stuffing peppers and bellies

I grew up in the country. When October 31 came around, we would get dressed up and take a tour of the countryside, stopping at neighbors’ and relatives houses who were all ready for the “Nichols kids.” I never knew that other kids went to houses where they didn’t personally know the people inside. Sometimes, we even sang a song or sat on the sofa for a while Because we were getting candy and popcorn balls, but we were also giving … a little time for them to treasure.

Well, I didn’t go out to trick, treat, or sing at houses last night… but I did stuff something other than a candy bag – PEPPERS! I used this recipe, but made some serious changes. I didn’t measure anything, for starters. I used fresh tomatoes and brown rice. I threw in some extra spices and (probably the biggest change) I used some peppers we got from my neighbor and I couldn’t tell you exactly which kind they were.
Something funny happened in the middle of making these little guys… I realized it was 3 pm and I hadn’t eaten lunch! Good thing I had a BUNCH of rice mixture left over! I threw some on a corn tortilla, added cheddar and salsa… and 5 minutes later there was lunch!
And then the peppers came out 🙂

I decided to get my community on and head over to my friends’ place to share these peppers and finally watch Tree of Life (terrence malick’s new flim). We ended up putting the rice mixture on top of this baked goodness and then throwing it in for a second baking to melt some cheese on top and dinner happened accompanied by some delightful conversation!

Then we watched Tree of Life.
(more on the Nature vs. Grace discussion in the film to come!)

So, what did you stuff last night? A candy bag? Your belly?

Did anyone stuff their brain on the Reformation in honor of the anniversary? I spent a bit of time reading this article at the Gospel Coalition, “Abandon the Reformation, Abandon the Gospel” and thinking about how history remind us of God’s faithfulness and our responsibility.

What thoughts have you, dear friends?

Tomorrow, I will write about the Tree of Life. Oh my, is there ever much to say!

Counting my blessings!

When I posted “back from hiatus,” I should have said “update from hiatus” because for the past week I never really got back into the habit of posting. With crafts up to my knees in my bedroom, a long weekend of fellowship, and various other distractions (not to mention a soul in need of a little mending), blogging didn’t top my list.

Now, I find myself with too many things to share. I’ll start by saying I’ve eaten green bean casserole leftovers twice this week. Delicious.

A small plate with a serving of mashed potatoes.
Image via Wikipedia

To be honest, one of my favorite parts of this past thanksgiving weekend was an impromptu singing of the hymn “Count Your Many Blessings” around the thanksgiving table with my makeshift family. We all stood around a table of goodies with our own thanksgiving traditions tucked away in our minds, but when we broke out in song I’m sure the joy burst out from my face.

The next day, starting at 10 am, I started preparing for my own thanksgiving feast. From homemade honey whole wheat bread to green bean casserole to mashed potatoes to turkey to baked apples and (of course) mini pumpkin pies, it was certainly a feast. After the last lovely lady left (after 11), I sat finishing up the pumpkin carving with foil in my hair (funny how older girls still like to play “salon”) and a mountain of dishes in the sink. I can’t explain how wonderfully adult it felt to package up the leftovers of the thanksgiving feast. It’s like breaking out the extra baskets of bread leftover after the feeding of the five thousand… the blessing of the feast just keeps giving!

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I’m not sure if I shared the right thing just now… but I hope that what you hear is how beautifully blessed I felt. I praise God for the way community can form in unlikely places to build up and encourage in a way unique to our Christian bond.

It’s December 1st. Can you believe it? I’m so tempted to write a long list of ways I am failing and behind and unproductive and misguided these days, but I will refrain.

Instead, I will say that today it felt good to

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

in this beautiful season of expectation.

 

Chapel Week: delicious-ness

I’m not going to ramble tonight because yesterday I think I scared my mother. I just want to give you a couple recipes.

We have had chapel every day at school, which means that I’ve been baking everyday to encourage the seniors to carry their Bibles 🙂

Here’s the menu to date:

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookie Sandwich (to see the FULL modification go here)

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Chip Dream Bars

For these bars, I added to the bottom crust, because many bakers suggested a smaller pan. I needed the quantity, so I just increased some of the proportions. Also, I used whole wheat flour and added peanut butter to the second layer. I skipped the chocolate on top because they were already very sweet. It was a HIT!

 

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bakes

For these cookies, I didn’t really follow a recipe. I had chocolate chips, peanut butter, milk, oatmeal, vanilla, and spices on hand, so I made my own combination and we’ll see how they go over tomorrow morning.

