Friday, August 27, 2010

Foodie Fridays

There comes a time in everyone's life when the clock strikes 4:30pm and you need supper on the table in 30 minutes or less. This can be a problem. The temptation is to just grab toast and peanut butter or order in pizza. Or under dire circumstances one might stir up some Kraft Dinner. However, wouldn't you prefer something healthy, delicious, inexpensive and full of homemade, exotic goodness?

I thought so. :-)

Enter Nasi Goreng.

(which sounds remarkably like a theatre cue for a Russian Actor, but I digress...)

Nasi Goreng actually just means "Fried Rice" which doesn't sound too exotic at all. But that is the glory of this dish! You can dress this up or tone it down according to the whims and tastes of your family.

This is an international superstar of a meal. Talk about world traveller! It is the Indonesian National Food, and it is found in Singapore and China and India too! The Dutch will claim it as one of their traditional foods because of their footprint in Indonesia. And they have seasoned it in the vein of all things Netherlands. Indonesia and Malaysia have their own take on the meal, sometimes eating it for breakfast, lunch and supper! It can be spicy or mild, simple or elaborately garnished. We do a happy mix of both. It can also be meaty and hearty, or vegetarian and hearty! It can be laden with veggies. It can be main course or side dish. What's not to love about Nasi Goreng?! :-)

My take on Nasi Goreng comes from my favourite cookbook of all time. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison is by far the most helpful, beautiful, inspiring, encouraging cookbook I've ever owned. And no, you can't borrow it :-) Actually, you could borrow it, but like me, you'll just want to buy it. I first fell in love with it in Barnes and Nobles on 4th Street in Santa Rosa, CA. Man, I poured over that book (with a Decaf Grande Soy No-Whip Mocha in first Starbucks experience as well. Those were good times!). I copied out from the book, Nasi Goreng included, because I couldn't afford the $40 price tag. When we returned home to Canada, and to a steady income, I found it again at Chapters and happily paid the slightly-higher Canadian price. Worth every penny!

The trick to this dish is to have cooked and cooled rice on hand. I have made it with fresh, hot rice and it works too, but the texture is better if you use "yesterday's rice". Why not cook up a double portion of rice the next time you make some and freeze it for just such a day when you need supper RIGHT NOW? You won't regret it!

The real heart of Nasi Goreng, in my mind, is the sauce. The basic premise of how I do Nasi Goreng follows, but you need to know it is widely and frequently subject to variation.

What you need:

Cooked rice (as much as you like. Clearly more if it is a main course meal. Maybe a cup per person is a good place to start.)

Veggies (whatever you have on hand. eg. diced carrots, celery, peas, green beans, snow peas, zucchini, brocolli, cauliflower...I've even used a bag of frozen mixed veggies and it works just as well! Use just one vegetable or a combination. Whatever suits your fancy.)

Diced extra-firm Tofu, ground beef, or diced cooked chicken (or cheat and buy one of those rotisserie chickens at your local grocery store and use the shredded meat).

For the Sauce:

(via the cookbook)
1 small white onion
2 serrano chiles, diced
3-4 tbsp roasted peanut oil
2 tbsp soy sauce mixed with 1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ketchup or tomato sauce

Work all of that into a paste using a food processor or mortar and pestle.

(or, my cheater, easy version)

1/2 cup soy sauce
spoonful of brown sugar
decent squirt of ketchup
as much Sambal Oelek as you can stand! (this is the spicy bit. It is usually found in small jars in the International section of grocery stores. You could also use a good Thai chile paste)

Stir all together. Easy peasy.

How to Do It:

Heat oil in a large frying pan. If you feel like being fancy, toss in some chopped onions and garlic. Otherwise saute the tofu until golden, or ground beef until cooked through. Add the cooked rice and veggies. Stir occassionally until rice begins to brown. (or not if you need supper in a hurry!) Pour sauce over and stir well to coat. Then just keep cooking on medium heat, stirring occassionally, until the sauce is beginning to carmelize, your veggies are softening but still a little crispy (or to your preference), and your family is hovering in the kitchen, desperately trying to sneak a spoonful of the stuff.

Voila. C'est tout! To garnish, (if you are feeling lush) sprinkle with diagonally sliced green onions, or pea shoots, or peanuts, or finely shredded cabbage, or waterchestnuts.... so.unbelievably.good. Your belly, and your budget, will thank you. Let me know if you make it, and how much you loved it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays

Hello. She's 7. When I was 7, I thought I could make myself sound like Tina Turner.

