Friday, November 16, 2012

Passionate for Pumpkin

Is anyone else out there really excited it's pumpkin season?  I love pumpkin in bread, muffins, cookies, pies, and even in some soups!  One of my friends made a Turkey pumpkin chili a few years ago and it was really good.  I would love to try making Pumpkin Soup sometime if I come across a good recipe.  Today I would like to devote some time to pumpkin recipes in case the baking bug bites you like it's biting me today! 

My first recipe is one I made for an Oktoberfest celebration we went to last month and everyone loved it.  I had to watch Charles to make sure we had enough to take to the party!  My recipe comes from the "Betty Crocker New Cookbook," one of my personal favorites. 
Pumpkin Bread
1 16oz. can pumpkin                                       1 2/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. vegetable oil                                          2 tsp. vanilla
4 large eggs                                                    3 c. all purpose flour or whole wheat flour
2 t. baking soda                                              1 t. salt
1 t. ground cinnamon                                     1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. baking powder                                       1/2 c. coarsely chopped nuts (optional)
1/2 c. raisins (optional)

1.  Move oven rack to low position so that tops of pans will be in center of oven.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease bottoms only of 2 loaf pans, 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches, or 1 loaf pan, 9 x 5 x 3 inches, with shortening.
2.  Mix pumpkin, sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs in large bowl.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Pour into pans.
3.  Bake 8-inch loaves 50 to 60 minutes, 9-inch loaf 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes in pans on wire rack.  Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans and place top side up on wire rack.  Cool completely before slicing.  Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days, or refrigerate up to 10 days.

I also want to share a recipe with you that I am planning on making.  I haven't tried it yet, so please forgive me if it doesn't turn out well!  I was intrigued by this "no evaporated milk" recipe since all three of my daughters and I are lactose intolerant and evaporated milk is pretty rough on our tummies.  They have replaced the evaporated milk with egg nog, which you can buy in lactose-free blends. This recipe comes from:

Stacey's "I don't have any evaporated milk!" Pumpkin Pie
1 pre-made pie crust                                       1 small can pumpkin puree
1 1/2 c. egg nog, storebought or homemade  2 eggs
1/2 c. sugar                                                     1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. salt                                                         1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. ground cinnamon

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Put the pumpkin, egg nog, eggs, and both sugars into a mixing bowl and mix on low until incorporated.
3.  Add salt, vanilla and cinnamon until just incorporated.
4.  Pour mixture into prepared pie shell and bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes.
Note: Because of the egg content in this recipe this pie will set up faster and firmer than traditional pumpkin pies.

I hope that these recipes have given you some inspiration for your holiday baking this year!  I know I'm going to enjoy playing with this Egg Nog Pumpkin Pie recipe for my family!  

Monday, November 12, 2012

What's it Mean to Serve?

Today our country is celebrating Veteran's Day - a day we are supposed to reflect on the great service provided by men and women in the Armed Forces, present and past.  How often do any of us actually stop and remember the purpose of this day?  Not very.  It becomes like any other holiday - a day we sleep in, relax, shop, and eat.  Unless you're a veteran, or someone like me who lives with a veteran.  As I think about Charles' service to this country, as well as that of my dad, grandpa, uncles, brother, cousin, and friends it makes me think.  What does it mean to serve?  What does service mean to me? 

Serving is not the most glamorous job in the world.  Whether you choose to serve through military service, or you choose to serve as a waitperson, housekeeper, sales associate,  babysitter, or parent you're not choosing an easy path.  There is nothing more frustrating (or rewarding) than working with people.  I enjoyed waitressing, but it was not an easy job.  You often get to see the ugly side of normally nice people, simply because they see you as insignificant and unimportant compared to themselves.  Why is this?  Why do we look down our noses at people who have chosen to take a position that makes our lives easier?  Jesus chose a life of service and people looked at him the same way.  He's asked us Christians to follow his example, so Christians should be the best customers and servers out there, right?  I wish.  I'm sad to say that my worst tippers, and often rudest customers were people I knew to be Christians.  We have somehow managed to ignore that facet of Jesus' personality and focus on the "easy" things instead.  What we need to remember is this: service of others is what Jesus is about.  His life was lived in the service of his fellow men, and he expects the very same thing of us.  He expects us to be the first ones available to help during a crisis, and the first ones there to help when a brother or sister is having problems. 

