Balsamic Pot Roast

DSC_0022

I’m so excited that the fall is finally here. I love the changing colors of the leaves…. I love the perfectly comfortable weather… I love that I can pull out sweaters and my pumpkin recipes (Pumpkin spice cupcakes are my favorite)…. and I love that I can now justify making soups and casseroles. It just seems wrong to do this in the summer. Pot roast falls in the category of warm and comforting food in my book, and it will be making frequent appearances at my house in the coming months. I love braised meats, and if you missed the braised chicken cacciatore recipe I posted last, check it out. I make pot roast pretty often, but I decided to change it up this time, and I think I stumbled on a gold mine! This is MY new favorite way to make pot roast now. I had never used balsamic vinegar for pot roast before, and it make all the difference in the world.
If you have never tried pot roast before, I highly recommend it. The whole idea is to get a chunk of chuck roast and brown it in a pot, then add in liquid, and vegetables if you would like, and slow cook it for a long time, until the meat gets tender and shreds off. It is melt in your mouth good! As a personal preference, I like to load my roast up with a ton of vegetables and herbs. Carrots, potatoes and onions are most commonly used, but I changed it up and used mushrooms, parsnips, carrots, onion and celery. The beauty of the recipe is that you can change up the combination of vegetables to suite your taste, or leave them all off if you please.

DSC_0008

I included a picture of the parsnips for those who haven’t worked with them before. I love them! They look like a white or cream colored carrot, and taste great!( I like to roast them in the oven with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, onions and carrots as a side dish). They are available in most stores now. If you do not have fresh rosemary or thyme, feel free to substitute with dried. A couple teaspoons of each should work fine. I will say as a last note that the key to making this dish a home run is the extra step to thicken the gravy with the cornstarch and water mixture. I contemplated skipping this step, and I assure you I would have regretted it greatly. I tried the gravy before and after, and I was amazed at the difference those extra few minutes made. The only thing that would have made this meal more perfect was serving it over some garlic and herb mashed potatoes, but sensibility got the better of me, and I went with riced cauliflower instead. It was still awesome, but mashed potatoes would make it over the top yummy!
Ok.. as a last.. last note 🙂 Just so this isn’t confusing to anyone, I doubled my recipe so that I could cover a few days worth of meals. The recipe as written is for one roast. If you decide to double the recipe as I did, just double all the ingredients. I used two roasts, that added up to 5 1/2 pounds of meat.

Enough talking. Let’s get to work here. Try this as soon as humanly possible 🙂

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home
Ingredients:
1 boneless beef chuck roast (about 3 pounds)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into large chunks
3 celery ribs, cut into large chunks
3 parsnips, peeled and chopped into large chunks
2 cups mushrooms, quartered
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 bunch fresh thyme sprigs
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F. Sprinkle the roast on both sides with the salt and pepper. In an oven proof pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Brown the meat on all sides, then remove from pan and set aside.

DSC_0006

2. Add the onions, carrots, celery,parsnips and mushrooms into the same pan. Cook for 5 minutes until they start to soften up. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute.
3. Add the broth, balsamic vinegar, thyme and rosemary. Return the roast to the pot,and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, transfer to oven, and bake for 21/2 to 3 hours, until the meat is fork tender.

DSC_0013

4. With a slotted spoon, transfer the beef and vegetables to a container. Discard any large stems from the herbs, and skim off any excess fat that rises to the surface.
5. Transfer the pot to stove top, and simmer over medium heat. In a small bowl, mix together cornstarch and cold water. Add mixture into the pot with the gravy, stirring constantly. Keep stirring, bring to a boil, and cook for about 2 minutes, until it thickens. Serve the gravy over the pot roast and the vegetables.
Enjoy!

