Wake Up!

frappuccino
Today is June 21st – the first day of summer and the longest day of the year!

And what better way to get through a long, hot, sleepy day than by imbibing in an icy, sweet, caffeine-infused beverage?!

So let’s do it!

 

Homemade Frappuccino
Serves: 1-2

Ingredients
¾ cup double-strength coffee – chilled (brew double-strength coffee by using twice the coffee required by your coffeemaker, approximately 2 tablespoons per cup)
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 cups ice
3 tablespoons of chocolate syrup

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed until ice is crushed and drink is smooth. Pour into two 16-ounce glasses and apply desired toppings:

  • Whipped cream or chocolate Cool Whip
  • Sprinkle with cinnamon, chopped nuts, or coconut
  • Drizzle caramel syrup or chocolate syrup (or both!) over the whipped cream

and serve with a straw.

Delish!!!

Food for ThoughtFOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Did you know there is another kind of sleepiness for which caffeine and sugar are not a remedy? It’s a spiritual sleepiness and, in fact, a bible verse tells us, “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you”! (Ephesians 5:14) This is a verse often used in sermons to speak to those who don’t know Jesus, but if you read the scripture in its entirety, it is speaking to us – followers of Jesus Christ . . . and the “remedy for the sleepiness” (ignorance, complacency, and compromise) is clearly described in Ephesians 5:

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:

‘Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.’

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This may be the longest day of the 2013 calendar year, but spiritually time is short. Church, let’s wake up and . . . “make the most of every opportunity because the days are evil”.

— Cheri Henderson

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When life hands you lemons, just hand ’em over!

The Lemonade Maker
There’s nothing like an ice-cold glass of homemade lemonade to help you cool off on a hot summer day.

Refreshing and delicious, lemonade is easy to make and, unlike the powdered instant varieties, contains no preservatives or artificial flavorings!

Homemade Lemonade
Serves 6

Ingredients:
10-12 lemons at room temperature (plus 4 or 5 more for garnishing if desired)
1½ cups sugar (2 cups if you like it really sweet)
6 cups water, divided

Instructions
:
Wash lemons and then roll them on a hard surface until they become soft.
Zest 2-3 lemons and set aside.

In a pot over medium heat, add sugar, lemon zest and 2 cups of water. Simmer lightly for about 5 minutes or until sugar has dissolved and the mixture has a light yellow color. Do not boil. Remove from heat.

Juice the lemons to come up with 2 cups of lemon juice. If you don’t have a citrus juicer or a reamer, cut the lemon in half crosswise, hold half in one hand, push a fork into the center and twist.

Strain the lemon juice into a large pitcher and then strain the sugar mixture into the large pitcher. Add in 4 cups of cold water.

Taste-test and if the lemonade is a little sweet for your taste, add a little more straight lemon juice to it.

Serve in chilled glasses with some lemon slices and ice (or lemonade ice cubes if you’re ambitious and want to make a batch just for that purpose!)  Or freeze some fresh strawberries in advance and add them along with the ice cubes!

Store remaining lemonade in the frig; will keep for up to 3 days.

Food for ThoughtFOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Have you ever heard the old saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade?” As over-used as this phrase has become, the saying holds a lot of truth . . . in part. Unfortunately, in our humanness, when faced with a difficult situation or a painful experience, we’re usually too incapacitated by the burden or encumbered by the pain to find the sugar . . . let alone measure it out and pour it into the bitter recipe that’s facing us.  We’re really not able to do it on our own, and so, I believe this saying is lacking a sentence. It should read:  “When life hands you lemons, hand them over to God.  He is the consummate lemonade maker.”

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Has life recently handed you some lemons? If so, I encourage you to hand them over to God, wait, and “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4) It may be a quick fix . . . or it could take a lifetime. Only the Lemonade Maker knows the time that will be required.  But like a little child, as your Father works on your behalf, just cling to His apron, hide in His shadow, and listen to Him sing. I am your hiding place; I will protect you from trouble and surround you with songs of deliverance.” (Psalm 32:7)

— Cheri Henderson

Two Plain Crackers…Transformed!

001It always amazes me how a single ingredient – fairly plain and uninspiring alone – can have such a delicious end-result when joined with others.

Case-in-point: this recipe. Though it called for two graham crackers per serving (yawn-not a big fan of graham crackers), I knew the end-result was going to be fantastic! And I was not disappointed!  With the addition of such a sweet filling between them, two plain-old crackers ended up being a beautiful and delicious presentation!

Pineapple “Ice Cream” Sandwich

Ingredients:
1 (16 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding
36 graham cracker squares

In a large bowl, beat together the thawed whipped topping, crushed pineapple, and vanilla pudding mix for 2 minutes. Spread the whipped pineapple mixture ½ inch thick between two graham cracker squares. Wrap gently in plastic and freeze for 2 hours.

