Category Archives: Cookbook Recipes

Rice and Beans Until the Debt is Paid Off?

The administration page of our website shows us the words people use to search for a previous post or the Internet for a topic, bringing them to our website. One recent search caught my eye. The words were, “rice and beans until the debt is paid off.”

That search brought up a thought I’ve considered many times over the years. Why do we often think of ways to get out of debt? Why not employ those practices in order to prevent the debt in the first place? Why would we only consider eating rice and beans after we’ve created debt? If we feel as if “money is tight,” why not change our eating habits to stretch our grocery budget a little further so that we can buy our groceries without using a credit card?

Some friends have told me that they just don’t like beans. I understand… when I was a kid, I had trouble getting them down, too. But, in recent years, as I’ve begun to value living within my means and pursuing a healthier lifestyle, I’ve grown to appreciate the low-cost, high-nutritive value of beans and rice. And, it’s possible that how the beans are prepared affect the taste and texture. We really like the results of preparing beans according to the procedure outlined in Appendix B of A Recipe for Survival.

Since food preparation can sometimes be complicated in our household, and because time is limited with both of us working, the other reason I appreciate beans and rice is the simplicity of the dish. I can easily prepare a large batch of rice and a large batch of black beans, store them in the fridge and take beans and rice to work each day. The result is a simple, satisfying dish which fits into our budget and gives me the energy to work. An additional benefit is that I’m not eating food that will negatively affect my cholesterol numbers.

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But, if I have the time to prepare Sister’s Salsa (page 155 in A Recipe for Survival) and slice up an avocado, I can dress up the beans and rice and enjoy an even tastier meal. I suspect that anyone who says beans are not interesting has not been eating this version of beans and rice! 🙂

Simply the Best Rice and Beans

 

I absolutely look forward to eating the dish pictured above. Perhaps I have developed a taste for it because of appreciating the value of a meal that is nourishing and inexpensive. And perhaps, as I noted on the previous post, since I limit my intake of processed foods and refined sugars, I actually enjoy the taste of more natural foods such as this dish.

When Brody and I were paying off many debts, I quickly saw how much a packaged item in my grocery cart affected the final cost at checkout. Yes, I would have enjoyed some treats with sugar in them, but purchasing them would not have helped me pay off the debt and the sugar would have made me less productive throughout the day. Eating certain items is not sinful. But, for me, I would have sinned against my conscience to eat what was not necessary AND would make me less healthy, especially when I owed money to someone else.

This was true a few years ago, when we were paying off a dentist bill. The dentist graciously did all the near-emergency work for us even though he knew it would take us a long time to pay it off. We were blessed to benefit from a longtime relationship between the dentist and my family. I was the third generation of our family to receive care from him. May the Lord bless Dr. Dow and his gracious office manager, Alexis, for their kindness to us.

Since Dr. Dow was not charging us interest, I was very careful what we did with the money we were spending on anything besides regular payments to him. I knew he would not begrudge us our basic necessities such as nutritious food, but I did not feel right about spending money on ice cream or fast food instead of sending a larger payment to him in a given month.

God has promised to supply our needs and He is faithful to keep all His promises. But, how often do we begin to view our desires as “needs?” Sometimes, I think we begin to believe that we are entitled to certain things, such as “Food I Like to Eat,” or “Eating Out as Often as I Want To” instead of choosing to live within the means God has provided for us. Many people in the world eat whatever they can find to stay alive. Are we inherently better than they? Do we really deserve only certain foods which we enjoy? Are we so focused on the pleasures of certain items that we are unwilling to recognize nutritious food which is available to us within our means?

Now and then, Brody and I eat food that is a treat for us. We have not completely given up buying or eating foods that contain sugar. But we do not believe that we are entitled to have whatever we want to eat, whether or not money is tight and whether or not the item will hinder our ability to accomplish what the Lord would have us accomplish. If you are struggling with your health or finances, you may find that being willing to change your tastes may help you in both categories.

Here’s another way I like to use black beans. Since it requires more time to prepare, I don’t make this as often as the dish pictured above, but once in a while, we enjoy Beyond Basic Black Beans (page 90 of A Recipe for Survival.)

Beyond Basic Black Beans

The apostle Paul said he had learned the secret of being content whether he was well-fed or hungry – he knew that no matter how difficult life on earth may become, nothing could separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. The trials Paul experienced were far more intense than the trying time of developing self-control to give up foods that don’t fit in the grocery budget or negatively affect our health. Paul actually went hungry; he didn’t just pass up the “food” that actually was detrimental to him.

Philippians 4:10-13 from Bible Gateway:

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak [g]from want, for I have learned to be [h]content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things [i]through Him who strengthens me. 14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.

Celebrating the Sweet with the Sour

The Lord supplied our every need in June as we faced some very busy days while helping Grandma prepare for and recover from back surgery. We are thankful for all those who supported us through prayer, and we praise the Lord for His grace to us. I was particularly amazed that I didn’t miss any work and also didn’t get any of my horrible headaches. We were very thankful that my aunt and uncle were here and able to assist Grandma quite a bit. We were also thankful for the many doctors, nurses, aides and others who served Grandma and who continue to serve her in her rehab stage.

So, we made it through June and then my neighbors heard the unfamiliar sounds of my dusting and vacuuming, and a day or so later, our company arrived! We enjoyed a week with Brody’s parents.

