Inspired Cinnamon Rolls

 

Last week Dale told me he’d had much success on his cooking day. He’d created three different recipes that turned out well. I decided that the one I’d like to use for our January blog was the one for Homemade Cinnamon Rolls. I’ve always had a soft spot for them, but hadn’t made them in a long time. Have fun!

Dale’s World:

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

When RuthAnn and I walked out of the grocery store we were pummeled by a blast of cold arctic air. We hurried to the car and uploaded the treasures we had bought into the trunk. When I got home, I immediately put the teakettle on and let it heat up while I unpacked the groceries. When the kettle whistled I mixed up a large mug of hot chocolate and grabbed a cinnamon roll that I had made earlier. Mmmmm. A cinnamon roll (I’m eating it right now) and hot chocolate is enough to make anyone thankful for winter.

This recipe is made especially moist and chewy by the inclusion of oatmeal. No one will ever guess it, unless you tell them. They will just shout, “You made these yourself? Wow!”

You will need:

For the dough:

1 cup of “old fashioned” rolled oats                  ¼ cup of brown sugar

½ cup of boiling water                                    1 pkg. (2 ¼ tsp.) dry yeast

1 ¼ cup of milk                                             1 tsp. salt

½ cup of vegetable shortening                  2 eggs

4 cups of all purpose flour

Cinnamon Roll Ingredients

Cinnamon Roll Ingredients

Prepare:

Grease a 13”x9” baking pan or –

  1. Line a sheet pan with parchment. I recommend using the sheet pan so that the rolls have room to rise and spread.

 

Mix:

 

  1. Put the oats in a large mixer bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Stir until the oats are moistened. When the mixture has cooled to warm (stick your finger in it) stir in the yeast
  2. In a small pan, mix the milk, shortening, brown sugar and salt. Heat the mixture on the range top until warm. Not hot but like you would heat a baby’s bottle. Add the milk mixture to the oat mixture.
  3. Add the two eggs.
  4. Mix until the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.
  5. Add half of the flour (2 cups) and mix thoroughly.
  6. Add the remaining 2 cups of flour and incorporate with a dough hook or by hand with a spoon.
  7. Knead the dough for about 7 minutes with the dough hook or by hand.
  8. Put the dough into a greased bowl and put a greased lid on top. Set the bowl in a warm place and let it rise until doubled in bulk.
  9. Meanwhile make the filling and frosting.

 

For the Filling, you will need:

8 Tbsp. (1 stick) of unsalted butter

½ cup of brown sugar

½ cup of white sugar

3 Tbsp. of ground cinnamon

 

Mix all the ingredients until smooth.

 

For the Frosting you will need:

 

4 Tbsp. of unsalted butter                  1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

2 cups of powdered sugar                   2 Tbsp. of Milk

2 Tbsp. of White Karo corn syrup

Mix:

  1. Mix all the ingredients together
  2. Add more milk or powdered sugar until you have a spreadable mixture.

 

Shape the Dough:

 

  1. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface.
  2. Cut the dough in half with a bench knife. Return half of the dough to the bowl.
  3. Flatten the dough and roll it out to a 10”x14” rectangle. The 14” edge should be horizontal.
  4. With a pastry brush (or your finger) moisten the top edge so that it will seal better when you roll it up.
  5. Spread half of the filling over the rectangle but not on the moistened edge.
  6. Roll up the pastry from the bottom to the top; like a log.
  7. Pinch the moistened edge to seal the roll.
  8. Cut the roll into six pieces and place them in two rows of three on/in your prepared pan. If the pieces are taller than they are wide. Flatten them a bit with your hand. If you want smaller rolls cut each log into eight pieces.
  9. Repeat the above procedure with the second piece of dough.
  10. Cover the rolls with a damp tea-towel and let them rise in a warm place until almost doubled.
  11. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  12. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a deep brown.
  13. When the rolls are cool enough to handle but still warm, lavishly slather the frosting on top.
  14. The rolls freeze and thaw very well so put some away to go with your hot chocolate on the next “snow day”.

 

Yummy Breakfast

Yummy Breakfast

 

Food for Thought:

There’s nothing better than a soft sweet roll. When I was in college, I loved frequenting a breakfast joint where they served an all-day cinammon roll called the Special. In the middle of the afternoon, a Special with a cup of coffee was a relaxing and delicious break from practicing the piano. (My college piano teacher expected me to practice 5 hours a day.)

