Craving the Same!

One of my very favorite movies is the 1987 romantic comedy, Moonstruck, starring Cher and Nicolas Cage. It’s a story about an eccentric and passionate Italian family and their daughter, Loretta, who finds romance through the intervention of the Manhattan moon, the “Bella Luna!” It’s a lighthearted movie my husband and I have watched many, many times and without fail, every time we do, my husband comments how watching the movie characters eat their Italian meals with such enjoyment makes him wish he had a plate of Italian pasta he could eat at the same time!

One of these “Moonstruck-watching” evenings, I think I’ll accommodate his craving … and serve him this wonderfully Italian meal!

Pasta Fagioli
Serves 24

Ingredients:
2 lbs. ground beef
6 cans (14-1/2 oz. each) beef broth
2 cans (28 oz. each) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 jars (26 oz. each) spaghetti sauce
3 large onions, chopped
8 celery ribs, diced
3 medium carrots, sliced
2 cups canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups canned kidney beans, rinsed and rained
3 tsp. minced fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp pepper
1 (or more if preferred) tablespoons of hot pepper sauce
12 oz. uncooked medium pasta shells
5 tsp. minced fresh parsley or 1-1/2 tsp. dried parsley

In a large stockpot, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Add broth, tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, onions, celery, carrots, beans, oregano, pepper and pepper sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered 30 minutes. Add the pasta and parsley; simmer, covered, 30 minutes or until pasta is tender. Serve with hot garlic bread! And if desired, top each serving with a small dollop of sour cream.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

In the same way my husband craves a plate of Italian pasta every time he watches the movie, “Moonstruck”, oh how I wish the lost would look upon me in the same way! That they would consistently see the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control that only comes from a life surrendered to Jesus Christ … and would hunger for the same. Hunger for Him!

Have you ever been out late at night, driving on one of those open stretches of country road, where the road seems to go on forever and there’s not a vehicle in sight but your own? Then, in the distance, the faint glimmer of a motorcycle headlight begins to approach from the opposite direction. As it draws closer, you feel a slight apprehension because it seems to be hugging the center line just a little too closely for your comfort. It isn’t until it’s about to zip past you that you realize it’s not a motorcycle at all, but a car with a burnt-out right headlight.

One evening after experiencing this misconception for probably the umpteenth time in my driving career, this time the Lord had something to say about it. “How many of my children are walking through their lives with only half of my light shining forth? When only half of my light shines forth, the ones in the darkness see you as something other than what you truly are. You are unrecognizable as my own and perceived to be something other than what I have called you to be.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – truly let the Spirit lead, guide and direct you so my Light will FULLY shine forth from you to every person who crosses your path. I have seen you as you worship me with abandon in the sanctuary. Worship me in the same way in your daily encounters with others. For I have called you to be the light of the world. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Our lives are being noticed by friends, relatives, co-workers and neighbors. They are watching us.

Let’s make ‘em hungry!

 

–Cheri Henderson

No Loafing!

Most of us have been under shelter-at-home orders for the past several weeks because of the Coronavirus threat and, as I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s been very challenging to say the least. But it has also afforded us with some time to do things we perhaps haven’t been able to do in the past … like prepare scrumptious comfort foods and warm, nourishing meals for our loved ones! One of my husband’s favorite comfort meals is a thick slice of homemade meatloaf, lightly drizzled with some ketchup and cozied up to a hot side of macaroni and cheese and rich baked beans.

I once read a great quote about meatloaf in the magazine, Bon Appetit, that said “when we cook meatloaf, we’re connected to something bigger: a tradition. Meatloaf is elemental. It’s enduring. And if comfort foods are those that are not only an answer to hunger but also an existential balm, served without undue fuss or expensive implements, then meatloaf rules the category. It reigns supreme. It’s the fluffy caftan of comfort foods.”

So what do you say we quit “loafing” around, and get on with the business of delivering, as Bon Appetit would suggest, “an answer to hunger along with a little healing balm”? Let’s make a meatloaf!

Marvelous Meatloaf
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons salted butter
½ cup of finely chopped onion
1-1/2 pounds ground beef
4 ounces (1 sleeve) of saltines, crushed
1-1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
2 large eggs, beaten
½ cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ketchup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, combine the beef, cooled onion, crushed saltines, cheddar, eggs, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. With your hands, gently mix the ingredients together until well blended. Don’t overwork the mixture.

Place the mixture evenly in a 6” x 9” loaf pan.

Drizzle the ketchup down the center of the loaf and brush it over the top to cover.

Bake until firm about 1 hour. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.

