Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Chili with a Little Bit More

Hide some veggies and a lot of flavor in your chili by using Mirepoix.  If you don't know what Mirepiox is, find info about it here.  I like to throw it in the pot after the ground beef starts to brown.

Here's a 30 minute recipe if you don't mind the cans!

1 bag of Mirepoix  (about 2 cups)
1 pound ground beef
1 garlic clove (crushed)
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 can of crushed tomatoes (16 ounces)
1 can of black beans (16 ounces)

Brown the ground beef in a big stockpot with garlic until almost done.  Drain off any grease and place back into the pot.  Add the Mirepoix and seasonings and continue to brown on medium heat.  When brown, add tomatoes and black beans.  Reduce to a simmer and leave on stove for at least 20 minutes.

What a perfect way to end a dreary winter day.  Top with
a little sour cream or cheese... perfect!

For a variation, you could always skip the beans or the beef but keep the Mirepoix.

If you are doing the beans in the crockpot, throw your Mirepoix in with them - as well as 1/2 your spices.

Find more Mirepoix ideas here!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

When the Not-So-Familiar Turns Out Familiar

A year and a half ago, we left our very secure jobs, family, and church, to jump off the deep end. We were seeking something crazy. Rest. We wanted stillness, focus, and time to really seek the Lord. We would live on a farm (but not work it); David would change career direction and I would write.

I found out that even though I love to write, I happen to be an extrovert. And I really, really love kids. I was incredibly lonely, so I knew I had to get back in the classroom. I picked up an application for a Christian school that was just starting. But, I let it sit on my desk. That was too much for my Sabbatical year. So, I started subbing while I wrote a study on 1st John and multiple drafts of a juvenile fiction story about human trafficking.

In the mean time, we fell in love with our church family, and more deeply in love with the God we worship together. We took classes and made friends. We learned to be still. We learned to live simply. And God was gracious enough to give us Himself.

So, we decided to stay.

And I once again got an application for that school. It hadn't started, but this was the year. Well… not really. God once again didn't send the students.

And so, I became an assistant at the school where I subbed. I love it, my kids, and my cohort there. I don't have the responsibilities of a teacher which allows me to be done around 3. So, I can still be writing.

The novel isn't getting so far. It's in my head somewhere, but it's a big ole mess on paper. But, I'm not giving up. The 1st John study is rolling. I'm in the process of cutting it down by 40%. Like most things both difficult and worthwhile, preparing this study has been one of the sweetest gifts I've ever received from my Father. I have learned more about Him – and more about me – during this endeavor.

As my husband and I spending time thinking about “what next”, we have found God to literally hand us both surprises, job wise.

Mine came in the form of a phone call. Would you come talk to our school board about starting the school next year?

So, here I am, the teacher of that same Christian school. We are starting with a kindergarten. I'm looking a curriculum, scope-and-sequence charts, singing Latin songs, writing Orff Schulwerk melodies. I'm reading Classical Education books and looking through Montessori center ideas.

I'm praying for God to build a school. And I'm praying that these kiddos will love Jesus with all of their lives. I'm praying that they will have a great passion for His Word. I'm praying that they will see their neighbors through the eyes of Jesus. I'm praying that they will travel to the ends of the earth to glorify Him. I'm praying that they delight in who God is and what He has done. I'm praying that they will long for heaven.

Those prayers, somehow, seem very, very familiar.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Squash and Sauce (the Tomato Sauce One!)

Homemade sauce is quick and easy with Mirepoix.  When I lived in Italy, a grandmother taught me how to make her sauce, which is a ton of work... but with Mirepoix, the chopping of the flavorful veggies is already done.

Start with a bag of frozen goodness (See how to make Mirepoix here.)

Now add 28 ounces of crushed tomatoes, one minced garlic clove, a dash of salt and pepper, and just a splash of orange juice.  Add 1/8 cup of red wine - but if wine is not your thing, you can add broth to it.  If you have fresh basil, throw a couple of leaves in.

Let it simmer forever.  Grandma Edna left is simmering all day.  Give it at least an hour.  Keep an eye on it and add water if you need to.

This will be your new favorite for pasta, pizza... or to top butternut squash!

Today I roasted pieces of squash with the rind on it at 425 for 30 minutes.  Easy and delicious.  And healthy!

