Thursday, February 25, 2010

Taunting the Dog

Riley isn't allowed to have people food. We've always had a family rule about that, ever since she was a puppy. We didn't want her to be one of those dogs that begs for food every time the family sits down for dinner. We've done pretty well with this rule and Riley has never been a beggar. Until of course, Eisley started eating table food. With Eisley, it's inevitable that food get dropped on to the floor. Or thrown on to the floor. We try to prevent this whenever possible, but sometimes it just can't be avoided. Riley is always there to come lick up the mess of whatever ends up on the floor.

Well. Over the past few months, Eisley has picked up on the fact that we don't let Riley eat people food. So this afternoon, at snack time, this is what happened:

Eisley, sitting in her high chair, eating grapes and goldfish crackers, took a deep breath and yelled, "RIIIIIIIWEEEEEEEEY!!!"

Riley came running.

Eisley held out a goldfish and offered it to Riley.

Then she said, "No no no, Riwey. NO!"

Then she put the cracker in her mouth, looked at Riley, and said as she chewed, "yumyumyumyumyum. MMMMMM."

Then she took a drink from her cup and said, "Ahhhhh!"

Riley, hung her head in disappointment and walked away.

It was the saddest and funniest thing ever!

Time Out

We're not spankers when it comes to disciplining Eisley. We generally try not to yell, either. We use firmly spoken "No"s, and we use Time Out. We have a Time Out "corner" in the living room of the house. From the corner, no toys are within reach, but toys are in sight. It actually is really effective with Eisley. And now that Eisley understands the concept of Time Out, we can even say something like, "Do you want to go to time out?" and she'll say "No", and she'll stop doing whatever it is she's doing. If she doesn't, then of course we do take her to time out. These are not empty "threats".

So. Today Eisley was eating her morning snack in the living room while she was playing. She then started throwing her Cheerios onto the floor and stepping on them. I said, "No, Eisley." She glared at me, and kept doing it. I then said, "Eisley. Pick up the cheerios." She said, "No." I said, "Eisley, pick up the cheerios or you go to time out." She looked at me and said, "No. Time Out." And walked herself to the time out corner, sat herself down, and faced the wall.

Umm... I sort of had to laugh. I guess time out really is preferable to picking up cheerios off the ground. I might make the same choice.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Trinitarian Prayer

There's an ongoing conversation in my head and heart, surrounding the Trinity. Trinity. A confusing and mysterious doctrine of the Christian faith. The conversation has been awakened in me because of a class I'm taking this semester, the History of Christian Worship. The question at the heart of this class is, "If God is Trinitarian, what impact should that have on worship?"

I commend the book to you, "Worshipping Trinity" by Robin Parry (I quoted from it about a week ago). Parry poses the question, the very bold question, of whether our churches today are basically unitarian in practice-- do we fail to recognize God as who he is-- a Trinitarian God, the great Three-in-One? If someone were to enter our churches, what would they take away about our beliefs about God? Do we use only generic terms of Lord and God, and Lord God? What kind of picture of God are we painting when we limit our language of God only to those kinds of terms? When we say them, yes, we know to whom we are referring and speaking (please do not think I am suggesting we NOT use those terms. He is our Lord!!). But. Are worship leaders, by not incorporating Trinitarian elements into worship, presenting an incomplete picture of who God really is? So that worship participants don't know who the Holy Spirit is? Or Jesus? Or God the Father? Are we teaching people that somehow, all three persons of the Godhead are not active and present in the world? Are we missing out on a more full picture (and experience) of who God is?

Another question: do we ever lift up one person of the Godhead over the others? Do we exalt one, leaving out the others? Meaning, have we put too much focus on just Jesus, or just the Holy Spirit? Do we forget that God is our heavenly Father, and the father of Jesus?

I offer to you an example of Trinitarian prayer. This is from Hippolytus, a Christian leader from 3rd Century Rome. We spent this past week in my worship class reading Hippolytus' On the Apostolic Tradition. How does this prayer differ from a lot of the prayers we pray in Sunday morning worship? Is there something to be learned from this way of praying?

We give thanks to you God, through your beloved child Jesus Christ, whom, in the last times, you sent to us as savior and redeemer and angel of your will, who is your inseparable Word through whom you made all things and who was well pleasing to you. You sent him from heaven into the womb of a virgin, and he was conceived and made flesh in the womb and shown to be your Son, born of the Holy Spirit and the virgin. He fulfilled your will and won for you a holy people, opening wide his hands when he suffered that he might set free from suffering those who believed in you. When he was handing over to voluntary suffering, in order to dissolve death and break the chains of the devil and harrow hell and illuminate the just and fix a boundary and manifest the resurrection, he took bread and giving thanks to you he said: take, eat, this is my body which will be broken for you. Likewise with the cup saying: this is my blood which is poured out for you. Whenever you do this, you perform my commemoration.