DSC_0020

Devotion For The Day:

I attended a women’s conference this past weekend, and one of the resounding themes was about how much Jesus cares for each and every one of us. Like really personally! He cares about the big stuff and the little stuff that happens to us, even when we are not sure if He is aware. Yesterday I was reading from Luke 15, and it followed along with what I had taken away from the conference. The whole chapter 15 is about how much Jesus cares for the lost. It made me think of moments when I was trying to find something I had lost. My car keys, at that moment I needed to bolt out the door, my glasses, or some money that I had kept so “safely” I couldn’t remember where. It made me think of the frustration of losing that item, but even more so, the relief when I finally found it. Jesus uses 3 parables in Luke 15 to illustrate his feelings about the lost and the hurting. He used the example of a shepherd who loses one of his sheep, a woman who loses a coin, and the story of the prodigal son. In all three parables, Jesus showed how the people were willing to leave that which they still had in their possession to look for and find that which was lost, and the rejoicing that followed when they found the lost item or person.
Luke 15:3-7. Then Jesus told them this parable: “suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep’. I tell you that in the same way, there is rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
For the 3 years of ministry that Jesus had here on earth, His focus was on finding and saving the lost, and His focus remains the same. Jesus is searching for us because we are so incredibly valuable to him. Each one of us! I visualize the rejoicing that goes on when one of His children is found, and it humbles me to know that He cares so deeply about me and you. Never for a minute believe that you are worthless, or uncared for. Jesus values you, and is seeking you out so that you can be reconciled with the Father. He paid the ultimate price to make this happen, without any guarantee of what your response to Him would be. One of my favorite verses is Romans 5:8 : But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While were still sinners. Christ died for us.

Chicken Cacciatore

DSC_0011

I’m back! It feels so good to be back in the game. It has been quite a summer, and I am still in recovery mode. It’s been two long months since I have blogged, and I feel like the time has just flown by. My parents visited for 6 weeks this summer, and I’m still trying to get over them being gone. If I could move Kenya next door, I totally would! I don’t get to see them as often as I would like, and it makes me want to savor every second they are here, knowing our time is limited.

I’m excited that this is my return to blogging recipe. Chicken cacciatore is one of those dishes that sounds way more fancy than it really is. Cacciatore is Italian for “hunter” and a meal cooked “alla cacciatore” means it’s cooked hunter style. It usually involves braising chicken or rabbit, and then adding tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, often bell peppers, and sometimes wine. I learned how to make it about 10 years ago, and for a long time I was like a one trick pony.  It was the meal I prepared whenever we had company. I guess I made it so much that it got old for me, and as soon as I found other recipes, I shelved it. My hubby reminded me the other day that I hadn’t made it in ages, so I decided to revisit my old faithful recipe. I’ll tell you what… it was like meeting up with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while 🙂 It’s comfort food at it’s best. I lightened it up a little to fit  our new lifestyle where we’re more watchful of what we eat, but it did not take away from the flavor a bit! It’s loaded with veggies and flavorful sauce, and you will be so glad to serve this to your gang. My version incorporates mushrooms, which does darken the sauce color a tad, but I love the depth it adds to the sauce.

You can totally play with this recipe to suit your taste. I used skinless chicken thighs to make  the recipe lighter, but you can leave the skin on if you would like. You can also use a whole cut up chicken instead of just using thighs, Do leave the bone in the chicken though, and DO brown your meat (dusted with some flour). It makes all the difference in the flavor of the sauce. You can pick and choose your combo of veggies too. I went more traditional with the onion, mushroom, peppers and garlic. I skipped the wine and used chicken broth instead. We like things a little spicy at my house, so I added crushed red pepper. Feel free to adjust the amount, or omit all together to suite your taste. The same goes for the capers. They are totally optional. I had some in my fridge, and I love the briny, salty flavor that they add to slow cooked dishes. If you don’t have any, don’t sweat it. I served the cacciatore with whole wheat pasta, but any pasta would work just fine, or some egg noddles. Now that I think about it, rice or mashed potatoes would work here too. It would take away from the whole Italian theme, but I promise not to tell anyone if you choose to go that route 🙂

Enjoy!

Ingredients:
8 skinless chicken thighs
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 teaspoons black pepper, divided
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 Tablespoons capers (optional, but yummy)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
Directions:
1. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of black pepper. Dredge the chicken in flour to coat lightly.
2. In a heavy bottomed pot (I used a cast-iron pot), heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the chicken pieces and brown for about 5 minutes per side. Do this in batches to avoid crowding the pan, which keeps the chicken from browning up. Transfer the chicken to a plate, and set aside.

