Sunday, July 19, 2015

Gluttony (aka Food Idolatry) and a Recipe for Beef & Noodles

I'm going to tell you a story...

Let's say there's a girl who's a normal weight and healthy, according to their physical appearance. We'll call her Debby (mostly because I don't think I know any Debbys...). Debby is young and fairly active. She loves to cook and bake. She sometimes scrolls through Pinterest looking for recipes to make that look delicious. She spends a couple hours a week looking on Pinterest,, reading food blogs, etc.

Most people probably wouldn't look at Debby and think she's a glutton. They wouldn't assume that's one of her main struggles, but after chatting with a lot of different young women (and older women as well), gluttony is a huge area of stress and even sin in many of their lives. But it is sad to see how common and how easy it is to get sucked into the trap of being obsessed with food.

Debby could be the kind of girl who weighs in at an average, healthy weight. But it could be plaguing her mind and affecting her relationships in a way that food never should.

Here's the thing. This is a food blog and food is nice and it tastes good and we need it.

But I've struggled with gluttony for a while now. I can't tell you when it started, it's been at least 5 years. Perhaps it's always been there, crouching in the corner, like sin does sometimes. Perhaps a better way of describing it that doesn't seem so "seven deadly sins" is idolizing food. It's a real thing that happens when people love to cook and enjoy food a good deal. Let me tell you--it's certainly a real thing in America, too.

And sometimes, in my opinion, gluttony reveals itself in America as anorexia. Or counting calories. Or over-exercising. Or binge-eating. Or veganism, or fad diets.
(Not to say that veganism or special diets are inherently bad!) The idolatry and obsession with food from stress or boredom or whatever else pushes you to seek comfort in food is disgusting and very prevalent in our culture.

I'm still learning and by no means have this figured out, but ever since I realized that this battle with gluttony is a real and disturbing thing, I've realized something amazing:

Jesus is the bread of life, and He offers us living water. He makes it so we will someday never hunger nor thirst again. (John 6:35)

His words ought to be sweeter than honey to us. (Psalm 119:103)

His judgements, also are better than gold and sweeter than honey. (Psalm 19:10)

And more recently I've been thinking about this:
If food ever--ever gets in the way of you loving a brother, sister, or stranger, and seeking God's Kingdom IT IS AN ISSUE, and it needs to stop. That means counting calories, eating selfishly (through diets or pickiness), or just being a terrible witness of how God's grace satisfies us. (Romans 14:15)

I need to hear it just as much as anybody else in this world, but let's all remember that food is a good gift from God, but it's ridiculous to love the gift more than the Giver.

In light of the beautiful gift of God's provision in my life (despite me not purchasing groceries for about 3 weeks), I threw together a delicious beef and noodles with what I had in my fridge & pantry. I'll share it because it's tasty and also provide a quickly-taken phone picture in order for you to know what it may look like should you someday make it.

Beef and Noodles
Serves 3-4

1 lb Beef chuck (cut into chunks of whatever size)
1-2 cups beef stock/broth
1 onion (chopped)
1 clove of garlic (minced)
1/8 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
pinch cardamom
2 - 2.5 cups egg noodles
1 tbs oil (olive, sunflower, vegatable, etc.)
salt & pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, begin to sauté the onions in the oil on medium-high heat. Before transparent, add chunks of beef. Cook until browned and no red juice is oozing out of the beef. Add garlic and cook for only about a minute, then pour in stock/broth. Add noodles, stir and make sure to get all the noodles wet. Then add Worcestershire sauce and spices. Make sure the liquid is boiling, then cover the pan and reduce heat to low. Let simmer and steam for 15-20 minutes, stirring a few times to make sure noodles are wet and in the liquid. Add more stock/broth if it becomes dry and the noodles aren't done. Test the noodles and when they are cooked and not crunchy, be thankful that you have been provided with a delicious meal and eat up!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pecan-Apple-Pumpkin Pie for the Indecisive

Decisions, decisions.

I have a real hard time with them sometimes.