Remembering therefore his death and resurrection, we offer you bread and cup, giving thanks to you because you have held us worthy to stand before you and ministry to you as priest.

And we ask that you should send your Holy Spirit on the presbytery of the holy church. Gathering us into one, may you grant to all the saints who receive for the fullness of the Holy Spirit, for the confirmation of their faith in truth, that we may praise and glorify you through your child Jesus Christ, through whom be glory and honor to you, with the Holy Spirit in your holy church both bow and to the ages of the ages. Amen.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday and Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday. Maybe like me, that hasn't always been that big a deal to you. Maybe you come from a tradition, where the liturgical calendar is not really observed. Over the past few years, however, I have grown deeper and deeper in my appreciation for it. There is such richness in our Christian heritage, and in walking through the Christian calendar, observing and really focusing on all its different seasons.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. The 40 days (excluding Sundays) leading up to Easter. the 40 days symbolize the 40 days of testing and fasting of Jesus in the wilderness. Lent is a time for lament. It's a time to remember the suffering that Jesus endured on the cross. It's a time to mourn, and a time to even identify in some way with Jesus in what he endured on the cross.

We know Easter is coming and we know that there is victory there, and that Jesus conquered death! Jesus is our risen Lord!! But in order to be the risen Lord, he had to die. So even though Lent is not one of the "fun" and "happy" seasons of the Christian calendar, it can be an extremely meaningful and transformational one. I pray that you find ways to make this a meaningful season for you and your family.

There are three disciplines that are most commonly associated with Lent: Fasting, praying, and alms giving.

Though fasting is typically associated with abstaining from all or some foods for a period of time, you can certainly fast from other things. There's a youth group I know of that has committed to fast from facebook together during Lent. Amazing. Maybe it's food, maybe it's something else. The point is to identify with the sacrifice that was made through Jesus on our behalf, and to allow the Lord to sustain you and feed you during the fast.

Alms giving-- giving a special gift. Maybe you can pray during this time about how to give to others, how to give to those in need. That can look like a lot of different things. Maybe you can see what efforts already exist at your local church. Maybe there's a neighbor or an elderly person or an unemployed friend that Lord can use you to bless. Think about it. Pray about it.

Finally, there is often an increased focus on prayer and Bible reading. Maybe you can read a particular gospel account as a family during this season. My grandmother used to always read through the book of John several times during Lent. I have held onto this practice in my own life, too. It connects me to her in a way, but most importantly, I am drawn in to the presence of God the Father, through Jesus the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Maybe you can set aside a special time to pray daily as a family.

One thing I'm also really excited about doing myself, is perhaps something you'd like to join in on, too. I'm going to be spending Lent reading the community reader that my school has published. They have actually made it available online,too. There's something that happens in us when we journey together as a Christian community. When we read Scripture together and grow together. If you want to check out the Lenten reader online, you can go HERE. It's all there for you, and you don't even have to worry about figuring out what Scriptures to read. This has been very prayerfully put together, and I'd love it if you would join me there. I'd love it if we could talk about what we're learning and how God is moving in us through the practice of reading Scripture together. The first set of Scripture readings and prayers have already posted this morning.

In light of all I've said above, I invite you to read (actually from the afforementioned Reader today) Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 to get our hearts centered on Christ, and to reflect upon how our fasting, praying, and alms-giving should be done.

I challenge you-- I challenge myself-- to pray for the Lord to reveal himself to us during this Lenten season. And I challenge you, if you've never observed Lent before, to enter into this season with an open heart, focused on our God, in new ways.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Think About This with Me.

This was pretty revolutionary for me. I mean, not revolutionary in the sense that I'd never heard this before or didn't really even believe it to be true. But revolutionary to me in the sense that that this makes sense to me in ways I haven't been able to articulate myself.

This is from Robin Parry's Worshipping Trinity, a book that I have recently read for one of my classes. What do you think? I know that for many of us, who grew up in a typical, Evangelical Christian church, it might be kind of "out there". But I'm growing in this, and like I said, I think it makes sense.

(Note, in the first paragraph, I don't think our personal experiences with God don't matter. Nor do I think this is what the author is trying to convey. This piece is being taken out of an entire book, that I have not provided for you below. But he is challenging us here to think about what the entire focus of Christianity has been, and is challenging us to look and think a little broader than that.)

