Poor Man’s Turtles

These are the simplest, most delicious candies ever!  Just be careful- it’s easy to over-melt them, and that results in a very delicious-but-sticky caramel mess, not great for parties.

Ingredients:

  • chocolate-covered caramels (Rolo or similar)
  • pretzels – ideally the same shape as your caramel
  • whole nuts of choice, toasted to improve crispness if desired

    Simple ingredients

Purchase enough ingredients to make the amount you want.  None of the package sizes will match, so you’ll inevitably end up with too much of something.  I bought 4 packages of caramels (about 35 caramels each), one “pounder” bag of pretzels, and one bag of cashews (8oz?), and all I had left over was pretzels.  

Cover a cookie sheet with foil and set aside.  Unwrap caramels.  Preheat oven to 350°F.

Spread pretzels, discarding the broken ones, on the cookie sheet.

Pretzels, I chose squares for my square caramels.

Place a caramel on/in each pretzel.  Bake for 1-3 minutes, depending on the stickiness of the caramel.  Rolos will need 3 minutes, usually, but I used a gooey caramel recently that melted reallyfast, and a little over a minute was too much.  check them regularly, and keep in mind that the residual heat from the pan itself may continue melting things.

Caramels ready to be topped.

Remove from the oven and gently press a nut into each caramel. Make sure the nut sticks, but preserve the shape of the caramel.

All done!

Eat now, or refrigerate or freeze for later.

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Cream Wafers

These have been at family parties as long as I can remember.  They are up there on the top of my “Favorite Christmas Cookie” list and they also top the list for “Most Labor-Intensive Christmas Cookie” so I make lots in one day to be most efficient.  Thankfully, they freeze well.

So tiny, so good.

Time: 3-5 hours, depending on cookie size and batch size

Yield: about 50 tiny cookies

Ingredients:

Cookies:

  • 1 cup soft butter
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups flour
Frosting:
  • 1/4 cup soft butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Other:
  • granulated sugar

    Very simple ingredients.

To make the cookies, beat the soft butter with a spoon until fluffy.   Add the flour and cream and mix well.  It will take a lot of effort to get the flour in, but keep at it.  If necessary, finish the mixing with your hands.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Set out some cooling racks for later.

Clump the dough into a ball and roll it out on a floured surface.  The dough should be very thin, but not too thin.  About the thickness of a tortilla.  That isn’t a very universal measurement, but you get the idea.  You will want them thin enough that they create a small bowl shape underneath as they bake, and thick enough that they hold together when you move and frost them.  If necessary roll, cut, and bake a couple of mini batches to test the thickness.

Very thin. This cutter is about 1″x1″

When you are satisfied with the thickness of the dough, cut the cookies out with a small circle cutter.  I use a doughnut hole cutter, which makes them very small indeed.  You can use any size you want, but they are a very rich cookie so a little will make you feel full.  Also, the bite-sized ones are very easy to eat.

Poked and ready for baking. Now I just need to cut out about 1 million more…

Prick each cookie with a fork or toothpick, and bake them on a cookie sheet until they are lightly browned around the edges.  I baked mine for 13-15 minutes on a metal cookie sheet, but if you use a cold stoneware sheet, it could take longer.  When they start to look like they are almost ready, keep a close watch to ensure they don’t over brown.

They shrink ever so slightly when baking, and puff a snidge too.

Remove them from the pan and let them cool completely on the racks you set out earlier.

Cooling.

Meanwhile, make more cookies, re-wadding all the dough bits and reusing.  The dough does not degrade with handling.

When they are all baked, prepare the frosting.   Mix together the soft butter, egg yolk, and vanilla.  Add the powdered sugar.

Mixing…Still mixing.

I like to do this in my stand mixer to get everything well incorporated, but it usually needs a bit of a hand-stir at the end to get the edges mixed in well.  Put the frosting in a pastry bag, if you have one, with a medium-sized star tip.  If you don’t have the cake decorating accouterments, you can make an awesome homemade pastry bag by cutting the corner off of a gallon-sized plastic zipper bag.  Smush the frosting into the snipped corner, and voila!  Instant pastry bag!

I like to put my homemade pastry bag in a glass to hold the bag open,

Put the frosting in the bag,

And cut the corner of the bag.

Next you will want to prep a plate with sugar.  Each cookie will be dipped in sugar, frosted, and sandwiched with another cookie for the ultimate rich, sweet, crispy, melty cookie.

