What would you do for … ? (Prayer Devotional for the week of July 27, 2014)

Do you remember the jingle from the Klondike® commercials, “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” with people doing silly antics to earn one? What if the stakes were higher than just a square chunk of chocolate-coated ice cream?

What would you do for $100? $1,000? $1,000,000? Would you eat bugs? Would you violate your moral convictions? Would you put your life at risk?

In this age of reality TV, it’s obvious that many people will do just about anything for attention: live in the wilderness for months, subject themselves to public scrutiny and berating, face grueling physical challenges, even marry a virtual stranger. What if the stakes were higher than just a few minutes of television fame or a prize jackpot?

What if the stakes were eternity?

The Amplified Bible translates Psalm 125:3 as: “For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest upon the land of the [uncompromisingly] righteous, lest the righteous (God’s people) stretch forth their hands to iniquity and apostasy.” Uncompromisingly righteous … that seems to mean that people who otherwise live righteously still make unrighteous choices sometimes. We compromise. We give into lesser stakes—but for what? For fame? For glory? For something that feels like love? For a sense of self-worth? For spite?

The Psalm goes on to say, in verse 5, that our “crooked ways” boil down to our indifference toward God. When we compromise, we say to the Lord that we don’t care what he thinks. The Bible is clear that God does not want anyone to perish (John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9), but when we turn our backs on him, sometimes he lets us keep walking. Psalm 125 ends with a sobering image of God’s people walking off with evildoers. Is any amount of worldly gain worth separation from God?

Originally posted July 31, 2011

Semi-from-scratch supper

Our local grocery store has an awesome bulk aisle where I buy spices and seasonings. I can get a little zip-bag of cinnamon for less than a buck, whereas the shaker bottle would cost a few dollars. I saw the other day that they had lemon pepper seasoning, so I got a baggie full and decided to give it a try with some frozen tilapia. I didn’t set out to make a gourmet meal, but I had a basket of citrus fruits that I bought from one of my students who was doing a fundraiser for Ag, and they needed to be used soon. So, tossed the fillets in the lemon pepper seasoning, then I cut up a lemon and squeezed the juice over the fish and topped the fillets with some lemon slices. I baked six fillets at 400 for about 20 min total (flipped halfway through and squeezed some more lemon on them).

2013-12-22 17.41.22The citrus basket also included avocados, and I’ve had a hankering for guacamole for a while. So, I looked up a few recipes and then modified with what I had on hand and what I like (for example: not a lot of cilantro, if any). I didn’t really measure as I went along, but here’s a rough estimate of what I used:

  • 1/3 white onion
  • 2 large avocados
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice

Run the onions in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Add all the other ingredients & blend until mostly creamy. Serve with celery sticks, tortilla chips, or just lick the bowl (remove the food processor blade first!).

Most recipes called for cilantro, but I didn’t have any and don’t really care for it (like I said). Some recipes also called for tomatoes, which I didn’t have on hand, either. Regardless, the boys gave the guacamole 100 out of 10 stars. I’ll say it was a winner! Even my 14yo anti-veggie critic liked it, so that’s praise if I’ve ever heard it. 🙂

2013-12-22 17.56.04Lastly, I had a small jar of pesto that I found on sale and thought it would be yummy with pasta. I tossed it with some fettuccine and a drizzle of olive oil. It was pretty good, but I needed more pesto for the quantity of pasta that I made, so the flavor was sparse.

All in all, it was a pretty delicious thrown-together supper for a Saturday when I actually had a bit of time to experiment in the kitchen.

2,000th post!

I feel like I should say something profound for this milestone post, but I’m plum out of brilliant insights, so I think I’ll just tell you what we had for dinner, because it was pretty awesome. 🙂

Shoestring parsnips

Shoestring parsnips

I came across a recipe for parsnips recently on a food blog that I enjoy reading, and it sounded too yummy not to try. I’ve never had parsnips before. They are a root vegetable and look like albino carrots. I noticed as I peeled them that they have a citrusy scent, almost like lemongrass. The boys were amazed and couldn’t wait to try them.

