31 July 2014

~ Cauliflower Pizza Crust~

I saw a recipe for cauliflower pizza crust (It's gluten free for those of you with those concerns.) and have been planning to try it for months... literally! As in I titled this blog post and have been changing the schedule date since January. 

Life has been so busy!

I also kept putting it off for a rather depending-on-how-you-look-at-it practical reason: I don't have an electric food processor and I couldn't imagine processing all of the cauliflower necessary to feed my gang manually. I'd considered using the blender, but was pretty sure wouldn't work for this recipe. That's a fact which I did confirm, by the way.

I'd also heard that it wasn't the kind of pizza you could pick up and eat with your hands... and frankly, what sort of pizza is that.

Hence, the rational for my procrastination.

But it is summer, I found gorgeous cauliflower at the Farmer's Market a few weeks back (See? I still procrastinated. It sat in the fridge for 2.5 weeks and had a few icky spots I had to cut off.), and I couldn't say I didn't have on a rainy Tuesday afternoon.

Ingredients for the crust:
  • 1 head cauliflower 7 - 8" wide
  • 1 egg, large
  • a large handful Parmesan or Mozzarella cheese, grated/shredded & not packed (we used mozzarella)
  • dump in some Italian herb seasoning (we also used additional basil and rosemary)
  • a sprinkle of salt
  • about 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

The process:
  1. Preheat oven to 375'
  2. Process cauliflower in food processor until it looks like rice.
  3. Roast cauliflower and garlic for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Turn oven temp up to 450'
  5. Wrap roasted cauliflower in cheesecloth or light weight dish towel and squeeze ALL liquid out. 
  6. Unwrap cauliflower, mix cauliflower around, re-wrap and squeeze a second time.
  7. Mix cauliflower, egg, cheese and spices together.
  8. Flatten mixture on lightly oiled baking sheet (Most recipes I saw suggested using parchment paper. I didn't have any.).
  9. Bake for 15-17 minutes until lightly browned.
  10. Add toppings (a) homemade pizza sauce, sliced sausage and cheese & (b)no sauce - we layered fresh sliced tomatoes onions, garlic (we like garlic), fresh basil from Brendan 's herb garden and cheese. We used colby-jack cheese - because sometimes you just use what you have!
  11. Bake for another 4 or so minutes until cheese is melted and toppings are hot.

We could cut, spatula off the baking sheet, pick this up and eat it just like real pizza. And? Two slices per person definitely filled us up. We liked both, but most of us preferred the veggie one (fresh basil is such a delight), except for the littles. That's not normal, especially for Tim, Bren and Rebekah... at least not when it comes to pizzas.

As I mentioned, I don't have an electric food processor - just a little one that I used to use for baby food, so chopping the cauliflower to a rice-like consistency - four large heads of cauliflower to make two cookie sheet sized pizzas to feed the 10 of us - took a long time... But otherwise wasn't too labor intensive.

The consensus? Definitely a REPEAT!!!! Some were complaining of sore tummies afterwards, probably because of all that cauliflower. I also have a sneaking suspicion that grated cabbage or zucchini could be used in lieu of cauliflower... but we haven't experimented just yet! 

29 July 2014

"I'm sorry. We aren't serving eggs today."

photo credit: LenDog64 via photopin cc
Many Saturdays, while we were both still living in Niger, my friend and I would go shopping together. It wasn't an activity either of us particularly enjoyed... good company made it more bearable - at least that was what I thought. Some Saturdays, we'd stop at a café or boulangerie for coffee... tea... an omelet with baguette... sometimes I'd even splurge and get french fries.

Every September, for just a few weeks, I'd be able to order the flavored coffee on the menu that I really liked. But the café would sell out of their yearly supply of that after just a few weeks. Every time we went, I'd usually STILL ask, but our regular waiter would smile and , "I'm sorry, Madame. But we aren't serving that today." So, from then on I'd typically order the thé au lait - mainly because I'm a cheapskate and could eek two cups of tea out of the one tea bag and warm milk the servers would bring to the table.

One of the last times my friend and I were at the café together, we sat down at our normal corner table where we didn't have to see the large flat screen TV on the wall above us and to my right, even though it usually featured a soccer game or some sort of documentary I'd usually find interesting... and ...we waited for our server to arrive with the menus that I practically knew by heart but still took the time to read... every single time. Not sure if that is because I'm a creature of habit or if I was simply trying to make my little weekly escape last as long as possible before entering back into the fray... but I did. That week, I settled on my regular - l'omelette française... or an omelette chock full of ham and and even more cheese - usually Gouda. 

