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flowergardenthere’s no lasting comfort in my wild apple ginger tea and honey,
or my Muddy Cakes, chocolate chip pancakes or scones.
none in the seed packets I so determinedly spilled out over my garden in springtime cool dazzle
or the brandywine’s ripening just red right
No lasting comfort the summer gazpacho made with my garden cucumbers and tomatoes and the farmer’s market onions and corn.
No comfort at all,
no lasting comfort, that is
in the hydrangeas that bloom blue
bloom riotously after we’d almost lost the dear beauty
in a hard challenge when we ourselves had been transplanted.
no comfort in the chocolate mint and lavender, the oregano and thyme
no, there’s no lasting comfort in them except for a fleeting pleasure,
a seasonal indulgence to satisfy a flighty temporal
but for the priceless notes and stories my Savior left in them
To remind me he is both seed time and harvest
loss and new beginnings
the potion for my healing
the faith in the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen
the refreshing in the chocolate mint, the soothing in the lavender,
and the savory of the trinity
the trust that the planting will yield
something God-worthwhile
if I but plant and tend to the God in it
no there’s no lasting comfort in these things
by themselves they are vanity
but let God into it,
and each becomes a salvation story
a lasting comfort

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5 Minute Friday – it’s been a quiet while, but how so delightful to be back. Won’t you join me with a cup of wild apple ginger tea – and, maybe, just maybe, we’ll both find a God-worthwhile lasting comfort in this sharing of our hearts! Take 5 minutes of words and join us – won’t you? This week, the word is comfort.

http://www.missionalwomen.com/     Faith-Filled Fridays
http://arabahjoy.com     Grace and Truth

http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://hollybarrett.org/     Testimony Tuesday
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage

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When the words don’t come, it puts me at a loss. That the words don’t come doesn’t necessarily herald a hard season. Sometimes it heralds a season to be savored. A season to just pause and take it all it – the sweet and the sour, the high and low,  the tough and the tender.

It’s been a year! Not a 2017 kind of year. Just a 365 days kind of year. This time last year, walking was terribly painful – after pneumonia and surgery – my muscles thought it was time to curl up and stop. Thanks to yoga, muscle stretching and time, I am myself again – which means I am still not an Olympian, but I can get the job done and then some!

These 365 days have been full of loss, birth and the in-between stuff.  I haven’t known how to write about it. God stayed my hand from writing, so I just watched and soaked. . . soaked up family during the loss of my aunt – the oldest of the sisters –  in September and my mother-in-law in early November . . . soaked up my 4th son’s final soccer season and graduation . . . soaked up a crazy-wonderful holiday full of laughter and adventure . . . still soaking up my first grandson that came over a week ago.

Soaking meant an lot of watching, a lot of listening and a lot of quiet, like watching one son face challenges to gain something more than he imagined – not what he wanted to gain – but something more valuable in the long run.

The daily living in between the mourning and the celebrations was the mortar that bound the bricks and stones of my soul house together during this year of extreme highs and lows.

No, I didn’t journal the tender or write through the tough. I took a lot of photos that helped me process – and I cooked through – and shared the fruits of both with family and friends.

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There were stews, and soups, pasta and chicken, fried chicken and gravy, grilled cheeses, bacon and cheese pastries, and garlic butter biscuits.

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There were scones, chocolate chip cookies, garlic buttered biscuit, and all types of Muddy Cakes: Muddy Cakes for birthdays – friends and family. Muddy Cakes for celebrations. Muddy  Cakes just to love others when I wasn’t sure what else God wanted me to do (Muddy is my grandma name – so I started calling them Muddy Cakes).

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Someone said, “You need to open a bakery.”

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No – they’re not for sale. They’re for love and friendship.

Toward the end of the school year, the boys had had enough cake.  I detected a potential revolution ahead.

