Gratitude and love are daily themes for us, both at the cafe and at home, and Thanksgiving is a time for us to concentrate our gratitude even more. We have so much to be thankful for all the time, though I am feeling it more abundantly this week. Our business is up from this same period last year, and even as costs and taxes have increased as well, I am constantly thrilled with the generous support of our family of customers. Our team is strong and we love every one of them, so thankful for all the hard work they do for us. We were voted ‘Best Bakery in Central Kitsap’ again, which is a clear message from our customers to us. Many businesses pander to the public asking for votes and setting out ballots for people to take, and we fill them out for our favorite places when that happens, though we do not follow that practice at the cafe. We never mention to anyone that the ballots are available, so when we win it is truly a choice of the people to vote for us. Silverdale Chamber of Commerce awarded us their ‘Business of the Year’, which is a huge honor. According to their own web site ‘The nominees for this award are businesses which have through financial and in-kind resources made a significant impact on the Silverdale Community’s economic and social well being.’ When they told me we were nominated I was awestruck! We live our values even at work, and with our team we just ‘do things’, we had no idea anyone was paying that much attention. Seriously, every time I think about it I am astounded all over again and we are humbled by the attention. We love what we do and are so passionate to share it with everyone, and we are so very thankful that our community loves what we do as well. And there is so much more… so many little interactions every day that I am grateful for.

I love my little home in Olalla and our wooded lot, and I am exceedingly thankful for my warm bed every time I get into it, or have to get out of it. I am looking out the window at a Winter wonderland right now, the wind is picking up and making the snow fall from the fir trees, and it looks like a blizzard in the front yard…a very pretty blizzard. The snow makes a wintry glow in the house and there is a hush outside from the layer of insulation the snow gives us. I am so thankful for the beauty that surrounds us and this place that we live. Even though today’s snow means that we have to close up early-it’s actually costing us money to be open since no customers are coming in- I still love the beauty of it; I can be anxious about it later.

I am thankful for all of our family and the fact that we have close access to close family, even if we don’t take advantage of it as often as we would like to. Our nephew, Travis, is the smartest, most talented, best looking kid ever, and am ultra grateful to his parents for raising him so well, and staying close so that we can be a part of his life. We lost our sister-in-law this year, and I am thankful that she is not suffering any longer, even as I wish she could have found peace in this life. The rest of our family members are generally healthy and I know how lucky we are to have that; my dad had a very bad case of cancer this year and he had to have surgery to remove it. He was never really sick until recovering from the surgery, and the dr thinks they got it all, so dad won’t have to have radiation for now. I am beyond thankful for all of that and how well he seems to be recovering… this will be an emotional Thanksgiving dinner because I know we are all feeling really grateful for dad’s presence, and it will be the first Thanksgiving in a few years that we have all been together.

I am the most thankful for the abundance of love in my life. It is everywhere and even in my most anxious moments the thought of it soothes me and brings me back to my center. You are all a part of that love and so I am very thankful to have you in my life. No matter how casually we may know one another you have affected me, and I thank you. I wish you a Happy, warm, safe Thanksgiving and I hope that it includes a wonderful meal with people you love.

I am going to share with you my ‘Savory Bread Pudding’ recipe and I recommend this if you, like me, are not a huge fan of stuffing, or dressing, but you do like the general flavor profiles in those dishes. This dish is vegetarian and comforting and super delicious, and it is worth the extra steps that I put in to make it extra flavorful. Put this together the day before, stick it in the fridge and then you can just cook it the day you want to eat it…in that way it is very low maintenance!

some butter for the pan
1 (1-pound) loaf crusty country-style white bread, crusts cut off, cut 1 inch cubes (about 5 cups loosely packed)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 TBS chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 TBS chopped fresh sage
1 large garlic clove, minced

6 tablespoons butter
1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced celery
1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/3-1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (to taste)

3 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
8 large eggs
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3-1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (to taste)

Butter a 10 inch baking dish. Place bread cubes in large bowl. Add oil, thyme, and garlic; toss to coat. Spread cubes out on large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until golden and slightly crunchy, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Return toasted bread cubes to same very large bowl.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, celery, and bell pepper. sauté until soft and juices have evaporated, about 15 minutes. Add sautéed vegetables and parsley to bread cubes.

Whisk heavy cream, eggs, salt, and ground pepper in large bowl. Pour over bread and vegetables, pressing it all in to make sure it is completely covered and soaking it in. Transfer stuffing to the buttered dish. Sprinkle cheese over. Cover and refrigerate.

Bake at 350, uncovered, until set and top is golden, about 1 hour. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. MMMM it’s so delish! If it does start to get too brown on top and it has a way to go before it is set, lay some foil over the top of it, make sure it covers the top of the pudding, but don’t seal it up on the sides… it will stop the browning and allow it to keep cooking without steaming.