Gratitude

I’m a day (or two) late with this post, but it’s something I definitely wanted to share. I’ve had a little hiccup with my computer recently which makes blogging not so easy. …And by hiccup I mean I spilled a 24oz. glass of water on it. Water and electronics don’t mix. I’m a klutz, give me a sippie cup.

I taught a yoga class Wednesday evening, the day before Thanksgiving, and focused my entire class on gratitude. I was feeling extra grateful that day for the “light” use of my hands. First down-dog in a month – it was glorious!

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I was inspired by a blog I read that discussed different phases of gratitude. I took my class through a series of postures, and as the series progressed the postures got more and more difficult to hold. Likewise, the things I talked about became more and more difficult to find gratitude in.

We started by being grateful for the things that come easy: our friends, our family, talents, strengths, things that have worked out in our favor, and yoga poses that come easy. I asked them to think about these things while we worked through a few postures.

The ones I hold dearest…

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198449_1645974836132_1149658_n4981_1178262059563_2293190_nFamily2Then, I asked them to think about “almosts” in their lives. A project at work or an assignment at school that didn’t work out perfectly, a job change or promotion they almost got, an ‘A’ they barely missed in a class, or a yoga pose they sometimes get, sometimes they don’t. We discussed being thankful for the process. What happens if you get that promotion or a certain yoga pose? Is that it? No way! You’ll always be reaching for the next step, the next pose, there’s never an end goal. We’ll never master life or yoga, so we worked on finding gratitude/contentment in the transitions, the ups and downs, and being grateful for the place we’re in right now.

Some days I can hold a handstand, some days I can't.

Some days I can hold a handstand, some days I can’t.

A business we though we were going to be a part of for a long time. It didn't work like we thought, but we are so grateful for the experience and the people we met.

A business we thought we were going to be a part of for a long time. New opportunities came along, but we are so grateful for the experience and the people we met.

Finally, while I had them sit in the splits for a minute on each side (Yikes!), we discussed trying to be grateful for the difficulties in our lives – being at odds with a family member, going through a break-up/divorce, a friend or family member with a serious illness. Difficulties exist in everyone’s lives, but how we choose to view them will determine our ability to find gratitude in the situation. We can view them as lessons learned, or let them completely control our lives and happiness. Lesson learned – never drink water near your computer, unless it’s in a sippie cup.

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“It is gratitude that allows us to forgive whatever this difficulty is, and it is this forgiveness that allows us to let it go.” When we are able to be grateful for the lessons learned, we understand the role of certain circumstances/people in our lives.

Finding gratitude in Hanumanasana (splits) isn’t easy, but it teaches me patience, to breathe. If you ever want time to slooooooow down, do the splits. You’ll think your watch broke.

This Thanksgiving I’m extra grateful for my health and MY HANDS!

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Pumpkin Cheesecake

If your Thanksgiving is anything like mine, the host usually makes the bird but the rest of us chip in with side dishes and desserts. Everyone has a dish they’re famous for: Aunt Debbie makes a cheesy broccoli casserole and sugar cookies that I’m pretty sure she laces with something – no way should they be that addicting, Aunt Tammy and Uncle Scott are always on meat duty, Grandma is queen of pies and breads, Uncle Brett makes a spinach salad, my mom’s dressing and sweet potatoes are always a hit, and I make a pumpkin cheesecake. I can bring as many other dishes as I would like, but if I don’t bring a pumpkin cheesecake – I might as well not show up. This is serious, folks. I wouldn’t put it past them to kick me out of Thanksgiving if I showed up empty handed.

DSC_9457This recipe is not mine. One year in college I had the Food Network on in the background and Gina Neely made a pumpkin cheesecake that I knew I had to try. I printed it out that day and stuck it at the back of the binder until I became an adult. Still not sure the adult thing has happened, but once I started paying my own bills I knew it was time.

This cheesecake is so easy! It takes some time, but there’s not much active work at all.

Gina Neely’s Pumpkin Cheesecake (Print here from Food Network)

Crust:
30 gingersnap cookies
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 and 3/4 cups sugar
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
5 large eggs
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Directions

Crust:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

IMG_5926Add the gingersnaps to the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until crumbly. Transfer to a large bowl and add the melted butter. Stir until evenly mixed.

