Friday, July 26, 2013

Lunch With Friends

Nothing picks up my energy and my spirits like hospitality. Whenever I have been sick or down or tired, I have found that inviting some people to my house for a meal gets me moving and happy again. I have long felt that one of my spiritual gifts is hospitality and that may be why I am uplifted by it as well. Perhaps just thinking about and doing things for other people gets my mind off myself. 

Whatever the reason, it worked again last week. I was down, usually something I only experience when I'm "off" on my thyroid or been eating too much sugar. This time there was a reason, but I couldn't seem to shake it. However, I had invited two friends to lunch, Nancy, who was moving out of town, and Rosanne, who was just back from a trip to visit family. The weather was gorgeous, I put our new grill to work, and fixed a simple lunch. 

When I'm with either one of the dear friends we talk about the Lord. They love Him and serve Him and aren't ashamed to say so. I love that and wish I could do that so easily with more people.

We had a great time.

They insisted I take photos of the lunch and said they'd be looking for it on my blog, so I thought I'd share the recipe I made up for that meal. However, it wasn't the food that made it a great was the fellowship. That recipe is easy: three friends who love God get together to visit.

Thanks for brightening my days, friends!

Ginger Grilled Chicken Salad

1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp minced fresh ginger (or 1/2 tsp powdered ginger)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
two skinned and deboned chicken breasts
1/4 cup each red, yellow, and orange peppers cut up in 1/2 inch pieces
1 small onion cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 Tbsp olive oil
9 cups torn up lettuce greens

1/2 cup low fat Poppy Seed Dressing
1 tsp powdered ginger
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Mix up yogurt, ginger, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, garam masala, salt, and pepper. Marinade chicken in this in refrigerator for at one to eight hours. 

Mix salad dressing and refrigerate until serving time.

Over medium fire (my grill is gas), cook chicken breasts 6-12 minutes per side. Make sure they are no longer pink in the middle and are hot to touch inside. (Serve guests iced tea if they take longer than you expect, like mine did!)

Meanwhile, stir fry peppers and onion in oil over medium heat until they brown on the edges.

Place three cups of salad greens on each plate. Top with some of the peppers and onions, reserving a few to garnish the chicken.

When chicken is cooked through, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices. Place 1/3 of the meat on top of each salad. Garnish with remaining peppers and onion.

Serve with dressing.

Serves 3.

Printable version of recipe here.

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Do you know someone who would like some inspiration for family mealtimes? Please send them to this blog! Thank you.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

The Egg in the Avocado

Maybe it's because they grew up in Colombia where you can get avocados all year. Or maybe because our favorite Colombian dish (ajiaco) is served with avocados. Or maybe because papas saladas (salted potatoes) is served with fresh guacamole. Or maybe just because they are good and good for you, but my kids love avocados.

Last February our family chose names to be "secret" Valentines. We snuck around town delivering cards and gifts to each other while trying not to let the recipient know who the giver was until the big reveal day. 

My younger daughter received an avocado in a brown paper bag at the front desk of the college where she studies. The receptionist told me later that watching her open it and her excitement about it being the coolest gift ever was as good as getting a Valentine herself!

So, when I saw this recipe, I knew it would be a hit, even with (or maybe especially with) my vegetarian daughter.

1 large avocado for every two people
1 small egg per person
cayenne pepper
shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese

Preheat oven to 350F. Cut avocado in half and take out pit. Scoop out some extra avocado flesh* to make room for the egg. (I had very small eggs, but they were still too big for my smallish avocados, so start with big avocados.) Place avocado halves in oven proof baking dish.

Crack one egg into each avocado half. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper (my husband says you need lots of the peppers). Sprinkle 1 tsp. cheese on each egg. Bake 18-25 minutes until egg reaches desired doneness.

*Reserve the extra avocado in a bowl with one pit to keep it from going brown. you can use it to spread on bread or make a little guacamole for lunch!

Inspiring you to connect with your family
 around the table.

For printable version of the recipe click here.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Save Money on Food

Or Making It Easy to Get to the Table (part 8)

We were in a state of reverse culture shock. It was 1988 and we were back in the states for the first time in almost four years. During that time we'd been living in Peru, a country where you stopped at every bodega* (corner food shop) you saw to ask if they had flour or sugar or powdered milk because there was a shortage. We were there as missionaries and I was born with an enlarged frugal gene, so we ate all our meals at home, except for "occasions." 

So we arrived in Dallas to visit my cousins. He picked us up at the airport in his BMW and we sped down the freeway past what seemed like miles of car dealerships full of cars. (We had waited several months to receive our Toyota in Peru and the lot never had more than two cars that were already bought.) 

It turned out another cousin had had an emergency appendectomy the night before so my aunt and uncle had come into town as well. After visiting my cousin we needed to eat so my uncle took us to a restaurant. It was a nice place, and I'm sure he wanted to give us a warm welcome to back to the states, but I looked at the prices and could only order a cup of chili. Now my uncle likes to tell people that my husband only "allowed" me that! But the truth is, my enlarged frugal gene was acting up.