In case you are wondering, I was wrong. :-)

This kind of makes me smile.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays

Just because...

There are some things that should be SO.GOOD that end up being kind of just alright.

Mind you, I do have a special place in my heart for "The Leader of The Pack". :-)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Foodie Fridays

I've been patiently, desperately, hungrily waiting for tomato season so that I could give you this most brilliantly simple and yet STUNNINGLY delicious salad. You could make it with hot-house tomatoes in the winter. And I would encourage you to try. But you'll quickly find that the picked-right-out-of-the-garden tomatoes are just so deadly good that you'll be willing to wait for August and September to eat this salad.

My first taste of this salad was on Chris and my 10th wedding anniversary at a lovely Inn not too far from here. Thankfully the restaurant gave a detailed description of the salad on the menu, and thankfully, I really enjoy trying to replicate restaurant food at home. Hence, I have come very close to getting the salad just right. Yay! This is, unfortunately, one of those recipes without specific amounts listed because you just need to know what's in it and then you can make as much or as little as you like. Trust me, it isn't rocket science! :-)

Without further ado: Tomato and Provolone Salad

What You Need:
Plump, perfect, ripe tomatoes, at least one per person (go for Beefstake or other large, full-flavoured tomatoes. Truthfully, anything fresh off the vine will be good)

Slices of provolone cheese (you can find it already sliced in the deli section, or order it at the counter)

Slices of Genoa Salami (or any other good, not sweet salami. And maybe not a spicy salami either. Something with a good amount of pepper, but not "heat". Does that make sense?)

Pesto (store-bought or homemade...doesn't matter)

Walnut Oil (okay, I know. Really? It is fabulous, but you can certainly use a good olive oil instead)

Black olives (optional)

Fresh basil or parsley (optional)

How to Do it!

Slice tomatoes, salami, and cheese into rounds, trying to make them as close to the same thickness as possible.

Alternate the slices, arranging them in a circle around your place (tomato, salami, cheese, tomato, salami cheese...). For a larger serving, or to make a larger serving platter worth, start near the outside edge of the plate and make overlapping circles/spirals towards the center of the plate.

Thin some pesto with the oil.

Drizzle over salad. Sprinkle with olives and fresh herbs, if using.

Sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper if desired.

And then convince yourself that you want to share with the people you love, because truthfully, you may want to eat the whole thing by yourself. :-)

Serve with a good crusty bread to sop up all the dressing and tomato juices off the plate. You could arrange this salad on top of some greens to make it more filling. I'd recommend arugula or spinach as they are more flavourful and sturdy to stand up to the salad.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays

"He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out in to a broad place, he rescued me, because he delighted in me."

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave himself up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?"

(Ps.18:16-19, Rom.8:31-32)

You Are For Me

Verse 1
So faithful
So constant
So loving and so true
So powerful in all You do
You fill me
You see me
You know my ev'ry move
You love for me to sing to You

Chorus 1
I know that You are for me
I know that You are for me
I know that You will never forsake me in my weakness
And I know that You have come now
Even if to write upon my heart
To remind me who you are

Verse 2
So patient
So gracious
So merciful and true
So wonderful in all You do
You fill me
You see me
You know my ev'ry move
And You love for me to sing to You Lord

CCLI Song No. 5265457
© 2008 Gateway Create Publishing (Admin. by Integrity's Praise! Music)
Kari Jobe
For use solely with the SongSelect Terms of Use. All rights Reserved.
CCLI License No. 164330

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Telemarketing Fun

My friend, Kristina, just posted a recent encounter with a telemarketer over at her blog and so I felt compelled to share with you my latest experience. Mine is a moral tale: a fable of sorts. Read, and learn.

Me: Hello, this is Barbara.

Telemarketer: [toilet flushing] Hello, my name is...

Me: Not interested. [Hang up, and disinfect ear]

And the moral of this tale:

If a sale you want to make,
And a pee break, need to take,
Please do the last well before the first,
So I don't know, and you don't burst.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Heard At My House

Daughter A, age 9: "I'm glad I'm me. I mean, I probably wouldn't be sad if I was somebody else either, but I'm glad I'm me. I just like it. And this house is the coziest house ever. And I love walking through the house and smelling all of Mom's yummy cooking smells. [extended, contented sigh] I think I'm just pretty happy."

Yes, dear Sunshine. You are just pretty happy. And we are so glad you are you, too. I couldn't imagine life with you!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Foodie Fridays

My husband loves me. But he's not a liar. And he's not a flatterer. So when he compliments me, I believe he means it and not that he is still viewing me through some Newly-wed Rose-coloured glasses.

