Bogged Down and Sour No More!

Baked Cranberry Chicken

Cranberries by themselves can be a pretty sour eating experience!

But when combined with other complimentary foods, spices, or sugars, they contribute towards a unique blend of flavors . . . and a nutritious, finished entrée!

Here’s a perfect example!

Baked Cranberry Chicken Breasts

Ingredients:

4 (5 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – flattened
¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
¼ cup white wine
1 cup stuffing mix
1/3 cup dried cranberries
¼ cup melted butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a glass baking dish by spraying with cooking spray.

Place chicken breasts into baking dish and sprinkle with cheese. Stir together chicken soup and wine; pour over chicken. Sprinkle chicken with stuffing mix and cranberries, drizzle butter over top.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes.

Food for ThoughtFOOD FOR THOUGHT:

According to “How Stuff Works.com”, cranberries are a very sought-after crop because they’re versatile and packed with nutrients and antioxidants. They also grow in a most unique environment – a bog … which is a wetland full of sphagnum moss, acidic waters, and peat deposits.

While growing in a bog, cranberry plants have to contend with a host of unfavorable conditions, and it’s amazing they have the durability to survive in this habitat.  Cranberries need fresh water to survive, but bogs consist of mostly acidic water. God has designed this plant, however, with tough woody stems and small leaves that have a leather-like consistency. This design enables the plant to retain as much fresh water as possible by restricting the amount of usable water that passes through. The plant’s fine roots also absorb and use organic nitrogen to survive, despite the scarcity of nutrients in the bog’s sterile soil. What’s more, cranberry vines are resilient — an undamaged one can last indefinitely. In fact, some vines have been found to be more than 150 years old!

Considering the cranberry’s delicate nature and vibrant ruby red glow, it’s hard to imagine that the ideal environment for its survival would be such an unusual and harsh place. But God created it to survive and thrive . . . just as He has each of us. When we gave our hearts and lives to Jesus Christ, we became new creations that day, old things passed away, all things became new … and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives from that point forward has given us the “durability to survive in this habitat”!  “The Spirit also helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” – Romans 8:26.  We live in an unusual and harsh place, but we are not part of it! “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;” – 1 Peter 2:11“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10.

“Bogs filled with acidic water” may surround us, but John 7:38 tells us “He who believes in Me, from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” And just as the cranberry plant’s fine roots absorb organic nitrogen to survive … if it were left up to the nutrients of this world, we would spiritually starve to death!  Jesus is, however, the vine from which we draw our nutrients!  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5.

And just as the cranberry vines are resilient and can last indefinitely, we too will live forever! “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16.

Lastly, just like cranberries by themselves can be a sour eating experience, Christians facing tough times alone may find their walks weakened and their dispositions soured.  That’s one reason why God places the children He has adopted into spiritual families, the faith communities where we both give and receive encouragement.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:23-25.

Those of us who follow in the steps of Jesus are called to fellowship with each other, to encourage and build one another up. And as we do, the unique gifts He’s given to each of us will blend together to deliver a spiritually nourished church full of love and good deeds!

— Cheri Henderson

Un Gran Relleno – Chicken Chimichangas!

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Who loves Mexican food? I do! I do! And for Mexican food lovers, the Chimichanga is a definite favorite!

For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure, Chimichanga is a flour tortilla, filled with a wonderful ingredient like chicken, or steak, or seafood, and is usually accompanied by great  side items like salsa, sour cream, cheese, guacamole, and Mexican rice!  And the wonderful thing about the following recipe is you can prepare the chicken and the sauce a day or two ahead and refrigerate it if you’d like! A real time-saver for the evening when you actually make the Chimichangas!

Ready? Gimme some Chimi!

Chicken Salsa:
Ingredients
4 lbs. chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
2 cups salsa, homemade or purchased
2 cups petite diced canned tomatoes
4 tbsp. taco seasoning
2 cups onions, diced fine
1 cup celery diced fine
1 cup carrots, shredded
half cup water
6 tbsp. sour cream

Place the chicken in a slow cooker. Sprinkle the taco seasoning over the meat then layer the vegetables and salsa on top. Pour a half cup of water over the mixture, set on low and cook for 6-8 hours. The meat is cooked when it shreds or reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. When ready to serve, break up the chicken with a fork then stir in the sour cream.

Chimichanga Sauce:
Ingredients
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1-½ cup chopped onion
6 chopped garlic cloves
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 4-oz cans of chopped green chiles (drained & rinsed)
3 cups chicken broth
¾  cup chopped cilantro (if desired)

Saute chopped onion and chopped garlic cloves in a skillet with vegetable oil. Add chili powder, cumin, sugar and salt; cook 30 seconds. Stir in chopped green chiles; cook 2 minutes. Add chicken broth and simmer until thickened, then puree. Stir in chopped cilantro.

