Are you praising the blessing or the Blesser? – Pesto Pasta Salad

Imagine this for me… You’re a single mom, no money, no hope, just enough food to make one last meal for you and your child before you lay down and die of starvation. When a man comes along and asks you to give him that last meal. You apologize and explain you and your child are starving to death yourself. You wish you could help, but you can’t. The man tells you, “Feed me first and God will make sure you have enough for you and your child”. It sounds crazy, but at this point what have you got to lose? You’re going to starve to death anyway. So you obey, and that obedience is returned, not once but over and over. God not only provides enough to feed you and your child AND the stranger for a day, but for a year and a half! The praises you would sing to the Lord! How thankful you would be!  Wouldn’t anyone? This is the story of the widow of Zarephath (1Kings 17). The first time I read it I thought it was about God providing for us, having faith that the food would be there every day based on nothing more than the miracle of it being there the day before.

But then I read the rest of the story…

Not long after all this the widow’s only child, whom God had pulled out of starvation, gets very sick and dies. The widow is devastated. Who wouldn’t be? She is furious that Elijah even came there, why go through all that and save her and her child, just to have God take him anyways? Elijah prays over the boy and he comes back to life!

I mean it’s a great story, but the part I didn’t get was, why let her son die?

Just to bring him back and prove he could?

To allow Elijah to perform a miracle and give him more credibility in God’s name?

I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. I read it over and over, read explainations and commentary on the story. Even told it to my sister, who said the same thing as I did, why kill her son?

It didn’t make any sense, until I came across this quote by A.W. Pink:

“Instead of a river, God often gives us a brook, which may be running today and dried up tomorrow. Why? To teach us not to rest in our blessings, but in the blesser Himself.”

Wow! I mean that hit me straight to the heart. How easy it is to rest in the blessings? Especially now, the weather’s warm, there are days in the sun, at the beach, campfires and smores and laughter and fun. The flowers are in bloom, gardens and berry patches and orchards are about to be over-flowing with his blessings! But how hard is it to praise when it’s -18 outside, your gas bill has tripled, you slip on the ice while shoveling yet another 18 inches of snow off the driveway and you’re like seriously God? Is this a joke? How far away summer felt then? How far away the blessings felt?

We tend to miss the point that we are not living this life for the blessings, we are living it for the Blesser! Oh and what a good thing that is! Because the blessings come and go, but if we hold fast to the Blesser and find comfort in Him through whom all the blessings flow, the times when the blessings are harder to see, to feel, become so much easier.

We can only find true rest in Jesus.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

 

Now for the food part. Back in college there was this pizza place across from the bookstore. They had some of the best pizza in New Mexico, really authentic Italian. For $5.00 you could get a slice of pizza, a large coke and a container of this awesome pesto pasta salad. It was my favorite, the fact that it was cheap was nice, but honestly it was REALLY good. Being a broke college student I ate there often. Now grown up and not living in New Mexico anymore, I can definitely find good pizza, but I miss that pasta salad. It only has a few ingredients so it proved easy to recreate. I hope you enjoy it!

Pesto Pasta Salad

Pesto Pasta Salad
Cooked Pasta
Cherry Tomatoes – halved
Cooked Broccoli
Prepared Pesto Sauce (I make my own when I can, store bought is good too!)

You’ll notice right away I didn’t add amounts. Why? Well this recipe is kind of open to your interpretation. Depending on how much you need, you can make. You can use a whole box of pasta and add a ton of tomatoes and broccoli – say if you are having people over or need to take it to a BBQ or Potluck. OR you can make a couple cups of pasta and just make enough for a side at dinner or with lunch. Since there are so few ingredients you can mess with the ratios to get what you enjoy. Just add a little Pesto at a time until everything is lightly coated and refrigerate, over night is best!

Enjoy!

Stuffed Peppers – 2 ways

“How blessed to lift our eyes above this scene of ruin, and behold the One who is faithful in all things, and at all times.” — A.W. Pink

1,600 miles and over 1 year ago we gave up our home, our cars, everyone and everything we knew, sold many of our possessions and moved across country on the hopes of a better life. We trusted that God gave us this opportunity and we needed to trust that He would provide for us no matter what. We didn’t have a lot in New Mexico so we figured it’s not like we could be worse off? When you put your trust and your life 100% in God’s hands and ask him to get you through and to guide you, be prepared because HE will.