So how do I serve?  What is my role?  I am to serve in any way I can.  Personally this means I lead Bible studies, write, and raise my family to know Christ.  It means I help out when someone is in need and lend an ear when a friend needs me.  It might mean cooking a meal for a new mom or watching someone's kids when they need help.  It means doing something good for someone even when I know it won't be appreciated, and doing it even though I know they won't say thank you or recognize my service in any way.  It means serving because Jesus would, not because it will make me feel good about myself or make me look good to others.  It's not an easy attitude to have, and it's one I have a lot of work to do on, but I'm going to keep plugging away at it.  Imagine what our world would look like if we all decided to serve like Jesus and made it happen.  Our churches would overflow and our world would know what Christians are all about!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hard Times

We've had a few rough days at our house this week.  This election has been a difficult one and I really expected the American people to make a better choice.  Tuesday night I couldn't sleep due to the sinking feeling deep in my soul.  I've never had this kind of reaction to election results before.  Of course, America has never made such blatant choices against God as a nation before, either;  Legalizing pot for fun, legalizing gay marriage, choosing to let the government control more and more of our lives, and the list goes on.  What is this country coming to?   I continued pondering on the situation yesterday while I was writing my Bible study and came across some great passages in the Bible that helped me find some peace with the situation.  I thought I would share them with you today so that God can share His peace with you as we move forward as Christian Americans in a fallen country.

Psalm 119:25-32
25 I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word.26 I recounted my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees.27 Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders.28 My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.29 Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law. 30 I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. 31 I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD; do not let me be put to shame. 32 I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.
Do any of you have a weary soul right now?  Are you laid low in the dust?  It's time for us to lay ourselves at His feet.  He will strengthen us!  There is great freedom to be had in giving your heart to Christ.  Just imagine for a moment - if you've filled your heart with God and His precious word how much room is left for despair?  He is ready and willing to fill those spaces for each one of us, and there is such comfort waiting for us when we make that decision!  
Matthew 5:1-12
1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them, saying: 3"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
I think this is a good time for us to remember the Beatitudes.  You might notice that nowhere does it say "Blessed are the happy people with no problems..."  This doesn't mean we can't receive God's blessings when things are going well.  It means we are going to encounter difficulty living here in the world and we have a Savior who is here for us when we do.  Are you mourning?  Let Him comfort you.  Are you hungry for His righteousness?  Let Him feed you and fill you up.  Are you being treated badly by people around you?  Rejoice in it!  You're walking a path that many have before you and you're storing reward in Heaven for yourself. 
Passages like this one put my situation in perspective.  Think about the world early Christians lived in.  Instead of Sunday afternoon football, people would go watch Sunday afternoon Christian vs. Lion battles, and those contests were rigged - the Christians never won those "games!"  They, too, lived in a fallen world surrounded by people who rejected God and were slaves to their base natures.  But, they didn't quit and neither can we. 
It's time for Christians to take back our country and it's going to be hard.  I saw an interesting segment on Hannity last night.  He was talking with a guest about why Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan didn't win, and they made a really good point.  One side was offering the "easy" solution - let the government take care of it for you.  Let the government pay you instead of getting a job, let the government regulate your food so you'll quit getting fat, let the government tell you what medical care you're allowed to have, and the list goes on.  You don't have to take responsibility because the government's going to do it for you.  On the other side you had guys with big ideas, but they all required work from each one of us.  They had answers to fix the economy, but those answers required change - change in entitlements, change in programs, etc.  It wasn't going to be easy, but they could have fixed the damage that's been done to our economy and healthcare system.  Sean Hannity likened their stance to the parent that makes you take responsibility for your actions - very necessary, but not near as appealing to the masses who have become dependent on the government for their survival.
We, as Christians, need to decide where we're going to put our faith.  Are you going to put your faith in God, the Creator and Savior of all?  His way isn't the easy one, either, but it's full of more benefit than you'll ever find here on Earth!