--

People in the modern Western world increasingly tend to think of religion as a private thing- something between one man and his god(s). Often such attitudes can creep into the churches, and the focus becomes my relationship with God, Jesus as my personal savior (or therapist?), my ministry, my calling, my prayer life, my lifestyle, my worship experiences and so on... Presumably church is only necessary, then, for weaker Christians (most of us) who still need encouragement from other humans!

This view of the Christian life is up the creek without a paddle and is the spiritual equivalent of handing a drowning man a concrete life jacket! The church is not simply a club of like-minded people who meet until they are strong enough to go it alone. Nor is it about being part of a social club of like-minded individuals. Being a Christian is all about being part of God's community. The church is the family of God sharing one Father, the body and bride of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit. God's plan has never been to save lots of individuals who will all relate to him individually... God's plan has always been to create a human community of people who love God and love each other. That is what humanity was all about in creation. That is what God's new humanity of Israel was all about. That is what the church, God's transformed end-time Israel, is all about. Being a Christian just is being part of that new humanity in Christ.

The church is a Trinitarian creation... When we become Christians, we are baptized into Christ's body in the waters of baptism and the cloud of the Spirit (1 Cor. 10:2). Christ is a single human being with a single body that is currently seated at the right hand of the Father... Christ represents all humanity before God. All humanity 'in him' participate in whatever he is before God. Christians are those who are placed 'into Christ' by the Spirit, such that what Christ is, the church also is 'in him'. So if Christ has one unified body, then 'in Christ', the church is one, unified body- a single organism with many parts that play different roles, but function together as one.

This has implications for thinking about Christian unity today. Church unity is not something humans must bring about, because it is something that God has already achieved 'in Christ'...the challenge for the church is to live out in practice what we already are in Christ. The church lives caught between the present evil age and the age to come, tasting, but not fully enjoying, the powers of the kingdom of God.
---

More on Trinitarian life to come...

Keep it Fresh

There's a myriad of ways to make a good vegetable quesadilla. You can put pretty much anything in a quesadilla and call it good-- especially if it's loaded with cheese. But this one uses raw vegetables (a lot of recipes call for sauteed ones), and therefore provides a texture that's a little different than you might typically find in a veggie quesadilla. It's delicious. By the time you grill the quesadilla, the veggies are crisp-tender, which makes for a really fresh tasting meal. Plus, it saves time to use raw veggies. Enjoy!

Fresh Vegetable Quesadillas


Ingredients

Serves 4

* 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for grates
* 4 ears corn (husks/silks removed), or 1 pkg (10 ounces) frozen corn, thawed
* 1 bunch scallions, half of bunch thinly sliced, other half cut into 2-inch lengths
* 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
* Coarse salt and ground pepper
* 4 flour tortillas (10-inch)
* 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (6 ounces)
* 1 yellow squash, halved crosswise and thinly sliced lengthwise
* 1 orange bell pepper (ribs and seeds removed), thinly sliced

Directions

1. Heat grill to low; lightly oil grates (We actually do our quesadillas on an electric griddle, so we don't have to mess with this step). Cut off tip of each cob. One at a time, stand each ear in a large wide bowl; with a sharp knife, carefully slice downward to release the kernels (you should have about 2 cups). Discard cobs. Or if you're using frozen corn kernels, thaw them and put them into a bowl.

2. Add sliced scallions, lime juice, and oil to bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Set corn relish aside.

3. Place tortillas on a work surface. Dividing evenly, sprinkle half the cheese on bottom half of each tortilla. Top with squash, bell pepper, scallion pieces, and remaining cheese; season with salt and pepper. Fold top half of tortillas over filling to close.

4. Grill quesadillas, turning once, until browned in spots and cheese has melted, 6 to 8 minutes. Cut into wedges; serve immediately with corn relish.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

So Maybe it's not Tex-Mex...

But it's good. The following recipe is for "Tex Mex Stuffed Squash". And I have to admit that I've never seen or had anything like this in the version of Tex Mex I grew up on. But. The flavors of this dish are really very good. The original recipe does call for ground beef (which is a very Tex-Mex thing, when combined with these flavors), but we use ground turkey, and I'd recommend it. I actually think the ground turkey works better in this dish than ground beef, and the ground turkey is a leaner meat option than beef. Oh, and this is the only meat dish Eisley has never turned down. She's not at all a fan of meat, so that's really saying something.