The  youngest, he said to me, “You’re slipping, Mom. You used to cook the most amazing breakfasts. Remember those granola bars you used to make with the stuff with the man with the white hair?”

“You mean Quaker Oats?”

“You only have two more years, Mom. You need to push through.”

I pushed through, finishing the school year with granola bars made with the oatmeal that has the man with the white hair. I made eggs and bacon on toast with ketchup. I did it all – and then bought some Lucky Charms to give me a brief rest.

Maybe this pushing through made me remember other recipes from other times – tasty memories. This Spring, in the middle of soccer season, I remembered the Thousand Island dressing I’d made in high school for school lunches. It was a tasty memory that started a craving. Timing was somehow right, too. I found myself rummaging through Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook that I received when I married. It had the recipe for a salad dressing from my grandmother’s Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (not so new I guess) that I’d used in high school. About 35+ years later, I wanted to see if it was good now as it was then.

I modified mine a bit, probably just like I did all those years ago – the spices, pantry items and fridge contents aren’t all that different. I am my grandmother’s granddaughter after all. I mixed and stirred – and tasted.

Thousand Island

I cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup relish and 1/4 cup ketchup (not chili sauce)
2 finely choppped hard-boiled eggs
2 tablespoons each finely chopped: green peppers, celery, and onion (I spun mine in a food processor)
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
If  you think it’s too thick, add 1 tablespoon buttermilk

It was – as good now as it was then.

Then, during our family holiday in France, yes –  France! I’ve always wanted to do a bicycle tour through the Loire Valley! And we didn’t because, well, I said I wasn’t an Olympian. ! We drove – through the Loire Valley, up past William the Conquerors place over to Normandy’s Utah and Omaha beaches and on to Paris. There was still miles and miles of walking a day.  I got the job done and then some!

Three of our sons went with us to France. After 48 hours, they missed my cooking.

“Mom,” they each said.” You could open a restaurant here, and it would be packed every day.” To them, I was the best cook in France. I tried to explain that the French would be just as miserable with my cooking. McDonald’s was greeted by these guys as a long lost friend after three to four days.

The most gorgeous art work was in the patisseries – Delectable! Divine! Delicous! Besides the patisserie offerings – one cafe’s buttermilk dressing on a salad made me want to make a Mason jar of it when I got home.

This newly discovered appreciation of my cooking increased my value in their estimation. When we walked – and we walked a lot, I found myself hedged in before and behind me. Losing me seemed a real possibility. Of course, the time in Chambord Chateau their dad offered them 5 Euros to whoever could find me first might have had something to do with it. They weren’t taking any chances of losing me again.

I found unlooked for treasures in France. Maybe these young men did, too.

I’d tried one of the buttermilk dressing packets months ago, but it just didn’t dazzle me like the recipe at the little French Cafe. I decided to try Martha Stewart’s Buttermilk Dressing. I didn’t veer much from her recipe.

Buttermilk Dressing

3/4 C. Buttermilk (I used whole Buttermilk)
1/2 C. mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot (about 1 shallot)(I used a garlic press)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (I used sea salt)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery salt (I used celery seed)

I made it when I got home – and it was a good thing! Martha’s tasted like the little French cafe’s buttermilk dressing that was so very delightful. I will admit that I just might have possibly fell in love with shallots!

My youngest, he tasted my Buttermilk Dressing – and liked it. “Not for salads,” he said. “Great for dipping. It needs to be thicker or salads – so just pick that up at the grocery story”

However, he’s keeping me busy keeping the mason jar full. I have trouble keeping this one for more than 3 days. It goes fast.

There’s a bit of chard in my little patch of garden. The cucumbers are ready. The tomatoes are taking their time. The grocery provides the broccoli – my youngest’s favorite. Carrots, onions and other items Peter Rabbit would appreciate come from the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. I wouldn’t want to grow everything, I enjoy my Farmer’s Market Saturday mornings too much.

