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.

4. Stir in garlic and cook one minute.
5. Add chili powder and next 6 ingredients. Stir and cook one minute.
6. Add tomatoes and broth. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
7. Stir in beans and continue to cook for 30 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender.
8. Remove bay leaf and stir in lime juice.
9. Add garnish.I’m not super-hype on spiciness, so I toned down some of Brittany’s spice factors. I also try not to add sodium to anything, so I eliminated the sea salt element.

I got rave reviews about this recipe, so my thanks go out to Brittany, as well as all those brave souls who were willing to be guinea pigs to test this incredible vegan chili! I told everyone that it was a new recipe, and that I am no longer a strict vegetarian, but I did not tell everyone that the recipe was vegan. As disappointing as it is, I’ve found that telling people something is vegan automatically turns some people off, when what they don’t know won’t hurt them. A few of our guests simply were not interested in meatless chili, or were more interested in my mom’s seafood chowder. Some of our guests were a bit wary of my chili, but they tried it anyway out of politeness. And most of our guests dove right in without hesitation! Hey, at least our old family friends were willing to try it 😉Question: Do you have a chili recipe you’re willing to share? I’m trying to expand my repertoire, though I always give credit to the original chef!


Why Did I Eat That Much?!


For the first year in about a decade, I actually ate turkey. I’m 98% sure we’re all sick to death of hearing about Thanksgiving and looking at other people’s Instagrammed turkeys, but I’m going to be cliché and blog about my Thanksgiving anyway, if for no other reason than that most families — with the possible exception of the Obamas — would be hard-put to have as ridiculously large a spread. I’d like to pretend that I’m not bragging, but I totally am. The Gradys and the Smiths put on one hell of a Thanksgiving celebration.

Let me back up to Thursday morning; we were to be out the door by 8:30 sharp, and somehow we met our goal. As I mentioned previously, we celebrate Thanksgiving at my mom’s oldest sister’s house, which is 3 hours from our house. With (miraculously) just one bathroom stop, we arrived around 11:45. I’m pretty sure Caroline and I were supposed to make ourselves useful, but we pretty much explored photo albums and socialized with our cousins. Finally, when all 16 of us were present and accounted for, we feasted. I tried to snap a few photos before my 20-year-old, 6-foot cousins devoured everything, but this is just a sampling:

A new addition by Gina, pizza dip (I will definitely be modifying and trying this recipe!)

Sylvia’s famous carrot cake, as well as pumpkin pie

Pecan pie, and my mom’s “magic cookie bars,” which I successfully recreated

Corn pudding, Gina’s deviled eggs, Sylvia’s sweet potato casserole, homemade cranberry sauce

Requisite mashed potatoes and gravy — literally, the best I’ve ever had!

There was whipped cream for the pies…

…but we were not lacking for anything, even so.

There were also collard greens, turnips, pickle and olive selections, cream cheese dip, creamy garlic dip, port wine cheese dip, country ham, frosted pumpkin bread, mini cranberry muffins, hot spiced apple cider, homemade dinner rolls… and probably more that I’m forgetting, as I’m still recovering from yesterday’s gluttony.

Yesterday, for the first time in many moons, I ate until I could not eat anymore. I was terrified that as in Thanksgivings past, I wouldn’t have room for dessert, so I sampled almost all of them. Indulgence is both a blessing and a wicked curse. Thankfully, after our belly-bustin’ meal, everyone wanted to go see my cousin Bethany’s new house, so we (literally) piled 10 people into two cars and set off. If I had not walked up and down sets of stairs, climbed over piles of plywood and siding, and mozied around the yard, I would have lapsed into a food-induced coma. I am absolutely not ashamed that after my meager “exercise,” I returned to the food. After all, part of being grateful for all that I have is not insulting the cooks 😉

We finally decided to pack it up around 7:30, which put us home just after 11:00 last night. If I hadn’t still been so full, I would have been just the tiniest bit sorry to miss the last quarter of the ‘Skins-Cowboys game, which was in full swing when we departed:

Today, my sister and I are planning to venture out to do some Black Friday shopping. We are not those midnight-to-6 a.m. crazies, or the loonies who’ve been camped out for three days in front of Best Buy. Any deals I was hoping to catch will still be available around lunchtime or on Cyber Monday. For me, Christmas shopping on Black Friday is a rush, though the parking situation is a different kind of rush…

Needless to say — as evidenced by the above — I am thankful.