 

 

 

 

Just in case you are wondering, I’m planning a big hoorah for Friday that will involve my favorite ingredient for this time of year – PUMPKIN!

 

 

 

 

 

 

strange day explained

It’s 9:32 pm.

I’ve got dream bars in the oven (with a variation that has me puzzled about cooking time), I’m munching on tortillas with sun-dried tomato hummus (the strangest before-bedtime snack I’ve ever been a part of), and I’m looking at what I picked up at the grocery store: fake milk in a box, chocolate chips, powdered sugar, pumpkin, and oatmeal (wondering why these are my first purchases after paycheck), and I’m thinking it’s a strange day.

Oh, well. I’m sure you have those days too. Nothing especially wrong or out of place, but you feel like you are moving around in someone else’s skin and it’s just uncomfortable. At this point, all of you who haven’t felt this way have at least one eyebrow raised. Which, I guess, is kind of my point.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with everything I want to do or read or hear or say or know and I go into overload mode. Hm. I imagine this is what a baby bird might feel when it first discovers its wings. There are so many endless possibilities – so many adventures and birdies to adventure with and trees and clouds and…

then there’s that typical picture of the not-yet-ready-for-flight
birdie falling clumsily from the nest.

There’s no better way to explain than to give a few examples, so here they are in NO particular order:

  • I really want to know if there is a connection in the Hebrew word “paneh,” which means presence and the Spanish word “pan,” which means bread. We’re studying the story of David right now and when he ran from Saul he stopped and asked for bread from a priest who only had holy bread on hand. This bread was called “paneh” because it was the bread of the Presence. I thought, how neat would it be if there was a connection because Christ (the Word) became physically present and is the bread of life. I have searched and can’t make sense of etymologies in several languages… The farthest I got led me to some Polish explanation of Mr. and Mrs. (which is pan/pani).
  • At what point are liberties counterproductive in recipes? I mean, a little more butter, flour, and sugar would naturally just increase quantity, no? And peanut butter always adds value, right? Tomorrow we will find out! I’m sincerely hoping that my scheme to encourage “Taste and see the Lord is good” (Ps. 38:4) leads them to understand GOD is what the need to taste! (More joy and satisfaction, less tummy-ache!)
  • Why does pride always wiggle its way into the category of “self-preservation”? That is a lie through and through.
  • I hope with every hope in my heart baking becomes drastically cheaper.
  • I have been reading an absolutely amazing book called, “Competent to Counsel” by Jay E. Adams and I love how he challenges the excuses we make for personality by saying, “It’s just who I am.” We are in a sanctification process, here, folks – there’s no settling for “just who I am.” So, I started to wonder (out loud) about how I should change my personality… what needs refining? I was wondering this and talking to my friend Sarah, when all of a sudden I wondered if I could still do the splits. I paused, slinkered down as far as I could and then popped back up above the countertop and said, “not quite.” She burst out laughing and then she said, “More of that. You should definitely change your personality to include more splits.” I don’t know…
  • There’s this student. She is amazing, beautiful, inspiring and God is transforming her right in front of my eyes. I’ve never had a front row seat to something so spectacular! I mean, here I am, sitting next to her just listening to her talk with such seriousness about faith and plans. But, it’s not just fluffy, future talk. This girl is making it happen in her life the way some kids can only make it happen at summer camp or youth conferences. I’m just thinking, “What’s up with this?” God is SO amazing to be working and restoring and growing such a beautiful heart! And I get to watch? WOW!
  • I’ve got Asia on the brain and I don’t know why.
  • I want to read and understand and memorize the Heidelberg Catechism… and then try to start understanding what Bach has to do with it (thanks Justin Taylor for planting that seed in my already crazy day!).
  • I want like crazy to sew an owl costume right up for Halloween, but I’m not sure where I would go with it… which makes me want to have a costume party at my house, which reminds me of the mammoth weekend of 4 am sushi-making chaos that is barely a week behind.
  • There’s a crazy urgency in me to take each of these seniors by their ALP uniform shirt and shake them a little bit (friendly, of course) to make sure they know how much I love ’em and how important it is for them to know how much more MASSIVE God’s love is for them. I just want them to get it, as my Dad used to say.
  • I talked to my mom on Sunday and she added the greatest news – Dad finally sold the calf that was the Lord’s! I know it sounds strange… in fact, every single person I told today asked for a repeat. Buying and selling calves makes absolutely no sense to people outside the farming/cattle industry and that’s okay. What you should probably understand is the way God is using my Dad’s hobby operation to bless people around the globe. This time, he gave the calf to the Lord and said the money would go to Honduras. What joy I had as I wrote in a large sum under the current total of money raised by the sleepout. Praise the Lord!!