Now, make a nice work area for yourself so that you have within reach: wafers, the plate of sugar, a plate or tray for the completed cookies, and the frosting.

Cover the surface of the sugar with wafers- top side down.

Plate of sugar. This, for the record, is way more sugar than needed, even if making a double batch. Note that some of the bottoms are paler- these have the slight bowl shape.  Others are a little thicker than desired.

Pipe the frosting onto half of the sugared wafers and top with the other sugared wafers.  I personally like generous frosting, and usually need about another half batch of it to frost all the cookies. Bottoms and tops of each cookie will be sugared to maximize the melt-in-your-mouth-ness.  When cookies are filled and topped, remove them from the sugar and set them aside. Repeat until all the cookies are frosted and sandwiched.  I tried to take a picture of me frosting them, but it was a two-handed job, and, most unusually, there was no one at the house with me.

Mmmmm.

They may be eaten immediately, or refrigerated or frozen for later.  I personally like them cold from the fridge or freezer the best, but they are excellent either way.

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Peanut Butter Ritz Cookies

These things are Tim’s favorite Christmas cookie, and a real insult to my skill as a baker.  However, because they are his favorite, easy to make, and super delicious, I make a whole bunch each year.

I know you’ve seen them before…

Ingredients:

  • Ritz-type butter crackers (I use Aldi’s store brand- they hold together better than Great Value, but are cheaper than Ritz.)
  • smooth peanut butter
  • Chocolate-flavored almond bark
  • Vanilla almond bark (optional)

    These ingredients were made for each other! *sigh*

Prepare a couple of cookie sheets/pans by covering them with waxed paper.  You could also use freezer paper with the waxy side up.

I like to be pretty generous with the PB.

Make a whole bunch of cracker-peanut butter sandwiches.  Melt the almond bark in a deep, narrow dish.  Follow the package directions, and be sure to stir it well regularly.  Don’t be fooled by appearances either- almond bark can be completely melted and still hold it’s shape.

Dip each sandwich in the almond bark*, being careful to cover it completely, and set it on the wax paper.  Let them cool until the bark is hardened, refrigerating or freezing them if the process is going too slow.

Cooling…

If desired, melt some vanilla almond bark and do some swizzles of that over each cookie for extra pizzazz.

Eat now, or refrigerate or freeze for later.

*I have used chopsticks, forks, and spoons to for this part of the process, trying each to see what is easiest and what will leave the most even distribution of chocolate on the crackers.  In my opinion, it’s easiest and quickest to use a fork or spoon.  I like to run the tines of the fork gently over the top to make a decorative swish of chocolate.  I’m anal like that though.

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Meal Planning 101

I love meal planning.  Not just because I am a little anal about organization, but because I love the way a simple plan can free up more time and money for other, more enjoyable things.  When I first married Tim I’d dread cooking supper.  When done with work and driving home, I’d wrack my brains trying to think of what to cook, and trying to remember if I had the ingredients I’d need to make it.  Meal planning was the key to unlocking the enjoyment of cooking for me.  Before planning it was just a chore- afterward it became another creative outlet in my life.  Here are some other reasons I plan my meals each month:

  • I save money at the store
  • I save time cooking
  • I am less stressed about cooking
  • I spend less time grocery shopping
  • I waste less food
  • I am healthier (I control what I eat more than possible when eating out)
  • I stay excited to cook by cooking what I enjoy eating

You may think this is really far-fetched, and indeed, I do sometimes grow tired of cooking, or stressed before dinner, or unintentionally waste food that should have been eaten, but this is not the norm.  Meal planning makes deciding what to make for dinner really easy.  I know what to make and I know I have the ingredients.

The biggest question you probably have is: How do I start meal planning?

  • Well, first you will want to assess how much money you have to spend on groceries each week or two or four.
  • Next you will need to decide how you want to go about cooking each day.  This could mean that you put dinner in the slow cooker before heading to work in the morning, cook when you get home from work, cook when it’s convenient because you are home with the kids all day anyway, or that you cook up a whole bunch of freezer-friendly meals and reheat things daily.
  • Based on the method(s) you decide to use, you will want to assemble an array of recipes that you enjoy eating, that fit your time frame, and which you can afford to purchase with your grocery budget.
  • Lastly, you will decide if you want to plan each and every meal, or keep some staple items around for breakfast, eat leftovers as often as possible for lunch, and keep some sandwich materials around for the odd lunch when there are no leftovers.