DSC_0004

3. Add the onions, mushrooms and green pepper to the pot, and saute until the veggies start to soften up (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and saute for another minute. Season with the remaining teaspoon of salt and black pepper.
4. Add the chicken broth, and let the liquid simmer and reduce (about 3-4 minutes). Add the tomatoes, oregano, capers and crushed red pepper. (If you are not using capers, check for seasoning. You may need to add more salt. Capers are salty, so I didn’ t need to add more). Bring the sauce to a simmer, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 35-40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

DSC_0009

Serve over pasta, and sprinkle with basil.
Devotion for the day:
The last few days have been a roller coaster of emotions watching the news after this past weekend’s terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. My heart grieves for the families and friends who have lost their loved ones. My heart is sad for the city and country that I love. I’m angry at the terrorists who walked into that building and rocked our confidence and security. Through all the tragedy and grief, I’m reminded that I have to dig deep and find hope. Not a false sense of hope, but a deep hope in the ONE who never changes. Even when my world is rocked to the core, God is my rock, and my refuge.
The last night before my Mom left for Kenya a few weeks ago, she shared Psalms 62 with me. It has been the chapter that has returned to my mind multiple times over the last few days, and it is my prayer as the healing begins, and as Kenyans begin to try to make sense of the tragedy, and rebuild. Let us hope in God and God alone. He is our refuge and our strength.
Psalms 62: 5-8
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

Sausage, spinach and white bean soup

DSC_0055

I love soup. I just wanted to put it out there. As ridiculous as it is to be wanting soup in the summer, there is something about a nice filling bowl of soup that makes me want to have it all year round. The struggle for me is usually to find a filling soup that is also not laden in enough calories to have me running on the treadmill for a week straight. My neighbor and I are always trading recipes, and he happened to recommend to me a white bean and spinach soup that he found on pinterest. I tried it, and we loved it, but my hubby who is not a huge fan of soup commented that he might have liked it a little more if it had some meat in it. This is a spin off from the recipe I tried, and we all enjoyed it greatly. I used sweet Italian sausage since it is what I had on hand this time, but I am curious to try a spicy turkey sausage to make it even healthier next time. All in all, it made for a really good dinner. I wanted a good balance on the ingredients, so I decided to go with  3 links of sausage. I wanted just enough to add some meaty texture, but not too much to take over the lovely bean and spinach flavor. The recipe calls for 7 cups of fresh spinach added in towards the end of the cook time. No… it’s not a typo. Trust me. I was starting to doubt myself as I was adding it in, but it wilts down to almost nothing! I would almost consider increasing the amount, on days I’m wanting more of a veggie soup.

I can’t say enough good things about this soup. It was pretty easy to throw together, and would make a great week night meal. It would be just as good as a starter but is fulling enough to hold it’s own as a main meal. Just add a salad or a buttered crusty piece of bread for a stress free dinner. It also reheats very well, so make a double batch and you can have lunches for the week covered as well. I might do this next time and freeze individual portions for quick and yummy lunches.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

3 link sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon sun-dried tomatoes(optional)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 15-ounce cans cannellini or great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can tomato puree
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning(or just dried basil)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 cups chicken broth
7 cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste.
Heat a stock pot over medium high heat. Crumble the sausage and brown for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add in the onion, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes until the onions start to soften up.
DSC_0050
Add the beans, tomato puree, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper and broth to the pot. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer over medium heat for 35-40 minutes. (You want the beans to soften up a little more, and the flavors to marry together).
Add the chopped spinach (I had small leaves and skipped the chopping part) and the Parmesan. cook uncovered for a minute or two until the spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper if needed. (I do this at the very end to avoid over-salting since depending on the broth and Parmesan used, the saltiness may vary).
DSC_0052
Devotion For The Day:
I was reading from Joshua 10, and I’m amazed at how God has a way of bringing to me exactly what I need at just the right moment. I have had a roller coaster week, and I really needed to be reminded that God is more than capable of handling even the situations that seem impossible to man. In Joshua 10, the Israelites had already entered their promised land of Canaan, and people in the neighboring regions were fearful of the Israelites after they heard of the defeat of the Canaanites. The Gibeonites who occupied the land close to the Israelites had made a treaty with Israel to ensure their survival, and this made the other nearby kings angry and they decided to attack Gibeon. When the Gibeonites learned of this, they approached the Israelites to help save them. So, Joshua and his entire army went to battle. I verse 8, the Lord said to Joshua, “do not be afraid of them, for I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you”. 
The Israelites surprised the opposing armies and defeated them in Gibeon, and the armies were thrown into great confusion. As they tried to flee, the Israelites pursued them and killed some by the sword, and as they fled, the Lord hurled large hailstones that killed even more of the army. During the battle, Joshua prayed a prayer to God asking him to make the sun stand still over Gibeon, and the moon over the Valley of Aijalon until the battle was completed. This is the part of the story that I love the most. Verse 14 says, the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down for a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since. a day that the Lord listened to a man. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!
I was so encouraged when I read of this encounter. It was a reminder to me that my Daddy is more than able to take care of me, and fight for me. Nothing is impossible.

