Praying More Than Cooking or Blogging

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Matthew5-16
Hello! I haven’t written a blog post since July 22. I’ve looked over a dozen recipes and pictures I have taken in the last 8 weeks. But nothing seems just right. That is probably because it is soul food that has kept me alive of late.

I was sharing with a girlfriend today that I am not really sure how to begin after such a long spell. Then she told me about a devotional she read last night. She basically said that walking through the desert with Christ is so much better than sailing through the day without Him. Yes, I thought, that is the life I’ve been walking through.

I’ve been reminded that my very worse day with Christ is better than my best day without Him.

Pray, cook, blog. A simple day. A little time in prayer, a little time cooking, and some time spent blogging. However, when life comes at you fast the simple can get totally upended. When that happens a typical day may be more like PRAY! Pray! Pray! Eat something. Pray some more!

On June 27th my 83 year-old sous-chef dish-washing mom received a call from her doctor, the very surgeon who, just 2 days earlier, performed a breast biopsy on her. He said, “Ms. Alice, the tumor I took out is cancer.”

I was on the extension phone listening in because we had waited for that call to come. Waiting to hear “the tumor is benign and you are good to go.” Instead, we heard that there was to be another surgery within the next few weeks. Then there was to be tests, more tests, pathology reports and more reports.  And, after a period of healing, a round of radiation was possible.

Honestly, in the year 2014 all of us know someone who has or who had cancer. Most of us know a neighbor, a friend, or someone at church who is fighting the fight against cancer.

But I must tell you, when it is your loved one, when the call comes to your house, when the words from the doctor impact your life, the meaning of cancer changes.

It gets personal. It gets personal real fast.

When I heard her diagnosis I immediately felt the only power I possibly had was through prayer. It was at that very moment that I realized with a thankful heart that I didn’t have to introduce myself to God. I didn’t have to remind Him who I am, where I came from, and how He knows me. My mother needed God’s healing touch and I needed strength and help to know how to support my mom.

We both needed the strength and peace that can only come from the One who created us, loves us, and wants the very best for us. I am grateful that from that day on and everyday since I have simply called His name, poured out my prayers for my mom, and I have known without a shadow of a doubt He heard me.

Just like any personal relationship, it does not happen in the blink of an eye. A personal relationship takes time. It is formed through conversation, back and forth listening to each other, spending time together, and sometimes through tears and laughter. A relationship with God is no different. It takes time. It can take years to perfect. Hours upon hours spent together.

At the moment life gets really tough, it is personal relationships that get us through. We have received a mountain of help from friends, neighbors, doctors, nurses, technicians and family members these last 2 months. But the greatest help has come in the form of unexplainable peace from God, emotional and spiritual comfort even when the body was uncomfortable, and through the everlasting promises of our God.

Whatever you are walking through today I want to encourage you. I want you to know that walking through the desert with Christ is so much better than sailing through any day without Him. I want you to know you only have to say his name, “Abba, Father, God, Lord Jesus,” whatever you say – He hears you.

My sous-chef dish-washing mom is doing well. Without any complaint she endured two surgeries, umpteen tests and doctors appointments followed by 16 days of radiation treatment. We are starting September anew and we are both spending more time in prayer, thanking Him who gave us His strength when we didn’t think we could find any.

May you also have that peace and strength today. I want to close this blog post with a few scriptures – words from our Lord.  The very scriptures that have helped carry us through this walk in the desert. There are so many I can choose from. Here are a few.

Blessings, Catherine

Philippians 4:13
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Isaiah 40:29
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Psalm 119:28
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.

Ephesians 6:10
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

Isaiah 40:31
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Mark 12:30
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Psalm 46:1
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Lessons From The Blueberry Bush

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Blueberry cobbler
M
y sweet, wonderfully talented husband is our Chief Gardener. From early spring until late fall he spends hundreds of hours outside digging in the dirt, planting, tending, weeding, feeding, and then finally harvesting a variety of the fruits of his labor. However, this week he is in New York City tending to God’s garden, namely helping out at our friends at Hephzibah House!