And he says I make killer soups. He says I should write a cook book about soups. He says I could make money on my soups.

I heart that guy.

If you come to my house for lunch sometime for a 'thing' (you know, a baby dedication, birthday party, Thanksgiving Sunday lunch... a 'thing') you may find that I serve what I call, my "Soup Buffet". There will be 3 pots of soup, assorted breads, assorted garnishes for the soups and lots of clean bowls and spoons so you can try them all! It is really one of my favourite things to cook. Soup is so simple, yet when done well it can be surprisingly complex and exciting and satisfying! (can you tell I haven't had lunch yet...I'm hungry!)

So, today, for the first time, if I'm not mistaken, I will share with you one of my favourite soups! Because even in a heat wave, a pot of soup simmering on the stove is a beautiful thing.

Bits of Bite-Sized Broccoli Soup

2 large heads broccoli, in small florets (peel the stems and chop them up too!)
2 celery stalks with leaves, diced small
4 small carrots, diced small
1 large onion, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large potatoes, diced small
Half a head of cauliflower, diced small
a handful each of fresh basil, thyme, and oregano (or 1/4 tsp each dried)
Chicken broth, or water (approx. 6 cups)

In large stock pot, heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil (or vegetable oil). Saute the carrots, celery, and onion until softening. Add garlic and saute until it smells so good you want to eat it already! :-) (approx. 1-2 minutes: don't let the garlic burn.)

Add broccoli, cauliflower, and potato and herbs. Stir to mix well. Pour in broth and/or water just enough to barely cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil. Then turn down and let simmer 20 minutes, or until the veggies are soft.

In a food processor or blender, puree approximately half of the soup, then return to the pot. Add salt to taste. If it is too thick, add more broth, or even some milk (or soy milk). If it is too, dip your bread into it :-)

This is just plain yummy. Little kids even seem to like it as the bites of veggies seem to fit well in their mouths and not overwhelm them. This will make a fair number of servings and it freezes pretty well.

Also, sometimes, we grate half a pound of cheese into the pot too... :-)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Impressing God

How long have I sat thinking about this post? How long have I had a weight on my heart about this post? *sigh*

My first stirrings and musings on this matter came some 6 years ago when I read "An Unstoppable Force" by Erwin McManus. The whole book kind of got under my skin. And if I'm being honest, I felt sort of annoyed by the premise and presumption in the book. I don't own a copy of the book, so forgive me as I paraphrase, as best as I can, a recurring theme in his writing that got my goat. He would talk about how praying for our children to be safe was a poor thing to pray for. That our goal for ourselves and our children and our churches should be to live dangerous lives for Christ. God wasn't calling us to lives of safety, but to lives of danger, and risk, and doing big things for God.

Now, I agree that the Word promises that we will have trial. We will have tribulations. There is no denying that saints throughout history, and even to today, are suffering for the dangerous righteousness they are living out. And there is no denying that Christ himself did not choose an easy life of safety during his time on earth.

I agree that we need to live lives that are full of action. James says, "Faith without works is dead" and "Be not merely hearers of the word but doers also". We need to act. Jesus acted. I get that. I know the Parable of the Talents. I know how displeased the Manager was with the worker who merely buried his talents, folding his hands and twiddling his thumbs in safety and ease. And I know how pleased he was with the workers who used and developed and risked the talents for a greater reward. I know these truths.

And don't get me wrong: I know myself well enough to know that at heart I am lazy and selfish, and prone to justify my laziness and selfishness under the guise of "being cautious" or "being reasonable". I am also prone to worry, and so the easy thing for me would be to bubble wrap my children and say it was "just being a good steward of the gifts God has given to me".

And also don't get me wrong: The last thing I want is for the church to be a bunch of complacent, comfortable, casserole-loving, isolated, irrelevant, nice guys.

So I struggle with this. I don't want to live a meaningless life of ease and inactivity. I don't want to displease God by wasting the days he has given to me. And yet I look at the life he has given me and wonder how a mom of 7 is supposed to "go and do some big thing to impress God"? I mean, after all, I'm *just* a stay at home mom.

And then I see a video like this...

...and I don't disagree. I think he's right. On many, many levels, he is absolutely right.


Will someone say that being a mom *is* doing a big thing for God?

Will someone please say that choosing to quit your job, live on one income, and stay home and homeschool is living a scary, crazy, unsafe life for some of us?