Lemon and Herb “Riced” Cauliflower

DSC_0009
Our eating habits have really been shaken up this year, in a good way. One of the biggest changes has been a huge reduction in our carb intake. Before you roll your eyes and glaze over on me, I am not going on a no carb diet. This is not sustainable long term for me, so we have been looking at changes that we can make towards healthy living long term. One of the things we are challenging ourselves to do is plan our eating better. Carbs earlier in the day, and more veggies and protein at night. Now… this sounded like a really good plan, until it came time to cook. I now realize how heavily I depended on my carb for my meals. Pasta, rice, potatoes and company is where I usually start, then plan my meat and veggies around it. This has been a hard habit to try and break!
One cool concept I came across when I started researching low carb meals is using cauliflower as a substitute for rice. It took me a few weeks to work up the excitement to try this, since I am not a big cauliflower lover. It’s a vegetable that tastes kinda bland to me, quite honestly. What I am learning it that this could actually work to my advantage! It can take on pretty much whatever flavors I want it to, The whole idea here is to blend the cauliflower down to where it is about the size of a rice grain, then cook it in the same fashion you would have cooked your rice (you can use a box grater if you don’t have a blender).I tried it a couple weeks ago microwaved for 7-8 minutes (add a few drops of water) and then added lime juice and cilantro, since that’s one of my favorite ways to make my rice. It was…ok…. but I wasn’t too thrilled (even though my hubby liked it). I decided to give it another attempt and try it as fried rice! I LOVED IT! I mean totally loved it. Enough that if you would have offered me rice in place of it, I would have turned it down willingly. This is a huge win for me. I am one of those people who do not eat to stay alive, it means a lot to me to actually enjoy my food.
I hope you give this recipe a try. If you do, please chime in and let me know what you think. The flavors can be changed up to whatever you like in your rice. I think next try for me will be attempting to make it into a Chinese fried “rice”.

Makes 4 servings.
Ingredients:
1 head cauliflower
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh parsley (if dried, use 1 tablespoon)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

1. Break down your head of cauliflower into florets. In 2 batches, put in the processor or blender, and blend until it is the size of a rice grain.

DSC_0001
2. Heat oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Add your onion and garlic and fry for a 1-2 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning.
3. Add in the cauliflower and cook for 7-8 minutes, until the cauliflower starts to soften up. Add the lemon zest and juice, parsley, salt and crushed pepper, cook for another minute.
DSC_0007
Serve anywhere you would rice. I had mine with some steak tips and sauce, and it was fantastic.
Enjoy.
DSC_0011

Devotion for the day:
Yesterday I was reading from Romans 4, and it totally rocked my day.

Romans 4:3: What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Romans 4:18-25: 18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”[d] 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

Here I was thinking… wow! Righteousness is attainable! I know this is probably not as much of a shock to some of you, but it was to me! I grew up in the church, and there were so many do-nots and a list a mile high of things that I was supposed to do as a christian. It was filled with legalism, so much so that in my mind, there is no way I could ever match  up to the standard. I always felt not christian enough. Then here comes the bible, telling me that it can be “credited to me as righteousness”. It’s hard for my mind to wrap my mind around, but I feel such a renewed hope. The beauty of it is that it is not based on how good I am, but the wonderful grace of God.