Nothing worked out when or how I expected or hoped it would. Every step of establishing our life here was difficult, painful, frustrating and each day required us to lean on the Lord more and more. From buying new cars, to finding a house literally the WEEK before school started, to me going back to work not knowing when I’d get to be back at home with Isabelle, to my husbands great job that he thought was waiting for him not working out at all, to losing our church, our friends and making our family very upset. There’s a point when you think it’s easier to just give up. But every step of the way, every challenge, no matter how frustrating or upsetting or how unsure things seemed, we leaned in hard on the Lord and trusted. I’ve never been brave enough to do that in my life. EVER. And now over a year later for the first time in a very long time, we finally are moving forward. I’m back at home with the kids, we have home, cars, money in the bank, everything we would need in the world and a lot more. Yet after the hardest, craziest, year of my life, God literally dragging us through it, I thought it would be easy now. But those tiny worries creeping in my mind, and then the grow into big worries.

One day a few weeks ago I woke up to an email and panicked, at 5:30 in the morning,  just when my husband woke up I started in on him. What are we going to do? How are we going to handle this? So much uncertainty it terrified me and we argued. We RARELY argue. That day he rushed out and forget his phone at home. All morning I stewed in my worry, and anger. We had been so faithful, and now God throws this curve ball? The whole day I let it ruin my mood with worry. I was impatient with the kids, short with my mom. But I prayed, I remembered to pray. Around 1:00 that day the mail came and in it was the solution to my problem. I was so overjoyed I was in tears! This was what we had been worrying about and praying for for months and it was here. We were ok! But since my husband and I argued, he rushed out with out his phone. After work 2 days a week he has classes, so it wasn’t until almost 9:00 at night when he came home could I tell him the wonderful news! I felt terrible, my doubt, worry and anger had ruined his day. One bad morning, one moment of lapsed faith, of sinful worry had stolen a whole day from my husband. God had it covered already, but in my panic, worry, doubt and fear, I forgot him and tried to scramble for my own solutions to the problem.

My mom always says, “God teaches us the same lessons over and over until we learn them”. I think she’s right. Trusting God isn’t a one time thing, it’s not a prayer you say once, or even attending church every Sunday morning, it’s not even reading the bible. I can do all those things, but until I actually let go of the worry and give it ALL up to him, my faith is just words and motions.  Putting your faith in God is a daily, hourly, sometimes minute by minute act. Faith is easy when your bank accounts full. Faith is easy when your sitting on the beach or BBQing with your family. Faith is easy on Sunday morning with the sweet songs and the pastors words hitting you straight to the heart. Faith is hard when your in the trenches. When you don’t know how you’re going to pay a bill or feed your family?

So what do I do? I pray. Literally stop everything and just pray. Then I quote one of my favorite versus to myself and let Jesus’ sweet words be my comfort.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” – Matthew 6:34

My recipe today is for Stuffed Bell Peppers. I was given a box FULL of bell peppers this past week. What a gift! Especially in the middle of grill season, I love bell peppers on the grill. But I had so many I had to expand. I am a big fan of stuffed peppers, but since the are stuffed with rice, usually white rice, I avoid them. For health reasons I follow a super strict diet and by doctors orders I can only have 100g of carbs a day! Let me tell you, that’s hard to do when a cup of white rice is 45g, it’s just not going to happen for me.

So I made my bell peppers 2 ways, one low carb, low cal, one traditional. The kids and hubby loved the traditional and I couldn’t stop sneaking bites. But my healthier version came out pretty awesome too!

StuffedPeppers1 StuffedPeppers2

 Traditional Stuffed Peppers

4 bell peppers (whole with tops and seeds removed)
1 small can tomato sauce
1 regular can of diced tomatoes
2 cups cooked white or brown rice
1 1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. onion powder
1 lb ground beef cooked
optional – shredded cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. In a large bowl mix together cooked ground beef, rice, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, garlic salt and onion powder until thoroughly combined.
3. Stuffed mixture into each bell pepper until full and top with cheese (OPTIONAL) my kids like it, my husband doesn’t
4. Bake 45 minutes.
Enjoy!

Healthy Stuffed Peppers

4 bell peppers (whole with seeds and tops removed)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato sauce
1 can black beans
1 small can corn
1 lb cooked ground beef or turkey (I use both)
1/2 cup cooked rice
1/4 cup finely chopped onions
1 packet store bought chili seasonings***NOTE: if you use the whole packet it will be spicy, I like it that way, but keep it in mind. I’d cut it in half if your making this for kids)
low-fat cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. In a large bowl mix meat, tomatoes, sauce, black beans, corn, rice, onions, chili seasoning until combined.
3. Fill each pepper to the top and top with cheese.
4. Bake 45 minutes.
Enjoy!

