Remember Joseph? The son of clan patriarch Jacob (who got the title of "oldest" son by tricking his father and brother), Joseph was clearly daddy's favorite. And he had no trouble reminding all his brothers of that fact.
When they tired of listening to him gloat and feeling "less than," they threw him down a well. They at least had conscience enough not to leave him there to die, so they sold him to a passing Egyptian caravan to be a slave.
He did work his way into a place of favor and when his family needed his help years later when faced with famine, he forgave them and took them in with the famous line "What you intended for evil, God intended for good."
It can be hard to imagine that some bad family dynamics can be used for good, but at least there's always that glimmer of hope. I know I've got a long list of ways my family was (and is) far from perfect. Some of those experiences taught me things to avoid in my own life; some give me better understanding of others. I've learned to fight fair--not to say things I really don't mean/will really regret, not to pull out the most hurtful remarks just to win a fight.
And maybe most important, I've learned that harboring grudges does nothing for me. Forgiveness isn't about setting my "hurter" free, it's about setting myself free from the bondage of the past.
A few years ago I was reminded that I've done my own share of hurting; Jesus went to the cross because of the wrong I've done. But my forgiveness is complete and He doesn't hold any of it against me. May this Thanksgiving be just such a reminder for you.
Nutted Wild Rice
This is a recipe I created a number of years ago to go as a reminder of the forgiveness Joseph offered his brothers. The combination of the grains and fruits and nuts is symbolic of putting aside differences and coming together.
1 cup mixed long grain and wild rice
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 teasp. curry powder (this isn't a curry dish, the curry powder just adds a nice depth)
1/3 cup diced, mixed dried fruit (peaches, apricots, apples, raisins, etc)
1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/3 cup toasted pecan or walnut halves
3 tbsp butter (optional)
Bring chicken broth to rolling boil; add mixed rice and curry powder.
Return to boil, then reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Remove from heat.
Stir in fruit and nuts, cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
Add butter; fluff with fork before serving.
It's a great side dish with turkey (could be a really nice change of pace to go with the leftovers); throw some chopped turkey in to heat through in the last 5 minutes of cooking and it can be a one-dish meal.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
So if you're looking for something new to read, head over to 5 Minutes for Mom and read a little more about me and why I blog.
I have one post in the works that will help you face any family challenges and use up some of your leftover turkey in a yummy new way, so check back for that.
And if I'm not around to respond to comments or visit your blogs, have a blessed holiday. I look forward to catching up with you soon.
Friday, November 21, 2008
My mom wasn't much of a stocker-upper. We did our grocery shopping weekly (and I do mean we--all four of us would head to the grocery store every Saturday morning); she'd plan out the week of menus and get mostly just what was needed for that week. It was a good system, if you don't mind shopping every Saturday.
With my aversion to grocery shopping though (and my desire to only buy things on sale which means buying several of certain things when they're cheap), I slowly but surely have created my own loose pantry list.
I think I first got the idea when our college group went to home of our college advisors. I know they weren't perfect, but she was very much a living example of Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 to me. And on her refrigerator hung a pantry list that included marshmellows and chocolate syrup. It never occured to me that I could personalize my "staples" that way.
Having certain ingredients on hand can help you be prepared to fix a meal without the bother of a special shopping trip. Look over the following items for those that suit your household's tastes and your cooking abilities. There are lots of good places online to get sample pantry lists you can modify for your own use.
Make a list with these categories and specify the things you will keep in your pantry or freezer. Make several copies of it and keep one in the kitchen (on the inside of a cupboard door or on the refrigerator). When you've used the last of something, be sure and add the item to your next grocery list. Whenever possible, stock up on these frequently used items when they go on sale--even if you haven't run out yet.
Flour; sugar (granulated, brown and powdered); shortening; cooking oil; margarine or butter; baking powder; baking soda; vinegar; baking mix (like Bisquick, etc.) eggs; milk; canned tuna or chicken; canned beans; peanut butter; canned tomatoes or tomato sauce, tomato paste; frozen veggies; frozen meats, etc.
oregano; sage; pepper; salt; chili powder; garlic powder (or crushed garlic); onion powder (or dehydrated onion); bay leaves; dried soup mixes (onion, garlic and herb, etc); basil; rosemary
soy sauce; Worcestershire sauce; ketchup; molasses; cream soups (cream of mushroom, chicken, celery, etc); prepared mustard; salad dressings; other marinades
potatoes; rice; pastas (linguine or spaghetti, rotinni or corkscrew, other fun shapes/flavors); a few packages of rice or pasta-and-sauce side dishes
Holiday-themed pasta, cake mixes, sprinkles, canned pumpkin, cranberries….
If you keep all of those kinds of things stocked, and you shop as needed for fresh produce and meats you should always be able to put together a basic meal. My "I have no idea what's for dinner tonight" meals include chili (tomato sauce, kidney beans, ground meat, spices) and a variety of dishes using some combination of meat (chicken, canned salmon) pasta, sauce (marinara or alfredo) and a veggie.
Another standard that I can always throw together in a pinch is a simple red sauce. With just slight variations I use it for spaghetti, pizza, lasagna, even chicken parmesan. It tastes better than prepared spaghetti sauce; it's cheaper, and almost as quick. And because it's made with basics from my pantry, I can always prepare a tasty meal at a moment's notice.
10 oz can tomato sauce
6 oz can tomato paste (for spaghetti or lasagna, use 2 cans sauce to 1 can tomato paste.)