Oh, boy. Now do you understand a teensy bit more? My brain is like a crazy factory! It makes crazy all day, non-stop! I think I should tone down on the coffee.

It’s now 10:17 pm and I hope this day found you less strangely inclined.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

this is an example of some serious STRANGE happening!


 

with my own two hands

Today is resistant to productivity and accomplishment (I resent that, Tuesday the 19th… just so you know).

In direct rebellion, I’m believing I can do something worthwhile with “my own two hands” … you know, like Ben Harper and Jack Johnson sing about.

If you are a doubting Thomas… let me give you two examples. (Please, just bear with me – this is a very necessary internal Tuesday therapy session).

Example #1 CAR BATTERY
Last Thursday after Bible study stretched from 4 to 5 to 6 pm (to my delight, I might add), one of the girls threw out the idea of sushi. Because we had a track meet the next day, they weren’t going to school and I am always in favor of time spent in fellowship and community (and sushi), I jumped at the chance. Elena, Vivian, and I took off in Louis (my affectionately named 1997 Honda Civic) toward a delicious dinner and we were not disappointed. Disappointment did find us a bit later, though, when I realized I left the lights on and Louis was completely muerto. So, after calling Elena’s dad for jumper cable assistance, and after several failed attempts (where I watched grown men attach the cables backwards), we finally revived Louis.

All the while, I have to tell you, I squeezed every bit of humor out of the situation. It was so comical… the fact that I parked in the worst way for a jump, the fact that the parking lot faced all the restaurant/bars just starting to pick up the night traffic, the fact that these things (without fail) nearly always happen to me, and the fact that merely three days before someone had told me to purchase jumper cables before doing anything else. Well, humor aside, it was another adventure to store away… especially because the next morning, when Louis should have been charged and ready to go, he was muerto once again.

I did what any capable, single lady would do… marched right to the nearest (trustworthy) battery vendor, looked up my make and model in their handy book, and bought a battery. Then, I took out the old and installed the new – with my own two hands.

I had car dirt up to my elbows, but when I finished there was very clear evidence that something was accomplished – bad battery on the ground and good battery in the car. Louis started right up! (And, just in case you are wondering, I picked up jumper cables and emergency kit in the same trip).

Example #2 26 going on 15
You’ve heard of the movie 13 going on 30, right? Well, this past weekend I decided to put my own spin on it, after turning a dreadful 26 years old. I decided I would be 26 going on 15. In a many ways, my body feels 15 and I certainly act like some of my students at times. This weekend, I somehow proved I am neither clearly 26 nor am I still clinging to 15. Starting early Saturday morning, I began prepping for the big night – senior girls coming over to my house for my belated birthday party and sleepover. Cleaning, rearranging, grocery shopping, cooking sticky rice for sushi, baking apples, clearing the living room for the karaoke action, and whipping up some ice cream cone cupcakes…. this completely filled my day until Elena arrived at 5:30 pm.

With my own two hands, it felt good to transform our patio into an oriental escape and watch my normal house turn into a sleepover dream! As the girls came (one by one, Honduran style), we flitted from food to games to karaoke to youtube tutuorials to games to sushi-making to laughter and then everything all over again. I was confident in my 15-year-old body when 3 am came and went and didn’t phase me one bit! And then at 4 am, we were making more sushi rolls in my kitchen!

Then 4:15 hit and my body revolted. I slept fitfully on the tile floor and roused myself for the first one to leave at 7:30 am (yes, it’s true). When I walked the last one home around noon I returned and collapsed on the couch. I thought I would listen to a sermon, which I quickly realized was a really bad idea. Three hours later, I woke up and realized I am definitely every bit of 26 years old. I cleaned, cleaned, and cleaned… with my own two hands I put back together the humpty-dumpty state of my house, overrun by a large group of flailing high school girls.

So, I don’t know if I got to the part about “peace on earth” and “a brighter place” and all those other nice things they talk about in the song, but I did a few things with my hands this weekend and that is giving me consolation for feeling like a bumbling misfit today.

as always,

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

monday: from bizarre to brilliant

You may not believe it, but Mondays are capable of bizarre to brilliant status.

When you start the day off with your clothes on backwards, you have to wonder how things are going to go down. Add to that a proclivity for post-weekend depression (especially after one so beautiful), and you’ve got yourself a recipe for Monday morning disaster!