Food for ThoughtFOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Just like two plain crackers can become so much more when there’s a sweet filling to join them together, so it is in our relationship with others. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says “A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”  Whether it is a relationship between Christian friends or that of a husband and wife, when the two are closely joined in Christian love and fellowship, Jesus, by his Spirit, will come to them, bind them together, and be the sweet center of their relationship.

The Sweetness That Holds Us Together
For better, for worse; it’s no matter;
for richer, for poorer, you are mine.
God chose us and joined us together
and blest be the tie that binds!
It’s not important the things we attain,
nor how much we achieve in this life.
Our happiness isn’t measured by earthly gain,
but our love for each other and Christ!
And when the enemy tries to attack us,
we’ll lock our shields and together agree
that this threefold cord can’t be broken.
Through Jesus we will have victory!
I walk through this life totally complete
because I’m walking with you by my side,
and the sweetness of it all, the completeness of it all,
is Jesus – between us – for life!

— Cheri Henderson

Missing Ingredients

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I don’t know about you, but Friday evenings at our house are usually slim pickin’s for finding anything in the cupboard, fridge or pantry that could make for a decent meal. Since I do most of my grocery shopping on Saturday morning, Friday evening is usually a good excuse for dinner out with hubby!

As usual, this past Friday, we’d planned a visit to one of our favorite restaurants, but when I arrived home from work, I learned my husband had gotten wrapped up in a home project. By the time he finished, it would be too late to eat out. So what to do for dinner?

I thought about running out and getting some fast food, but the thought was unappealing. I looked in the freezer, but found nothing that could be prepared in short order. The fridge revealed one leftover chicken breast and some mushrooms from Wednesday evening’s meal (https://cookinwithcheri.com/molto-delizioso/) and a single avocado in the crisper. Hmmm. The beginnings of a great salad . . . but no lettuce.

And then I remembered! At the close of last year’s summer, my husband had tossed the remains of our lettuce out of our raised garden bed and into the surrounding mulch. Much to our surprise this spring, large tufts of lettuce were growing out of the mulch. So with garden scissors in hand, I went out to snip away and, as I passed our strawberry plants, also discovered some large ripe strawberries ready for picking! A delicious dinner was soon to be served!

Summer Salad

Ingredients:
Butter (Boston Bibb) lettuce
boneless chicken breast
1 clove of crushed garlic
¼ tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon white cooking wine
6 oz. sliced mushrooms
sliced avocado
sliced strawberries

Flour, salt and pepper the chicken breast and brown in olive oil. Add a clove of crushed garlic, ¼ tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon white cooking wine, and 6 oz. of sliced mushrooms and sauté for 15-20 minutes.

Tear the lettuce into edible pieces. Slice the chicken breast, avocado, and strawberries and display each in a pretty circle atop the lettuce. Scatter the mushrooms across the salad and serve with an Italian vinaigrette. Very delicious and most satisfying!

Food for ThoughtFOOD FOR THOUGHT:
As a Christian, do you ever feel like your “pantry is bare”?  That you don’t have what it takes to make a difference in this world for Christ? You don’t have enough knowledge about scripture, or you don’t have the right words to say, or you’re a young Christian and you don’t have a lot of experience. You can’t see beyond your human lack, so you just don’t bother, and your neighbors, friends or family members “starve to death” because no one will introduce them to the Bread of Life!

You may think you don’t have the ingredients on-hand to make a difference, but if you take a look in the “garden” of God’s Word, “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching and training, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (Timothy 3:16-17)  “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will,” (Hebrews 13:20-21 ) “All things are yours … and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God”. (1 Corinthians 3:20-23)  “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work;” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

God has equipped us with every single thing we need to do what He has called us to do. He goes before us into every situation and has prepared the way for us. All we have to do is be available, willing, and yielded to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Our pantry is full and our garden is overflowing! So let’s get busy and “feed” the “hungry”. They’ll find it to be spiritually fulfilling and eternally satisfying!

–Cheri Henderson

It’s Rib Time!

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Anytime is the perfect time for barbecue ribs, especially when it’s summertime! And in my opinion, there’s nothing better than a plate of tender, barbecue ribs and hot, buttered corn-on-the-cob on a beautiful summer evening!  Perfectly cooked ribs can be a challenge, however, and the secret is low and slow cooking.

What better way to cook low and slow . . . than a Crockpot? And here’s a perfect recipe for doing so!