It's interesting, though, because it seems like the bigger deal it is, the less of a fuss I make over the decision-making process. For example, I'm the type of person that used to say if I met a guy who loved the Lord and who I could easily respect, I would consider saying yes to an immediate proposal. So of course that's mostly just a joke I had with some friends of mine. I doubt that I would ever legitimately say yes in that situation. But it kind of shows my heart in the big decisions.

Another example would be purchasing a car. I've been praying for a car for…a while, off-and-on. But last Monday, I went car shopping for the first time and bought the first car I've ever test-driven. Six days later, I have no regrets so far! (It's pretty cute. I have temporarily named it Punkin, but... no, it is not orange.)

Thursday was Thanksgiving and I love to bake. So of course, I knew I must make pie. The problem is, pie is too good. And there are soooo many tasty flavors. Especially flavors that really, we only enjoy at this time of year. So when you only have an extended family of 12 to feed, you can't make every flavor you'd like to. That's where this pie comes in and helps with those little decisions in life that nobody really wants to make.

I found this recipe and was shocked by the ingenuity of it. I wish I had come up with the idea on my own! This is three pies in one! You don't even have to decide if you want pecan, apple, or pumpkin. When you have a punchy dinner guest who jokingly says "I'll have all three", you can respond with a cheery, "Coming right up!"

The finished pie!
So of course the concept is there: the impressiveness of having three pies in one might be a show-stopper in and of itself. But is that where it ends? Nope. This pie was impressive in taste too! The adjustments that I made to the recipe were mostly adding spice and flavor, which personally I think was necessary. (That's how this recipe is different from the original on Food Network.) The pie might have been a bit on the bland side without my additions.

I also loved how stream-lined the process seemed. A glance at the recipe might leave you overwhelmed, but just get yourself familiar with it before you start and you should be good to go.

I don't want to take credit for this idea at all since I only added ingredients, no substitutions or omissions:

Not all of the pieces came out quite as clean as this piece unfortunately….
Because of copyrights, I won't include "my" recipe. Just check it out on Food Network. I'll just list my comments here instead and there are some in-progress pictures below!

-1/4 tsp cinnamon in the apple pie filling (add before cooling)
-1/2 tsp vanilla in pumpkin pie filling (add with everything)
-1/4 cup crumb topping* for the apple pie portion (pat on the apples just before baking the whole pie)

*Crumb Topping (this will make more than needed):
1 tbs cold butter
2 tbs brown sugar
2 tbs white sugar
1/4 c white flour
    Combine ingredients in small bowl with a fork or pastry cutter until crumbly and there are no big      chunks of butter.

-I used a Pillsbury deep dish pie crust to save some time--but I'm sure it's way better with homemade.
-Make sure the pecan pie isn't overcooked at the beginning, since it will get recooked.
The pecan layer as it cools
It's not hard to get the apples to lay like this as long as you have the patience to put them on individually

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Plain Avocana Muffins

1 c white flour
1 c white whole wheat flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 largeish brown banana purreed
1/2 avocado purreed (~1/4 c)
1 egg
1/3 c coconut milk + 2/3 c water

baked at 375 for 25 min and I wanted to add cinnamon so I added it last minute on top :/
makes 12
(could've used more time/temp. I think 400 would've been better)


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Daring Cook's Chicken Biryani

Grace, one of our talented non-blogging Daring Kitchen members, was our Daring Cooks’ August hostess who shared with us some of her family’s tried and true Bengali Biryani recipes – all of them delicious and all of them prepared fresh from our own kitchens!

Well I have a limited supply of computer battery as well as internet connection so I'll make this short! (And I'll also be posting a photo later.)

I hope to make chicken biryani again sometime soon but didn't get around to re-doing it before the challenge time was up.

This is the 1st attempt
I definitely made it wrong--it was too sloppy and strong tasting.

But I had lots of leftovers, so after I added more rice to it, it was significantly better and very tasty!

looked and tasted much better with extra rice!
I also tried it with fresh tomatoes and scrambled eggs to make it like fried rice biryani and that was very yummy as well.

Here's what I put in it, but I'll also include the correct ingredients instructions that I will be following next time.