The art of making sweet rolls is complex. The dough undergoes several transitions: the kneading, the rising, the shaping, the second rising, then the baking. Each transition moves something that was good into something that’s even better.

Life is filled with transitions. Americans are reeling these days because of our country’s transition from a Democratic President to an eccentric Republican President with his own ideas. What awaits our country as we move into the year? Will things be better or worse? Should we be fearful, hopeful? Emotions run high.

Emotions also run high during a person’s life transitions. They can make our inner man feel chaotic—anxiety, uncertainty, depression, speculating, postulating. The old you’re familiar with is becoming unavailable. And the new is crashing down on you with all its unknowns. Think about what it was like to move from Elementary School to Junior High or how you felt when you realized you only had a few months until retirement.

How do we weather life transitions (defined as change or moving from one condition to another) without falling apart? How do we gracefully say good-bye to the old and prepare expectantly for the new? One thing I’m learning is that it takes courage. Dale, the creator of our sweet roll recipe, and the co-author of our cookbook Inspiring Cuisine came to a point some years ago when he realized he was going to have to give up driving because of his failing eyesight. I asked him the other day what that transition was like.

He said, “At first I was relieved, because I knew it was unsafe for me to drive, but then I became frustrated because I couldn’t continue my life as before. The question always came up: ‘How can I get to where I want to go—the church service, the concert, my job across town?’

He didn’t want to become totally dependent on friends, so he began to study the bus routes, which turned out to be a gargantuan task. He said, “I learned that I would have to give up some of my expectations.” Gradually he worked out compromises like checking movies out at the library and giving up his church activities and concerts at night.

But he still lives a full life working at the church three days a week, working on his piano skills, his painting and cooking at home. He approached his situation in a creative way and so was able to move into a different, but fulfilling life. His courage is commendable.

The transition I’ve facing right now is moving from novel writing to—what? I’m not sure. As I wait on God about the next step in my life, I’m realizing I have to write. The question is, “What shall I write?” It has been two and a half months since I sent my new novel, Catching the Sunlight to an interested publisher, and still I haven’t heard from them. The first two weeks of January with all it’s grayness left me feeling useless and depressed.

Then our new pastor Tim McConnell preached a sermon on II Corinthians 1: 15-21. I’ve always had difficulty understanding the passage, but this time God opened my understanding. Verses 19-20 says, “The Son of God, Christ Jesus. . . was not yes and no, but is yes in Him. For as many as are the promises of God, in Him (Christ) they are yes.”

Applied to my predicament, the verses mean that a promise from God like—“I know the plans I have for you, plans for good and not for evil to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). — is a solid rock that I could stand on in Christ. Therefore, as I seek God, I can be sure that whatever I write or accomplish this year will be “Yes,” in Christ. It will be something positive that will do others good, something God has his hand on as he watches over me with affirmation. Realizing this gives me courage.

As we make our way through the transitions of aging, we can also claim Isaiah 46:4: “Even to your old age I am He, I am He who will sustain you, I have made you; I will carry you, I will sustain you. I will rescue you.”

And I love this one. “The glory of young men is their strength; gray hair the splendor of the old.” Proverbs 20:29 NIV. So when your hair turns gray, remember it’s a splendor in the eyes of the King.

Whatever transitions we are facing, we can have an adventuring heart that moves through them with hope and peace. Why? Because Christ is there holding us up. Because He is forever faithful.

—RuthAnn Ridley

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Inspiring Cherry Sauce for Meats

Hello everyone!

Merry third day after Christmas! Ours was festive and full of the people I love. Everyone, big and small, pitched in to piece together a Winter Wonderland wooden puzzle and color in a Because of Bethlehem Christmas Coloring book. We finished coloring a beautiful Christmas wreath with the caption Love is born. Hope is here.

Yes!

 This week Dale has created a unique Cherry Sauce for us today that is versatile—for Holiday use or everyday, for turkey, pork or chicken.

 

Dale’s World:

Cherry Sauce

Tired of Cranberry Sauce? Try this sauce ladled over pork, turkey or chicken. It is even good over ice cream! It only takes a few minutes to do and you will have something that everyone else is not serving.