Easy Strawberry Pie

Strawberry Pie

This time of year, signs and stands line the country roads… Whole families dot the fields, hunched over, bent down, tasting, picking, laughing… Visions of pie, shortcakes, jams and jellies dance in their heads…

One of the many things I love about our move back to Michigan. Its almost magical how God can turn the harshest winter in a 100 years into a spring more full of life than I’ve ever seen and a summer bountiful with His goodness! Strawberries fill the fields, soon it will be raspberries, blueberries, then the gardens will start to come in and we will be blessed with all the wonders God has allowed us to grow in this fertile land. Its probably more amazing to me, having lived in the desert for the past 18 years, but some days I’m speechless at the life pulsing all around me here. Its amazing how far from God we can feel sometimes when we are in the middle of a desert, how we would give anything for just a taste of that life giving water. When the ground all around is brown and dry and cracked, when it seems like no life can be squeezed out of the emptiness, and then you are thrust into life all around you green and new and bright and wonderful, at first its a shock to the senses. You think there’s no place for me in this world, that the desert has crept into my soul, but His life giving Grace reaches deep into our hearts and pulls out the best of us in the times we feel most incapable. In the times when life seems like an all consuming desert, so dry, so hard to go on, that maybe it’s easier just to run back to what’s easy and familiar, it’s holding onto Him that has gotten us through. Now I feel like we are ready to receive His harvest, with glory and praise and thanksgiving! God’s amazing that way. He has a way of pulling us out of the desert, even when we can’t see past our selves. And He provides us with new life. All we have to do is ask for it.

“In a desert land he found him,
    in a barren and howling waste.
He shielded him and cared for him;
    he guarded him as the apple of his eye”

                                      – Deuteronomy 32:10

Easy Strawberry Pie

Crust:
1 1/2 cups crushed Cinnamon Sugar Graham Crackers
1/4 cup Sugar
1/3 cup Butter, melted

Filling:
3/4 cup Sugar
2 tablespoons Cornstarch
1 cup Water
1 package Strawberry Jello
4 cups fresh sliced Strawberries

1. Mix together Crust ingredients and Press in a greased 8 or 9 in pie plate.
2. Place crust in refrigerator to set.
3. In a small saucepan heat water, cornstarch and sugar until thickened.
4. Remove from heat and stir in package of jello.
5. Arrange strawberries in crust and pour jello mixture over.
6. Refrigerate until set.

Enjoy!

Blueberry Lemon Scones

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These are THE MOST heavenly Blueberry Lemon Scones, oh my! I made Raspberry Orange Scones a few months back, the combo of berries and citrus is perfect, and lead to inspire this recipe. Those were good, but these were better. Light, fluffy, bursting with berries and a subtle hint of lemon, do I really need to say more?

There’s two reason why I think this Scone recipes rocks. One: the use of sour cream in place of milk or in most recipes I could find, heavy cream. I believe sour cream was the key to keeping them SO light and fluffy. Two: the Lemon, it really adds something special. I don’t think it would have been half as good with out the addition of the Lemon.

Perfect for your Sunday Morning breakfast before we head off to church!

Blueberry Lemon Scones

2 cups Flour
1 – 1 1/2 cups Blueberries (use however many you have or like, I used more because
well, I like more)
1/4 cup Sugar plus extra for dusting
1 tbsp Lemon Zest
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
3 tbsp fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1/2 Stick Butter
1 tsp Vanilla
1 Egg – Beaten

1. Preheat Oven to 375 degrees
2. In a mixing bowl combine Flour, Sugar, Baking Powder, Salt and Lemon Zest
3. Cut Butter into squares and add to Dry Ingredients
4. “Cut” the butter into the flour, using 2 knives or a pastry blender until
combined
5. Add Egg, Sour Cream, Vanilla, Lemon Juice and Blueberries and mix until
it just comes together
6. Move to floured surface and knead softly until combined and form into a circle
about an inch and 1/2 thick
7. Slice into triangles and place on a greased cookie sheet
8. Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar
9. Bake for Approx. 20-25 minutes or until just golden brown

Enjoy!

Simple Summer Berry Tart

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This is one of those “Wow-em” recipes, meaning it looks like it took HOURS slaving away in the kitchen, when it really didn’t take that much effort at all.

The center is filled with a creamy mixture of Greek yogurt and cream cheese. Some what healthy, not too sweet and oh so delicious!