It’s pushing 10 pm right now and I won’t hesitate in saying this Monday shone brilliantly! I want to pack it neatly into a pretty package and send it to you, so your day might open just as wonderfully, but since I cannot this list will have to suffice. I know all of these elements are a result of God‘s great goodness (and in spite of me), so maybe your Mondays can sparkle too!

REASONS WHY THIS MONDAY IS BRILLIANT

  1. Last night, I set out my outfit for today and therefore squeezed at least seven more minutes into my morning coffee-quiet time-journaling routine.
  2. My morning soundtrack is bumping with some new tunes.
  3. Before school even began, the smile would simply not be suppressed… a group huddled outside my office and I cannot tell you why, but I couldn’t help the top-of-the-morning tilt of the head and lopsided smile.
  4. Mondays always add an extra boost because we have chapel in the morning. There’s something about standing with my seniors in worship that gives me goosebumps every time. (I also love that they’ve been bringing their Bibles lately… nevermind that it might be due to a little baking bribery 🙂 A little bribery always worked just fine for my Aunt Jane during swimming lessons!
  5. We are gearing up for another SLEEPOUT this year on October 22nd and the first promo ran in chapel today… the excitement is building!
  6. Though it is temperaturally (made up that word) impossible in Honduras, it felt every bit like fall today, from the bold sun to the cool breeze… and I wanted to burst out singing Patty Griffin‘s “Heavenly Day” at the top of my lungs.
  7. Over lunch, I got to pray with a beautiful, dear co-worker and God made Himself so alive in those moments of community.
  8. Armed with a can of pumpkin and after beautiful discussion on every topic imaginable (so deep I missed our turn), I started what might make Mondays most beautiful this year. If that interests you, check this out.
  9. On the car ride home, I belted OUT some mad tunes from Starfield, Bright Eyes, and Joel Rakes.
  10. Now, night. I get to sleep sound, curled into my bed.

I praise God for brilliant Mondays!

let LOVE FLY like cRaZY

Delicious Adventures!

Last night, we experimented with a recipe from my Good Housekeeping Healthy Choices cookbook. The recipe was for tortilla pizza, but we transformed it into a lasagna and it was so wonderfully delicious! My roomie is a veggie (my affectionate term for the vegetarians in my life), so I’m always on the lookout for recipes that we would both like. This one turned out to be the BOMB!

Then, for dessert, I made baked apples with a recipe from the same cookbook in an effort to welcome fall to the rain and sun of this country that knows not the four seasons.

Tonight, I’m having my high school girls over for movies and THIS incredible apple cinnamon cupcake dessert! Doesn’t it look amazing?

apple cupcakes!

Here’s the description from the website:

Shredded apple replaces some of the oil and keeps the cake moist in these cinnamon-spiked cupcakes. There is a generous amount of fluffy marshmallow frosting to mound or pipe on top for a festive look.

via Apple Cupcakes with Cinnamon-Marshmallow Frosting.

We’ll see how it turns out!

****UPDATE****
Here is the result of several hours in a warm kitchen… lots of laughter… and maybe a few foibles. The recipe is posted below the slideshow.

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To make the CUPCAKES

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded peeled apples
  • 1/2 cup diced dried apples (I used a baked apple leftover from yesterday to save on cost)
  • 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar, plus 3/4 cup, divided (I used 1/2 cup loosely packed for less sweet)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup nonfat buttermilk (I made my own with milk and vinegar)

FROSTING

  • 1 cup light brown sugar (I used 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 teaspoons dried egg whites (I used 2 egg whites)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for garnish

PREPARATION

  1. To prepare cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 (1/2-cup) muffin cups with cupcake liners or coat with cooking spray (I made about 17 cupcakes with this recipe)
  2. Combine shredded and dried apples in a bowl with 3 tablespoons brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Set aside. Beat oil and the remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Beat in eggs one at a time until combined. Add vanilla, increase speed to high and beat for 1 minute.
  3. Whisk whole-wheat flour, cake flour, baking soda, salt and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon in a medium bowl.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and buttermilk to the batter, starting and ending with dry ingredients and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, until just combined. Stir in the reserved apple mixture until just combined. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. (The cups will be full.)
  5. Bake the cupcakes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before frosting.
  6. To prepare frosting: Bring 2 inches of water to a simmer in the bottom of a double boiler. Combine 1 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup water in the top of the double boiler. Heat over the simmering water, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Add reconstituted egg whites, cream of tartar and pinch of salt. Beat with an electric mixer on high speed until the mixture is glossy and thick, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the top pan from the heat and continue beating for 1 minute more to cool. Add vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and beat on low just to combine. Spread or pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes and sprinkle cinnamon on top, if desired.