For me this looks like:

  • $300 per month for all food and cleaning supplies
  • I like to do a mixture of all the methods listed above, except cooking “after work”.
  • I really enjoy eating healthy, homemade foods, many recipes are here on the site, though I am modifying our meals and leaving out some of the saucier foods that I’ve posted recipes for.
  • I keep staple items for breakfast and eat leftovers for lunch almost every day, but that may change as my family grows.

Everyone says, “Go big or go home” but this is not really a good attitude to have when starting a meal plan.  The best way to start is with baby steps.  Initially even the small changes will feel really big, so adjust to them and add in more planning, or more freezer meals as you get the hang of things.  When I started meal planning I simply wrote out about 21 suppers that I thought we’d like to eat in a month and purchased enough food to make about 7 of them each time I shopped.  I’d also purchase my staples like bread and eggs, any cleaning supplies I was out of, and maybe a treat, if I had money.  I only wrote out 21 meals because it seemed that we’d only cook about that many times per month.  The other 7 suppers per month were date nights, invites to friend’s homes, leftovers, or simple sandwiches because we were in a hurry.

Now that I have been meal planning for 6 years, I still use the same method, but with a few little tweaks:

  • I now plan my meals around what meats I have on hand.  I have access to inexpensive turkey products, and tons of venison (deer meat), so I don’t need to purchase meat very often.  When I do, it’s enough for several months. If you have to buy your meats  regularly, I recommend watching sales fliers and planning around the best deals at your local stores.  Or, if you can budget it and have the freezer space, buying a whole pig or steer can really save on the price per pound.
  • I choose to buy all the non-perishable or freezable ingredients for my meal plan in one huge shopping trip at the beginning of the month. Then, as I run out of staples, fruit, or a certain perishable I need for a meal, I will buy them as needed in smaller shopping trips.  The biggest reason for this is that Tim and I only have one car, so finding time to grocery shop when I can drive is difficult.  By handling it this way I can reduce shopping trips to 2-3 per month.
  • Additionally, I really like freezer meals and the time they save cooking and dish washing.  I will be posting more on freezer meals later, but for now I’ll say that the easiest and most efficient way to make freezer meals (in my opinion) without cooking like a madwoman for 3 days, is to just double a recipe that is freezer-friendly, and put half in an appropriate dish or bag for thawing and reheating later.  Super easy.  You already made the dishes dirty, prepped all the food, and assembled it- now you have a bonus meal ready for a busier day this month, with little to no extra work.

So, do what fits your schedule, your budget, and your lifestyle.  If something works well for you, continue doing it.  If something doesn’t work for you, try something different.  I tried the “cooking like a madwoman” method of freezer meal-ing, and that wasn’t my style, but now I know that and I’m free to use other methods without feeling like I must be missing out.  Do some research and try different things to figure out a method that is sustainable and enjoyable to you.

Happy Planning!

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Fluffy Cranberry Salad

This is a favorite in my family.  Due to the fact that I have been eating it at every family party as long as I can remember, I have absolutely no idea where the recipe came from.

Sweet, fluffy, and pink! So delicious too :)

Yield:  about 12 side-dish servings (maybe more)

Time: 3/4 hour, chill overnight, 1/4 hour

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups raw (frozen or thawed) whole cranberries
  • 4 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 20 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1/4 cup diced apple
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 12 oz container whipped topping

In a blender or food processor, grind the cranberries very finely.  You can use a knife to mince them if you have no blender or food processor, but it will take a long time.

Measured when whole, then ground up finely. I have a mini food processor, so 1 cup was max capacity.

Put your cranberries in a medium-large bowl, and add the sugar and marshmallows.

1/2 cup sugar

4 cups marshmallows

Drain your pineapple by pouring it into a strainer or colander, and letting it sit in the sink or over a bowl for a while.  Press out as much extra liquid as you can.

I think this is after I pressed it. Either way, lots of liquid came out.

Add the pineapple to the cranberry mixture, and stir it all very thoroughly.  It will be too heavy and wet in some places, while too dry and puffy in others to really blend evenly, but persevere.

As evenly as I could get it.

Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate it overnight.  The refrigeration time causes the marshmallows to break down a little bit and become foamy, while the flavor of the whole concoction melds and tastes more like pineapple.

In the fridge.

When you are ready to serve it, mix in the chopped apples, walnuts (if using), and the whipped topping.