Serve warm.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

Meatloaf, though confined to a pan, is not meant to remain that way for hours, days, or weeks, wouldn’t you agree? Its design, its destiny, is to serve the hungry. We, as followers of Jesus Christ, even in the midst of a shelter-at-home environment, are also designed to serve the hungry, and we should not allow confinement to be an excuse for “loafing” around. A time of rest is a gift, and an initial, brief rest can be beneficial, but if we loaf too long, we can become spiritually weak, cold to the needs of those around us, and ineffective for the Kingdom.

We have an exceptional opportunity to let our faith shine right now, to live the gospel even from within the confines of our own homes. There are hungry people throughout the world right now who are confused, threatened, fearful and confined. We have the “answer to their hunger” and we know the One who is the healing balm, the Balm of Gilead.

Phone calls, social media messages, and handwritten notes, pre-marinated in worship and prayer, seasoned with truth, and delivered with love are examples of some great “work” we can do from home. Work can absolutely carry on from confinement! And with great effectiveness and power! A perfect example is Paul, who was quite the letter writer, wasn’t he? In fact, here’s a sentence from one of his letters: “For which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!” (2Timothy 2:9) Paul spent most of his ministry “quarantined” in prison or under house arrest, and yet his correspondence with sisters and brothers in Christ yielded half of the New Testament! The gospel is never bound!

“Whoever loafs in his work is a brother to him who destroys.” (Proverbs 18:9) Time is too short for loafing and I certainly do not want to be associated with the one who destroys.

For such a time as this, we’ve been placed upon this earth, and work done for God’s glory lasts for eternity. What I do today can last forever.

Let’s work while it is still day, saints!

 

–Cheri Henderson

Slowly Savoring Every Bite …

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There’s nothing better than a Chinese meal when it’s prepared in your own kitchen! As the recipe comes together, the fragrance of ginger, garlic, and soy, warmly sauteing in a bath of sesame and peanut oils, is an enticing preliminary to the joy of sitting down to a delicious meal!

Naturally, this meal would be well-served with chopsticks; however, this woman has never mastered that skill! I’ve been told that using chopsticks is actually a healthier way to eat because it forces you to slow down, eat deliberately, and take smaller mouthfuls of food, resting in between bites and giving your stomach time to tell your brain that it is getting full.

This method of eating would only serve to frustrate me, however. As my husband will avow, I am a very fast eater and can shovel down a meal in three-quarters of the time it takes a normal person to eat it. I believe this is something I learned from my childhood; as the oldest child of six, I discovered eating quickly usually guaranteed seconds! Unfortunately the trait is deeply ingrained, so hand me a fork, knife and spoon, please, and let’s have at it!
 
Beef Broccoli Lo Mein
Serves 4
 
Ingredients:
8 oz. lo mein noodles or spaghetti
1 tsp. dark sesame oil
1 Tbsp. peanut oil
1 Tbsp. peeled, minced fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups chopped broccoli
1-1/2 cups sliced onion
1 lb. flank steak, trimmed and cut against the grain into long, thin strips
3 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
1 Tbsp. chile paste with garlic
 
Directions:
Cook pasta according to package directions and drain. Combine pasta and sesame oil, tossing well to coat.
 
While the pasta cooks, heat peanut oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic; saute 30 seconds. Add broccoli and onion; saute 3 minutes. Add steak and saute 5 minutes or until cooked to a safe internal temperature of 145 degrees F. Add pasta mixture, soy sauce and remaining ingredients; cook 1 minute or until noodles are thoroughly heated, stirring constantly. Serve immediately, refrigerating any leftovers.
 
Food for ThoughtFOOD FOR THOUGHT
 
It’s true I don’t always slow down and eat deliberately like I probably should … and so I understand I’m not receiving the health benefits that go hand-in-hand with doing so. Sadly, there have also been times I’ve done the same thing when it comes to “eating the word of God”. And I’ve learned that to hurriedly read a few scriptures so I can say I’ve spent time with the Lord will absolutely lead to spiritual malnutrition. There is nothing spiritually nurturing about quickly fitting God into my day and treating Him as an afterthought or something less important than all of my other more pressing, “important” (not) daily activities. Just as our bodies need food to stay healthy and operate at peak performance, we need the word of God to feed our souls and strengthen us to resist temptation and press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus!
 
I encourage you, therefore, to daily imitate Jesus, and the manner in which He spent time with the Father. Go to a place where you can be alone with God, somewhere quiet and free of distraction. Talk to Him. Worship Him. Praise Him for all He is. Thank Him for all He has done. And then read His love letter to you, the Bible. Don’t hurry through it … savor it, think about it, enjoy it. The word of God is one of our greatest sources of spiritual food. In fact, the Bible talks a lot about how important it is to our lives. Here are a few: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
 
And here is one of my favorites: “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your word became to me the gladness and joy of my heart.” (Jeremiah 15:16)
 
Praying His word becomes … and remains … the gladness and joy of your heart!
 
— Cheri Henderson