For more Mirepoix cooking, look here!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Chicken Salad Mirepoix Style

My favorite summer food is chicken salad.  I can eat it by the bucketful.  This past summer, I ended up making it often with a healthy twist.  I made a big bowl and we ate off of it for a few days.  Plus, it turned out to be a great dish to have for lunches with friends.  The Mirepoix touch added extra veggies and deep flavor layers.

Even though summer is almost over, there is still time to make it!

(If you don't know about Mirepoix, read this first!)

Throw a bag of frozen Mirepoix in a pot.  Add a 1 cup of water.
Put in 2 large (or 4 small) chicken breasts.  I use frozen.
Let this cook down.  Watch your water, you might need to add more.
After the chicken is fully cooked and cooled, drain it. Make sure it's cooled!
Keep the liquid to use as chicken broth.
Chop up your chicken - keeping the Mirepoix mixed in. Let it get super cool.

Now, the rest - you get to play with!  Here's what I do, but you can always leave something out.

Chop 3-4 celery stocks.
Chop 1 large or 2 small apples dipped in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
Add 1/4 cup of light mayonnaise.
Add 1/8 cup of diced onions.  (Not the strong ones!  If you don't have onions - try just a few shakes of garlic powder.)
Salt and pepper to taste.

I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

Ready for some variations?  Try 1 1/2 cups of dried cranberries or grapes.  Add nuts, if they are your thing.  Also, if you want to make it just a little sweeter, add a tiny bit of honey to your mayonnaise.

And to be honest, I love mayonnaise - so when I say 1/4 cup - I often loose my willpower and add a little bit more.

Come on, summer.  Stay just a little longer.

Would you like to see what else you can do with Mirepoix?  Find some tasty ideas here!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Emotional Eating and Treasure Hunting

It's hot and I'm running errands and sticking to my budget; I should reward myself with a 69 cent ice-cream cone.

So-and-so was grumpy with me,  What a jerk. Good thing I didn't say what I wanted.  Cheesecake for me!

I worked so hard on that project and didn't get rewarded how I thought I should, so I'll have a few Oreo cookies.  Well, I really did a great job - I'll let myself just eat as many as I want.

I have changed seventeen diapers today and mopped the kitchen three times today.  Three.  Times.  My husband is on night shift tonight, so I can order pizza and eat it all by my self.  All.  By.  My.  Self.

My hip hurts, I'm alone, and not one person has reached out to me today.  Bring on the Doritos and a Netflix marathon.

... and so goes the emotional reward eating.

I've been thinking about this today... while, maybe these haven't been my situations, I often give myself a treat when life is stressful.  I've been trying to process why this is wrong.  Does it have something to do with how the reward of skipping the binge will be found on the scales? Or how God is going to reward me so I don't have to do it myself?

But I think I need to step further back - and look at the first part of the equation ... not thinking about the food and reward part, but thinking through the stress part.

The hard work of life.  And how I think I'm so wonderful, so tried and tested, so good and undeserving of pain?  Do I believe that if God really loves me then life will always be easily lived through Mountain Top Experiences?

When I am tempted to wallow in my woe-is-me pity party, I need to go on a treasure hunt.  I need to take an honest look up, look forward, and then look down.

First I need to look at my God.  Am I, in the midst of this burden, straining towards the fake gods of comfort, control, self-glory, or laziness?  What is really the problem?  My not getting that raise or promotion - what does that really hurt?  What is really wounded?  Even though my disappointment is real, if my eyes are on Christ, I will find that He has given me so much more than I deserve.  If I am weary of taking care of ungrateful people, but I remember God's love for His rebellious people (especially me!), I see that He is so faithful.

But, to keep my mind geared towards this, I need to be looking at who He is... I need to be reading His Word and soaking in His holiness, righteousness, generosity, power, and strength.  I need to be purposeful in seeking who He is - and not just what He has done for me.  I need to ask Him to enamor me with Himself.  I need to ask Him to help me love Him more than I love myself.  I have to ask Him to be my treasure.

Then, I can look ahead.  I can look forward to the treasures of Heaven - where there will be no sorrows.  I won't have to fight my sin-stained mind or my self-centered emotions.  My wounds will be healed.  My heart will be healed.  All because of Jesus.

I deserve hell.  Plain and simple.  My sin cannot allow me to stand before a holy, absolutely good God.  But, Jesus has paid the price of my sins and has wrapped me in His perfect purity.  So, I can be with God.  Now.  Forever.  And that forever will be so very sweet.  And I will find my treasure there.