When our server came to get our order, we'd already exchanged a few pleasantries with our greetings when he brought the menu, so I immediately said, "Je voudrais avoir l'omelette française, s'il vous plaît." I instantly knew that something was up... he had that same smile plastered on his face that he always had when he told me they weren't serving my favorite coffee.

"I'm sorry. We aren't serving eggs today," he replied.

"Oh... um... well, then - a plate of french fries would be delightful. Instead of cheese this time, can you be sure and bring me some mayonnaise on the side?"

There was that awkward smile, again.

"Oh... you aren't serving those either?" Wanting to avoid further awkwardness for our server, I tried a different tactic. "Please, sir, tell me what you'd recommend that I try for breakfast this morning?"

photo credit: CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture via photopin cc
I actually don't remember what he said after that... because as he was talking to me, I was looking out the window of the café, at the market that lined the sides of road, across the street from the small parking lot in front of the café. There, vendeurs had piles of eggs stacked... some of them at least a meter high. Women in brightly colored African cloth sat next to a wheelbarrow piled so high with potatoes, several spilled out and rolled out into the traffic on the street and one of young beggars darted through traffic to retrieve it - probably hoping she'd just give it to him for his effort. My American mind was a little flabbergasted - and even considered getting irritated. The part of me that loved Niger life with all its eccentricities just wanted to laugh and did immediately thank God for a start to my day that was interesting, funny and sure to be a good story... someday...

photo credit: Alexbip via photopin cc
I ended up ordering a baguette with butter, a tea with only sugar. They weren't serving milk either. I had a lovely time visiting with my friend. We also tipped our server particularly well that day. Can you imagine having to tell lots of expats and other from the more wealthy classes that the food they wanted to order wasn't available when they could look right out the window and see it in plentiful abundance?

It wasn't his fault... I don't think...

What would be the response if a popular breakfast place here in the States, filled with people on a Saturday morning, suddenly began informing customers that the only things available on their relatively extensive menu were coffee, tea, sugar, baguette and butter... but of course, hamburgers and cheeseburgers could be prepared with just a few minutes wait?

I know I'd tend to respond differently than I did while sitting across from my friend, at that café, in Niamey.

I'm discovering that I'm a gentler, more patient person in Africa than I am here in the States. Somehow, I find it more natural to live out these words: 
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
I can blame the difference on 
  • the cultural chasm, 
  • the stress of life in Africa taking all the fight out of me,
  • distraction because I always felt like I was going in so many directions all at once,
  • the humor and the tragedy of life always right there before my eyes,
  • the fact that relationship is everything in Africa...
or a whole myriad of other possibilities.

Yet I remain convicted that I want to be more like my Africa me, especially here in the United States. 

Somewhere... recently... I read a folk tale. I'm convinced it's message is stalking me these days: 
A teacher and his student are crossing a river together. Part way across, the teacher notices a scorpion struggling in the water. Instead of leaving the scorpion to die, he reaches down and gingerly rescues the insect from the current. The scorpion promptly stings him. The teacher continues wading towards the far shore. It isn't long before the scorpion stings him a second time. The pain of that second sting causes the teacher to double over, yet he doggedly puts one foot in front of the other until he steps up and out of the muddy shallows of the river. Once there, he gently lowers the scorpion to the ground.
The younger man cannot believe what he has just witnessed. "Why did you pick up the scorpion knowing full well it would probably sting you? Once it did, why didn't you angrily fling it back into the water, far from you? Why did you persist through such difficulty?" 
The teacher gently replied, "Stinging? That's what scorpions do because that is its nature. My nature is to serve and to save? Why should I let his nature determine mine and my actions?" 
I remember coming home from Penn State as a college student, knowing God had done some neat things and had changed me only to find that I would slip right back into old sinful behavior patterns and responses to my family. They were hard pressed to see that change.

I guess I don't want to finish with the cliché that "some things never change," because I do believe, with all my heart, that God does work great change.

It's in His nature. And as long as I'm working on it, He's given me a nature that can.

photo credit: s_manca via photopin cc

28 July 2014

Encountering Jesus ~ When your past comes back to haunt you...

photo credit: Salmando via photopin cc
He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?" 
Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.” 
The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 
To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out. 
Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said... (John 9.27-35a)
As I was studying and meditating on this passage the past week, I stumbled across a sermon by John MacArthur. His text was this exact passage...

