We’re not left to sink

Our lesson in Bible class the other day was on how God’s children can trust Him.  The story was from Matthew 14:22-33. I challenge you to read it to refresh your memory, or to read it for the first time.  It truly is an amazing story!  I’ll give a little synopses to set the scene.  This is the story of the disciples being out on the stormy sea.  In the middle of the storm they see a white figure coming toward them.  Upon learning that it is Jesus walking toward them in the middle of the sea, Peter (who always seems to open his mouth without thinking – or, as I’ve started to see it has the trusting faith of a child) calls out to Jesus and says, “Jesus, if that’s really you, call me to come and walk out there with you.”  Possibly to Peter’s surprise, Jesus says, “Come!”  Peter, fully trusting Jesus, steps out of the boat and walks on the water.  That is, until he is distracted by the storming sea all around him and begins to sink.  Jesus then takes Peter by the hand, lifts him out of the water and they return to the boat.
There are SO many amazing lessons to gather from this incredible story.  A couple years ago, I heard it in a way that left me challenged in this way.  Sometimes we see God moving and working in incredible ways (Jesus walking on the water) and we so desperately want to join Him (Peter asking to walk on the water with Jesus).  God’s answer to us is “Absolutely!  Come join me!  All it takes is a willing and trusting heart.”  We are then left with a choice – Am I going to step out of the boat and join Jesus on the water as Peter did, or am I going to stay in the boat with everyone else (the remaining disciples) and just stand by watching?  I want to step out of the boat and join in the incredible work God is doing!

That’s not the end of the story though.  Yes, Peter stepped out and joined Jesus on the water, but then he was distracted.  Faith is not always easy.  When we are joining in God’s plan and purpose, challenges WILL come.  We will be distracted by so many things – loss, hurt, heartache, even the craziness of life, or the mundane tasks of each day.  Our eyes and heart will be diverted from Christ and His purpose, to the storms that rage around us.  We may feel ourselves sinking into discouragement and despair just as Peter sank into the sea.

There is HOPE!  Matthew 14:31 says, “Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him…”  We are not left alone to figure it out ourselves!  Peter was not left to sink because he failed in his faith.  Peter was human, Jesus was not.  I am human, I will make mistakes, I will fail.  BUT, when I do, Jesus is there to catch me.  He doesn’t leave me to sink!

Verse 31 continues with Jesus’ comment to Peter, “…Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  I used to be stumped by this question, but now know that Jesus was not condemning Peter’s lapse of faith.  Rather, I see it now as something a parent might say to a child that didn’t follow their direction for safety.  As a mother, I first run to my child and help them up, assure them of my love, and then correct them lovingly so they learn from the experience.  Jesus came immediately to Peter’s aid and only after he was in His protective arms did Jesus correct Peter, to show him that he still had need of Jesus.  Jesus’ statement is filled with encouragement for Peter to trust Him no matter what is going on around him.

The phrase that hit home to me today is found in verse 32.  It says, “And when they got into the boat….”  There is no indication that they swam back to the boat and were pulled in by the remaining disciples.  I believe that when Jesus pulled Peter up out of the water, they WALKED back to the boat together.  You see, Jesus didn’t call Peter out of the boat to walk alone.  He called him out of the boat to walk beside Him.  Even after Peter’s fail, Jesus didn’t leave him out there to sink.  He pulled him out of the water and they walked together, side by side.  Wow!  When God calls us out of the boat (our comfort zone) to walk on water (be part of His bigger plan – no matter how impossible it may seem), He doesn’t make us do it alone and then condemn us when we fail.  Instead, He walks beside us every step of the way, picks us up when we do fail (because we will), and teaches us to trust Him more.  He is there to walk beside us, and never leaves us to sink.

I am so thankful that I’m not alone on this journey.  I’m amazed that despite my shortcomings and failures, God calls me to take part in His amazing plan, and is there to pull me up and walk with me the entire way.

Friend, He is there to do the same for you.  He loves us (all of us, even you) with an amazing and everlasting love.  We only need to trust Him!

 

 

 

 

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Turkey Bacon

Turkey Bacon

This Thanksgiving dinner brought a whole new meaning to the term “turkey bacon”.  Oh. My. Word.

Let me back up a minute.  First of all, I was not looking forward to turkey this year.  To be honest, most of the time it ends up dry and not very tasty, and I am over it after just one slice.  My husband will vouch for this, because I commented several times leading up to the holiday about thinking outside the box and not doing a turkey at all.  In fact, the only reason I even agreed to do a turkey is because we hosted my husband’s family the dinner this year, and he and my daughter were really looking forward to the turkey.  After much pleading and begging on their parts, I gave in and bought a turkey.