Summer Berry Tart

Crust
1 cup All Purpose Flour
2/3 cup Walnuts
6tbsp Butter
1/4 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Sugar
1-3 tbsp Water

1. In a food processor, pulse flour, nuts, salt, sugar and butter, add water 1 tbsp at a time until
mixtures just comes together.
2. Press crust with fingers into the bottom of a greased tart pan or pie plate.
3. Bake at 350 degrees for approx 20 minutes or until edges turn golden brown
4. Remove from oven and allow to cool COMPLETELY

Filling
1 – 8oz Package of Cream Cheese
1 cup Greek Yogurt
1/4 cup Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla

1. Combine Ingredients in a large bowl and mix with mixer until completely smooth.
2. Pour filling over cooled crust and refridgerate. At least 2 hours or unitl completely set.
3. Decorate top with berries and Enjoy!

Red Velvet Cream Cheese Brownies

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Red Velvet Cream Cheese Brownies: Yes they taste as amazing as they sound.

Decadent and beautiful, perfect if you’re looking to make something extra special, but don’t have a TON of time. I’m obsessed with the combo of chocolate and cream cheese and these brownies hit the spot! I couldn’t walk away. Normally I take the easy way out and do not make my brownies from scratch, but this recipe was the exception. And let me just say, one of my next efforts might be perfecting the homemade brownie. These brownies turned out PERFECT, thick, not too cakey, just right.

Easy to make and gorgeous presentation, this is definitely an instant classic.

Red Velvet Cream Cheese Brownies

1/2 cup Butter
2 oz. Chocolate Chopped
1 cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
1 1/2 tsp Red Food Color
2/3 cup Flour
1/4 tsp Salt
8 oz Cream Cheese
1/3 cup Sugar
1 Egg
1/2 tsp Vanilla

1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease 8×8 or 9×9 inch pan. Line with Parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper as well.
3. In a small microwavable bowl melt chocolate and 1/2 cup butter.
4. While chocolate is melting, in a large bowl, mix Sugar, Eggs, Vanilla and Red food coloring.
5. Add Chocolate and Butter mixture 1/2 at a time, stirring after each addition, so the eggs do not get cooked.
6. Add the Flour and Salt to the mixture and stir till just combined.
7. Pour into parchment lined pan.
8. In a medium bowl Combine, Cream Cheese, 1/2 cup Sugar, 1 Egg and 1/2 tsp Vanilla, and stir well.
9. Pour Cream Cheese mixture on top of Brownie mixture in the pan.
10. Swirl Cream Cheese mixture with a butter knife.
11. Bake 35 – 40 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
12. Cool, Slice and…

Enjoy!

Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Mango Salsa

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This dish is fresh, light and healthy, but still makes you want to clean your plate. I love that feeling of being totally stuffed and not feeling guilty about it – this is that kind of meal. This

Mahi Mahi, Pineapple AND Mango were all on Sale last week at Sunflower Market making the total cost to make this dish right around $11.00! Good deal and a good meal, nothing makes my stomache or wallet happier!

Mahi Mahi w/Pineapple Mango Salsa

1lb Mahi Mahi
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to Taste

1 Mango – Diced
1/2 cup Diced Fresh (or Canned) Pineapple
1/4 to 1/2 jalapeno finely diced – amount depends on how hot you want to make it
1/2 Purple Onion finely diced
1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh Cilantro
juice of 1 lime or 1 to 1 1/2 tsp lime juice

1. Place fish on a broiler pan covered with foil. Drizzle with Olive Oil and sprinkle liberally with Salt and Pepper.
2. Bake in Preheated 350 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes
3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl mix together Mango, Pineapple, Jalapeno, Onion, Cilantro and Lime Juice. Cover and refridgerate until fish is done.

Serve fish covered in Salsa and Enjoy!

The BEST Lemon Squares

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My mom’s favorite dessert, we made these A LOT growing up, but mom and I both had to admit these were better than anything we ever made back in the day! I saw these in my Food Network Mag, I love that Magazine, and realized I haven’t had them in years. These lemon squares just looked too good not to try! I didn’t do it exactly the way they did, for example I was too lazy to bust out my food processor. Also I didn’t have a cup of Fresh lemon juice, it’s winter and I think it’d be a bit much to buy that many lemons and hand squeeze. The bottled stuff worked fine. These Lemon Squares have a rich tart lemony filling with a crust that’s not too sweet but the perfect balance. Definitely a decadent little treat, it’s probably best that my mom took half, I only have two left and as I write this they are calling my name, lemon square for breakfast anyone? : )

Classic Lemon Squares

Ingredients:

For the Crust:
1 1/2 sticks Butter
2 cups all-purpose Flour
1/4 cup packed Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Confectioners’ Sugar
1/4 tsp. Salt

For the Filling:
4 Large Eggs Plus 2 eggs yolks
2 cups Granulated Sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose Flour
1 tsp Lemon Zest
1 cup Lemon Juice

Pre-heat Oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 in pan with vegetable oil, Next line pan with aluminum foil and grease withvegetable oil as well.