Since we had more hands available, I was able to take some photos I usually can’t take on my own. For example, here’s an action shot! 🙂

Our Special Gluten-free breakfast

On one of the mornings, Brody prepared our Pancakes from page 86 of A Recipe for Survival.

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We discovered a gluten-free chicken sausage at Costco recently, so he added that to the special breakfast. On most of the other mornings, we enjoyed Quinoa Cereal from page 87 in A Recipe for Survival. Lately, I’ve been enjoying it with ground flaxseed, rice bran, cinnamon, raisins, chia seeds and goat milk. This morning, I skipped the ground flaxseed since we had run out and I didn’t want to take the time to grind it.

A gluten-free breakfast

One day, we packed a picnic lunch and enjoyed some time at the beach.

Beach time

Brody found some shells to add to his mom’s collection.

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Mom graciously allowed us to use her head as pedestal for the food for this photo of our Crackers, Chicken Broccoli Kale Slaw, and Lemon Cake with Strawberries and Lemon icing. We still have a few paper plates from our wedding reception, so we used them for our picnic.

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Here’s a shot of the first time I made the lemon cake with strawberries some months ago:

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To make the cake, simply follow the directions for Chocolate Cake on page  174 of A Recipe for Survival, but omit the chocolate and substitute hot lemon juice for the hot water. To make the Lemon Icing, put roughly 2 Tbsp of lemon juice in a bowl and then add powdered sugar until it’s the consistency you prefer.

We love the combination of the slightly sweet and slightly sour! It reminds me of June this year for us … we had some difficult days, but the way the Lord gave us all that we needed at every moment added sweetness to the sour moments.

Blessed be the Lord,

Because He has heard the voice of my supplication.

The Lord is my strength and my shield;

My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped;

Therefore my heart exults,

And with my song I shall thank Him.

Psalm 28:6-7

Mother’s Day Musings and Cinco de Mayo Salad

Recently, I heard a pastor say that a Mother’s Day sermon was the hardest one for him to preach. Then he explained why.

First, he said he realized that many in his congregation were men, and therefore, would not ever be mothers, and he wanted his sermon to be applicable to all of his congregation. That is a great point.

Second, the pastor said that he recognized that many women in the congregation were unmarried and still were honoring the Lord in their lives even if they were not mothers. That is another great point.

Third, the pastor mentioned that some married women were not mothers for a variety of reasons, and that some women may experience grief for not having children. He said he realized that women are sensitive and he indicated that he wanted to be careful not to add to anyone’s pain. That’s another wonderful point.

Those are all excellent observations. However, I think there’s a more important reason a pastor (and other church leaders) should seriously reconsider their tradition of celebrating a secular holiday as part of Sunday morning services. The Scripture teaches that the purpose of the church is to evangelize the lost and equip the saved to worship the Lord. In other words, the main reason believers participate in the life of the church is to grow in their sanctification as they more frequently choose to obey Scripture rather than choose their own sinful desires. Whenever the church loses focus on helping believers to mature in their walk with the Lord, stagnation is at hand, and those church leaders have abdicated their responsibility as shepherds who will give an account for the souls of the people they are leading and guiding.

Whenever church leaders choose to celebrate a secular holiday on Sunday, they are demonstrating that the American culture has influenced the church. The reverse should be true: the church should be salt and light in the culture. Sadly, this is only one example that I’ve observed as I’ve watched the American culture creep into the church.

In my experience, the most striking example of the culture influencing the church is the elevation of entertainment throughout the entire morning service. In some churches, the desire to lead the congregation in laughter during announcements, throughout the sermon, and before the collection of the offering takes precedence over the desire to lead the congregation in revering and worshipping the Almighty. Or, those leading the music behave as if they were rock stars performing at a live concert.

Back to the specific question of church leaders celebrating Mother’s Day at church, I wonder how often the leaders consider what message they are sending to the rest of the congregation who are not mothers? If a church devotes an entire Sunday morning to addressing mothers, how is the church fulfilling its obligation to minister to all the believers in the congregation that morning? Some ladies who wanted to be mothers are not moms due to circumstances beyond their control. Is it reasonable to expect such women to return to church next year if they learned this year that the entire service was focused on how to be a better mother?

I used to think that only women might be hurt by Mother’s Day celebrations at church, but recently, a gentleman mentioned to me that he had skipped church on Father’s Day some years because he had felt inferior at church for not being a father. I hadn’t realized that men could be hurt, too, by how church leaders allow the secular culture to dictate the agenda for Sunday morning worship.

Honoring our parents is good and right. There is nothing wrong with celebrating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. However, on Sunday morning at church, nothing should preempt the preaching of the Word for the edification of the entire congregation. Anything that distracts from that should be avoided.

I think that fathers should lead their children to honor their mothers in their family setting and mothers should lead in honoring the father in the family. I don’t think it’s the role of the church leaders to set aside valuable time for edifying the entire congregation on Sunday morning in order to do something the parents should be doing in their homes.

If a pastor feels absolutely compelled to preach something about mothers on the second Sunday of May, perhaps he should draw the congregation’s attention to the example of the Proverbs 31 Wife’s Children in verse 28. If the pastor spoke to the offspring in the congregation, he would be addressing 100% of his audience since everyone has a mom. Even if a person’s mom has passed away, a person can thank God for the one who gave him life and praise God for the one who shared Christ with him. If a person’s mom did not lead an exemplary life, a person could still thank God that He graciously protected him even in the midst of the trials he endured at the hand of his mom. And we can all recognize that others have influenced us as well and we can bless them for their impact in our lives. A sermon directed to children (whatever our ages) will include the entire congregation since we are all someone’s child.

