TO WHET YOUR APPETITE

My friend and cookbook author, Kathy Hester (The Great Vegan Bean Book, The Easy Vegan Cookbook. among others) is currently working on a Halloween e-book. I have the pleasure of being a tester for the e-book and, no matter whether you are omnivore, vegetarian, or vegan, you are going to love her collection of recipes.

A few goodies to whet your appetite (more will be coming!)

Ghoulishly Green Potato Soup with Pumpernickel Croutons

Ghoulishly Green Potato Soup with Pumpernickel Croutons

The Ghoulishly Green Potato Soup called for Pumpernickel croutons. I only had Silver Hills Bakery’s Flax Seed Bread on hand, so that’s what I used. I also had no ghoulish cookie cutters so I made basic squares. Verdict? Delicious! And so simple to make.

Black of Night Black Bean Soup with Flame Tortilla garnish

Black of Night Black Bean Soup with Flame Tortilla garnish

I had to do another bit of improvising with the Black of Night Black Bean Soup…I didn’t have a red tortilla. I did have organic blue corn chips…so I have a blue flame. 🙂

Pecan Pumpkin Spice No Ice Cream Needed Shake

Pecan Pumpkin Spice No Ice Cream Needed Shake

Love pumpkin? How about dessert? The Pecan Pumpkin Spice No Ice Cream Needed Shake is amazing! It’s planned for 4 servings…I drank half of it and put the remainder in the fridge for breakfast. It was still rich and creamy. By the way, there is a nut-free option!

So…start saving your pennies or add some to your Paypal account. This ebook is going to be great for any party, not just Halloween!

Be sure to check out Kathy’s web page here: http://healthyslowcooking.com/

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WE ARE ALL BROKEN PEOPLE, PART 3

Last Friday I discussed Shalom, that wholeness and balance that we all want pervading our lives. But how can we have Shalom when we live in such a polarized world? It seems that there are two sides pulling on a giant rope in a game of Tug of War. Each side wants to win…no one does.

GOD’s design is wholistic. He wants to restore each of us in all dimensions of life: economic, social, physical, psychological and emotional, political, and spiritual. The problem is we are so busy pointing out the problems with others (whether its a political system or a spiritual fault) that we neglect one thing. IT’S NOT OUR JOB!

Our job is to be peacemakers and restorers. Our job is to draw people to the ONE who can right the wrongs, correct the faults and sins, and bring complete wholeness. Our job is to light the way to the LIGHT SOURCE. And we do that not by finding fault or building walls around ourselves; we do it by building relationships with other people, in spite of who they are, what they’ve done, where they’ve been, what they believe, or who they vote for.

This quote from the author, Madeleine L’Engle, sums it up so well….

We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe,

by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are,

but by showing them a light that is so lovely 

that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.

Let your Lights shine!

WE ARE ALL BROKEN PEOPLE…PART 2

Sorry for the delay in posting today. It’s been a crazy week…but here I am…Finally!

On Tuesday I wrote about GOD’s desire to restore His creation to its rightful state. Jesus was the instrument for bringing that about. Jesus was all about restoration. He also had a lot to say about peace…shalom..

The Hebrew word shalom is about more than peace, the word we use in English. Shalom is about wholeness, unity, harmony, completeness, and soundness. Each time it is spoken it announces to the world “this is how it should be but is not yet.” Shalom is about reconciliation between/among people and reconciliation between GOD and humanity.

In the Beatitudes, as Jesus talked with the crowd, He said “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” according to most Bible translations. The deeper meaning, though, is “Blessed are the shalom-makers.” In other words, those who seek to create wholeness, unity, harmony, completeness, and soundness in their relationships and in the world around them are blessed and will also find wholeness, unity, harmony, completeness, and soundness in their relationship with GOD.

I lost my shalom this past week. I had a problem with a tooth and tried several times to reach the dentist’s office during office hours. I kept getting a recording to call back during office hours…duh… I became more and more agitated and finally drove to the dentist’s office and managed to crash a staff meeting they were having. It was not a pretty sight; let’s just say, they saw me right away, listened to and changed their message, treated me gently, and bent over backwards to help me. (Maybe it was all of my tears?) The real hero in this was the technician who calmly took me to the dental chair, spoke gently, took x-rays, and as I was leaving, gave me a hug. She showed shalom; I had none…until she gave me hers.

In the midst of all of the above scenario, I had no shalom with GOD, either. I was angry, unhappy, and a melting mess. Yet, when I received shalom from another person, I also regained my shalom with GOD.

