Giving and sharing is what Christmas is all about. Even though Christmas has become more commercialized, there are still people and even companies who realize that it’s about sharing, not just spending money on the hot new whatever. To that end, Starbucks is revisiting their Get One, Share One promotion. From now through Sunday between 2 and 5 PM, you can go to a participating Starbucks, buy one holiday beverage, and get one free (equal or lesser value) to share with someone else. If you’re doing some shopping this weekend, you can use this to have a nice coffee break with your friends.
Giving presents is one of my favorite activities. I love searching (and finding!) the perfect gift for my friends and family. To my lovely blog followers, I want to continue giving you great recipe ideas and inspirations. (By the way, did you know that this is my 100th post!! Thanks for following me for so long. I hope we can continue to cook great things together.) Last week, my husband and I tried a new way to eat sweet potatoes. Let me begin by saying that my adventurous, carnivorous husband is NOT a fan of sweet potatoes. I, on the other hand, adore them. When I first saw this recipe on the Rachael Ray show, I didn’t know if I would be able to get him to eat it. He surprised me a little by being very willing to taste them, and I surprised him with how tasty this recipe was. This recipe is really easy to make, and I hope to have it many more times in the near future. Though they are a little spicy, you can easily customize that to your tastes. The cream cheese gave the sweet potatoes a great texture and the jalapenos and bacon went so perfectly with it.
Twice-Baked Jalapeno Popper Sweet Potatoes (adapted from the Rachael Ray Show)
4 sweet potatoes
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 finely chopped jalapeno (We didn’t like how crunchy this was, so next time I’d saute it a little first to soften it up. This would also take the heat level down.)
3 cloves grated garlic
3-4 tbsp. grated onion
2 tbsp. sour cream
4 oz. softened cream cheese
1/2 lb. bacon
4 sliced scallions (I left these out for a couple reasons: I didn’t want to buy a bunch and just use a couple, and I think they tend to overpower a dish.)
1/2 c. shredded cheddar
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the bacon on a slotted pan (like a broiler pan) and bake til crisp. Chop and reserve.
2. Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and rub them down with oil, salt, and pepper. Bake til tender, about 35-40 min. Remove the potatoes from the oven, cool slightly, halve, and scoop the flesh into a bowl.
3. To the flesh add the jalapenos, garlic, onion, sour cream, and cream cheese. Season with salt and pepper; mash to combine.
4. Fill the skins with the mash and arrange them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the bacon, cheese, and scallions, and broil to brown the cheese. (My sweet potatoes were a bit older and the skin didn’t look as good as I would’ve liked it to. I decided to just scoop out the flesh and serve this as a mash. I put the mixture into my ramekins and then topped and broiled it in the same way.)
While that might count as a healthy side dish, our 11th Christmas cookie is nowhere near healthy. It is, however, completely addicting. (I might have made myself sick on these a couple of times. They’re so hard to stop eating!) Part of what makes these so addicting is that they combine salty and sweet into a perfect little bite of tasty goodness. They are also a great Christmas cookie. The dough was super easy to make and so great to work with. It was very soft, but not sticky. The recipe also makes about 3 dozen cookies, so there are plenty to share. (You need to share these if you don’t want to overload on sugar!) Ok, I’ll stop talking about them and just share the recipe.
Double White Chocolate and Pretzel Peanut Butter Cookies with Sea Salt (from Picky Palate)
1/2 c. softened butter
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 c. white chocolate chips
1 1/4 c. peanut butter
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. broken pretzel pieces
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and sugars til light and fluffy. Melt 1 c. of the white chocolate chips and 2 tbsp. of the peanut butter over a double boiler. Add the melted chocolate mix and the remaining peanut butter to the creamed butter mix. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mix to the wet ingredients til just combined, then mix in the pretzel pieces and 1 c. white chocolate chips. Scoop the dough by tbsp-fuls onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Gently press down the cookies to 1/2 in. thick and sprinkle them with a touch of sea salt.
3. Bake 12-15 min. or til the edges become golden and slightly crisp (mine only took 10 min.). Let them cool 10 min. on the pan before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
The last thing I wanted to share today was some wisdom from a book I recently read. The book is called I, Isaac, Take Thee, Rebekah and it’s by an incredibly smart man, Ravi Zacharias. This book focuses on how to have a lasting, God-centered marriage. This book is just chock full of godly wisdom that is appropriate for someone who’s dating, engaged, or married, so, basically, anyone past puberty. There were so many good things that you should read for yourself, but I did want to share some thought-provoking quotes.
Since he’s going to be talking about the male/female relationship in depth, Mr. Zacharias begins by talking about the differences between men and women. He says, “The man and the woman have a created distinction with an implicit codependence.” In the next paragraph he expounds it this way: ” The differences between men and women are not perfunctory; they are essential. The complementariness is not bestowed by society; it is God-given. The purpose is not just love; it is procreation. It is not merely a provision; it is a pattern. Woman is not a fellow man; she is a unique entity, part of man but separate from him. The difference matters and is sacred in purpose.”
In discussing the home he says: “In human terms, romance, marriage, sexual consummation, and commitment became the very fabric of society. There is a primacy of relationship that is ascribed the ultimate commitment in human terms. The exclusive nature of the commitment between the man and the woman is made in a most profound pronouncement by God Himself: ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24). God designed marriage for union and communion. Adam and Eve had no mother or father to leave, but they were now to become father and mother and transfer the trust so that as God had made them separate yet one, marriage would continue from generation to generation. This was the first home.”
