First Bouquet of Spring

In fall we plant bulbs;
In spring God gives us bouquets
That say, “I love you!”

My youngest son and I had a standing game for many years: Who could find the first crocuses each spring? (They are the first flowers to bloom around our home.) Although we’ve planted many crocuses over the years, between the ground squirrels, deer, and construction projects, I take each blossom as a treasured gift, recognizing that I can plant and wish, but only God can take dry, brown bulbs, nurture them into life, and allow them to grow safely into a riot of color and beauty! What a gift we enjoy in the resurrection of life—without, and within!

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
(1 Corinthians 3:6-7)

I Believe in Miracles
(—John W. Peterson)

“Creation shows the power of God,
There’s glory all around,
And those who see must stand in awe,
For miracles abound.

Chorus:

“I believe in miracles, I’ve seen a soul set free,
Miraculous the change in one redeemed through Calvary;
I’ve seen the lily push its way up through the stubborn sod;
I believe in miracles, for I believe in God!

“I cannot doubt the work of God,
There’s glory all around,
And those who see must stand in awe,
For miracles abound.

“The love of God! O pow’r divine!
‘Tis wonderful to see
The miracles that He has wrought
Should lead to Calvary.”

Savory Green Bean Casserole with Mushrooms and Onions

Do you have a system for storing favored recipes? I have a loose-leaf notebook, but my mother had a recipe box with 3X5″ cards, which I inherited. The last time my oldest son was home, he was interested in enjoying a couple of her specialties remembered from childhood. One of our mutual favorites was a casserole made with french-style green beans, mushrooms and crispy onion rings on top. I altered it slightly, to include fresh mushrooms (rather than mushroom soup) and onion straws, but otherwise, this is an authentic throw back to days of yore.

Green Bean Casserole with Mushrooms and Onions
(Serves 12)

1. Start preheating the oven to 350°F.2. In a shaker or other means of mixing well, blend:
1/2 cup flour
1 cup milk
(I also inherited my mom’s copper shaker, which has outlasted and worked better than the Tupperware shaker I bought as a newly wed!)3. In a skillet, sauté:
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped or sliced
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

4. When the veggies are browned and tender, add:
The flour and milk mixture
1 tablespoon garlic  5. Heat until the flour mixture becomes a gravy, then add:
16 oz. frozen, french-style green beans
1/2 cup french-fried onion straws

6. Heat until everything is hot.
7. Pour into a 8X10″ baking dish.
8. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes at 350° F.
9. Remove cover and top with 1 cup french-fried onion straws.
10. Bake about 10 more minutes until the straws are a crispy golden. 11. Serve piping hot, hopefully having timed it to finish when you’re ready to serve dinner. I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Psalm 18:1-2).

Meringues: Fun and Fancy

While I was helping out with Michael’s family when their new baby was born this summer, my two oldest grand daughters were really interested in cooking with me, and in particular, they’d tried to make meringues but couldn’t get them to turn out right. They were either burned or gooey. So, we worked together and made some that turned out just lovely! After leaving their home, Alan and I went for a three-week cruise, and meringues were part of many dessert options (like this one, called “Mixed Berries Pavlova”), so I decided they are popular with everybody these days and worth writing up.  I think the secret to success is more sugar than you’d think (to help them keep their shape) and a longer, lower baking temperature than is often prescribed to help them keep from browning or burning (or at least a lower temperature than was prescribed in the kids’ cookbook).

Melt-in-Your-Mouth Meringues

Preparations:
1.  Preheat oven to 275°F
2. Grease large baking sheet with shortening and sprinkle with sifted flour or line with parchment paper
3.  Cut small opening into bottom edge of a gallon zip lock bag and insert a fluted cake-decorating tip.  Ingredients:
1. In a large mixing bowl, add:
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2. Beat until soft peaks form
3. Then, slowly add
2.75 cups granulated white sugar, beating until stiff peaks form Shaping:
You can spoon out the meringues, but I think they’re a lot prettier fluted. To flute them, carefully fill the zip lock bag with the mixture and seal. Then, shape the meringues into little 1.5″ rounds with peaks on top Baking:
The trick with baking is to cook them slowly at a low heat so that they harden but don’t turn brown. This is best achieved by popping them straight into an oven preheated to 275°F. and baking them for 2 hours, then shutting off the heat, leaving them to continue drying in the oven overnight. It would be good to check them after an hour and a half, just to make sure they aren’t browning. In the morning, carefully scrape them off the cookie sheet and store them in an airtight container. Humidity or any type of moisture can make them sticky, just like cotton candy.

How sweet are thy words unto my taste!
yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
” (Psalm 119:103). Meringues on Celebrity Summit copy

 

 

Pulled Pork and BBQ Pork Sandwiches

Of course, if you really want pulled pork at its finest, it comes straight
from a cooker that’s been slow-roasting a succulent pig for hours. However, that usually only happens for special occasions
like weddings or family reunions. Still, you don’t have to have the finest of the finest in order to enjoy pulled pork!Around my home, pulled pork is not an uncommon way to use leftover pork. The most tender pulled pork is stripped from a slow-roasted pork roast  or leftover BBQ ribs, although you can actually use any leftover pork.

It’s easier than pie, and here’s the simple 1-2-3!