Will someone please say that being a mom or a dad who works all day, shining the light of Christ to his or her co-workers, and then coming home and making supper, reading stories, praying with the kids, and selflessly spending even more weary hours shining the light at home, and ushering your children into the kingdom of Christ through faith *is* doing a 'big thing for God'?

Will someone please say that working joyfully day in and day out on the factory assembly line,

and honouring your parents,

and loving the saints,

and serving in the local church,

and tithing,

and living your whole life--every second of every day--as a living sacrifice of worship to Christ is just as much a "big thing for God" as anything else you can dream up?

For some wholehearted Christ-seekers, the call will, in fact, be to pick up and spread the gospel to the far-reaching, life-threatening corners of the globe, and to them I say, "Thank you for going, and thank you for making those sacrifices, and thank you for being faithful. May the Lord bless you for your courage and faithful obedience." Truly.

But for the rest of us wholehearted Christ-seekers, who, for the time at least, are being called to stay home and just shine for Christ here, let me say to you, "Thank you for staying, and thank you for making these sacrifices, and thank you for being faithful. May the Lord bless you for your courage and faithful obedience, too."

We need to remember, *I* need to remember, that God is self-sufficient. He doesn't need me or you to dream up something wonderful to do. He doesn't need our service, he doesn't need our "staying" or our "going". However, He does invite us. And when and where and how he invites us better stir our hearts to specific obedience, no matter how different our invitation looks from that of the person next to us.

"One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much." "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand more." (Luke 16:10, Luke 12:48)

Lord, you have entrusted me with much here. Let me be faithful in this before I venture off to do anything else. Help me to hear your voice, and your call on my life so I can obey the things you've called me to do, and not try to respond to someone else's call. Help me to remain content in this big thing you've called me to instead of longingly looking for some other way to "impress" you. Thank you for this call, and for this mission. I pray that you will find me to be a faithful servant. And I do pray that you will embolden your church to do the things that please you, starting with the small acts of obedience and faithfulness right in front of our faces.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays

We are in the middle of what seems to me to be an endless number of heatwaves around here. Not that I'm complaining....well. Actually, I might be. I'm not the most heat-tolerant creature. But we do have air conditioning. And I'm using the heat as a great excuse to not run. :-)

Nevertheless, I do not want to be a grumpy Canadian who can only be content with 4 months of Canadian climate! So as such, I will post a song today celebrating one of my favourite singers of all time, and celebrate summer all in one fell swoop.

Summertime by Sarah Vaughn (this is, in my humble opinion, the best version of this song ever done, by anyone, there!) :-)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tomato-Plant Tenacity

We are gardeners. I can say that now, because we actually have a garden in our backyard and we actually work in it. That makes us gardeners. We have a beautifully designed garden with plots that are big enough to hold many plants, but that are small enough to manage. The garden has good drainage, good soil, and lots of sun. It is well-watered and weeded thanks to my first-born who may indeed have a green thumb. All in all, it has the makings of being a productive little bit of land. I can’t say we are good at gardening yet. Only time will tell, and at the time of this writing the jury is still out. There are lots of leaves and flowers, but not much fruit yet. However, it is only early July as I’m typing, so we’ll have to wait for the real harvest time to prove our worth.

But that lovely set of plots is not even the object of my attention and affection today. You see, in our enthusiasm for this new garden (or was it our lack of faith in our ability to keep things alive?) we bought a lot of tomato plants. A lot. Like, 25. They were tiny, and we figured some of them wouldn’t make it (we were right!) and we figured I really did want to can a lot of tomatoes if they all survived. And so we planted many, many tomatoes in the garden proper. But there were two more that just didn’t fit anywhere.

Or so we thought.

My husband stuck two in to our flowerbeds. Good idea. They get a little less sun there but they will be watered, and the thought was that if something died in the real garden we could transplant over one of these out of the flowerbeds. Good plan.

However, the other day, my seven-year old daughter decided to help weed the garden. And she yanked out “this really HUGE weed!” Um….oops. That was the tomato plant. See the flowers on it? See that it is, in fact, growing in a tomato cage? My eldest quickly tried to salvage the thing by replanting it as best as she could and watered it some more, but it looked pretty sickly. Especially disastrous was that this un-rooting happened at the beginning of a crazy heat wave in our neck of the woods. Even the well-established plants were suffering under the taxing heat. Surely this little guy with his roots all broken would never make it.

Please read the rest of my latest Heart Of the Matter Online Article here.