 

You will need:

 

1 16 oz. Bag of frozen Dark Sweet Cherries         1 cup of Water

1/3 cup of Sugar                                                      1 Tbs. Cornstarch

1 Tbs. of Amoretto

Cherry Sauce Ingredients

Cherry Sauce
Ingredients

Cook:

 

  1. Pour the frozen cherries into a medium sized, non-reactive, sauce pan.
  2. Add the sugar
  3. Mix the water and cornstarch, then pour it into the pan.
  4. Cook over a medium heat until the mixture boils, turns clear and thickens.
  5. Cook for one more minute.
  6. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the amoretto. You could also use kirsch, chambord, cognac, frambois or grand marnier. Each of them will add their own subtle flavor to the sauce.
  7. God rest ye merry.

Food for Thought:

Christmas. What does it mean? It means Christ is coming. To you and me. It means glory: the stars and angels sing. It shines in the darkest part of the night. It rings through the air like bells circling, and encircling, the world.

Christmas is tenderness, gentleness, the love of a mother rubbing noses with her new born child.

Christmas is awe, the reverence of a husband wondering at the miracle, the blessedness, the favor—Emmanuel!

Christmas is hope fulfilled, the birthday of a King like no other, a King that will make all things right in you and me.

Oh Father-God, open my eyes, that I may see all these wonders you have for me. Dear Jesus, open my heart like a flower, unfurling to Thee.

—RuthAnn Ridlley

Celebrating with Cherry Sauce

Celebrating with
Cherry Sauce

 

 

 

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Inspiring Austrian Chocolate Balls

Happy Thanksgiving Season! We had our Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday at my daughter’s home in Denver. Her husband was the chef, and guess what! The meal was all vegan. Who’d have guessed it? Gavin made a “from scratch” Vegan Chicken Pot Pie for all of us, and it was delicious.

As I walked in the Denver neighborhood the next day, I spotted a neighbor hanging Christmas icicle lights. “Christmas!” I said. And he answered, “It’s that time.”

Yes, and because it’s that time, I’m sending you a recipe for one of my favorite Christmas cookies. The making of it is as fun as the eating.

(Oh! and don’t forget to click on “Get the book” at the top of the blog to find ways to purchase our cookbook for a Christmas gift.)

 

RuthAnn’s World:

Austrian Chocolate Balls

You will need:

2 ounces (2 squares) unsweetened chocolate             1 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter                                                               1 egg plus 1 yoke

1 ½ teaspoon vanilla or almond extract                       1 1/3 cup flour

Icing:

1 oz. unsweetened chocolate                                     1 cup powdered sugar

1 Tablespoon butter                                                   2-3 Tablespoons milk

1/4 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract

 

How our 3-year-old Grandson hung our old family ornaments

How our Grandson hung our old family ornaments

 

Cook:

  1. Melt together 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate and 1/3 cup butter over low heat. Remove from heat.
  2. Stir 1 cup sugar, 1 ½ tsp. vanilla or almond extract, 1 egg plus 1 yoke into the chocolate mixture. Blend well.
  3. Gradually stir in flour until well combined.
  4. Shape dough into ¾ inch balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 12 minutes until firm to the touch. (Do not overbake.)
  6. Immediately remove from cookie sheets. Cool.
  7. For icing:
    1. Melt 1 oz. chocolate and 1 Tablespoon butter.
    2. Remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients (under Icing above). Blend well.
    3. Dip tops of cookies into glaze to cover. Allow to dry completely before storing cookies. Put wax paper between layers.

 

Food for Thought:

Sometimes I reach for a recipe from my recipe box and encounter a dear friend or relative who is no longer in this world. I made an Ice Cream Dessert for my son last week. The recipe was given to me by a doctor’s wife who was one of the first friends I made after moving to Colorado Springs. She died twenty years ago. But this dessert is still my oldest son’s favorite dessert. This morning I grabbed a handful of recipes and saw that three of them were written by long-gone relatives and a friend who had moved to New York and died an untimely death.

It’s good to remember the way we used to be, the way we laughed and talked about art, enjoyed home-cooked meals together (My husband’s mom made a knock-out Hawaiian Pork) or did Bible Study together and discussed the conundrum of how you can be saved without works.

It is good to thank God for what was. But it is also good to thank God for each of those we love now while we still have them. Last week we received news that a dear friend of ours died in a fiery automobile accident. We had had lunch with Janice and her husband Josh this summer for the first time in years. It was a wonderful time of reconnecting, and rejoicing at what God was doing in their evangelical ministry. She was still sparkly and so alive, and fun! How could she be gone? How?

