Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Healing Hand Of God

This was originally written as a five minute sermon for a class I took a few weeks ago, but in light of what has happened in Moore, Oklahoma, Sandy Hook Elementary, Boston, Hurricane Sandy, and other tragic events I though I would share it with you. I've cried a thousand tears the past year or so. With the passing of loved ones, and tragedy around every corner it seems like. I'm not an emotional person, usually, maybe there's just too much death, both man made and natural, for me to deal with right now. I don't know. I do know that the death of this young man affected me in ways that I don't understand, and when we saw his mom and dad for the first time, all I could do was hold her and cry. No words passed between us for several minutes. Just tears and hugs, and that was all that was needed at the time.

It is my hope and prayer that you will find some sort of comfort in these words and passages from the bible. Even though I penned the letters, God put the words into my heart to be able to share them with you. When I gave this sermon, I cried most of the way through it, my class was in tears also. You may shed a tear or two as you read this, or maybe you won't. Regardless, I hope you find comfort just knowing God really does care  about us and there is a reason for everything that happens in our lives, both good and bad.

Prayer: 1 Thess. 5:23 And may the God of peace sanctify you wholly and I pray your spirit, mind and body be kept blameless until the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

This weekend Danny and I will be going to WV, but it really isn't a social visit, it's to . comfort a pastor and his wife. They are friends that we have known for about 7 years now. We watched their boys grow. We've celebrated the older one move out and getting married. We rejoiced at the first grandbaby. We watched the younger one, who was about 10 years old when we met, grow in ways and stature. He was a cub scout, who went on to be a boy scout, who went on to be a volunteer fire fighter, who went on to graduate, just a few weeks ago. A fine young man. A young man who was a friend God, loved his family, and cared for his community. A young man who was a fine leader and made friends easily. Quick with a smile, and eager to lend a hand if you needed help.

On Saturday, we will lay this young man to rest. He was barely 18 years old. You see, he was tragically taken in an automobile accident on Tuesday evening as he was driving home. It makes you wonder, where is God in all of this? Why did God allow this to happen? Why? Just why? So many questions and the bible, Gods word gives us the answers. It also gives us the tools we need to heal. Yes, it really does.

In Psalms 147:3 He say “He heals the broken hearted...”

Revelation 21:4 say, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes...”

Psalm 119:76 give us this simple prayer and promise, “May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.”

I'm sure we have all felt the sting of the pain of death in our lives. The loss of friends and loved ones is a pain we all have to endure at one time or another. Sometimes it's a relieving pain, when we are relieved that the person we cared for is no longer suffering. Sometimes it's a surreal pain when a loved one is suddenly taken and we just reel from the pain and seem to float through the nightmare of it all. Either way, Gods hand is in it and we turn to Him for comfort and peace.

Gods word says in Psalms 23:4 “...your rod and your staff, they comfort me.....” What does a rod and a staff have to do with comfort? Well, when a shepherd want to gather a sheep that is hurt or sick or even in danger, he uses his staff or rod to pull it toward him. Have you ever seen a shepherds crook? It's shaped like a candy cane with a hook at one end. The shepherd gently hooks the sheep and draws them near so he can help them in their time of need. This is what God does for us when we need to be comforted. He draws us near, closer to him with gentle loving hands that embrace us and lovingly wipe the tears from our eyes.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 tells us where our comfort comes from and most importantly, why, why must we feel so much pain. The pain of death, the pain of rejection, the pain of loss.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, WHO COMFORTS US IN ALL OUR TROUBLES, SO WE CAN COMFORT THOSE IN ANY TROUBLE WITH THE COMFORT WE OURSELVES HAVE RECEIVED FROM GOD! So we can COMFORT those who are in need of comforting. I don't know how to comfort a mother who has lost a child, but I know God knows and all I need to do is be there for my friend and God will do the rest. He told me so in his word and I believe his word is true, so I will just be there for her and allow God to comfort her as he has comforted me in the past. You see, it's not me, it's Gods spirit that comforts and gives healing, but me and others are the vessels that he uses, filled to overflowing with the outpouring of his love, compassion and comfort.

