I have so many things to tell you this week, that I could hardly wait to start sharing. Let’s get to it!
Do you remember me telling you about the new Dulce de Leche Cheerios? Not only have I seen those on the shelves of my grocery stores, I’ve also seen another very exciting flavor that I’m craving: Peanut Butter Multigrain Cheerios! Multigrain Cheerios are my favorite flavor anyway, so I’m very excited to try this delicious variation. I also saw on Haagen-Dazs’s FB page, that they are going to debut 4 new flavors very soon. They all sound delicious and I can hardly wait to see them in my stores (supposedly they’re launching at Target this week). The new flavors are going to be: Vanilla Bean Espresso, Spiced Caramel Biscuit, Salted Caramel Truffle, and Coconut Macaroon. Which one sounds best to you; I’m torn between the Salted Caramel Truffle and the Coconut Macaroon?
I also recently got to try a new game with a bunch of friends. You might have heard of it, it’s the “unpredictable party game” Quelf. The game is meant for 3-8 players, so the 10 of us played on husband/wife teams which might have made it more fun. The basic premise is to get around the board as fast as you can while completing silly tasks and obeying hilarious rules. Some of the shenanigans included, my best friend yelling like a drill instructor whenever anyone moved their game piece, another friend had to yodel with his finger in his nose until his wife could roll three 2’s, and yet another friend having to wear his belt around his head for the rest of the game. I wouldn’t recommend playing it if you need to be quiet, but it is a gut-busting amount of fun if you play with the right people. You’ll certainly never look at them in the same light again.
Maybe you aren’t a fan of board games; how do you feel about movies? My husband and I recently watched a movie that I highly, HIGHLY recommend. It’s the movie Courageous. The plot is described this way on Amazon: “Four men, one calling: To serve and protect. As law enforcement officers, they are confident and focused, standing up to the worst the streets can offer. Yet at the end of the day, they face a challenge they’re ill prepared to tackle: fatherhood. When tragedy strikes home, these men are left wrestling with their hopes, their fears, their faith, and their fathering. Sherwood Pictures, creators of Fireproof, returns with this heartfelt, action-packed story. Protecting the streets is second nature to these law enforcement officers. Raising their children in a God-honoring way? That takes courage.” This movie was so well made and will really make you think (and probably cry too). We enjoyed it so much, and I hope it’s a blessing to you too.
I also wanted to let you know that Groupon is hosting a sweepstakes game right now where you have a chance to win $5, $10, $50, or $100 dollars in Groupon cash. Just go to their website and look for a box with eyes that says something like “Spin My Face.” The sweepstakes is running through the end of the month, so I’m hopeful that I can win at least a little something. You can also get 5 more spins (you get 1 daily) by “like-ing” Groupon on Facebook.
Now, what would a full post be without some new recipes to try. I have a dinner and a dessert (or breakfast) recipe for you to try. The entree recipe is for a wonderful soup called Chicken Mulligatawny that we had last week. The recipe takes a little bit of prep work, but the results are so fabulous. As soon as we ate it, I told my husband that this was going to be my go-to soup for when I’m sick. Nearly all of the components cook in the wonderful, spiced broth, so the soup has a great flavor. My husband was skeptical about the apples, but once they were cooked, you didn’t know that’s what they were. It’s not spicy (probably because I used my regular curry powder, since I don’t have Madras), but there’s enough heat from the curry powder and ginger to warm you just a little internally. None of the flavors are overpowering, so it won’t overwhelm you if you’re a bit under the weather. Also, it’s a healthy soup with only 230 calories for 1 1/2 c. of soup.
Chicken Mulligatawny (slightly adjusted from Eating Well)
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 diced yellow onion
2 stalks diced celery
3 cloves minced garlic
2 peeled, diced, Granny Smith apples
1 1/2 tsp. Madras curry powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. ginger
6 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. basmati rice
12 oz. cubed, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 c. light coconut milk
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
3 tbsp. sliced, toasted almonds (These are a topping, and I almost never remember to use them. It tastes great anyway.)
1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring often, til softened, about 5 minutes. Add the apples, curry, cumin, coriander, and ginger and cook, stirring often, til the apples begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and rice and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 12 min.