1/4 teaspoon crushed garlic (or 1 clove minced fresh garlic)
1/4 cup dehydrated onion (rehydrate in 1/4 cup hot water)
1/4 cup chopped green pepper (buy when on sale, slice or chop, and freeze for future use)
oregano, basil, rosemary; bay leaf; salt and pepper
Combine ingredients in skillet or saucepan. Add seasonings; simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. If desired, brown ground meat (turkey or hamburger), add to sauce and simmer for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Prepare pasta according to package, add sauce. Serves 4.
For pizza sauce or bread stick dipping sauce, use 1 can tomato sauce to 1 can tomato paste, season to taste, spread on prepared crust and add favorite toppings. Bake according to directions for crust.
There's one other level of satisfaction from having a well stocked pantry that's a little less tangible, but in our current economy it's gaining importance. Sometimes, when something comes up and it's clear there's going to be more month than money before the next paycheck, there's a quiet confidence in knowing that even if I can't swing a shopping trip this week, we will eat and I even have enough to share with a food drive or someone in need. And anything I can do to help eliminate one small bit of worry or stress is well worth the effort.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
- Check my master pantry list for items we are out of or low on.
- Pull the coupons from the Sunday paper.
- Quickly scan the coupons, keeping only those for items I know we'll use, discard the others. (If you get really serious about couponing, you can ask friends and family to keep their coupon inserts for you.)
- Check store ads to see what items are on sale (I actually cut out the little picture from the paper so I am sure I remember the brand, size, quantity limits, etc. I use the pictures as my "list").
- Organize coupons, etc according to the layout of the store--dairy items together, frozen items, produce, meat, etc. (This helps ensure that I don't forget anything and I'm not traipsing back and forth searching for things.)
- Put list/photos, coupons and ad information together for when I'm ready to shop (often in an otherwise to-be-discarded junk mail envelope.
Shopping this way helps eliminate impulse buys. My policy is to only buy things that are on sale and pretty much only things we use on a regular basis. My pantry isn't full of odd items that were "a really good deal" that we'll never eat.
Because I shop so seldom and only buy items at or near their lowest price, I stock up. I'll typically buy 3 or 4 each of the non-perishables on my list. That way I'm sure to always have what I need for our most typical menus and won't have to run to the store for something to complete a recipe. When I get down to the last one or two, I start watching for it to be on sale again.
There are a lot of great sites that can help you become one of those shoppers where the stores almost pay you to take things home. The Grocery Game.com is helpful because it lets you know what the lowest expected price is over a several week span as well as when there are coupons to use on those items, so you really can buy things at the best possible price. I think it's helpful to have the 'pros' do all the legwork for you until you catch on to the system.
It takes a little more effort to be intentional about shopping and saving money, but once I got the hang of it, I've been surprised to find that shopping carefully and cooking at home can save both money and time, leaving more of each for more interesting and meaningful pursuits!
Go to the ant...Observe her ways and be wise, (she) prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest. Proverbs 6:6-8
Up next--planning your pantry
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Whether you are a day-in, day-out cook or not, there's something about The Holidays that draws out our inner Martha Stewart (or at least Rachel Ray or Sandra Lee) and pulls us into the kitchen.
True confession time....
During that time, as near as I can recall, I lived primarily on yogurt, stuffing mix, ramen noodles, and macaroni and cheese.
It wasn't that I didn't know how to cook. My mom started teaching my sister and me kitchen basics before I reached junior high school. She worked full time and would often leave instructions for minor dinner preparations. We started with simple things like peeling potatoes and putting them on to boil, mixing up cornbread or baking powder biscuits, and graduated to preparing a baked chicken or simple spaghetti sauce from scratch.
By high school, my sister and I were each responsible for dinner one night a week. We chose the menu and prepared the meal, learning lessons about how to plan a balanced menu and get all the food to the table hot at the same time.
After I moved out on my own though, I found that the fresh foods I was used to eating spoiled before I could use them up. I also learned that I would rather go to the dentist than to the grocery store. It's hard to prepare a real meal if there's no food in the house, so I just never got into the habit of cooking.
But a funny thing happened after I got married. I still didn't like to cook (or shop for food), but suddenly, I felt responsible for making sure my husband had nutritious, good food to eat. Before the wedding, I didn't mind if we ate fast food several times a week. After, it bothered me that he would be content eating cold cereal two out of three meals a day. Add toast and PB&J or grilled cheese and you've got the boys' default menu too.
I'm still not fond of grocery shopping, and I don't like spending a lot of time in the kitchen either. But I do find an unexpected sense of satisfaction when I prepare a tasty, healthy meal for a fraction of the price of eating out. And now that we've added kids to the table, it's even more important than when it was just the two of us (and frankly, eating out with kids isn't the relaxing experience it used to be).
God is the ultimate example of providing for those in His care. We demonstrate our care for those we love, and thus reflect God's love as we make efforts to provide healthy, appealing foods for the people we care for. While this is a factor all the time, I'm trying to remember it especially as I begin holiday preparations. I want the meals and goodies and celebrations to be more service than stress and ultimately one more gift to offer my loved ones.
Monday, November 10, 2008
"Work with weights." he said.
"WHAT?!" I thought, "I work at a computer!"
How do you keep yourself strong? Is it a challenge or a priority to you?
Even so, several moments of our time with him are etched into my mind with laser-clarity. Almost as an afterthought I remembered to tell him, “Thank you for sending the gift card for Boo's birthday. It was really thoughtful of you.” If I had any doubt that he was fully conscious and fully comprehending what we were saying, it was completely erased when he raised his hand from laying on the bed and moved it to his heart as if to say “I love Boo.” I nearly lost all composure. “We love you too.” I choked out, stroking his shoulder.