First Make the Crust: Combine Butter, Flour, Sugars and Salt until incorporated, the recipe uses a food processor but I didn’t want to get it out so I used my mixer, it think either will work fine. Next Press mixture evenly into bottom and about 1/2 inch up the sides of the pan. Bake until golden brown about 25 minutes.

While the crust is baking make the filling: Whisk the Whole Eggs and Yolks, Sugar and Flour together until smooth. Whisk in lemon zest and juice.

When Crust is ready, remove from oven and pour filling over hot crust. Reduce oven heat to 300 degrees. Return squares to oven for 35-40 minutes or until “just set”, mine was barely “set” still pretty jiggley which made me nervous but it will set perfectly in the fridge so don’t worry.

Lastly, let the bars cool on a rack then refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours. Lift out of the pan using the foil
and slice, dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Enjoy!

Source: Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine March 2010 issue

Turkey Meatballs

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This is one of my tried and true favorite dinner recipes. A few years ago my mom went on this big “health” kick. She switched from whole milk to 2%, white bread to wheat, eggs to egg whites, the list goes on. I even believe there was a jar of tofu “mayonnaise” purchased, though I don’t think it was ever actually consumed. She also purchased a couple “healthy” cookbooks. I remember my sister and I flipping through them in digust. The ONLY recipe that made the cut was these unbelievable Turkey Meatballs from mom’s Eating for Life Cookbook. Made with, yes, egg whites, ground Turkey and tons of fresh herbs, these meatballs are so good for you, you don’t feel guilty when you got back for your third or fourth. I’d like to make these into a giant Turkey Meatball Sub one day, I think that would be beautiful…

The Ultimate Turkey Meatballs

2 lbs. Lean Ground Turkey
3 Egg Whites
3/4 Cup Dry Italian Breadcrumbs
1/4 Cup Water
3/4 Yellow Onion finely Chopped
3 cloves Garlic finely Minced
1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley finely Minced
1/4 Cup Fresh Basil finely Minced
1 1/2 tsp black Pepper
1 tsp Salt
4 Cups Marinara Sauce
1 box of Cooked Spaghetti

1. Preheat Broiler
2. In a large mixing bowl, mix Turkey, Egg whites, Breadcrumbs, Water, Onion, Parsley, Basil, Garlic, Salt & Pepper throughly. 3. Shape in 1 1/2 inch Meatballs and place on a greased Cookie Sheet.
4. Broil for about 10-15 minutes Turning to make sure you brown meatballs on all sides.
5. In a Large Saucepan Heat Marinara Sauce.
6. When Meatballs are browned, remove from oven and place into sauce.
7. Cook over Medium/Low Heat for about 20 minutes.
8. Serve with Cooked Pasta

Enjoy!

Source: Recipe Adapted from Spaghetti & Meatballs, Eating for Life Cookbook by Bill Phillips

Coconut Orange Rice Pudding

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I bought a cookbook maybe 10 years ago in the discount section of the bookstore. It was only $5 and pretty big so I thought even if it wasn’t that great it was a good deal. Even then I couldn’t pass up a good deal on a cookbook! ha ha Skimming the recipes I found this gem. A delicious twist on one of my classic favorites. This recipe beautifully uses contrasting textures of the soft rice and bite of the coconut, with undertones of orange and cinnamon. Topped with toasted coconut and filled with golden raisins, this is one bowl of rice pudding that is anything but traditional. Enjoy this recipe!

Coconut Orange Rice Pudding

3 cups Water
1 1/2 cups uncooked Rice
Whole Peel of 1 Orange (pith removed)
2 Cinnamon Sticks
Pinch of Salt
1/4 cup Golden Raisins
3/4 cup Shredded Sweetened Coconut
5 cups Milk
1 cup Cocnut Milk – look in the Asian food Section of your grocery, that’s where I found mine after searching for a bit
1 1/4 cups Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1. In a Large pot combine water, orange peel, cinnamon sticks and salt, Bring to a boil. Add Rice, stir, reduce heat to low, cover the pot and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed (about 20 min)
2. When Rice is ready, add milk, coconut milk, sugar, raisins and 1/2 cup of shredded coconut. Increase heat to Medium-Low and cook stirring every so often to prevent sticking. If liquid boils reduce heat to low. Cook about 50 minutes or until thick.
3. When pudding is done, remove from heat and discard orange peel and cinnamon sticks. Stir in the vanilla. Let cool.
4. While it’s cooling toast remaining coconut in oven at a temp of 350, takes about fives minutes, watch carefully!
5. Serve slighly chilled or at room temp, garnish with Toasted Coconut.

Enjoy!