I won't bother telling you where this recipe comes from. By now, you can probably guess.

Tex Mex Stuffed Squash


Ingredients


Serves 4

* 4 yellow squashes (8 ounces each)
* Coarse salt and ground pepper
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 red bell pepper (ribs and seeds removed), cut into 1/4-inch dice
* 2 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 2 tablespoons tomato paste
* 1 teaspoon mild chili powder
* 1/2 pound ground turkey breast (or ground beef)
* 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
* 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees, with rack set in the top third. Halve each squash lengthwise; slice a sliver from the rounded part of each half so it sits flat. Leaving a 1/4-inch border, scoop out halves with a small spoon; roughly chop flesh, and reserve. Place squash halves, skin side down, in a shallow baking dish. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add reserved chopped squash, bell pepper, scallion whites, and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until bell pepper begins to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add tomato paste and chili powder; cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add turkey; cook until no longer pink, breaking up meat with a spoon, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in corn and 1/4 cup Parmesan; season with salt and pepper.

3. Dividing evenly, spoon mixture into squash halves. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake until squash is tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Uncover, and bake until top is browned, 7 to 10 minutes more. Garnish with scallion greens.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Little West Coast Flavor

This recipe is a fun one. It's from the Everyday Food magazine. You may be thinking we need to branch out and find other sources of recipes. But EF recipes are just so fail-proof.

The recipe calls for fresh or frozen store-bought pizza dough. I had a bit of trouble finding that (and usually don't want to make my own dough), so we've actually used pre-made (thin) pizza crusts from the store and had great success. But I'd recommend frozen pizza dough if you have access to it. With the premade crusts you have to be very careful with how long you leave it on the grill-- since it's precooked, you basically just want to leave it on long enough to get that great "char" look/taste from the grill.

I know that most of the recipes I've posted are vegetarian. Eating vegetarian may scare you. It used to scare me. Mostly because eating vegetarian always seemed like it would be boring. Until I tried it. And what I've discovered is that learning to eat differently than I once did, has been one great big flavorful experience after the other. It's fun to try new things. We eat meat sometimes-- but our favorite recipes seem to be the vegetarian ones! All that to say-- if you still want your meat fix, this recipe is one you could very easily add grilled chicken to.


West Coast Grilled Vegetable Pizza



Ingredients:
* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* All-purpose flour, for shaping dough
* 1 pound store-bought pizza dough, fresh, or thawed if frozen
* 2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced crosswise
* 2 scallions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced
* 1 log (5 ounces) soft goat cheese, crumbled
* Coarse salt and ground pepper
* 1 bag (5 ounces) baby spinach
* 1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and diced
* 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

Directions:

1. Heat grill to medium. Brush a large rimless baking sheet (or an inverted rimmed sheet) with 1 tablespoon oil. On a lightly floured work surface, roll and stretch dough to two 8-inch ovals or rounds. Transfer to prepared sheet. Brush tops with 1 tablespoon oil.

2. Transfer dough to grill. Cook, without turning over, until undersides are firm and begin to char, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs and a large spatula, place crusts on baking sheet, grilled side up.

3. Scatter crusts with tomatoes, scallion whites, and cheese; season with salt and pepper, and slide back onto grill. Cook, rotating occasionally, until cooked through and cheese begins to melt, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board.

4. In a medium bowl, combine spinach, avocado, scallion greens, vinegar, and remaining tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Pile mixture onto pizzas; halve, and serve.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

C'mon, It's not that weird.

I used to be scared of a food called falafel. It's a Middle Eastern classic, that just because of it's name was just something I was always too nervous to try. That and the fact that it was made from chickpeas. I had never tried chickpeas, either. Too scared. I am now proud to say I've not only eaten falafel, but I am now a huge fan. I can't believe I've been missing out on its goodness my whole life.

But this is not a traditional falafel recipe. This is a twist on traditional falafel, made with the flavors of the Southwest. It's very very tasty. I got this recipe from my friend Lindsay, who got it from a friend of hers. Trust me, it's worth passing on. I did a google search for it so I could provide a picture for you, and it looks like it first came from Cooking Light magazine. So not only is it delicious-- it's healthful and low-calorie. It's got just 281 calories per serving.

Enjoy!