Apples and whip. Note that the pineapple is pink instead of yellow now.

The acidity of the pineapple will cause the whip to break down, so do not stir everything together until the last minute.  This salad is excellent for traveling and parties.

Oh, so lovely!

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Metamorphosis

I was reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar with Kira this week, and I light bulb went on in my brain.  If you are unfamiliar with the story, let me sum it up for you:  The caterpillar starts out very tiny and very hungry, eats a whole bunch of fruit, then a whole bunch of junk food, then a leaf, becomes huge, builds a cocoon around himself, stays inside for a while, and emerges a beautiful butterfly.  It’s a book about metamorphosis, counting, the days of the week, and it has wonderful little holes which babies love to stick their fingers in.  Kira thinks it’s great.

I sometimes feel like the very hungry caterpillar in that I am very hungry to learn the ways of Christ.  I start out all small and I eat the Word and pray until I am hugely fat.  Then I go into a period of stasis.  No change, no growth, and sometimes even a reclusive hiding within myself (I have mentioned this in previous posts) that I am rather ashamed of.  I’m no longer able to absorb any more, and embarrassed that I’m not full of life and energy and a strong desire to work and grow and change.   I’m supposed to keep growing, aren’t I?

But a little part of me wonders if the God who created the whole universe, and who made little pudgy caterpillars hide in a cocoon until they transformed into something different, understands my slow, uneven transformation.  My tendency to make huge leaps and bounds in my relationship with Christ and in personal change, then to plateau.  And during that plateau, my desire to be secret and private about the little things that are happening that I don’t know how to face, and that I really don’t understand.

If I look back, there is inevitably a change that results from the stasis – sometimes amazing, deep, heart-change –  that can even be unnoticed at the time.  Call it true humility, it is the unobtrusive, God-wrought change that makes me more beautiful than I was before.  It is the inconspicuous alterations that will hopefully result in me becoming a true daughter of God in the sense that I am like, as much as humanly possible, His true Son.  I know that I am not a beautiful butterfly each and every day, and that many people can attest to that fact, but I hope that all the minute tweaks and adjustment that God is steadily working in my character will cause me, over the years and ages, to be lovely in spirit.

Metamorphosis is such a mysterious and beautiful happening, and it awes and intrigues everyone who sees it or learns about it.  I wonder if God is looking over the edge of heaven at all the people who have stuck a cocoon-swollen stick in a jar, waiting for the butterfly to emerge, saying, “Just wait until you see what I can do in a person!  This is just a little taste!”  I imagine that He is as excited by our transformation into something beautiful as the most enthusiastic 5-year-old is about the butterfly jar.

Like a hungry caterpillar readying itself to morph into a butterfly, I hope and pray that you will ready yourself for transformation into the likeness of Christ, which God desires to work in you.

“For it is God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure.”   Philippians 2:13

 

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Bigger Than Me

Sometimes in life I make bad decisions.  I purposely do things that I know I shouldn’t do.  This is not something I’m proud of, and I wish I didn’t do these things, but I am human, so sometimes I assert my “right” to make free choices.

As Christian I know I have no rights.  There are none.  Jesus bought me with a price (his own life for mine) and when I decided to call Him “Lord” that was me telling Him that I am now His slave.  Bond servant- someone who willingly chooses to belong to an individual master for the rest of his or her life.  I am Jesus’ bond servant.

I fall into a certain avenue of sinfulness at times that I am regularly tempted to go back to. I think Satan knows that I am susceptible to it, so he just keeps it up.  Why try something new when the old works just fine?  It’s not really something obvious or surface- it’s a form of mental/emotional sin that on the outside no one really knows about, but inside it starts to rot me.  When I give in to temptation I start to grow really sour really fast.  And I am most tempt-able when I am tired and exhausted.  I am sick and I have a nearly one-year-old who just cut some teeth.  I have been very tired lately.   So I was fertile ground for some good old-fashioned sinning this weekend.  In my heart.  I was ready, and God knew it.

I took a step in that direction.  And another.  Then it was time for church.  I went, as usual, with my family.  I was unable to follow through with my intent to sin, but the intent was definitely there.

The service was about falling in love with God more by being dedicated to developing a deep relationship with Him through prayer and time in the Word and in meditation on the Word.  I was planning to not be dedicated.