Christi Silbaugh’s recipe for Shoestring Garlic Parsnip Fries reminded me of the “SmashFries” that the boys and I love so much, so I tweaked it a bit and prepared the parsnips in a skillet with minced garlic, Italian seasoning and a dash of salt & pepper.

The boys devoured every last one of them and begged me to buy parsnips again soon. I saved the cut-off tops from each root to soak in water, in the hopes that perhaps we can grow our own. In the meantime, I’ll try to splurge and get them again at the grocery store sometime relatively soon. They are more expensive than carrots; I think they were about $2.50 a bag, if I recall correctly. But, they sound like a great alternative to potatoes.

Lima & garbanzo bean soup

Lima & garbanzo bean soup

For the main dish, I just fixed some bean soup, but it was a huge hit. Honestly, I was just trying to throw something together without have to go back to the grocery store on Thanksgiving week (no such luck, though, since I realized later that I still need a few things for my turkey brine).

Anyway, I had a bag of lima beans and a half-bag of garbanzo beans that I soaked overnight and put in the Crock-Pot this morning with a frozen turkey neck bone and a packet of onion soup mix.

When I got home from work, I removed the bone and added some poultry seasoning, onion powder, salt and pepper and a squirt of Sriracha sauce. It had a little bit of spice without too much heat. A couple of the kids even asked for seconds. Not bad for a thrown-together dinner! 🙂

Preparing a Thanksgiving dissertation

Writing a dissertation feels a lot like preparing Thanksgiving dinner. You can’t do much of anything until the turkey thaws out, and at the risk of insulting anyone by comparing them to frozen poultry, that step reminds me of selecting committee members. It doesn’t make much sense to start the green bean casserole or sweet potatoes at the same time as the turkey, but those are still important elements that can’t be overlooked later on. It helps to jot down a menu or shopping list, just like it helps to record brainstorming ideas and potential source materials for future reference.

While the turkey is smoking (or in the oven, if you prefer), you need to tend to it now and then, even while you are working on other dishes. That’s the step that I feel like I’m at, right now. Over the weekend, I received feedback on Ch. 1 from my committee chair AND feedback on Ch. 2 from my advisor. I’m also working on my first draft of Ch. 3. What all this means is that I need to send revisions on Ch. 1 back to my chair for her approval before sending it to the rest of my committee, as well as send my initial edits on Ch. 2 to her for review. When I’m at a stopping point on Ch. 3, I will send it to my advisor for the first green light (and second-draft revision suggestions) before sending it to my chair for further review. My chair will send feedback on Ch. 2 probably around the time that my advisor responds to Ch. 3.

It very much feels like I have food in the smoker, oven, stovetop and microwave, all at the same time. Here’s hoping that nothing burns or boils over! 🙂

“It smells like Thanksgiving!”

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Honey & vegetable broth brine

I fired up the smoker today and cooked a turkey and two chickens. I brined the turkey overnight using a modified Alton Brown recipe. Kosher salt is very expensive, though, and I used coarse ice cream salt in a previous brining experiment (which worked just fine), so I stuck with my cheap alternative.

Also, without a gas grill, I don’t really have a way to maintain a set temperature. I do love the smell of a wood-burning grill, though! My smoker is just somewhat hit-or-miss with target temperature, since I’m still learning how to balance the charcoal and wood amounts over time.

I rely on visual cues (clear juices, browning skin and no pink interior) and a meat thermometer, for the most part. I could have left this one in a bit longer to brown the skin some more, but the temp was perfect, and the meat was so juicy & tender that I didn’t want to risk it drying out.

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Tender & juicy!

After I brought the bird into the kitchen to de-bone it (my least favorite part of cooking any poultry), one of the boys walked in and said, “Oh, wow! It smells like Thanksgiving!” Then, he tried a bite and declared it “awesome.” 🙂  I’ll take that compliment!

Becoming All Things (Prayer Devotional for the week of June 30, 2013)

The huge round table seated a dozen people and reminded me of King Arthur tales, except the décor in the room was predominantly red and distinctly Chinese. A Lazy Susan, slightly smaller than the table, was filled with dishes of exotic and largely unrecognizable food. The host slowly spun the disc to each guest and invited them to serve themselves from the array of dishes.

