Cider Brine and Asaph’s Special Assignment

 I polled my family this weekend to find out what their favorite Thanksgiving dishes are.  Here are the results:

mashed potatoes and gravy, hot cider, chocolate pie, and pumpkin pie
pumpkin souffle
cranberry sauce
praline sweet potatoes

Robert wasn’t home at the time, so I send him an inquiring text message.  I received back two messages that read:

all pie

Nothing new here.  I was in the mood to try something new, though.  Last week I spent four days in a hospital room with my dad where he was recovering from a knee-replacement surgery.  I managed to get part of a book read, but I also looked at a lot of food magazines and we watched a lot of TV, too.  I think I must have been exposed to at least 10 different ways to make a turkey in that time. {fry it, grill it, baked it, smoke it…}  The recurring theme was the brine method, and the “cider brine” especially appealed to me, so today I’m giving it a whirl ~ along with preparing all of the usual dishes my family looks forward to.

My grandmother’s pecan pie…

 from her old Methodist Church cook book.  It’s called “Fifth Sunday” because if the month had a fifth Sunday, there was a potluck at the church, and this is a collection of many of the beloved recipes the women {and some men ~ think venison.}  would bring.  I pull this cookbook our every Thanksgiving and Christmas to make her pecan pie.

 I made six pie crusts last night before going to bed.  The missing two are in the oven as the above-mentioned pecan pies.  And look at those chocolates!  We had a very special and unexpected guest stop by this morning bearing a box of delicious chocolates and even three “ice cream cone” chocolates on a stick for the kids.  Really fun to catch up with our friend, Wid!  {Izzy, where WERE you?}

 The brine cooled this morning, and I just finished plopping the turkeys {I always make two.} into the delicious smelling cider brine.  The recipe is here but I used all regular cider and not the alcoholic version that it calls for.  I’m sure it adds to the taste, but I didn’t want to spend the extra time and money to buy it.  The turkeys will be in the brine overnight, and I can hardly wait to see how they turn out and if the flavor is that much different.

 These just came out of the oven, and the pumpkin pies are in now.  Chocolate is up next…

 And now I’m facing this:

A mound of sweet potatoes to peel and boil for the famed Praline Sweet Potatoes.  Then it will be the mashed potatoes, a regular and gluten free version of stuffing, and an Autumn Chopped Salad.  I do have a couple of helpers on their way, though, so the job should be done in no time.  Well, the cooking part anyway.  We’ll do the cheese platter and roasted vegetable platter tomorrow morning before our 12 guests arrive ~ including a couple from Denmark who are here only for this semester and have been visiting our church. They are bringing a traditional Danish dessert of some sort!

Recently, I finished reading 1 and 2 Kings and now I’m on to Chronicles.  Chapter 16 is all about the bringing of the ark back into the tabernacle soon after Saul dies and David becomes king.  This is also after Uzza put his hand out to steady the ark and drops dead as a consequence.  A while later, David not only figures out that this is the designated job of the priesthood, but that there is a certain way in which God has asked for the ark to be transported.  He asks the priests to consecrate themselves for the holy purpose of carrying the ark, and reminds them of the way Moses had been instructed to have the ark carried ~ on poles, on the shoulders of the priests.

The ark {and the priests!} arrives safely in Jerusalem,  is placed inside the tabernacle, and there is a loud musical celebration that follows ~ harps, lyres, cymbals, trumpets.  The next part is what I think is so interesting, though.  David “assigns” Asaph the priest, and his family the job of giving thanks.

“Then on that day David first assigned Asaph and his relatives to give thanks to the Lord.”
Chronicles 16:7
I’m pretty sure that as Christians, we’ve now all been given this assignment…
“…in everything, give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18
May the thanks and praise that flowed so instantly from the heart of Asaph in his “assignment” flow from my heart on a daily basis as well…
“Remember His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations,
The covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac…
…He permitted no man to oppress them, and He reproved kings for their sakes…
…For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; He is also to be feared among all other gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him, strength and joy are in His place.  
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering and come before Him.
Worship the Lord in holy array.”
Chronicles 16: 12-29
Have a WONDERFUL day of giving thanks tomorrow!  Consider it a privileged and pleasant assignment.