I hope your Thanksgiving was excellent! What is your favorite Thanksgiving food?

Lunch and Life-Planning


This afternoon, Ian took me out to lunch at Olive Garden — one of my absolute favorite restaurants. I’ve often jokingly told people that Olive Garden was my alma mater or my “mothership.” It’s pretty low on my list in the healthy-living department, but in my opinion, it’s perfectly okay to splurge once in awhile. What with Thanksgiving being tomorrow, our timing isn’t superb, but I could not care less. Aside from simply enjoying each other’s company as Ian was on his way home for the holiday, we decided to do some life-planning.

Several months ago, we determined that between his hellish hectic med school schedule and the now 18 months I have left before my expected graduation, it would be beneficial for us to do some calculated life-planning. I’m a born-and-bred planner; my father is a financial planner and investor as well as a former CPA, and my mother is a former school teacher and occasional wedding director. Planning is in my nature. I understand — though as type-A and anal-retentive as I am, it’s difficult — that not every moment in life can be expected or planned or scheduled down to the last minute detail. I’m gonna give it hell, anyway. Luckily for me, Ian isn’t a fly-by-the-seat-of-his pants gent, so I’m in good company.

When I told my dad a few weeks ago that we were preparing to do some life-planning, he strongly recommended that we write everything down. As I’ve often been told throughout my two decades in school, goals that are written down (and readily visible) are more likely to be accomplished. He also suggested that we try to be as specific as possible, because by doing so, it sets things in motion and brings forth unanticipated resources. Today, that’s exactly what we did. We discussed everything from how long we want our future engagement to be, to whether and where I can earn a PhD, to when would be the best timeframe for us to expect children. We wrote everything down on the backs of receipts and mini Post-It notes, which I will probably keep in my nerdy, sentimental memory boxes forever. What could be better than organization plus discussing-slash-creating The Future with my guy?! 😉

We enjoyed some supremely perfect OG food, too. For me, unlimited salad and something rich and creamy are a must.

Today’s poison of choice: Shrimp Mezzaluna with salad and breadsticks. It’s always hard to walk out the door of OG, knowing I won’t be back for awhile… Missions: accomplished!

I hope you and yours have a marvelous Thanksgiving! What’s your favorite part of the holiday?

The Meal-Planning Queen


One of my favorite things about being home is getting to choose what we eat. It’s the simple pleasures in life, my blends 😉 This privilege comes with the pleasure of accompanying my mom to her favorite grocery store in the world, which I’m convinced she single-handedly keeps in business: Ukrop’s (a.k.a. Martin’s). This usually leads to needless purchases to satiate a curious daughter obsessed with food and experimenting with recipes, but I don’t hear too much protesting…

Tonight, for instance, I chose turkey burgers topped with sautéed onions and Havarti cheese on whole wheat buns, acorn squash, and wilted spinach salad with warm poppy seed dressing. What a feast!

Warm poppy seed dressing (for a crowd):
1 tsp dry mustard
1/3 C apple cider vinegar
1 C vegetable oil
1 tsp poppy seeds
1/2 C sugar
Whisk all ingredients thoroughly. Microwave for 30 seconds; whisk again briskly. Microwave again for 30 seconds. Ladle over baby spinach, dried cranberries, sliced almonds, sliced red onion, and bacon bits. Allow time for spinach to wilt before serving.