With that as food for thought, let me share a recipe that Brody and I enjoyed on another day we like to celebrate in May… Cinco de Mayo!!!! We really enjoy Mexican food, so one day, I decided to imitate a green sauce we really liked. Friends of ours had drawn our attention to it, and while it was gluten-free, it still had other ingredients Brody prefers to avoid, so I developed my own Brody-safe version.

Cinco de Mayo Green Sauce

10 tomatillos without the paper-thin skins, washed, and cut into quarters

1 jalapeno pepper, without the stem, and washed

roughly ½ cup chopped cilantro

2 cloves garlic

salt and pepper to taste

½ tsp crushed dried red peppers if you want more heat

1. Add all the ingredients to your Vitamix or other blender and process them until well-blended.

2. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer until the sauce is the thickness you like.

3. The sauce can be used to cook chicken or simply to add flavor to a Mexican chicken dish.

Sometimes we cook the chicken in the sauce….

 Chicken in our Gluten-Free Green Sauce

But I like the taste of the sauce better when we simply pour it over cooked chicken in our Mexican concoction:

 Our Gluten-Free Cinco de Mayo

To simplify our meal preparation, we usually maintain a supply of cooked rice, beans and chicken in the fridge and then flavor them in different ways throughout the week.

One of the yummy ways we combine the chicken, beans and rice is to rewarm the ingredients and then:

1. Spread a thin layer of cooked rice on a plate.

2. Add some black beans.

3. Add some cooked chicken and the Cinco de Mayo Green Sauce.

4. Sprinkle on some cheese.

5. Add some Taco Sauce (page 159 from A Recipe for Survival) or Sister’s Salsa (page 155 from A Recipe for Survival.)

6. Add some fresh, chopped cilantro and lettuce, along with salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!

7. Sometimes, we include a batch of chips, made from the Tortilla recipe on page 115 of A Recipe for Survival.

April Thanksgiving: Great Things He Has Done

This year, my birthday celebrations included a gift from God… Brody received a promotion at his job! He had been applying to this position in various locations around the country for about 18 months, and finally the position became available here at his own office. He applied again, and this time, received the position. We found out on my birthday! We praise the Lord for His kind provision for us all these years through Brody’s previous position and for His blessing of a new position which Brody loves. It’s a natural fit for his abilities and will give him opportunity to grow in new ways as well.

I immediately thought of Psalm 126 when we found out about his promotion. While this Psalm is specifically about the Israelites’ return from captivity, I can relate to their joy and praise to God for the great things He has done for them as well as for us. This definitely seems like a dream come true; I had even said to Brody 18 months ago that if the position were available at his local office that would be wonderful! So far, he’s enjoying settling into his new office and responsibilities and is very thankful for the support of his coworkers.

One of Brody’s coworkers jokingly mentioned that as the newest arrival in the office, he needed to bring in a cake, and that carrot cake was his favorite. Since we had already developed a carrot cake recipe that works for Brody, he said he would bring it in. Another coworker, overhearing the conversation, asked if the recipe is in our book since he already had purchased a copy of A Recipe for Survival. When Brody mentioned this conversation to me, I decided it was time to post the photo of our Brody-safe carrot cake along with the instructions to modify the Chocolate Cake on page 174 of A Recipe for Survival. So, while he’s busily baking, I’m preparing this post. 🙂 He’ll take the cake to work tomorrow, and we’ll see how the office likes the recipe!

Gluten-free, Corn-free, Potato-free Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

Follow the recipe on page 174 of A Recipe for Survival for Chocolate Cake and make these modifications:

A Recipe for Survival Modifications for Carrot Cake

If you have any questions on the modifications, just ask for clarification! Enjoy! And remember to thank the Lord and praise Him publicly for the great things He has done for you.

When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, 

We were like those who dream.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter

And our tongue with joyful shouting;

Then they said among the nations,

“The Lord has done great things for them.”

The Lord has done great things for us;

We are glad.    Psalm 126:1-3 NASB

Our Short Lifespans and “Shorties”

Gluten-free Portable Shorties

Recently, Brody read The Conviction to Lead, by Albert Mohler. He read parts of it aloud to me and very few of Mohler’s points impacted me as much as his reminder of our short lifespans.  He shared in this book that he keeps a replica of a human skull on his writing desk to remind himself of the passing of time. What a great reminder! Our short time on earth will soon be over. I was challenged to consider what I’m doing with the rest of my time before eternity begins for me.

This year, I’ll turn 39, and since my mom passed away before she was 49, I recently wondered if I, too, had entered my last decade. In reality, any one of us could enter eternity at any moment as a strong earthquake reminded me a couple of weeks ago. Just as I can’t control the shaking of the earth, so also I do not have any control over the length of my life. I’m glad that the One who does control all things is good and righteous, and therefore, can be trusted.

So teach us to number our days
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

May I live more wisely each day, with the Lord’s help, applying His Word to my life.

Some years ago, I visited a friend in Asia. While there, I loved sampling the local cuisine. My favorite item was a snack, often served with tea, or carried on a day trip as a bite of on-the-go nourishment. I tasted a few different varieties, but they all had three things in common:

1) a filling of spicy meat

2) a breading holding it all together

3) a very cute appearance, either little cylinders, roughly 2″ in length or little cakes, roughly 2″ in diameter.