As plates whizzed by, something crispy caught my eye. I leaned over to a colleague and whispered, “Is that what I think it is?” He nodded and grinned as the tray of fried scorpions went around. I whispered again, “I don’t want to eat it.” He smirked and whispered back, “Neither do I, but you know we have to.”

Visiting a foreign country involves acclimating to certain cultural norms, not the least of which is food. In the case of the scorpions (and on another occasion, dog meat … but that’s a story for a different day), to have refused the dish would have been highly offensive to the host.

The apostle Paul surprised some folks at the early church in Corinth by his willingness to do whatever it took to get the message of the gospel across to non-believers. In 1 Corinthians 9, he explained, “I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!” (MSG)

Other translations say that Paul “became all things to all people” for the sake of the gospel. That means getting on their level and doing life like they do, even if it’s uncomfortable or awkward. We need to be willing to step out of our comfort zones and relate to people where they are at. (And I’m not just talking about foreign missions; this pertains to our local community, as well!) When we do that, then we begin to break down stereotypes from both directions: our worldview changes as we build relationships with people outside of our bubble, and the world’s perception of us/Christians improves as we turn hypocrisy on its ear.

The hypothetical Lazy Susan is heading your way … what are you willing to do for the sake of the gospel?

P.S. The best way (in my humble opinion) to eat fried scorpions is to chew twice (so you don’t choke) and gulp it down mostly whole, then chase it with several bites of something else crunchy.  🙂

Dulce y caliente salsa verde recipe

Last week, my 12yo offered to help me make a batch of salsa verde for a fundraiser contest. It was a fundraiser for scholarships, and I signed up to participate long before I realized that it would fall on the same week that I would be trying to finish a research paper (not to mention shortly after the attack at the Boston Marathon, the explosion in West, Texas and a shooting in a neighboring town that was too close to home, among myriad other stress-factors this week, which is why I’m just now getting around to posting the recipe).

salsa verde

We saved & dried several poblano and tomatillo seeds for our garden.

We came up with a recipe that is a little sweet at first and then finishes with a slow burn. I would gauge it about a “Medium” on the salsa heat-index. 🙂 What a wonderful surprise to find out that our salsa raised ~$170 for scholarships and won the contest!!

I promised folks that I would share the recipe after I finished my paper … Hallelujah, I turned it in this morning! Woohoo! My semester is officially finished, which means that I have only ONE more “real” class to take this summer before beginning my dissertation in earnest this coming fall. I’m so excited that I can hardly think straight … or perhaps that’s the exhaustion. Whatever.

Without further ado, here’s the experimental recipe that my sous chef and I concocted:


  • 10-12 tomatillos: stems removed & cut into quarters (we also scraped off some seeds to save & plant); peel off the papery shell but leave the skin
  • 1 poblano pepper: stems removed, seeded & quartered lengthwise
  • 1 sweet onion (will give a distinctive sweet taste … if you prefer an uber-hot salsa, you could sub regular yellow or white onion and experiment)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 pinches of cilantro (I’m not a big fan of cilantro, so we didn’t use a whole lot, maybe 1/4 of the bunch)
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • Sriracha sauce (or Cholula sauce would also be quite yummy, but we happened to have Sriracha on hand)
  • 1 lime (or juice equivalent to 1/4 of a lime)

Blanch the tomatillos until they feel a bit soft when poked with a fork, but while the water is heating up, you can take care of the onions and poblano. Cut the onion into slivers and saute in olive oil until it starts to caramelize. In the meantime, put the poblano on a baking sheet and broil at 450 for about 3-4 min, until the skin starts to blacken — keep an eye on it, so it doesn’t burn.

Drain the tomatillos. Put the cilantro, tomatillos, poblano & onion in a blender with vinegar. Blend (we used the “mince” and “grind” settings) until well mixed. Squeeze juice from 1/4 of a lime (watch for seeds) & pulse to blend. Add 3-4 squirts of Sriracha sauce (to taste) &  pulse to blend.

Our batch made about 1 qt. Depending on the size of your tomatillos and onion, you may end up with a little more or less.

Enjoy! 🙂