Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Emma gets baptized!

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Emma and High School Pastor Austin Duncan


I love this girl. Emma is a real gem and a gift of God. She has such a tender heart towards the Lord and her life inspires me to love Him more. Recently, it was an intense joy to see her get baptized at church. It was such a wonderful evening, ranking up there in the top days of my life. I would much rather witness my child proclaim their faith in Christ at baptism than to see them graduate summa cum laude from Yale. There is truly no greater blessing than to know that your children walk in the faith. What a privilege it was to witness the third and last of our children in the waters of baptism. To see more pictures and to read her testimony, go to

http://emmaleighphotography.blogspot.com/2010/04/unforgeteable-night.html

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

WDW - Whole-Grain Pancakes

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Rick Holland was speaking at Oaks Christian School's chapel yesterday morning, and we had a small crowd going along. Since I had to feed said crowd before we left, I decided to whip up some pancakes. I got a new cookbook for my birthday (more on that later), and saw a new recipe I wanted to try. I absolutely love whole-grain pancakes (not to be confused with whole-wheat pancakes, which are rather dry and heavy)but I never wanted to go gather all the many ingredients necessary to make them at home. When I saw this recipe used Muesli, which I had a leftover box of in my cupboard, I thought I'd give it a try. Below is one of the happy recipients of this recipe:

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Looking great, Deb.

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So, you may be wondering what Muesli is - it's basically a Swiss import - a mix of uncooked oats, grain flakes (often rye and wheat), dried fruit and nuts. I bought a box of it after trying it at a restaurant in Laguna Beach. The way the restaurant prepared it was very interesting and delicious. I found out that the Muesli was soaked overnight in plain yogurt, then served cold with fresh blueberries on top. I was anxious to try to duplicate the experience at home. I made it, took one bite, was repulsed, and threw it in the trash. Now I had a half-full box of Muesli and no idea what to do with it. Then I saw this pancake recipe. The idea of using Muesli in place of all the different grains you would need sounded ingenious. I tried it and it was absolutely delicious. Everyone gave this recipe rave reviews! I can't wait to make it again - very soon!

Multi Grain Pancakes
serves 4-6

2 cups milk
4 tsp. lemon juice
1 ¼ cups + 3 Tbsp. unsweetened Muesli (preferably Familia brand)
¾ cup all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 ¼ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
¾ tsp. vanilla

Whisk the milk and lemon juice together in a 4-cup measure. Set aside to thicken while preparing the other ingredients.

Process 1 ¼ cups of the Muesli in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a large bowl. Add remaining 3 Tbsp. unground Muesli, the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine.

Whisk the eggs, melted butter, and vanilla into the milk mixture.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients in the bowl. Pour in the milk mixture and whisk gently until just combined. Do not overmix. Allow the batter to sit while the pan heats.

Pour batter in ¼ cup increments onto hot greased griddle. Cook until small bubbles appear over surface, 2-3 minutes. Flip the pancakes and cook until golden brown, 1- 2 ½ minutes longer. Serve immediately.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

WDW - Berry Fun!

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I think berries are way delicious, so I decided to feature them on my WDW today.

One of my favorite ways to get berries is by picking up Costco's frozen Rader Farms 3-berry blend. It includes raspberries, blueberries, and marionberries (blackberries). Berries can be expensive when purchased fresh, but are so very healthy that we should eat them. Frozen is a great way to consume berries at a fraction of the cost. My Costco sells a 4 lb. bag of these for about $9.50. What a deal. Of course, frozen berries are not for all uses, as they don't thaw to the likeness of fresh, but I find frozen berries to be quite useful in many other applications. I wish these were organic, but at least this blend doesn't contain strawberries, one of the 'dirty dozen' foods we should buy strictly organic.

Frozen berries are not only convenient and last for months in your freezer, but they are every bit as nutritious as fresh. Berries contain vitamins (like A, C, E, & K), minerals (like calcium and iron) a host of antioxidants, and a good dose of fiber. In fact, one cup of berries supplies nearly 1/3 of your daily fiber requirement and 50% of your daily vitamin C requirement. As you probably know, the body uses vitamin C for protection from immune system deficiencies, and vitamin C may lower the risk of developing heart disease, certain types of cancer, and macular degeneration. Vitamin C aids wound healing, and studies show vitamin C may actually lessen the appearance of wrinkles. Bring it on!

And if you want to get even more technical, berries contain ellagic acid, an antioxidant which the American Cancer Society claims can protect your skin from ultraviolet damage and actually repair skin damaged from sun (think: the days of slathering our skin with baby oil and sitting out to fry).

So, considering all this, plus the fact that berries are low in calories, low in sugar, and bursting with flavor, have I convinced you to eat berries yet? Here are some of the (delicious) ways I like to get berries into my diet, using frozen berries.