Gluten Free Friday ~ Balls of Energy {and other “away” food}

 Leaving tomorrow for a week in Texas.  I’m looking forward to it for a couple of reasons, but boy is it difficult for a mama to leave the house!  My dad is having his second knee replaced, and I will get to be with him during his surgery and hospital stay and hopefully his transition back home.  Being so far away from him, I miss being able to see him often, and I’m really thankful for the opportunity to be of help to him next week. So, this week has meant preparing and trying to make it easier on everyone while I’m away, which means lots of grocery shopping, stocking the pantry, cooking and stocking the freezer and leaving a menu so that no one even really has to THINK about food.  It’s a busy week, and having this BIG part out of the way will hopefully mean that my husband doesn’t go crazy next week.  It’s definitely not a super-healthy menu ~ lots of ground beef and hardly any green veggies, but there are apples and carrots and lettuce and frozen veggies to add when necessary!☺

Recently, my friend Yvette, pinned a recipe on Pinterest and commented that it would be a good one for Cross Country meets.  I agreed.  They are called Energy Bites, and are full of protein and healthy grains and sugars.  I made a batch for Cooper’s next Cross Country meet. He ate them on the bus, shared them with teammates, and then we ate some while we watched and cheered on his team. They were gone in no time!

So since the Energy Bites were such a hit, I made a double batch of them the other day and filled a large plastic container with them, so that my kiddos can just grab them out of the freezer for an easy snack all week.  The last two days have also been spent fending them off from all of this food and lots of “Do not eat that!!!! It’s off limits until Mom leaves the house on Saturday!”

And don’t be fooled, they won’t be cooking Salmon and squash while I’m away.  I return Saturday afternoon, and that’s the meal I plan to cook when I get home.  By then, they’ll need a good dose of omega-3’s and winter squash ~ some salad will probably be a good idea for that night, too!

Here’s the recipe:

Balls of Energy

1 cup GFoats
2/3 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup flax meal
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients together.  Form into small balls and place on a cookie sheet.  Place in the freezer for 20 or 30 minutes and then store in a container in the frig or freezer.  They will stay intact without freezing, but I think it helps to store them this way and keeps them fresh.  Toss them into a ziploc bag for a handy to-go snack!

Counting One Thousand Gifts ~ October {Tensions, Vacations, Elections}

I should be preparing for tomorrow ~ packing up books and supplies for Classical Conversations, studying Latin and Algebra, typing Kayla’s essay for Challenge A, addressing the many items I need to take to the post office, cleaning my house, etc., but I’m hoping the practice of enumerating my gifts for last month ~ only two more months in this Joy Dare ~ will lift my spirits and renew my perspective.

A friend sent me a text message with a quote from Larry Crabb, the Christian counselor/author that we both  love to hate, because he always speaks knife-sharp truth.  He was recounting a friend’s comment about his {Larry’s} sinful tendencies and discontented heart. It went something like this…

“He told me I have a special gift for being depressed in the midst of blessing.”

Yep. Me too, Larry.

It’s precisely why I began this joy journey ~ this dare to count 1000 gifts.  Surrounded by gifts, and somehow always able to find something to be disheartened by.

We even had the privilege of spending 3 days at Cape Cod ~ a low-key vacation and escape from daily duties and tasks ~ yet I still found ways to be discontent.  This time it involved my marriage, and my lofty expectations for how it should look, and how he should know, and what he should say and do.  And all of my attempts at self-restraint, and desperate prayers, and Bible reading  didn’t adjust my stubborn perspective.  It still ended in tears and painful conversations and misunderstandings and an overall disconnectedness between us.

Thankful for the security of covenant tonight, though ~ God’s covenant with me and Robert’s. I can express frustrations and fears and disappointments and insecurities without it changing my status with either of them.  At the end of the day, neither one is going anywhere.  They are both here to stay no matter what.  And miraculously enough, they each still love me.  {Me!?}

So I’m exhausted, and I hate to say it, but it’s really my own sinful fault.  I’m “gifted at being depressed in the midst of blessing.”  I’m valedictorian, most-likely-to succeed, best-all-around in this unfortunate ability.

