Monday, January 14, 2013

Reading your obituary....

A week or so ago, I decided to google my name. Seeing as I don't light it up from behind the arc night after night and I don't stand behind the presidential seal on a daily basis, I really didn't expect to find anything on the first page of google. What I did find surprised me - an obituary - an obituary for Shirley Dean. NOPE, not my own....but I do share a first and last name with this person, and we both are from West Michigan. WEIRD.

Anyways, reading this also made me think of Alfred Nobel. Surely you are aware that he is the reason for the world's most esteemed prizes - the Nobel Prizes. But, do you know why he decided to create such an endowment? To paraphrase what the link above describes in detail, he had the opportunity to read his obituary one day when the newspaper mistakenly thought he died instead of his brother. What he read surprised him. The newspaper went into great detail on how Alfred was responsible for engineering a compound that turned out to cause more harm than good (in many people's eyes). Nobel invented/created/discovered dynamite. Upon reading his obituary, he made it his goal to leave a positive impact on the world, which culminated in his philanthropic idea to reward others for their deeds in peace and science (knowledge).

Now, being in a similar yet very distinct position, I find one passage in the Bible to be very fitting - Ecclesiastes 9.
10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave,[c] where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
    but one sinner destroys much good.
St. Paul writes a similar passage to the church in Colossea:
17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)
In one of my English classes in high school, I had an assignment where I had to write my own eulogy.  While I don't recall precisely what I wrote, I do know that my behavior towards others drastically changed as a result of this assignment. No, I'm not perfect, but instances like thinking of my obituary and eulogy are a tangible assessment of what God instructs us to do. We can all take a lesson from Alfred Nobel. Let's take time to make sure everything we do is for the glory of God (the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the Triune God).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Meals for Monday: Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

So...I guess I haven't been as deliberate about keeping up these posts. Therefore, don't be surprised if there are a few more recipe posts this week, but also don't be surprised if it doesn't materialize either.'s a recipe for today.
Creamy Chicken Noodle soup
  • ¼ c butter
  • ⅓ c flour
  • 3 T minced onion (dried onion flakes)
  • 1 t chicken bouillon
  • 2 c milk
  • 1 cup cooked chicken, diced/shredded
  • 1 ½ cups egg noodles (uncooked)
  • 1 qt canned carrots, partially drained
  • 1 ½ t black pepper (ground)

  1. Melt butter in saucepan
  2. Add onions, flour, and bouillon, constantly stirring to avoid burning
  3. Once a paste is formed, add milk.
  4. Cook on med/med-hi until thick and bubbly
  5. Add cream mixture to crockpot (~3qt) with the remaining ingredients.
  6. Cook on “high” for ~1 hr or “low” for at least 2 hours.

I sort of made this dish up as I went, meaning I read a recipe (Tuscan Chicken Soup), which spawned the idea for this final product. Ideally, I would have added celery too, but I didn't have any on hand. Regardless, this dish was DELICIOUS, especially if you like black pepper (if you don't, I advise you dial it down a bit).

Monday, November 5, 2012

Meals for Monday - Recipe: Shepherds' Pie

Most of the time my cooking is rooted in using what I (we) have. Sure there are times where I go to the grocery store specifically to buy something for a recipe I want to make, but that's atypical (I'll save details about this story for another post). Anyways, my husband and I were having company, and I was planning on making Shepherds' Pie using the supplies we had on hand: vegetable orzo soup (instead of vegetable beef), ground goat burger (instead of ground beef/hamburger), homemade canned vegetables (instead of frozen veggies), and flavored instant potatoes (instead of homemade/real mashed potatoes). So, here's the directions for what I put together and our company has since requested (of course you can make the reverse substitutions that I mentioned above).
Shepherds' Pie
  • 1 lb ground burger
  • 1/2 onion, yellow, diced
  • 1 can (10.75 oz) vegetable orzo soup
  • 1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
    • If I had vegetable beef soup, I would not have used this
  • 1 tsp beef bouillon 
  • 1 pint (or ~12-16oz) canned green beans, drained
  • 1 pint (or ~12-16oz) canned carrots, drained
  • 1 pint (or ~12-16oz) canned corn, drained
  • 6 cups prepared mashed potatoes
    • I used 2 pkgs, ~4oz/pkg, of flavored instant potatoes (I would have used 3 if I had them)
    • I used less butter than what it called for since there is plenty of salt and fat in the meat-vegetable mixture and the cheese.
    • Make homemade if that is what you prefer.
  •  2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
  1. Fry burger in a large fry pan, and drain grease.
    • I don't use any oil/fat to fry the burger. Sometimes I add water to make the burger cook faster.
  2. Add onions
    • If you want the onions to soften, add some water to the burger-onion mixture, cover, and steam for ~3 minutes.
  3. Add soup, tomato paste, and bouillon, and stir.
    • Again, if using vegetable beef soup, that latter two can be omitted.
  4. Add vegetables and cook until the desired consistency is reached, adding water as needed.
  5. While the meat-vegetable mixture is cooking, prepare mashed potatoes.
  6. Divide meat-vegetable mixture in half, placing each half into a 2 qt casserole dish (or place all of it into a 9x13" glass dish).
  7. Top each dish with prepared mashed potatoes
  8. Cover each dish with cheese
  9. Microwave covered on "hi" for 10 minutes
    • Or bake in conventional/normal oven at 350F for 10 minutes, or until heated through
      • Can also broil to make top crisp
    • Or bake in a nuwave oven for 10 minutes on 60% Power, or until heated through
    • NOTE: Uncovering the dish in oven or nuwave oven will result in a crispier top. You can uncover the dish in the microwave, but the top won't achieve the same crispiness as the other cooking options (and it's more prone to make a mess in your microwave).