Then there’s Aunt Joyce’s Salad Dressing. I make it year round (you can find the recipe here). Aunt Joyce started making it my freshman year of college.  It reminds me of all those nightly dinners with Grandmother, Mom and Aunt Joyce. I miss a kitchen filled with these women. I guess that’s the price you pay when your husband says “You’re a pioneer woman” when his company wanted him to move to Detroit and he found a different job in this little town in Tennessee about 26 years ago. We both left our families, packed up our red Ford truck, our first little boy and set up house in this sweet town. It’s our boys’ hometown now. All 5 of them. Except they’re not boys anymore. Not really even boys to men. They’re men – even the 16 year old. If you treat them like men, instead of boys, they tend to act like how you treat them.

Good recipes, like these salad dressing recipes, are reminders of the good things from where I came from and where I’ve been.

Someone messaged me wondering how I managed to do everything I do. To be honest, there’s a lot I don’t do – or do well. The dishes get stacked up, the socks left unmatched, this and that piles us. I plan for a Monday stew to last through Wednesday (Is that cheating?). There are dayswhen I feel like I’m being whirled in a lettuce spinner.  It takes me 3 hours to create a spotless kitchen that takes someone else 30 minutes. There are days when I need either to have taken more seriously conversations with my sons – and other days when I need to have been less serious.

“Mom, do I need a sign on my head that says, ‘Sarcasm?” the 4th one, the one with the humor so dry it is self-combustible asked.

“Ummmmm, Yes! Can you take care of that?” I say, really hoping that one day he will have one for me. It isn’t encouraging when your mom laughs at the wrong time or takes jokes seriously resulting in unwanted lectures.

This has been a year where doing what I love for the ones I love has also meant doing something things I love rarely, like writing.

In a soaking year, when the words don’t come, and loved stories ended, other stories wove themselves while all I could do was watch, love, and cheer – cooking was one of the few things I could do.

It feels like a new season is beginning. Something different is in the air. The words finally came. I knew God would send them when He was ready for me to have them.

If you’ve read this far, you deserve a Muddy Cake! It has been an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink kind of post – but it felt right to do it this way.

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http://crystaltwaddell.com//Fresh Market Friday
https://susanbmead.com// Dance with Jesus Friday
http://afieldofwildflowers.blogspot.com/     Small Wonder (formerly Unforced Rhythms)
http://www.thebeautyinhisgrip.com/    Sharing His Beauty
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://hollybarrett.org/     Testimony Tuesday
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://www.w2wministries.org/     Word-Filled Wednesdays
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
http://www.journeysingrace.com/ Grace Moments
http://www.christinemalkemes.com/ The Loft
http://mecoffeeandjesus.com/ Me, Coffee and Jesus
https://faithadventures.me/ #TeaAndWord Tuesday
Word of God Speak with Janice Cox
Raising Samuels Social Butterfly Sunday with Kelly at Raising Samuels
Family Joy Blog Link-up Party at Thinking Outside the Pot

http://3dlessons4life.com/     Thought-Provoking Thursday

http://arabahjoy.com
https://susanbmead.com/ The Shallow End
http://letuswalkworthy.com/blog/ Let Us Walk Worthy
The Modest Mom The Art of Homemaking Musing Mondays

Purposeful Faith Tea & Word Tuesday Talk

http://www.missionalwomen.com/     Faith-Filled Fridays

 

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gespachocc13Saturday, I jumped in my canoe and paddled to my garden for dill. The day before, during a lull in the rain, I’d spotted my youngest one, sitting on the raised garden edges, slipping his hand into the tomatoes, chard and peppers to pinch off a few leaves of chocolate-mint and stuff it between his cheek and gum.

On Saturday’s in the summer, I make my Life-Gets-Sweeter Every Day Gazpacho – and so I’d come for dill.

The first thing I ever cooked was a prune cake in the 7th grade. By the time I graduated high school, I knew how to make Divinity, a meringue cookie, cakes, dips – and cucumber’s with vinegar, sour cream and mayonnaise.