The tasty treats were either baked or fried and I still remember them fondly these 8 years later!

One day toward the end of my visit, my friend’s friend invited us to stop by for tea. I honestly thought I knew what these treats had been called in previous days. But, when my friend heard me say for the second or third time, “Please pass the shorties,” she whispered in my ear, “They’re called “Short Eats.” I was a little embarrassed, but not too much since I thought “Shorties” were an appropriate name – perhaps more fitting – due to the cute factor of the tasty treats’ appearances.

Recently, I had fun making my own version of Shorties, and thought I’d share the results with you.

I started with my Chicken Curry recipe, and then used my Tortilla recipe (page 115 in A Recipe for Survival) or Naan recipe to enclose the meat. The lighting in this photo didn’t show the deep color from the turmeric very well; I’m still figuring out the best ways to photograph the yummy food. It always tastes better than it looks!

Gluten-free Chicken Curry

The first time I made the Shorties, I melted some coconut oil in a frying pan and then tried to roll out my tortilla recipe.

Gluten-free Tortilla Dough

But, since I experimented with coconut oil as a replacement for some of the butter in the dough, the tortillas fell apart much more quickly due to the lower melting point of the coconut oil.

Tortilla preparation

Rolling out Tortillas

I also tried rolling out a rectangular shape of the dough in order to slice the long Shorty into many small Shorties.

Shorties Prep

That didn’t work out really well, so I tried making a little rectangle and making the Shorties individually.

Wrapping up Shorties

After a few attempts, I found the fastest way was to follow the basic pattern I used when making Birthday Danish (pages 164-166 in A Recipe for Survival.) I rolled out one circle of dough, added a little filling and then placed another round bit of dough on top of it, pinched the edges together and eased the Shorty off the counter and into the hot oil.

Filling Shorties

Frying Little Shorties

Frying More Little Shorties

I quickly gave up my attempts to make the Shorties super cute for a tea, and chose to make larger ones that still tasted great and took less time to create.Frying Larger Shorties

My neighbor answered my call for help to photograph my progress for the blog so I wouldn’t smear tortilla dough and chicken curry all over my camera. She suggested that some fresh cilantro would taste yummy with the Shorties; we tried it and loved it! Thanks to my friend and also to Brody for their help in the photography!

A few days later, I used the Naan recipe to make a different version of Shorties.

Shorties in Abundance

The bottom of anything made with the Naan recipe browns very nicely compared to the top.

Baked Shorties

Some tasty tea, cashew nuts and fresh fruit rounded out our mini meal of Shorties. My friend and I enjoyed the fruit of our labors and then shared them with our hubbies.

Shorties and Tea - a Great Mini Meal

These portable and nourishing snacks have a very short lifespan in our home!

 

Discernment and a New Family Favorite

About a year ago, I posted this photo when I was linking up with Deep Roots at Home. I had cooked this meal of broccoli, rice, and pork with pomegranate juice since someone had given us a couple of pomegranates.

This was my first time to process a pomegranate and I enjoyed a quiet time of removing the undesirable parts from the beautiful and tasty portion.

 

We exercise discernment when we put things into our mouths; shouldn't we also exercise discernment regarding what we take into our minds and hearts?

We exercise discernment when we put things into our mouths; shouldn’t we also exercise discernment regarding what we take into our minds and hearts?

I selected a couple of sermons which Brody had downloaded from the Grace To You website and benefited from listening to John MacArthur’s sermons on discernment.

Principles for Discernment Part 1

Principles for Discernment Part 2

Principles for Discernment Part 3

As I was making a physical distinction between the savory and unsavory parts of the pomegranates, I was listening to these sermons on the importance of distinguishing between truth and half-truth…. and I wondered:

How often each day do we exercise discernment regarding what we put into mouths…? Well, maybe not as often as we should! Right?

But, I suspect that we exercise even less discernment regarding what we accept into our thinking, or into our hearts.

May God lead us in His truth and teach us each day!  Psalm 25:4-6

Last year, when I ground up the pomegranate seeds and separated the seeds from the juice, I developed a new recipe to use the seeds. Brody liked it so well that I decided to share it with my brother’s extended family at Thanksgiving this past fall.

Once again, the desire not to waste anything that could be useful produced a companion recipe that was a real favorite among our family members! Enjoy!

 

Everywhere we look, we can see God's handiwork in His beautiful and orderly creation!

Everywhere we look, we can see God’s handiwork in His beautiful and orderly creation!

Family Favorite Appetizers

1. Prepare a batch of Crackers (See page 111 in A Recipe for Survival, or see the Sample Recipes tab on this site). Remember that you can omit the xanthan gum with perfectly acceptable results. You can opt for the variation that uses coconut oil, chia seeds and sunflower seeds. If you’d like to add the additional fun of shapes, use cookie cutters to shape the cracker dough before baking.

2. Exercise discernment 🙂 and separate the pomegranate seeds from the rest of the fruit. Enjoy the beauty of God’s creation! Brody always comments that the seeds remind him of my wedding set. 🙂 He chose rubies because I had memorized Proverbs 31 in the New International Version when I was in college. (Note verse 10.)

Rubies remind us of Proverbs 31 in the NIV.

Rubies remind us of Proverbs 31 in the NIV.