We never know when someone we love will die. Only God does, and the Word says, “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his saints.”

He is the one in the end who plans and controls each day of our lives. Kristee, a missionary to South America tells of how unpredictable the rains are in the jungle. Their church meets under a tree, and one day her friend pointed out that in all the Sundays they had met for church under that tree, it had never rained. Amazing provision!

“In your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16b). God plans and controls our lives far more than we realize.

Let us thank Him this Thanksgiving season for the loved ones around us because we never know when their time will come. And let us thank Him for his eternal Presence with us, forever there to comfort and guide.

—RuthAnn Ridley

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An Inspiring Focus on Chicken with Plums

Autumn has had a heyday in our corner of the world this year. It goes on and on. Our black maple turned colors for the first time since we’ve lived here. The leaves are a variegated yellow and orange with tints of rust. I’m going to make an arrangement of them for a painting or for our dining room wall.

It’s the first of November, and I think I missed writing a September blog, much less October. Reason: I’ve been immersed in finishing a novel I’ve been working on for years. Title: Catching the Sunlight. Finally it’s done! Now it’s back to the real world.

Dale has a creative chicken entrée with an Oriental touch for us today. Have fun with it!

And remember our cookbook Inspiring Cuisine makes a Great Christmas Gift. Order from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com or check our Get the Book tab at the top of our home page for more options and info. The byline of the cookbook reads Dale McClure and RuthAnn Ridley.

Dale’s World:

Chicken with Plums

Plums are plentiful in late summer. But if you missed the plums, canned ones will work for this tangy Oriental dish.

You will need:

4 Chicken Breasts                        3 Tbs. Cornstarch

2 Tbs. Canola Oil                        ¾ cup of Water

4 large red plums                        2 tsp. Salt

1 cup of Plum Wine                        2 tsp. Garlic Powder

2 tsp. Black Pepper

2 tsp. Ground Ginger

Fresh Plums

Fresh Plums

 

Prepare:

  1. Wash the plums and cut them in half around the seed. Twist the two halves until they come apart. Pull the seed out and cut the plums into eight or so segments each. Don’t peel the plums. You need the skins for their sour flavor. The peel also provides the natural red color. If the plums are small get more than four. You can’t get too many.
  2. In a small bowl or ramekin, mix the salt, garlic powder, black pepper and ground ginger.
  3. In another small bowl mix the cornstarch and water.
  4. Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Cook:

  1. Heat the canola oil in a skillet. Brown the presentation side of the chicken breasts. Only brown them for color; they will be fully cooked in the oven.
  2. Place the chicken in a baking dish and sprinkle the seasoning mix on both sides of the chicken. Bake the chicken until the breasts reach 165 degrees. That will take 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. In the skillet in which you browned the chicken, pour the cup of wine. If you cannot find plum wine, use any white wine or pink Zinfandel. Turn the heat all the way up and reduce the wine by one half.
  4. After the wine has been reduced add the plums and sugar to the skillet. Place a lid on the skillet; turn the heat down to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. After the sauce has simmered, add the cornstarch and water. Cook over a medium heat until the sauce is thickened and is clear once again.
  6. When the chicken is done. Pour the sauce over the chicken.
  7. You might want to serve this with rice and a small salad of oriental vegetables.

 

Tangy Oriental Chicken

Tangy Oriental Chicken

 

Food for Thought

 When we enter our kitchens with the desire to create a fine meal for family or guests, we need Focus. This is not easy for me. If someone talks to me while I’m cooking, I get addled and fuzzy-minded, a perfect set-up for forgetting to put the egg in the pudding or burning the bacon.

We need focus when we’re driving on the Interstate, when we’re grocery shopping and need to stay within the budget, when we’re preparing a speech, when we’re watching a toddler, when we’re taking care of a rose garden.

Suppose you are learning a piano piece you always wanted to be able to play, perhaps Malaguena. There is one line in the piece you never seem to get right. If you keep racing over that section in a stumbling manner and never stop to focus on it, to analyze the fingering, to perfect the rhythm, to practice making big leaps—it will always be a glitch in an otherwise beautifully performed piece. But if you focus for awhile on practicing just that one line or measure, you’ll eventually conquer it.