I believe GOD gave me a living parable this week to communicate His message. I can give shalom or I can withhold it. When I give it, it sets things right between people. When I withhold it, I suffer for it and so do those around me.

How’s your SHALOM? 

(Part 3 next Tuesday!)

RAW APRICOT COCONUT CHOCOLATE BARS

Every once in a while (Ha! More like every day!) I get a hankering for something sweet. I do try to stick with whole foods and avoid processed sugars. The following recipe came about to meet both needs.

I had some dried apricots that needed to be used so I soaked them a good 6 hours until they were soft, yet still dense. (Before you ask, YES, I did taste one or two during the day until they were to my liking). For a couple of years, I have wondered how apricots would work out in a raw bar. The answer is “GREAT!”

Raw Apricot Coconut Chocolate Bars Copyright 2015 by Shirley Utz

Raw Apricot Coconut Chocolate Bars
Copyright 2015 by Shirley Utz

This is simple and quick to prepare. I call them Raw Apricot Coconut Chocolate Bars. Yum.

Ingredients:

17 soaked, dried apricots (told you I consumed some; mine were unsulfered Turkish apricots from Trader Joe’s)

8 pitted Medjool dates

1/2 cup raw almond slivers (I found mine at Trader Joe’s)

1/2 cup unsweetened, dried coconut flakes

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa (you can also use cacao powder)

Directions:

Drain the apricots as best you can and add to the bowl of a food processor (use the S blade attachment).

Add the dates and pulse until the mixture starts to come together. Then add the remaining ingredients. Pulse until nuts and coconut are chopped up. This only takes 4 or 5 pulses.

Now…you can form this mixture into balls and roll in chopped almonds or coconut … or line an 8×8″ pan with wax paper or parchment paper. Put the mixture in and spread out until smooth with a spatula. (Be sure to taste it as you go…ha ha.) Use the spatula to cut the “batter” into squares (I eyeballed this so they were not exact squares). Either way you do it, refrigerate for a couple of hours to firm the bars up.

Try not to eat all of them at one sitting!

 

If you try this, please let me know what you think!

 

TIME TO STOCK UP!

Local schools begin classes on Monday, August 24, this year. Several of the local private schools began classes this week. Amazing how quickly the summer has gone for the kids…and how easy the past the couple of months have been, driving by the schools at opening and dismissal.

Although school is starting now, the school supply displays went up right around July 4. Walk in any drugstore, big box store, office supply store, or even grocery store, and there was the display. I would walk slowly by wondering what treasures lurked in those bins. You see, I have a problem. I am addicted to school supplies.

I really don’t need more pens, pencils, paper (except maybe printer paper), notebooks, file folders, etc., but something in me calls out for them. Or maybe, just maybe, they know my name and they are calling me?

It’s been ages since I finished high school and then college. A few years later I had a child and I had to buy her supplies for school. She’s now all grown up with children herself. But school supplies get into the blood and every time the displays (and did I mention, the sales?) appear, it takes quite a bit of will power to just keep walking. Some days I make it … some days I don’t.

On the days I don’t make it, I look at pens and mechanical pencils first. Oooo…there’s a new color or a new style! Then, it’s paper and folders and binders, and I begin wondering to what purpose I could put some of those. Of course, I can’t bypass the crayons and the colored pencils. (There are coloring books specifically for adults after all.) Yes, I buy a few things. It’s in the blood, right?

In fact, you’ll have to excuse me… I need to run to the drugstore for some new pens and pencils…

What about you? Does the appearance of school supplies affect you at all?

TO LOVE OR NOT TO LOVE

“The love that you withhold

is the pain that you carry.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

How many times do we make love conditional? We withhold love because we feel angry, guilty, superior, different, unworthy, unlovable, abandoned, rejected … the list is long. If we don’t get our way or the other person doesn’t change (the conditions), we hang on tightly to our “love.” It’s all about us, individually.  When we withhold love, it is out of our own pain and has little to do with the other person.

1 Corinthians 13 is referred to as the love chapter of the Bible. In it, Paul writes:

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails… (NIV)

Try this experiment. Replace the word “love” with your name. Can you?

Most of us cannot say that we have reached that point, but can we take a step or two toward it? Can we look at our own pain and walk through it so that we can love another person? Love is never easy. People aren’t easy, either. Oh…but love is worth it. And the more we are able to give it, the more of it we will receive.

Today…think about one person from whom you have withheld love…a spouse, a child, another relative, the homeless man on the street…and ask yourself what  it is within you that has caused that withholding. Take your time. Work through it until you CAN love that person.

Your life will be all the better for it.