3. Grind up the seeds in a blender or Vitamix.

4. Strain out the seeds. The juice can be enjoyed as a tasty drink or as a marinade for pork.

5. Press a clove or two of garlic and combine with 1 stick of butter. Add a 1″ piece of fresh ginger root, minced.

6. Spread the crackers with the garlic-ginger-butter. Top with the pomegranate seeds, share with your family and watch them disappear! These were a hit among our family at Thanksgiving. Photo credit: Big Bro

I developed this recipe in order to use up the pomegranate seeds that were left after grinding them up and straining them out of the juice for a marinade.

I developed this recipe in order to use up the pomegranate seeds that were left after grinding them up and straining them out of the juice for a marinade.

 

 

Grace and Jury Duty, Part 3 (and Chicken Tortilla Soup!)

The second day of Jury Duty concluded with a vote at 5 p.m. in the deliberation room. Since the votes were not unanimous, we knew that we would have to return for at least one more day. I think it’s safe to say that many in the room were disappointed that we had to return for another day.

As I drove home that night, I felt angry when I considered the possibility that the final outcome would be a hung jury. This presented an opportunity for me to recognize my pride from a new angle. True, I cared about justice being served.

 

However, after a little thinking, I realized that I also was angry about the possibility of a hung jury because I felt as if I would be part of a failing effort if we didn’t reach a verdict. I didn’t want to be a part of “losing” team.

Since I couldn’t discuss the topic with anyone outside the jury until after the case closed, I reasoned with myself. (Yes, I talk to myself under other circumstances, too. 🙂 Don’t you?)

 

Anyway, just as I had meditated on God’s Word on Day 1 of Jury Duty to counteract my anxious feelings arising from fretful thinking, I reminded myself of the truth to assist in addressing my anger. The truth was that I was only responsible for my own decisions, not the decisions of other human beings. I was only responsible to God for how I voted based on the evidence presented in court and the judge’s instructions to the jury. How the other jurors voted was their responsibility. I was being prideful in thinking that I should be in control of, and responsible for, the final vote of the jury.

The possibility of a hung jury also cast in a new light my prideful feelings that I deserve always to be on a “winning” or “successful” team. My feelings of shame at the thought of being a part of a “failing” effort were evidence that I was prideful. I needed to repent of my sin of pride. In the event that we never reached a verdict, I needed to be prepared not to feel shame for having served on a hung jury.

 

As far as the more noble reason for my anger, that of justice being served, I made myself remember that God is the ultimate Judge.

I reminded myself that even if a human being “gets away” with breaking laws during his life here on earth, God sees everything and each of us will give an account to Him one day. Hebrews 4:12-13

 

Furthermore, God may graciously choose to grant even the “vilest offender” repentance of his sins here on earth, and that sinner, like me, will praise Him for His grace in saving us. All of us humans are sinners before God, and our only hope for a relationship with God and eternal life with Him is in God’s mercy and grace.

 

At the end of the 3rd day, we jurors concluded that further deliberation was not going to change the outcome. We took a final vote and informed the judge that we had been unable to reach a verdict. Shortly after that, we were all done with our responsibilities as jurors and were free to go our separate ways. One of the attorneys still remembered that the court had changed the schedule to allow me to take our trip, and wished me “Happy Anniversary!” as we parted. 🙂

 

Brody and I were able to take our trip as planned for our 5th anniversary. I was sick before the trip and afterwards, too, but during the trip, I was headache-and-respiratory-infection-free! God was gracious to give us that special time to reflect on the gift of 5 years of life together. We really enjoyed our stay aboard the Queen Mary, even with the excitement of a fire alarm at 7 a.m. the last morning we were there. We’ve returned a couple of times to visit the Queen Mary, and we are always pleased with how the restaurants on board the ship work with us to accommodate Brody’s dietary restrictions. Here’s a picture from our stay on the ship:

Our 5th Anniversary Aboard the Queen Mary

Looking back on those 3 days of Jury Duty, I am now thankful for the experience.

  • Now I’m glad that God didn’t give me my first choice of reading a good book in the jury assembly room for a day and then being sent home since I wasn’t needed to serve on any cases. Had I missed out on the experience of being on the jury, I would have missed out on all the ways that God showed His understanding of my physical limitations.
  • I am glad that I had practice in using Scripture to take control of my growing anxiety – anxiety that was making me physically ill!
  • I am thankful for another view of my sin of pride so that I could become aware of it and repent. I am thankful that the Holy Spirit is working in my life, gradually using the truth of Scripture and the circumstances of my life to mold me into the image of God’s Son, Jesus.
  • I am thankful that one of the jurors purchased a copy of A Recipe for Survival! 🙂
  • Finally, I am thankful for the courtroom experience giving me a fresh view of God’s grace in His redemptive plan. I’ll write more about that soon!

 

I hope I remember for a long time how anxious I had been on Day 1 of Jury Duty in contrast with how God showed me through the next few days that He’s at work for my good. And while He’s at work for my good, He’s lovingly making it possible for me to endure the troubles and grow in my relationship with Him.

 

Recently I thought about Chicken Tortilla Soup and decided it’d be fun to try making a version that would work for Brody. I reviewed this recipe to get a starting point for making the soup.

Then I considered the recipes I already had been using for Brody that could serve as building blocks for this tasty meal. In time, I came up with two different ways to achieve this final state of yumminess.