The need to focus is everywhere. I think of Sully, the pilot who landed his passenger plane on the Hudson River, and everyone survived. What if, in the few minutes he had after a flock of birds slammed into his plane, he hadn’t focused? What if he’d become paralyzed by fear and had done nothing but watch the plane go down? The Power of focus—for a pilot, a chef, a artist

Thesis: If we’re ever going to accomplish anything worthwhile, we will need to learn to focus, to concentrate, to center.

It isn’t easy to focus in our 21st century world.  Cell phones constantly interrupt us, solicitors bug us on our land phones, e-mails keep pouring in, news stations and newspapers bristle with one disturbing event after another. Adolescents struggle with the need o keep up their social media image and identity. The constant barrage gives them little time to focus and contributes to a prevailing depression. What will this mean for the leaders of our next generation?

To focus means to concentrate, to come together at the center, to intensify, to collect. Concentrate means to focus all one’s power or attention on.

If we want to be prepared for emergencies, for example, if the possibility of the grid going down makes us anxious, if we’re thinking what it would be like to have no electricity for an extended period of time—no refrigeration, no heat, no light, it’s time to focus. Perhaps we’ll decide to set aside an hour each day (or a whole morning once a week) to intensify our random thoughts about preparedness. Study about it, look at catalogs, talk to friends about it, budget for it and then begin to shop regularly for the items you need. Then you will begin to accomplish something worthwhile.

Three things that will help us to focus on something we long to do is to prioritize, write it down and put it on the calendar.
1. Spend some time making a list of priorities in a given week, month or year. Look at your list, move things around, then pick one thing you’d like to begin to work on now. When will you work on it? Set a time and stick to it. Perhaps you’re aging and you don’t have a hobby. Focusing on cultivating one could make a real difference in your life. 
2. Writing I have a popcorn mind, so a writing consultant told me once. I wasn’t sure I liked the analogy, but what he meant was that I had all kinds of ideas going in all kinds of directions at any time of the day.  One of the reasons I began to write was to attain more focus, tame those divergent ideas and learn to take one idea and posthole it (go deeper and deeper into that one idea.)
When things are at perfect pitch, the words I birth are clear as images in a crystal mirror, but every thing else floats along the periphery, barely seen, not for this time, not for now.
Focusing in a calming, productive and, almost sacred practice.
  1. And that leads us to focusing on God, the most important focus in the world.  The best thing is to seek God first thing in the morning, read the Word, then let our hearts grow still until we sense His presence and hear what’s the most important thing to focus on that day.

    Focusing brings peace and power into a person’s life. It is a priceless commodity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Inspiring Rice Vinegar Salad Dressing

An Inspiring Rice Vinegar Salad Dressing

 

I’m looking at the purest red geraniums I’m ever seen, a gift from our kindred-spirit cousins. The flowers reign on my side deck and are cast against a backdrop of deep green lawn and trees. We are approaching the fall season. Less heat. More rain. We’ve even had new snow on Pikes Peak. Early for Colorado Springs.

But right now I’ve been trying to think of what recipe will bring you delight. I decided on my all-time favorite homemade salad dressing. When our three children were still at home, but old enough to take care of themselves, my husband and I stepped out every Friday evening for a date night. Often we headed for a nearby restaurant called Mayfield’s. They had gourmet homemade rolls and a stellar salad dressing. Before the restaurant closed, they gave me the recipe for both, and I make the salad dressing every time we have company and sometimes when we don’t. It’s mild with a slight tang and good!

 

RuthAnn’s World:

 

Mayfield’s Dressing

You will need:

½ cup rice vinegar

1/8 cup lemon juice

1 ½ Teaspoons mustard

pinch white pepper

pinch salt

1 cup oil

1/8 cup honey

 

Pour all ingredients into a mason jar or cruet. I have a tall Italian looking cruet which is fun. Shake vigorously. (Or you can pour the ingredients into a bowl and beat till blended.)

Food for Thought:

 

You’re making a salad. You throw different things in the bowl: lettuce, tomatoes, celery, slight onion rings and maybe some craisins. Then you toss it with a salad dressing you’ve made ahead. You’ve made the salad dressing first, one you know pleases, because somewhere deep inside you, you realize it is the salad dressing that makes the salad. It is priority.

 Salad

I’ve found living life according to well-thought through priorities is a great load-lifter. None of us can do it all. Some seasons of life will dictate different priorities in your cooking and in your life. Soups are more a priority in the winter than in the summer. Pie more a priority during the holidays than other seasons.