Today, I wish you LOVE and plenty of it.

From Selma to Montgomery to ?

Hubby and I watched (he re-watched) the movie, “Selma,” over the weekend. There was some great acting there, but even more than that, there was a great story there. It was the story of people resolving to overcome the circumstances that were holding them down. (If you haven’t seen the movie, check it out here: Selma.)

I grew up during that era. Even then I wished I could have been part of the march from Selma to Montgomery. I wished I could have locked arms with the black young people and fought their fight with them. I was still too young to leave home and all of my wishes didn’t make me brave enough to risk the beatings and the jails and the killings.

The movie resonated, though, because of memories I have of the time just before Martin Luther King, Jr., and the time of the marches and their aftermaths. Some examples:

  • First grade, somewhere in Indiana…there is one lone black girl in my class. She is snubbed by everyone, except me. I was poor working class so something about her plight touched me even then. We became friends. Schools still sold ice cream for afternoon snacks then and one of us would often buy a single Popsicle to share. We moved…I don’t remember her name or know what happened to her but I would love to tell her how much she touched my life.
  • Around 11 or 12 years old, a bus station in northwest Florida…my mom and I sit in the bus station waiting to head to my grandmother’s house a gazillion (it seemed that way to me) miles away. I went to get a drink of water and my mother yelled to me to use the other fountain. I asked, “why?” She said, “That one’s for the coloreds.” Again I asked, “Why?” “Why must someone use a different fountain or a different bathroom just because of a different colored skin.” She didn’t know…”it’s just the way it is.” I remember thinking, “then the way it is really needs to change.”
  • Junior College, at a baseball game…two little boys, maybe 2 years old, were playing together in the sand at the bottom of the front bleacher. One was white, one was black. They were having a delightful time, just playing and talking. My heart smiled…until the white boy’s mother came up, grabbed him, and said, “I told you, you don’t play with N*****s.” My heart sank.
  • College dorm…there were several black women in the dorm. The whites stayed away from them, except for me. I played cards with them and their boyfriends; we hung out in each other’s rooms. We talked about school work and life and the future. They called me their “blue-eyed soul sister.”

I currently live in Texas and travel back to northwest Florida at least once a year. There are no longer segregated bathrooms at the bus station. Black and white children and teens hang out together now. The racial climate has changed but the old biases haven’t totally died yet in that part of the country (or any part of the country, I bet). Racial tensions still run high. Ferguson, MO… Charleston, SC… Waller County, TX… And yesterday, Ferguson, MO again. Just some of the places…so many lives ruined or cut short.

Why does it have to be this way? Why does the bigotry and belief that some colors are superior to others survive? To quote my mom, “It’s just the way it is.” I don’t have answers, either, but my heart still breaks at the divide…and my soul still cries out,

“Then the way it is really needs to change.”

Will you help me?

What can we do to be the change?

A GARDEN IS FOR GROWING…

My church started a community garden project this past spring. For the Houston area it was a wee bit late to be planting, but after getting my little plot put together, I planted anyway…from seed in most cases. A couple bargain tomato and pepper plants were found so I planted those, too.

Gardens take a lot of faith, a lot of perseverance, and a lot of tender loving care. After putting seeds in the ground, one must believe that those seeds are actually going to sprout…and sometimes the waiting for those little sprouts seems like an eternity. When the sprouts poke through the soil, it’s one of those every day miracles we sometimes miss.

Perseverance and tender loving care go hand in hand when caring for a garden. We had an inordinate amount of rain in the Houston area this past spring and now we have one dry hot day following another, usually triple digits on the thermometer. As the soil began drying out a bit after the rains, it was necessary to add some compost and pull weeds (and strange fungi!), plus try to fend off the fire ants and other pests with diatomaceous earth. And then, I needed to begin making an almost daily trek to the garden to provide water. I fussed over my tomatoes and beans and okra and talked to the honey dew, watermelon, and cucumber plants. I pruned the basil. I picked what needed to be picked and waited patiently for another day to pick other vegetables and fruits. Even with all my care, the beans and the peas didn’t make it. The tomatoes and peppers have not produced significantly. I see plenty of blooms on the honey dew, cucumber, and watermelon plants but there seems to be no fruit…yet. The okra has bugs of some sort…okra doesn’t get bugs…what gives? In spite of failures, unexpected weather, and pests, I keep tending to my garden.

