Here is the article I was working on last week. It is my first published nonfiction outside of school work, and part of a series on Reformers and other significant figures in Christian history written by members of Grace Community Church, which I used to attend in Union City. I have to say, it is REALLY HARD to write an article that is only 600 words and still say everything you want to. But researching the life and works of John Bunyan in order to write this article was tremendously encouraging to me. You may have read his classic allegory of Christian life, A Pilgrim's Progress -- if not, READ IT. It is one of a handful of books that has actually never gone out of print. I also encourage you to read his spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, as soon as you can. It is a quick read despite the older language. This website actually has the complete works of Bunyan available to read online for free. Awesome!
Friday's post will be late! Not because i am feeling sorry for myself, but because we are having friends over for dinner! Sometime Friday evening or Saturday i hope to post a link to the articlette i was working on last week.
I do not post on days that i am feeling sorry for myself. I take care of that well enough without needing to invite the rest of the world to help me out.
So, here is a recipe for you! A really sweet coworker brought this apple cake to work Tuesday and it is SUPER YUMMY. It was a great day for it too because I had another Wardrobe FAIL and didn't have time for breakfast. I am going to make this for the Reformation Party Saturday (along with my awesome costume!!). Mrs. C--- served the cake with caramel sauce but I am just going to get some cool whip, because the cake itself is moist and rich and doesn't need a lot of pointless sweet. She also used Splenda brown sugar mix in the cake, which I would totally do if I had the money, but I don't.
I have cut the recipe in half for an 8-inch pan. Double it to make a 9 by 13 pan.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8" baking dish.
Whisk together: 1 cup sugar 1 cup flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon cinnamon
In a separate bowl, beat together: 1 egg 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 cups fine-chopped apple 1/4 cup cooking oil
Combine two mixtures and beat just till well mixed. Pour into greased dish.
Sprinkle batter with 1/4 cup packed brown sugar mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons Tones Cinnamon Maple Sprinkle (Mrs C--- got the recipe when she worked at the Tones Spice Factory, which is not far from where I live!). Bake for 1 hour.
Optional: Sprinkle with halved or chopped walnuts before baking.
Serve with whipped cream or Cool Whip, or Caramel Sauce if you have to.
This is one recipe that probably would NOT be improved with the addition of half a cup of hot sauce.
So it hasn't exactly been the best couple of weeks for me. I think it has as much to do with the cold dark early as anything, but I have been WAY too focused on what I can't do, can't have, etc. Which really stinks. Made worse by the fact that I love to indulge myself by sulking.
So I want to share two ways that God encouraged me this week. We were listening to the sermon (which was great, as usual), and the passage closed with the verse where Christ tells his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest tosend out laborers into his harvest" (Matthew 9:37-38). I think this was really God speaking right to me. Among the many don't-do's and can't-do's that oppress me has sprung up the conviction that I am too shy in sharing my faith -- particularly with people whom I know are not Christians. I'm pretty sure that most of my guilt trips are straight from the devil, but I believe that I really and truly do need to be more proactive in speaking about Jesus. What I'm not sure is how to do that. I don't want to walk around banging people over the head with the Gospel, but at the same time, I have been waiting for YEARS, without success, for pagans to walk up to me and say, "Hey, tell me all about this Saviour of yours and why he's so great!" The answer to my dilemma was, of course, freakishly obvious. PRAY ABOUT IT. So that's what I'm doing -- praying for opportunities -- conversations or whatever -- and courage and wisdom to share what I believe most deeply -- and that God would make those glaringly obvious because of my dingbat tendencies. That's one request I know He will bless!
After the sermon, Pastor Larson asked, in the closing prayer, that God would help all of us to be faithful in the work before us, remembering that we are ultimately working for Him, and for His purposes, even in the little things. I wasn't really encouraged by that, because I have been kind of discouraged at work lately and I didn't want anyone telling me to suck it up and do my job. Not even God! I have loved brilliance and hated the hard work that goes into it. Sometimes I feel like I am filing paperwork when I should be learning to write the Great American Novel, or something. I am SO grateful for my job, but it can be frustrating in that it is both very simple and repetitive, and yet so high volume that I often feel inadequate. I KNOW that my "real job" is helping my family, and that God has a reason for the tasks and relationships He's given me at work, but dammit, I want to paint a masterpiece, not sit here drawing circles and circles and circles.