Easy Berry Sauce - I make this berry sauce quite often to serve with pancakes, waffles, crepes, and muffins, or just to keep in the fridge for various uses. Simply simmer berries until they give up some of their moisture and are warmed. Add a little sugar (I use about 1 Tbsp. per cup, it's to taste) and a little cornstarch (about 1 tsp. per cup) and raise the heat a little to thicken. If you mash this up and cool it, you can use it as a low-sugar jam. Cooled, it also makes a great topping for yogurt or cottage cheese. A great breakfast or snack is a yogurt parfait: in a pretty glass cup, layer plain or vanilla yogurt, the berry sauce (or just plain thawed and drained berries), and granola - mmm. This sauce is so yummy, I can practically eat it with a spoon (and I do - ask my family how I like to "finish off the bowl" when we have this).

Oatmeal Topping - I like to put 1 cup thawed and warmed berries on top of my morning oatmeal. I generously sprinkle cinnamon and about 1 tbsp. brown sugar on first, then top with the berries and their juice. It is like eating dessert for breakfast!

Berry Crisp - This is a great recipe that I use year round, a total crowd pleaser, and it can be whipped up at a moment's notice if you have a bag of berries in the freezer. The recipe is below.

Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins - I promise you, this is the best ever recipe for blueberry muffins. I have tried dozens of blueberry muffin recipes and this one is the moistest, most flavorful one I've found. Even though it calls for blueberries, I use the 3-berry blend (you need to cut the marionberries in half). Be sure to keep the berries frozen until ready to put in the batter. I also toss the berries in a little flour to keep them from bleeding into the batter. Another bonus about this recipe is that you can make the batter the night before (without the berries, unless you are using fresh) and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, gently stir in the berries, scoop batter into muffin cups, and bake. From one of my favorite cooks, Ina Garten, the recipe is below.

Smoothies - Frozen berries are perfect for smoothies. The fruit and ice is already mixed into one! When the weather warms up, this is what I feel like for breakfast, lunch or an afternoon snack. Blend 1 1/2 cups frozen berries, 1 frozen banana (I freeze them in the peel and store in Ziploc bags), 1/2 cup of plain or vanilla yogurt and 1 cup of milk for a tasty treat.


Berry Crisp

Filling:
10 cups frozen berries (any kind)
6 Tbsp. flour
¾ cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon

Topping:
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups oats
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup melted butter


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all filling ingredients and pour into a 9 x 13 baking pan.

Combine all topping ingredients and sprinkle evenly over fruit.

Bake for 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Serve with good quality vanilla ice cream.

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Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins
Ina Garten

16 muffins

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 ounces (about 1 cup) sour cream
1/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 half-pints fresh blueberries, picked through for stems (about 2 cups)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place 16 paper liners in muffin pans.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, sour cream, and milk.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed add the flour mixture to the batter and beat until just mixed. Fold in the blueberries with a spatula and be sure the batter is completely mixed.

Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pans, filling each cup just over the top, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the muffins are lightly browned on top and a cake tester comes out clean.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

I love you, Mom.

Dear Mom,

Today its your 30th birthday!! (wink, wink :-) I hope you don't mind I hacked into your blog, but I just want to publicly thank you for being such an amazing and incredible mom. To sum you up in one word, I'd say you are DEVOTED. To me, Dad, Drew, church, your friends & family...even your kitties. There's never been a day that's gone by that you've not made dinner, cleaned, or ironed, where you just didn't want to. No, since as long as I remember, you've done it all every single day, and with a smile. I'll never forget what you told me the other day. I was in a hurry and needed clothes ironed and asked you to do it. I was thanking you and apologizing all in one because it was so last minute but how I appreciated you doing it for me. And you just stood there, doing it calmly and with a smile, and you said, "Honey, I live to do things for my family." Wow, what a woman.

Thank you for raising me in a way that I would see the love & mercy of God. You are a great example of someone striving to love their Savior more, and it shows. Mom, I know a lot of people that would love to have such a godly woman for their mom, and I have you...I don't ever want to take that for granted.

What a privilege and blessing it is to be your daughter, and to look at you for an example of what a godly wife and mom looks like. I love you with all my heart, and you are the perfect mommy just for me. If I can someday cook 1/8th as good as you, my life with be complete :-)

Love,
Emma

ps. Did you notice this posted at 4:28AM? :-)

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

WDW - Homemade Hummus

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If you love hummus, you need to try homemade hummus. It is one of those things that is just far superior to store-bought. It is so easy and so inexpensive to make, you will wonder why you never made it before. Hummus is great to have on hand as a healthy dip for vegetables and pita chips. You can make your own pita chips by cutting pita bread into wedges, drizzling with olive oil, salt and herbs, and baking in a 400 degree oven 7-10 minutes.

Hummus is traditionally made from garbanzo beans, but I like to make mine with white beans, like cannelini. White beans give it a more delicate flavor. I got this recipe from Emeril Lagasse many years ago, and it's the best I've come across. I use a two-step process to make it: first, I use my mini food processor to chop everything as finely as I can, then I move the mixture to the blender for perfect smoothness. If you desire, you can also add some roasted bell peppers or fresh herbs to the blender. I'm a purist though- I like my hummus perfectly plain.