2. Add the chicken, return to a simmer, and cook til the chicken is cooked through and the rice is tender, 8-10 minutes more. Stir in the coconut milk and return to a simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Portion into bowls and garnish with the almonds. (Or not. Check out the next paragraph)
When I was making it, I felt like we needed something to go with it. There’s rice in it, so I didn’t want to serve it over more rice, but biscuits or bread didn’t really seem to fit. We had some flour tortillas hanging around waiting to be used, so I decided that they would work perfectly. I sprayed them on both sides with Pam, cut them in quarters, and baked them at 375 degrees for 5-7 minutes. They got crisp and a little brown and worked very well. The next time we ate the soup, I wanted to warm them up, so I stuck them back in the oven at 300 degrees (I think) for a few minutes). When we ate them again, they were even better! The first time they were crisp, but still had a little bite to them. This time they were perfectly crisp all the way through, which we both felt was perfect with the soup. I thoroughly recommend it, and it’s a great way to use up older tortillas.
I’m also very excited to share the dessert/breakfast recipe because I CREATED IT!!!!! I’ll give you a little background as to how and why I came up with it first. When my husband’s at work, I don’t usually cook anything elaborate for myself. I’ll eat up leftovers or just make basic things like grilled cheese. Lately I’ve been eating toast made with a French toast bread that I’d gotten on sale. I wanted something with that flavor, but I’m all out of the bread. I thought of doing French toast, but didn’t want to go to all the trouble of making the egg dip. Often when we make French toast, we make it stuffed. You basically make a sweet sandwich, dip that in the egg/milk mix, and cook like normal. That also appealed to me because I’m trying to use a blueberry cream cheese that someone gave me. Again, though, I didn’t want to take that much time. Then I had a brilliant idea, that I’m pleased to be able to share with you. I made a Stuffed Creme Brulee French Toast for Cheaters. I know it’s a mouthful, but it’s so delicious. Here’s the recipe:
Stuffed Creme Brulee French Toast for Cheaters
For each sandwich you’ll need:
2 pieces of bread (I’m sure white is best, but I had wheat.)
2 tbsp. butter
3-4 tbsp. brown sugar
Whatever you want to stuff your toast with. (Some of my favorites are Nutella and peanut butter, Nutella and cream cheese, or peanut butter and jelly.)
1. Begin heating a small sauce pan over med. heat with 1 tbsp. of butter in it. Spread 1 side of each piece of bread with your desired spread ingredients. Make the sandwich so that the outside of the sandwich is plain.
2. Once the butter is melted, sprinkle the middle of the pan (where you’ll place the sandwich) with half of the brown sugar. Try to sprinkle it in the shape and size of your bread; the better you spread it out, the better your creme brulee crust will be. Place the sandwich on top of the brown sugar and let cook as you would a grilled cheese, until golden and toasted.
3. Once the first side is done, use a spatula to remove the sandwich and set aside for just a minute. Place the next tbsp. of butter in the pan. Once it’s melted, you’ll need to sprinkle the rest of the brown sugar as before. Once that’s ready, you can place the uncooked side of the sandwich face down in the pan and repeat the cooking process. Your sandwich should look something like this.
Before anyone gets upset, let me just say that I know that it’s not really French toast. I put that in the name partly in homage to its roots, and partly because it’s gives me a better mental picture than “Creme Brulee Panini” or something like that. You can’t see it too well, but the brown sugar turned into a great caramelized crust on the outside of the sandwich. Of course, the inside got melty and gooey and perfectly delicious. I absolutely loved this and can’t wait to try it out again. I would suggest that you don’t use a fork; because of the creme brulee crust, you have to push a bit to spear it, and all the gooey goodness oozes out. However, since it’s not a regular french toast, it’s sturdy enough to be eaten like a sandwich. If you really enjoy the custardy wetness of regular French toast, this probably isn’t a recipe you’ll enjoy (you might like this one instead). I, on the other hand, tolerate the custard for the flavor it gives to the toast. This is a perfectly wonderful replacement in my mind. It’s quick, easy to make with on hand ingredients, and hopefully coming to a plate near you.
The last thing I wanted to share today was some things that touched me from a recent book I read. For Christmas, my parents gave me a copy of The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. I’d read it as a kid, but I wanted to read it again, since I thought I’d get more out of it now that I’m older. The Hiding Place is the story of Corrie ten Boom and her family who helped hide Jews during World War II. They were eventually discovered and sent to concentration camps. They endured many hardships and some of them died. After she got out, Ms. ten Boom spent many years traveling, ministering, speaking, and writing about what God taught her doing those years.
The first thing that really struck me was how Corrie’s father didn’t answer a question she had. Here’s what happened.