Unfortunately, people don’t feel this way anymore. Throughout the book, Mr. Zacharias uses the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah to illustrate many of his points. Some people may be confused about that since it was an arranged marriage, and this is what he says:
“If our homes fail, history collapses.
Five thousand years ago, Abraham saw the need to preserve his children and their descendants. Concerned about the generation to come and claiming the promise of God, he called upon his trusted servant and said, ‘I want you to help me in this. Would you follow these instructions and find the woman whom my son Isaac, this chosen seed, should marry?’ (see Genesis 24:3).
Those of us living in the West will have difficulty understanding some of these concepts, but I will try to delineate how they hold true as a moral basis, whether East or West. We make a mistake in thinking that something is right or wrong because our culture deems it such. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, culture may approve or disapprove, but if there is no over-arching umbrella of truth beyond culture, our times may wreak havoc in the name of culture. Slavery is a classic example of this. People did not flinch at the barbarous practice that was tolerated for so long, the ramifications of which are with us to this day. The abuse of marriage is no less a crime against humanity.
In Abraham’s time, there was a very real assumption in the mix of religion and societal interaction that the parents played a pivotal role in making the decision about whom their child would marry. Over time, this practice has been abused and the child often becomes the victim. But in the ideal sense, parental counsel was intended to be a voice of love and wisdom that could keep a young life from being swept away by the insincere guile of a suitor.”
He also discusses another subject that can be controversial: parental blessing. He says, “Young people, be immensely careful when you pledge your life to somebody if your parents are not in sympathy with your decision — particularly if your parents love God.” He cautions both parents and children further about this. “While not a guarantee, parental counsel and blessing is nevertheless the way of wisdom and must be seriously considered. While ideals are beacons that guide us, they do not always present themselves in ideal fashion. Parents must be certain that they are not trying to relive their lives through their children, and children must be certain that they are not dishonoring their parents with a dishonest self-justification.” He finishes this particular topic with the following saying: “One must be profoundly responsible when categorically presenting an absolute, so let me put it this way. The chances are that if you marry somebody in violation of your parents’ will, you are playing a high-stakes game as you enter the future. Any time you violate an authority that has been put in place by God, you need to be twice as sure that you are doing the right thing. That’s as carefully as I can state it.”
One of the later chapters is entitled “The Will to Do” and talks about the fact that love is not just an emotion, but a decision to care for this other person. Mr. Zacharias says, “Chivalry in love has nothing to do with the sweetness of the appearance. It has everything to do with the tenderness of a heart determined to serve.” He goes on and says, “But this kind of commitment does not come easily. Only if it is taken seriously does it become a sheer delight of the heart. I will also add that this kind of commitment is not seen much in the times in which we live. The reason we have a crisis in our gender relationships is not that we are culturally indoctrinated but that we would rather be served than serve.” This is easier said than done. Mr. Zacharias points that out in the following statement, “Jesus said that greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friend. But it is probably more difficult to live a life of continual dying to oneself than to die in one moment.” Again when talking about the will of love, he says: “Love is a command, not just a feeling. Somehow, in the romantic world of music and theater we have made love to be what it is not. We have so mixed it with beauty and charm and sensuality and contact that we have robbed it of its higher call of cherishing and nurturing.” He finishes this chapter with a great picture of what goes into making a marriage work: “When two lives meet, they are like two distinct walls. Each has to start by dismantling his or her wall one brick at a time, and then those bricks are taken intact and with other materials used to build a structure with a roof that brings them together at the top. That is the new home. Two wills are as two walls. Rightly dismantled and rebuilt they provide the strength for a new union of two lives.”
In any recent book about marriage, the author will need to discuss the sad trend of homosexuality. This is what Mr. Zacharias has to say. (It’s so smart, and I’ve never heard it said this way before.) “On one occasion a press reporter challenged me by charging that Christians hold to a double standard when they say they are against racism but at the same time are prejudiced against homosexuality. ‘Is that not somewhat duplicitous?’ she chided. I knew she was genuine in her concern, so I said, ‘Race is a very sacred thing. It is the gift of God to each individual. It is something in which we had no choice or say. We were born with our ethnicity; it is not a culturally assigned quality. Therefore, it should never be violated. In the same way, sex is a gift of God, to be treated with sanctity. We protect sexuality from being violated. It is you who have to explain to me why you treat race as sacred and at the same time desacralize sexuality. That is where the duplicity really lies.’ ” He furthers this thought and dispels any who would call him a chauvinist by saying the following.
“We have already discussed the first glimpses of Adam’s life and made note that God made woman in such a way that she would meet a need for intimacy that was uniquely her privilege and disposition toward man and vice versa. He did not make them identically. If God had merely wanted companionship for Adam, He Himself could have provided it. If He had wanted fraternity, He could have made another man. Instead, He fashioned a woman — equality with a difference and a distinction, psychologically and biologically. These distinctions were undergirded spiritually. This is a point often missed by the average person who argues with tension on the matters of gender.
Think for a moment. Are all races equal? Yes. But are there differences? Absolutely. Do those differences make it one’s right to dominate the others? No.
Is every member of a family equal in essential value? Yes. Does that mean they are all equal in capacity? No. Does that give one member a right to subordinate the other in terms of worth? No.”
There are so many other wonderful things that connect and expound all these thoughts that I shared, so I highly suggest that you find a copy of this book and read it as soon as you can. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been married for 5 years or 50, this book has so much in it that will benefit everyone.
I hope you have a great weekend, and I’ll talk to you again soon.