Logically Christ should be mad at me for making stupid and rebellious decisions, but I think He probably gets more frustrated and sad than anything.  And this time around, when I made the decision that I know I am not supposed to make, I did not feel anger or anything from God, just a strong desire to to pull me back if I would allow Him to pull me back.   And, since I am pretty well armed against my particular form of temptation, having faced it many times before, one of the first thoughts I had about “going there” – before I’d actually decided to “go there”- was that I didn’t want Satan to have that victory in my life.  Part of me wonders how much Satan gloats when I do what he wants instead of what God wants…

Then my pastor (bless his heart!) said something terrible.  He said, “This week- and every week afterward- if God tells me to pray for you, I will pray two things:  1) That you will seek Him with your whole heart and be fully dedicated to Him.  2) That if you are not seeking Him, or fully dedicated to Him, that He will wreck your life!”*  Have I ever mentioned that I am a pansy?  I realized that I was going to be in trouble this week and after, if I didn’t change my attitude and heart toward God quickly.   So I did.  It was communion Sunday, and I prayed and reconciled.  Things can be right again.  My heart can be right again.

What I didn’t realize then, or when I was reconciling with God,  was that He needs me to be engaged in this life of rightness with Him not just for my own sake, but for the sake of all the people in my life.  He wants to do good things through me and be glorified in my life as a result of my willingness to do anything for Him (including departing from sin that He’s specifically instructed me to stay away from).  I can’t be used by God long-term if I am not willing to be the person He made me to be.  However, if I surrender myself fully to Christ in all things, and become a woman who seeks to represent God’s true nature here, then we can get somewhere.

Directly after the service a good friend of mine asked me to pray for her about some things that are going on in her life.  I prayed with her, but I wish I was fully devoted to God all the time- then maybe I could have given her more encouragement.  As it was I felt a little wrong, that I didn’t deserve to be there, acting as a comforter since I wasn’t as connected to The Comforter as I should have been.

So where is this going?  This story isn’t about me.  Life isn’t about me.  I am one tiny drop in an ocean of people that are alive today, and that will live, and that have already lived.  This life is about God.  It’s about how He made us and loves us and how we chose to assert our “rights” to make free choices.  It’s about getting as many people back into rightness with God as possible before it’s all over.  So, unless I decide to wake up in the morning and give myself for Christ, His purpose, and for all the people I brush paths with, there’s really no point.

Oh, Satan, that lying bastard.  Why do I fall for his stupid tricks so often?

Pray for me as I attempt to follow God fully.  As I attempt to become a woman after His own heart.  And as I try to peel back all the layers of my heart and mind to let the Holy Spirit rewrite my character.  Please pray that I will learn to be fully obedient.  Pray that I will stop living as if my life belongs to me, and start living like a purchased slave.  Oh, the irony of that!  I would be filled with joy, and free to truly be myself!  May God be glorified.

 

*After the service our pastor clarified that he just wants God to get our attention by whatever means necessary.  He doesn’t actually want our lives ruined, unless that would strengthen our relationships with God- in which case we would eventually be glad to have our lives ruined.

 

 

 

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Like Chickens…

My friend was telling me about her chickens recently, and when the old saying, “Like chickens with their heads cut off” popped into my head I naturally thought of the spiritual implications.

Let me back up.  As I was working through the mental gyrations of the whole “pray for the workers” thing, I couldn’t help but be sobered by the thought that one reason we are called to be workers in the first place is because we are Christ’s body.  Let me repeat that.  We are Christ’s body.

I know you have heard it before: “…Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which He is the Savior.” (Ephesians 5:23b), “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ…” (1 Corinthians 11:3a), “And He [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church…” (Colossians 1:18a) “And God…appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body…” (Ephesians 1:22-23)  This idea is not mentioned once in the Bible and left to be puzzled out by the Greek-reading Bible scholars.  It is repeated and repeated to really drill it into our heads.  Christ is the head of the body, the church.  The church is the body of Christ, who is the head.

“The church”, according to all the Bible verses about “the church” is you and me, and anyone else who is a dedicated follower of Christ.  Filled with his Spirit and that.  Not necessarily a single building full of people or a denomination or something.  Almost every branch denomination or religion of Christianity claims to be “the right one” but it really doesn’t matter that much.  Jesus is mostly concerned with our hearts and how to make them more like his so he can love and save more people through us before he comes back in terrifying, conquering glory.  ”Church” in many places has become synonymous with a building, instead of being synonymous with a group of people as God intended.