On tomorrow’s menu: seafood pizza (Ukrop’s seafood salad topped with thinly sliced Havarti cheese on whole wheat pizza shells) and green beans

Wednesday: kielbasa sausage, sauerkraut, and broccoli

Thursday, of course, I shall feast until I can feast no more! Thanksgiving is my favorite “food” holiday of the entire year, followed very closely by Christmas.

I don’t know yet what we’re planning to have Friday, but I absolutely can’t wait to share with you what we’re having Saturday — stay tuned for another awesome recipe, borrowed from a fellow blogger! 🙂

What’s the Point in a “Healthy” Thanksgiving?


Every year since both of my sets of grandparents have been deceased, my parents and my sister and I have made it a new tradition to join my mom’s oldest sister, Judy, and my uncle Gene; my cousin Eric, his wife Mary, and their children Christopher and Meredith; my cousin Bethany and her husband Dennis; my cousin Gina, her husband Jack, and their son Jay; and Gene’s mother, Sylvia, at Judy and Gene’s home near Roanoke. Every year there are extra people, like a family Judy knows from church who need a place to celebrate Thanksgiving. Every year we drive two hours each way to be with family for this holiday. And every year, without fail, I eat until I secretly have to unbutton my pants as stealthily as possible under the table. That’s how much I love Thanksgiving food: sliced potatoes and turnips, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, homemade rolls, seasoned turnip greens, rum cake, carrot cake, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, dill pickle slices and green olives, ham biscuits, (now for me) venison and turkey… With all of those delicious foods, who wants a healthy Thanksgiving?

This morning, like the nerd that I am, I was reading the latest issue of Reader’s Digest. I’m secretly 75. I came across some recipes the editors recommended as “Fill-You-Up Fare.” The first that caught my eye was Hummus Deviled Eggs (via). The recipe called for mixing 5 or more yolks from 12 hard-boiled eggs with one cup of hummus, piping the mixture into the eggs, and garnishing with parsley and smoked paprika. Lightbulb! What if I offered to bring the deviled eggs this year?! I could eliminate the yolks altogether and simply fill the eggs with hummus! Another recipe that got my attention was Baked Feta with Capers and Tomatoes under “Easy Cheesy.” The recipe was even simpler: place feta cheese, chopped tomatoes, red onions, capers, oregano, and olive oil on foil; wrap; bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. What an incredible appetizer idea! The magazine also offered ideas for edamame, avocado crostini, roasted chickpeas, white choc–

…That’s when Mom interrupted my daydream with reality. She reminded me that we’re talking about generations of Grady women, here. Born cooks who use real butter and heavy whipping cream in their recipes. Men who hunt deer and turkey with precision. We’re not talking about people who have heard of or even considered the PALEO diet or veganism. We’re talking about people who want “real” food on Thanksgiving, not substitutes or alternatives to tradition and taste.

I have no doubt that since my family are loving people, they would all politely try my recipes and smile and comment about my creativity or how “interesting” the glaringly obvious menu addition was. I also have no doubt that no one would shed a tear if my mashed-up-chickpea-filled-eggs were ostensibly absent next year… It isn’t that my family members aren’t trying to watch their waistlines, or that they refuse to try unfamiliar foods. It’s that we are a family of traditionalists; things are done the same way every year, and there’s no reason to shake up the routine.

Just in case there’s some confusion here, allow me to elucidate. I am not interested in healthifying our family’s Thanksgiving menu or tradition; I am interested in exposing my family to all that I have learned in the past year about all the different ways “healthy” can be applied. I am interested in opening up my people’s minds about foods that are foreign to them and that may taste a little different, but that offer more nutritional value than some of our old stand-bys. I’m still incredulous that there is a whole foodie world out there, just waiting for me to experiment with it, and tweak it, and make it my own. I want to share that feeling with everyone! …but maybe Thanksgiving isn’t the right time 😉

Do you eat a “healthy” Thanksgiving meal? If so, how did you introduce healthy “alternatives” to your family?