BBQ Beef Country Ribs
Serves: 5-6

Ingredients:
¼ cup shortening
5 pounds boneless beef country ribs
1 medium onion, halved and then thinly sliced
1-1/4 cup catsup
½ cup celery, thinly sliced
¼ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup cider vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon prepared mustard

2 tablespoons flour
8 oz egg noodles

In a heavy frying pan, heat the ribs in the shortening until browned on all sides. In a medium bowl, stir ¾ cup of water and the remaining ingredients except the flour and noodles. Pour over the ribs in the Crock-pot. Cook on low for 6-7 hours until fork tender. In a cup, mix the flour and 4 tablespoons of water until smooth. Gradually stir into the hot liquid of the Crock-pot (gently stirring around the ribs), and then cook until the mixture is somewhat thickened, 10-15 minutes.

Cook the egg noodles, per package directions, and drain. Serve the ribs and barbecue sauce over the noodles.

It’s rib time!

Food for ThoughtFOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Several thousand years ago, it was also rib time, but one of a totally different kind. “And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and as he slept, He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man, He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh, and she shall be called Woman, BECAUSE she was TAKEN OUT OF MAN.” (Genesis 2:21-23)

Did you know the rib is the only bone in the human body that not only has the ability to repair itself, but can actually regenerate itself?  I’m not ribbing you! When a human rib is removed from the periosteum (the sheath that surrounds it), the rib will eventually grow back! And because this happens, ribs are often used for facial and other reconstructive surgery or when bone grafts are needed for other parts of the body. Additionally, the cells in bone marrow (which are found in the center of the rib) can be turned into almost any tissue in the body. How appropriate that the “Great Physician” would have anesthetized Adam and taken a rib from his side to create Woman. Eve was literally of Adam’s bone and flesh and blood.  And if she was “taken out of man”, then what was needed to create her was already within Adam. She was there all along.

Eve wasn’t created from the dust separately from Adam. She was custom built to be Adam’s partner. Matthew Henry once eloquently said, “Woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.” I love that statement! It’s such a beautiful word picture of what I believe God intended.

It’s true that woman was created last.  But perhaps God did so because woman was the crown of His creation?

– Cheri Henderson

Hidden Treasure

005Depending upon your family traditions or country of birth, you may call it a pot sticker, pierogi, dumpling, gnocchi, gnudi, or spaetzle. But whatever you call it, it is a yummy bundle of pastry, filled with hidden treasures that (unless named beforehand) can only be found by opening it!

I choose to call my yummy pastry a “Bundle” . . . and in this case, the hidden treasures are strawberries, cream cheese and toasted sliced almonds! And because it is harvest time for this delicious fruit, there’s no better time than now to share the recipe with you!

Strawberry Bundles
Serves 8

Cinnamon-Sugar Topping:
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Bundle Ingredients:
1 pkg. refrigerated pie crusts (2 crusts)
4 cups fresh sliced strawberries
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
½ teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons of toasted sliced almonds
2 egg whites

whipped cream

Directions:
To make cinnamon-sugar, combine ingredients and set aside.

Bring pie crust to room temperature according to package directions.  Combine strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel and cinnamon. Mix cream cheese and almond extract. Divide pie dough into 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and then flatten into a 6 inch circle. Spoon ¼ cup of the berry mixture into the middle of each round. Top with 1 tablespoon of cream cheese and 1 teaspoon of almonds. Lift up the edges of the dough and crimp with your fingers to seal. Pierce tops with a fork to allow steam to escape. Brush with egg whites; sprinkle each with ½ teaspoon cinnamon sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with a light drizzling of the leftover berry mixture and a dollop of whipped cream!  Refrigerate any leftovers. Store the remaining cinnamon-sugar in an airtight container.

Food for ThoughtFOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Have you ever literally found a hidden treasure?  Several years ago, the television program, Good Morning America, interviewed a gentleman who had just unearthed a large, rare emerald while digging in his own backyard in North Carolina! It was huge, and while they didn’t place a value on it at that time, judging from the size of it, I’d say this man was set for life! I watched in amazement and quietly wondered if there were any treasures buried in my own backyard . . . hmmm, what did I do with that shovel??? But then, at that moment, the Lord spoke to me that I truly am “set for life” because I have a treasure far, far greater than any emerald a man could ever find in this earth.

Matthew 13:44 says “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Back in those days in the poor communities, people buried their treasures in the ground because it was the best, most inexpensive, safe place to protect their valuables. The man in the parable “went in his joy” to sell everything he had. Why? Because he found a treasure worth having above all else he owned. He didn’t have enough money to buy the treasure, but after selling all he had, he could afford the field.

32 years ago, I found my treasure of all treasures, a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. While there is no amount of money and nothing I could ever do to earn this treasure, selling all that we have, as described in the Matthew 13:44 parable, means a surrender of all that we own and everything we are to His Lordship. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Treasure has a special connection to the heart, the place of desire and longing, the place of will and focus. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure.