As you move into an older season of your life, you may realize it’s time to cultivate new friendships and renew old ones. Or it may be time to tend to that root of bitterness which is starting to grow within you before it gets out of hand.

Then there’s the dailies. We wake up in the morning of what bodes to be a busy day. A thousand things are rolling around in our heads. But the top priority, the one that will make the day, is time with the Lord. Even if it’s only ten minutes, say, seven minutes reading the Word and three minutes praying, it will make a difference. I think it was Martin Luther who said that when he had a busy day, he spent twice as much time with the Lord. When we do this, Jesus gives the strength and insight we need for a truly successful day.

When our three children were little, I would ask the Lord each morning: what one thing do you want me to do today? What is your priority for me? At the end of the day, if all I got done was that one thing, I felt before the Lord, it had been, a successful day.

Another hint for ferreting out the priorities is to make a list of things you feel you need to do that day, then rearrange the list in the order of what is priority. Here’s an example from my life.

  1. Go to the grocery store.
  2. Give three hours to part-time job (for me, writing my novel and keeping up the blog)
  3. Pay bills
  4. Exercise
  5. Write my compassion child
  6. Make my husband’s favorite dessert
  7. Pick up makeup from my Mary Kay lady.
  8. Mail letter to Stephen.
  9. Order books.

 

When I rearranged it, according to priorities, this is the way it looked:

  1. Part-time job (Blog is overdue)
  2. Walk (I didn’t exercise yesterday.)
  3. Mail letter. (reimbursing my son for purchasing my new Magic mouse)
  4. Pick up Make-up. (I’m totally out, and tomorrow is Sunday and church.)
  5. Order books. (Need one for a gift and two for me, I’m out of books to read.)
  6. Write my compassion child. (It’s been too long.)

 

As far as making a trip to the grocery store, I realized there wasn’t anything I needed that day. The bills weren’t due for three weeks. I decided to wait until Labor Day to make my husband’s favorite dessert. Then it could do double duty. The whole process of prioritizing a list was enlightening. I felt a load lifted.

Matthew 6:31 and 33 give us overall guidelines for setting priorities as we seek to walk with Christ. “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or “What will we wear for clothing?’. . . But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (NASV).

Studying the Word

Studying the Word

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A Summer Soup to Inspire

The end of July is upon us! Roses are fading, but birds are still flying through our copse of Chinese elms—chirping, squawking and  and feasting on fresh thistle and suet.

It has been a relatively quiet summer for us, but a very productive one. My husband Bob and I took a three-week stay-at home vacation which was amazingly helpful. During those three weeks we made no appointments, but wrote, studied and did projects we only wanted to. As a result both of us are feeling much healthier.

Our experience makes me think of the words written by one of my favorite contemplatives. “The speed of the modern world does violence to our souls.” Rest is good for the body and  for the soul. 

Those three weeks helped us to bring some order out of the chaos of our lives. I have some more thoughts on order and chaos. But first you’ll want to peruse Dale’s wonderful cream of asparagus soup with his unique musings. He’s even included his recipe for a strawberry summer dessert.

 

Dale’s World:

Robert (RuthAnn’s husband) came over for lunch last week. It had been a while since we had made time to talk over the problems of the world and other “man things”. We had cream of asparagus soup, ham and cheese quiche and a strawberry sundae for dessert. The sundae was a simple summer day dessert. I’ll tell you about that after the soup recipe.

I’ve always thought of asparagus as a rather exotic vegetable – probably because we never had it when I was a child. As an adult, my first exposure was to the canned variety. I liked the flavor, but the texture was not to my liking. Too mushy! On the plate, the little stalks just laid there as if they were tired. Sometime later I was feeling adventurous again, so I bought a bunch of fresh asparagus. I had no idea of what to do with it.

I got my cookbooks out to see what other people did with it. I liked Julia Child’s recipe best. It was the simplest. She had a special pan for asparagus, sort of like a coffee pot so they could cook standing up. I didn’t have one of those nor the string to tie them in a bundle, so I improvised and got great results. I loved them. Years later I found that steaming them in the microwave is easier still, and the cooking is much more even.

Another thing that I learned from Ms. Child was to peel the stalks. Breaking the ends off wastes some of the best part. Yes, cut off the dry fibrous end with a knife. Then with an ordinary vegetable peeler, remove the last one to two inches of the tough green layer. This exposes the sweet white core which is the best part.