Remember as you travel along in this broken world to allow yourself to comfort those around you as God had comforted you in the past. It may be a simple as a hug, sometimes no words will be needed. Sometimes just a word of encouragement is all that it takes. And sometimes a prayer will lift a burden from someone's shoulder. Remember, God can do anything without us, but he chooses to use us to show his love to a hurting world. Go in peace my friends and may your light shine in the darkness.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

It's Time To Get Those Seeds Started

As many of you already know, on of my hobbies is gardening. I grow mostly veggies and herbs, but I also grow the bees have something to eat too.

I am pro "Grow Your Own" and anti "GMO"!

And for the first time I am promoting another bloggers page. I really do like her and she is running a contest in conjunction with The Botanical Interests Seeds. Here's a link to the contest, I really do hope you join in and best of luck.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

White Chocolate Cheesecake with Dark Chocolate Drizzled Raspberries

I thought about good and evil when I made this cheesecake. So good for my taste buds, so bad for my diet.
I thought about light and dark. White chocolate and just a hint of dark chocolate.
I thought about Heaven and Hell. That creamy bliss and the pounds tomorrow.

Mostly I thought about Valentines Day.....A day for love and lovers. A day when you look at your best friend and say, "I love you". A day when your best friend looks at you with that sparkle in their eye and repeats to you, "I love you too". And what goes better with a romantic dinner than cheesecake laden with white chocolate, red raspberries and just a hint of deep dark chocolate.

This is a small recipe. Perfect for just the two of you and a little left over for tomorrow. It makes 6 lovely slices. If you want a larger cheesecake you can double the recipe and not have any problems.
First gather all your ingredients. There are only three ingredients for the crust.

Graham crackers, butter and sugar.

Next comes the filling.
Cream cheese, eggs, sugar, almond extract and white chocolate.

Finally the garnish. Fresh raspberries and dark chocolate.

The Recipe.

4 Whole graham crackers
1 Tablespoons of sugar
2 Tablespoons of butter (Melted)

Method: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor combine the graham crackers and sugar. Pulse until fine crumbs, then add the melted butter and pulse until well mixed.

Press the graham cracker mixture into the bottom of an 8 inch, or smaller, spring form pan. A smaller diameter pan will yield a thicker cheesecake and may need a little longer baking time. But only by a few minutes. This is the smallest size spring form pan I have right now, but I'm planning on getting a 6 inch pan soon. Set aside your crust.

2 8 Ounce packages cream cheese (softened to room temperature)
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 Teaspoon almond extract
2 Large eggs, lightly beaten
4 Ounces white chocolate melted and cooled

Method: Melt the white chocolate in the microwave for about 30 seconds, stir and continue heating in the microwave, stirring every 15 seconds until white chocolate is smooth and creamy. Set aside.  In a mixing bowl combine the cream cheese and sugar at low speed until well blended. Add the almond extract and eggs. Mix just until combined. Add the white chocolate and mix gently by hand until well incorporated. Do not over mix your batter once you add the eggs, it will give your cheese cake a grainy texture. Pour over graham cracker crust, place on a cookie sheet and bake for about 40 minutes or just until the center is almost set. It will look fallen in the middle and jiggle a little when you move the baking sheet.



Remove the cheesecake from the baking pan and put it on a rack to cool for about 10 minutes then run a knife around the edges to loosen the cheesecake. Unlatch the spring form pan and remove the outer ring. Let cool. After the cheesecake has cooled place it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Garnish with a few raspberries and one ounce of melted dark chocolate.

Refrigerate any leftovers......if there are any.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Jolly Olde England

Well hello and Happy New Year to all of you. As promised I made a wonderful English meal consisting of a thick and hearty Oxtail Soup, a beautiful Sage Derby Cheese Bread and for dessert we enjoyed a nice Peach Preserve Top Steamed Pudding with Vanilla Sauce......I must say I was impressed. I've never made any of these dishes before and have never ever eaten steamed pudding so I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was pleased.