Before he left last Friday I was given several necessary instructions about tending the garden in his absence. I will tell you that I love to eat fresh tomatoes, but planting, spraying for bugs, picking off bugs, checking on them daily, praying for rain, praying the rain will stop and then finally picking them just doesn’t excite me. But, being the dutiful wife (yikes!) and being seduced by the promise of fresh fruit and vegetables I am more than willing to tiptoe through the wet grass of the garden and “check” on the progress of some fruits and vegetables this week.

Weeding The Corn
Earlier this month the Chief  spent days on his hands and knees weeding the corn. We had been traveling and the weeds had a party while we were gone multiplying beyond what the Chief could bear.

July Mushroom Corn
Fast forward a few weeks and my job – “check” on the corn. I didn’t ask exactly what I was to “check for” – but I decided to take my camera long as I checked on the corn. Today, just after dawn, I made my way to the garden. The grass was very heavy with dew and I can see equally heavy air filled with misty morning humidity. The corn, oh the corn, is taller than I am, watered well by recent rains. Each stock is beaming with several lovely rusty shocks of corn silk showing me where each ear of corn is growing.

Corn July 22
From there my instructions were to “check on the tomatoes” and pick the ripe ones. There were 3.  Since these are Roma tomatoes and I use them for making spaghetti sauce, 3 aren’t going to do me much good. So, I will send them to the freezer to use another day.

Roma Tomato July 22
Finally I stop by the blueberry bushes. Oh my gosh they were just brilliant with little blue jewels hanging from the branches just waiting for me. I hurried to the garden shed, picked up a little plastic basket and returned to the bushes.

Blueberry Bush July 22
Picking blueberries is a specialty. If you pick too early the blueberry is still reddish-pink and quite sour. If you pick too late the birds will have had their share first! When a blueberry is ripe and ready for picking it will easily fall off the stem with a gentle touch.

Blueberry Blush upclose
As I began to lovingly roll the darkest blueberries through my fingertips I was thinking about how God does the very same thing with me. Each day I have the opportunity to give him my very best. But timing is everything. If I run ahead of His plans and try to do things on my own, they can often times turn sour and aren’t fit for anything.

“Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”  2 John 1:9

Occasionally when I run my hands across a blueberry I fumble and the juicy, plump little ball will fall to the grass. Have you ever tried to find just one blueberry in moist, heavy grass? It isn’t easy. And yet, it is worth it because that one blueberry added to another and then another will soon provide enough to make a delicious blueberry cobbler!

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Luke 15:4-7

This morning I was reading Psalms 23. The practical part of this Psalm speaks to the Hebrews who were a nomadic people who wandered from place to place seeking pasture for their herds of goats, cattle, and sheep. A shepherd’s job was simply to protect his sheep. But it was and is, even today, no simple task. Often times the shepherd would need to leave the herd to rescue one straying ewe. No wonder God chose this image in presenting Jesus as the Good Shepherd, protecting each and every one of us, his sheep.

Blueberry Bush July
As I picked through the grass to recover that one fallen blueberry I am so thankful for the reminder of how often the Lord rescues me, over and over again.

Fresh Blueberries
Today, I pray you will take a moment and join me as I thank God for his constant care – for bringing me back when I wander. For providing nourishment for my body and my soul. For lovingly singling me out and picking me when the time is ripe to do his will. Let’s thank him for wanting a personal relationship with each and every one of us! For treating each of us with special attention, protecting us and giving us peace.

Blueberry cobbler single
It is a beautiful morning walking in the garden and feeling the full presence of the Lord. Whether you get your blueberries off the bush or off the shelf at the grocery store, here is a Blueberry Cobbler recipe that will simply bless your socks off! It comes from allrecipes.com and is simply named Best Ever Blueberry Cobbler.