And then I started having stories again, and poems. The kind that buzz in your brain and in your fingers until you get out of bed at midnight to write them. I'm not unselfish enough yet to joyously offer writing as a sacrifice. And right now it seems like God is telling me I don't have to either-or, I can both. It is a small and a deep, deep gift. I'm nowhere near the Great Novel or anything, but writing, I don't worry anymore about What I Should Be Doing.
So maybe it hasn't been the best couple of weeks, but I have a lot to be thankful for.
And God isn't just good to ME, either. My Dear Husband is FINISHED with Biochem! On to the next class, but that is a great one to have out of the way. I am super proud and happy for him.
I am a Southern girl. I have many failings, but I say "Yes, ma'am" and I know how to make biscuits and cornbread. I am branching out now and trying exciting things with yeast sponges and rye flour, but these two quick breads are still made frequently in the Pritzel household. Both take about 30 minutes from start to finish. Hot, fluffy biscuits go with ANY meal, and golden cornbread is the perfect accompaniment to soup or chili.
The biscuits are from a Jeff Smith cookbook and are so delicious that my mom actually abandoned her mama's recipe for this one. The trick with biscuits is to use buttermilk and a light hand; if you mess around with the dough too much, it will be tough instead of tender. I think it's the acid in the buttermilk that helps make the biscuits so soft and delicious, because they aren't as good with plain milk. In a pinch, use plain yogurt (whole or lowfat, not fat free). You can even use milk that has gone a bit sour (scary!).
The cornbread recipe, on the other hand, is from my great-grandmother. It is true Southern cornbread, not a bit sweet and (if you use cast iron, like you're supposed to!) has a great crackly crust. It will make men fall in love with you ;)
BISCUITS Small batch: serves 4-ish
1 cup + 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon soda
1/4 cup shortening or cold butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
Heat oven to 500 degrees F. (YES, THAT HOT). If you are making super amazing deluxe Southern biscuits, grease a cast iron skillet LIBERALLY with Crisco and set it in the oven to heat. Otherwise, just grease a cookie sheet.
Combine dry ingredients (sifting the flour isn't really necessary, GASP). Cut in the cold butter (use a pastry blender, or just a couple knives) till it is cut up evenly in the flour--it should look pebbly, like coarse crumbs. Pour in the buttermilk and mix JUST TILL COMBINED with a fork. DO NOT overmix. The dough will be pretty darn sticky.
Turn the mess out onto a generously floured surface. If you must, knead it only a couple of times, then pat the dough out gently till it is about 3/4 inch thick. Cut out with a biscuit cutter (I use a tomato paste can with both ends cut off--another family tradition).
If you heated a cast iron skillet, plop those biscuits into the hot fat, let them sizzle for a second, and then turn them in the pan. They will puff and start to get golden. Place the biscuits close to one another, with their sides touching, so that they will rise higher. Bake them for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden and as done as you like. These are best served HOT with plenty of butter and honey or (to be truly Southern) sorghum.
CORNBREAD Serves about 4; enough for one small cast iron skillet. Double for a large (10 or 12 inch) skillet.
1 cup yellow cornmeal 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup buttermilk 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1 egg 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I'm not Southern enough to save bacon grease, but if you are, use that)
Heat oven to 500 degrees. LIBERALLY grease a cast iron skillet with Crisco. It is almost impossible to use too much Crisco. Set the skillet in the oven to heat up.
Whisk together the cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk, egg, oil, and soda. Stir the two together to make a very wet batter. Carefully pour into the hot skillet and bake for at least 15 minutes, till a knife stuck in the centre comes out clean. NOTHING is better with soup or with beans 'n' greens than this.
I suppose you could make the cornbread in a plain old baking dish sprayed with cooking spray, but what would be the point??
If you are wondering where Tuesday's update went to, just scroll down for your by-now-usual Apology By Recipe, in the form of a slow cooker lentil stew recipe. We like lentils around here because they are cheap, healthy, and delicious. And anything with curry powder and lots of spices keeps me happy! If lentils are not your thing ... stay tuned for a FREE EXTRA RECIPE Saturday or Sunday! Yes people, I am that nice!