I really appreciated his summary of everything that has happened in chapter 9, up to this point, and as I've been plodding my way very, very slowly through this chapter, it seemed prudent to do a quick recap here... before moving into the previously blind man's second encounter with Jesus.

"Jesus is in Jerusalem. 
He’s going through one of the temple entrances, temple gates.  And He comes across a blind man who has been born blind.  [That man has] never seen.  He has some kind of congenital blindness.  He is reduced to being a beggar.  So, he sits there with the rest of the beggars at the temple entrance because that’s where most people come and go who are concerned about honoring God, and who may be more sensitive to doing what they should do, doing right, and giving alms to beggars.  [Therefore] those entrances and exits were occupied by beggars. 
Jesus comes across this man who is blind, who obviously can’t see Him.  Jesus walks up to him, gives him eyes, gives him new eyes, creates new eyes. Because as John tells us, nothing was made except what He made.  Everything that was made, He created, and He is still the Creator, and He creates eyes for this blind man. 
[The man] is immediately able to see, and then some encounters begin. 
First of all, his neighbors are trying to figure out how this happened, how this man they know who is blind can now see.  So, he goes through an interrogation with his neighbors, and he can’t really answer who did this because he never saw Him, doesn’t know just exactly how this happened. But, he is convinced that whoever did this is from God.  
He then is brought to the Pharisees, who are supposed to render some kind of explanation, some kind of spiritual explanation or religious explanation, or some kind of divine explanation as to how this could happen.  Because, as the blind man says, it’s never been heard in the history of the world that anyone blind was made able to see. 
And so, there’s an interrogation by the Pharisees.
They already have their verdict before they start the questioning. 
They believe that Jesus is an insane, demon-possessed, satanic imposter.  And with that conclusion, their investigation is going to go nowhere.  They reject the testimony of the man, they reject the testimony of the neighbors, and they eventually end up throwing the man who can now see out of the building, and really, out of the life of the nation, out of the life of Israel. 
He’s already been an outcast, because anybody who was born blind was believed to have been cursed by God for sin.  Maybe the sin of his parents, maybe his own sin, and so he’s already been out of the synagogue, unable to interact in the synagogue.  He has been a pariah and an alien, and consequently a beggar. 
His own family is embarrassed by him. We know he has a mother and a father. They show up in the story and they throw him under the bus to protect themselves.  But think about it: if they had any love for a blind son, he wouldn’t have been a beggar. They would’ve cared for him, as any sensible, normal parent would do. 
So, this is a man who has been completely rejected by everyone.  And now, when he can see, he’s struggling to get people to accept what has happened. 
  • Those who are his neighbors see it, but can’t explain it.   
  • The Pharisees see it but refuse to see it for what it is.  
  • His own parents treat him with disdain.  
And finally, when the interrogation is over, verse 34, the Pharisees’ last words: “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?”  So they threw him out.  They reject Jesus.  They reject the Man.  They reject the miracle.
Jesus is not there at this point.  He had healed the man, and then He fades out of the story, and the man is taken to the Pharisees by the neighbors for this interrogation, which ends up with him being thrown out, continuing as an outcast, even though he can now see. 
Jesus enters the scene, THEN, in verse 35..."

this week's gratitude list

(#'s 4686 -4711 )

that there are so many "THEN Jesus" moments in my life

a wonderful visit with Joe and Andi this past week

wandering Barnes & Noble with my littles and loving that they love books

being part of the release of a rehabilitated red fox this past weekend (little guy was hit by a car and taken to the center where we've been volunteering this summer)

watching Jon play 3 on 3... shirts and skins... with his shorts pulled right up to his belly button... at Triple C basketball camps last week

summer campfires with friends while the kids play in the pool

Brendan's registered for classes... and thankful that the $$ damages were even less than I'd been expecting

finding this house available for rent up in Quebec... and dreaming about the possibilities next year

snuggly parrot-type birds that make my girls smile

listening to Bren play his flute for the parrot

a free-standing perch built by Joe (with a little bit of help from Tori and Anna)

gorgeous Michigan summer weather

a what we thought was minnow catch and release project... until Jon discovered that they weren't minnows

bike rides around the block

watching Divergent with my girls late into the night (I really like that book series and the movie, too!)

new books to read

encouraging partnership meetings

a 30 minute nap that turned into 1.5 hours

finally making doughnuts just the way I like them for the first time since we moved back to the States and I've had to adjust to different flour and cooking on electric versus gas

taking Nadia up to volunteer for the first time

naming Henri - and knowing that he really looks just like an Henri

no bee stings for my guys, even though they were harassing a hive just a bit while painting

new friends

kids who aren't afraid of work... when they are motivated

jobs and paychecks

  Ten most recent posts in this series: 
Click here for all of the titles and their corresponding links in the Encountering Jesus series.