Southwestern Falafel with Avocado Spread



Ingredients:

Patties:
* 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
* 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
* 1/4 cup finely crushed baked tortilla chips (about 3/4 ounce)
* 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
* 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
* 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1 large egg white
* 1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil
*

Spread:
* 1/4 cup mashed peeled avocado
* 2 tablespoons finely chopped plum tomato
* 1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
* 2 tablespoons fat-free sour cream
* 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 2 (6-inch) pitas, each cut in half crosswise

Preparation:

To prepare patties, place pinto beans in a medium bowl; partially mash with a fork. Add Monterey Jack cheese and next 5 ingredients (through egg white); stir until well combined. Form into 4 (1/2-inch-thick) oval patties.

Heat canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties; cook 3 minutes on each side or until patties are browned and thoroughly heated.

To prepare spread, while patties cook, combine the avocado, plum tomato, red onion, sour cream, lime juice, and salt. Place 1 patty in each pita half. Spread about 2 tablespoons avocado spread over patty in each pita half.

Makes 4 pita halves.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Yummy Town, USA. Population: You

This is another one of our favorites. There's kind of a common theme running through our favorite recipes. As I type all of these out, I'm realizing that we make a lot of things with black beans and corn. Hey, what's good is good. These are YUMMY. I find that if I make ahead the corn relish (aside from the avocado, of course which may brown a little if left all day) and the tomato-jalapeno topping in the morning, then the flavors really WOW you that night when it comes time to eat!

Black Bean Tostadas with Corn Relish



Ingredients

Serves 4

* 2 limes
* 2 scallions
* 1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels
* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* Coarse salt and ground pepper
* 1 jalapeno chile
* 1 pint grape tomatoes
* 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
* 4 flour tortillas (6-inch)
* 1 can (15 ounces) black beans
* 1 avocado
* Reduced-fat sour cream, for serving (optional)

Directions

1. Thinly slice scallions, and add to a bowl along with the corn. Add 1 tablespoon oil, and season with salt and pepper; toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate.

2. Halve jalapeno (remove ribs and seeds for less heat, if desired), and mince. Halve tomatoes. Combine in an airtight container; cover and refrigerate.

3. Coarsely grate cheese on a box grater; place into a resealable plastic bag, and refrigerate.

4. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Arrange tortillas on two baking sheets; brush both sides with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Rinse and drain beans; sprinkle over tortillas. Top with tomatoes, jalapeno, and cheese. Bake until golden and crisp, about 10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.

5. While tostadas are baking, pit and peel avocado; dice. Toss with corn mixture to combine.

6. To serve, top tostadas with corn relish, and, if desired, sour cream.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

All-Time Favorite

Hey, so if you do try out any of the recipes I'm sharing, leave a comment and let me know how it goes-- especially if you've made changes to the recipe, that makes it taste even better!

Today I want to share with you one of our all-time favorite recipes. Billy, Eisley, and I all LOVE this one. We've been making this one for about a year now, and it is really taste-tastic. Where else would it come from, except the Martha Stewart Everyday Food magazine (I'm telling you, it's the best)! I'm not sure, but I might have even shared this before in a previous post. Well. Even if I have, it's worth sharing again!

Vegetable Enchiladas


Ingredients

Serves 8

* 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for baking dishes
* 2 teaspoons ground cumin
* 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
* 1/4 cup tomato paste
* 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) reduced-sodium vegetable broth
* Coarse salt and ground pepper
* 3 cups grated pepper Jack cheese (12 ounces)
* 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
* 1 box (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
* 1 box (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels, thawed
* 6 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
* 16 corn tortillas (6-inch)

Directions

1. Make sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add 1 teaspoon cumin, flour, and tomato paste; cook, whisking, 1 minute. Whisk in broth and 3/4 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

2. Make filling: In a large bowl, combine 2 cups cheese, beans, spinach, corn, scallion whites, and remaining 1 teaspoon cumin; season with salt and pepper.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil two 8-inch square baking dishes; set aside. Stack tortillas, and wrap in damp paper towels; microwave on high for 1 minute. Or stack and wrap in aluminum foil, and heat in oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Top each tortilla with a heaping 1/3 cup of filling; roll up tightly and arrange, seam side down, in prepared baking dishes.

4. Dividing evenly, sprinkle enchiladas with remaining 1 cup cheese, and top with sauce. Bake, uncovered, until hot and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes; serve garnished with scallion greens.

On the side, we usually make cilantro-lime rice. It's easy. Just prepare regular white rice in your rice cooker or on the stove top, and when it's done cooking, add in some lime juice and a bit of chopped cilantro. Delicious and fresh!

This is also a great freezable meal. So why not double the recipe and save half of it for a later time, for use on a day when you just don't feel like cooking?

