Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Set an extra chair.

Here we are - the night before my favorite holiday. I'm writing this as I wait for the last items to finish baking in the oven, my to-do list nearly complete and ready to take to our lovely neighbor's house for Thanksgiving dinner. As I was making the pumpkin pie and listening to Christmas music, I started to daydream about why I love this holiday so much. Of course, you might assume that my love for Thanksgiving centers around all of the delicious food and it's preparation. Don't get me wrong - over the years that has been a huge part of my love for this holiday. However, when I truly stop and think about it, I would have to say it's that sense of comfort and safety that comes with sitting at a table and looking around at the people you hold dear to your heart. Those same individuals who did not pick up the dirty clothes. The same ones that wanted to see how high the dog could jump on the trampoline. The same ones that snuck in during the wee hours of the morning. The ones you argued with yesterday and will laugh with tomorrow. The ones who made you angry and the ones who made you smile. The ones you are still not quite sure of and the ones who are so predictable. Each and every one, whether blood-related or heart-related, all sitting there ready to give thanks for yet another year of God's rich blessing's. Yes, that is what it means to me.

As far back as I can remember, I had the blessing of setting the table. I took pride in every detail even when I was only 8 years old. I remember my Mom always telling me to "set an extra place setting". I always did this with a willing heart because it never failed that every year, at the last minute, a special guest would arrive and take up that vacancy. My Mom was notorious for inviting both strangers as well as friends with no family or place to go to our Thanksgiving table. Gets me teary eyed just thinking about how she and my Daddy would go out of their way to make them feel like they were a part of our "family". Our immediate family was never really large but our extended family of Love grew bigger and bigger every year. Sometimes those special guests would come back and then sometimes we would never see them again, but one thing I am sure of is that they were blessed and felt a sense of safety around that table.

God is good and he continues to bless us. Even in these times of economic fear, he still gives us comfort. This year, I may not have the job of setting the table, but I will be quietly thanking my parents for instilling the value of "family" and why it's so important to "set an extra chair" because you never know who may show up. I'm jus' sayin'!

My Twist on a Classic - The Honey Date Oatmeal Cookie

One recent afternoon, I found a container of dates in the fridge that were left over from an appetizer I had previously made. Not wanting them to go to waste, I thought about what I could make to use them up. I didn't feel like making the usual date bars. Though tasty, I was looking for something different on this day. I ended up going with a twist on a classic - oatmeal raisin cookies. Since I am not a big fan of raisins, the dates were, for me, a great alternative. Here's the recipe I came up with. Please give it a try and tell me what you think.

Honey Date Oatmeal Cookies

1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
2 eggs
1/3 cup Honey
1 3/4 cups of flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups regular oats
1 cup diced dates

Heat oven to 375. Mix sugar, butter, eggs and honey. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons about 2 inches apart onto parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake 8-10 min until lightly brown on top and bottom.