“So the line had stuck in my head. ‘Sex,’ I was pretty sure, meant whether you were a boy or a girl, and ‘sin’ made Tante Jans [one of her aunts] very angry, but what the two together meant I could not imagine. And so, seated next to Father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, ‘Father, what is sexsin?’
He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the racks over our heads, and set it on the floor.
‘Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?’ he said.
I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.
‘It’s too heavy,’ I said.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.’
And I was satisfied. More than satisfied–wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions–for now I was content to leave them in my Father’s keeping.”
Not only is that a straightforward and illustrative way to explain to your children that they can’t understand everything right now and that some knowledge isn’t appropriate for them, but it’s also a great spiritual truth. There are some things we just can’t understand right now (for example: Why did that tragedy happen to us? or Why don’t we have something that “everyone else” seems to have?), but when we’re a little stronger spiritually, He’ll reveal what we need to know.
There’s another time, where Corrie is frightened after seeing a dead body for the first time. Her father gives her a wonderful piece of advice.
“But that night as he [her father] stepped through the door I burst into tears. ‘I need you!’ I sobbed. ‘You can’t die! You can’t!’
Beside me on the bed Nollie [one of her sisters] sat up. ‘We went to see Mrs. Hoog,’ she explained. ‘Corrie didn’t eat her supper or anything.’
Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. ‘Corrie,’ he began gently, ‘when you and I go to Amsterdam–when do I give you your ticket?’
I sniffed a few times, considering this.
‘Why, just before we get on the train.’
‘Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need–just in time.’ “
That just touched me to the core. Whenever I start worrying about something, particularly something that’s in my head, not on the horizon, I’m trying to get ahead of God. He will certainly give me the strength I need, but not until I need it.
A few years later, one of her aunts is dying, and the whole family is trying to comfort her. At that time, this aunt (who was always worried about death and very occupied with her “good works”) realizes a wonderful spiritual truth.
” ‘My dear sister-in-law,’ Father began gently, ‘there is a joyous journey which each of God’s children sooner or later sets out on. And, Jans, some must go to their Father empty-handed, but you will run to Him with hands full!’
‘All your clubs…,’ Tante Anna ventured.
‘Your writings…,’ Mama added.
‘The funds you’ve raised…,’ said Betsie.
‘Your talks…,’ I began.
‘But our well-meant words were useless. In front of us the proud face crumpled; Tante Jans put her hands over her eyes and began to cry. ‘Empty, empty!’ she choked at last through her tears. ‘How can we bring anything to God? What does He care for our little tricks and trinkets?’
And then as we listened in disbelief she lowered her hands and with tears still coursing down her face whispered, ‘Dear Jesus, I thank You that we must come with empty hands. I thank You that You have done all–all–on the Cross, and that all we need in life or death is to be sure of this.’ “
What a beautiful prayer! Even now, it touches me again. We can bring nothing to God, for He gave everything to us. Anything that we do is only an expression of gratefulness carried out in obedience to His commands.
During the beginning of the war, Corrie and her sister Betsie were praying, when Corrie experienced a vision of their family being taken somewhere that they didn’t want to go. Corrie wondered if she was imagining things or if it was a vision of the future. Here is Betsie’s reply.
” ‘I don’t know,’ she said softly. ‘But if God has shown us bad times ahead, it’s enough for me that He knows about them. That’s why He sometimes shows us things, you know–to tell us that this too is in His hands.’ “
Several months later, Corrie and Betsie were drinking tea and talking to wait out a bombing that had woken them. When they got back to their bedrooms, Corrie found a large piece of shrapnel on her pillow. Corrie was wondering what might have happened if she hadn’t heard Betsie in the kitchen and gone to be with her. Betsie answered her.
“There are no ‘if’s’ in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety–O Corrie, let us pray that we may always know it.’ “
A true and very wise statement. Painful things may happen to you even when you’re in God’s will, but there is still no safer place to be.
The last part that touched me comes from the very end of the book. Corrie endured a lot of pain and suffering in the concentration camps. After she got out, she traveled around the world sharing how the love of God can heal hurting people. Her faith was put to the test when one of her former captors came up to her after a lecture. She did not want to shake his hand, but was able to with God’s help.
“And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”
That is something that I forget often. Even though God has given us many commands, He does not expect us to complete them on our own. He will give us the strength we need to do His will.
These are just a sampling of the encouragements and lessons that I found in this book. I encourage you to read it yourself, as I’m sure that it would touch your heart as well.