To freeze: Prepare enchiladas through step 3; top with cheese, and cover baking dishes with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Place sauce in an airtight container. Freeze enchiladas and sauce for up to 2 months.

To bake from frozen: Thaw sauce in refrigerator overnight (or microwave on high 2 minutes, stirring once halfway through). Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove foil and plastic wrap from baking dishes, and pour sauce over enchiladas; cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes; remove foil, and bake until bubbly, about 15 minutes more. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Eisley's Prayer

Today I sat Eisley down at the dinner table. She immediately, unprompted, bowed her head, clasped her hands and said:

Mabahaoifeai (jabber)

Riwey.

Riwey.

Riwey.

Riwey.

Amen.

I guess Eisley's thankful for her dog Riley today. Which is making me quite emotional. Today we found out that my cousin's dog, Daisey, passed away this morning. She was 16 years old. Daisey, you will be missed by many!

Greek Quinoa & Avocado Salad

We LOVE this salad! I found it one day by doing a google search for something that would have quinoa and avocado in it, after we'd had quinoa-stuffed avocado at a friend's house. This recipe came up, we gave it a whirl, and we really enjoy it. It's actually from the Better Homes & Gardens website. Quinoa is a great but under-used food in most kitchens. It's a complete protein, so it's healthful, and makes this salad incredibly satisfying and filling. If you haven't bought quinoa before, it's most commonly considered a grain-- though it's actually a relative of green leafy vegetables like spinach. I have most success finding quinoa in the organics/health food section of the grocery store.


Greek Quinoa & Avocado Salad



Ingredients:

* 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained*
* 1 cup water
* 2 roma tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
* 1/2 cup shredded fresh spinach
* 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion (1 small)
* 2 tablespoons lemon juice
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* Spinach leaves
* 2 ripe avocados, halved, seeded, peeled, and sliced**
* 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Directions:

1. In a 1-1/2-quart saucepan combine quinoa and water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

2. Transfer quinoa to a medium bowl. Add tomato, spinach, and onion; stir to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, oil, and salt. Add to quinoa mixture; toss to coat.

3. Place spinach leaves on 4 salad plates. Arrange avocado slices on spinach leaves. Spoon quinoa mixture over avocado slices. Sprinkle with some of the feta. Makes 4 main-dish servings.

4. *Note: Rinse quinoa thoroughly before cooking to remove a bitter substance called saponin that coats the seeds.

5. **Note: Brush avocado slices with additional lemon juice to prevent browning.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Okay, this one is actually quite a bit more time consuming than the other recipes I've posted up to this point, but I think you'll find that the payoff is worth it. I DEFINITELY would make sure to make the Butternut Squash puree the day before or a couple of days before you actually want to serve this meal, just so you're not having to spend all day in the kitchen. This is a great dish especially in the fall and winter. It's also from Everyday Food magazine. The original recipe calls for Acorn Squash, but we used butternut instead. I tend to like the flavor of Butternut Squash a little better than Acorn Squash.

This also is quite a bit more high-calorie than other meals I have posted. Per serving, there's about 430 calories. This recipe serves 4.


Butternut Squash Lasagna


Ingredients:
Olive oil, for baking dish
4 cups Butternut Squash Purée* (Recipe Below, following the lasagna recipe)
½ teaspoon dried rubbed sage
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 container (15 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 no-boil lasagna noodles (half of an 8-ounce package)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Brush an 8-inch square baking dish with oil; set aside. In a medium bowl, mix squash purée with sage, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. In another bowl, mix ricotta with ½ cup Parmesan, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

2. Lay 2 lasagna noodles in the bottom of prepared dish; spread with half the squash mixture. Layer with 2 more noodles, and spread with half the ricotta mixture. Repeat layering with remaining noodles and mixtures. Sprinkle top (ricotta mixture) with remaining ½ cup Parmesan.

3. Cover baking dish with foil; place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until lasagna is heated through, about 45 minutes; remove foil, and continue baking until golden on top, 20 to 25 minutes more.


*Butternut Squash Purée

Basic Butternut Squash- about 2 squash total (Cut squash in half, lengthwise, and scoop out seeds. Lay flesh side down in a roasting pan, with about an inch of water in the bottom, and roast in a 400 degree oven until the squash is soft.)
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon coarse salt

1. Prepare Basic Butternut Squash. When cool enough to handle, scrape out flesh from squash halves, and transfer to a food processor (discard skin). Process until smooth.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine squash purée with 2 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon coarse salt.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Pita Pizzas

I don't know that this recipe would be something that would be filling enough for a full meal without serving something along with it (though I don't know what that would be), but it's an excellent party food/appetizer. Just slice it in to wedges and put it on a tray and it looks beautiful and tastes great. The flavors are unbelievable! It's SO simple, but the flavors will rock your socks off. We have served this as a meal before, and while it was enough food for me, Billy felt that it wasn't really "enough" for him. I guess you could always adapt this in some way that it would be enough for a meal.