Summer suppers tasted better with a small helping of cucumbers.

3 cucumbers, thinly sliced, sliced, not diced,
¼ tablespoon vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 (spring) green onions,
Dill
½ cup mayonnaise,
½ cup sour cream,
salt and pepper to taste

It was a beginning this learning how to make life a bit nicer, sweeter

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Another day, a few years later, all starry-eyed and in love with my new husband,  cucumbers nestled on a plate next to summertime tomatoes. Separate – but so close. Sometimes they both found themselves on the same fork – at the same time. Oh my! Summer Delicious!

Life’s sweetness didn’t just stop growing there. A few more years, time enough for a little boy to grow up and say, “I Do” to his sweet heart, a subtle step was taken in my life, not a leap, just a step when tomatoes fell into the cucumbers, all in a single container in order to take a bit of outside summer with me to lunch when I’d started part-time job editing for an on-line gardening company. As I said in my previous post, God never meant work to be a place where I stop finding His kind of sweet living.

dillAs sons 2 and 3 tumbled into the teen years, challenging us, stretching us – a faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hoped-for-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen kind of living – I was determined not to let my life be defined by the heart-ache in the challenge.

The bigger the challenge in the daily (see post here), the more I burrowed into Him, like St Teresa of Avila in her book Interior Castles describes – I was wandering through the 6 crystal castles, weaving my way closer and closer to the 7th castle -where He welcomed me at its steps,welcoming me with a chalice of living water,  wrapping me in His arms pulling me into His shining castle – and finding His peace – His amazing comfort – and suddenly, even in the challenge – life felt sweeter – 6 sensory sweeter – the 6th sense being a spiritual sweetness.

Just because I’ve been in the interior castle – doesn’t mean I stop wandering back out to exterior castles.

Just because I’ve been there doesn’t mean I’ve yet tasted all the sweetness He has created for me – for you.

Christ in his mercy leads me to the interior castle; my imperfect humanity finds me sometimes wandering all over the place, in the interior castle, through the rooms of the exterior castles.

Day by day, season by season, life marches onward –  2 more boy stepping toward independence, 2 others on deck. Challenges flow and ebb – moments of blessing crash against a faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hoped-for-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen moments – and life became a bit sweeter:

Honey and Cream corn, until the white corn showed itself, found it’s way into my container with the cucumbers and tomatoes.

Oh My! – the result was heartier – so much more of something than a side dish yet not a main course, not a hot soup – and as my mind reached out to place this concoction of summertime – gazpacho came into my vocabulary.

Gazpacho: a cold, summer soup

The daily has changed some out our house – only 2 fully in the nest – another half way in, one a fly by – and one fully in his own nest. The challenges are different. The stretching is different. The sweetness is there – available for the taking . Jjust like always , the choice is there to grab bitterness or sweetness.

Over Independence Day celebrations, friend sat around our table – and I passed some of this Gazpacho for them to test-taste – to see if they thought it was as delightful as I thought – had the recipe finally “arrived” – or was I just, well, nuts in the taste buds.

My friends sampled it, taste-tested it, asked for a bowl of it.

“Add an apple,” one said.

And I did. . . .add an apple, a red delicious apple.

the dish became more . . . hearty, rounded, complete – sweeter not as in sugar but as in so terribly nice.

Kind of like life – if we let it, don’t give up on it, keep adding good things to it, it just gets sweeter and sweeter, heartier, more filling, better for you. . . . in a faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hope-for-evidence-of-things-not-seen- kind of way.