 

The first way helps me use up some leftovers from a Chicken Taco meal. Often, cooking the chicken in the skillet as described in A Recipe for Survival (page 123) results in some very flavorful drippings that would soak the tortillas too much to use in the tacos. We use a slotted spoon to serve the chicken on the tacos, leaving behind the drippings. Instead of throwing away all that good flavor, I now use those drippings, along with the leftover Sister’s Salsa (page 155) to be the base of my Tortilla Soup. I add some water, if needed, to make the final product “soupy” enough along with some cooked chicken and bring the mixture to a boil. The leftover tortillas from the Chicken Taco meal are an excellent chewy side to enjoy with the soup. Or if I have time, I enjoy frying up those leftover tortillas in some grape seed oil to make our own chips.

 

The second way I make this soup is to cook some chicken in the crockpot, along with salt, pepper, minced garlic cloves and water. I save the liquid from the crockpot and use that as the chicken broth for the base of the soup. If I don’t have leftover salsa, I simply add some frozen or fresh tomatoes along with the seasonings from the Sister’s Salsa and Chicken Taco recipes, along with some cooked chicken and bring the mixture to a boil. If I don’t have leftover tortillas, I can prepare a batch of Tortillas (page 115 in A Recipe for Survival) and then instead of cooking them on a griddle, I roll out the dough and then cut it into strips and fry them up in a little grape seed oil. The resulting chips are fantastic!

Either way, we enjoy topping our soup with cheese, fresh cilantro, and avocado. We munch on the chips as a side to the meal instead of placing them at the bottom of the soup bowl since we don’t want soggy chips.

 

One day I wanted to prepare a photogenic bowl of our tasty soup to have on file for whenever I got around to posting the recipe. I specifically bought avocados and carefully sliced them for the presentation. Then I prepared the bowl of soup and took several photos so I could select the best one. I thought I was done, and then turned around and noticed the avocados hadn’t made the photo shoot!

A tasty way to use up leftovers from a Chicken Taco meal!

A tasty way to use up leftovers from a Chicken Taco meal!

By then, the soup was cooling off and I wanted to eat, so I tossed them on the soup in a most unceremonious fashion, took one more shot and then joined Brody for our meal. That’s why the avocados are not posing as well as they perhaps could, but I am sure that they were smiling for the camera as well as any inanimate portion of food can. 🙂 This Chicken Tortilla Soup is now one of our favorite meals!

Avocados make anything taste better! :)

Avocados make anything taste better! 🙂

Thankful!

Last weekend, Brody and I enjoyed a few days in Tucson for my 20th year High School reunion. We’re thankful for safe travels, a wonderful time with my brother and his family as well as my aunt and uncle, and a fun time reconnecting with my classmates at the reunion. The reunion committee, Kami, Bryan, Adan, Angel, Mischelle, and Julie, pulled together a very special evening for my classmates. The buffet was excellent, and they were right – they certainly thought of everyone as they chose food options that would work for people with various diet restrictions. Brody was able to choose a delicious meal from the options. Thank you to the committee for all your hard work these past several months! You did a great job and included so many thoughtful details! I was especially thankful that we all had name tags and the name tags even had our Senior photos. I wish I could have visited more with our classmates, but we had to leave before the party was over since we had an early morning the next day.

This trip made me thankful again for my thoughtful hubby. He was a great sport to spend his time off work making sure I was able to attend the reunion and spend time with my family, too. I probably would not have driven on my own, and so I’m thankful for his willingness to help me get there. Brody and I love road trips and this one was no exception. We listened to most of J. I. Packer’s “Knowing God” on audio along with some other sermons Brody had selected for us. The weekend was a real treat for which we are thankful.

On the subject of road trips, here’s a new favorite for us:

 

Our favorite for road trips!

Our favorite for road trips!

The hummus is the same as I posted here, except I’ve added a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil since I first posted the recipe. The crackers are the same as in A Recipe for Survival (page 111), except for a healthier oil option, I’ve substituted coconut oil for the butter. For additional nutrition, I’ve added chia seeds and sunflower seeds. We love these crackers and hummus on road trips!

International Tour of Brody’s World ~ A Wedding Reception

I’m so thankful that in many ways, we’ve moved beyond simply surviving! Now that we have a little more time and energy, we’ve enjoyed the challenge of preparing gluten-free, corn-free, and potato-free food suitable for special occasions in addition to daily needs.

In 2009, when our family gathered to celebrate Christmas, I was just getting a handle on Brody’s food needs. I took some food Brody could eat along with some additional servings to share. I wanted to give our family members the opportunity to try out some of our new recipes. My brother motioned to the portion of his plate with the samples and said, “This is my taste of Brody’s World.” That moniker came to mind as I was considering what to serve our guests when we were celebrating our neighbors’ wedding a couple of months ago.

 Since I wanted to be sure Brody could safely enjoy the food at the reception, I thought through what I could serve that would be “Brody-safe” and also worthy of being served at a wedding reception. I decided on a menu of hearty appetizers and tasty desserts. Based on various recipes I had collected throughout the years of meeting people from all over the world, I came up with the following menu:

 

 

Gluten-free, Corn-free Menu for our Neighbors' Wedding Reception

Gluten-free, Corn-free Menu for our Neighbors’ Wedding Reception

 

If you click on the photo of the menu above, you’ll get to see a larger (and legible!) view. We chose a day for the reception which worked for the bride and groom and which was a day off work for both Brody and me. Brody and I had a wonderful time working together to set up our apartment and preparing the food. We really enjoy working on projects together.