So if I am the church, it is important that I do what Christ would here in this day and age and place because I am literally his body here.  He does not move around on the earth anymore, except through me and you, and everyone else who is filled with his Spirit.  We are his physical person moving, seeing, smelling, feeling, hearing, loving, speaking.

Put a different way, if I choose not to obey Christ and tell people about him, and love people as he does, then who is going to?  Jesus himself is no longer here to do that work.  I think this could be one of the things he meant when he said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12). If it’s great when one person goes around loving people and healing them and casting out demons and stuff, wouldn’t it be greater if a million people are doing that?  I think most would say one million is better than one.  But if I don’t do what Jesus would, who is going to?

Here’s another thing:  James (Jesus’ half-brother) said that “Faith without works is dead”(James 2:20b).  Why is faith without works (or deeds or actions or toil) dead?  Faith is really good- no one contradicts this- but without actual visible action, deeds, or work, there is no benefit in it at all.  Faith is pointless without action taking place as a result.  The Greek word for “dead” here literally means “a corpse”.  Faith without action is cold and lifeless.  In the passage above, Jesus reiterates this idea by saying what we will do if we have faith in him.  Please let me clarify.  This passage of the Book of James is not at all about salvation being earned.  Salvation comes only by God’s grace through our faith, as the Bible is clear about – read Romans if you are unsure about this topic. This was written to individuals who were already saved.  James wrote to inspire the Christians to action.  To sum up, you must work in order for your faith (already in existence) to benefit anyone.

You could think about faith as being like electricity.  Electricity is amazing!  It powers tons of stuff the world over, doing any number of different things.  But electricity is not amazing if the circuit is never completed.  It’s lifeless until someone taps into it and does something with it’s power.  Faith needs works to empower, or it just sits there, unused.  It costs me nothing if I don’t use it, but it also is completely inglorious.  Colossians 1:11a says “Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might…”  I was thinking of this in terms of What happens with Jesus’ might if we aren’t making ourselves available to be filled with it?  What is his might used for if it’s not being used here?  Does it stay in heaven?  It benefits no one if we aren’t using it.

So, to bring this back to the original point, Jesus is the head, and we, his body, need to act.  What happens when we act as if Jesus is not the head?  We do like any good chicken with it’s head cut off- run around in circles, crash into stuff, and generally be complete and total insensitive idiots.  You may want to reread that bit to let it soak in.   If you and I choose not to submit to the headship of Christ and let him start making our decisions, we will, whether we like it or not, be just like headless chickens.  And please understand that the old saying is no joke.  Chickens whose heads have just been cut off really do run around like fast, creepy, wobbly fowl-zombies.  Step out of their unpredictable path, because if you don’t, they’ll run into you, and that’s gross.  I’m repulsed just writing about it.

Off the chicken subject another question presents itself.  What does it look like to be under the headship of Christ?  It’s to let him remake our personalities, actions, thoughts. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2a)  We let Jesus renew our minds.  And our hearts, because “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34b).  We repent of the things we were doing that were against God’s good plan for our lives, and we start to do like Jesus did.  In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis writes about repentance:

“Now repentance is no fun at all.  It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie.  It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years.  It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death…

…Can we do it if God helps us?  Yes, but what do we mean when we talk of God helping us?  We mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak.  He lends us a little of His reasoning powers and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another.  When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letters because you are forming them.  We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it.”

So, in order to be the best body of Christ we can be, we need to be doing as he would, and be repenting when we don’t do as he would.  Either way, we need to be submitting ourselves to Christ each moment and repenting when we do things contrary to his desires for us.

If you sense that God is asking you to do something big and/or scary, talk to him about your fears and reservations.  He will not be surprised or ashamed of you.  He will help you through those obstacles, but you will need to step out in faith.  Trust him, and test him.  He knows that sometimes we need clear signs and directions.  Ask him for some if you don’t know what to do or how to do it.  He will not reprimand you for needing wisdom (see James 1).  Just be willing.  He gave us free will so that we could choose to love him wholly, and he wants us to change because he loves us, not so he can love us.  He wants everyone to know how great he is so that they too can know and love him, but no one will know him if we don’t do our jobs as his physical person here in this world.