And just to continue in this sad, stream-of consciousness-ish vein, I guess I’m also “depressed at being gifted” with the right and responsibility to vote.  It is election eve, and it’s really a disheartening election, in my opinion. I will get up extra early tomorrow, which will mean 4:45am and not the usual 5:15am, so that I can get to my polling place at 7am after dressing, preparing breakfast, packing lunches, and loading up the van for our Tuesday CC day.  I’ve thought about it, and prayed about it, researched the ballot questions {Marijuana and euthanasia here. Yes, really.} looked at the sample ballot, and heard the arguments on both party sides.  Neither are compelling.  Neither are hopeful.  I will cast a vote, though.  It’s just that it probably won’t count for anything but civic duty and a hope, albeit a diminishing one,  for real change.

So here’s my list of gifts.  Yes, the ones I managed to wallow in despair in the midst of.  Funny, so many of them are regarding Robert and my marriage.  So many about hope and perspective, too. I don’t believe in coincidence, of course.  The Lord knew that on this night I would need to be reminded that His gifts are so good, so abundant, and so unique to me.

I feel like saying “Shame on me!” right now.  How dare I wallow?  Is He not enough?  Was the Cross an unsatisfying gift?  You’d certainly think so if you saw me the last couple of days.

Thankfully, at the Cross He took even that sort of shame and still decided to shower on the grace gifts…

1. Front porch pumpkins {orange}

2. Leaves lining my running route {orange}
3. Mashed sweet potatoes for dinner {orange}
4. Anxiety and worry levels {falling}
5. My love for Christ {falling more into}
6. My love for Robert {falling more into}
7. Love for the Word {caught}
8. Control {let go}
9. Book of 2 Kings {mid-way}
10. Trust {reaped}
11. Peace {reaped}
12. Knowledge of the Word {reaped}
13. Hospitality {returned}
14. Forgiveness {returned}
15. A smile {returned}
16. My life {redeemed}
17. Life of Rosaria B. {redeemed}
18. Lives of siblings {redeemed}
19. Pumpkin chocolate chip muffins {baked}
20. Coffee on a cool autumn afternoon {stirred}
21. Beef Stew and Cornbread {eaten}
22. Marriage and Robert {prayed for}
23. Continual provision {prayed for}
24. Love for the Word {prayed for}
25. Hope {praised for}
26. Privilege of ministry {praised for}
27. Provision {praised for}
28. Seeing others suffer {hard eucharisteo}
29. Command to be hospitable {hard eucharisteo}
30. Seeing my selfishness {hard eucharisteo}
31. My perspective {change}
32. Rain into sunshine {change}
33. New couples and families at church {change}
34. Kayla wanting to pray after running {small}
35. BLT {AC’s} for dinner {smaller}
36. Text messages {smallest}
37. The Basket of Flowers book with Kayla {read}
38. Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert via Jennie{read}
39. Psalm 20 {read}
40. “The students like you…” {said}
41. “Good run!” {said}
42. “You are beautiful.” {said}
43. Colossians {re-read}
44. Bold Love {re-read}
45. Stepping Heavenward {re-read}
46. New autumn candles {burning}
47. Basketball passions in Coop {burning}
48. Desires for maturity and identity in Christ {burning}
49. Rain on portrait day {ugly beautiful}
50. Released bitterness {ugly beautiful}
51. “Turns of events” 2 Kings {ugly-beautiful}
52. Half-marathon and an empty house {shared}
53. Funny quotes from kids saved {saved}
54. Expectations {surrendered}
55. Gluten Free  delicious Carrot Cake at the Roost {unexpected}
56. News of new Chipotle in town {unexpected}
57. Joy and healing in a friend {unexpected}
58. Back to sleep after dawn cross country meet send-off {unconventional}
59. Friendly and helpful bank teller {unconventional}
60. Two evenings out with couples we love {unconventional}
61. God’s grace{undervalued}
62. My home and location {undervalued}
63. My family {undervalued}
64. Early mornings {silent}
65. Sleeping children {still}
66. Robert’s faith {strong}
67. Boston Field trips {begun}
68. Learning history and economics {begun}
69. Another year of life for Robert ~ Oct. 23 {begun}
70. School preparation {accomplished}
71. Family portraits thanks to Kylie {accaomplished}
72. Kayla’s art work {accomplished}
73. Time away at the Cape {enjoying}
74. Walk on the beach {enjoying}
75. 5 Aspects of Woman ~ again! {enjoying}
76. Gift of family photos {extravagant}
77.  Forgiveness {extravagant}
78. The Holy Spirit {extravagant}
79. Being asked to forgive {humbling}
80. Kayla’s affection {honoring}
81. A clean house {happy}
82. A rooted identity {in Christ}
83. Hope {in Christ}
84. Security {in Christ}
85. Another week off to recuperate {on time}
86. Time to work on college essays {on time}
87. Power/Electricity still on {on time}
88. No hurricane damage {Overjoyed!}
89. Bible study member’s answered prayer {Overjoyed!}
90. A Chance to slow down/catch up {Overjoyed!}
91. My marriage {hallowed}
92. Life ~ born and unborn {hallowed}
93. The Name of the Lord {hallowed be!}

