Magnify

Do you ever wake up on a rainy morning and say to yourself, “I just need to go for a walk!”?

Peony crowned with raindrops

Yesterday was one of those days for me, so I donned my raincoat, grabbed my trusty umbrella (to protect my camera), and took off to see what I could see!

Orange Bearded Iris in Rain

It was as I thought—absolutely beautiful!

Peony buds in the rain

The amazing beauty of springtime
is always exhilarating and glorious, isn’t it?!

Purple Bearded Iris

First I walked along the lane to check out the woods and swamp.

Wood ducks in a swamp

At first, I didn’t see anything of particular interest, but then I saw a movement in the distance. It wasn’t until I was able to zoom in with my camera that I got a clear picture: a pair of wood ducks resting on a log, trying to negotiate the rain. They kept shaking their wings, and I smiled, thinking about the saying that something is as insignificant as “water off a duck’s back.” Not if you’re a duck! They worked hard to shake all the rain off their feathers!

Montmoreceny cherries starting to ripen in rain

I’ve been meditating my way through the Book of Psalms in the mornings lately (and I most highly recommend Charles Spurgeon’s Treasury of David for eloquent insights on the these comforting scriptures)! We need a lot of life’s drenching rains to grow spiritually. Bless God for rain; without it we would all die!

Wild roses blooming on our lane

That morning, I was meditating on Psalm 34:3, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” I feel like just one little wild rose, but one blossom in the midst of a cluster of wild roses can still attract attention . . . and may any attention we attract always magnify our wondrous creator, who has “made everything beautiful in his time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)!

Water droplets falling off lily pad leaves

I thought about how much more we can see when something is magnified. Without my camera, and it’s wonderful capacity for magnifying life, I would have known it was raining, but I wouldn’t have been able to recognize the distant pair of wood ducks or seen the tiny droplets of water dripping off the edge of the lily pads. May those of us who know God be like magnifying lenses for those who don’t.

Honeysuckle

Although I could smell the heady sweetness of honeysuckle, without magnification, I couldn’t really appreciate how beautiful it is. As we meditate on God’s beauty and draw near to him, may we share that sweetness with those around us!

Elaeagnus angustifolia, commonly called Russian olive, silver berry, oleaster,
Persian olive or wild olive

We have lots of Russian olives in bloom along our lane, but how could I explain to you how joyous they look without magnification?

Highbush Cranberry blossoms

We can’t “magnify the Lord” in the sense of making him anything greater than he is, because he is the Creator who holds the universe in his hands! He is already higher than the heavens and deeper than the seas . . . crowned with beauty and glory!

Mock orange budding in the rain

But, as we draw near to him and begin to appreciate his beauty, we are filled with such awe that we want to share what we’ve experienced with others, just like I love sharing my experiences with you!

Daisy

With magnification, even the common experiences of life become uncommon . . . like the daily miracles we may fail to notice—the breathe of life, color, water . . .

Nightshade

Only through the magnification of God’s Word do we learn to understand that not everything which is beautiful to look is also safe to eat. Some things are really bejeweled poison! “The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable” (Isaiah 42:21).

Waterlily bud in the rain

Only with magnification can we see the tiny details, like the minuscule fly resting on the lily. (Can you see it?) “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour” (Ecclesiastes 10:1). Can you think of anywhere outside scripture where we are given so many insights about the “little” details of righteousness?

Tiny clover blossoms and a tiny slug

I realized that magnification makes me aware of the fragility of life. How easily I might have stepped on these delicate clovers growing in the middle of the road! Even more surprising, there was a miniature slug sitting in the middle of one of them, which I really did not see until I studied the photo later! Whom might we harm because they’re in the middle of our road?? Ever read the children’s book, Horton Hears a Who?

Robin Hood Roses in rain, out of focus!

Finally, I realized that the most powerful camera in the world (which I certainly don’t own . . . but for the sake of argument), with the best magnification potential in the world, would be absolutely useless if it isn’t focused properly! If we don’t learn how to use the Bible (the world’s most powerful tool for revealing and magnifying God) to focus others on the magnificence of God, we won’t have anything worth sharing with others! Instead, we’ll be much more likely to confuse or frustrate them.

Robin Hood Roses in the rain

I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.”
(Psalm 69:30)

Cranberry Sauce Shaped Like a Can…or…How About Home Made?!

If you’ve ever seen Ernest Saves Christmas (and I wouldn’t recommend it for high value, but our kids did love it when they were little and it became a bit of a cult classic around our home), you might remember the line about how Ernest loved all things Christmas, including “cranberry sauce, shaped like a can.” Actually, that’s the way I also ate it when I was little, unless my mom sliced it into round, can-shaped slices (jellied). Or, sometimes she served “whole berry” sauce (from a can) and mashed it up to look more attractive. Fifty years hence, fresh cranberries are readily available this time of year in America, and homemade cranberry sauces and relishes are both simple to make and a whole lot yummier than anything you can buy in a can! I was testing my recipe for cranberry sauce on an 80+ year-old friend who was over for dinner recently, and he teased me, “For somebody who seems to worry about your weight, you sure write about food a lot on your blog!” 🙂  (Notice how svelte he still is!)

True enough, but part of good health and weight management is learning how to use less sugar in what you do allow yourself, and my theory is that most people are going to want a little cranberry sauce with their Thanksgiving dinner in a couple of weeks. Good nutrition isn’t just what foods you eat, it’s also about avoiding unnecessary additives and preservatives, using fresh ingredients that still have their nutritive value intact, and using “less”of  those ingredients which tend to cause weight gain (sugars, starches, and fats being among the chief offenders).