I have to share what a great experience it was to teach the girls' Sunday School class this week. I am so grateful for the opportunity to do that. The beautiful, vibrant woman who usually teaches the girls has been working through the Creation story. It just so happened that my lesson was the story of the Fall -- a familiar story, but a hard one to teach. The curriculum made a point not just to retell the story, but also to try and emphasize the real, spiritual and physical impact of the Fall. And talking with the girls -- well, it doesn't take much life experience to realise that Stuff Is Not Right. The tricky part is living in a world where so much is bent or shattered, without losing hope. I loved that our lesson really emphasised that creation is still good -- it still reflects God's glory and image, even if that picture is distorted; that there is redemption NOW in Christ; and finally, that creation will be restored. There will be a new Heaven and a new Earth -- all of creation will be able to fulfill its end without being messed up by the effects of sin.
Those are huge ideas, and I hope God used me to communicate them to the girls last week. I know that he was using the lesson to remind me of those truths, as well. My tendency is to live life in an eternal Now -- as a kaleidoscopy of discrete moments and experiences rather than as a progression or a development. In such a mindset, beauty is glorious -- and unbeauty is utterly devastating. Life becomes a matter of survival rather than of progress.
But God says that my life had a beginning, and that it is moving toward an End. Both are in Him, and it is when I am looking outside of my moments to the One who contains them that I am able to move, slowly and painfully and with great joy, closer to Him.
The amount of underlining and scribbling on Hebrews 12 in my Bible shows exactly how difficult it is for me to do this!
DH thought this tasted like lentil chili. I prepped the veges last night, then popped them in the slow cooker with everything else this morning and let it cook all day. Add some cornbread and YUM -- the perfect dinner for a chilly Friday. The recipe is a hodgepodge of several I found online, so I am totally taking the credit for it.
You could definitely make this on the stovetop. For a vegetarian version, just use vegetable broth, or water, or white wine instead of the chicken broth.
SPICY LENTIL STEW Prep Time: 15 minutes, plus 8 hours to cook Serves: 4
Ingredients: 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 small onion, chopped 1 large carrot, chopped 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper 1 clove garlic, minced 1 teaspoon curry powder 1/2 teaspoon cumin 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or chili powder
1 large red or golden potato, cut in large chunks 1 cup dry lentils (I used the brown kind that are easiest to find)
1 cup chicken broth 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes 1 - 2 cups water
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the carrots, onions, crushed red pepper, and salt and black pepper to taste. Cook for 5 minutes or so until soft. Stir in the garlic and spices for 30 seconds until fragrant.
Dump everything into the slow cooker and cook on "low" all day long. It will end up thick and spicy and delicious.
NOTE: This is, indeed, quite hot. If that intimidates you, just omit the red pepper or some of the cayenne. Or if you are like me, you may like to add half a teaspoon of Tabasco to your bowl. Either way is delicious :)
Seriously, I should give up even intending to post on Fridays.
Anyway, I had a really fun day because DH took me SHOPPING for CLOTHES. I love shopping! It was the perfect day for us; fall fell on us last week, and this morning the air was bright, crisp, and shiny without being too terribly cold. After another Test Week, it was so much fun to spend a big stretch of time with Dennis, just enjoying looking at things. He was very patient while I tried on about sixteen thousand pairs of jeans and work pants, at several different stores.
I very nearly had a Bad Day instead of a really fun one. It is NO FUN to try on pants that don't fit. And since I am quite small, have no hips at all, and yet still have too much of me in the leg area to fit into girls' or boys' sizes, A LOT of pants don't fit me.
I was getting pretty glum, but with the grace of God and the help of a very attentive sales associate at Maurices, I was finally able to find a glorious, glorious pair of jeans. I cannot remember the last time that I bought a pair of jeans that really fit well and looked nice.
I also can't remember the last time I paid $30.00 for a pair of jeans! And I am so happy about these jeans, I am going to buy another pair JUST LIKE THEM next week (so I can use the coupon I got today).
Now all I have to find is a pair of work pants. They don't make a lot of professional-looking clothes for people my size, at least not anywhere I know to look.
DH got some tennis shoes, and we bought a bread box (we've been using my biggest mixing bowl!), some pretty glass coffee cups (he likes cappuccinos and Irish coffee and fun stuff like that), and a cookie spatula (which was strangely elusive for a long time ... )
Anyway, we have done our part to stimulate the local economy. In other news, I am excited to substitute teach Sunday School tomorrow, I discovered the delights of roasting butternut squash, and I read a super amazing book called The Name of the Rose, which is apparently about a series of murders in a medieval abbey, but really is about Knowledge and Truth and Language and English-majory stuff like that.