All the ingredients are ordinary, except there is one ingredient that you may not have on hand: tahini. Tahini is basically ground up sesame seeds. It has the texture of a runny nut butter, and is really good for you. You can find it in the "ethnic" section of your market. Be sure to keep it refrigerated, as you would natural peanut butter. This is another recipe to pull out the best olive oil you have (see Monday's post). If your olive oil isn't good, you will taste the bitterness in this for sure. I personally like the full three cloves garlic (and a full three Tums after), but you may want to start with only two.

Hummus
Emeril Lagasse, modified


Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 can (15 oz) white beans, or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
Juice of one lemon
2 Tbsp. tahini
2-3 cloves garlic
¼ cup olive oil
Salt to taste

In a food processor, combine beans, lemon, tahini, and garlic. Process until smooth. Add oil, a little at a time, until well incorporated. Season with salt to taste. Transfer to blender and process until smooth.

To serve, spread hummus in a shallow serving dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika. Serve with pita chips, fresh pita bread wedges, or vegetables.


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Monday, April 5, 2010

The Best Olive Oil

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I know I always say to "use good olive oil" for various recipes I post. Many of you may be wondering what exactly that means or where exactly to find a good one. People write volumes on the components of a good olive oil, and talk about it as they would a fine wine! To boil it down for you and make it simple, a good quality olive oil should be very fruity and not bitter. You do not need to worry about the color as it has nothing to do with the flavor (color is dependent on the type of olive and what time of year harvested). You should buy olive oil in small quantities, as once the bottle is open, the oil starts to deteriorate.

I alway buy Extra Virgin olive oil (or EVOO, thank you Rachael Ray). EVOO is the first press of the olives (or cold press- same thing) and yields the most natural and flavorful taste. Plain "Virgin" olive oil is the second press, and "Light" or "Extra Light" olive oil is often made by mechanical extraction with what is left after the first two presses, with a little EVOO often added in for flavor. I actually like to use Extra Light olive oil for baking, as it has a milder flavor but is more nutritional than canola or other vegetable oils, which are probably rancid at the store, by the way.

OK, so I haven't had a problem finding good olive oil - it's just the price that I've found it at that I don't like (usually $30/liter or more). But, I think I've found it -a very good olive oil at a good price. I have tried a lot of olive oils, from upscale olive oil stores to the local dumpy Mediterranean store down the street. I haven't ever felt like I found something I'm completely happy with. Finally, when we ate at Macaroni Grille restaurant recently, I tasted it. I mean IT. The perfect tasting olive oil. I quickly jotted down that it was called Genesio. I figured if Macaroni Grille gave it to us at the table to pour liberally, it must be reasonable in price. At first, I tried tracking it down at Italian markets, but to no avail. I then resorted to checking online and sure enough I found it. I just purchased 4 liters of it (four 1 liter bottles) for $54 (with no shipping or tax). So, it's about $13 a liter, not a lot to pay for really good quality olive oil.

You can get yourself some at www.wholesaleitalianfood.com. And, you can get an even bigger break on the price when you buy more. If you want to go in on an order with friends, and buy twelve 1 liter bottles, you can chop the price down to around $9.50 a liter. Free shipping is offered with every order over $29.99.

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Is your cup half full or half empty?

We're all familiar with the common expression "Is your cup half full or half empty?" It has been said that how you answer that question is indicative of how you view life - whether you are optimistic or pessimistic. However, upon closer investigation in light of the gospel, is this really all there is to the expression? I love what Milton Vincent writes in his wonderful book, A Gospel Primer:


"Viewing life's blessings as water in a drinking cup, I know that I could discontentedly focus on the half of the cup that seems empty, or I could gratefully focus on the half that is full. Certainly the latter approach is the better of the two, yet the gospel cultivates within me a richer gratitude than this. The gospel reminds me first that what I actually deserve from God is a full cup churning with the torments of His wrath (Rev. 14:10). This is the cup that would be mine to drink if I were given what I deserved each day. With this understanding in mind, I see that to be handed a completely empty cup from God would be cause enough for infinite gratitude. If there were merely the tiniest drop of blessing contained in that otherwise empty cup, I should be blown away by the unbelieveable kindness of God toward me. That God, in fact, has given me a cup (Psalm 116:12) that is full of 'every spiritual blessing in Christ' (Ephesians 1:3) and this without the slightest admixture of wrath, leaves me truly dumbfounded with inexpressible joy. As for my specific earthly circumstances of plenty or want, I can see them always as infinite improvements on the hell I deserve.


When I look at any circumstance that God apportions to me, I am first grateful for the wrath I am not receiving in that moment (the empty part of the cup never looked so good!). Second, I am grateful for the blessings that are given to me instead of His wrath. (Life's blessings, however small, always appear exceedingly precious when viewed against the backdrop of the wrath I deserve.) This two-layered gratitude disposes my heart to give thanks in all things (1 Thess. 5:18) and it also lends a certain intensity to my giving of thanks. Such a gospel-generated gratitude glorifies God, contributes to peace of mind (Phil. 4:6), and keeps my foot from the path of foolishness and ruin (Romans 1:21-22). "

I trust as Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday (as our church likes to call Easter) are upon us, the thought of God's wrath placed on His son Jesus Christ rather than you, would provoke a great cause for rejoicing in your own heart. Have a blessed celebration!

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