Blueberry cobbler top down
Happy gardening, cooking, and enjoying the fruits of your labor.
Catherine

Best Ever Blueberry Cobbler

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 6

Best Ever Blueberry Cobbler

This easy cobbler recipe makes a buttery, fluffy topping which is just the right contrast to the slightly sweet fresh blueberries.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups fresh blueberries
  • 3 Tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. (190 degrees C.)
  2. In an 8 inch baking dish, spray with oil. Mix blueberries, 3 Tablespoons sugar and orange juice. Spread out on bottom of baking dish.
  3. In a small bowl, thoroughly mix flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, cream butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture, stirring just until ingredients are well mixed.
  5. Drop batter by rounded tablespoons over the blueberry mixture. Try to cover as much of the filling as possible.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until topping is golden brown and filling is bubbling.
  7. Serve warm with ice cream, whipped cream, or all by itself!

Notes

This recipe can easily be doubled and baked in a 9" x 13" baking dish or a comparable round dish. Recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com

* If you don't have orange juice on hand I have made it without. I have also made it with 4 Tablespoons lemon juice instead.

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Say YES To A Family Reunion and Roasted Sliced Cabbage

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roast cabbage
Have I told you how wonderful it is to have a family reunion?  No?  Well, let me tell you …

When I was growing up in the 1950′s-60′s-and 70′s my father’s family held a family reunion every summer, usually in the city park either in Friend, Seward,  or Beaver Crossing, Nebraska.  My grandparents had 6 children and 23 grandchildren and for the most part we would all gather for a day long family reunion and food-fest! If you ask any of my cousins I believe you will hear those reunions provided some of our best childhood memories!

During the 1980′s and 1990′s my brothers and I were raising families but we lived in 3 different states, sometimes thousands of miles apart. Family reunions were not part of my children’s childhood memories.  In 2008 my sous chef dish-washing mom decided to host a family reunion that has changed the relationships within our family forever.

Family Photo Alliance 2008

2008 Alliance, Nebraska

Our first reunion was held at mom’s house. Some family members stayed at the house others at the local Holiday Inn Express.  The backyard became the gathering place for eating meals, playing cards, watching the kids play and a fun time batting around a pinata! My brothers and I saw our children (now mostly adults) bonding and quickly forming friendships that often times take years to make.  The “little kids” had a blast playing and the “big kids” had a blast getting to know one another as more than just cousins.

For my mother, she spent time with her grandchildren that left them all with memories they will cherish for life!

Sylvan Dale Ranch 2010

Sylvan Dale Ranch 2010

Every two years since 2008 my mom has hosted a family reunion.  We have gone to Sylvan Dale Ranch in Colorado, Moors Resort at Kentucky Lake, Kentucky and most recently at Fort Robinson, Crawford, Nebraska.  Our family travels from 7 different states to attend the reunion.  It takes quite a commitment in time and resources to make it happen.  While we are blessed to be able to meet in different locations, the important part in reunion planning is just to do it — the site is secondary to just being together!

Moors Resort 2012

Moors Resort 2012

Each reunion our family has grown by a baby or two and we have added three new grandson-in-laws!  It takes exactly 2 seconds for family to fall right back into a playful, happy, fantastic-to-see-you mode!  The first second is to smile and the second to hug.  From there it is fun, laughs, and lots of food!

Reunion_0043

Fort Robinson Nebraska 2014

Each family is responsible for one meal.  We are a family of great cooks and we all take pride in sharing our best efforts with the rest of the family.  We have had some “cooking disasters” that are now family legend providing good laughs each year!

sliced cabbage
And since we love to “talk food” the reunion is known for a place to gather new recipes and get cooking tips from each other.  It is during one such meal my sister-in-law Jeanne asked me if I had roasted sliced cabbage.  Say what?  “We love cabbage” I told her.  She said sliced cabbage is crazy easy and unbelievably delicious.  Easy and delicious – I’m all in!

The first week home from the reunion I roasted these cabbage slices and my sous chef dish-washing mom and the Chief both went crazy over these!

Raosted sliced cabbage
Here is how it’s done:  slice cabbage, drizzle with oil, season, roast at 400 degrees for about 25 to 35 minutes.  Done.

Turns out I am behind the foodie-times because this recipe is all over the internet!  But I credit my sister-in-law Jeanne for sharing with me. Olive oil, coconut oil, or even pecan oil (which is what I used) works well.  The seasoning can be as simple as salt and pepper or as elaborate as a Greek seasoning or your favorite veggie seasoning.