This may seem like a very common platitude, but it rings true: Every relationship is a garden. You have to believe that if you plant the seeds and tend them that everything will grow and bear fruit. But there are storms in relationships…and there are droughts…and sometimes the pests come and try to ruin the relationship. The relationships that survive, though, are the ones that persist in spite of all of the elements that try to destroy. Relationships require faith…faith that what doesn’t look like it’s producing is really just germinating, that today’s downpours will give way to calmer weather, that if tended with care, something good will come. Relationships require persistence (perseverance) in tending to something that doesn’t look like it will survive. Relationships require tender loving care…the soft touch. We have to keep tending to the garden…

Sometimes in today’s cultural environment, we see relationships as expendable. If the relationship doesn’t bear fruit (i.e., meet our expectations) within our predetermined time frame, it’s relegated to the compost bin. As a result, marriages are failing, families are falling apart, and the promise that could have been does not survive.

And yet…even in compost bins, seeds begin to sprout…

Treat your relationships with care. Look at them as a long term investment in the garden of life. Have faith! Persist! Tend with Love! And watch for the fruit that will come…it will…and you will be glad for it!

What’s your garden like today?

Make a Purse, Build a Life

I sew. I am not necessarily the best sewist in the world, nor am I the fastest, but I do enjoy sewing and I think I do a relatively good job. At this point in my life, though, I need to sew very little for myself. Even my daughter and granddaughters aren’t all that interested in the things I create.

What’s a gal to do? Sew for others! A friend and I started a sewing group at our church and we’ve made crib sheets for the local pregnancy center and walker caddies for nursing homes and we have a lot of ideas we’re toying with. Thing is, I enjoy making purses. I don’t need them…I just enjoy making them.

And then I found it! The perfect outlet for my creativity! The Sew Powerful Purse Project provides purses made by people from around the world to local schools and clinics in Lusaka Zambia as part of Menstruation Hygiene Management (MHM) programs. Re-usable sanitary pads and health information are added to the purses and these mean that many adolescent girls can now attend school all month long. Cash donations are also accepted. This purse project was started by the Liberty Jane Pattern Company and they take no money for their efforts…100% of cash donations, except for  the $15 monthly banking fee, are used for educational purposes like training seamstresses and buying sewing machines.

It’s a great program and I am excited to participate in it. Please check out the 2015 Sew Powerful Purse Project and download the 2015 purse pattern. If you sew make a purse…or two…or three. If you don’t sew, contribute a few dollars toward improving the lives girls and women in Zambia. And if you want to meet some like-minded people, come join this fantastic Facebook group of people all working on purses for this project, Sew Powerful Purse Project.  You can also join the Sew Powerful Facebook page: Sew Powerful Facebook Page.

Let me know you’re participating!

I’m Back

I know. I have been gone a long time. Life sometimes has a way of being filled with interruptions. It’s all good and much better than the alternative.

Words written by Franklin Graham on his Facebook page recently triggered something in me and I just needed to write. I wrote my thoughts in a public post on my Facebook page but want to share them here also. Before I copy in my post, let me preface it with this quote:

The best way to compel weak minded people to adopt our opinion, is to frighten them from all others, by magnifying their danger.  (Philip Dormer Stanhope)

And now my comments…

This was posted by Franklin Graham on July 18, 2015:

Four innocent Marines (United States Marine Corps) killed and three others wounded in ‪#‎Chattanooga yesterday including a policeman and another Marine–all by a radical Muslim whose family was allowed to immigrate to this country from Kuwait. We are under attack by Muslims at home and abroad. We should stop all immigration of Muslims to the U.S. until this threat with Islam has been settled. Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized–and they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad. During World War 2, we didn’t allow Japanese to immigrate to America, nor did we allow Germans. Why are we allowing Muslims now? Do you agree? Let your Congressman know that we’ve got to put a stop to this and close the flood gates. Pray for the men and women who serve this nation in uniform, that God would protect them.

I cannot and will not tolerate the assumption that because one is Muslim, he or she is or will become radicalized. I will not allow judgments to be placed on a group of people because they believe differently than I do. I will not allow what happened to the Japanese and the Germans in the wake of World War II to happen again. I follow Jesus! I do not walk in fear but in love.

Jesus came to live and die for Muslims, too. They may not know it yet, but that doesn’t change anything. The Jesus way does not foster fear but insists on love. Mr. Graham does a grave injustice to the cause of Christ by his statements. I cannot and will not support him in this.

Yes, please pray for our armed forces but also pray that we do not become what we say we despise. Pray against the spirit of fear in this nation and those who promote that fear. Pray for those who do promote and instigate acts of terrorism. Pray that all who are Christians would be lights in the darkness of the world and instruments of healing. Pray that we would become more like Jesus in all we say and do.

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