Remembering back to the last time we hosted (several years ago), when the turkey turned out pretty decent, I scrounged and found the brine that I soaked the bird in that year.  Side note here – if you have never brined a turkey…. DO IT!!!!!!  It is worth the effort! I’ll provide the recipe I used below, but when you brine, you make a salt mixture and soak the turkey in it for 24 hours prior to baking.  This tenderizes the meat and makes it so moist!  Definitely the way to go in my opinion!!

Using the brine was the only thing on my radar until my Father-in-law showed up.  One thing you need to know about Pops is that he is an amazing cook!  When he walks in the kitchen and starts cooking, you just stand back and drool.  He came telling of an idea he saw of making a bacon weave to go on the turkey as it bakes.  Me, not really excited about the turkey, agreed right away because let’s face it…. bacon makes everything better!

Once again, bacon did not fail!  The turkey this year was absolutely amazing!  The brine made the turkey so moist, and the bacon provided such incredible flavor.  It was definitely worth it!! And, for once, I have enjoyed eating the leftovers.  🙂

Turkey Brine

1 cup kosher salt

1 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon cracked pepper

3-4 garlic cloves minced

2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 quart warm water

Mix the kosher salt and brown sugar in the warm water until completely dissolved.  Stir in pepper, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce.  After rinsing a thawed turkey, place the turkey in a large container and poor water mixture over turkey.  Add additional water until the turkey is completely covered.  Allow to soak for 24 hours.  Rinse turkey before baking.

Bacon Weave

1 lb of your favorite thick cut bacon

Weave just like you would imagine if you were weaving a basket.  It will look something like this.

While you’re preparing the turkey to put in the oven, place your bacon weave into the freezer (about 15 minutes).  When ready, drape over the turkey breast.  Bake according to the baking chart for your size turkey.

As I’ve already said, the end result is absolutely amazing!

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We baked our turkey in a bag so it didn’t require any basting.  The bacon added so much to the flavor of the turkey and definitely brings a while new meaning to the term “turkey bacon”!  Enjoy!!

 

 

 

 

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Chicken Fried Rice

Chicken Fried Rice

One of my new “go-to” meals has become Chicken Fried Rice.  It is so easy and very good.  It is probably one of the best “one-dish wonders” we’ve had in a while!  I love that I don’t have to use and then clean every pan I have in my kitchen.  LOL!

Chicken Fried Rice

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast – cut into small cubes
  • 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups rice, cooked
  • soy sauce for seasoning

In a large skillet, sauté chicken in 2 tablespoons olive oil until no longer pink.Chicken Fried Rice  Add the diced onion and sauté until tender.  Stir in the frozen vegetables and cover.  Allow to steam until vegetables are soft and heated through.

Scrape chicken and vegetables to one side of the pan and cook your eggs on the other side.  Once the eggs are cooked, stir together with the chicken/vegetable mixture.

Stir in the rice and cook until hot throughout.  Season with soy sauce to add moisture and flavor as it cooks.

We have had this as a meal just by itself, and we have also added egg rolls to it.  It is absolutely delicious!  I think it would also be great with shrimp!!  🙂

Chicken Fried Rice

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Poppy Seed Muffins

The other morning I asked Little Mouse what kind of muffins we should make for breakfast and she immediately said, “Poppy Seed!”.  Even though I have been trying to convert a lot of our favorite recipes to make them “healthier” I gave in and made these Poppy Seed Muffins at my little girls request :).  (although I did cut WAY back on the sugar – don’t tell her though!) 😉  This recipe makes 48 muffins but can easily be cut in half to only make 24.

Poppy Seed Muffins

Poppy Seed Muffins

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare your muffin tins – either Poppy Seed Muffinsspraying them with non-stick cooking spray or lining them with paper liners.

In a large bowl stir together the dry ingredients – flour, sugar, poppy seeds, baking powder, and salt.  Add in the wet ingredients – beaten eggs, milk, oil, and extracts.  Stir until the dry ingredients are just moist.

Fill muffin tins at least two-thirds full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean when inserted into a muffin.

Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before removing them.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

These muffins freeze well too, so go ahead and make a full batch and put some in the freezer.  It makes for a very easy breakfast or snack!

Poppy Seed Muffins

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gluten-free chicken and dumplings in a crock pot

Ok, if I hadn’t made this myself, I never would have known it was gluten-free!  To be honest, most gluten-free recipes have a distinct taste or at least a different texture than non-gluten-free recipes.  This by far is one of the best dishes of chicken and dumplings I have ever eaten!  It is also dairy-free, so it did not leave me feeling so full and heavy like other chicken and dumpling dishes I’ve eaten.  It is completely from scratch, but super easy.

UPDATE: Due to several comments regarding the dumplings falling apart, I have added some changes to the recipe.  Hope it helps!