Chicken Chimichangas:
Ingredients
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
10 10-inch flour tortillas
20.5 oz refried beans (I use La costena brand – yummy!)
Chicken Salsa (recipe above)
Chimichanga Sauce (recipe above)
2-1/2 cups Mexican style shredded cheese
1-1/2 cup sour cream
2-1/2 cups chopped lettuce
Guacamole (I use “Wholly Guacamole” – delish!)
2 large tomatoes, chopped

Mexican rice

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Melt the butter and vegetable oil in a small pan.

Brush a rimmed baking sheet with some of the butter-oil mixture. Spread 2 tablespoons refried beans down the center of each tortilla, leaving a 2-inch border on both ends. Top with 1 cup chicken mixture and 1/4 cup cheese. Fold in the ends and roll up.

Put the chimichangas seam-side down on the baking sheet; brush with the butter-oil mixture. Bake 8 to 10 minutes per side, brushing again after you flip.

Remove from oven. Place each chimichanga on a plate and top with warmed Chimichanga Sauce, more cheese, and sour cream. Surround with chopped lettuce, guacamole, and diced tomato. Serve with Mexican rice.  Muy bueno!

Food for ThoughtFOOD FOR THOUGHT:
In the same way that these flour tortillas are filled with a wonderful ingredient, so are you as a follower of Jesus Christ! The Spirit of God dwells in you!

Each of us possesses the Holy Spirit from the time we repent and believe. “You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” (Romans. 8:9-10).

Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 5:18, “Be filled with the Spirit.” The Greek word for “be filled”, plerousthe, literally translates “keep being filled.” When the greatest evangelist of the nineteenth century, D.L. Moody, was asked why he said he needed to be filled continually with the Holy Spirit, he replied, “Because I leak!” Like Moody, we all run out of gas and need the power of the Holy Spirit to recharge our lives. To be filled with the Spirit means we are continually seeking, submitting to and experiencing the Holy Spirit’s guidance and control in our lives. Unlike the filling in a Chimichanga – once it’s depleted, it’s gone, but we can continually be refilled as we yield moment by moment to the leading of the Spirit.

And as we surrender to the control of God’s Spirit, we’ll find Him producing some amazing things in us! The filling of the Holy Spirit is accompanied by some great “side items” that Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit.  They are: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)!

So . . . ser llenos del Espíritu Santo. ¡Es muy bueno!

–     Cheri Henderson

Molto Delizioso!

chicken & mushroomsObviously, one of my favorite pastimes is preparing a great meal in my own kitchen! However, there are times when a delicious meal at a local restaurant is equally gratifying.  Dominic’s Italian Restaurant in Dayton, Ohio, was a perfect example.  Though the owners retired from the business and closed the restaurant several years ago, it was, at one time, one of my husband’s and my favorite places to dine. The moment you walked through the doors, you were greeted by a rich blend of aromas: basil, garlic, oregano, melted cheeses, toasted breads, and chardonnay.  Mmmm.  Every entrée was “molto delizioso”, and we never had a meal we didn’t like.  One entrée, in particular, was overwhelmingly “delizioso”, and I remember the evening my husband gazed into my eyes with great desire as he asked . . .“do you think you can make this?”  From that point on, we tasted and analyzed each bite, trying to pinpoint every ingredient that made up this incredible masterpiece.  With time and a little practice, this entrée has now become one of our favorite homemade recipes!

Ingredients:

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup of flour
4 garlic cloves
Seasoning salt & pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ lb. jarred sliced mushrooms (drained)
1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons of Chardonnay (or white cooking wine)

Directions:

With a meat mallet, pound out the chicken breasts.  Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into frying pan and begin heating on medium high heat.  Dip chicken breasts in flour and place in pan. Sprinkle lightly with seasoning salt and pepper. With a garlic press, press one garlic clove over each breast and brown for a minute or two.  Flip the breasts and continue to brown for a minute or two. (Add more olive oil if necessary.) Turn heat to medium. Drain mushrooms and pour on top of the chicken. Pour lemon juice over the chicken and then pour over the cooking wine. Turn heat to low. Cover. After 10 or 15 minutes, turn heat to simmer. Continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes.  Serves 3-4.

Food for ThoughtFOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Because my husband and I were totally captured by the flavor of this restaurant entree, we wanted to be able to experience the same in our own home . . . and although Dominic’s is no longer a place we can visit, the joy of what they introduced to us remains.  In the same way, as followers of Jesus Christ, the fruits of the Spirit should be so evident in our lives, that a hungry world would crave to experience the same . . . to taste and see that the Lord is good!  That such a sweet fragrance of Jesus Christ would greet the spiritually malnourished who “walk through our doors”, they would be captured by our aroma and overwhelmingly drawn to the Bread of Life!

Oh, may this be our song of praise!  “Let us give thanks to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14), and one day when were are no longer here, the everlasting joy of what we have introduced to the formerly hungry will remain and multiply!

–Cheri Henderson