The more I hold on to things of Him, as we come and go, sit and stand –
The more I trust He is not surprised by teen challenges and boys-to-men dealing with growing up responsibilities
The more I see His love letters in the daily
And know He is beside me everywhere I want and don’t want to be
That He’s got my back
The sweetness into everyday rises like a fragrance
out of any situation, complex things
things that bring tears
that tear at the heart
simple things like blueberries
little boy hugs and gazpacho
It’s there
waiting to be chosen
this attitude of life getting sweeter daily

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“Who satisfies your mouth with good things; so that your youth is renewed like the eagle” (Psalm 103:5).

“Don’t worry about cooking. Just rest and enjoy,” my husband encouraged, as I stuffed mason jars and lemon curd into a cooler on wheels, to be packed in the back of my van. All that was missing was my kitchen sink!

He wanted me to take a vacation. Vacation: a period in which a break is taken from work or studies for rest, travel, or recreation (dictionary.com)

I didn’t want a vacation – I wanted a Holiday!

Holiday: festive, joyous, celebrating important values steeped in faith and family with opportunities for rest, pleasure allowing the inner-man to soar(blue cotton memory definition).

IMG_0958When we arrived at the beach, we set up our umbrella city. All together there were 34 of our family – some vacationing – some on a holiday. We celebrated family – from great-grandmothers to great-grandbabies. Afternoon soccer with cousins from 39 to 5 – lines drawn in the sand for good-time rivalry. Some of the boys practiced their Italian and Portuguese (for soccer aficionados- that’s the falling-on-the-ground-faking-injury skills).

This coming Umbrella City gathering was a fluid thing.  Great and small, old and young -moved from beach to pool to lazy river – group and individual time. Some shopped, napped, read books, lunched, cooked, watched World Cup soccer, dined all the while coming and going, sitting a spell, going, coming back, going. . . just like waves on the beach.

What am I saying here? Everyone took the opportunity to soar, to let their interests gallop through the duration of the holiday.

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All the intrinsic things God placed in me, make me who I am, bring me immeasurable joy, that I sometimes have trouble fitting into the busy daily – they soared over the holiday.  I took photos, spent time with family, wrote, read books, looked for God letters,  bobbed on inner-tubes in the ocean- and made Mason Jar Summertime Pies – because one of my very favorite nieces asked.

I chose to live holiday over 5 days off then vacationing any day! When something is just so wonderfully delicious – food or just life, it should be shared. Below is the recipe for my Mason Jar Summertime Pies! Wishing you a little holiminute, holihour or holi in your day! Praying that today you taste and see the Lord is good, whether it is tasting a fried bologna sandwich on white bread with mayonaise and pepper, Mason Jar Summertime Pies, a hug savored by the soul, a moment that fills you up with Him, joy spilled everywhere – I pray that you catch those moments, your eyes not bigger than your souls – and see, really see, God’s goodness!

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! “ (Psalm 34:8)

Lemon Curd
4 eggs
Pinch of salt
2 Cups sugar
1/2 Cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
1/4 Cup butter
Zest from one lemon
Mix well. Then put in a double boiler, cooking 30 minutes until thick. Put in jar and refrigerate until ready to use. I make a day ahead so it is good and cool.

Crust
1 ½ cups finely ground graham cracker cumbs
1/3 cup white sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
Put about 1 1/2 tablespoons into bottom of 8 oz mason jars, hollowing out the middle.
Bake at 375 degrees for 7 minutes. Let cool then add Lemon Curd.

Meringue
4 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
2 tablespoons sugar
Whip egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Then gradually add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form, about 1 to 2 minutes. Top the Mason jars with swirls. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes until meringue is golden brown. Remove from oven, cool and refrigerate until ready to serve.

(This works great with chocolate pudding, too. I cheated and used Jello Cook and Serve).

 

lemoncOther Lemon Curd treats from the Blue Cotton Kitchen

 

Dessert at the Grown-up Table, click here

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When I make my Granola Bars, a lot of things come to mind: chocolate, smiles, happy breakfasts, happy afterschool tummies, pain, lots of pain, moderation, fiber, mis-diagnosis, God’s Great Mercies! My second son tried to convince me that the Bible does not pertain to everything.  I think I need to create a name for a theme, kind of like my Simply Saturday or Scratching Post – but another theme where I can tell a story about an unlikely place biblical principles apply(please feel free to leave any suggestions). My Granola Bars are like that, an unlikely desert that taught us about faith and self-discipline. 