A little history about oxtail soup. I assumed it was peasant wasn't. As a matter of fact, back in the day only the king and royals were even allowed to eat beef. If you were a peasant you probably ate rabbit, squirrel and other varmints as well as some game birds. Mostly you ate grains and whatever you grew in your garden and were able to keep through the winter like root veggies. It's believed that oxtail soup originated in France where a poor royal went looking for something to eat and asked for the tail of a cow from a tanner and made soup out of it. At that time in France, the hides of cattle still had the tails attached, so the tanners then started selling the tail and thus oxtail soup was born. It was later brought to England where it became a favorite among the royals and later became a staple among all of the English.

So, now the moment you've all been waiting for here are the recipes!

Beef Stock

2 Pounds Beef Bones with some meat on them
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Pound Onions
8 Ounces Celery
1 Head of Garlic, cloves separated
1 Sprig of Rosemary, Thyme and Oregano
2 Bay Leaves
1/2 Bulb of Fennel and a few fronds


Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
Put the olive oil in a cast iron skillet and heat almost to smoking. Add the beef bones and brown over high heat. Don't worry about some of the meat being red, it will finish in the oven. Don't crowd the bones while they brown and don't play with them too much, let them get really brown. You will probably have to turn on your exhaust fan to do this or you will smoke up the house.

Put the browned bones on a cookie sheet and roast for about an hour in the oven. This will help render the fat from the bones. A little fat adds flavor, too much fat makes the stock taste horrible. When the bones have roasted remove them with a pair of tongs and add them to the stock pot. Use the rendered fat to put on your dogs food, they love it and it's not bad for them.

Meanwhile, let the skillet cool just a little then add a small amount of water to deglaze the pan, be sure to scrape all the crusty bits off the bottom of the pan. Pour this into a 4 quart stock pot and add about 8 cups of water.

Once the bones have roasted until they are nice and brown, but not black, add them to the stock pot along with all the other ingredients. Don't worry about peeling the onions or garlic, you're going to strain the broth later and the onion skins add nice color to the stock.

Let this simmer for several hours, skimming off any foam that floats to the top. Reduce it to about half  of what you started with.

 Once the stock has simmered for at least 2 hours remove it from the heat and let it cool for about an hour. Then pour it through a strainer with smallish holes. Or you can use cheese cloth to strain it through. I don't mind a few bits of meat and veggies in my stock, since most, if not all, of my soups have meat and veggies anyhow.

Once you strain it put it in the fridge and let it cool over night. When you're ready to use your stock skim off any fat that has congealed on the surface....feed this to the dogs too. I add it to their dry dog food especially in the winter, it helps to keep their skin from drying out.
Now you have beef stock for anything you need stock for. Don't worry if it looks a little off in the color, this isn't a store bought box of stuff, it's the real thing and it will taste so much better. It's just not as pretty.....yet.

Oxtail Soup

3 Pounds Oxtails
1/2 Cup Flour
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 Pound Chopped Onion
1 Head of Garlic Peeled
2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
1 Sprig Thyme
1/2 Cup Dry Red Wine
1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
1 Tablespoon Paprika
1/2 Pound Carrots
1/2 Pound Sliced Mushrooms
1/2 Pound Peeled and Cubed Parsnips
1/2 Fennel Bulb Chopped


In a cast iron Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid heat the butter and olive oil. Dust the oxtails in the flour and place in the skillet. Brown the oxtails well and remove to a plate as you continue browning all the oxtails. Once all the oxtails are browned and set aside add the chopped onion and garlic to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes over a low to medium heat until he onions are translucent. Don't let this burn, turn the heat lower if you need to.