27 July 2014

"For Mine is every beast of the forest..." sayeth the Lord

For every beast of the forest is mine, 
and the cattle upon a thousand hills.
I know all the fowls of the mountains: 
and the wild beasts of the field are mine.
Psalm 50:10-11

It all started with a shirt tail full of wild turkey eggs. 

Our kids had noticed a mama wild turkey building her nest out in the "forest" behind our house.

Then, they started counting eggs in that nest.

Just a few days later, the Daddy walked out to check on the nest... saw feathers, smashed eggs and destruction. He salvaged five eggs.

He gently carried those eggs to the house - in a sling made from the end of his shirt. I remember it well because it was Mother's Day and I was trying to get dinner stuff organized for my parents and in-laws who were coming by after church for dinner. He and the kids decided to try and incubate them - and were distracted with scheming and planning. I was irritated because they were distracted from helping. That first night, those eggs rested under a damp towel under the light on the piano bench.

Thankfully, my wanna-be wildlife rehabilitaters got in touch with a friend who had an incubator. She brought it to town the next day.

Twenty-eight days later...

Observing that miracle of hatching entranced us all... and we'd sit silent and quiet as we watched those little eggs rock, chirp, crack and finally pop open. 

Rebekah actually had to help two of the chicks break free. Have I ever mentioned that she is considering pursuing a career in midwifery?

And then we were left with a bit of a conundrum. Somehow, we never really imagined that they just might hatch. But they did... and wild turkeys are not pets... not to mention it is illegal to keep them without a license... 

It was a crazy couple of days which included a trip to Chicago to drop the girls off for a week of serving at Pacific Garden Mission with the youth group of one of our supporting churches... and wild turkey chicks in a box, under a heat lamp and riding in the van with us for some of that trip. It also included an hour drive north, into the heart of Roscommon county, to a licensed wildlife rehabilitater, to find a legit place for those turkeys to be.

While there, we found out that they are always looking for volunteers to come and help with the animals they have at their center. My two oldest began volunteering first. And over the past 6 weeks, we've had the opportunity to help care for robins and racoons, opossums and owls, fawns and squirrels, wood ducks and woodpeckers, Canadian geese and wild turkeys - and lots of other animals that I'm sure I'm forgetting. 

One of my personal favorites is Henri, the green heron. We started calling him Henri after Rebekah moved him into a larger cage and asked me to come and take a look. He really is green and he's got this long narrow beak. I started thinking... green is the color of envy... envy in French is envie... envie rhymes with Henri (or French for Henry)... and I could just picture him as a sarcastically sophisticated cartoon character with a top hat. Yep, Henri just fit.
photo credit: Savannah Sam Photography via photopin cc
photo credit: Rick Leche via photopin cc
photo credit: Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith via photopin cc
photo credit: Dan Pancamo via photopin cc
Can't you see what I mean?

Just yesterday, we were able to release a red fox back into his neighborhood. We called him Gordon. To say that it was pretty cool is an understatement... To say it was overwhelmingly cool that the whole family was able to be there and observe is even a bigger understatement!!!

It almost seems cliché to share that first "Gordon" timidly crept out of his cage. Then, he bounded off into the woods about twenty yards or so and stopped where he turned, sat back on his haunches and looked back toward us for a few moments - just long enough for me to think I'd be able to zoom the lens and snap a good close-up with no bars, no newspaper and no motion... Note I said "think," because then he ran quickly away, a flash then blur of red disappearing among trees. But for that second when he turned, you could almost sense the wonder and relief he felt to be back out where he should be, running and bounding through the trees. The thought that went running and bounding through my mind, in that moment, was wondering if he wasn't, in his own way, praising  and thanking God for freedom and for life!

Those of you who know me well know that I'm rather fond of AA Milne quotes... particularly when they come from Winnie the Pooh... 

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. 

That's the problem.

That quote started me thinking...

Then I looked, 
and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders 
the voice of many angels, 
numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

And I heard every creature 
in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, 
and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
(From Revelation 5)


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