Mmmm...I like Shepherds' Pie because it is super easy, nutritious, and delicious (unless you're one of those people who prefers not to have their food mixed).

Monday, October 29, 2012

Meals for Monday- Recipe: Jerked Leg of Goat & Sweet Potatoes

I came across a variation of this recipe when I was perusing the web for ideas on how to use goat meat. Cabrito is goat meat from a young goat, typically less than six months old. Chevon is meat from an old goat (older than six months). Personally, I prefer cabrito because of the chevon is typically gamy, having more lanolin-like flavor.  Goat meat is usually consumed by those in the Middle East, meaning there are a ton of goat curry dishes. This dish, on the other hand, is more like a Moroccan dish (ok...maybe it's still Middle Eastern, but I'd argue Moroccan dishes are different), which uses a form of Ras el hanout.  If you're not a fan of goat meat, feel free to adapt this recipe to your favorite red meat (or even white meat).

Jerked Leg of Goat & Sweet potatoes
  • goat leg, 4 goat steaks, or favorite cut of red meat (1.5lbs)
  • 4-6 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ~2" cubes (rather big)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed (in a garlic press)
  • 1 T thyme
  • 1/2-1 t salt
  • 2 t   black pepper
  • 1 T  allspice
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 1/2 t cayenne pepper or other favorite fresh/ground hot pepper (optional)
    • NOTE: All spices are ground/dried, so adjust as necessary if you are grinding your own spices or have fresh herbs
  • water

  1. Place sweet potatoes in bottom of crockpot (~3 qt)
  2. Add ~1 c water to the bottom of the crockpot
  3. Add all of the ingredients together EXCEPT meat and potatoes, creating a paste
  4. Rub paste over meat, piercing the meat if desired (useful if you have a goat leg or thicker cut of meat)
  5. Wrap meat tightly in aluminum foil
    • Myself, I placed some paste on the foil, added a steak, spread some more paste over the steak, added another steak on top, paste...etc.
    • paste-steak-paste-steak...etc
    • then sealed tightly in foil
  6. Place meat on top of sweet potatoes
  7. Cook on "low" for ~8 hrs

I hope you enjoy!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Meals for Monday - Recipe: BBQ (AKA- Sloppy Joes)

This recipe was adapted from what I had growing up. It is derived mostly from my grandma's cooking. Mmmm....enjoy!

Sloppy Joes or BBQ

  • 1 lb ground meat (beef, venison, or goat)
  • 2 medium (yellow) onions, diced
  • 1 can (~10 oz) tomato soup & 1 can (~6 oz) tomato paste
    • OR 2 cans tomato soup for a little sweeter BBQ
    • OR use salsa for heartier BBQ
  • 2 T mustard (prepared)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 2 T chili powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • green bell peppers, diced (optional)

  1. Cook (fry) meat
  2. Sweat onions (like sauteing) with ground meat in a fry pan
  3. Add meat-onion mixture to a crockpot (~3qt)
  4. Add remaining ingredients to crockpot
  5. Adjust to taste (adding more water/oatmeal/spices as necessary)
  6. Cook on “low” for at least 1 hour, allowing the flavors to meld together.
  7. Serve on buns, with american cheese and sweet relish, and complement it with your favorite veggie.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Meals for Monday - Recipe: Polish Ham Dinner

Mmmm....I made this Polish dish last weekend. Truth be told, I'm not actually sure this is a recipe folks would pass down in Poland, but I do know that generally sauerkraut and Polish generally go hand-in-hand. I got the idea for this recipe from Taste of Home. Regardless, if you're pressed for time, this is a wonderful autumnal crockpot recipe to try.

Polish Ham dinner
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 4 potatoes (red works best, but any variety will do)
  • 1 onion, wedged
  • 3 apples, sliced
  • 2 cups sliced carrots (or ½ pkg frozen or 1 ~14oz can)
  • 1 lb sausage (link or ground), optional
  • 2 cups / 1 can (~14oz) sauerkraut
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp pepper (black)
  • 1 can (~12 oz) beer or ~1 ½ cups water

  1. Add ingredients to a 3qt (or 6qt) crockpot in the order listed
  2. Cook on ‘low’ for 6-8 hours (longer if ham hock was frozen)
    • Can use a whole ham if serving more people, but the other ingredients should be adjusted accordingly (should also use ~6 qt crockpot).


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Cooking basics: Using a crockpot

Like any cooking technique, there are some actions that will lead to a better product. In my opinion, crockpot cooking is one of the easiest cooking styles to adopt; however, there are some dishes that are difficult to make in a crockpot.

  • Always cover the crockpot when cooking.
  • Almost always, you can cook recipes for longer than what they say, unless stated otherwise.
    • If you are pressed for time, feel free to check the temperature of the meat, and if it is of adequate temperature and the veggies are at the desired texture, then eat up!!!
    • Generally, I put these on at 6 am, and lately, we've been eating them at 9 pm (Thomas' second job in the evenings shifted supper time).
  • I flex my recipes, aka, I don't always do exactly what I have written (some of these recipes are my own concoction and others are adaptations I've made to various recipes)
    • Most of the time I don't measure the vegetables I put in - they are come from either our frozen or canned preserves.
    • If I have some vegetables and not others, I don't fret about it.
  • Feel free to change the meat to whatever you have on hand/feel like eating.
  • Another idea, you can always assemble all of the items in the crockpot at night, and then put it in the heating element (turn the heating element on too) in the morning.
  • Depending on the size of your crockpot, you likely will need to scale the recipes accordingly...or simply cook them in a pot on the stove.
    • You want the crockpot to be at least ½ full when it’s cooking