IMG_5935Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with 3-inch sides. Bake the crust until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
IMG_5938Remove from the oven and let cool completely while preparing the filling.

Filling:

Put a teakettle filled with water over medium heat, and bring to a boil.

In a large mixing bowl, add the cream cheese and sugar and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.

IMG_5941Add the pumpkin and beat until incorporated. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, then add the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and vanilla, and beat until blended. Add the flour and beat until incorporated.

If this didn't have raw eggs, I would dunk gingersnaps straight into the bowl - YUM!

If this didn’t have raw eggs, I would dunk gingersnaps straight into the bowl – YUM!

Wrap the sides and bottom of the springform pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil.

IMG_5949Pour the filling into the pan and put it in a small roasting pan.

IMG_5956Pour the hot water from the teakettle into the roasting pan, filling halfway up the sides of the springform pan, about 1 1/2 inches.

IMG_5963Bake until the center of the cheesecake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Remove the cake from the water bath and let it cool on a wire rack.

Once cooled, use a paring knife to loosen the sides of the cake from the pan. Chill the cheesecake for at least 4 hours before serving. I like to make mine the night before so it’s completely set before serving.

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Now, Gina Neely makes a homemade cinnamon whipped cream to go on her version. The first two years I made this cheesecake I made the homemade whipped cream to go on top of it – no one ate it. Every one of them squirted on pre-made Reddi Wip. I gave up. I now save myself the time and bring a can of Reddi Wip.  If you’d like to try the homemade whipped cream recipe here you go! It’s outta this world good.

Cinnamon Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pour the heavy cream into a large bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer until thick and frothy. Add the confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon, and beat until medium peaks form.
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Family, you better save my place – I’m bringin’ the cheesecake!

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Healthy Thanksgiving Side Dish – Fall Quinoa Salad

If you imagine what fall tastes like, it would be this salad. Butternut squash, cranberries, kale, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds, and a maple balsamic vinaigrette. Yep. Fall in a bowl.

Fall Quinoa Salad

I first made this salad to take to a fall themed potluck dinner. Then I made it for my sister, so she wouldn’t have to eat peanut butter for a week straight. I would actually love to live off peanut butter for a week. Peanut butter for every meal?! That would be my ideal diet. Buuuut being the older, more responsible sister, I thought she needed a little more variety.

My next plan is to whip up a batch to take to my family Thanksgiving. I always try to bring a healthy side dish to place between the sweet potato casserole and gravy boat – gotta have options!

Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad (PRINT ME!)

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable/chicken broth
  • 1 medium-large butternut squash
  • kale (7-8 leaves)
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup goat cheese
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • olive oil
  • salt/pepper

Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp. maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic (grated)
  • salt/pepper

Preheat your oven to 375.

Peel and dice your butternut squash. Make sure all the pieces are roughly the same size. In a medium sized bowl toss squash, 1-2 Tbsp olive oil (depending on the size), 1 tsp cinnamon, and salt/pepper until coated. Arrange the pieces on a baking sheet, and roast for 20-25 minutes. Flip the squash halfway through the cooking time so all pieces get nice and brown.

IMG_5900Cook quinoa according to package directions, but use broth instead of water. Check out my post on how to cook quinoa perfectly everytime.

Heat a saute’ pan to medium, and add a little olive oil. Tear your kale leaves into smaller pieces and add to pan. Saute’ until the leaves begin to wilt.

In a mason jar combine oil, vinegar, maple syrup, dijon mustard, and grated garlic clove. Add a sprinkle of salt & pepper. Shake it like a polaroid picture and set to the side.

In a large bowl combine quinoa, roasted squash, and kale leaves – let cool. Add cranberries, pumpkin seeds and goat cheese. Drizzle the Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette over your salad and toss to combine.

Fall Quinoa Salad

Now the really great thing about this is you can add as much of certain ingredients as you’d like! The last batch I made, I used a HUGE butternut squash and an entire bunch of kale. As far as I’m concerned there’s no such thing as too much when it comes to veggies.

Eat it with chicken, eat it over greens, eat it cold or eat it warm – serve it any way you like.

My personal favorite is warm (so the goat cheese gets gooey and melty) over a bed of greens with sliced chicken (my lunch today actually).

Serve it alongside your holiday bird, roasted veggies and fresh cranberry sauce, and you’ve got a healthy, delicious Thanksgiving plate!


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