Curried Coconut Lentils

Curried Coconut Lentils

Last week was Thanksgiving, which means it’s officially the holiday season. I have mixed feelings about this, and a few rants come to mind. I will share a few, just so you can see what’s running through my crazy mind. There’s the “are we really playing Christmas music in November” one, and the “I will be spending half my life in traffic since I live by the mall” one. I will discuss those at a later time….or not 🙂 For now, I will focus on the issue at hand. Christmas is a month away, and I have decided that despite the fact that it is the time for parties and all things food… I would like to be a few pounds lighter for Christmas. That being said, sensible meals are now gracing our table. The good news is, healthy does not have to be bland. I was looking for a way to make use of some lentils that have been sitting in my pantry for a few months now. I was trying to think up a tasty meatless meal that would win over my meat loving family. (Last week, we had a big HONKING ham that we re-purposed for days, and we are definitely in need of some meatless meals to compensate). This recipe kind of evolved as I was cooking, so I apologize for the lack of step by step pictures. I had not planned on using the coconut milk, but when I got to the end and tasted it, it was OK… but something was missing. I found a can of Coconut milk in the pantry and figured it couldn’t hurt. JACKPOT! It totally transformed it. That and the cilantro at the end are key.
Just a few thoughts before we begin. First, I added about a 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper. I could have done with more since my kids are OK with spice. It wasn’t overly spicy, so if you like spicier food, add more. You could also leave it out all together. The other thing to mention is that I used chicken broth. To make it truly vegetarian, you could use vegetable broth. If you have no broth, just dissolve some bouillon cubes in water. The last thing is the cooking time for the lentils. I cooked mine for an hour after adding them into the pot, and stirred them every few minutes since I wanted them to have some bite to them, not totally mushy. I started with 4 cups of broth and in the last 15 minutes added about another 1/2 cup as needed. I didn’t want to have too much liquid in them.
Let’s get started on these lentils. They are tasty and comforting, and perfect for a cold day. They definitely will not be winning any “best looking dish” award, but trust me… the flavor by far makes up for that. It’s a big plus that they are high on the nutrition scale. I served mine with some homemade wheat chapatis (an Indian flat bread), but rice would go really well with this dish too. Here we go!

Ingredients:
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Onion, diced
2 Stalks Celery, diced
2 large Carrots, diced
1 Green Pepper, diced
2 Large Tomatoes, diced
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Ginger root, grated
3 tsp Curry Powder
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Ground Coriander
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
11/2 tsp Salt
1 Pound Green Lentils, washed and rinsed (about 2 Cups)
5 Cups Chicken Broth (plus more if needed)
1 Bay Leaf
1 (13.5 oz) Can Coconut Milk (about 11/2 cups) You can use Fat Free
1/4 cup Cilantro, chopped

1. In a pot over medium high heat, heat the olive oil and add the onion, celery, carrots and green peppers. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally until veggies start to soften up. Add in the tomatoes and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, until the tomatoes start to break down. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for a minute stirring constantly. Add in the curry powder, cumin, coriander, cayenne and salt. Stir and cook for about 3 minutes to allow the spices to start to smell nice and fragrant.
2. Now add in the lentils, broth and the bay leaf. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.

Cook until the lentils soften, and the liquid is reduced

3.At the very end, once the lentils are to the desired softness (add more broth if needed during the cooking process), add in the coconut milk and the cilantro, and cook for a minute. Taste for salt. Depending on the salt content in your broth, you may need more salt. Discard the bay leaf.

Discard bay leaf and add coconut milk and cilantro

Serve with Chapatis (or naan), rice or a toasty slice of bread. Enjoy!

Devotion For The Day:

Compassionate Lord:

My devotion reading today was from John 11, on the death of Lazarus. It is a story we have all heard before, so I will just highlight the parts of the story that really jumped out at me today. I remember in Sunday School having memory verse competitions, and one of the top 5 quoted verses was always John 11: 35, Jesus wept. I knew the verse, but I could not have told you the context of the verse. I had no idea why he wept. Well… Jesus was a good friend of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. Jesus received word that Lazarus was gravely ill, but he did not go to see him then, he waited a two days before he returned to Judea. By this point, he already knew that Lazarus was dead.

First Martha, then Mary run to meet Jesus before he reached the village. They both had the same thing to say to Jesus. Verse 21 and 32: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died”. Jesus response to the grieving family and friends is what was most striking to me today. Verse 33-35: When Jesus saw her (Mary) weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord”, they replied. Jesus wept. We know the rest of the story.. Jesus went to the tomb, asked Lazarus to rise up, and he raised from the dead. He had been dead 4 days.

What struck me the most was thinking about WHY Jesus wept. The sisters and the crowd were weeping because of the sadness that they felt because they had lost a beloved brother or friend. Even though Jesus loved Lazarus, he already knew that he was going to raise him from the dead. It was why he waited to come until Lazarus was already dead and buried (read Verse 4). He knew that he would raise him from the dead so that the people seeing would believe in him, and so that it would glorify God. The reason he wept was one that I had not understood. Simply, it was COMPASSION. He saw the deep sadness of the people, and he was moved. Jesus, who was all knowing and knew how this would end was still moved by the suffering of his friends, to the point that he wept.