Next add the flour to the pot and stir well, allow this to just brown slightly. Now add the rest of the ingredients, except for the carrots, parsnips, mushrooms and fennel, you'll add these later. Place the oxtails back into the pot and add your homemade stock and if needed enough water to make 8 cups of liquid. Place the lid on your pot and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for several hours, stirring occasionally.
After 4 or 5 hours remove the lid and allow the soup to simmer and reduce by about a third. This will take an hour or so, just don't let it come to a hard boil, it will make the meat tough and could burn the soup. Once it has reduced by a third add the rest of the veggies and mushrooms. Let it continue to simmer for at least another hour, stirring occasionally. By now it should have a nice brown color and be quite thick. It should have reduced by at half the original amount.

Well, there you have it. A thick and hearty oxtail soup. Ladle up a bowl and serve it with a nice bread along with a small plate to set your oxtail on to pick off the meat and you're ready to enjoy. I highly recommend a glass of wine with your soup, it will complement it greatly.

For our next recipe we'll be making a Sage Derby Cheese and Onion Bread. Sage Derby cheese comes from the Derbyshire area of England and has been around since the 1600s. It's a semi hard cheese made from cows milk. It has a slight sage flavor and is creamy yellow in color. The flavor is somewhat sharp like a good cheddar. It is easy to grate and does well with pasta as well as with this bread. Sage Derby Cheese and Onion Bread is a very simple bread to make. The original recipe called for whole wheat flour, but since my father in law isn't allowed whole grains, he's a dialysis patient, I made it with unbleached white flour and was quite pleased with the results. Hope you get a chance to make this and if you do let me know how you like it.

Sage Derby Cheese and Onion Bread

1 1/2 Cups Warm Water
1 Packet or 2 1/4 Teaspoons Yeast
1 Tablespoon Dried Onions
1 Teaspoon Sugar
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Cups Unbleached White Flour
4 Ounces Shredded Derby Sage Cheese or Sharp Cheddar Cheese


Place the yeast in the warm water and allow it to proof for 5 or 6 minutes.
Pour the yeast into a medium sized bowl and add the dried onions, sugar and olive oil. Stir well.

Add 3 cups of flour and stir with a wooden spoon until the flour is incorporated into the yeast mixture. Add the cheese and mix well.

Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface and begin kneading the dough and incorporating the flour as need to make a soft but not sticky dough. This will take about 10 minutes.

Once the dough is ready put it in a lightly greased bowl, give it a twist and turn it over. Now cover it with a cloth and place it in a draft free place until it doubles in size. I put mine in the oven with just the light on and find that this works well for raising breads. Once the dough has doubled in size punch it down and divide it into two pieces with one piece twice as big as the other. Now shape each piece into a ball and place the biggest ball of dough on a lightly greased pan. I use my cast iron griddle for this because it's just the right size and it browns the bottom of the bread nicely. Now place the second ball, the smaller one, on top of the larger ball of dough like this.

Now using your fingers, or a wooden spoon if you like, press a hole all the way through the middle of the doughs all the way to the bottom. This helps adhere the dough balls together.

And it should look like this.