We are not cooking the stalks whole in this recipe. We are going to make soup, an elegant soup.

Cream of Asparagus Soup

 You will need:

1 bunch of asparagus               4 Tbs. of flour

1 rib of celery                            1 cup of milk

½ of a yellow onion                 ¼ tsp. of white pepper

Water                                          Salt

4 Tbs. of butter                         ¼ to ½ cup of heavy cream

2 tsp. chicken base or bouillon granules or 2 bouillon cubes

Prepare:

  1. Trim and peel the asparagus, then roughly chop them and put them in a soup pot.
  2. Roughly chop the celery and onion. Add them to the pot
  3. Cover the vegetables with water.
The healthy asparagus

The Healthy Asparagus

Cook:

  1. Put a lid on the soup pot, and cook the vegetables until they are soft, about 45 minutes.
  2. In a smaller pan, make a roux. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in the pan. Add 4 tablespoons of flour and cook over a medium heat for two minutes, stirring constantly. Do not brown the roux. When the roux is done, set it aside.
  3. When the vegetables are done, remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon and put them into a food processor or blender. Do not pour the cooking liquid into the food processor or blender, but save the liquid.
  4. Puree the vegetables. (You can also use an immersion blender to puree the vegetables in the soup pot with the cooking liquid.)
  5. Return the pureed vegetables to the soup pot and stir them into the cooking liquid.
  6. Add the cup of milk.
  7. Bring the soup to a simmer, and stir in the roux with a whisk until the soup is thickened. It will most likely be too thick at this point. That is how it should be.
  8. Stir in the chicken base and the white pepper.
  9. Stir in ¼ cup of cream and taste.
  10. Add however much salt is needed.
  11. The soup is most likely still too thick. So add water or milk or more cream until the soup is the consistency that you want.
  12. Strain the soup to remove any of the tough peel that remains.
  13. Serve with three drops of cream on the surface of the soup.

Strawberry Sundae

  1. Use a half-cup of strawberries for each serving. Remove their green hats and halve the berries – top to bottom.
  2. Place the strawberries in a bowl, sprinkle a little sugar on them, and hold them in the refrigerator for an hour or more.
  3. When time to serve, fill clear goblets (water goblets, wine goblets etc.) half way with the strawberries.
  4. Mound vanilla (or whatever flavor you wish) ice cream on top of the berries
  5. Drizzle chocolate syrup on top and enjoy your sundaes as you solve all of the problems of the world that Robert and I couldn’t undo.

Food for Thought:

Bringing order out of chaos is one of my favorite subjects. This is what good artists do. This is what God planned for all mankind to do because human beings are made in His image. Even when the chaos in our nation and world reigns, creating corners of order in our personal lives can soothe our souls.

Take my situation. Most days I spend the morning writing. Now, when we are talking about the process of writing a book, we are talking about research as well as writing several drafts of each chapter. Therefore, our dining table will usually be covered with books and papers tossed about randomly. Not only will there be research books, but also journals, Bibles, sketch books and a library book or two. Then there is my necessary lap top computer placed on the New American Standard exhaustive concordance with a separate ergonomic keyboard and mouse.

Then dinnertime arrives. I push the papers aside and stack the books in one place. Then I arrange the dining chairs and place two pretty plates on matching placemats. Arranged on each plate is a bowl of steaming soup, buttered slices of hot French bread and an array of relishes: baby carrots, dill pickle spears and olives. I place a folded napkin beside each plate and then a silver soup spoon, and if we have it, set a pink rose from our rose bush as a centerpiece. Order out of chaos. For the moment. But it counts. It brings a sense of well-being.

When Bob and Dale met for lunch a couple of weeks ago, they discussed uncertainties in their own lives, and I’m going to guess they also spoke their horror over the latest shooting in Dallas. They may have discussed the new ISIS dictum that faithful Muslims must kill anyone that doesn’t belong to their religion. I’m thinking they probably made a few comments about the chaos surrounding our search for a new American President we can trust. But in the midst of all these difficult topics, they were enjoying order and civility because Dale had prepared an elegant lunch for his friend. It was a victory over barbarism.

My husband Bob loves to repair things. Almost everyday lately, he’s been out in the garage, making a new step for a rotted one on our outside stair case and sanding and painting a second banister for our inside stair case to make it safer as we age. Or he may be inside on the computer looking up quality appliances for a good price. Both our dishwasher and gas grill need to be replaced. Our house could disintegrate without constant care. But my husband is keeping the chaos under control in this area of our personal lives.