Just to clear this up from the start, if you add raisins to your Granola Bars, you have Quaker Oats Granola Bars.  If you add anything in my list below, ESPECIALLY CHOCOLATE, well, then we’ll call them Blue Cotton Granola Bars.

Where can one find God in a Granola Bar? Well, not really in the Granola Bar itself, but in the journey the Granola Bar took with my family. One of my boys developed a stomach ache in the first grade.  In the 3rd grade, we took him to a renowned children’s hospital. They, ahem, studied his stool sample and said, “More Fiber.” (I saw the sample, but it did not send red flags in my mind). They recommended 5 grams of fiber + their age. 

I was a mom with a mission, a quest – anything to make my little guy feel better. So I found recipes, including a fiber-licious recipe on the back of a box of Quaker Oats. And I commenced to fill my little guy with fiber one recipe at a time.  My boys dislike raisins, so Chocolate Chip Granola Bars was the lure to more fiber consumption.

My boys love my Granola Bars!  A box of Quaker Oats Granola bars average around $2.75.  Five boys could go through 2+ boxes a day (breakfast, before sports, or after school snack to destroy those grumpy Hungries). That can really add up. Homemade Granola Bars cost less and were more filling.

However, the stomach ache persisted and increased.  Finally, in the 6th grade, with my son struggling in school, running like someone’s grandma on the soccer field, and bearing a haunted look on his face, I was angry enough to punch a hole in a wall.  After a battery of x-rays and ultrasounds, the pediatrician determined it was all in his head. We were flummoxed.  Was our child lying to us? Was he just making it up? Did he really just not want to play soccer or do his school work, so this was his “out.”

I had prayed.  However, I had not reached my emotional bottom, until one afternoon. If I had steam pipes, steam would have spouted out of my head. Combine not-quite  but something like fury at the unknown, confusion, love, helplessness and every other emotion within any pore of my being somehow creating an emotional implosion that literally dropped me to my knees. 

I have learned on two occasions that this experience is a righteous-riled-up-ness.  This occurs when you are walking in faith with full confidence God is taking care of everything. You speak your faith.  You walk that faith. In these situations, God just wants us to stand, believe and wait.  There is something Godly in the waiting. However, sometimes God’s plan requires movement on our part – a call to action. I dropped to my knees in prayer, crying – out of confusion, love for my son, and emotional short-circuiting. I think I was emptied of all inside of me at that point.

Three days later, I was talking to a parent at my child’s school and for some reason, I told her about my son’s stomach problems. Have you every done that? Just spill an emotional story all the while wondering, “Why in the world am I saying this?” Well, sometimes it is a God thing. Her daughter had a similar problem and she gave me the name of a physician who treated stomach issues more aggressively than the children’s hospital we had attended previously. Those laborers I pray for?  Well, that day she was one of God’s laborers sent to point me in a direction.

This physician scoped my son and identified the issue.  Not a fiber issue at all.  He had esophagitis.  Some people have severe acid reflux while others have severe stomach pain, severe enough to make a man think he is having a heart attack.  Our son had lived for 5 years with a level 7 to 9 out of 10 stomach pain. Caffeine, mint and . . . chocolate are main contributors to this. And I was throwing chocolate into as many fiber recipes as I could get my hands on to increase his fiber intake – and making his pain worse the entire time.A mis-diagnosis years earlier had set us on a path that made the problem worse.