Now cover the dough again and put it in a warm draft free place and let it raise again until doubled in size.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place your bread dough in the oven on the center rack. Let it bake for about 30 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and slide onto a rack to cool. Congratulations, you have just made your first Sage Derby Cheese and Onion Bread to go with your Oxtail Soup. Next up on our list is dessert.
Now for dessert and no English meal would be complete without a pudding. Now as an American, when I hear the word pudding, I think of a creamy concoction made with milk and eggs. In England a pudding is more like a cake, or at least a cobbler. It can be sweet or savory, for dessert we will be doing a sweet pudding, of course. But Yorkshire pudding seems to be very popular and is usually made to accompany a beef dish, it's a savory pudding that I may have to try some day. And then there are bread puddings which are made with day old bread, not to be confused with bread and BUTTER pudding which is made with soft white or wheat, it gets confusing. Anyhow.....we are going to make a peach preserve top steamed pudding with vanilla pudding sauce. Pudding and it? Good!
Peach Preserve Top Steamed Pudding with Vanilla Pudding Sauce
1/2 Cup Butter at room temperature
1/2 Cup Sugar
2 Large Eggs beaten
1 Cup Flour
1 1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/8 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Half and Half or Milk
3/4 Cup Peach Preserves or any flavor preserves will work.
Preheat the oven to 280 degrees and fill a tea kettle with water and start it simmering.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar in a medium sized bowl and add the eggs. Stir in the flour. You should now have a very thick batter. Slowly add the half and half, or milk, to the batter until you have a cake like batter. It may take a little less milk or a little more half and half because of the thickness of the liquids. It should look like this. Thin enough to almost pour but thick enough to still be able to spread.
In a buttered casserole add the peach preserves. This is a 1 1/2 quart round casserole with a lid. Since this is a steamed pudding you will need either a pudding tin, which most Americans don't have and if you do congratulations, but if you don't you will need an oven proof bowl and a bigger roaster or pan that it will fit into. You'll see how and why in a minute.
Now pour or spread the batter carefully over the preserves and place the lid on the casserole. If your bowl doesn't have a lid you can use aluminum foil, just be sure to make it as tight as possible. You don't want water getting into your pudding. If you have a lid, you may still want to cover it like I did here, to help seal it better.


Now the fun part begins. Place you pudding tin or covered casserole dish into whatever you found to use to steam your pudding. I found a roaster, with a lid, the this casserole fit into just fine. Pour boiling water from your tea kettle in the steamer pan up to about half way up the side of your pudding pan. Like this. Being careful not to pour water on the top of the covered pudding dish. 
Cover you steaming pan with a lid and place it in the oven. Let your pudding steam for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours depending on how deep your bowl was. I shallow casserole will only take 1 1/2 hours. Where a deep pudding steamer will take closer to 2 hours. After the allotted time, carefully remove the pans and take the pudding out of the steamer pan. Set it aside for just a few minutes then very carefully invert it onto a cake plate or serving platter. It sould look like this. Yours may be a different color if you used a different preserve. But it should run down the sided of the pudding and look amazingly delicious. Now for the vanilla pudding sauce.
This is a very good everyday sauce that can be used on English puddings or American cakes. It just adds a special touch of elegance to a simple dessert. It would also be wonderful on fresh fruit or berries and it only takes a few minutes to make and with simple ingredients.
Vanilla Pudding Sauce
1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Flour
1 Egg
2 Tablespoons Butter
Pinch of Salt
1 Cup Half and Half
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
In a small heavy saucepan combine the brown sugar and flour. Add the egg, butter and salt and mix well. Stir in the half and half and over a low to medium heat, stirring constantly, cook the sauce for about 10 minutes or until it coats the back of a spoon. DO NOT LET IT BOIL, the sauce will break and be ruined.
If you are in a hurry don't do this sauce it take a slow hand to make it right. Once the sauce coats the back of a spoon remove it from the heat and add the vanilla. Serve it over the peach preserves top pudding. This sauce may be served warm or at room temperature. If you refrigerate it let it come up to room temperature before serving.
Well friends there you have it. A complete English supper and it only took two days to complete. Well, not really. It did take two days to prepare, but most if the time was simmering and steaming. It only takes a few minutes to do most of the prep work and just a short time to whip up the steamed pudding and sauce. This is a nice recipe to do on a cold winter day when there really isn't much else to do. Or since most of the time is spent with your stock or soup simmering away you can still do what ever needs to be done around the house. If you have a wood stove for heat, this is the perfect soup to put on top of your stove and kind of forget about it.
Here is what the entire meal looks like all put together. It was a wonderful and filling meal for a cold winters day.
Next week we will be visiting another country. I'm not sure where we'll be going but where ever it is I'm sure the food will be lovely and flavorful.
Until then may you have a blessed New Year and may all of Gods peace be with you.
The Real Happy Homemaker