Renewed Step

Renewed Step

When big things go wrong, little things can help us continue on.

The most important and effective way of bringing order out of chaos is to meet Jesus first thing in the morning and listen to His voice. If you listen long enough, he will bring order out of the scramble of your mind, speaking, deep in the center of your being, the word you need. It might be a word of approval. “You did a good job at the library yesterday.”

Or He might say, “Don’t fret about how her words wounded you. I love you with a love that never fails, and that is all that matters.”

Or He may give you a word of guidance, highlighting the task he most wants you to accomplish that day.

One of God’s job descriptions is the continuing task of bringing order out of chaos. May we continue to work at this with Him, fighting back the darkness.

“Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (I John 5:5).

—RuthAnn Ridley

 

 

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Inspiring Stir Fry with Plum Sauce

An Inspiring Stir Fry with Plum Sauce

 

Hello, everyone! We’re back after months of our Inspiring Cuisine course to teach, a slew of choir concerts to play for, and a speaking engagement for Christian Woman’s Club. Topic: the cookbook and how it all came about. God is moving.

Summer is upon us, but we’re still cooking. RuthAnn prepared Chicken Enchiladas and Calabacitas (p 92-93 in our Inspiring Cuisine cookbook) for visiting cousins and Frozen Lemon Cream Cheese Pie for a group of praying friends (found on p. 93-94   of our Inspiring Cuisine cookbook.)

And today we’re offering a stir-fry with plum sauce. It’s simple to fix and doesn’t require much time over a hot stove. Plus you can probably use some of your left-overs.

whole foods 052

 

Pork Stir Fry with Plum Sauce

You will need:

One half Pork tenderloin, sliced (this can be left over or fresh.)

Two tablespoons Oil

1 cup coarsely chopped Summer Squash

1 cup chopped Green Beans (fresh)

½ cup coarsely chopped Carrots

1 Small Onion, diced

Sweet Teriyaki Marinade (bottled or homemade)

Fresh Ginger

Craisins

Plum Sauce

Cooked Rice

 

Preparation:

 

  1. Slice pork tenderloin.
  2. Pour cooking oil into skillet.
  3. Place sliced pork tenderloin in skillet and cover with 1/3 to ½ cup marinade. Set aside.
  4. Coarsely chop vegetables, including ¼ cup fresh ginger.

 

 

Cook:

 

  1. Cook pork until lightly browned on both sides.
  2. Add vegetables and fresh ginger.
  3. Cook until vegetables are crisp-tender.
  4. Add craisins to taste.
  5. Stir in ¼ cup or more of bottled Plum Sauce.
  6. Serve over cooked rice.

 

Food for Thought:

 Sometimes when I concoct a stir fry, I throw whatever left-overs I have in without much thought. But if there are too many ingredients, if, in fact, there’s a multitude of ingredients, the stir fry is spoiled. There’s no dominant flavor, and you feel like you are eating glorified hash.

Thinking about too great a multitude of ingredients in a dish makes me remember what I’ve been studying about lately—the folly of a multitude of words.            Have you ever taken a trip with an untested friend only to discover the friend talks non-stop? How wearying that trip turns out to be! The Bible says it this way, “In the multitude of words, there lacketh not sin, but he that refraineth his lips is wise”(Proverbs 10:19KJV)

As one Celtic writer said, “Silence is luminous.”

I’ve been studying some passages that relate to Christ’s transfiguration. The context in Mark 8 speaks a great deal of Peter. The order goes like this: Peter makes his astounding declaration that Jesus in the Christ. He receives many kudos. But he lets it go to his head, and before long he’s rebuking Jesus for saying He’s going to die soon. This time, it’s not kudos he receives but strong rebuke: “Get the behind me, Satan.” Ouch! It would been better if Peter had held his tongue.

But Peter does not learn his lesson. As he witnesses the glorious transfiguration of Christ, he blurts out the first thing that comes to his mind, and this time God rebukes him. He overshadows him in a cloud and speaks, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”

James writes that “the tongue is a fire, a world of inquity”(James 3:6a).

As it is best to think ahead, ponder about what we will put in our stir fries, so it’s best to hold our tongue and ponder well before we speak.

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Awe-inspiring

Awe-inspiring

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