1 c. rice
3 c. water
1 1/2 - 2 onions
1 1/2 tomato
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tbs coconut oil and 1 tbs olive oil
8 chicken tenders
1/2 c plain yogurt
1 tbs ginger

*I was told to follow the directions on the biryani spice box ONLY if I wanted a lot of food for a lot of people!

Chicken Biryani:

Servings: 6


1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
2 small cinnamon sticks
2 cardamom pods
3 tablespoons (45 ml) (1½ oz) ghee
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch (2½ cm) ginger, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons salt
1 tomato, skinned and chopped
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon coriander powder
½ teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon biryani powder
1 chicken, cut into 8 parts
3 cups (750 ml) (550 gm) (19½ oz) basmati rice, soaked for 30 minutes and drained
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (½ oz) (15 ml) plain yogurt
Fresh coriander, chopped
Green chillies, chopped (optional)


1. Melt the ghee in a medium sized saucepan. Fry the cumin seeds, bay leaves, cinnamon, and cardamom in it until fragrant.
2. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, tomato, and salt. Cook on medium high heat while stirring for 5 minutes or until the onions start to brown.
3. Add the cumin, coriander powder, curry powder, and biryani powder. Cook for another 2 minutes and add the chicken. Cover the pan, and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.
4. Add the yogurt. Cover and simmer for 2 minutes. Add coriander and chillies and remove from heat.
5. Boil the rice in 6 cups (1½ Loser of water for 5 minutes or until half cooked. Drain any remaining water. In a large saucepan, alternate layers of rice and chicken starting and ending with a layer of rice. Cover the saucepan tightly and cook over very low heat for 10 minutes or until the rice is done.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Costa Rican Tilapia with Rice and Beans

Well I don't have much to say right now except I want to praise the Lord for His provision in getting me a job which will hopefully be a great experience for me! It sounds like it will be.

And why was I so worried all those months ago about having a good job? I know He will provide. Yahweh Yireh--It's what Abraham named the mountain where God provided a ram for him to sacrifice. 

Daily He provides us with delicious food to sustain us. This Costa Rican Tilapia is just one more reason to praise Him. I will likely make this one again. (And that's saying a lot considering I rarely make things twice!)

Costa Rican Tilapia-adapted slightly from We heart food
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
3 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoons kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon sugar
4 tilapia fillets, about 5 ounces each
3/4 cup long-grain brown rice
1 cup chopped onions
3 tbs orange juice
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained, rinsed
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
For the tilapia marinade, combine lime juice, 2/3 tablespoon olive oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons cilantro,  3/4 teaspoon garlic, 1/3 teaspoon salt, and sugar in a shallow dish. Add tilapia and marinate 15 minutes, turning once.

To prepare the bean and rice mixture, cook the rice according to package directions and keep warm while the tilapia is marinating. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large, high-sided skillet or saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on medium heat. Add remaining garlic and onions; sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring. Add 2 tablespoons cilantro, oranges, tomatoes, beans, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and cayenne. Cook, uncovered, until hot, 7 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Transfer hot rice to a 9 by 13 inch or 2-1/2 to 3 quart baking dish. Spoon the bean mixture on top of rice and gently blend. Slightly overlap tilapia fillets on top and scrape marinade over fillets. Bake until the flesh of the tilapia just begins to flake at the nudge of a fork, 16 to 20 minutes. Be sure that the bottom of the tilapia is also flakey and cooked well. (this might require a messy flip of the tilapia fillets.)
This tilapia serves, and there will be rice & beans to spare--which is just what I wanted. Mmm leftovers! :) 
-Cut the rice & beans either in half or do 2/3 of it if you're not interested in leftovers.
-If serving 6, just make a bit more marinade for two more fillets and serve with the same amount of rice mixture.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Strawberry Cookie Biscuits

I'm learning Russian these days. While browsing a Russian food blog, I happened upon this cookie/biscuit recipe, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. The taste is GREAT. I will probably continue to experiment with this recipe, however I would definitely feel comfortable sharing a plate of these floppy biscuits with family and friends...and total strangers. They are delicious.

