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(Written for the River Current Publication Nov. 15, 2012)

Today I share my thoughts with you from sunny Pasadena, California.  My sister’s daughter, who is a sophomore at OSU was flying home to be with her family over the long Veteran’s Day holiday weekend.   When we were chatting about her journey; she said, “Aunt Con, you should come with me!”  To which I responded, “You know what, I think I will!” 

This was the perfect weekend for me to get out of town.  This weekend was one of those milestones that I have been dreading.   Rick and I were married last year on November 12 and this would have been our first anniversary.  It is a date that I have admittedly approached with fear.  I have to hold on to the wonderful memories that we shared on that very special weekend, just one year ago.  As the saying goes; ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened’.  

The last year seems to have gone by so quickly… half of it spent in a blur as we engaged in the battle against cancer and then the eventual agony of defeat.  I knew that Rick and I would have planned a celebratory journey in honor of our anniversary, so a journey somewhere special seemed befitting for the occasion.  Besides, nothing could be better than to remove myself to an atmosphere that included the loving support of family.

Since my niece will not be spending Thanksgiving back in California with her family, I decided it would be great fun to plan and prepare a Thanksgiving feast for everyone on this weekend that we were all to be together.  Sharing a meal with loved ones is indeed something that we can all be thankful for.  

I dove into my new 'clean and fresh' recipe file and found joy in planning the feast that we would share gathered around their table as a loving family.  I soon observed an awesome thing that was happening because of this meal preparation.   The whole process was requiring the involvement of the entire family!  

There was the menu planning….I was going to have to carefully choose recipes that would be healthy, yet familiar and satisfying to the entire family. It is actually fairly easy to take recipes we have always enjoyed at our family meals, and after a few minor tweaks and changes, the recipes can miraculously turn into healthier options for our bodies!  

Since I didn’t have a car, my sister and my niece loaded up and took me out to get the groceries on my well planned list.  We giggled and laughed our way through a local market late on a Saturday night.  The following day, my heart was warmed as my curious niece came into the kitchen to see what all of the fuss was about in this meal preparation.  (Looking into the cavity of a lovely fresh turkey was an entirely new experience for her!)    

She stayed with me the entire afternoon, peeling carrots, sauteing veggies and preparing a delicious crumble for an apple cranberry cobbler that eventually sat bubbling on the kitchen counter.  My brother-in-law even pulled up a chair in the corner of the kitchen and assisted when I needed help in locating something in the kitchen or patiently sat and read a recipe of two to us from the computer….shouting out the recipe ingredients, one by one.  

My sister of course whirled through as well; peeling potatoes, washing up dishes and setting a beautiful table that we all eventually gathered around together.   And as most cooks will share, the nervous moment then arrives as we listen for the reviews of all of our great effort.  

Would the efforts of this feast be appreciated?  The answer to that would be a big YES!  We shared; we laughed and then surrendered to a belly full of Thanksgiving joy.  Amusing was the response of my skeptical brother-in-law in regards to the Maple-Glazed Carrots.  He who earlier expressed; “I don’t like carrots”, was in love with this new recipe.  

I had to scoot him out of the kitchen as he stood at the stove, eating and eating right out of the pan!  It is times like this that we can be thankful for the blessing of time well spent with loved ones.  Rick would have loved this meal that we shared together and was forever thankful for the blessings of family.   

Joes’ Maple-Glazed Carrots
2 lbs. organic carrots, peeled and cut into ½” match stick slices
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ cup low sodium organic chicken broth
½ tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
1 tbsp.  unsalted organic butter

On medium high, heat oil in a 12 to 14 inch skillet.  Add carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and crisp tender; about 8 minutes.  Stir in broth and ½ tsp. salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until carrots are tender.  Remove from heat and stir in maple syrup, butter and spices.  

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