1. Shred fully cooked pork meat into bite-sized (or smaller) chunks.
2. Cook over low heat with a cup of water, salt, pepper, onion, and garlic powder to taste until the meat is so tender it’s falling apart. (You can put the top on and steam it for awhile if you had pork chops or some other tough cut, but just make sure you check on it every few minutes, stirring it and adding water as needed.) 3. Once it’s tender and shredded, you’re done, and I sometimes serve it that way. However, we usually like a little of our favorite barbecue sauce added to give it an extra kick. Then, it’s “BBQ pork,” which is a perennial crowd pleaser around our house, especially when the pork is heaped on onion buns!

(P.S.—If your pork is really fatty, drain or spoon off as much of the liquified fat as you can before you serve it or add barbecue sauce. I once had a Kalua pulled-pork sandwich in Hawaii that was so big and so fatty that I couldn’t finish it and felt sick about half-way through trying to eat it. It tasted great, but the fat and sauce was literally dripping down my arms. Famous…but not for me!)

(P.S.S.—If you have an instant pot, this is the perfect way to make tender pulled pork especially fast and simple!)

He giveth meat in abundance” (Psalm 36:31).
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2).

Chocolatey-Chippy, Sure-to-Get-Eaten Banana Bread

Probably everybody makes banana bread when you’ve got some extra ripe bananas that need using up, but my son Joel’s turns out so well that I asked if I could share his recipe. “But Mom!” he protested, “I just use your recipe, except I use half the sugar and add a package of chocolate chips.” Okay! We can do that. Here it is:

Chocolatey-Chippy Banana Bread

Cream together:
1 stick of softened butter
1/2 cup sugar

Then add:
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-4 bananas (whatever you have left over; the more bananas, the longer you’ll need to bake it)

Beat until smooth, then add:
1   12-oz. package chocolate chips for sure, and if you want
1 cup walnuts or pecans (totally optional)

Pour into a loaf pan and bake at 350°F. for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown on top and somewhat firm to the touch (starting to form a crust). We usually make banana bread for dinner (since it takes so long to bake) but serve the rest with breakfast the following morning. You can also make this recipe into muffins or glaze the tops with cream cheese frosting to make them into cupcakes, but then they’re undeniably a dessert rather than any semblance of a “bread” or morning “pastry!”  🙂

Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel
” (Proverbs 27:9).

The Tartar Sauce Caper

If you love fish as much as I do, you’ve probably figured out whether or not you love tartar sauce too.  Alan can take it or leave it, but there are very few fish dishes out there that I don’t think could be improved by a little (or a lot) of tartar sauce.  On our recent cruise on the Norwegian Star (and we all know Norwegians love their fish), we enjoyed many different types of fish…and I was always hoping for excellent tartar sauce on the side, although it didn’t happen very often. So, maybe not every culture likes tartar sauce, but if you do, I hope you aren’t buying commercial tartar sauce, because you can make your own at home in about a minute just be stirring together equal parts of mayonnaise (or any similar salad dressing) and pickle relish (sweet or dill, depending on your preference). To me, it tastes better, and it definitely costs less. Of course, there are all sorts of recipes out there to make your homemade tartar sauce even better, but last spring in Hawaii Alan and I both fell in love with tartar sauce laced with capers, and then last summer we were served such a delectable concoction again at a restaurant here on the shores of Lake Michigan, so I decided it was time to figure out my all-time favorite blend. Here’s what I came up with for myself, but I’ve also listed a few ideas that are good and add slightly different taste points just in case you haven’t already set your heart on any particular recipe. (If you have, please share it!)

Tartar Sauce á la Capers
(serves 2-4 people, depending on how much they love tartar sauce!)

Mix together:
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons dill relish (Alan prefers sweet)
1 teaspoons capers

That’s all there is to it, although you might want to experiment with adding any or all of the following just to change things up sometimes:
* 1 tablespoon finely chopped cucumber
* 2 teaspoons finely chopped onion
* 1 teaspoon chopped jalapeno pepper
* 1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
*1 teaspoon of your favorite mustard
* 1 teaspoon fresh parsley
* 1-2 dashes of your favorite hot sauce
* 1/4 teaspoon crushed garlic clove
*1/8 teaspoon dill seed or crushed dill leaves (also called “dill weed”)
*Salt and pepper to taste (I don’t personally add either)

Have fun experimenting, and I hope you love your personal house blend! Please let me know if you find other additives that really make your tartar sauce sparkle!

For the word of the Lord is right; and all his works are done in truth. He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth” (Psalm 33:4-6, emphasis mine).

Bold’n Golden Banana Bread

Another favorite way of using up over-ripe bananas in our family—particularly on chilly fall days—is making a loaf of banana bread, which is really more dessert than bread but can also be used for breakfast if you’re in the mood. I like to add quite a bit of spice to give it a bolder flavor, and our kids love to add chocolate chips or nuts, but I grew up with plain banana bread, so I still think the old, classic taste is comforting and yummy without needing any extra pizzazz!

Bold’n Golden Banana Bread
(makes one rather large loaf; can serve 8-12)

2 ripe medium to large bananas
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 stick (1/2 cup) softened butterBlend until fairly uniform and bananas are no longer lumpy bumps Then add together into mix:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup walnuts or other nuts (or even chocolate chips) as possible options, although it’s also great plain   Blend together briefly until thoroughly mixed, but don’t whip or beat it.
Pour into a well greased loaf pan and bake at 350°F for 50-60 minutes or until it’s a deep, golden brown, nicely rounded on top, and doesn’t indent much when touched. Serve it still warm (if possible), either with or without additional butter.   My lips shall utter praise, when thou hast taught me thy statutes. My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness” (Psalm 119:171-172).