In the future, I may just plop the spoonfuls of dough/batter into a mini muffin tin and see how that works. They're kind of muffin-top-esque anyway. If I do that, I'll try to update this post accordingly. However, I would make these again and eat them again regardless of they're shape. Mmmm.

Strawberry Biscuits

Adapted and Translated from 

1 cup fresh strawberries, chopped
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 cup greek yogurt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F. 
Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, combine the flour and butter to make crumbs. Combine sour cream, sugar, and salt. Mix baking soda and vinegar with sour cream mixture, then add to flour mixture and stir until barely combined. Add vanilla and strawberries. Stir gently until evenly distributed.

Prepare a cookie sheet with cooking spray or parchment paper and spoon (~2 tbs per cookie) onto the sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet carefully and let cool slightly on cooling rack. Should make a dozen biscuits.

-I'm still unsure about the baking soda/vinegar combo. Next time I might just go with 2 teaspoons of baking soda (and omit vinegar), as the original recipe was difficult to translate at this point.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Daring Baker's July Challenge

As humans, we are blind to the future.

I once overheard someone behind me as I was crossing the street.

"It's weird," She said. "I completely trust you and everything, but I've never crossed the street blindfolded before."

I didn't have to look back to know that a good friend of hers was likely guiding her across the street.
Isn't that how it feels sometimes when we try to follow Christ?

We know we're supposed to trust Him, but sometimes it's hard. Sometimes we wonder if there are cars coming. And we also might realize that the moment we let go of His hand and start going our own direction, we could get ourselves in some terrible or dangerous situations.

We can't see the future, so we have to listen close and hold on tight as Christ leads us into it. This isn't easy. But it must be done. If we quit following Him, we've cut ourselves off from the One who can see the future, yet we would still be blind.

Doesn't sound like a great idea to me: wondering around blind with no guide.

Even in cooking we sometimes need a guide. (Especially when we get hungry and our brains don't work as well!)

I could've used a guide for this month's Daring Baker's Challenge. We were guide-less, to an extent. It was a pick-your-own challenge from ANY previous challenge! Overwhelming.

Well I saw a few that seemed do-able but still challenging and I chose ricotta. I chose this because it would allow me to also complete another challenge: cannelloni. Well, the ricotta went really well and I highly recommend making your own.

The cannelloni, on the other hand, I would definitely not recommend making from scratch UNLESS you have a really good pasta rolling method. Please don't try it by hand--unless you have an unlimited amount of time and patience. It ended up tasting and looking wonderful by the end, but I had to throw a lot of pasta away and it caused me unnecessary stress.
This is how the "successful" pasta turned out!

Homemade pasta is delicious. Invest in a pasta roller :)

Because I didn't take a photo and it didn't go well, I won't include the cannelloni recipe here. Let's just pretend that all didn't happen. So onto the wonderful, simple, delicious ricotta...
This picture makes it look more like cottage cheese than it really did!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Originally From the bartolini kithcens
Total time: 30 minutes to prepare, at least 2 hours to drain.
Makes about one pound (about ½ kg) of cheese
8 cups (2 litres) whole milk (homogenized)
1/2 tablespoon (7 ½ ml) (9 gm) table salt
5 tablespoons (75 ml) white distilled vinegar
1.Combine milk, cream, and salt in a large non-reactive pot and stir over medium heat as you bring the temperature up to 85°C (185°F) (about 15-20 minutes).
2. Add the vinegar all at once and stir for 15 seconds; heat for two more minutes before removing from heat.
3.Allow to rest undisturbed for 15 – 20 minutes
4. Using a small sieve or slotted spoon, remove the floating curds and place them in a cheesecloth-lined colander to drain
5.Place colander over a bowl in refrigerator and drain for at least a couple of hours or overnight (I found 2 hours was enough). The longer you allow it to drain, the more firm the results.
6.Remove the ricotta from the colander, place in airtight containers, and refrigerate.

-don't use store bought cheesecloth. Use a real cloth--some sort of cotton napkin or towel. What's shown in the photo is what I strained it in, and it worked perfectly!
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