 He took Nexium for a couple of years and monitored his diet.  He had to rebuild his ability to run.  His grades went up.  He was an all district soccer player in the 8th grade. His teacher’s commented on the radically changed young man, the young man who looked them in the eye and greeted them in the morning.  A young man who engaged and led class discussion.  A young man who led his group presentation without much help, earning a commendation from a teacher who rarely gave those commendations.  The haunted expression faded. My joyful son re-emerged from the darkness in which he had increasingly existed.

Thankfully, God sent a laborer across our path to point out the road we needed to take. Sometimes, God wants us to stand in Faith for healing without physicians.  Sometimes, He wants our healing to come through physicians.

My son has learned the self-discipline of moderation.  He has also learned the power of God.  He asked God to heal him during a healing service. Through the years, I have come to believe that sometimes God requires self-discipline of us to maintain healing. My son is Nexium free. He can eat chocolate now. As you know, teens like being able to make choices, to have control with training wheels in their lives. His diet is one of those areas that allows him to practice being a man about his choices.  He has done a marvelous job!

I had to learn something new – how to cook without chocolate. Some of you can imagine how hard that can be.  I probably made scrambled eggs with chocolate before his diagnosis! An entire new recipe world opened up to me. I embarked on a quest for the perfect white cake recipe. I learned to cook with white chocolate. I learned to make Granola Bars chocolate-free – and I have those suggestions below. I learned to – gasp !-  celebrate without chocolate. We are no longer a chocolate-free zone, though. We are . . . balanced, more diverse in our ingredients.

Today turned into a Chocolate day! One of my sons asked for my Granola Bars.  Everyone unanimously agreed that today’s Granola Bars should include chocolate. Remember, balance? Self-Discipline?.  I made a caramel cake for his birthday last week. So today? Chocolate!  Won’t you join us? Just do not eat too many!

My little guy did the stirring. Mix the following:

3/4 Cup brown sugar

1/2 Cup granulated sugar

one 8-ounce container vanilla yogurt

2 egg whites

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 tbsp. milk or 1/2 and 1/2

2 tsp. vanilla

Stir in the following:

1 1/2 Cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Gently turn

3 Cups Quaker Oats

1 Cup Chocolate Chips, White Chocolate Chips, raisins, Caramel Chips or cran-raisens, gummies worms, apricots, pineapple, M&Ms, Heath Bars crunched up.

Bake in a 9x 12 dish at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

 What kind of mood?  A healthy kick-off to the day? A play hug after school? A cool send-off for after-school activities? This is one recipe that allows safe play with successful results! Choose your ingredients with care,though!

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These are not my grandmother’s Salmon Croquettes – because she did not make them.  Nobody cooked like my grandmother.  There a few recipes, though, that are hers that when served – are 100% grandmothers right down to the eye-rolling, cannot-resist it taste.

During Lent, grandmother would make Salmon Croquets with a little pink sauce.  They were one of my favorite childhood meals – a Friday night meal.  However, I have never been able to master the skillet Salmon Croquette.  Until one day, Paul Dean, kitchen angel, sent me a message from my grandmother: “Use the Deep Fryer, Darlin’ ” (funny how my grandmother never said “darlin,’ ” but I imagine heaven changes people – and apparently gives them an even more southern accent)

And I did!  I rummaged through recipes trying to figure out where I always went wrong (crumbling, grease filled disappointment) – and, ladies, here it is – and, yes, Paula Dean, the secret is in the sauce (not Paula’s).

Salmon Croquettes:

2 Cans Salmon, flaked

2 eggs (one if you use less bread crumbs)

1 1/2 Cups Pepperidge Farm Herb Mix Bread Crumbs (the blue bag)

1/4 Cup Parsley

1/4 Cup Celery

1/4 Cup Asiago Cheese (My grandmother is shaking her pointing finger at me calling me a 21st Century upstart)

1/4+ milk to soften (until you can pat mixture into a hamburger sized patty)

Now, ladies, here is another key secret to successful Salmon Croquets. Refrigerate – reducing breakage while deep frying.