Anyway, I encourage you to try out this simple dish. For something so simple, it's incredibly full of flavor. It is another Everyday Food find, and I have made a couple of small changes to the original recipe.

Spinach & Pepper Pita Pizzas


Serves 4

Ingredients:

* 4 mini whole-wheat pitas
* 2 ounces thinly sliced trimmed spinach (2 cups)
* 1/2 cup thinly sliced red bell peppers
* 2 to 3 ounces shredded Havarti cheese
* Coarse salt and ground pepper

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place pitas on a baking sheet. Top with spinach, peppers, and cheese, dividing evenly. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Bake until cheese is bubbly and golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes.

This is another recipe that Eisley really likes. She always loves "pizzy", as she calls it, but there are some great health benefits to this version of pizza. Red bell peppers are a really great source of Vitamins C, A, and B6, as well as Folate and Potassium. They are deliciously sweet and healthful! Spinach is also of course loaded with calcium, folic acid, vitamin K and iron, as well as fiber.

It may be tempting to make this little pizza with mozerella cheese, since it's the "traditional" pizza cheese, and you can buy it already grated. However, go to the deli section of your store and find the havarti cheese. Most stores carry it, and in my opinion, it's what really makes this pizza so great!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Another Soup Recipe

I think because it's rainy & gloomy outside today, I'm in the mood to post another soup recipe today. This is one of our go-to comfort meals. It's easy to make and an unbelievably delicious twist on traditional Chicken Noodle Soup.

For the chicken, you can cook it at home, or purchase a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. We usually use a store-bought rotisserie chicken because it's so easy-- and really affordable, too. While roasting your own chicken at home may save you a dollar or two, I haven't found that the taste of the soup is impacted at all using one versus using the other. So if you don't have the time (or interest) to roast your own, I say go for the store-bought version.

This recipe is from the Williams-Sonoma Weeknight cookbook my cousin gave me for Christmas a few years ago.

Chicken & Orzo Soup

Ingredients:

* 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
* 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
* 2 carrots, thinly sliced
* 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
* 2 Tbs. minced fresh marjoram (or you can use the dried marjoram from your spice rack)
* 8 cups chicken broth (two 32 oz. boxes of broth)
* 3/4 cup orzo, pastina or other small pasta shape
* 6 oz. baby spinach
* 3 cups cooked chicken, shredded
* Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
* 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

Sauté the vegetables: In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the carrots, celery and marjoram and sauté until the vegetables are softened, about 3 minutes more. Add the broth, increase the heat to medium-high and simmer for 5 minutes to blend the flavors.

Cook the pasta: Add the pasta to the simmering soup and cook until the pasta is al dente, 3 to 4 minutes, or according to the package instructions. Add the spinach and chicken and cook, stirring, until the spinach has wilted and the chicken is warmed through, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with some of the cheese. Serve immediately and pass the remaining cheese at the table. Serves 4.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Food.

Sometimes, in facebook statuses, I make mention of what we've had for dinner. Usually, there are several people who then ask for the recipe because it sounds good to them. I love sharing recipes with people, and I'd love it if you were to share your favorite recipes with me. Billy and I love to try out new recipes, because we LOVE food. We especially love simple and tasty food.

So. I'm going to, over the next few days, post some of our favorite recipes in case you want to give them a shot. I've gathered these recipes from various sources, but MOST of our recipes come from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine. It's our favorite-- the recipes are great, and the ingredient lists are usually simple. Sometimes we modify the dishes to make them better-suited to our own personal tastes, but rarely have we had a bad dinner from one of the Everyday Food recipes.

I'll begin with the dinner we had tonight. It's an Everyday Food find.

Tortilla Soup with Black Beans


Ingredients (Serves 4):

* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 4 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 teaspoon chili powder
* 2 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) diced tomatoes in juice (We used the Fire Roasted kind, and they were delicious!)
* 2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
* 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
* 1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels
* Coarse salt and ground pepper
* 1 cup crushed tortilla chips, plus more for serving (optional)
* 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving

Directions

1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Cook garlic and chili powder until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes (with juice), beans, broth, corn, and 1 cup water; season with salt and pepper.