And as this adventure continues, there are more treasures to be discovered!  Just like the bundle of pastry has to be opened before you find the hidden treasure in it, so too His Love Letter to us, the Word of God, must be opened and searched out. What we seek does not consist of silver and gold . . . or strawberries. Rather our quest is to gather the precious gems that come from a full knowledge of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). If we truly are to get to know Jesus, we must be immersed in His Word and led by His Spirit. God’s truths must be sought earnestly with all the attention of someone seeking hidden treasure.

The psalmist said, “I rejoice at Your Word as one who finds great treasure.” (Psalm 119:162).  For I have “laid up treasure for myself as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that I may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:19)

So with a warm “Strawberry Bundle” and cup of coffee in hand, I’m off to open His “Love Letter Bundle” and discover the treasures inside! I hope you have a treasure-filled day!

– Cheri Henderson

The Remedy for Being Overcooked!

001

For those of you who don’t know me, I have to admit I can be a bit of a perfectionist at times. As such, I’m always disappointed on those occasions when things don’t turn out the way I originally planned. Case in point: my Memorial Day Flag Cake.

I was so looking forward to bringing this decorative cake to a friend’s Memorial Day cookout this past weekend and gratifying the guests with a real taste treat.  I thought I had followed the recipe to a “t”, and was sure, as I put the last dab of icing on the cake, that my endeavor was a success.  But later, as I and the other guests lifted our forks to our mouths and took the first bite, I knew in an instant – the cake was overcooked and too dry.  Everyone “mmmm’d” as they tried to swallow the cake without aid of a beverage to help wash it down, and they were generously complimentary.  But I knew they were just being kind.  Although the final creation was beautiful on the outside and the taste of the icing was superb, the cake itself was not great. I wanted great. And I was sorely disappointed.

Often in cases like these, if you retrace your steps a bit, you can usually discover where the problem originated, but even after I read and re-read the recipe, and confirmed that I had followed all of the directions completely, I was at a loss. A 5-star recipe with glowing comments on the internet suggested the problem was mine, but what was it?!  As my husband watched my consternation, he quietly asked “Could your oven temperature be off? Maybe you need to get one of those oven thermometers and measure it.”  Such a simple suggestion . . . and it turned out to be the perfect one.  A new oven thermometer indicated my oven temperature is off by 25 degrees!  Easily remedied, I look forward to giving this recipe another try!

Yellow Pound Cake with Butter Cream Icing (Flag Cake)
adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten
Serves:  20-24

Ingredients:
18 tablespoons (2-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs at room temperature
1-1/2 cups sour cream at room temperature
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
zest of one lemon
3 cups flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

For the icing:
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1-1/2 pounds (20 ounces) cream cheese at room temperature
1 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

To assemble:
2 half-pints blueberries
3 half-pints raspberries

Directions:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour an 18 by 13 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed, until light and fluffy. (Don’t skimp on this – light and fluffy is a must!) On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, then add the sour cream, vanilla, and lemon zest. Scrape down the sides and stir until smooth.

Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out fairly clean. Cool to room temperature.

For the icing, combine the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mixing just until smooth.

Spread three-fourths of the icing on the top of the cooled sheet cake. Outline the flag on the top of the cake with a toothpick. Fill the upper left corner with blueberries, approximately 12 blueberries across and 8 blueberries down. Place 2 rows of raspberries across the top of the cake like a red stripe. Put the remaining icing in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe two rows of white stripes below the raspberries. Alternate rows of raspberries and icing until the flag is completed. Pipe stars on top of the blueberries.

Serve the cake right in the pan, or if you want to turn it out onto a board before frosting, use parchment paper when you grease and flour the pan. Any leftover cake freezes really well – just wrap it in foil loosely a few times over.

Food for ThoughtFOOD FOR THOUGHT:
It’s virtually impossible to produce something that’s excellent when you’re working with a defective tool, but I now have a remedy.  I will adjust the temperature for the oven discrepancy . . . and will make this cake again, perhaps for the 4th of July!  Next time, I know it will be excellent in every way!

In a similar way, no matter how many great ingredients go in to the mix, all human beings are incapable of attaining an excellent eternal outcome through their own defective efforts.

  • For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23)
  • And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.(Revelation 20:13-15) 

Talk about an overcooked cake! I promise you, eternity in hell is not the desired outcome for anyone! But God has provided a perfect remedy for each one of us.

  • For God so love the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16)
  • For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
  • For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
  • Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

And the icing on the cake!

  • But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” ( 1 Corinthians 2:9)
  • Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelations 21:1-5

I hope you will choose the perfect remedy for an excellent ending . . . Jesus Christ.

–Cheri Henderson