I recommend a Fry Baby, but go larger if you’re like me and have 5 sons. 

Deep fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes. 

You can either go to The Secret in the Sauce here or try the Secret in my Sauce further down.  Maybe you just ought to eat the one while reading the other.  That would probably be best.

The true secret to so many sauces and recipes can be found in the 1954 Cissy Gregg’s Cookbook and Guide to Gracious Living.  A lot of my heart-stopping recipes are from Cissy (Hot Brown, Egg Nog,  Charlotte Russe and so much more).  But since I cannot keep a secret – I’ll share the Secret to the Sauce:

First you make a Bechamel Sauce

1/3 Cup butter (6 tablespoons)

1/2 medium-sized sliced onion, minced

1/3 Cup flour

3 Cups hot milk

1 tsp. salt

A dash of red pepper

A couple sprigs of parsley

a dash of nutmeg

Melt the butter or margarine in a saucepan.  Add onions and cook slowly until a light brown.  Add flour and blend until the flour makes a smooth paste but of course the onion minces are still in it.  Add milk and other seasons, stirring constantly and briskly at first until the sauce is thick and smooth.  Sissy Gregg recommends you strain it.  I did not.

To turn this delicious Bechamel sauce into a Mornay sauce you do the following:

Add 2 egg yolks

1/2 Cup grated Parmesan Cheese

1 tablespoon butter

Heat the Bechamel sauce and combine with egg yolks.  Stir constantly and remove from the stove as soon as it starts to boil.  When hot and thick add cheese and the butter.  The sauce must not boil or it will curdle.

This saucy sauce is used for many delicious dishes, including my hometown favorite, the Kentucky Hot Brown.  Or just drop a dollop on your morning hard-boiled eggs. 

When the sauce is finished, spoon over Salmon Croquets. I just tossed some radishes, squash, zucchini and spanish onions with my Aunt Joyce’s Salad Dressing – oh, this dressing is from heaven! – But I’m not sharing it today.  I’ll share it next week.  One can only share one secret sauce at a time!

Saucy Salmon Croquets

 

 

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I wish I could take credit for these Chocolate Chip Brownie Delights. I discovered them at my 3rd grader’s Christmas Party.  This must-have recipe was pulled out of thin air the night before by a very creative mom.  I encouraged her to submit it to a contest. She demurred, but shared the information – a magical recipe that has all my sons happy to visit me in the kitchen.

Chocolate Chip Brownie Delights are so easy you could almost feel guilty. That guilt evaporates when you see the older ones stealing a few when your back is turned and the younger ones begging for more – the guilt is replaced by a happy heart – the kind of happiness moms find in a variety of ways – a hug from a son,  “I-love-mom” written in the snow – or devouring the cooking and asking for more’!

Recipe: One large Nestles Toll House Refrigerated Cookie Dough.  Slice cookies between 1/4 to 1/2 inch and then cut into 1/3s.  Roll into balls and place in non-stick mini-muffin tins.  Cook according to directions.  (If you want a homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, check out Type A Mommy’s recipe – She claims it’s the BEST  Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe ever.

You can either make homemade brownies or buy them pre-made.  I prefer Kroger Bakery Brownies because they are so moist.  Keep in mind that I am focusing on an easy after-school surprise – a no-frazzle approach on those days when I just want to be a happy mom making life a little sweeter for my boys.

I slice the brownies into 1/3s and place on top of the piping hot Chocolate Chip Cups the muffin tin creates through baking.  The heat melts the brownies a bit in a carmelizing kind of way.

Let cool before removing from the tins.  If you remove too soon, they will lose shape and fall apart.

There are many different ways into the hearts of our children.  Some are direct – “I love you.” Or with words of praise about their nobleness, their talents, their hard work, their uniqueness.  Sometimes we love our children invisibly but powerfully – through prayer.  Sometimes, it is indirect – like Chocolate Chip Brownie Delights.

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