2. Bring soup to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Add tortilla chips; cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in lime juice, and season with salt and pepper. Serve soup with lime wedges and, if desired, more chips.

We topped our soup with a little bit of grated Monterrey Jack cheese.

The best part of this dish, besides its taste, is that it took just 15 minutes to make from start to finish. This is a great dish for when you've had a long day and just don't feel like putting forth the effort to make a great meal. In 15 minutes you will HAVE a great meal, that's a healthier (and cheaper) option than doing what's easy, and grabbing dinner at the drive-thru window. To make it a little healthier, you can do what we did, and use baked tortilla chips instead of traditional fried ones.

The other great thing about this dish is that Eisley liked it, too. Any time I can make a meal that all three of us enjoy, I consider the day a success.

Good Advice is Good Advice

Below is an excerpt from a book Eisley owns, called "Don't Bite Your Friends". It offers this very practical advice. I wanted to pass it along to you all as a friendly reminder:

Don't bite your friends!
It hurts when you munch.
Your friends are your friends.
They are not your lunch!

and

There are things you can munch
that are okay to bite.
Sink your teeth into an apple.
Why that's more than all right!

When your stomach feels rumbly,
you don't have to beg
to take a big bite
of a nice chicken leg!

But don't bite your friends.
It hurts when you do.
Do you think you would like it
if someone bit you?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Kroger Story #5

Remember yesterday, when I was almost bragging on Kroger, for being so helpful-- someone had told me that if ever I needed a lane open, they were happy to open one for me? Ahh, that was nice. Well, picture this:

It was 7:30 in the morning on a Sunday. I was headed to church, where in Children's Worship we would be talking about the Fruit of the Spirit. I was stopping in at Kroger to buy some actual fruit, so that we could have a "fruit-tasting" to go along with our Bible story. I knew, going to the store at 7:30 in the morning meant that there would be no checkout lanes open. But since just a couple of weeks prior I'd been told they were happy to open a lane for me if needed, I didn't figure I'd encounter any problems that morning.

I gathered up all my produce, and did in fact find that the only lanes open were the self checkout lanes. I politely asked the attendant if it was possible for her to find someone who could open up a real checkout lane for me. I explained that I had a bunch of produce and that it would be a lot easier if I didn't have to look all of them up on the self-scan lane. In reality, if no one was available to do that, I would have been fine with doing it myself. But it never hurts to ask, right?

Well. The woman looked startled when I asked her this simple question. Then she (picture it) sat up real tall, looked over one shoulder, and then looked over the other. And then looked back at me and said, in a condescending voice, "Do YOUsee anyone that can help you?"

I took just a moment to pick my jaw up off of the floor before I said to her (calmly and politely), "Oh. Well last week I was told that if I ever needed anyone to open up a lane for me, that it was possible, and you guys would be happy to do that. I just thought there might be someone that could do that. I might have been given wrong information, though. I'll confirm that with the manager when I call back for him later."

She then lost quite a bit of her attitude, and pretty much kissed up to me the rest of my visit. She said she would look up all the produce codes for me if I needed her to and told me at least 20 times to have a good day.

Having learned from previous experiences, I did make a mental note of the woman's name so I would have it with me when I called back for the store manager. This time, the manager was extremely apologetic and was really embarassed that the woman had said what she did. The manager told me that she appreciated the call, and if I remember correctly (it was about a year ago that this happened), I received a $10 gift card as an apology.

I'm not a mean person. And I really don't think I have unfair expectations for customer service. And generally, when I am given poor customer service, I take in to account the fact that sometimes people just have a bad day. Maybe nothing's gone right for them that day, maybe their boss is a jerk, or maybe they're mad that they're at work instead of at home with their family. There could be lots of things. As a rule, if someone is rude to me, I am not rude in return. Sometimes I'm better at that than others.

BUT. If inappropriate behavior or patterns of poor customer service continue, then something must be said. Nothing can change if those in charge are unaware. For me, Kroger continues to "miss it". Well. The Kroger stores I've been to in Kentucky anyway.

And this concludes the Kroger Chronicles. There are more stories that could be told-- of the cashier a friend and I heard cussing while speaking to a customer, of the fact that the store often doesn't have items on my shopping list. But I think I'd rather move on to happier topics. :)

And... just so you know, if I ever receive exceptional customer service at Kroger, I always take a moment to speak to or call the manager to brag on my cashier, or whoever it was that was helpful. I don't just comment on the bad stuff. And believe it or not, I've actually made a handful of calls to the store with positive feedback!

Thanks for reading!