My recommendation – plan a family reunion today. Don’t wait until everyone is available. Don’t wait until it is convenient.  Don’t wait … just do it!  I promise it will be one of the best decisions you will make this year!  Include roasted cabbage in your special meal.  You will be thankful for both!

Happy Cooking and Planning!
Blessings, Catherine

Roasted Sliced Cabbage

Roasted Sliced Cabbage

Crazy easy and super delicious! A fantastic way to enjoy cabbage.

Ingredients

  • 1 head cabbage
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons oil*
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon of favorite herbs like basil, caraway seeds, dill, etc.

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Slice the cabbage starting at the top of the head so that the inner pieces for circles within the slices, should get about 4 or 5 1/2" pieces per head of cabbage.
  3. Oil a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Place the cabbage on the baking sheet and drizzle with the remaining oil. You may need to melt it if using a solid oil like coconut oil.
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in the oven. *additional seasoning optional.
  5. Roast for 35-40 minutes or until tender in the middle and sides are nicely browned.
  6. Remove and serve.

Notes

* Can use olive oil, coconut oil, pecan oil or your favorite.

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What Does Brotherly Love Look Like On You?

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Veggies from David
The door bell rings and as I walk down the hall towards my back door I can see through the full view glass. It is 90 degrees outside and 90% humidity. And there she stands looking cool as a cucumber. Her white cotton skirt looks fresh and summery. The ruffles on her pink blouse match her dangling earrings. She is holding a Ziploc bag filled to the max with freshly picked, cleaned and snapped green beans. Her sweet southern voice matches her dynamic smile as I open the door and she says “Hi!  Can you use some fresh green beans?”

I had just finished reading a daily devotional about how God wants us to model the love of Jesus to others. It is so important to our Heavenly Father that it is the second most important commandment, preceded only by:

The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[a] There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31 (NIV)

How we do this looks different on each of us. I have experienced God’s love through my neighbor on many occasions. The love of Jesus looks very good on her!

From time to time we arrive home to find several lottery tickets tacked to our door. I have a very clear visual of my neighbor Kathy purchasing the tickets and then stopping by when we aren’t home to leave “a little surprise for us.” She always includes “I hope you win!”

“Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up”  Romans 15:2

Yesterday when we came home from getting our car serviced I found a little Sabbath School Bible Study Guide for July/August/September on The Teachings Of Jesus on our doorstep.  Our Aunt Mattie Lou knows I enjoy reading through her church’s study and always remembers me with a new book each quarter.
Aunt Mattie definitely models the love of Jesus to me and to all she comes in contact with!

This all left me wondering, what does the love of Jesus look like on me? Do I care for others as often as I should? Do I get caught up in my own drama and neglect showing others the very love that Jesus has shown to me over and over?

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

It was about 6:30 p.m. when the phone rang. It was our neighbor David, “I just got done picking in the garden. What can I bring you?” There it is again, the love of Jesus pouring itself out for me.

A rare shyness crept over me as I quietly said, “well, some squash would be nice.”
“Oh! I’ve got yellow squash, zucchini, green beans, bell peppers and cucumbers for you!” Can I bring them down?

I insisted the least I can do is walk up the road a half-mile to his house and retrieve the garden gems.  As I walked down our driveway I noticed a very unusual cool July evening setting in.  Seventy-five degrees and 40% humidity. That is unheard of on the 4th of July in Tennessee.  The walk gave me time to once again think about how often others model the love of Christ to me. It also gave me time to praise God and thank Him for surrounding me with friends and family who daily show me His love!

What does the love of Jesus look like on you? How do you model that love to others?

Have a blessed week,
Catherine

 

Roasted Banana Bars and Christmas In July

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Catherine-Ryan
Here I am showing off my new bakers half sheets with lids! It was Christmas in July at my house this week when this surprise gift arrived from my nephew Ryan.  At our recent family reunion Ryan brought four of these bad boys to use and was the envy of every cook in the family!  Now I know envy is a sin, so I will just call it a big dose of enthusiasm that bubbled over as I used Ryan’s pans to make a batch of rice krispie treats.   Ryan used them to bake Pepperoni Bread (recipe coming soon) and outstanding carrot cake bars!