And now I'm ready to look down - like for real.  As in, bow my head.  Not to look at facebook, or the cakemix I could eat if I just added water. Let me pray. For wisdom and patience.  For extra love for the people around me.  For protection from bitterness.  For a reminder that it's so close to lunch time.

I don't want my treasure to be my self-esteem, control or laziness.  And I definitely don't want my treasure to be a Snicker's bar.  That's a crummy place to land my heart.

Monday, July 11, 2016

An Elegant Omelette

I don't exactly make the most beautiful omelettes, but I was inspired by my husband's procurement of 11 pounds (11 pounds!) of asparagus.  So, I threw the asparagus in a pan with some chunks of frozen Mirepoix and a tiny bit of garlic.  This mirepoix batch had extra mushrooms, so it's even more perfect for a little omelette.  After the veggies were sizzling,  I  poured in beaten eggs and let the heat do its thing.  When it was ready I topped it with blue cheese.  Deliriously delicious.

Of course, if your husband comes home with 11 pounds of a different type of veggie, feel free to throw it in the pan!

Here's how to make Mirepoix.  I keep a bag of it that I chop off when I need it.  However, you could always freeze it in ice cube trays for individual meals like this omelette.

Find more recipes and inspiration here.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Beauty Found

This week goes in the books as being one of the sad weeks of my life.  I have cried every day.  And, I am ashamed to tell you why. I wish it were because I feel burdened by the ache of the world.  Instead, it's only because my personal world seems a little tilted right now.

I didn't get either of two dream jobs, and I feel discouraged and frustrated.  Add to the fact that one night of sleep lasted only five hours and I had the let-down after-party blues following an amazing event.  AND I have been nursing an injured animal - and not being an animal lover, I have felt drained, confined, and lonely.  To keep this animal still, I needed to spend a lot of time on the couch, doing something we don't always do: watch DVD's.  I watched the 6 hour BBC series of War and Peace, a move about dementia (Still Mine), and the Diary of Anne Frank.  I know, right?  Totally uplifting and encouraging.

OK - I tell you all of this not so that you'll give me a virtual hug and say that it will all be OK.  Actually, writing it out is very eye-opening.  I have a friend in deep grief over the loss of her husband.  Another with cancer.  Another broken over perpetual ache in her life.  And, although I have shied away from the news, it, too, is a reminder of all kinds of sorrow.  So, I know sitting with a puppy on your lap all week does not count as one of life's great tragedies.

Here's why I want to tell you:  I was sad this week.  Just really, deeply sad.  I couldn't shake it off.  I couldn't think straight or pray straight or listen to my Scripture reading.  I couldn't even read.  My eyes blurred and my heart blurred.

I've been thinking of my dear friend.  One who lives side-by-side with depression and anxiety.  I could barely think about God - much less have deep prayer conversations and meditation - during this week.  And here she is lonely in the depths of her mind and heart... and yet, she stays constant in this:

She prays.

She reads her Bible.

She seeks after God.

Even when she doesn't feel like it.

Me, I hand this puppy off and go journal on the front porch, and I feel better.  My head gets on straight.  My heart is able to breathe.

She doesn't have that luxury.  She can't manipulate circumstances to be more comfortable.

And yet, she still seeks after God.

Someone once told me that there will probably be a lot of alcoholics in heaven.  I was taken-aback by his statement.  I, being a self-righteous good-girl, was shocked.  I didn't want to believe it.  He went on to say that people who know their desperation for and dependence on God are holier than those of us who think we can save ourselves because we have it all together.

I am thankful for this week's - well, maybe? - taste of depression.  Of course, I knew it would pass, when part of having depression and anxiety must be the fear that it won't shed off.

And in this week, when I was weak in my motivation - I was weak in my pursuit of God I found such great encouragement from and awe for my friend.  She, who will not give up waiting on God.  He might never heal her completely.  And her greatest gift to me might be how she clings to looking for God in the midst of her sadness.

I know this is because God is at work in her - even when she can't see it.  I know this is because of His love and faithfulness - even when she barely has strength to open her Bible.  I know this is because He has an eternity for her free from the weight she carries now.

There will probably be a lot of depressed, anxious people in heaven... well, healed-up-dried-eyed-resting-rejoicing-former depressed, anxious people.  Oh, what glory God will get through the people whose desperation for and dependence on Him is holier than those of us who think we can save ourselves
because we have it all together.