We like to listen to a Gaither music video while working in our apartment

We like to listen to a Gaither music video while working in our apartment

 

Almost all ready!

Almost all ready!

 

The other guests helped by bringing some of the food items and special dinnerware needed to make the reception a success! We squeezed 7 adults into our little apartment, and everyone was a good sport with trying my experiments with the recipes.

 Since the lighting in our apartment doesn’t lend itself well to taking photos after sunset, only a few of these photos are from the reception itself. I took most of the photos on subsequent days when I made the recipes for us to enjoy again. Some of the recipes are in our book, A Recipe for Survival, and other recipes were designed specifically for this reception. If you’re interested in the recipes for the dishes shown from our book, may I suggest ordering our book? 🙂 If you would like any of the new recipes, just let me know!

The Mini Quinoa Cakes were the dish representing South America in our International Tour

The Mini Quinoa Cakes (page 95 in A Recipe for Survival) were the dish representing South America in our International Tour.

 

While it’s hard to see the crackers in this picture from the reception night, they were heart-shaped! 🙂

It's hard to see the heart-shaped crackers, but they tasted great with the hummus, representing the Mediterranean region of the world.

The crackers (page 111 in A Recipe for Survival) tasted great with the hummus, representing the Mediterranean region of the world.

You can see another view of the hummus and crackers from a previous post on this website.

For the hearty appetizers, we started with Danuta’s Snitzel. When I was thinking about making an appetizer like meatballs for the reception, I remembered a recipe given to me by Cindy during our college days. Cindy is a friend whom I met at the beginning of our junior year of high school in Tucson, AZ. We have wonderful memories from high school and college, and I’m thankful for her ongoing, albeit long-distance, friendship now. Some of our good memories center around yummy food, and her mom, Danuta Kemp, is an excellent cook! I decided this reception was the time to convert Danuta’s Snitzel recipe into a Brody-safe version.

 

How fun to convert friends' tasty recipes into versions safe for Brody!

How fun to convert friends’ tasty recipes into versions safe for Brody!

To represent Asia in our tour, I decided to prepare the Indian Style Lentils (page 94 in A Recipe for Survival) along with a new recipe, Naan. No matter which country’s cuisine I’m tasting, I seldom have met a bread I didn’t like! I have great memories of the pillowy Naan at an Indian restaurant in Kansas, so I wanted to try making a version that would work for Brody. I read some recipes online for Naan, and decided on a recipe and method that would work for the reception night. Have you heard the saying, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention”? That saying was true for me in this case. I chose to bake the Naan instead of using a pan or griddle since I wanted to sit with our guests at the table for the reception and not be in the kitchen, preparing the next course. Sometimes, my very first attempt at a recipe turns out marvelously, and I was so thankful that this was the case for  the Naan experiment, since I wanted to serve it to the bride and groom and our guests that night! I followed the technique described in A Recipe for Survival to convert the recipes I found for Naan on the internet into a Brody-safe version, and everyone loved the taste and texture of the result. We have enjoyed the Naan and lentils several times since; here is a photo from a recent day:

 

We love the texture and taste of the naan, and lentils are so tasty when prepared this way!

We love the texture and taste of the naan, and lentils (page 94 from A Recipe for Survival) are so tasty when prepared this way!

For the desserts, we served Angel Food Cake with Lemon Curd and raspberries and Brenda’s Birthday Brownies with ice cream. In September last year, I began developing the brownie recipe in honor of my friend, Brenda…. and Brody has since perfected the recipe! Now that Brody is so much healthier than our dark days in 2009 and 2010, he takes an active role in improving the recipes I start. Additionally, I’m so thankful for his partnership in the daily food preparation.

More than simply surviving... we are glad we can enjoy some desserts that are yummy by others' standards, too!

More than simply surviving… we are glad we can enjoy some desserts that are yummy by others’ standards, too!

I enjoyed developing a gluten-free Angel Food Cake for this reception by converting a recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. The Lemon Curd was a natural partner to the cake since I designed the curd recipe to use up all the egg yolks left over from separating the egg whites for the cake. Below is a picture of the cake from another day. Tea from my friends in Sri Lanka rounded out the dessert phase of our meal.

A tasty treat with tea... Angel Food Cake, lemon curd with raspberries and mint leaves with almonds!

A tasty treat with tea… almonds, Angel Food Cake with lemon curd, raspberries and mint leaves!

 

Finally, the reception gave me an excuse to freeze ice cubes containing raspberries and mint leaves for the lemonade. 🙂

 

I enjoyed the excuse to use my punch bowl!

I enjoyed the excuse to use my punch bowl!

If you are still struggling to find food that works for your loved one, I hope you are encouraged by our experience…. in time, and with practice, you’ll not only find foods for daily survival, you’ll find ways to thrive and really enjoy life again… you’ll just be living in a different world than you used to live in!

 

 

 

Who’s More Qualified?