Gluten-Free Chicken and Dumplings

Gluten-free Chicken and Dumplings

Soup

  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1 onion diced
  • salt & pepper
  • 7 cups chicken broth

Dumplings

  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons shortening
  • 1/2 cup almond milk

Cover the bottom of a large crock pot with the vegetables.  Place the chicken on top of the vegetables and season with salt and pepper.  Pour the chicken broth over the chicken.  Cook on low for 6 hours.

After 6 hours, remove the chicken and turn the crock pot onto high.

UPDATE:  Turn the crock pot on HIGH approximately 30 minutes prior to adding the dumplings.  When testing the recipe again (a couple of times) I found that if I turned the pot on high after cooking for 5 – 5.5 hours (leaving the chicken in), the soup was then hot enough to cook the dumplings quicker once dropped in.  Go ahead and remove the chicken after the crock pot has been on high for 30 minutes.  You definitely want to make sure the chicken is fully cooked before removing.

To make the dumplings, stir together the dry ingredients.  Cut the shortening into the dry mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.  This is easiest with a pastry cutter, but a fork will also work.  Add the almond milk and stir until it forms a thick dough.  You can add additional almond milk if your dough is too stiff to mix.

Drop dough by the tablespoon into the soup.  Cook on high for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the dumplings are not doughy.

UPDATE:  Be sure to not stir the soup after dropping the dumplings in.  Stirring will cause the dumplings to fall apart.  I know this is difficult, but DO NOT STIR.  If some of the dumplings have not been fully immersed, use a fork or spoon to gently press down into the soup.

While the dumplings are cooking, shred the chicken with two forks.  When the dumplings have about a half hour left of cooking time, add the chicken back into the soup and stir.

This dish is so yummy!  I took a chance and tested it out on our small group from church.  It got rave reviews, and the crock pot was practically licked clean.  I really wish I would have gotten a picture of it, but I didn’t, so you’ll have to use your imagination!  🙂

We will definitely be making this again!

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gluten-free pumpkin oatmeal muffins

20140206-105014.jpgI really love trying new recipes.  For the past few weeks we have been eating gluten-free just to give our digestive systems a break from the gluten for a while.  When we do this, I always get in a creative mood because it seems like once I tell myself I’m not going to have breads, that becomes the one thing that I constantly think about.  Ha ha!  So, I went searching and found a recipe that I could make work with a few adjustments to it.  They turned out really yummy!  Little Mouse was constantly asking for another muffin!

Gluten-free Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

  • 2 1/2 gluten-free rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut palm sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a muffin tin by either lining with paper liners or spraying with a non-stick cooking spray.

In a food processor, process the oats in two batches – one batch blended until almost a flour consistency and the other batch blended just slightly to cut up the oats a little.

In a large bowl stir together the dry ingredients.  Add all of the wet ingredients into the bowl and stir to combine.

Fill prepared muffin tin 3/4 full with the batter – or divided equally into 12 muffins.  Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with additional rolled oats as a garnish if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of a muffin.

One thing I love about this recipe is you don’t have to have anything special at home to make it gluten-free.  I always have oats on hand, but I don’t always have the gluten-free flours on hand.  🙂

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Soft Butter Rolls

Is there really anything better than homemade bread?  The smell, the way it tastes, and the satisfaction that comes in knowing you made it… I don’t make bread as often as I used to, but when I do, my family gets really excited!  When I came across this recipe, I knew I had to share it.  Let me just say these rolls are amazing and EASY!!  Two of my favorite things when it comes to making bread.

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Soft Butter Rolls

  • 1 cup warm milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon yeast (or one packet)

Put the warm milk, softened butter and yeast into a large bowl.  I used my stand mixer bowl.  Allow this to set for 5 minutes.

Add the sugar, eggs, salt, and bread flour.  Using the paddle attachment for your stand mixer, mix the ingredients until combined.  Let this set for 10 minutes.

Next, switch out the paddle attachment for the dough hook and knead for 10 minutes at a medium speed.  Cover the bowl and allow this to rest for 30 minutes or until doubled in size.  100_7965

Divide dough into 15 balls and place into a greased 9 x 13 inch baking dish.  Cover again and allow to rise for 30 minutes or until doubled.

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Bake at 375 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

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I made these for our Thanksgiving dinner and though they were very tasty right out of the oven, my husband and I both agreed that they were actually much better when we pulled them out of the freezer a week later for our Thanksgiving meal!  I love recipes that can be made ahead and frozen to ease the stress of holiday meals!  Either way, these would definitely be dangerous to have around the house.  I was really glad the recipe didn’t make too many.  They were thoroughly enjoyed by everyone at the table!  🙂

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