Gluten Free Friday ~ Crock Pot Chicken Enchilada Soup

Enchiladas seem to have been the theme here this week!  Last week was a scheduled week off from Classical Conversations, and this week brought another week off, with the uncertainty of what hurricane Sandy would bring. It allowed for some extra time to peruse Pinterest and a few magazines that were stacked up here.  It’s a little weird to be posting about recipes I found during a storm that has left so many people devastated.  My heart goes out to friends in New York and New Jersey who are still without power, still battling floods, and many who have had to evacuate and find temporary refuge at the homes of friends and family.  I pray they are home safe and sound ~ soon, and that in ways only God can, He will reveal Himself in provision and hope to those who are struggling right now.  Cooper’s Cross Country Team has organized a donation effort, and will be loading up a truck full of provisions tomorrow during Coop’s final meet of the season.

It was a semi-quiet week here, though, and so we made enchiladas to share with friends on the night of Halloween ~ or Reformation Day. ☺ I also made this crock pot soup that one of my friend’s {Hi Yvette!} had found and posted on Pinterest.  It is a slight variation of the one found here, because “Cream Of” soups are not typically gluten free.  Usually, I just skip over recipes that include those soups anyway, because the ingredient list is just WAY too long and scary for my liking, but I decided to try this Pacific Natural Foods version of Cream of Chicken soup this time as a substitute.  It’s not half as scary as the other brands, and it seemed to work just as well.
I also love it when “crock pot” dishes are truly what they claim, meaning you just put all of the ingredients in, turn on, leave for hours, stir and eat!  The only “extra” part of this one is the removing of the chicken breasts near the end of cooking to chop or shred them and add them back into the soup.  Easy!

We’re always dismayed when the Chicken Enchilada soup is off limits at a restaurant due to thickeners and cross contamination, but this is one that resembles those in every way, and was enjoyed by all!

Crock Pot Chicken Enchilada Soup

1/2 red pepper, chopped

1/2 yellow or orange pepper, chopped
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 can Rotel {or diced tomatoes and green chilis}
1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
10 oz can of GF enchilada sauce
10 oz. pkg. frozen corn
2 chicken breasts
1 cup water
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup milk


Crushed tortilla chips

Grated pepper Jack or Monterrey Jack cheese
sour cream

Place beans, Rotel/diced tomatoes, corn, onions, and peppers on bottom of crock pot.  Place chicken breasts on top of this mixture.  Whisk together enchilada sauce, soup, and water and pour over chicken, beans, etc.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours.  Near end of cooking time, remove chicken breasts and chop or shred and stir back into soup.  Stir in half and half and milk and let cook 10 more minutes.  Top with your favorite enchilada toppings and enjoy!