Therefore, I’m bringing you my own, less-sugared versions of cranberry dishes that are among America’s favorite Thanksgiving sides. If you’ve not discovered these tart complements for your turkey dinner, why not try making your own? They’re simple to make and sure to please!

Cheery Cranberry Sauce
(serves 6±)

12 oz. cranberriesWash the cranberries to remove any unwanted stems or leaves. Add: 1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar (most recipes call for a cup, so you might want a little more, but try it first. My taste-testers thought it was fine with only half the sugar).
1/8 teaspoon salt (can be left out if you’re trying to avoid salt)Bring to a boil, stirring often until all the sugar has melted. Reduce the heat and let the berries simmer until almost all the berries have “popped” (about 5-7 minutes)Keep warm and covered on the stove top until you’re ready to serve it. (If you don’t eat it all the first night, cranberry sauce will last a week or more stored in an air-tight container in your refrigerator.)

Cranberry-Orange Relish
(Serves 6-8)

12 oz. cranberries (wash them, as above)Chop up one entire seedless orange into about 8 large pieces (skin and all)
Add 1/2 cup sugar (or start with 1/2 and test; 1/2 cup is enough for me, but that’s pretty tart; my son likes it a touch sweeter)
1/8 teaspoon salt (can be left out if you’re salt-sensitive)
*Many people enjoy adding 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans. This is a good option, but only if you’re going to eat it all quickly, as the nuts will get soggy in a day or two. Otherwise, the relish lasts quite well for almost a week.Grind it all up in a Cuisinart (or other food processor) until it’s in “itty-bitty pieces.” (Stop before it liquifies.)Place in a serving dish and keep it chilled in the refrigerator until it’s time to eat.

I will praise the name of God with a song,
and will magnify him with thanksgiving
” (Psalm 69:30).

 

 

Gourmet Dressing and Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

There are lots of awesome-sounding recipes for stuffed mushrooms out there, but I was looking for a vegetarian recipe that might cater to my son’s Lenten fast of “no meat,” and I didn’t see anything that looked completely veggie and still really awesome. That’s when it occurred to me to look in my fridge. What was there? I still had the remains of some gourmet dressing and gravy, although the turkey and mashed potatoes from our dinner party the other day had already disappeared. Shall I? I wondered. In truth, I’m forever experimenting with recipes, but not all of my experiments are successes. Did I tell you about the time I pureed some leftover fajitas to make chicken fajita soup after my son’s oral surgery? It turned out like baby food, and my husband couldn’t get past the look to even figure out that the flavor was still just fine! He stuck out his tongue and turned the bowl over on the table. (Well, he pretended to, although he didn’t really). He ate chips and cheese that night… At any rate, I thought I’d try using the leftover stuffing, and if it failed, I’d just not mention it. However, it passed inspection by both my culinary connoisseur husband (for whom a major priority in travel is experiencing great, new food), and my twenty-something son, whose appetite is still  hale and hearty. Of course, it starts with really great stuffing:

Really Great Stuffing 
(
serves 6-12)

Sauté the following (one at a time) until tender with 1/4 c. butter:
1 smallish onion3-4 stalks chopped celery (about 1.5 cups)  (Don’t add the leaves until you add the final seasonings, so they stay green)1/2 yellow (or red) pepper
2 tablespoons fresh garlic4 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 small can sliced water chestnuts  (Of course, you can leave out any of the above ingredients that you don’t like; it’s all about flavor and personal taste.)

Once all the veggies are tender, add:
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt (I use Lawry’s, but whatever you like works)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon oregano
The celery leaves. (You can also add 1/2 teaspoon of celery seeds if you like.)

Stir thoroughly, and then add:
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter (I didn’t say this was going to be fat-free 🙂  )
1/2 cup rolled oats (secret ingredient I learned from my brother-in-law; holds everything together nicely)
12 oz. stuffing mix (Or, you can make your own by cubing dried bread…if it’s not moldy.  🙂  If you make your own, you might need more seasoning. Test it.)
2-3 cups turkey broth (or broth from whatever meat you’re roasting; enough to make everything damp).

Heat and stir lightly until everything is moist, then scoop into a covered baking dish and pop in the oven at about 350° (or whatever temperature you’re using for your roast) for an hour (or less if the temp. is higher. A half an hour could work; check it to make sure it’s browning but not burning. The dressing is in the center of this picture.)

From there, it’s not hard to make first-rate stuffed mushrooms!

First-Rate Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
(Serves 4)

1. Wash 4 Portobello mushroom caps and place them in a large frying pan.
2. Sauté with 1/4 cup butter on both sides until starting to brown. Turn off heat.
3. Mix 2-3 cups of leftover stuffing (or whatever you have left) with
1 cup gravy (or howmuchever you have left) and
4 ounces grated pepper jack cheese (or whatever you have on hand). (Also, if you have leftover turkey and are not intentionally trying to avoid meat, a little chopped turkey would definitely add to the flavor and protein content.)
4. Heat the dressing, gravy, and cheese in a separate pan until they’re starting to mix well. (Gravy runny and being absorbed, but the cheese doesn’t have to be completely melted.)
5. Ladle the stuffing into (and on top of) the caps (gill side up).
6.  Add 1/4 cup water (or just enough water to keep the mushrooms from burning; they should be producing their own juice at this point, but you can add a little more water if needed).
7. Top liberally with grated cheese (I used cheddar, because that’s what I had)
8. Cook with the skillet lid on, at very low heat, for about 10 minutes, or until everything is well steamed and the cheese is melted.
9.  Serve immediately with a few of your favorite sides. (You could also serve it in a bun like a hamburger, but it would probably take both hands to handle it.)

I will praise the name of God with a song,
and will magnify him with thanksgiving
” (Psalm 69:30).