Roasted Banana Bars
Fast forward a couple of weeks and I am home cleaning out my freezer and I pull out six really, really ripe frozen bananas.  What to do, what to do?  I have a Healthified Frosted Banana Bar recipe but I decided to go looking for something “different”. Do you do that sometimes?  You don’t know what you want to bake, you just know you want “something different”?  Well, have you ever roasted bananas?

Roasted Bananas
Yep, you read that right – roasted bananas.  I found the recipe at www.myrecipes.com posted by Lindsay Weiss of Overland Park, Kansas.  She says it came from Cooking Light magazine.  It intrigued me and I was wondering if roasting bananas brings out a richer, deeper flavor.  According to my taste-testers, The Chief and my sous-chef dish-washing mom — these are the best banana bars I’ve ever made! Their words, not mine. :)

Frost Roast Banana Bars
Lindsay’s recipe called for a browned butter pecan frosting.  I opted to put the pecans in the banana bars and leave them out of the frosting.  I didn’t brown the butter because I wanted the creamy texture that comes from combining butter and cream cheese with a little vanilla and powdered sugar.  I also doubled the recipe and instead of baking in a 9″ x 13″ baking dish I baked it in my bakers half sheet pan which is roughly 13″ x 18″.

bakers half sheet lid
Just in case you are wondering what this has to do with the  bakers half sheet baking pans with lids — it was at this point I was wishing I had one of those pans to cover up my beautiful pan of frosted banana bars.  Instead I used foil, which sank a bit in the refrigerator and smooshed my lovely cream cheese frosting. Truly this isn’t an earth-shattering crisis, but it did remind me of the bakers half sheet pans with lids that Ryan had.  I sent him a quick email and asked him to send me the name and information about the sheets.

bakers half sheet label
According to him, when he got my email he thought, “maybe she won’t be able to easily find them in Tennessee, I’ll just send them from Amazon and surprise her.”

bakers half sheet w/lid
Surprise me he did!  These are beautiful pans and the lid kinda “snaps” on but it snaps on the edge of the pan leaving frosting in perfect condition.

Frosted Roast Banana Bars
Here is a link where you can buy them on Amazon.

If you don’t have bananas on hand now, print out this recipe, buy some bananas and let them get over-ripe.  In the meantime you can order these pans and before you know it you will be roasting bananas too!

Have a blessed and happy 4th of July weekend,
Catherine
2 Corinthians 3:17

“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

Romans 8:21

“… that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

John 8:32

“… and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”


Roasted Banana Bars With Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: 24-30 bars

Roasted Banana Bars With Cream Cheese Frosting

Roasting bananas first brings out a richness that makes these bars outstanding!

Ingredients

    Roasted bananas:
  • 4 cups sliced ripe bananas (about 6 medium)
  • 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • Cake ingredients:
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (non-fat or regular)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup crushed pecans
  • Frosting:
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons Milk to desired consistency

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Combine sliced bananas, brown sugar and butter in a 9" x 13" baking pan, roast at 400 degrees F. for 35 minutes, stirring about half way through. Cool slightly.
  3. Reduce the oven to 375 degrees F.
  4. In the bowl of the electric mixer combine butter and sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, beating until well mixed.
  5. Combine flours, baking soda, pecans, and baking powder, in the bowl of the electric mixer.
  6. Combine cooled roasted bananas with buttermilk and vanilla.
  7. Alternate banana mixture and flour mixture into the butter/sugar/eggs in electric mixer until all ingredients are combined.
  8. Pour batter into a bakers half sheet that has been prepared with baking spray. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 25 to 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely on wire rack.
  9. Prepare frosting: Combine butter and cream cheese in bowl of electric mixer. Beat until well combined. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat well. Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
  10. Frost cooled banana bars and enjoy!

Notes

Vanilla Coffee-Mate is an excellent substitute for the milk in the frosting.

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