You know, this is a huge challenge for me.  This whole “body of Christ” thing is so strange and definitely not how I would have imagined it would work.  And so darned difficult!  But I hope and pray that God will hold my hand and help me form the letters so that someday, with practice, I will be able to do it smoothly and naturally.  He is showing me the benefit of overcoming my fears and doing all he asks.  I am grateful that I serve such a gentle and caring God that is also so mighty!  He moves me slowly, painstakingly, and goes before me so that I can be victorious.  A couple of days ago I wrote to God in my journal “You always win, and I love that when I follow You, victory is inevitable…Obviously the overcoming is not the only thing that motivates me to follow You.  I think Your grace and Your forgiveness are what keep pulling me back to You.  That even when I don’t take the victory You’ve handed me, You still love me.”

So hold his hand.  God wants to be victorious through you!  And he wants to do even greater things through you than Jesus did in his days tromping around on this earth- and that’s a lot!

 

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Quiche (egg pie with a French name)

Quiche (pronounced: kee’ sh) is relatively new to my kitchen because Tim generally doesn’t like baked egg dishes like strata and things like that.  I made it on a whim a few weeks ago, and he liked it a lot, so I made it for some friends, and they requested the recipe.  So, here goes.  Please note that I did not measure, since I was not planning to blog about this.  These measurements are approximations only.

Time:  2+ hours (including bake time)

Yield: 1  9″ pie (8 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pie crust (make “Vinegar Pie Crust” and use 1/4 of the batch)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup chopped fully-cooked ham (I chopped sliced deli ham, and it worked very well)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Roll out the pie crust to fit your 9″ pie plate with edges hanging over.  Trim around the pie plate, fold the crust edge under itself with the raw edge toward the middle of the plate, and crimp it as desired.   Take 2 pieces of aluminum foil and line the crust to keep it from sliding down into the pie plate as it bakes, and bake it at 450°F for 8 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake it 4-6 minutes more, or until it is slightly golden in some places, and set up.  Set it aside and reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

While the crust is baking, beat the eggs in a medium bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, making sure to really incorporate the sour cream.   Pour the filling into the crust and bake the whole concoction for 45 to 75 minutes.   Quiche is done when the egg is fully set up, and the top is puffy.  Test doneness by inserting a knife in the middle- if it comes out clean, or only cheesy, it is done.  To really ensure that it is done, bake it until the whole top is poofed like a soufflé, and it’s evenly browned. Serve warm or cold.

One great thing about quiche is that it can be made with whatever you have on hand. I made it with broccoli (it used less egg and baked forever), have had spinach quiche, and with bacon instead of ham, just milk instead of milk and sour cream, and  plain cheese quiche (which might need more egg).  There are many ways to make it, and as long as the flavors go well with egg, go for it!  I think I may try chopped asparagus, cheddar, and bacon sometime :)

 

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Vinegar Pie Crust

When I was a teenager I used to spend quite a bit of time with a wonderful 70+ year-old woman named Irene.  She is an excellent baker and cook, and she told me that her favorite pie crust recipe had some “secret” ingredients.  When I questioned further, she revealed the secrets to me (she’s not good at keeping secrets, it would seem) eggs and vinegar!  So when I came across this pie crust recipe, I kept it, and it always turns out excellent, or at the very least (when I make it all wrong) good.

Vinegar Pie Crust

Time: 25 minutes, plus chilling

Yield: 4- 9″ crusts, or 5- 8″ crusts

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, or 2 a-p and 2 whole wheat
  • 1  1/2 cups butter (3 sticks) just soft enough to cut with a pastry blender
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup water

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt.  Cut the butter in with a

Pastry blender

pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  If you do not have a pastry blender, you can use a large fork, or 2 knives cutting across each other, or even your fingers.  Make a “well” in the center of the flour and set it aside.

In a small bowl beat the egg slightly and add the vinegar and 1/2 cup water, mixing them together.

Combine the egg mixture into the flour mixture until it’s evenly moist.  I like to sort of toss the moistened lumps in the dry flour to evenly moisten everything, but however you do it, try to be gentle and do not over stir it.  The less handling, the better.  If you need to add more water to make things stick together a little more, add it about 1 tablespoon at a time and mix it gently.

Mold it into a ball and chill it covered for 15 minutes, or until it is evenly cold throughout.   I have the best results if I make my dough ahead, freeze it, and thaw it the day before I will need to use it.  If freezing, I recommend cutting it into the number of sections you will be using (I usually do 2, since I generally make 9″ double-crust pies when I bake pie) and freezing them in quart or gallon freezer bags.

Roll out and bake as instructed in your pie recipe.

 

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