But the fact is, the first way to save money on food is to eat at home. I can buy a pork roast that will feed ten for $6, by the time I add potatoes, vegetables, bread, a salad, coffee, and dessert, I have usually only spent $20 to $25 and my husband will probably have enough left over for his lunch the next day.

The second way to save money on food is to cook at home. One year our furlough had us staying in the empty dorm of a Bible college. We had nowhere to cook but a microwave. We soon tired of $5 pizzas and  decided to get a rotisserie chicken and some deli salads. That meal for five people also cost $25! And we were hungry when we finished. So the less you go with prepared foods the better on your budget. Of course you have to find a balance that suits your lifestyle, budget, and energy level. 

Eating the same thing together is the third way to save money on food. If you have become a short order cook fixing mac'n'cheese for one, a hamburger for another, and pancakes for a third, you are going to end up throwing away wasted food. Not to mention the what trying to please everyone is doing to your stress levels. Cook one meal and everyone has two choices: take it or leave it. Sit together to eat it so you can enjoy each other as well as not end up with more waste from overcooked or stuck to the pan food no one wants.

My fourth suggestion is to keep some quick fixes in mind. Our plan is to save eating out for special occasions so when we just "need to eat" and we're in our own town, we go home and make something. It might just be sandwiches, breakfast for dinner (eggs, french toast, or pancakes), or a chef salad with what I can find in the cold meat and cheese drawer. That food will save us about $10 per person!

Fifth: use your leftovers. You can do this like we do, my husband takes them to work in little airtight glass containers and reheats them for lunch. Or like friends of mine did: Friday omelettes. She laid out all the leftovers and asked each person what they wanted in their omelette which she made to order. My mother-in-law used to fix up plates of leftovers and call us to dinner. We each chose the plate we wanted and heated it in the microwave. If you have enough left over for a meal, freeze it and have it one night when you don't feel like cooking!

Seems like everyone is looking for ways to save money these days. Eating together at home gives you a chance to work together and enjoy together and connect with your family in ways that no restaurant can offer and you save a bundle!

*Interesting tidbit: bodega is what it is called in Peru. In Colombia they say tienda for the same thing.

Photo credit

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To read the "Making It Easy" series thus far, click here.
Or go directly to the topic that interests you.
Energy to Get to the Table (Part 5)
There. Is. No. Need. To. Yell. [Pleasant Mealtimes] (Part 6)
Your Table: An Attractive "Meal Zone" (Part 7)

Other Posts that will be coming:

  • Attract Your Family to the Table
  • Cooking Ahead

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Who Is Around My Table?

Congratulations to Marcie for winning the copy of the book, Invisible Illness, Visible God: When Pain Meets the Power of an Indestructible Life! Marcie wants to read it to "read how others have dealt with illness and death." Thank you to all who entered this giveaway. If you didn't win, I recommend going to Merry's blog to order a copy for yourself.

From the time we married, my husband and I have included others around out table. 

When we were first married we attended a church of about two hundred adults and we set out to try to have most of them over to our house. An ambitious goal! I would guess that in the end we only had about sixty or seventy of them in the year and a half we lived there before they commended us to become missionaries to Lima, Peru. Oh to have the energy of youth again! That's still a pretty impressive amount of guests. I have to tell you, though, that we did have probably a third of them over on Sunday nights for just dessert.

In South America we continued having people over, starting with other missionaries and the young people who could forgive our language faux pas. 

Two memorable ones:
Viko: (in Spanish slowly) What... foods... do... you... miss?
Me: (thinking hard) The cervezas. (I had just said, "The beers" to these young, conservative Christians! I meant to say, "The cerezas." The cherries!)

Jim: (After he made some error in Spanish) I'm so embarazado. (This word that looks like embarrassed, means pregnant!)

We tried to keep a guest book, but the Peruvians and then the Colombians weren't sure what they were expected to write, and besides, we kept forgetting to bring it out, so there's no record of all the people who ate at our table the twenty-four years we lived there.

In the five years we've been back in the states, we've had the privilege of people visiting us from all over the world and hosting fellow missionaries as we have been so wonderfully hosted. (Well, I hope our hospitality is also as fun and refreshing.)

This past week some of my favorite people have been at my table. My older son and his wife came for a four and a half day visit with their two children. My younger son and his bride of five months were over frequently for meals during their visit. My older daughter made sure she had the days off, as yesterday marked one week until she flies to Germany to begin her new life and will become the wife of a German man she met when he was an exchange student here in October. We were only missing my youngest daughter and my future son-in-law.

We also had my parents in-law over for two meals during that time. It was hard to see them, so healthy for well into their eighties, now suddenly dealing with some of the problems age brings on.

To have all these people over and get to spend time going to various parks and discovering fun play structures, and a four person birthday party, a bonfire, a movie night, a wedding shower, and a game night, I had to plan a thorough and organized menu. It worked!

We all love those times together. Everyone pitches in to make them run smoothly and we all get plenty of time cuddling the kids. Once again, I have to say, I'm so glad we've made this a priority in our family.

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Do you know someone who would like some inspiration for family mealtimes? Please send them to this blog! Thank you.

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