It really encourages me today, and I hope it encourages you. The same Jesus who wept for his friends more than 2,000 years ago is still the same Jesus I know and love today.I’m humbled and encouraged to know that when I approach God’s Throne in my weakness, Jesus  my intercessor is filled with compassion. He sees our deepest feelings, and he understands them. How amazing is that!

Jambalaya

This year for my birthday, my sweetie bought me an enameled cast iron pot. It’s several months later, and I’m still beaming. Many girls want diamonds. Me…. shiny red cookware. Suddenly, I had to find new recipes to showcase my new friend. Jambalaya was one of those recipes that fit the bill. The inspiration to cook jambalaya came from a Cajun party at my church. Our senior pastor being from Louisiana, they went crazy with the theme. It was a blast. One of my favorite things was the Jambalaya that they served. That evening, it became my new goal to find a way to make a good jambalaya at home. I have tried it on the stove top, and using a slow cooker, and have played around with it to suite our tastes. I might get a lecture about it not being totally authentic, but seeing as I did not grow up in Louisiana, it does not hurt my feelings at all 🙂 I have tried it with shrimp and it’s great, but today I have none. I am also using a pretty spicy andouille, but there are some not so spicy ones available. If you can’t find andouille, or do not like a lot of spice, just use any smoked sausage.
For those of you who have not had jambalaya before, here’s a little history. Creole Jambalaya originated in the French Quarter in New Orleans. It came about as a variation of Spanish Paella blended with Caribbean influences. It usually consists of celery, onions, green pepper (referred to as the “holy trinity” ), meat (typically chicken and andouille or some kind of smoked sausage), seafood (often shrimp), vegetables (tomatoes and sometimes okra),rice and stock. And lastly, it is delicious. History class dismissed. Let’s get to cooking.
Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons Oil
14 Ounces Andouille Sausage
3 boneless, skinless Chicken Breast, cubed
1 large Onion, diced
1 Cup Celery, diced
1 Green Pepper, seeded and diced
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 (14 Ounce) Cans Crushed Tomato (or Petite Diced) I used a 28 oz can this time.
2 Teaspoons Cajun Seasoning
4 Cups Chicken Broth
3 Bay Leaves
2 Cups uncooked Rice
1. Heat oil in a large stock pot, or cast iron pot. On medium high heat,brown the sausage. Take out and set aside on a plate. Add a little oil if needed, then brown the chicken. Set aside with the sausage. (The intent is not to cook the meat all the way, just to brown it for flavor).
2. Using the same pan, saute the onion, celery and green pepper until they start to soften. Add in the garlic, and stir for about a minute. Add the tomato, Cajun seasoning, the chicken broth and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil.
3. Add in the rice. Stir a few times. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to medium. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Now add in the sausage and chicken. Stir then cover and simmer for 10 more minutes until the rice is tender.
Enjoy.
I also included a recipe by Emeril Lagasse for a creole seasoning, if you can’t find one:

Emeril’s ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Yield: 2/3 cup
Devotion For the Day:
The Value of Relationships:

A while back, our Pastor Chris Hodges preached on the topic of relationships. I came across my notes, and thought I would share what stuck with me. His title: We are better together. Well anyone who reads this is probably going… Duh! I know that! The truth is that we all know that it is true that we are not an island and we need people. The problem is that what we know in our heads does not always translate to how we live out our lives. Do we really have friends around us that know us well enough and love us enough that we can be real and vulnerable? Are we that kind of friend? One of my hubby’s favorite verses is Proverbs 27:17  “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”. That is what real friends do. They sharpen us and enrich our lives, as we do the same in theirs. Pastor Chris loves to make the statement “we are all one step away from stupid”. We laugh.. but it’s so true! A good friend can spot the pit you are about to walk right into and stop you in your tracks. Alternatively, they could pull you out of a pit and dust you off when you need a hand.It was just a reminder for me this week to take the time to invest in meaningful.. authentic relationships. This is where real life change occurs. This was God’s vision for the church. I was reminded that church is not what we do for an hour or two on Sunday morning, it is the fellowship and relationships we build day to day that are the foundation for REAL Christian living.