Taco

 Since I always like to include a photo of something we’ve eaten recently, I’ll start with a photo of a beef taco, prepared with House Sauce (page 151 from A Recipe for Survival). This is from the 14 Days of Birthday Celebrations, an annual tradition enjoyed in our household from February 1st through the 14th. Since I don’t want Valentine’s Day to overshadow Brody’s birthday, I make sure we have lots of celebrations each day for those two weeks. Often, the celebration involves his favorite foods. He is delighted with simple gestures such as love notes littering the house one day, or on another day, my taking the time to prepare Birthday Danishes (pages 164-166 from A Recipe for Survival) for a reminder of the sweetness of God’s love expressed in another year of his life. Sometimes, I simply rearrange the ingredients of a favorite dish creating a “new dish,” making his meals seem less repetitive. Whatever I come up with for that day’s celebration, he is a happy camper!

In my last post, I mentioned that I struggle periodically with an “I deserve better” or an “It’s not fair!” attitude. I think my main difficulty is that I actually think I know how I would serve God the best. In the past, I’ve recognized that it’s possible to make a god out of what I think my calling is or should be. I can fixate on what I want to do with my life — how I think I will be the “most helpful” to God in His Kingdom. That kind of thinking leads me to an angry response when my life isn’t turning out the way I had always pictured or assumed it would be.

The best antidote for me when I sense the growing anger is to read Job 38:1-42:6. The background for these verses is the entire book of Job. The first two chapters detail the financial, emotional and physical suffering Job endured as part of a contest between God and Satan. The next 36 chapters mainly contain the conversations between Job and his friends.

Finally, in chapter 38, God answers Job. He begins by asking Job a series of questions. (I counted at least 63 questions in these chapters.) God begins with questions related to the design and creation of our planet:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

Tell Me, if you have understanding,

Who set its measurements?

Since you know.

Or who stretched the line on it?” Job 38:4-5 

These questions regarding designing and building are especially meaningful to me as an engineer. I love to participate in design work. My favorite jobs were in the process control realm, in which I enjoyed specifying instruments to measure various parameters in a manufacturing setting. I also enjoyed writing the program for the control system to automate the control of a process. I loved to work on the programming and graphics for the human-machine interface so that the operators of the process could safely and efficiently monitor and control the manufacturing operation. I loved being a part of the team, efficiently and profitably producing a quality product without sacrificing safety or the surrounding environment. These questions from God to Job really speak to me regarding design from an engineering perspective.

After focusing on His knowledge of our planet, God moves on to questions revealing how little Job – and I – know about the weather patterns for our planet and, related to that, how we do not control the weather as God does:

“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,

Or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,

Which I have reserved for the time of distress,

For the day of war and battle?” Job 38:22-23

“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that an abundance of water will cover you?”  Job 38:34

 

God doesn’t stop with our little globe, but asks Job Who maintains the order of the Universe:

“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades,

Or loose the cords of Orion?

Can you lead forth a constellation in its season,

And guide the Bear with her satellites?

Do you know the ordinances of the heavens,

Or fix their rule over the earth? Job 38:31-33

 

Using beautiful poetry, God continues asking Job questions, revealing His wisdom, care, and power in Creation.

“Who has put wisdom in the innermost being

Or given understanding to the mind?” Job 38:36

 

I have never designed – let alone created – anyone or anything that had the ability to learn, reason, or design new things! God has accomplished this in creating humans! But I can’t even compete with God in designing less complex creatures:

“Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars,

Stretching his wings toward the south?” Job 39:26

When I see a bird soaring in the skies above, I ask myself, “Have I (or has any human) designed and created something like that bird, with the ability to fly and also reproduce, making more birds that can fly?” Simply asking the question helps me remember my place as part of God’s creation, and part of His design for this world. Since I tend to lift myself up in my mind, thinking I know best how my life should be, these kinds of questions help me remain humbly aware of God’s position as the most wise of all.

I already know from the Gospel how great is His love, but throughout these questions to Job, God shows his care for His Creation. He sprinkles reminders of His care in among the questions revealing His knowledge, power and control. We humans tend to fear someone in a position of authority over us… how kind of God to remind us repeatedly of His care as He speaks of His might!

He describes specific creatures He has made and how he cares for them… He even knows when pregnant mountain goats and deer are due!

“Do you know the time the mountain goats give birth?

Do you observe the calving of the deer?

Can you count the months they fulfill,

Or do you know the time they give birth?” Job 39:1-2

 

He even cares for land unpopulated by humans:

“Who has cleft a channel for the flood,

Or a way for the thunderbolt,

To bring rain on a land without people,

On a desert without a man in it,

To satisfy the waste and desolate land

And to make the seeds of grass to sprout?” Job 38:25-27

In the final section of God’s response to Job, He gives a detailed description of two powerful creatures, Behemoth and Leviathan. These descriptions certainly remind me of dinosaurs and dragons. God’s point to Job is: “If you are not powerful enough to face these creatures, how then would you challenge Me, their Creator?” The creature is always less than the Creator in every way, so if I cannot stand before Behemoth and Leviathan, why would I question God’s wisdom in designing my life the way He has?

To me, these verses from Job answer the question, “Who’s more qualified to design my life?” I tend to think more highly of my design skills than I ought to. I didn’t realize that I thought I knew best how to design my life until I became angry that my life wasn’t turning out the way I had always imagined it would, or how I had worked hard for it to turn out. These verses silence my complaints, just as they silenced Job.

“Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You?

I lay my hand on my mouth.

Once I have spoken, and I will not answer;

Even twice, and I will add nothing more.” Job 40:4-6

“I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:2

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees you;

Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:5-6

 

 I have benefited so much from reading these chapters that I’ve begun memorizing them. I’ll write more about that in my next post!

 

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.Lockman.org